I took the plunge and bought a Nikon D800, and I had a good excuse, since there’s a good possibility we will republish (and improve) the cookbook, which is almost sold out. It’s an expensive camera, but I think it will prove worth it, since it’s such a jump ahead of my previous camera – the very good D300.
I don’t think there’s any point doing any kind of technical review, since the web is full of them, but I thought I’d just pass on my experience of playing with it for the last week and 5 reasons I already love it.
This was the big talking point when the camera came out – 36 Megapixels means the camera captures an extraordinary level of detail. Here’s one of the first photos I took – Roisin outside our house:
Here’s a crop of the image (her left eye):
Although many would rightly say you don’t need that kind of resolution for most purposes, we print large posters quite regularly, and having the resolution will be no harm at all!
It’s a beast when it comes to resolution, but it’s only slightly bigger and heavier than the D300. You’re not going to slip it into your pocket, but it’s not horrible to lug about either.
3. Low Light Ability
We rarely have bright light here in Ireland, so ability to take photos in low light is a must, and the D800 delivers. It is a huge improvement over the D300, where I felt the picture began to degrade at 800 ISO. This was taken in deep dusk, through a window. I used 2800 ISO with 1/60 shutter speed, and there is barely any pixilation:
4. Dynamic Range
This was one of the reasons I bought the camera. Very often our ice cream is near white and undifferentiated, and I’ve found it difficult to catch the detail of a white scoop, especially with a dark background, unless the lighting was absolutely perfect. A scoop of chocolate and vanilla was almost impossible – either I lost detail or the chocolate was too light or the vanilla too dark. While it’s been too busy in the shop to set up an ice cream shoot, here’s a test I did with the Kerry cow. Here’s that completely black cow against bright white clouds, without any flash.
Please note this was just a test, not an attempt to get a perfect shot. Anyway, here’s a closeup of the same:
It’s not perfect, but there is loads of detail there. Pretty cool.
5. Just Plain Old Fashioned Fun
There’s something about going to full frame that was unexpected. Of course I knew it would be different than the D300, because of the lack of the crop of that camera’s sensor, but I never expected the experience to feel so different. Looking through the lenses feels like it once did, the capture feels much more like film, and it has brought fun back into for me – the fun of something both new (digital) and very familiar. I like it!
It’s going to take ma a while to get fully comfortable with the camera, and although a good camera is not going to make me a better photographer, it certainly is going to make things quite a bit easier.
The creative team in our Killarney shop put this together for your viewing pleasure!
I was lucky enough to be in Dublin yesterday for Electric Burma – a concert organized by Amnesty International for Aung San Suu Kyi. The concert was wonderful, with performances by Bono, Martin Hayes, Lupe Fiasco, Damien Rice, and Bob Geldof, among others. Seamus Heaney was in the audience, and many celebs read his amazing poems. However, the real high point was to be in the presence of such an amazing, uplifting woman.
Driving back to Dingle after the show, the landscape looked more beautiful, and the world looked brighter. We might have gloomy weather in Ireland, and there are many suffering despair and economic hardship, but if Daw Suu can not only survive but keep her dignity and change a nation, we all have hope…
I’ve been tinkering with making our own version of Oreos for some time now, for our cookies ice cream, and I think I have a recipe I can share. They aren’t the same as the original, but what is? However, I find them utterly delicious.
If you’re in one of our shops, please taste the recently re-launched brioscaí ice cream and let me know what you think!
One of the great things about this recipe is that it uses 5 egg whites, so it’s a perfect solution of what to do with the whites if you’re making one of our ice cream recipes!
Finally, this is a big recipe, one that will fit perfectly in a Kitchen Aid. A smaller mixer might struggle. It will make more cookies than you need, unless you’re having a party, but the good news is that the dough can be frozen and last around 3 months, so I have suggested dividing the dough and filling in quarters so that you can always take it out and whip up a few when you’re in the mood!
- 400g butter, at room temperature
- 750g sugar
- 5 egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 250g pure cocoa
- 500g non-rising flour
What to do – the dough:
- Beat the butter and the sugar together until creamy and light in color.
- Beat in the egg whites.
- Stir in the vanilla and salt.
- Mix in the cocoa until fully combined.
- Mix in the flour until fully combined.
- Divide the dough into quarters, and lay each quarter on plastic wrap, rolling them in tubes about 4cm in diameter.
- Cover the tubes completely with the plastic wrap.
- Freeze any tubes you don’t wish to use immediately. Place the dough you wish to use in the refrigerator until hard.
- 240g butter, at room temperature
- 500g powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
What to do – the filling:
- Beat the butter and the sugar together until creamy and light in color.
- Stir in the vanilla.
- Divide into quarters, and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Either freeze it with the dough for later use, or leave at room temperature for assembly.
What to do – baking and assembly:
- Preheat the oven to 160c
- Using a sharp knife, slice the dough, with each slice 3mm thick.
- Place the slices on a baking tray, leaving 1/2 cm between the cookies, and bake for 15 min.
- Cool completely on a baking rack.
- Using a small spatula, spread some filling on half the baked cookies, using the other half to create a cookie sandwich.
I needed to take some photos in Dublin, and my camera gear is in Kerry, so I went into the lovely folks at Conn’s Cameras, asking to rent a Nikon D700. All were out, so I inquired if there was any chance they’d rent me the new Fuji X Pro 1.
There’s been a lot of buzz around this camera, and I was dying to get my hands on it. For me, a lighter, smaller camera that takes great shots and manages low light has been something I’ve been waiting for ages to materialize. An all around camera – something to shoot ice cream and people – good quality but not exactly a Leica M9 (way beyond my budget).
Somehow, with all of the advances with digital cameras, there’s still the same old thing – compacts that don’t quite deliver the quality (usually due to small sensors and limitations on lens quality) and bulky DLSRs. Could this be the one?
Conn’s rented me one straight out of the box, and I walked out with the camera and all the lenses. Here’s the first shot I took, at night in our fairly dark Wicklow St. shop:
It’s a 16 megapixel camera, and advances in sensors leads them to claim that it’s equivalent to a full frame camera in quality. In addition, Fuji is known for making lenses (especially for cinema), and the camera comes with three – an 18mm, a 35mm, and a 60mm macro. They all have old-school aperture rings, which I love. I used the 60mm for this shot of ice cream:
Here’s a crop of the same shot:
Here’s a shot of a nut tart, taking within minutes of taking the camera out of the box, shot at 800 ISO:
So far so good. The picture quality is indeed great.
So,I headed outside to see if the speed of the camera is as much of an issue as people say, especially in low light. It is. Although the color and lack of grain in the below photo is amazing for near dark (shot at 3200 ISO), the 18mm lens had real trouble getting a focus lock. I shot a few, and none of them were perfectly sharp.
On the other hand, if you have a stationary target and lots of time to focus, it can deliver fine photos, even with very low light:
Do not buy this camera if you are the impatient sort. If you want to auto bracket exposure or take a burst of three shots, the camera stops to write them to disk, freezing up the digital viewfinder, long enough to drive me crazy. In addition, the lenses spend far too much time hunting for focus – especially bad on the 60mm.
Another downside is that the battery isn’t especially great, and I couldn’t find any meter that shows that the camera is about to die, which it does all of a sudden without a chance to take another shot.
Finally, I’ve found a bit of odd ghosting – the following shot was done in natural light on a cloudy day, and even the lens hood couldn’t stop the brownie being haunted:
So, for me, while there is lots to love about the camera, it’s not there yet. At €3000 for the camera and lenses, it’s not cheap, and as such it would have to perform better for me. I commend Fuji for their innovation, and I’ll be hoping the X pro 2 is the camera that finally puts it all together, but this baby will be returned as scheduled.