Zeikos vs. Nikon Grips

If you find yourself shooting in portrait (vertical) orientation a lot, you probably get tired of the awkward pose required to hold the camera:  your right arm and elbow are high in the air and bent over to your forehead.  Beyond a lack of comfort, this isn’t necessarily the best posture for sharp shots, either.  Other than moving to a tripod (which doesn’t work if you’re highly mobile), one solution is getting a battery grip.

There are two big benefits.  First, you can now hold your camera in the standard way in portrait (tall) or landscape (wide) orientation.  Second, the grip contains a second battery that gives you serious battery life – especially useful if you’re shooting a lot of flash.

The downside is the camera makers tend to charge some relatively serious money for them.  The grips for Nikon’s full-frame cameras get progressively more expensive:  $230 for the D610, $370 for the D750 and $439 for the D810.  Even the D7100 grip is $250.  As you might expect, third-party providers have stepped in and offer the same function for less than $100.  The question is “How good are they?”

I’ll start by saying the grip I’m “reviewing” here is an old one, so it is completely possible that improvements have been made for the newer cameras.  However, I doubt the conclusion is any different at all (provided here for those of you already chafing to click close and hit Reddit):  For the money, they are a very good deal and work well enough.  If you use one a lot, you may want to spend the extra bucks on one from the manufacturer.  Read on for details.

I just got a Zeikos grip with the D700 I purchased, so I did a quick comparison (Nikon left, Zeikos right):

LH7_0460 LH7_0464Nothing big to report here. The radius in some of the angles is a little less subtle for the Zeikos (which is consistent in general). The mounting screw for Nikon seems slightly beefier, and has a half a turn more thread or so…

LH7_0467The plastic on the Zeikos is smoother and shinier. The feel of the power button is similar, but the shutter button is smoother/more progressive than the Zeikos, which has a slight but definite “break” for the shutter release. I don’t classify that as a negative outside of the fact that it isn’t consistent with the body – It felt fine when shooting.

LH7_0463The Zeikos feels a little less “full” in my hand. The Nikon grip is rounded out toward the front, and has a cavity for your fingertips (you can see that well in the first shot). This is definitely preferred. The Nikon rubber is slightly grippier as well. The Nikon wheels are slightly rubberized vs. hard plastic for the Zeikos.

LH7_0462Nikon obviously has a rubber bottom area where Zeikos continues with the grip rubber. Probably a wash unless you put your camera down on the bottom routinely. I’m not sure how well the Zeikos grip would hold up if you’re using an L-bracket (probably fine). The tripod mount seems beefier on the Nikon.

LH7_0461More rubber on the Nikon grip on the back, along with the rubberized wheel. I think if you’re using the grip sparingly this isn’t an issue. If you use it a lot in portrait mode, I’m guessing the hard plastic at the thumb might get tiring. The AF-ON button is labeled on the Nikon. The button feel is pretty similar here, though the edges of the Nikon button are smoother and more integrated into the body of the grip. Joystick feel is similar, with the Nikon feeling a little tighter/more refined. The click action for the Zeikos isn’t as defined as the Nikon, which made 1-click zoom less certain. This is the biggest single issue I have with it. Not a killer if you don’t use that a lot (I do).

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Battery trays are nearly identical. Again the Nikon tray seems…beefier…and a little smoother when installing and removing from the body. The shape of the tray handle is a little more elegantly molded for the Nikon, though that is just aesthetic.

Conclusion:  Overall I think the Zeikos grip is fine. If you aren’t using a grip a lot, I think the function-for-value equation is really good. There are a few things that clearly up to Nikon’s standards, but you’re not paying Nikon prices.  I haven’t seen the Canon equivalents, but I’d guess the conclusion is the same.  If little things bother you, grab one from the manufacturer.  Buying used is often a way to save some money, too.

Iceland and others

2014 was a really busy year, and I shot less with my camera than I have in some time.  I also posted less here on Enthusiast Photographer.  Part of that is (and continues to be) that my primary editing PC was in a closet for most of the 2nd half of the year.  I still have a few shots that haven’t made it to my secondary (travel) PC.

Anyway, here are a few 2014 shots that I like that hadn’t made it to the blog yet.  Some of them are touristy, which is fine with me :)

Quick scenic stop on our way to Akureyri, the 2nd largest city in Iceland

Quick scenic stop on our way to Akureyri, the 2nd largest city in Iceland

Another scenic stop on the way to Akureyri

Another scenic stop on the way to Akureyri

We were very lucky to catch the Northern Lights.  Tripod and very long shutter speed required!

We were very lucky to catch the Northern Lights. Tripod and very long shutter speed required!

The cabin we stayed at...

The cabin we stayed at…

In the museum in Reykjavík, there was a display that caught my eye...

In the museum in Reykjavík, there was a display that caught my eye…

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The opera house / theatre in Reykjavík

More sculptures from 798 in Beijing

More sculptures from 798 in Beijing

I thought this was an...interesting...contrast

I thought this was an…interesting…contrast

It is time to get back to some more creative shots, but I still really enjoy my travel photography!

Enthusiast Photographer – 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

(I need to get busy and post more!)

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sometimes you go back…

I recently went back to Beijing’s very-interesting 798 District.  It is a really eclectic area with a lot of art and…unusual…things to see.  The last time I went I was in a bit of a rush, and wanted to get back to see a few more sights and take a few more photographs.

As it turned out, this visit was even shorter and the time of year meant it got dark much earlier, so I got a lot less opportunity than before.  I took a bunch of touristy shots (I am fine with that kind of thing as long as it is done on purpose), but also tried to get a few creative shots in as well.  As we wandered around, I went by the spot of one of my favorite shots from my previous visit:

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I loved the texture, subtle colors and indirect light in this photo when I took it a few years ago

I thought I might try some different things with the scene, somewhat like I do with the tugboat I often photograph in Charleston.  Unfortunately, sometimes you go back…and things aren’t what they used to be:

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I’m sure everything works better now, but it isn’t nearly as interesting as it was.

I guess the lesson is that you can’t count on interesting things enduring – make sure you take the opportunity to capture what you want – think about more than one composition and have as much fun as you can.  The shot might not be there the next time you come back…

Had similar experiences?  Post ‘em up! :)

Moto 360 – Enthusiast Photographer Diversion

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My day job is in the tech industry, and I’ve been watching the wearable tech pretty closely.  Apologies for the diversion, but I thought this might be of interest to some folks who follow the blog.

When I first saw the Moto 360, I wanted one.  The design looks great, and my hope was it was as simple and classic as it looked.  I happened to wander through a Best Buy when they had one (and only one) on the shelf, so I had to grab it.  Here’s a few thoughts after about two weeks of ownership:

  • I only got 12 hours the first day, but averaged 14 hours or so after that.  In the last few days of Sept. there was an update that has me up to 16-20 hours.  I’m not worried about battery any more.
  • I’m using Ambient Light (always on, but dims unless you tab it or roll your wrist over to look at it) and 4 for brightness.
  • It is keeping my phone in my pocket more
  • I really like being able to see e-mail and deleting it right then and there. Reading isn’t great, but at least lets me know if it is worth getting my phone out….
  • Seeing texts and being able to respond with my voice is great. I do not text and drive, and I’m not going to make a lot of use out of this feature, but being able to glance at it, tap the watch and respond has come in handy a couple of times. My Nexus 5 doesn’t integrate as well with my 2011 Mini Clubman as well as my Lumia 920 did, but the Moto360 fixes that to a large degree.
  • The heart rate and step counter were a little limited at first because they seemed inaccurate and I was babying the watch a bit for battery life.  The suede leather isn’t what I’m thinking of for exercise, either – I’ll probably pick up the metal band when it comes out.  I just got back from a business trip to Iceland (I’ll post the pix soon), and the update seemed to fix things nicely: the step counter generally agreed with my buddy’s FitBit while we were stomping around.
  • I really wish this thing tracked sleep, but even the improved battery life doesn’t allow it. This is the only thing I feel is strongly lacking for me.
  • There is virtually no setup. Settings are a little weird to get to (originally was press and hold the button, but that seems to have been updated to tap the face a couple times to get the Google Now screen and swipe up. The order of items in that settings menu doesn’t seem to be usage- or usefulness-based. Kind of annoying, but minor.
  • I wish I could configure how/which Google Now cards showed up (true of Android in general)
  • It recharges very quickly on the stand – an hour or so to a full charge.
  • I love how the thing looks. I like the dimmed face when I’m driving at night. Who needs tritium??
  • I have a million ideas on how this thing can be used. Fun to think like this again.

Overall – I’m really digging it. It isn’t overdone or intrusive, and it looks and works great. It doesn’t feel like 1st-gen tech, but there are a lot of possibilities.  It keeps my phone in my pocket, which is helping with battery life and makes for less things in my hands when I’m doing something like photography.  If you’re an Android person, this thing might be right for you.

(This also gave me the chance to try out the Canon S100 I picked up used to take the photo above – I really like this little guy!  Will make a nice lightweight travel companion.  It is an older camera, so I’m not sure I’ll put up a review, but another example of an “old” camera serving perfectly well and saving me a lot of money.)

Japan (and Singapore) 2014

My job sometimes takes me to really cool places, and recently I was sent to China, Japan and Singapore. I didn’t get a chance to get out at all in Beijing, but got around a fair bit in Japan. Finished with several days in Singapore, but most of the photography from that leg was pretty touristy, so most of the images below are from Tokyo.  I was in Macau earlier this Summer, but haven’t had a chance to pull those together as I’ve been swapping computers.  I’ll come back to those soon…

In any case, I was apparently in an abstract mood… :)

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14573067759_bc953e98d9_cLEE_788214737037866_63cf1d2dfd_bI feel like these images do a better job taking me back to the place and time than “regular” photographs, and I find myself paying a lot more attention to my surroundings and the small details everywhere…  :)

What is your favorite travel/vacation photo?

 

 

Get it Right In the Camera

Man on the Chau Phraya

Man on the Chau Phraya

If you hang around on photography forums or blogs enough, you’re eventually going to hear someone say “Get it right in the camera”, “I never edit my photos” or “You shouldn’t need to tweak your photographs.” While I understand where these people are coming from (especially in the first one), I think these kinds of statements are extremely damaging to beginning photographers.

Here’s the thing: You should never feel scared to press the shutter button. While I appreciate (and agree with) the idea that a photographer should have full command of his/her equipment, the learning and creative process is far more important as you start out. Editing photos isn’t a crutch – it is a way to extract what you were looking for to begin with. There is nothing wrong with making adjustments after the fact – Ansel Adams made plenty of adjustments in the darkroom. Editing will help rescue images that didn’t come out quite right as you’re trying new things, too.

Also, the “get it right in the camera” crowd are getting tweaked whether they know it or not: The camera applies a certain amount of adjustment for saturation, contrast, sharpness, etc. for JPEGs by default, and most editing software like Lightroom does the same thing for RAW files as well (though of course in the case of RAW you can change/undo 100% of what the software applies).

At the end of the day, your goal as a photographer is to end up with the best composition and exposure possible. As a learning beginner, both of those things can be improved after the fact. Hopefully you wind up with an image that makes you happy and learn what to do next time that makes editing less necessary. As I’ve improved my photography, the kind of editing I do is different. It is probably fair to say it is a lot less and certainly I strive for an image that is as close to done as possible when I press the shutter button. That said, I’m a lot more interesting in having a photo I’m proud of, and if editing gets me there I have no issue with that at all.

So that’s it: Edit, learn from what you’re having to adjust and improve. And most importantly: have fun with your camera!

That twitch…

WP_20140205_007A yellow field surrounded by mottled gray and bone-white trees and morning mist.  An abandoned church covered in vines, the door blocked by vines but the stained glass that crowns the entrance peeking through.  An old camper wildly painted in vivid colors and images that are slowly fading.  A bright pink diner with a Cadillac out front and a tremendous array of Elvis memorabilia on the walls.  Fields split by a rumbly river fringed with trees.  Stone bridges barely wide enough to pass on four wheels.

An unexpected trip this morning took me on twisty, back-country roads that I thoroughly enjoyed driving.  But as I wound my way to my destination, images kept catching my eyes and making me wish I’d brought my camera.

I’m sitting in the pink diner, and I’ll probably take the chance on the way home to take some of those pictures with my phone.  They won’t be the images I wanted, and mainly I’ll take them to illustrate the path I’ll return to in the near future to capture the images the way I really want to catch them.

I finished 2013 with a bullet.  Lots of travel.  Busy with work and family.  I haven’t even taken the opportunity to post my Favorites of 2013 yet (which I’ll get to shortly).  The shutter-bug in me had been dormant other than family photos recently, but it is now fully awake and pulling me to get out with my camera.  Not a bad way to start 2014…

Enthusiast Photographer 2013 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this Enthusiast Photographer. I logged over 130,000 miles in the air this year, so I have to admit I didn’t get as much done here as I’d hoped but I did get to visit some amazing places and take some of my favorite photos ever. This is their summary – I’ll get one of my own up soon.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Finally got my hands on a Nikon Df…

This is as close to Nikon’s replacement of the D700 as we’re ever likely to see.   I’ll write my thoughts up over the holidays (and catch up on some other things here on Enthusiast Photographer…) but I’d love to hear if anyone has any thoughts on it….