In this three-part series, I’m going to review all three of the cameras I work with. Each one — the Nikon D850, Leica M-P (Typ 240) and Fujifilm X-H1 — serves a very distinct, professional purpose for me and I use them all regularly. To my mind, this is a much better way to understand the differences between camera types than clinical comparisons of features, or even out-of-the-box reviews, in controlled settings. In the real world, cameras must integrate into your workflow, go through problems, get resolved, take a few hits, make mistakes and work some magic in multiple settings before they really earn a review.
I’ll be going over all three cameras, one at a time — a full-frame DSLR, a full-frame rangefinder and a cropped sensor mirrorless — in a completely non-academic fashion. I simply want to show you the various shoots I’ve done with them throughout the year with a few notes about what the camera offered me with each.
First up – the Nikon D850.
I upgraded from the Nikon D800 to the D850 back in March and even from the very first shot, I knew the new sensor and larger files were impressive. I’ve shot Nikon since 1980 and have upgraded with nearly every major advancement – from the D100 to the D300 to the incredible D750 and on through to this one. With that, it was an easy integration with some substantial upgrades. Let’s take a look:
March: A Friend’s Ferrari
Ferrari Mondial. Photo by Josh S. Rose, March 2018.
One of the more typical situations for a photographer – a friend is selling his car and needs a few nice photos for the post. Always happy to oblige a nice car shoot, so I had him bring it over to Beverly Hills and we found a few nice spots where some reflective light from buildings helped me showcase the shape and sheet metal.
I’m no car photographer, and I don’t travel with the right lights to do it justice, but I know generally how to get myself into a nice three-quarter position to shoot one. The big files and excellent dynamic range really help when shooting cars, which usually need quite a bit of adjustments to look great. And while a lot of work would need to be done on a shot like this to get it magazine-ready, it’s got just about everything a car shot needs before getting the royal treatment, including detail in places where any admirer of fine classic cars could find themselves getting lost in for as long as they like.
Ferrari Mondial Detail. Photo by Josh S. Rose, March 2018.
April: To Tell a Story
Editorial Celeb Shoot. Photo by Josh S. Rose, 2018.
Getting to shoot a beautiful and talented actress in an editorial style is pretty much my happy place. This was not only a chance to test out the D850 for an ideal gig, it was also a good opportunity to pare it with a strobe – in this case, a Profoto B1 with a warm gel. This shot is nearly exactly how it came out of the camera and is among my favorites of the year.
Few cameras can create this quality of an image indoors, in an almost entirely dark setting. It requires a lot of things working right, both in-camera with the lens and with the strobe. As you recede in space in this image, you’re still cognizant of environmental features, like the oak barrel and background booth, which truly help this be more than a simple portrait and veer into editorial storytelling. This is hugely important to me and because of my style of shooting, which is very physical (I’m basically on the table here), I don’t like to use a tripod. This means I need a fast shutter speed to deal with all my moving. This is shot at 1/320th of a second. But in order to deal with me, the camera needed to be wide open at f/1.4 (35mm). And I wanted the lowest possible ISO for clarity (I’m already losing a lot by being at f/1.4). I was able to shoot this at a phenomenally low ISO 400. And, of course, keep in mind I’m also controlling a strobe at the same time. That’s an incredible amount of flexibility that the D850 affords.
May: Inside Job
D.A. Wallach for Ember. Photo by Josh S. Rose, May, 2018.
Every once in a while, something comes your way that changes the course of your entire life. April/May was like that for me. Around this time, I saw a major upheaval in life — bad for my anxiety, but great for my photography as it lead directly to meeting what would be one of the most creative clients to work with.
This shoot was our first go and this shot one of my first taken. Indoors, no flash, but I got to work with one of the very best continuous Arri lights available, coming in from outside, as well as a fog machine. I again set it up with a 35mm prime wide open to give me the most flexibility indoors and was absolutely stunned by the camera’s ability to capture the subtleties of the atmosphere we created. Separation from the room’s atmosphere and the coffee’s steam helped this scene come together, as well as the range in the shadows that offered a natural look for the subject’s face and enough detail in his glasses to give it real depth.
For a simple kind of shot, there’s amazing details here all along the spectrum. Indoor shoots are hard to make look extremely dynamic and sharp, but the D850 performed magnificently.
June: And a Glass of Wine
Betsy, Vase, Wine. Photo by Josh S. Rose, June, 2018.
Of all the things I shot in June, this stood out to me, even though it was not a professional shoot. My wife’s friend came over to visit for a bit and the light happened to be coming in beautifully through our living room window. I have a few cans of aerosol mist and decided I’d just have some fun and see what came out. I used a Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 here and it was dark enough that I bumped the ISO to 1250 and shot a slow (for me) 1/200th of a second.
But despite the great low light performance of the camera, what really stands out to me here is the color grading I was able to do with the shot. Most color adjustments on image files are relegated to white balance shifts and the more you really try to change the mood of the image, the more you just make it look bad or fake. But with this kind of depth in the image, I was able to do much better tweaks in color grading to really create a distinct look that is indistinguishable from what I might have produced using gels and special lights. This is a hugely valuable asset for post-production explorations that is relatively unique to the D850 image size and rendering.
Color grading, Nikon D850. Photo by Josh S. Rose, 2018.
August: Studio Portrait