Author Archives: Arne

Nikon DSLR double-review

Having written glowing reviews about a Fujifilm fixed-lens mirrorless, can there be other cameras? Yes. This is a double-review covering the Nikon D5600 and D7500.

Mature technology

An optical viewfinder, and a flipping mirror in the digital age? I had little interest in seemingly antiquated SLR technology. That changed with D5200 hands-on experience. The camera was well-engineered and just worked.

This convinced me to order the latest model, the D5600. Autofocus speed is fantastic, focus precision reliable. It can be a tiny bit off but still performs well for my practical needs. Metering, white balance, everything works well. The only limitation seems to be the viewfinder autofocus in very low light: Either it does not work at all, or the miss rate is quite high. In only somewhat low, or normal, or bright light, the viewfinder focus is good. For bad light one can switch to live-view autofocus.

Long-time DSRLs users will laugh, but it was a new experience for me: Having the focus both reliable and quick. Being a DSRL beginner I liked the D5600 because it is easy to use. The few limitations I experience remind me how few complaints I have.

Taken in Leipzig on a boat tour

The D5600 never annoys me as much as the X100F which has an autofocus missrate when put against bright light – but the DSLR also does not give those high moments I have with the Fujifilm camera. Instead the 5600 proves to be overall useful and reliable device with no particular up- or downsides for a hobbyist. It does its job. If time is short, I use images out of camera, despite Nikon’s issue with skin tones. The fully articulating screen helps with awkward shooting angles, and can be flipped inside for protection.

The body is compact and light, but it has the same meter, processor, and a similar or the same sensor used in the D7200, which was the DX king not that long ago. The 5600 is an affordable model using proven technology where it matters.

On a couple of occasions I really needed the camera to perform. It did. The 2018 team event photo of the company I am with, does not show me – because I took it.

Close but not quite there

Rational reasons for adding the D7500 include in-door event photography. The true reason is that when testing the camera, I liked it. With that camera I also fulfilled my dream of buying the Nikkor DX 16-80 mm f/2.8-4 ED VR lens.

Other cameras and lenses are surely better, depending on preferences and budget. For me it was like a forbidden dream to consider such expensive camera. And expensive lens.

Weeks, then months of usage, and I still get impressed!

Night shots seem to be quite easy

Camera operation is sometimes more complicated but also feels a bit more professional because of the many dedicated buttons. And then image quality. With high iso settings, the sensor still resolves texture, it still gets somewhat reliable color. Highlight recovery is excellent for a sensor if this size. The D7500 has less sensor pixels, just some 20 instead of the common 24 megapixels, but this proves to be an advantage: Smaller, yet better files.

Using the camera gets me a lot of satisfaction. There are some small issues, like the screen not able to tilt 90° downwards, and some buttons are placed where I don’t want them. I rate the D7500 quite good but not perfect. And compared to the 5600 it is bulky and heavy. This is an issue especially with big lenses attached.

Mirrorless future?

Ever so often one reads the DSLR is supposedly dead. Or will be soon. Or at some point in the future. So another friend switches to mirrorless and proudly shows his/her new camera. But the more time someone takes to read into the latest features, the less I see him/her taking photos. Mirror or not, each system has some peculiarities.

Equipping the D7500 with a prime lens is more fun than expected because the camera offers a 1.3x crop mode, which yields a 12 megapixel image. The effect is the same as cropping in post but it still feels good to have it in-camera. This feature can be used with Raw.

The D5600 works quite well with the 16-80 mm lens because the overall weight is less than a kilogram (just over two pounds). The camera button layout often allows to operate it with only one hand, which is great.

Cliche flower shot, D5600 with DX 16-80 mm lens.

Nikon seemingly designed each camera with care for the intended purpose. The D5600 provides noticeable feedback for a half-pressed shutter button. The D7500 does not have this resistance, which means the user needs a bit more experience to not release prematurely. But taking images quickly is easier this way. Each camera also follows its own button-placement philosophy. And they use different batteries.

For tripod usage I prefer the D7500 with the tilting screen, because an upward facing D5600 screen conflicts with the cable release. The D7500 screen can face down only so much while the D5600 can be fully turned downwards, which sometimes helps when used handheld. The screen aspect ratio for both cameras is different, each having slight advantages in certain situations.

In most situations, the limiting factor is that I am an amateur not yet experienced enough to really exploit any of these cameras. Second limitation is the lens.

Practical concerns like bulk and weight play a role for my walks and bicycle tours, where I sometimes prefer the 5600 with the 18-55 kit lens, or the 35 mm prime. This entry-level equipment feels a bit plasticky but the power-to-weight-ratio is really good. Still a bit porkier than mirrorless systems, but the body provides good grip to hold the camera comfortably.

D7500 details

When I first looked through the viewfinder, I knew I would probably buy this quite expensive camera. The view is larger, brighter, and clearer compared to the D5600. The autofocus pattern is also an upgrade, though the D5600 coverage is already quite good. The D7500 focus is more reliable in low light situations. I rarely ever need those advantages. But do you only buy what you need?

Some D7500 features seemed strange to me at first. The more I use the camera the more I see that they all have their reason, like an AF-point lock switch. If the need for a specific feature comes up, it is usually available, including a multi-axis level. The camera also offers reasonable customizability for the buttons. The new Jpeg picture-control mode “Auto” is useful because the “Standard” mode is too soft for landscape, but too hard for portraits. The Auto mode gets you a fitting tone curve for the scene. As of July 2019, only the D850 and D7500 have this mode.

The D7500 is not a high-end device. The shoulder display can be illuminated but buttons cannot. The camera cannot meter with very old lenses because it has no mechanical aperture reader. It has only one memory card slot. An enthusiastic amateur like me still finds everything needed. Essentially all F-mount lenses which have autofocus can be used in all camera modes, including old film-era models. Even in the dark I find the nicely large buttons. Shutter speed and flash capabilities are state of the art. Continuous shooting offers fast framerates and has a deep buffer. Exposure-bracket options are very flexible. The camera case is made of synthetic material but still feels quite rigid.

D5600 advantages

It is the smaller model, but there are still a couple of upsides to this camera. The screen has more degrees of movement. Most exposure and focus settings can be changed with just three taps on the touchscreen, instead of having to find the dedicated button and keeping it pressed at an uncomfortable position while scrolling through all the options with a wheel. The camera body is very light.

Flash options are limited though, no high-speed synchronization, no commander mode. This positions the 5600 as consumer camera. Other drawbacks like the viewfinder size and brightness were necessary in order to make the camera so lightweight.

Burst framerate and buffer size are good enough for any of my practical needs. Also the general shutter delay, while noticeable when you pay attention, is still something I can work with.

The shutter noise is not as confident as with higher-class cameras, the F-mount bracket not as tight, and the battery door not as sturdy and the body bottom not as rugged, but there is still something to this camera which is difficult to describe. If I grab it and raise it to look through the viewfinder, if I use the touchscreen to move the AF point (a feature the D7500 does not have), if I review an image just taken, it feels good. If if remember the price, it feels really good.

When using which

After getting the D7500 I wanted to confirm that it was a good purchase because the camera can do more than the D5600. With further experience I then noticed anything important for me can be done with the smaller model as well.

For some events I bring both, making two lenses available without having to swap. Alternatively one can be lent in order to get more coverage. The image output is a bit different, this implies additional work on the files to get a consistent gallery. I still prefer this to swap lenses during an event, like photographing a street concert.

I like both cameras, but for different things. The D5600 is very compact and light, most buttons and the mode dial are on on the right side which supports configuration with one hand, and the touchscreen configuration is nice and easy. I don’t miss a front wheel nor any buttons.

The image quality is more determined by the lens than either of these cameras. Cheap kit lenses have to be stopped down quite a bit for good sharpness but considering the sensor’s pixel pitch, the kit lens resolves a lot of detail for little money. The Jpeg output tries to be rather realistic, popping images require further adjustments. The D5600 has many options to edit images in the camera, but there is no batch raw conversion to Jpeg.

The D7500 camera weights more but feels more serious. The case doors feel more solid, too. The camera is not as easy to configure because one has to learn the position of all the buttons. One gets a lot of features which if I am honest almost never need. But when I want a digital level, it is available. The viewfinder is brighter (and larger) and autofocus has more options and better low-light performance.

For almost all of my photography, either camera offers more than I need. Both models make me visible as a photographer, which separates me from the crowd. Getting experience and based on that confidence, that seems much more important to me than contemplating which of the latest camera features one needs.

Two years with the X100F

Two eventful years since I got the Fujifilm X100F. Others then sold their digital single lens reflex camera equipment. I bought a DSLR last year. And then another one, each time a Nikon with a crop sensor.

The X100F is still in regular use. This blog picks five reasons.

The “no camera” camera

Perhaps I encounter something interesting out there and need a camera – but sometimes I am not willing to tolerate the burden to carry one. Then I grab the X100F in the Fujifilm leather case. Now knowing DSLRs, the X100 feels so compact and light that it is like taking no camera with me. While still having a powerful device.

It is the 2017 model, but as of yet still Fuji’s premier fixed-lens camera. Technology generally progressed in the meantime, other cameras have slightly higher resolution and a new film simulation called Eterna. I would like to get both, especially Eterna because of its flat profile. And the X100F still misses features other cameras have for much longer, including weather sealing.

But it is unique and complete in its own right. Even today you have to look hard to get a discount of more than 100 bucks if you want to buy an X100F.

At first glance, others often mistake it for a film camera which serves as a conversation starter to break the ice.

Not good for street, but excellent for travel

Looking at forums, many consider the X100 series good for street photography but I don’t agree. The autofocus is too slow. Manual focus is not helpful either because it is focus-by-wire. One could work with a fixed focus and a moderately stopped down aperture, but I rather make myself more visible with a DSLR if the autofocus nails it at the moment I need it. With European and German law, one cannot publish street photos without explicit consent which makes it too difficult in practice and I never got much into it. Take my X100-for-street opinion accordingly – with several grains of salt.

A completely different story is travel. You might think you have to have a zoom, or at least different lens choices available to you, since you need to be flexible. Sure there are a couple of occasions where you need a long tele, or a really wide angle to get a useful shot. But those are exceptions.

I think that it is more important to travel light than having many options available. The X100F offers an all-purpose field of view which takes a digital image record of what I see. The story would be different for a paid job but professional photographers don’t read this blog anyway. For personal travel, the X100F makes me happy. Also, no decisions which lenses to carry. No time wasted zooming in or out. Just looking through the viewfinder and taking a good photograph.

The X100F requires experience. With subjects in direct sunlight, or with certain patterns, the autofocus miss rate is quite high. I recommend to enable the digital distance indicator in order to re-focus if necessary. When not carefully used, one takes too many blurry photos.

Out of camera Jpegs

Now is not the time for a detailed discussion. In short, film simulations don’t solve all my problems, for example the tone curve of Provia seems to not analyze the content first. Depending on the scene, shadows can be too dark. Trying to compensate with a negative value for the shadow strength can have a negative impact on other image parts. The Provia simulation is still a robust, good-looking, all-purpose Jpeg output profile, often requiring little or no post-processing.

Every simulation Fujifilm implemented has its use, and again, I would like to get a firmware upgrade adding Eterna.

For certain shootings aiming to get commercial-grade quality, I do use Raw of course. Otherwise I shoot Jpeg and don’t worry too much about later editing.

Not all, but many simulations provide excellent skin tones. Each simulation has its unique color characteristic, not just for skin tones. If the white balance is right – auto balance sometimes produces a purple shift, which has to be corrected – then the Fujifilm colors just get it. Using my experience I can set the Jpeg output to support my vision and then the camera delivers. I can spend most of my time shooting, and shorten or skip the post processing. If you are a Raw-processing enthusiast, you will see room for improvement. But I don’t take photos to impress digital artists.


This is another topic already detailed. I use other cameras for portraits as well, the success relies on the one behind the camera. When it comes to personal choice, I prefer the X100F.

For quick sessions the X100F saves a lot of time. Use any portrait-optimized film simulation, talk to the model and make a couple of jokes and take photos with the practically silent shutter so model ist not frightened.

For prepared shots where I look for a photo story, I want a camera which keeps me visible. The X100F is quite small. And looks good. And has direct controls instead of the indirect PSAM mode configuration. Your mileage may vary, I personally prefer the X100 concept. Aperture is set with a ring on the lens. When I want to take the best portraits I can, the camera should not be in the way.

The lens

The lens is also worthy of a full article. It is a 23 mm f/2 lens exposing a sensor with a 1.53x crop. This results in a 35 mm equivalent field of view, but it is still is a 23 mm lens with the corresponding depth of field.

In most cases I welcome the depth of field because I want to have the whole image in focus. At about f/5.6, the lens is very sharp. Some X100F reviewers say the lens shows its age, being introduced in 2010. If you like a synthetically perfect image, yes, look elsewhere. Off-center sharpness might be compromised. Closeups taken wide open look hazy, and there are a couple of other issues. But many important aspects are fine and chromatic aberration is well controlled.

The point is to not use the lens mindlessly expecting full-size performance from a compact-build lens. While a perfect lens would probably get better reviews, I think the existing X100 lens fits the concept perfectly. The camera looks like a classic and the lens produces images like a classic.

It is subjective

Perhaps the reasons given above are retroactive justifications why I like the X100F. Looking at an X100 camera, touching it, makes me to desire it. My Nikons are like able colleagues I team up with to get the job done. The X100F is like a friend I want to be with.

What you don’t have to consider when doing portraits

This blog entry is written by an amateur photographer photographing amateur models.

Internet articles about portrait photography often elaborate on buying decisions. I would rather recommend to look for models to photograph instead of new gear to buy. The perfect equipment might get you the least image noise, the best sharpness and the highest resolution. Does it catch a nice moment?

Sometimes I ask a she-coworker if I can take portrait photos. As device I prefer a non-zoom fixed-lens moderately wide-angle camera, namely the X100F.


When photographing a non-professional model with the agreement that she can use the photos, artistic expression is not the first consideration – instead she wants to look beautiful. So one creates a comfortable setting which allows to reveal the look and unique personally of the model …

… which is easier said than done. I would rather like to hide behind my DSLR. Using a small camera instead makes me visible. But that is good, as continuous interaction with the model is important for portraits – an amateur model cannot be directed to pose according to a script. An organic build-up works better.

Compact cameras are not as intrusive as a typical portrait kit. The photographer can get closer without making the model uncomfortable. I prefer outdoor shootings with several staged shots to make sure that at least some usable images will be produced, and some spontaneous interactions where I try to get an authentic response. And accept less than ideal conditions if I can get a real smile.

Less focus on hardware

An X100 can be upgraded with a tele converter lens in order to become a typical portrait camera. However it then also has a bulky lens. But who is relaxed when a lot of glass is pointed at one?

A typical advise for someone exploring portrait photography seems to purchase optimal equipment. I think this is well-intentioned but misses the point. Someone looking at the photos should be impressed by other things than the camera used. Getting clarification about how to present the model should come before talking about lenses. If it turns out one does not have the right lens, buying something new should only be one of the options.

The alternative would be to experiment with the gear at hand.

Less focus on software

Most photographs shown in this blog are developed from a Raw file and use strong color. For portrait photo books I prefer less saturation and contrast. If presented well, the viewer takes more time looking at prints and the images don’t have to impress with popping colors.

For online images, everyone has a cellphone ready to post on social media, often “enhanced” by filters. If you are a more traditional photographer, your photographs might be better but there will be little interest if not published in time. Not every portrait requires extensive, Raw-file based post processing.

As a wedding guest I prefer a portrait-optimized Jpeg output in order to not have to do time-consuming Raw processing. Some Jpeg edits might still be useful and one can get a result like this:

The file format is not the question here. I would recommend to follow visual concept, even if not fully achieved with the final image. That is still better than having no clear visual goal and trying to impress with digital over-processing.

Playing with bokeh

I suppose when photo prints were rather small, a long lens with relatively large aperture was the only way to get visible background separation using the 35 mm film format. Especially if one tries to get background blur comparable to photos taken with medium or large film format, the 35 mm frame requires a long and fast lens.

There are lens reviews about bokeh and software editing tips how to digitally apply a bokeh-like background blur using computer applications. That can be helpful, but I rather try to catch the beauty of the model instead of worrying too much about the beauty of the bokeh.

The trunk behind the model’s head is not optimal but there was no time to change the angle or aperture because this smile needed to be photographed when it happened. Even worse than the non-ideal background, the sun just came out and caused harsh lighting.

A wide-angle lens for portraits

One can crop an X100F image quite a bit. This simulates longer lenses at the cost of image resolution. One can even dip into the telephoto range, getting close to traditional-looking portraits while having enough pixels left to work with. A focal length typically used for portraits would keep the full sensor resolution, but I see a few possible issues with a tele-lens.

Because of the magnification, long lenses require to be farther away. Distance complicates interaction. With more distance to the foreground model, background objects appear larger in comparison, taking away the model’s importance. Also, the model’s face appears fuller because one sees more of it when farther away.

Getting instead closer allows interaction and shows acquaintance. Compared to the background, the model size stands out. Background, face and body proportions reveal that the model is quite close. And this cannot be simulated with zoom or crop.

Lens quality

Too much detail in too high contrast reveals all the skin issues. This can be addressed in digital post processing, but why not let the lens do some work as well?

In close range and with the aperture wide open, the X100 lens produces a hazy look. With the aperture stopped down, the image gets very sharp. In-between there is an aperture range where the close-up hazy or dreamy effect is still partly there.

If done right, the image is sharp enough and has sufficient contrast to resolve a useful level of detail without exposing the model’s skin too much to public scrutiny. Subjectively I prefer that look to a digital filter.

The hardest part

The location has been scouted, even twice, the ideas have been developed into a script, yet the shooting does not play out as planned. The lighting is different than anticipated, many scripted parts do not work well, and while I try to adjust to the conditions I forget to interact with the model. Once the photo session over, I am left with a lot of files. And the task to hopefully find a handful of shots which are usable.

Getting feedback from the model, and from others – preferably photographers – is important to improve. Which pictures do others like and why? Which pictures should I select to show, the ones liked by everyone, or is it okay to have the audience split, which also means that the model could be criticized as not looking good? It is easy to do armchair philosophy and theorize, but much harder to deal with real-life responses.

The hardest part is to get lady models in front of the camera. I get denied quite often. Which camera or lens to use – that is the least of my worries.

The best part

When I use one of my other cameras, I think a lot about the right lens. With a no-choice camera, I often have to relocate to get the optimal distance and angle. Sometimes one still cannot take the obvious frame and has to get creative. This way I am a photographer instead of a camera operator.

Portrait photography requires trust and confidence. Getting a comment that a photo looks like one just got lucky, even thought it actually was hard work, is the best compliment.

Maybe none of my opinions apply to you. Even I myself don’t claim it is the right way, if a friend asks for portrait photos but wants to get the standard style, I use another camera and lens.

If I can do a portrait shooting my way, I found that is important to develop an idea about the presentation, and to communicate prior, during, and after the session. Which camera or lens to buy? Unless your model can pose professionally, those questions are not important at all.