Tag: monitor

Why Usability is More Important than Image Quality To Me and Why I Wouldn’t Buy Nikon.


Lets get one thing really clear at the outset. This post is not a Canon verses Nikon post. I am a Canon user and this post will go some way to explaining why, but right from the beginning lets be clear, If image quality is the most important factor to you in camera choice right now, as a DSLR buyer then go right ahead and get yourself a Nikon D800. It is amazing. What you read in the reviews is right about the quality of the files it produces. Here, at last is a DSLR which produces files very (very) close to medium format quality. You will not be disappointed by the images you get from it as regards the way it handles colour, contrast or detail. You will be able to crop into images heavily and still be able to produce wonderful prints. It is a ‘game changer’.

Would I buy one? No.

Is that because I am biased? No.

Is that because I am heavily invested in Canon EOS lenses? No.

Is it because, in reality, I like blurry, soft, images and, in fact love analogue images more than digital? No.

Why then?

One word. Usability.

I work with workshop participants weekly. I work with every make of camera on the market they bring along. Every model. Without exception, Canon DSLR’s are the most user friendly cameras on the market today.

Let me give you some examples of issues I have with Nikon’s in particular which make them unusable FOR ME (but you might be fine with).

1. Exposure simulation in Live View. In both Canon and Nikon systems as you adjust the aperture or shutter speed while in Live View the monitor will get brighter or darker to simulate this for you, just as a helpful approximation, the affect of those changes on your image. Slow down the shutter speed and the screen gets brighter. Speed it up and it gets darker and so on. Except, and it baffles me as to why, but the Nikon designers decided tht this really useful feature should stop working when the shutter speed exceeds 2 seconds (6 seconds on some models). Yup, thats right. Do they think it is of no help to see what’s happening when light levels are so low that we need exposures longer than 2 seconds? What on earth possessed them to BUILD THIS IN? Canons on the other hand simulate the exposure right up to 30 seconds. Usability.

2. I would love a Nikon designer to explain to me why they decided you can’t see the light meter gauge superimposed on the Live View screen. You have to turn Live View OFF, and either put your eye to the eyepiece or switch on the “Quick Info” menu to see the Light Meter gauge. Baffling. Needless to say on the Canon it is viewable in Live View.(UPDATE: apparently, you can see some sort of light meter gauge by pressing the OK button in LV on some Nikon bodies, high end it seems, but not all. I will have to see exactly what this looks like next time I have a Nikon in my hands to assess)

3. Another completely unforgivable omission on a Nikon that I find unacceptable is that while you can focus in Live View mode, manually or automatically, you cannot use the depth of field preview button in Liew View to check you have focused on the correct point and have everything you require in sharp focus.  Whereas, of course, you can on the Canons, even the most basic models.(UPDATE; I have, since writing this, found out that on the D3 and D800 models depth of field is simulated constantly in Live View. This seems to me to be a great feature. The only thing I would say is, in using D3’s and D800’s, the graniness of the monitor compared to those used by Canons is so bad that I hadn’t noticed that this was, in fact the case. So although I applaud the ‘feature’ It would be good, now, to improve the sharpness of the monitors on these cameras to make the feature useable)

By the time I get to point three I find that a Nikon is so frustrating to use I just refuse to consider buying one, no matter how good the image quality is over a Canon. I know that at some point Canon will release a full frame body which will rival or exceed the D800 in image quality. In the meantime I also know the 5D mk2 and 3 still exceeds any requirements for image quality my customers have ever required already, so they are not poor cameras. I can wait. I am baffled by those who have sold their (in my opinion) superior L EOS lenses  and bodies to jump on the D800 bandwagon, seduced simply by image quality. 

They certainly do have amazing, stunning image quality. No doubt about that whatsoever. But I wonder how many are secretly fuming and regretting the move. Furious that they didn’t realise how poorly designed the Nikon’s are and how frustrating they are to use to to those who are used to the amazing usability and functionality of Canons EOS range? I wonder how many stand behind the D800 in low light in turmoil wondering if they have the depth of field they need? Remembering how easy it was to check on a Canon? Annoyed about yet again having to turn off Live View and turn on another screen just to make exposure adjustments, while reminiscing at how easy it was back in the day when they had a Canon? And more money in their bank account?

If you are a Nikon owner, please don’t get me wrong. They are superb cameras that will give you years of great service. If you have never owned a Canon you probably haven’t even noticed these issues and have no problems using your camera. My comments are aimed more at Nikon themselves or these design flaws and at Canon users, especially high end 1ds and 5d users who are being seduced away from Canon by the IQ of the D800. It is these I am urging to think again.

(UPDATE:Since writing this, I have have had others raise issues to do with Nikons being difficult to operate with gloves on, compared to Canons, issues to do with how complex and baffling their menu systems are, that in Live View the D800 drops to just 4 frames per second, the inexplicable AF/MF switch on Nikons etc, etc, etc. I am sure there are many more. For me the functions I have mentioned are just those that would affect the way I use a camera the most. All cameras have their foibles and I know Canons have some of their own too. I also wanted to add that if you don’t use a camera in the way I do, maybe the features I have discussed may have no impact on your choice of body manufacturer, which is fine. I just felt I had to flag up certain things about Nikons which most users do not become aware of until after they have spent a huge amount of money buying into a system of bodies and lenses and are pretty much tied into for the foreseeable future. I just wanted you to go in with your eyes open).

So if you are thinking of switching systems, think long and hard. Don’t just consider IQ. Think about usability and functionality. If you are thinking about buying a DSLR for the first time, think about the same things too. The decision you make now will tie you in to a system, potentially for many years to come. 

It’s not all about megapixels. It’s about usability, so that operating the camera becomes simple and invisible. Thus your mind is free to concentrate on what is really important. Composition. Timing. Light. Art. Not faffing about with a bit of kit that just frustrates you.

Review of Epson R2880 & ColourMunki Calibration System

I am often asked what printer I use. Until a few months ago the answer was, ‘I don’t use a printer’. ( I do have a HP desk top printer but it is only suitable for document printing ). I have always shied away from the complex matter of profiles, calibrating, papers and inks. It just seemed too much hassle. So much easier to upload the files to Loxley Colour in Glasgow and receive the prints a few days later.

I then did a workshop with Scott Kelby and he covered printing, calibrating, colour managed workflow etc in some detail. Scott mentioned that he used the R2880 and R3880 Epson printers and the ColorMunki calibrator. So all fired up, and feeling for the first time that I knew what I should be doing, I took the plunge and invested in the R2880 and ColorMunki.

The set up for both was quick and painless. The ColorMunki set up involves loading the drivers and software and then running the simple calibration program. While it is one of the more expensive calibrators it is superb. it allows you to calibrate your monitor and if you wish to create your own paper profiles. You simply print a test chart and then swipe each strip of colours on the paper with the calibrator and this builds a bespoke profile for your printer, ink and that particular paper combination. So far I have only used it to calibrate the monitor (and the first time you do it, it makes a huge difference) and the software prompts you to recalibrate regularly (I have it set to prompt me to recalibrate every two weeks, although this is probably overkill – it only takes a couple of minutes so it is no burden).

The drivers for the R2880 load quickly and the printer runs a set up routine when you install the ink cartridges for the first time. One cartridge has to be swapped out depending if you are printing on gloss or matte paper. I don’t understand why both can’t be fitted permanently – something for the Epson engineers to sort out.

It has quite a large footprint so you need some desk space to cope with it. But the output tray and the top paper input support fold away into the printer and seal it up to protect against dust. This also means they don’t intrude into your desk space while you are not using it.

It comes with a roll feed mechanism, so you can buy your favourite papers on the roll and print panoramas. It takes all sizes from small envelopes up to Super A3 which is bigger than A3 and is better suited to the 3:2 aspect ratio of full frame DSLR sensors. Super A3 paper is about 13 x 19 inches in size and the printer prints close to the edge. Prints at this size look stunning and are perfect for framing to hang in most homes. I bought some Hanemhule A4 paper but have hardly used any, when you have seen your prints at Super A3 you won’t want to print A4 or 10 x 8!!!

I have been trialing Epsons Archival Matte paper for my colour prints (and next want to try Hannemhule (or however you spell it) 305gm PhotoRag paper. For my mono prints I have been using the stunning Ilford Gold Silk paper.

It was with trepidation that I set about printing my first image. I sharpened it with Nik softwares excellent output sharpened plugin for Lightroom. The monitor was calibrated with the ColorMunki. I had downloaded my paper profiles from the manufacturers for the R2880. I had set up Lightroom and Photoshop correctly for a colour managed workflow. It was time to press the print button.

Breath held, I waited for the paper to emerge. Grinning, I held the print up by my studio window because I could already see the reproduction of what I had on my screen was close to perfect. I had never seen prints of such quality outside of a high end gallery. Colours were faithful, prints were not too dark as they so often are when getting them back from a lab and mono prints are quite frankly, astounding. The R2880 has three black/grey cartridges and they deliver deep rich black and mono tones, especially on the Ilford paper.

I now have loads of my prints on the walls of my home and studio, gradually replacing the substandard prints from various labs that have been up for a while. I have also been printing for customers, their own images, as it is virtually impossible to get labs to print on anything but standard papers.

The K3 inks are as good as everyone says. They are expensive, although my local supplier delivers for free next day and charges around £7.80 per colour. With nine colours, it is not cheap, but the results are worth it. The printer monitors levels and warns you when a cartridge needs replacing, which is just a one minute job. I have always sent my empty HP cartridges off to charities for recycling but they won’t accept the Epson cartridges, although a student on one of my workshops tells me you can order envelopes from Epson themselves to send empty cartridges back to them for recycling (but no charities benefit from this which is unacceptable in my mind).

At £449.99 from Amazon (which is the best price I could find from a reputable supplier and I get free next day delivery) it is not cheap, but it is well engineered and produces results worth the cost. I am already lusting after the R3880. So I am now able to wholeheartedly recommend the R2880 and the ColourMunki.