Cheap, obsolete gear at its best (and why Spot Metering is your friend)

Marla191ug15-01Today’s the day. After a 10 months break, Marla took up on a friend’s offer for a chance to ride a poney again. Here she’s getting geared up for it

Marla191ug15-03Before she got to ride, Marla went to fetch my own horse (who can safely be led by a 6 yr old). To record the whole session I had taken the old (2008 !!) D90 and the only Nikon lens I have left so far, an ancient Nikkor 75-240 F:4.5-5.6, all plastic, zoom

Marla191ug15-02I brought it in a “it’ll have to do” state of mind, but it did way better than that…

HeloiseApache-01You have to remember that 7 years in term of digital technology, that’s forever. The D90, as a truly “benchmark good” camera back in 2008, is really an old piece of gear by today’s standards. Sensors have known significant improvements in the last 7 year, so have AF modules, metering systems, etc. So I clearly did not expect the D90 to perform half as good as it did. There was another caveat, too. As you know the Nikon is an old school DSLR, sporting a real OVF (optical viewfinder), which unless the EVF (electronic viewfinder) of my NEX mirrorless cameras, does not give “live view” type exposure simulation preview. In other words, with the D90, I have to chose a metering mode and trust the camera’s meter, shoot, and check *after the fact* whether the exposure has been successfully reached by the camera, or not (the Sony shows me the what the final pic will like *before* I hit the shutter button)

Marla191ug15-04Riding arenas routinely are shaded places with much brighter light outside of them, which makes proper exposure a real challenge. That is the very reason I’ve almost completely switch to mirrorless cameras over the past 3 yearsMarla191ug15-05Today, Matrix metering from the Nikon, of even Center Weighted Average, which I tend to favor, were regularly fooled by the contrasty and tricky lighting conditions. The camera would recognize the strong background highlights and try hard to preserve (not burn) them by actively underexposing my subjects (the riders and their mounts) who would end up all dark

Marla191ug15-06Then I remembered that metering mode I used a lot on my D700 : spot metering

HeloiseApache-02Spot metering exposes for a very small zone, generally linked the the AF point. Meaning your subject will be perfectluy exposed, even if it means the background is totally over (or under) exposed ! Since I knew exposing the riders perfectly would severely burn the background’s highlights, I deliberately chose to dial -0.3 exposure compensation to somewhat soften that effect. All the arena shots in this post were made this way

Marla191ug15-12Huh, what has that got to do with anything ?? Just a random snap later on as we were walking the ponies outside

Marla191ug15-08Here I added a little extra shadow boost in Snapseed to help render the scene pretty much as my eyes had seen it

Marla191ug15-09Meanwhile Marla was slowly getting her mojo back and starting to really enjoy her pony

Marla191ug15-10After which we took everyone for stroll outside, and metering issues disappeared altogether

Marla191ug15-11Totally relaxed, now, with a very sweet and easy going Rouky in tow

HeloiseApache-037 year old camera with 75€ plastic lens, really ?

Marla191ug15-13This makes me ponder my attachment to mirrorless, truly. For carrying the camera around for an outdoor afternoon, size isn’t an issue (going to a party or shooting portraits of shy subjects would be a different matter, where mirrorless is indeed very relevant). But for everyday photography ? I think the only change in tech that would have given me the edge in comparable circumstances would have been a FF sensor, and a better, faster lens

Marla191ug15-15A modest used D600 with a Sigma 70-200 F:2.8 or even the ancient Nikkor 70-210F:4 would have brought better, wider DR, and crispier details, with a bit more versatile AF. These days a used 600 can be found for little over 700 euros, the Sigma around 450 (if you know how to shop), and the old Nikkor below 100. That sure beats the cost of a Sony A7 and FE 70-200 F:4 !

Marla191ug15-14Truly, if exposure can be tamed, you’re still winning for availabilty on the used market, variety, and cost of used gear by sticking to the DSLR, not to mention the still better AF (sue me and prove me wrong on this one). The ONLY downside for me is the lack of WYSIWYG in the old school OVF, but that’s probably about to change, too…



About marla2008

Shutterbug. Shallow DOF nut. Mother of Child. Student of the Horse.
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11 Responses to Cheap, obsolete gear at its best (and why Spot Metering is your friend)

  1. janesheers says:

    These are nice images Clare. It’s funny how we can get obsessed with the gear can’t do rather than where it excels. A friend had the D90 and she gets some gorgeous images from it.

    Marla is looking very cute especially leading the pony. I have to ask, what happened to Marla’s pony?

    • marla2008 says:

      Hello Jane, good to read you !! Pirouette has been relocated in a competition jumping stable where young riders were stronger and more skilled, as she had become unridable for Marla and has caused pretty durable trauma for her. Marla was to afraid to ride for nearly a year, but seems to be slowly getting back her desire to. Will document her next lessons soon.

      • janesheers says:

        That’s a shame. I remember reading last year about her coming off Pirouette now that you mention it. Naughty little pony. Hopefully Marla won’t be scared. Poor Pirouette though – off to another home.

  2. marla2008 says:

    She’s off to a great working place, where the kids love her and she gets the necessary amount of work to prevent her from scaring other children badly. I wish it would have been different, but seing Marla, who was such a gifted little rider, now literally ridid with fear in the saddle, really breaks my heart and makes me curse that pony inside… Before selling her I was of course concerned with her long run future, but I think the stables she works at now are sufficiently high end that they’ll provide proper retirement when the time comes. In the meanwhile we are very slowly trying to cure Marla from her clinging and paralysing fear, not an easy task, and a heartwrenching one.

  3. Laurent says:

    Sad story about Marla’s fear for sure. Hope she will fully enjoy riding horses soon!

    Do you think it is realistic to adapt a m42 lens on my Canon? I know it is technically doable, but I am not sure how doable the focus would be. The lens I am thinking about is the Helios 44 (that’s your fault, you had a “swirly bokeh” lens one day, and it stayed in a corner on my brain for months and months).. I just would like to get a taste of those vintage lenses without switching system completely….

  4. marla2008 says:

    Laurent, don’t you have a NEX 5 or something ? Adapting M42 glass to your Canon is relatively easy, but I’m afraid the lack of positive and intuitive focus confirmation system will spoil it for you 😦 Even the oldest and cheapest NEX have had Focus Peaking added through firmware update and Sony’s peaking is by far the best implementation of this technology. I really suggest you try it on a NEX, maybe you could borrow one ?

  5. Laurent says:

    Well, NEX5’s are really cheap, as I can see on Keh camera….(around $100)… I might think about investing a bit in it….we will see…..

  6. marla2008 says:

    Ideally try to borrow one first ?

  7. Laurent says:

    Well, all my photography friends own a DSLR, as far as I know (except one with an alpha 6000). Maybe this is just a bad idea, as I already own a 50mm f1.4 (and a 28mm 2.8) so it would not be super useful. Maybe I should focus more into something very different, like a 100mm f2, or a 100-300 (kids soccer season is pretty soon!)

    • marla2008 says:

      Wait a minute, you’re talking about manually focusing a 100-300 ? Lol. That can be done. I’ve taken a few pretty decent shots manually focusing longer focal lengths, however it remains a challenge and I wouldn’t start with manual focus this way. I’m afraid that would lead to massive frustration. Start out with a 35 or 50ish focal length to get a hang of it, then move on to more challenging FL and situations. Just saying 😉

      • Laurent says:

        Not at all!!! I was only pondering the benefit of investing in a new camera (even if the NEX5 is a steal for $80 on Keh) for the sole benefit of adapting a lens that I find interesting (but roughly the same focal length from one lens I already own). That just did not seem very efficient (in term of cost AND simplicity). So I will just keep it simple.

        Better invest in a lens I could really use, possibly a cheapo zoom (50-250) for my kid’s soccer games, etc, or an oldish 100-300mm, or, for a few more $$$, a 100mm f2….So far I have been using my really outdated bridge camera for those situations….

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