I decided I’d play around with my Nikon D70 one last time before my new camera arrives. I’ve been talking with other amateur photographers recently about different shooting styles, cameras, ISOs, editing software, and file types. I have long been a person committed to shooting in JPG only. “I paid a lot of money for the camera, it can handle some of the work load.” Has long been my mind set. But Michael (an occasional author on Faith Tech Life) has been touting the use of RAW images for quite a while now.
I also tend to use flash indoors. My lovely wife is adamant about how much she loves shots taken using only available light, but I hate the noise of the added ISO required to do so. For years I’ve opted for a fill flash, over cranking up the ISO on the D70. My gear is all kit level with the exception of my flash. The Nikon SB-800 has proven to be a very effective alternative to upping the level of ISO, but admittedly, it will deliver washed out photo’s if one isn’t careful.
I have been editing my pictures in GIMP for years. There was a time I made the mistake of purchasing Photoshop Elements, but I have since repented and now tend to stick to open source. I was recently introduced to an application called Darktable. I tried it, and I didn’t like it. It’s about as intuitive as being delivered your new camera in pieces and having to assemble it without instructions. Frustrated with it, I removed it from my computer only a few hours after I installed it.
With the coming arrival of my new Nikon D7100 I’m excited to get back into shooting on a regular basis. I have only put about 20 hours on my camera in the last 5 to 6 years. While I love photography, I just haven’t been active. When I picked my camera up and started shooting, I realized fast I was extremely out of practice. I spent hours watching videos on Youtube trying to get up to speed on the camera and lenses I would have arriving soon. As I was watching the videos I couldn’t help but notice that many of the photographers were shooting RAW, and editing in applications that resembled Darktable.
I have been putting off doing much with my D70 since I knew the new stuff was soon to come. It’s hard to take the D70 seriously with the D7100 on a FedEx truck. But regardless of the timing, I decided to install this crappy software (which turns out to have a disgusting learning curve, and be very difficult to use, yet work very well), use RAW and JPG files, and not use any flash, while shooting the kids in my living room where the lighting is awful at best. After shooting I did my editing in Darktable, with the exception of one crop (the picture of my daughter above) which I did in GIMP.
What I found is confirmation that I hate natural light shooting (with current gear at least) because the shots are virtually worthless (when shooting my children). That RAW images are much nicer to edit, and that I can’t stand Darktable at the moment, but I’ll be spending time learning it. The following is one of the shots I took which was saved in both RAW and JPG, and used for editing.
The following image was taken at a higher shutter speed to try to stop movement, but I failed to increase the ISO (out of practice) and as a result ended up with an under exposed shot.
Regardless of format, it’s obviously better to start with a properly exposed picture. The Image of my daughter, exposed properly at 1000 ISO turned out far better than an incorrectly exposed image at 500 ISO. That being said, the image of her still has a ton of noise rendering the image completely useless in an enlargement situation (even if the background was decent). I certainly hope the newer camera can handle ISO increases better than the old D70 does.
Moving forward, after this test, I’ll likely be saving both the JPG and the NEF images when I shoot. While once they hit the computer I’ll certainly dump the NEF files that are not candidate for enlargment. The JPG files are certainly fine for my wife to scrapbook with, I will enjoy the added quality of NEF when I start blowing up pictures again for my walls.