Nikon's new D40 Series – Farewell to Classic Nikon Lens Compatibility

Popular Photography magazine (and website) reports that the new entry-level Nikon D40 digital SLR camera no longer includes a built-in motor for autofocus lenses. The article points out that omitting the motor makes the camera body smaller and lighter (and, I would add, probably cheaper to make), but it prevents the D40 from using a lot of existing lenses, both those made for other Nikon DSLRs and those made for older Nikons. See the compatibility listing by clicking the Tech Specs tab here.

If you’re considering buying a D40 as your first Nikon SLR, limited compatibility with older Nikon and Nikon-compatible lenses might not matter (although current Tokina and Tamron lens lines won’t work, Sigma makes lots of lenses featuring HSM motorized autofocus that will).

However, if you’ve already invested in Nikon lenses, and especially if you want to use some classic Nikon F-series glass on a modern SLR, the D40 (6.1MP) or its higher-resolution sibling, the D40X (10.2MP) is not the best choice.

Sigma lens fans can read the compatibility listing here.


It Isn't the Camera, It's the Method

There’s quite a vigorous film vs digital discussion going on over the Times of London‘s report about Kodak and the future of its film business, as I blogged in my entry “Please Don’t Take My Kodachrome Away…”

Film advocates are busy suggesting that digital photographers aren’t really photographers at all. One commentator put it this way (ellipses mine):

“Digital is all about results, irrespective of how you get there: profligate image taking, preview and delete, then save the lucky shot for Photoshop…When I went digital (briefly) I’d shoot 200 images over a three day vacation and later delete three-quarters of them. When the digital thrill died and I went back to film, I found I was a terrible photographer. And now, slowly, with film, I’m learning all over again what it means to take a photograph.”

The problem here (as is evident from the complete comment in the original Times of London story) is that this photographer abandoned his careful “make every picture count” method when he switched from film to digital and replaced it with a “more pictures are better pictures” approach. However, you can waste three-quarters of your pictures if you shoot with film as well as you can with digital (ask anyone who has ever suffered through looking through unedited packets of pictures fresh from the lab!).

The problem isn’t with digital photography, but in how it’s being performed. Here’s a digest of my approach (based on over 35 years of photographic experience, including about 6 years with digital, and several years of teaching photography):

1. The instant-feedback features in digital cameras (LCD playback, histogram feature in better models, and exposure display in advanced modes) help photographers who know how to use them to get better pictures.

2. I teach my students to evaluate white balance, exposure, mode, cropping, zoom, and histogram and to reshoot immediately with different settings, when necessary, to get better results. In other words, I teach my students to be as careful with digital as with film.

3. I teach my students to review their photos on a computer and pay particular attention to the exposure metadata stored with each photo. This information includes lens zoom setting, f-stop, shutter speed, ISO setting, EV adjustment, white balance, and so forth. By viewing the image and the metadata at the same time, a photographer can learn what makes one shot better than another. What’s even better is that it is no longer to use the camera vendor’s own software to view this information.

Microsoft Windows XP users can download the Microsoft RAW Image Viewer and Thumbnailer to view this information from selected RAW as well as JPEG and TIFF files from virtually any digital camera. Windows Vista and MacOS X users already have the ability to view metadata.

Reviewing metadata helps photographers at all levels shoot better photos. Although I’ve known for years that I ought to write down exposure data, I’ve always been too busy shooting to pull out a notepad and do it. On those rare occasions I did it, I watched picture after picture go by. No wonder I love having metadata at my fingertips!

You can be creative, careful, and methodical or boring, careless, and unsystematic with either film or digital. They’re both valid means of expression, and you can learn to do both well – or badly.


"Please Don't Take My Kodachrome Away…"

Is the end near for the traditional yellow boxes of Kodak film? According to a story at the Times of London Online, the answer may be ‘Yes.’ While film still has its friends (read the comments on the Times story), film as a business is dropping like a rock thrown off the Empire State Building.

The evidence is everywhere. Every time I go to a store that sells film, the SKUs available are fewer and fewer. Color slide film, still my favorite, is almost impossible to find except at camera stores. Digital cameras are pushing film cameras off store shelves.

But who am I to complain? I’m part of the problem. Like so many photographers, I’m finding the cost of a single roll of film exceeds $10 when processing is included. Do I have a masterpiece or two in those 24 or 36 exposures, or a roll of duds? With film, I don’t know until it’s too late. With digital, I can adjust exposure, white balance or other settings, and fire away, knowing I have the shots I want and need. Consequently, I’m using my digital camera more and my film cameras less – much less. I have my eye on a Canon Digital Rebel XTi, so my existing Canon EOS lenses won’t be orphaned.

If you like film – real film – check your friendly camera store. They’ll appreciate the business, and you’ll appreciate the choices you’ll find there.

Christianity, Holocaust, Judaism, Photography, World History

Meet the "Leicajuden"

The story of how Ernst Leitz II, son of the founder of the world-famous manufacturer of the Leica camera, smuggled Jewish employees to new lives in America, rivals the story of Schindler’s List in its compassion and ironies. Leitz, whose father had been groomed to become a Protestant pastor, learned compassion from his father’s humanitarianism and practical Christianity, and found a new venue for that compassion when Hitler rose to power in the 1930s. The manufacturer of the camera used to capture images that glorified the “Master Race” subverted that propaganda by smuggling Jewish employees to new lives in America’s optical industry.

Read the whole story, including why it’s taken so long for the world to learn of this ‘righteous Gentile,’ in Mark Honigsbaum’s interview with Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith, whose painstaking amateur detective work pieced together the story, in “New life through a lens” at the Financial Times website. Frank Dabba Smith’s 2002 article “Ernst Leitz of Wetzlar and Altruism During the Holocaust,” (MS Word format) provides additional documentation for the amazing story of what I refer to as the “Leicajuden.”

Learn more about what historians have called the “Leica Freedom Train” from photographic historian George Gilbert’s article at and his 2004 presentation for the Photographic Historical Society of Canada.

(H/T to