Recently while attending the concert of my friend KJ Testin, I was offered a very unique opportunity. Well, egged onto is more of an appropriate term rather than offered, but either way I did accept. I digress though, we were at a KJ Testin concert, and my good friend Brad was completely amped about his purchase of a Nikon D700. I don't blame him, it's an amazing camera that is capable of taking amazing photos. Brad you see, recently traded in ALL of his Sony Alpha equipment in order to purchase this D700. I kept telling brad that there was nothing wrong with his Sony A700, but he was convinced that after years of watching me shoot with Nikon there was a difference. I continued to tell him what I say,and what you'll hear a lot of pro's say. "The camera is just a tool." I was challenged to prove it.
(Photo by Bradley Clampitt. D700, 2500ISO, Sigma 70-200F2.8@70mm, 1/160th@F2.8)
Brad isn't your average shooter by any stretch. While he claims that he never inspires to be a professional, he constantly takes time to work on getting better at taking photos on his own time. I can't tell you the number of times that he's called me at 3AM to tell me about a shot he wanted to take while out on the canal while he was there taking it. He's got a good eye, and while not a professional he is definitely not average.
The company that Brad works for happens to own a Nikon D2Xs which of course he had in his car at the time. (It's like he planned this or something? Sheesh!) Again, I digress. So Brad goes out to his car and to my dismay provides the Nikon D2Xs. A little history on the Nikon D2X series of camera is that at 100ISO is the greatest camera you will EVER use. Above 400iso the camera looks like you've printed your images directly on sandpaper. Detail loss is rampant in every occasion but one, and that's the occasion of a perfect exposure; which as a professional I was expected to hit.
(Nikon D2Xs, 1250ISO, Sigma 70-200F2.8@200mm, 1/125@F2.8)
The challenge here wasn't to prove who was the better photographer. Not by any stretch. The challenge here was to prove that a camera didn't matter, it was the know how of the user that mattered. The challenge was to prove that I could provide photos just as good in terms of quality with the Nikon D2Xs, as with his much newer and more advanced D700; and that's what I did.
(Photo by Bradley Clampitt. Nikon D700, 2500ISO, Sigma 70-200mmF2.8@105mm, 1/30th@F2.8)
The rules were simple. We were to shoot the first two sets of the concert and pick 5 files out of our take to swap with the other person. Brad took 1,181 Photos and for some reason my itchy trigger finger decided that 298 total shots was the right number. (Potentially limited by the single 8gb card that I had, but that's another story). Neither of us were allowed to crop the images at all because yes the primary objective was to prove that the camera didn't matter, not how well one or the other can crop an image to be more interesting. I guess in that aspect there was a little bit of Photographic skill in competition here, but the big thing was image quality. The images would then have all of the EXIF data stripped from them, and be sent to several civilian judges to see if anyone could tell the difference. One judge was a Digital Imaging and Retouching expert, another judge was a Professional Photographer here in town, and the final was a civilian who just liked looking at photos. They were asked if they could tell which shots were shot with which camera, and to pick 7 of the 10 that they liked the best.
(Nikon D2Xs, 1250ISO, Nikon AF-S 50mmF1.4G, 1/125@F2)
In the end, as you can tell by the photos in this blog, the Nikon D2Xs camera handled itself admirably. Scott at Roberts Distributors in downtown Indianapolis describes the D2x as the most undervalued camera on the market today, and I totally agree. It also shows that if you know what you're doing a camera is just a tool; like a hammer. It's great that the technology makes it easier to take photos, but in the end its the person behind it. If you've got a Digital Rebel, or a D70, D80 or lots of other cameras you've already got a camera that handles noise better than the D2 series of cameras did so go out and shoot. That's where you'll get better. Not by owning better equipment. None of the judges could tell which camera shot what. There may have been a bit of a style difference that was recognizable, but that's another story.
With that said, I also feel as though there is nothing wrong with owning a really nice hammer. After the dust settled on our little Battle Royale, Brad thanked me as he had seen that technology is helpful, but not the end all be all in the world of photography. The shots that I took were very useable, at a much lower ISO than he had even attempted to shoot at. I could also stop sweating at that point as I had no idea if I would have been able to pull off useable photos with that camera even though I'd done it hundreds of times when I owned one. In retrospect this was probably a horrbile idea, but we'll just say that a dinner Won is sweeter than a dinner cooked, or bought yourself. I've said the camera doesn't matter and I stand by that but I'll tell you what: it definitely helps sometimes. More Soon.
(Nikon D2Xs, 1250ISO, Sigma 70-200F2.8@70mm, 1/125@F2.8)