Nikon P520 – A Few Weeks In..Other Stuff

I’ve had the Nikon P520 for a few weeks now.  In reality, the last thing I really needed was yet another camera :-)  BUT I didn’t have one in this class AND it was on a clear out (last year’s model), so I figured “What the heck” and got it. 

So.. the Nikon P520 fits in this funny little category called a Bridge Camera.  It sits sort of in between the Travel Cameras and DSLR’s along with Compact System Cameras.  They look like DSLR’s but smaller and lenses don’t change.  I say  funny because they aren’t near as compact as a travel camera or pointy shooty, but at the same time they aren’t the most portable and they sort of have manual and automatic controls.  The big thing with these, is that they sport BIG zooms.  The P520 has a 42x zoom.  Newer ones are at 60x!!  If you’ve never played in the big zoom space, believe me – fun takes on a whole new meaning :-) 

If you are a fairly advanced photographer you may poo poo these cameras.  They have quite restrictive aperture ranges, the sensor is a bit on the small side and the P520 is a bit on the slow slide in a couple of areas.  BUT they seem to have a place too.  I’m seeing a few out there now with f2.8! 

P520_left side P520 Right P520_Top

Above photos were taken with my Panasonic GX1 in my light box 🙂

So why the P520 instead of the P530?  Well, for me, the there were two main reasons.  First – price.  At $300’ish it represented a huge value for the money, despite certain flaws.  Second – the articulating mirror.  The P530 didn’t have that.  What really surprised me on this one was the image quality I got for what I paid.  The sensor is no screaming hell at 1/2.3 inches but overall, it produced a surprisingly high quality image.  Now I’m saying this very tongue and cheek and staying objective about this :-)  It’s not near has high quality as my GX1 or DSLR’s but for the price point – amazing. 

Kribbit Cute Lexar SD Card Reader

It does a pretty decent job in it’s Scene Mode.  Here’s some from a recent snow storm that were taken in Snow Mode:

Nose Hill walkway Front Lawn

These were shot in Programmed Auto with no exposure compensation.  If it were a sunny day out, I would have underexposed by another –1.0 to –1.5 EV to bring out the greens more.  Just a trick 🙂

Soooo…. according to the reviews, this camera is designed for the person who really does want the big zoom and not too overly concerned about size but less hassle than say a DSLR.  As a general purpose camera, it’s actually kind of a neat unit, though I feel that for that price point a travel camera would be a better choice, but that’s me :-)  Again, personal preference.  HOWEVER – Big zoom is a pretty neat space if you’ve never played there – I thought 20x was fun!!  42x opens a whole new world again 🙂

P520_wide P520_42x

Not bad for hand held though a tripod is recommended.  This was shot in bright sunlight so you can see the sky blow out a bit, but I needed a high shutter speed too :-)  I take the shots though :-)   This is one of those rare instances for me, where I will agree that a little post processing to bring out the blues would be advantageous 🙂 I’ll add more big zoom stuff in a different post.  BUT things like wildlife suddenly become a possibility.  For a moment, I was thinking of moving to another unit in thus class, but I really think my next jump will something in DSLR’s. 

Battery power was rated a little low on this one at roughly 200 shots per charge and so far, that seems to be fairly accurate.  A quick purchase from Amazon got me a couple of batteries and an external charger for way less than Nikon one.  I knew I would be using this one a lot , actually, so I didn’t hesitate to get spares.  I normally only get batteries on my high use gear.  I don’t normally have spares for any of my travel cams, for instance.  The reason?  I usually have a couple and on my most intensive vacation days, I’ve shot around 500 shots per day, so two cameras is plenty.  Mind you, in low light, I’ll use my Fuji X10 and I have several batteries for that one as it’s one of my workhorse cameras.

In carrying this one around for the last couple of weeks, I used a Caden Sling instead of trying to put it in my daypack along with my other cameras. 

Caden_front Caden_P520

I bought this bag on spec for it’s shape.  It was very different and one of the very few out there that allows for quick retrieval.  More important, is that I can actually stick a DSLR in there pretty easy (tried it – works better than I thought) and this is a potential future consideration in lugging a  DSLR around with less hassle than usual.  What I’m heading toward/thinking about is something like a D7100 with an 18-140 – for day to day – that could be a winner.

I actually had been thinking about a unit here for a few weeks – I really didn’t need another camera as I already have 12 or more.  I was actually thinking of getting one of the newer Panasonic travel cameras at 30X zoom, but you know, I simply didn’t need another one in this area.  Time to change it up a bit.  Am I glad I got the P520 – absolutely!  This is actually a fun unit.  A new project so to speak.  Some background here.

Over the last couple of years, my interest in photography has been growing at light speed, so say the least.  I do have a background in 35mm and started to play with digital in a more serious way.  The kicker was time and so I started with the concept of mobility first knowing full well that this was going to lead me ultimately to DSLR’s.  I had limited time due to other things (life gets in the way…. :-)), and I commuted, so noon hours was the only window.  That meant, small and light while trying to grab high quality stuff.  In being a consultant, I also had a bit of time “in between”, so the long term plan was to be able to acquire less portable stuff to “chase the dream”.  That’s where the Panasonic GX1 and Nikon DSLR’s came into play.  The DSLR’s came into play for another reason – I got sucked into moving back into free lancing a bit, and my existing gear just didn’t cut it.  I didn’t go into full frame stuff – APS-C – Nikon D3200 and D5100 with 3 zooms and a couple of primes and a couple of flashes.  Enough to get by at this stage of the game. 

With the knowledge I had gained from my 35mm days, I was prepared to dive in deep and that’s what I did:-)  The bug picture was to find out what digital photography  was about compared to 35mm and what I found was pretty neat.  And FUN!!  Sooo.. a couple of conclusions I’ve come to in exploiting this stuff.

1.  Most of these cameras can deliver a pretty high quality image.  Yes, DSLR’s win in the end, but when you look at the big picture (no pun intended), You gotta admit most of these units work pretty good.  AND in full auto.  With caveats of course, but still…..  Not too shabby.  I do like good quality images, but I’m not going to obsess about the pixels.  It’s all about content – the moment.  The bottom line here – no camera – no image – no moment.  There are times when all you have is something like a Smartphone – got the moment – good enough.  I think that as we get more advanced in our craft, we tend to get too technical about things and forget the content :-)  In reality – isn’t it about content?  :-)  That’s why I have so many cameras and always have one or two with me – it’s about content and having something there when the opportunity arises.

2.  Depending on what you do or where you want to take this – one camera may not be enough :-)  But that’s me too :-)  From my side of things – I’m sort of a “pixel peeper”.  I do like high quality photos but I’m not prepared to lug tons of equipment around either unless the situation dictates.  If I’m stepping out to go shopping for something equivalent, I’ll slip a couple of cameras into my  Fossil Sling Bag along with a tablet and away I go.

Fossil

 

3.  Keep things in perspective.  What the heck do I mean by that?  One of the biggest things I see, is actually a couple of things.  First is trying to fit what you want to do, to the equipment you need.  The other, is following the advice of others without understanding what you want to do.  Sort of go hand in hand.  I see so many folks who get DSLR’s because they were told it was the best, and as true as that might be, if it sits in a closet, what good is it?  You need the knowledge to take advantage of what that class of camera has to offer.  To me, in order to get better, you need to not only take photos but learn from your shots.  Studying others and how they do their work.  I’ve also had some who listen and learn from me.  They do take the photos and they try different things.  Awesome.

We all have visions of grandeur and want to look like a pro.  That’s fine, but I would recommend learning about the gear you are toting around before you look like a pro :-)  I see an amazing amount of this, actually. And you can tell :-)  They don’t hold the camera correctly – using a flash when they really didn’t need to (if they understood a bit about exposure)  and on and on.  I learn from the pros by watching them and talking to them.  Mind you, having background there helps too.  I’ve been to many events where I’m the backup photographer and I always go out of my to introduce myself and make sure I don’t get in their way.  Sometimes I get paid, sometimes I don’t at these events.  As much as I hear about charging for my work, there are times when you need to do a bit of free stuff to get the “in”.  You would be surprised how many times when I get asked to do a shoot via networking that when I mention charging for the work, it’s expected :-)  Usually, it’s “How much for an event like this?” and then “Our event is on ……. – are you available?”  Why does it go this way?  I’ve spent a lot of time at some of these events and my work is known.  It’s taken several years.  Full time?  At this time – not a chance :-)   

4.  Look before you leap.  What do I mean by that?  If you are going to move forward in this space, technology makes it easy to show off your work.  When you look at what social media has to offer today, it’s easy to post stuff “up there”.  Think about this before you do.  For me, I really don’t know just  how far I’m going to go with this, so I post very sparingly.  AND only the best stuff or stuff that I WANT others to see.  I’m treading very carefully here.  I am posting a bit more than I used to, but still pretty low key.  I do a fair amount for my blogs ( I have two) and there, I do post a fair amount.  Mostly to inform with a few pics, but it’s a good way to “test the waters” too.  I am starting to get a few followers, but nothing spectacular either.  I’m starting to post more and more as time goes on, but not at light speed either.  I know of many who post just about everything they shoot and I feel that more than a few shouldn’t be up there :-)  I feel one should stop and think something thru.  Once it hits the ‘net….. tough to retract.

One thing that I also do before posting anything, is I resize down to 640 x 480 before posting.  I’m still working on the watermark thing, so that’s also been a deterrent on posting too much.

5.  Think your shots through.  One of the BIG things that digital has brought to light, are the memory cards.  It’s hit a point where the cost is literally nil to take photos.  One thing I see a TON of, is the tendency to “machine gun” shots.  The technology has made it pretty easy to do.  Compared to many  folks I know, I take a lot of photos to start with, but I take very few duplicates.  Unless I’m really not sure of a shot, I won’t even bracket  the exposure :-)  Why not you say?  Well… in the days of 35mm, film was expensive so getting everything right the first time was important.  That’s carried over for me :-)  Safeties?  It depends.  On a formal shoot, absolutely.  Other stuff not so much.  Again – it’s a situation thing.  Also, where I do take more shots than normal is in the beginning – to figure out what the camera is going to do.  Each camera has it’s quirks and knowing what they are goes a long way to getting those great shots.

How many shots does one take for any given situation?  This is a highly subjective topic.  My answer – it depends :-)  From my perspective – whatever it takes to preserve that moment or event.  AND it depends on whether it’s a personal shoot or a formal shoot.  A simple social gathering – maybe 20 or 30. Bigger events – maybe more.  If I’m doing light box stuff – one or two per item depending on whether I got the lighting right.  On many of the volunteer events I’ve been “volunteered on”, I’ve shot anywhere from 300 to 500 shots.  Sound like a lot?  You bet!  AND there has been a fair amount of post processing too, depending on the event.  End result?  I’m getting my name out, and I’m starting to “move”.  Not fast, but I don’t want fast yet.  Scenics – again – it depends.  Sometimes, especially sunrises or sunsets, you can get some wonderful perspectives by sitting in one spot and working with exposure and in-camera cropping.  I try to get the “tourist” shots as well as the not so common shots as well.  Again – what you “see”.

How often have you had that “nothing to shoot” syndrome?  Especially during that growth time where you are trying to learn more and more in order to get better.  Well… I get into that mode a lot.  Sometimes, I have other things on my mind and quite simply photos just “aren’t in the equation”.  I don’t fret that and just go do something else.  And then there are those times when you DO want to take photos and simply want to shoot.  How do you get those creative juices flowing?  I look for a quasi interesting photo and then start to look at the potential shot from different perspectives. I look down, go from bottom up, do close ups, go at  different angles and see what comes out :-)  In many instances, I find something that I never noticed about the pic :-)  It might be something like a texture pattern.

Getting back to the P520 – Put it on a tripod indoors and start with a shot at the end of the room.  From there, start zooming in on various things in that first shot.  I did that initially with one of my travel cams and got some pics of my wife’s plants that were pretty neat.  It actually got me looking closer a macro shots of plants and that led me into getting a macro lens for my DSLR’s.  OR concentrate on just close-ups.  The average home has a myriad of things to photograph.  OR how about taking pics of what you have for the sake of inventory for insurance purposes.  Lesson in architecture hiding in there :-)  I have revenue properties and interior photos are vital for me. 

6. What to keep and what to delete and when to delete.  This is highly subjective :-)  For me, unless the shot is wrong – blurry, etc. I’ll delete those in-camera.  If I’m on a formalized shoot, I’ll keep everything I can until I off load to my PC and go from there.  For the most part, for me, I backup my SD card to my PC depending on what I’m doing.  I then copy what I need to a different directory before doing any post processing.  That way I’ll always have an original kicking around.  Now, a point here – I keep the photos on my SD card until I finish post work as a precaution :-)  Soo… two backups.  That’s just me.  Once I’m done, I’ll re-format the card.

What I like to do, is keep all my cards blank so I can re-format in-camera just before I do any shooting.  The reason being is that I don’t always know which camera I’ll be using.  Now… bear in mind that this is for formalized shoots.  For the more casual stuff, like test shots, or “out and about” type shots I may not off load that card for a while.  Again – it’s a “depends” thing.  If I am doing testing on certain things, I’ll off load right away.  If it’s something that is not so urgent, I’ll wait until I get a chance.  For me, I sometimes don’t have a chance to get at stuff too.  Life gets in the way :-) 

Storage – I have tried so many different types of SD card holders and in the end, the one I settle on was one from Pelican.

Pelican Case SD cards

This puppy wasn’t cheap but there is little or no risk of a card falling out.  The other thing i like about this holder, is that IF I swap cards, I can just flip the card over as a reminder that I have photos on that card.  You’ll notice that I have various sizes there as well.  I do prefer the 8 GB cards for most work.  I also prefer to use the fastest cards (Class 10) whenever possible.  There are times when one needs to do sequential work or even a movie clip and I want to make sure I can write to the card and not have to wait.  I also will try to use brand name cards whenever possible.  I’ve had the odd one fail, but never a brand name one.  Anecdotal, but so far…. :-)  I don’t do a lot in area of movies, but I do have higher capacity cards just in case.

Soooo… before I go into brain lock, this is just some stuff running through my head 🙂

Onward…..

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About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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