For the last month, I’ve been putting off buying a new zoom lens. My inner-conflict sounded a little bit like this:
“A thousand dollar zoom lens, or a ho of solid Seattle 9 (LA 6) quality?”
“A thousand dollar zoom lens, or ten minutes of face-time with a Seattle politician?”
“A thousand dollar zoom lens, or an ounce of the pinkest biker crank that money can buy?”
While I would really value a new zoom lens, as you can see, there is a lot of competition for the roughly $1,200 it will cost. That said, I may have to switch from meth to espresso for a month, and just bite the preverbal bullet.
Why the sudden about-face?
I’ll tell you …
On Thursday, during my daily commute across the Pungent Sound, I spotted a bald eagle.
A bald eagle!
A BALD FUCKING EAGLE!!!
Yes, a bald eagle … symbol of our nation’s pride, alongside our 48/50th ranked healthcare system (hey, we’re not 49th!!! And the home … of the … braaaaaaave).
People often ask me, “Rex, how do you do it? How do you live amongst the hipsters?”
Well, folks, have you ever seen a bald eagle during your commute?
Fuck no you haven’t seen a bald fucking eagle on your fucking commute. Face it, the highlight of your day, the biggest thrill you can expect to get on your daily auto commute is spotting a “my kid beat up your honor student” bumper sticker, and the only bald eagle you’ll ever see is one tattooed on the arm of a jarhead driving a gun rack-equipped pickup truck with American flag mud flaps emblazoned with the phrase “These Colors Don’t Run!”
Yeah, hipsters are starting to look mighty tolerable right about now, aren’t they?
Anyway, upon spotting the Rogaine-deficient bird, I immediately grabbed my camera, maxxed out my existing 140mm zoom lens, then realized that the bird was a solid mile away, in front of the Space Needle which was 6 miles distant.
“Dammit!”, I thought to myself, “this is EXACTLY why I need 300mm!”
I had to crop and enlarge the tiny section containing the eagle, and it’s still barely visible.
Oh, if I only I had my 300. Actually, it’ll be more like a 450mm.
See, prior to purchasing my D7100 not long ago, I thought long and hard about DX vs. FX (heh, I said “long and hard”). A week prior to my purchase, I was leaning toward the full-frame D600, which was only slightly more costly, or even, possibly, waiting another couple of months and plunking down the cheddar for the D800, or maybe, maybe even the D4, simply because it could be used as an impromptu blunt-force weapon. I mean, you never know when you’re going to find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with 500 middle-aged man-children with ironic t-shirts, all jockeying for position to capture Generation Shit’s annual Silly String hissy fit on Pike Street.
While making my decision, I combed through my photograph library, all 1 million+ photos, and I soon noticed a trend: the vast majority of my shots use the long end of the lens. Probably 90% are over 100mm. Even when shooting at a close range, even when shooting on small sensors, I back up as far as I can so that I can shoot long. For the past 20 years, I’ve develop a highly “compressed” style of photography, where I always opt to “flatten” distances whenever possible. I basically use the camera as a telescope.
In general, this style of photography favors DX, as DX puts more pixels on distant subjects, at the expense of a larger field-of-view. A field-of-view that I rarely take advantage of. A field-of-view for which 18mm DX (27mm FX), is more than sufficient
Not to mention, when I use the rig for the odd photojournalism project, reach = subtlety. Simply speaking, a police officer is less likely to walk an extra 100 yards to scream “No pictures! Do you want me to come to your work and harass you?!!!”
As if this were not reason enough, the D7100 has a newer Toshiba sensor which kicks ass, takes names, and gives bitches stitches if they give it any lip. This camera produces the sharpest, most color-correct, low-ISO photos in Nikon’s stable, and is only about one stop behind their $5,000 flagship model in low-light, while employing the exact same autofocus system as the aforementioned $5K camera.
Throw in dual SD slots, a magnesium alloy skeleton, and professional-grade weather sealing, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to call the D7100 the best camera-per-dollar that Nikon has ever produced. The “sweet spot” as it were. It will also use just about any Nikon lens made since the 1950’s, and includes an on-board autofocus motor for lenses without CPUs.
Oh, and how about 1080p video with stereo mics, an external mic port, and headphone jack?
Nikon could just have easily called it the “Seattle Rex Camera”, although D7100 is cool too.
All that’s left now, is the superdope 18-300mm lens, and I’ll be taking photos of your mom turning tricks on a Kirkland corner from the top of the Columbia Tower in no time.
Oh, and bald eagles posing in front of the Space Needle too.
Just a little something to look forward to, from your old pal, Seattle Rex.