Do not want to read? YouTube review here
With the announcement of the Z50 I was excited, as a portrait photographer I have been in love with the Nikon for a while. The love has never faded despite the fads in the market, my goto DSLRs were the D810, D610 all were great and the Nikon J5 was my first Nikon Mirrorless which worked great and was really really small (but its noise handling was also small).
The Z series had launched with the Z6 and Z7, both impressive – but I wanted something smaller, lighter and more portable. The answer was the Z50, coming it at 1.33 lbs with the 16-50mm lens which collapses and locks down when not in use. This new APSC mirror less camera is so small it can fit into my Canadian winter jacket pocket with ease. What did I want from this camera and did it meet the requirements:
- smaller take anywhere body – YES <INCREDIBLY LIGHT>
- street photography camera – YES <small enough to be unnoticeable>
- 4k (or 1080p) capture for video work – YES
- camera I could use for portraiture – YES <see below>
However, as a pragmatic photographer I also did not want to jump to conclusions and decided to put the camera through a series of tests. What started out as tests turned into an actual camera review which I have never written but rather consumed. I had a vacation trip coming up and set myself a goal, to take the Nikon Z50 with me on the trip with only the camera gear I could fit into my sling bag. The tests had to include all the regular use a traveller would have for a camera and also to see if I could use it for a professional portrait shoot.
Before I break down the results of the tests (and spoiler – the Z50 passed with flying colours), I want to quickly let you know was as in my bag, I wanted to be as light as possible in my travels so here is what I had:
- Z50 camera
- Z50 lens 16-50mm (kit lens)
- Nikon FTZ adaptor (for my DSLR Nikon lenses to work on Z mount on Z50)
- one battery for the Z50 (no charger)
- usb cable. usb battery pack 10,000MAH, and usb wall plug (phone charger)
- Nikon 50mm 1.8G, Nikon 85mm 1.8G (portraits)
- Nikon 200mm AIS F4 manual focusing lens (its small but no auto focus)
- SB700 speedlight and SB600 speedlight for portrait lighting
From the above equipment items 1 – 5 were used 90% of the time for my photos in Mexico, with the other lenses I ended up using for portraits only. The flashes were also useful as Nikon Z50 was able to work with my SB700 as a commander flash for remote lighting of a model during a photo shoot by the SB600. All the other time, the Z50 with the 16-50 was my go to for photos and videos.
Power: I did not bring the Nikon Z50 battery charger which comes with the camera but only the wall plug I use for my phone and a micro-usb cable and used that to charge my Z50 during the whole trip. As a backup I had my battery pack which I could use to charge my phone or the Z50 during the day. This way if I was walking around the city the camera could charge while I was in no location in particular. The battery on the Z50 would last about 1.5-2 hours of video and about 300 shots without any issues.
Video: Excellent – 4k looks great. 1080p is fantastic. 1080p slow motion 5x slower (120fps) is very useful, no sound recording during slow motion.
Slow motion video:
Still photos: So how did Nikon Z50 handle still photos. For a non-technical assessment I can say the following: “with ease and quality of Nikon”. If you have used a Nikon before you will get excellent results of sharp and colourful photos with a lot of detail. 20 Megapixels of the camera is more than enough for any prints web or online publications. I feel it is also enough for studio shot portraits (see below).
Using the Z 16-50mm lens or DSLR lenses with the FTZ adaptor the Z50 delivered consistent results in all of my tests and has now earned a place in my bag at all times . (As a matter of fact since I had come back from vacation having the Z50 in my bag had already paid off. I had been at an event of a fire with the Z50 in the bag and shot photos and videos which had been published in local news).
Detailed quality break down:
ISO: Z50 ISO handling which is very impressive. I had done an ISO test starting accidentally at ISO 16000, only to realise it looked pretty good so I left that shot for you to review. At the “fit to internet” size ISO of 16000 down to 6400 produces useful photos. The grain drops to minimal between 3200 and 1600 and at ISO 800 you have very useful images.
ISO tests Close up at 100%
Colors and Dynamic Range: The colour of the photos is great and punchy without being too overwhelming. Full control of images comes from the the Z50 raw shooting capability. Each of the RAW files weighs in at around 25Mb and produces excellent files where you can recover +3 to -3 stops without quality suffering. I was able to bring back detail on shots I’ve taken at the hotel through the window showing recovery both in highlights and shadows.
Focus: The Z50 focus with both the native Z 16-50mm lens and DSLR lenses (50mm,85mm) using the adapter was quick and consistent. Eye detect worked well and face detect worked very well, with a test at a Cabo live music venue where I photographed and recorded video of a band playing live.
The Z50 locked on their faces in realtime even though at some times they were obscured by microphones. Video similarly was also locking on and was consistent throughout the test of the camera.
KIT Lens: The kit 16-50mm lens which comes with the Z50 has VR which helps with long exposure videos where I can hand hold a photo for up to 1 second while being all around sharp. The variable apperture is something the “advanced” photographers often may complain about, but for day to day use its compact size is unbeatable. The 16-50mm was on my Z50 most of the time and remains there currently. Its so small and produces awesome photos.
This was my most important test, how is the quality and detail and auto focus for portrait photography. I am always considering any camera I purchase with the question, will it work as a backup or primary camera for a business shoot. I had a couple of opportunities to shoot portraits, once at a sustainable farm where I photographed the staff and second was a portrait shoot for a local DJ in Cabo san Lucas (https://www.instagram.com/lesssantana).
The 50mm 1.8 G was excellent on the FTZ adapter and produced sharp photos and eye auto focus working. See the details in the images below:
In both cases was I was very impressed with the Z50 snapping to focus on faces and eyes (a bit confusing at first as my DSLRs did not do that). The Z50 with the FTZ adapter made the 50mm and 85mm G lenses feel seamless extensions of the Z camera and I did not feel like these were slowed by using the adapter. Quality out of these lenses was outstanding on the Z50.
Finally, as a portrait shooter I needed to confirm that the speedlights worked as I follow the speedlight off camera flash practice. The Z50 has a built in flash which you CANNOT use as a commander for the Nikon speedlights in CLS / TTL mode. However, attaching an SB700 to the Z50 I was able to use the SB700 commander features to trigger the SB600 in the softbox for excellent results and control. Quality of the photos speak for themselves.
Things which did not work: Z50 screen flips around (down not to the side) so if you have a selfie stick you may cover up the screen. The camera has only 1 memory card slot(SD). Finally the touch screen was tapping my cheek each time I would use the viewfinder and kept zooming in on the subject, that was annoying to some degree.
Final Thought: The Z50 is now in my bag at all times, never know when I will take an amazing photo or need to record video. This camera is a camera a perfect method of transition from the F to Z mount DSLR to mirrorless which gets your feet wet in the Mirrorless world and shows you its possibilities and features such as live preview and focus peaking without being a replacement for your DSLR. In addition, the video quality is great and any photographer who shoots stills should have a video camera Z50 delivers.
For everyone who is currently using a 3000 5000 or 7000 series Nikon DSLR series camera the Z50 is a considerable upgrade in quality, size and ease of use in my opinion!
PS I realised reviewing cameras is a lot of work…
Shooting on the 50mm 1.2 the night riders!
The night ride is an annual event here in Vancouver British Columbia, orgnaized by the HUB (A bike alliance), City of Vancouver and a west coast sports / travel retail giant Mountain Equipment Coop. This year it took place on September 7th and I had just enough time after a long day at work to grab my equipment and pop out to take some photos.
Other than the brightly lit riders I wanted to see what I could do with a 50mm 1.2 AIS lens, which had just newly arrived. So it was a lens test too. The 1980s vintage Nikon 50mm AIS 1.2 did well as I rushed out the door and did not get a battery for my DSLR. Never fear, I switched bodies to a Sony a6300 which gave me descent focus peaking (Telling me where to focus).
Pushing ISO up to 800 and shooting all manual is a breeze! 🙂 mostly, Hit ratio in low light of the evening with moving riders I was able to get about 100 out of 260 shots in focus and with interesting subjects. For a location I used the overpass of the Burrard Street bridge (in the background) to provide a bit more shelter from the last light of the evening as the sun had just set. A real main light source was the yellow amber glow of a streetlight to the right beyond the darkening sky in the background.
To get an idea of the lighting check out the video below:
#vancouver #ridethenight #50mm12ais
A Star Wars Themed Photo Shoot
the project management life of a photographer
It all started out with a concept: sporty Stormtroopers. No, I was not going the cosplay route, thats been done, and turns rather “over-done” . I had wanted to re-create a Stormtrooper look with off the shelf outfits, props and I have no skill at crafting anything out of abs or 3d printing.
What this concept became, in retrospect and upon reflection, was an execution of a full project and my own realization of truly being a project manager not a photographer…
From Wikipedia: A project is a temporary endeavor designed to produce a unique product, service or result with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or staffing)…..
All of this is then tied into the Project management Triangle, which is a case of Zen balance. How do you balance all three items and ensure quality does not suffer.
…fairly straight forward but to execute a number of requirements needed to be met, especially with three storm troopers in the middle of winter.
Planning and Execution
Stormtroopers – the models, I had put out a call for models. Two criteria were are available to shoot in December (see time / location below) and ensure that the “aren’t you a little too short to be a storm trooper” does not occur ensure that all of the storm troopers were the same height.
Make up Artist – A makeup artist who would be able to do consistent makeup for 3 models within a 1-2 hour timeline (see below)
Photography Assistant – I had to ask around to see who I can rope in to help out. Candidate was found (unlisted and un-credited due to possible failure of marriage due to being around models? ok that is a project outside of MY scope) .
Shoot Location and Time:
Time – Shoot needed to be executed before December release of the Last Jedi, also in a time when models can be available and have beauty sleep to ensure glowing skin (see MUA)
Location – We actually shot this in December in prep for Last Jedi release, therefore an indoor location was required.
Shooting outdoor in Vancouver was not an option as the available outfits (see Costumes below) did not allow for sufficient body heat retention. Although, Vancouver is not a very cold city compared to the rest of Canada its still cold. No we did not get snow in December, and temperatures were still around 0-5 Celsius (low 30s in Fahrenheit – thx Greg N).
The solution was an indoor space, I was able to locate an indoor green screen location in the city and ensure it could be booked after hours to allow for schedule of the models and makeup artist. Also it needed heaters, if you are shooting in any studio location in the winter MAKE SURE you have heaters going HOURS before the shoot to warm up the space and the air.
At first it seems quite simple shoot models dressed up as stormtroopers. The break down of this becomes a bit more complex, from looks and outfits to make up and gear. (for those who asked about the outfits details for cosplay this is a fairly detailed breakdown)
Outfits – Finding the props and styles was perhaps the trickiest with first looking for costumes online. Amazon was my first choice, however, the quality of the costumes was a bit too cheesy where as the prices for the more advanced costumes was quite high.
Costs -As this was an unfunded project (i.e. funded by me) I wanted to ensure the costs were not too crazy.
Breaking down the costume: Working with the black and white concept the solution came together, helmets and guns had to be ordered online and from Toys R US, the tops were sports/workout bra-tops from Sport Check. The bottoms and stockings Amazon had latex style leggings and shorts were from a local sports store. The boots were a courtesy of a local “fashion” store, and through negotiation I was able to rent them vs buying them as long as no outdoor shoots were done to scuff or dirty them.
Makeup was to be completed in about 1 hour for 3 models, to prepare I had to ensure the models and the MUA were in touch. This allowed them to communicate in advance of the shoot to check for any allergies, skin concerns so the makeup artist knew what to work with.
Also to ensure that a consistent makeup free or basic foundation was in place for all models when then came to the location. Yes I know way too much about this side of the business, but it helps to know and be aware..
The makeup artist was amazing and consistent and yes although storm troopers wear helmets! Great work by Andrea Kristina http://www.instagram.com/akristina
Shooting, that’s easy, lighting, gear and the actual shoot, it was business as usual. Really this is the easiest part, yes I had to manage lighting, and help with poses, ensure the models knew how to hold blasters, but compared to all the prep this was a piece of cake for me.
Note – Well except for one thing, the green screen room kept casting a green hue due to color contamination on the white of the trooper outifts. This is covered here in a great petapixel article: https://petapixel.com/2018/02/28/problem-color-contamination-photography/
What Did I Learn:
….Thinking back on the project which I started planning around October 2017 and executed on December 12 2017 it was about two months of work. The results, costs were maintained within reason, and the models ended up with a sporty outfits to keep (along some got trooper helmets which could be re-purposed for another shoot).
In closing, this is what went into this shoot, coordination, planning, execution, last minute changes and revisions, minor cost overruns. With some amazing results and lessons learned for the future. For you, all I can say is if YOU are planning a shoot, YOU ARE THE PROJECT MANAGER!
PS.. and personal grumble, due to the Last Jedi, but that’s a different story.
A fire at one of the Vancouver’s downtown homeless housing shelters at a former Vancouver Quality Inn located at 1335 Howe Street, near the Granville Street bridge today took a life of one of the residents there.
The fire which broke out early this evening at the Howe Street site ( a hotel converted by the City of Vancouver in 2014 ) which provides spaces for up to 175 residents was localized to a single room/floor. The fire led to a closure of Howe Street from Davie to Pacific, and Drake from Granville to Hornby Streets. The Vancouver Police, Fire and Ambulance Departments arrived on site were unable to save the victim who was found dead.
The cause of death has not been released but speaking to the emergency response teams it appears that personal possessions and a mattress in a private room caught fire and led to the death.
The Howe Street facility was converted in 2014 along with a number of other facilities by the City of Vancouver to house the city’s homeless who were camping at areas such as the Oppenheimer Park.
A non work, or photo or business post, this is all about fun in the sun. I must admit, I haven’t seen that many people with smiles on their faces for a long time!
As my godson in the video said, ” real friends not virtual are the best, and as for chasing bubbles, it’s way more fun than playing xbox at home. ”
Family day has been designated a few years ago as a new statutory holiday in British Columbia, falling on the second Monday in February. Today Family Day decided to happen on a lovely sunny day with just a little bit of breeze.
Local “Bubble magicians” – as that is the term that best applies – were en force sending small and giant bubbles into the smiling faces of adults and to the delights of the kids who were running to pop them!
I had posted some photos on Instagram but here is the rest of them, a very quick blog entry but it was awesome.
A video and photos below.
Some photos too..
Hello 2016 – it started out with color and with black and white!
After some baileys and coffee and hot chocolate and deep conversations about meaning of life — no mainly just trying to understand the methods of the fairer sex, we had gone out for a walk with my friend Nick through downtown snapping photos of people and sights.
The city was muted, by the time the sun had set the polar bear swimmers (the annual event where people run into the ocean at english bay) were tired and heading home, couples walked in the fog which was starting to seep into the waterfront parts of the city.
Cab drivers were out, not sitting inside their cars, but they were out standing by their vehicles and spoke in quiet tones – almost in awe at the silence which was now enveloping the city.
Here are some of the photos from the first photo walk through the cold and moist streets of Vancouver (no there was no snow this year in the city) .
Perhaps this deserves to have its own gallery.. we will see!
Having gone on a long overdue vacation to the jungles of central america, I had brought a fairly light kit with me including my 11-16 DX Tokina.
I am not a huge HDR fan but for some of the jungle shots I had tried to get the 3 exposure shots and here are the results. Enjoy these while I work on the Faces of Central America collection … coming soon!
Oh yeah the below pictures are pretty big so give them a second to load!
And of course, dont forget to link back and like my facebook page! Click link and Click LIKE on my FB Page
Magic of Ballet captured through the lens. I had the pleasure of shooting two beautiful ballerinas from Mexico they have been performing in Vancouver for about six months. I was able to have them do their magic in the studio last weekend and here are the amazing photos. .
For the techies the shots were made with a 6 foot impact umbrella and a 7 foot parabolic umbrella shooting with a d610 and d5100 using a 24-70 lens. For the flash I used an sb900 commander with sb700 and sb600 slaves. For the seven foot umbrella I used two flashes firing simultaneously into it to provide enough output.
This Saturday was a chance to do some non human photography while exploring the Vancouver aquarium. Most of the below shots I took while hand holding my DSLR and all manual everything (105 and 50 mm lenses) . Worked good for slow moving creatures such as star fish or jelly fish, but manual focus is truly a pain in the butt for birds (even if they are just being carried around by a human.)
Check out some pictures below, from the Vancouver Aquarium