As I am just finishing up testing some new gear from Sigma America Corp, I've started to post some of the images on my IG and FB accounts. I get asked a lot about the gear I use when people see these images. I used to be brand loyal to Nikon cameras and I shot Nikon bodies for about 20 years starting with the Nikon 5005 and moving upward and onward from there. Between then and now I've shot Nikon, Canon, Sony, Sigma and I've created amazing images with all of them. As far as lenses go, up until 10 years ago I wasn't brand loyal at all. I shot Nikon, Tamron, Sigma (pre ART series) Canon and Tokina. 10 Years ago all that changed and I'll explain as we get into this further... I don't want to take too much of your time but I do feel this will help someone out there that is looking for gear suggestions and I'll explain not only What I shoot with but why I shoot with it....
My Current Camera Bodies -
Nikon D850 - Astro Modified for Night Photography
Sony A7r4a - Landscapes/Sunsets/Sunrise/Wildlife/Macro
DJI Air 2s - Drone Photography
Past Camera Bodies - In order
You're probably looking at this and thinking.... Nikon>Canon>Nikon.....what happened? In late 2009 while hiking the Eagle Creek Trail in Oregon I knocked my Nikon D300 over into the creek. By the time I realized where the camera was it was too late...Even though it was fresh creek water, the damage was done... I needed a new camera and at the time the 5DMk2 was one of the best our there. I didn't have much money invested in lenses at the time so it made for an easy switch. When I got the Canon I thought it was the camera I would have the rest of my life....It was such a huge upgrade from the D300. I started buying lenses for it and building a system around this camera. I had the Canon for about 5 years and at this time there was talk about a larger sensor coming out with more megapixels. Things had really taken off for me and I was getting requests for larger images. I kept waiting, thinking that Canon was going to release something soon. I kept waiting and waiting along with so many other photographers but Canon kept putting out crop sensor cameras that year...One day I woke up and sold all my Canon gear on FB and made the switch back to Nikon with the D810... A full 12 mp more than the Canon with better low noise levels.. Because I sold all my lenses I now needed some F mount lenses to go with the Nikon. This is where I found the new Sigma Art series lenses.. I purchased the Sigma 24-105 F/4 Art and took it hiking up in RMNP and when I got home, I knew this was the lens and brand for me.. It was at this moment I became brand loyal to Sigma lenses. The sharpness and clarity were like something I had never seen before.
With the years of photography I have I could drag this blog out so long that it would kill you to read it, I'll keep it to the point and save the rest for another blog...
Lenses I've recently/currently own -
Sigma 50mm1.4 Art
Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art
Sigma 14-24mm 1.4 Art - Sony and Nikon Mounts
Sigma 24-105mm F/4 Art - Same lens I bought 10 years ago..it's a workhorse
Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art
Sigma 24-35 F/2 Art
Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Sport
Sigma 15mm Fisheye
Sigma 28mm 1.4 Art
Sigma 24mm 1.4 Art
Sigma 105mm 2.8 Macro Art
Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art
Sony 24-105 - The only reason I have this lens is because Sigma doesn't make this lens for E mount... As soon as they do, if they do, I'll switch over.
Tripods and Ballheads - Very crucial for getting sharp images in my opinion
I am currently using Robus Supports Tripods and Ballheads on both of my setups...
I have 2 pair of Robus 5558 legs and I have the 1050 and 1030 ballheads. I feel the quality is equally the same as Really Right Stuff but at a fraction of the price... I've been using Robus products for a few years now have have never had an issue with their products...
From time to time I do like to use the Sigma fp & fp L cameras. Because I just tested a lens for Sigma, I was using the Sigma fp L camera with that lens. I don't own this camera but sure do love using it. One of the best things about it, in my opinion, is that the ISO can go down to 6! So you really don't need any ND filters. As the ISO in the camera goes lower, the maximum shutter speed increases... So I can shoot at ISO 6 for 500 seconds in camera...This is really a great feature. It's also a 61mp camera with extreme details and beautiful color rendering. It's small and light but delivers big beautiful images...I like that!
If you love night photography, chances are you are familiar with astro modified cameras. If not, I'll explain... As a night photographer, instructor, and someone who just loves the night sky, I've generally bought gear that allowed me to do both night and day photography. Lenses with wide f stops, cameras with low noise in the higher ISO's ect... It wasn't until a couple years ago when I decided I wanted a smaller & lighter set up for my landscape work that I had 2 cameras. I still had my Nikon D850 and I was switching to a Sony A7r4 which is much lighter and smaller in comparison. I didn't want to sell the Nikon so I decided I would keep it as a backup...I had never had 2 cameras at the same time before so having a backup was a nice thought. It wasn't long after that I decided to make one camera specifically for night photography and one for general purpose. That being said, both the Nikon and Sony can do both...So what's the difference? The difference is that my Astro Modified Nikon is now able to pick up nebula colors/hydrogen gasses that my Sony can't see or isn't as sensitive to. When we look up at the night sky even in a super dark area, the stars look white and you can generally see the red of Mars, the red of Anteres and the Yellow of Betelgeuse in Orion. Aside from those, most of the stars look white to us. There are gasses and nebulas up there that our eyes can't pick up but with an astro modified sensor in your camera you can.
You can clearly see the pink/magenta colors around Orions Belt in the image on the right. That's Bernard's Loop. Bernard's Loop is an emission nebula in the Orion Cloud Complex. You can also see some other pink colors in other areas of the sky on the right. These are more areas of hydrogen gasses which are picked up with a modified sensor. Granted the light pollution in each of the images are different but the modified sensor will bring more color to your night sky images without having to blow up the saturation and vibrance sliders!
The above image was taken in much darker skies and therefore you can see the nebula colors a bit better with more definition. The Sigma 28mm 1.4 and 14-24mm 2.8 are my "go to" astro lenses.. I hope these images help show why I decided to have one camera modified for night photography. It's not something for everyone, but the option is there if you want it. I also can take daylight images with my Nikon and then adjust the color in post processing...
When it comes to the astro modified camera and the Milky Way there isn't as much difference between regular camera and modified camera... Like before, you will see some nebula colors but the biggest difference is the Lagoon Nebula (pink dot center in lower image) Top image shot in Arches National Park, lower image shot in Yellowstone National Park, both with different lenses on the same camera. In the top, you can see more pink nebula color around the Milky Way, in the lower image you can see more overall definition and color separation in the sky, this is due to location and lens choice. The natural color of the Lagoon Nebula is a warmish pink/red color...This is due to all the young hot stars inside. I don't want to blow your mind but that tiny pink dot, the Lagoon Nebula, is roughly 330 TRILLION miles across by 120 TRILLION miles top to bottom. If that little dot is that big... Just think how big the entire area of the sky visible in this image is! WOW!....
Both of these cameras offer an incredible level of detail. I do get asked a lot about the Sigma fp cameras because people know I shoot with it from time to time and the truth is it's just as good in providing highly detailed images as any other camera. Look at the details in the rocks. In today's photography world, you really need to pick the camera based on your needs. Most all the cameras today offer very high resolution at their respective levels of imaging. The Sigma just get's talked about less in the still photography market because I think it's really designed as a filmmaker camera. It's highly respected by those who do video.
I'll end with this last answer to a question I get asked a lot - Why didn't you keep the Nikon as your main camera and modify the Sony since it has more megapixels? For a couple reasons. I wanted my main camera to be smaller and lighter for hikes. Short hikes, no issues, but on longer, higher elevation hikes, I much prefer less stress on my body with a smaller set up. In my opinion, based on the images I've personally shot, the Nikon D850 has less noise at higher ISOs than the Sony. By having less noise in the initial capture I can create even better final images by using less images to stack. I'll have to do a comp between the Nikon & Sony in another blog so you can see the difference...I think you'd be shocked.
Lens tests are very strict, to determine the quality of the lens, no cropping and only minimal processing. Here are a couple of images with the new Sigma 17mm lens I did for them over the last few weeks...
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and as always, please ask any questions you have and I'll be happy to answer them.
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