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The first D3 workout…

March 25th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Why do I call it a workout? The D3 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens weigh a combined SIX POUNDS!!

My right shoulder is SORE!

I took the new D3 down to Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, CA yesterday morning to shoot pictures of the Los Angeles Kings while they practiced there. The practice lasted approximately an hour-and-a-half, and I took nearly 500 captures.

An indoor hockey arena is a very challenging location for a photographer. Typically, the lighting is hideously bad. Combine that with the white ice and the fast-moving action and you’ve got a very daunting task ahead of you if you expect to get any good images from a location like that.

On the NHL-sized ice at TSC, the lighting is fluorescent, which are TERRIBLE for picture taking. There aren’t nearly enough lights to begin with. For that reason, a photographer will find himself cranking up the sensitivity (ISO) of his camera in order to get shutter speeds fast enough to capture the action without the subject’s motion blurring the image. The problem with most digital cameras is that when you increase the ISO, the amount of image noise the sensor creates increases as well. It’s kind of the same as grain on 35mm film…the higher the ISO, the more light-sensitive the film, but the more grainy your images will be. The D3, however, has been lauded as one of the most noise-free digital SLR cameras ever produced. A new type of image sensor is the reason for the D3′s excellent low-noise-at-high-ISO performance. With my old camera (the Nikon D200), I’d be cautious of pushing the ISO up beyond 1000, as the images the camera captured were so overrun with sensor noise that they were almost unusable. That would severely limit the types of pictures I could take with it in conditions like Toyota Sports Center. With the D3, however, image noise is hardly noticeable until you set the camera to ISO settings greater than 4000. And even at ISOs greater than 4000, noise is still held to acceptable levels through ISO 6500 (the noise of the D3 at ISO 6400 seems to be about on par with the noise of the D200 at ISO 1600). Under the fluorescents of the practice rink, ISO 2000 to 2500 were just right to give me shutter speeds around 1/500th of a second. That’s plenty fast enough to stop any action cold. A fast (large aperture) lens set to f/2.8 also helped, of course.

Here are a couple images I shot yesterday.

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Netminder Erik Ersberg deflects a shot into the corner…

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Center Anze Kopitar winds up a wrist shot…

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Centers Derek Armstrong and Anze Kopitar battle to win a faceoff…

As you can see, the D3 is VERY capable in low-light situations. Most professional photographers would have remote strobe flashes suspended in the rafters above the ice in order to help them expose properly. That’s not necessary with the D3.

The one thing I noticed about the D3 is that its auto focusing system is a whole lot more sensitive than my D200′s. The D200 tended to hunt a bit for focus when pointed at subjects with relatively low contrast, but the D3 locks right on to low contrast subjects. It surprised me at times, since I was used to the fickleness of the D200′s autofocus system.

I also noticed that the D3′s image sensor, though it is way beyond the technology of the D200′s sensor, still couldn’t pick up the color purple properly. All the images of players who were wearing their royal purple practice uniforms came out funny, with their uniforms registering as blue to the camera’s sensor. It’s a problem with all cameras, and not just mine. Even the video cameras they use to broadcast the games on television register and render the King’s royal purple as the color blue. Below are some examples.

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This is the uncorrected shot. The uniform has a blue hue to it.

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Here’s an example of the color the way it’s seen to the naked eye.

That problem is easily correctable in Adobe Lightroom by using the hue sliders in the development module. The trick is trying to remember the way the color really looks!

From what I learned yesterday by giving my D3 its first workout, this camera is everything it has been cracked up to be. I’m looking forward to getting out and using it in even more challenging situations very soon!

More of my L.A. Kings practice photos are here.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Aviatrix // Mar 28, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Wow, it looks like you’re right on the ice.

  • 2 James Ball // Mar 28, 2008 at 3:02 am

    Those are some great shots. I don’t have even a fraction of the photographic skill that you have, but I know how hard it is to take pictures at an arena.

    All of the shots I’ve taken while playing hockey have turned out pretty awful. Nicely done!

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