Let me tell you the story of how and why I am now shooting with Nikon. I grew up with Nikon, having shot with the FM2, F90x, F100 and even with the Kodak DCS 760 which was modelled after the F5, and which was my first digital camera. It was as big and as heavy as a brick. I remember paying close to $18,000 for it. I then started shooting with the Nikon D100. I found that I wasn’t getting consistently great results with the D100, so I then switched to the Canon 20D. It served me well for a while and soon started shooting with the 5D and then with the 5D MkII. At the time, I found the quality of the Canon system to be better although I always preferred the ergonomics of the Nikon system. I had been shooting with two 5D MkII’s for a few years and was very happy with the results, as long as I didn’t shoot higher than 1600 ISO. I found the camera to be reliable and the focusing fast.
In May 2011, I photographed my gorgeous friends, Dave and Quin Cheung while I was presenting a workshop in Toronto. I photographed Quin as a modern day geisha and she looked absolutely amazing! It was a shoot that I had been looking forward to for quite some time. Several years earlier when I first met them, I remember saying, “I want to photograph you naked!” They freaked out a bit but then I replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll be naked.” We all laughed and have since become the best of friends. (By the way, I will be featuring the shoot in upcoming chapters of my educational web site, the Ice Society – www.theicesociety.com). During the shoot, I knocked over one of my 5D MkIIs and it fell off the wall and onto the sidewalk. The body cracked from the fall and was completely unusable. Since I always shoot with two cameras, I just accepted that I would buy a new one with with the insurance money once I filed the claim. The problem was, I was getting ready to leave overseas and would need both of my cameras and I didn’t think I would have enough time to purchase a new one before I left.
Rewinding my story just a bit and going back to January 2011 at the SWPP convention in the UK, I won their major award – the Photographer of the Year among 10 accolades. The prize that was given to me for winning that award was a brand new Nikon D3s with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. The rumours around the industry at that time was that it was the first Nikon digital camera to rival if not better any Canon digital camera, but I never even took the camera out of the box. I simply left the box on a shelf in my studio and didn’t think twice about it. It just didn’t seem worth it to me because I wasn’t about to invest in Nikon lenses and suddenly change everything I had because I would have to replace up to 8 lenses and still get another body.
But soon after I broke the 5D MkII, I borrowed a Canon 1D MkIV and shot a wedding with it because I was considering buying it to replace my broken camera. I enjoyed shooting with it the whole day, but it wasn’t full frame and I just love shooting full frame. Because I had become so used to shooting full frame, it just didn’t feel right to me. So I quickly dismissed that camera as being an option. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me and I pulled that Nikon D3S out of the box and shot with it. Three letters…W-O-W! Ignorance apparently is bliss! I had no idea how amazing the D3s was. When my friends and students would tell me that the D3s was the best DSLR on the market I would quickly dismiss them and say that it’s “the chef and not the oven” and didn’t need another camera system. I quickly purchased my favourite lens, the 70-200 f2.8 and a SB-900 Speedlight. The camera and buttons seemed comfortable again and the muscle memory I had built in my early career came back to me very quickly. The focusing was super fast and using focus points other than the center one was very reliable. The crowning jewel, though, of the D3s is without a doubt the amazing quality with high ISOs! I’ve never shot at any ISO above 1600. Now I find myself regularly shoot with ISOs of up to 10,000 quite comfortably. For a while, I shot with the D3s and the 5DMII was my back-up camera but I discovered that I hardly ever used the Canon again. So since June 2011 I have been shooting with the D3s exclusively and I have just invested in more lenses including the 24-120mm f/4, 85mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.4, 14-24mm f/2.8, 105mm Micro, 45mm tilt shift and the 16-35mm f/2.8.
I can’t wait for the Nikon D4, and from what I hear is the best DSLR ever made. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet but I’m really looking forward to getting one soon. I am the first to tell or teach you that your camera is only a tool and that you make the difference. That being said, I am getting shots with the D3S (because to the great quality at higher ISOs) that I have never achieved before. The camera is allowing me to provide even better results to my clients.