Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Nikon P6000

In this blog, I intersperse images from a photo walk with the Nikon P6000 and discuss my experience with the camera.

Before I get into the P6000, I wish to say that I am pleased the H1 is back shooting. Thanks to my bro and my mom for getting that replacement to me last fall. The first shots thus far have an apparent richness I cannot explain. Can sensors (in this case CCD) degrade over time? The much less used replacement sensor seems more saturated. However, it could well be the reset of the system put some default setting I no longer recall changing and not a function of the CCD. Either way, here’s the H1 at work on a rugged holly tree.
Holly tree, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I noticed an interesting difference in the two DSC-H1 cameras. There is a plate of metal that backs the sensor behind the lens. The original H1 was a silver metal, more like steel than aluminum. In contrast, the replacement H1 had a copper piece in this same shape and placement. At the time, I was a little stressed about getting things right to care.

The Nikon P6000
A few blog readers may have gathered and understand my frustration with digital photography. I love photography. I love digital photography. There is a bizarre twist in public discussion and private conversations that cameras must be the latest and greatest to have a shot be worthwhile. Photography, a visual expressive art form, is only for delicate discussion at best. To devolve into arguments of brands, technologies and such, is a popular way to discuss photography. I value discussions of gear, but maintain that a given photograph should be allowed a voice of it’s own.
Dead end, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I may be overstating things at tad, but bear with me. I am an advocate of taking pictures and engaging with your life through your camera. Any camera will do. After a long time, I’ve learned many basics of photography as I attempt to truly understand the physics and the mechanics. Knowing these basics of light, lens and sensor can ease frustration when shooting with a lesser camera, and certainly helps with all cameras. However, no amount of internet-scouring and camera specifications will help discover these fundamentals for a given camera. The experiment is a very good way. One should take care in designing experiments so that appropriate variables can be understood. The problem with digital cameras, particularly my Nikon dSLR, is there are too many moving variables. I still have only the faintest grasp of what/when/why the prominent feature ‘Active D lighting’. Because it is a Nikon-specific feature, I figure it is a Nikon-specific sensor shortcoming; this helps me put it as ‘less fundamental’ than other camera mechanisms.
Shore pine, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
The marketing engine in the industry seems to have generated a self-consciousness for many amateur photographers. I get the feeling people discount their photography on the basis of the quality of their camera. This is the crux of my point: the basics don’t change, and it makes no difference anyway. They are your pictures, it is your life. So what?
Eucalyptus, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I bought a Nikon p6000 used from Amazon for about $400. I have been seeking a small p&s camera that can occasionally fill the gap between my bulky-but-beloved (and increasingly unreliable) Sony DSC-H1, AND the now out of production Nikon D5000 dslr. This search has been driving much of my blogging activity for six months or so. I have not stated it as such, because I prefer the photographs take focus.
Branches, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
Then some things happened. I was contacted by a company that brokers infrared camera conversions. This happened on the heels of some writing I did inspired by the Hipstamatic film Alfred Infrared, and a thrift store book find. I try to let the experiments complete before I write about them. The infrared experiment took a long time to simply set up. In a combination of motives, I bought the P6000 to be converted to infrared imaging. The logic was quite simple: GPS-enabled, good optics, familiar interface, desire for something new different, small p&s camera.
Nesika Beach, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
It was a beautiful morning. I went out with the P6000 to do a thorough photoshoot with it. I was also carrying my repaired H1, but the batteries were almost spent. It is a two mile walk to the post office, perhaps a little more, one way. The highway has very wide pullout along this stretch and is a shorter walk to the PO, incidentally closed on presidents day (duh Andrew!)
Nesika Beach, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I find some flaws of the P6000 endearing. The minimum aperture at the widest (28mm) setting is f/7.2. The barrell disortion at this lens setting is pleasant to my eyes. However, the tiny sensor resolves sharp focus only on limited distance subjects. In the above two photos show the range. The distant trees and powerlines are slightly soft, with the sign in strong focus. The fence and building shot shows a good use of this minumum f-stop pulling enough things in focus for a satisfying depth of field.
Bandon sun, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
I unexpectedly traveled to Bandon. One of my favorite test shots is directly into the sun. I have posted several lens flare shots from this camera already, but out the back of the vehicle, I set up this idea: to wait until the powerline pole met the sun at 45mph. These kind of shots require great timing and a responsive camera and the P6000 came through. What next?
Bandon rust, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
Macro! The camera does very well with these close up shots in fully automatic mode.

Here is the barrell distortion at work. Again, I find this lens defect to be very nice. There is a function to correct for it built into the camera, but as an ‘as shot’ purist, I would rather fix it in ps if it matters.
Bandon rust, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
More macro!
Table flowers, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
We stopped to eat lunch at the park. It was near the skate park. Skaters are a misunderstood type; they indeed bristled rudely as I approaced with the P6000 on a monopod. I checked out their rusted up, modest ramps. A bright kid came up and we agreed that the mud puddle in the small half pipe was brutal. He was talented and had built a platform in another section of the park. He was relatively new to skating, so to see the philanthropic endeavor in someone so young was great. I was glad the P6000 took me over there. Only later did it occur to me that some Bondo in the rusted pit at the bottom would offer a good fix for the half pipe. The lens flare from this camera is decidedly beautiful.
Bandon trees and sun, Andrew D. Barron ©2/21/11
So that’s it for now. My primary conclusion is that I am simply too excited about shooting digital infrared photography to have it be handled by a point and shoot camera. I did the unthinkable: I sent in my only dslr, the Nikon D5000 in for 715nm imaging conversion and it arrived at my door this afternoon. My next blog will hopefully be about my initial experiences with the repurposed D5000.

I am going to sell the P6000. It is a good camera. It is slightly larger than competitors, but the size affords space for the viewfinder, a feature I will definitely miss if I choose a p&s without one. I am amazed the camera has a freakin’ LAN port. Plug into your router. Get pictures. Neat (though I didn’t test this yet). The GPS feature is not very good. The function works, but not consistently. One must become aware of the camera’s need for time to acquire signal. This may seriously impact battery life if important to you. Once you are located, nearby follow up shots are fine. If this feature is important, then you will adopt a shooting style that babies this weakness in the P6000. I am willing to do this; there are few cameras of this grade capable of GPS.

The image quality speaks for itself, and if that matters to you like it does to me, you know, ‘you get what you pay for.’ I really like that the camera shoots raw, but in an inexplicable twist, it is a NRW format. Adobe Camera Raw read it fine on the Mac. Also different from the D5000 dslr is that the photograph numbers increase sequentially over the NRW files. Easier to understand than explain: The D5000 will shoot a DSC_0003.jpg and a DSC_0003.NEF. The P6000 shoots DSCN0003.jpg and a DSCN0004.NRW for a given image. This makes review and post-processing a bit of a drag; which one wrote to disk first? If I take several shots will I screw that up later on the computer? Maybe. So, yay support for RAW. . .with said caveats.

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