Yesterday I did some office spring cleaning and took a couple of gear photos for the blog post on my Think Tank Photo Shape Shifter bag. I thought it would be fun to take a photo of all my Nikon gear that I had in my office. Most of it was packed away in the back of closets and boxes. It even surprised me how much stuff there was. This is gear that I have purchased over the years and is an interesting walk through camera technology from the days of film to digital.
Lets start with the cameras.
My first Nikon was the N6006 which I purchased back in 1992. I bought it in a camera store at the mall. I went in to buy a camera to replace the Pentax P3 I had been using for years in college. I looked at the Nikon N6006 (also called the F-601) and the Canon Rebel SII and just liked the way the Nikon felt in my hands. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the specs of the camera or looking at it in a long-term way. I picked the Nikon because it fit my hand better. I used the N6006 for many years and really started to take my photography a lot more seriously.
Then in 1996 I saw the promotional material for the new Nikon F5 and lost my mind.
I read every single thing I could about this camera and just knew it would make me a better photographer (it didn’t) so I bought one. I still remember calling every camera store n San Diego to find out who had the best price and who had one in stock. I purchased the camera on a Friday afternoon from a camera store in Point Loma. The camera store is no longer there, but I still have my F5. The F5 was (and still is) an amazing piece of camera technology. It had a built-in motor drive that allowed the camera to shoot 8 frames per second, something most DSLRs can’t do now. The camera took 8 AA batteries and felt rock solid when shooting. Did the camera make me a better photographer? No and yes. Owning the camera made me go out and photograph everything and anything. I mean I had this awesome beast of a camera, I had better use it. It was during this time that I really started to get into concert photography and shooting live events. Lots of time, this was done from the audience, but back then, there wasn’t the proliferation of concert goers with camera so most of the time no one cared. In 2000 I added a F100 as a second body. This camera had all the tech of the F5 in a smaller cheaper body. I added a battery grip and these two cameras became my main gear until I started to transition to digital.
My first digital camera was a Nikon CoolPix 950, and yes, I still have it. It was slow… really slow. In 2002 I upgraded to the new CoolPix 4500, a 4 megapixel digital point and shoot that for some odd reason had a green (instead of red) accent color. I loved these cameras and the tech used in them but was still not convinced that it would replace my film cameras, especially when it came to the higher ISOs noise and the frames per second. But I new that digital was the future so I started to look at the newer pro digital offerings.
In 2002 I purchased a Nikon D1x. I used it in conjunction with my F5 and F100. I didn’t really trust it. In September of 2003, my wife and I took a trip up to the Bay Area to see / photograph Bob Weir and RatDog with Jemimah Puddleduck at the Marin Music Festival. It was a really mellow show and I was hired to take some new photos of Jemimah Puddleduck. I took the F5 and the new D1x. I loved the way the files from the D1x looked. It was so cool to come home, plug in the memory cards and not have to drop the film off, wait for it to be developed, then scan the slides in. I was hooked.
Here is a shot of Mark Karan taken with the D1x back in 2003 at the Marin Music Festival.
My next pro level camera was the Nikon D2x. I really loved that camera but it had one small issue. The noise at higher ISO levels was pretty heavy making shooting in really low light tough. During this period, I stopped shooting film and purchased a D70 as a second camera body. The D70 was a great camera and i really loved it until the mounting ring was snapped off during a concert shoot. I had the 85mm f/1.4 lens attached to the camera and the lens was bumped as someone walked by me at a shoot. The mounting ring just snapped off the camera and the lens went flying. The lens ended up being just fine but the camera never worked right again. I replaced it with the D70s in 2005 and then with the D200 in early 2006. The combination of the D200 and the D2x ended up being my working combination until 2008.
In 2007, Nikon announced a camera that would be a real game changer, the Nikon D3. this camera was the first that could shoot at the high ISOs with low noise. This was a camera designed for photographers who shot in low light. I wanted one… but I couldn’t afford one. So I didn’t buy one. During this time I started to transition into photography full-time. It was a really scary period of time and buying a new camera didn’t seem like a good idea. Didn’t stop me from wanting it, just stopped me from buying it.
In 2008 I wrote my first book. It was a book based on a digital camera: the Sony A700. Yes, I had moved away from Nikon and purchased a Sony A700 so that I could write the book. I followed the A700 book up with one on the Sony A200. The Sony A700 Digital Field Guide and The Sony A200 Digital Field Guide are still available on Amazon and where books are sold. It was a wild experience to write two books back to back. I spent a lot of time in 2008 and 2009 working on these books and working with the Sony cameras. I liked the Sony cameras and would have continued to use them but Nikon released a camera in 2008 that was to become my main concert photography camera from 2009 to 2012 and still acts as my second body, the Nikon D700.
The Nikon D700 is the best camera that Nikon has ever made. They took the awesome chip from the D3 and put it in a smaller, lighter body and knocked over $2000 off the price. You could get the same low light capability of the D3 is a much cheaper body. Add the extra battery grip and you had a D3 at a whole lot lower price tag. I love this camera… to date, I have taken over 250,000 images with the D700. The shutter is actually rated to 150,000 frames and it might be a good time to send the camera in for a service, but it just keeps on going and going and going. This shot was taken in really crappy light at ISO 3200 with the D700 and still looks great.
I did also use a loaner D3 for a while, but my next camera purchase was the Nikon D4 that I purchased in early 2012. This camera is now my main working body with the D700 as a backup. The D4 was built for low light photography and while in the past I was afraid to push the camera past ISO 800, the D4 allows me to shoot at ISO 1600 and higher on a regular basis without the noise of earlier cameras.
So right now I use the Nikon D4 as my main camera and the Nikon D700 as my backup. That combination works really well for the type of shooting I do. If the canon rebel would have felt better in my hand back in 1992, I would probably have a whole different set of cameras in my closet.
Next up.. Lenses…