Get snap-happy with the new Nikon D3400 and SnapBridge

Nikon’s always been committed to proving that the DSLR doesn’t have to be a bulky instrument. Nikon’s D300 series of camera bodies prioritizes light weight, compact design and ease of use, all while maintaining the benefits which come with an interchangeable lens system. So far, each of Nikon’s models that hold the D3 prefix have offered approachable, yet reasonably powerful solutions for those wanting to get started with photography — plus some extra growing space as users’ confidence increases.

The D3400 is Nikon’s latest contribution to the D3000 series, and is (somewhat obviously) the successor to the popular D3300, and the D3200 that came before it. While not a complete overhaul of its predecessor, the D3400’s guts have had an upgrade — some weight has been shaved off the body, a number of specs were improved, and features have been further tailored to amateur shooters. To make it an even more superior proposition for amateur and enthusiast shooters, the D3400 actually teaches you how to use it with step-by-step instructions, right in the camera. Or, for those still wary of switching to manual, stunning imagery can be captured in auto-mode — with nearly 100 years of Nikon know-how programmed into the D3400 for outstanding, effortless results.

Inspired by one of Nikon’s ads for the D3400 — the mouth-watering hamburger featured within our latest issue — the D-Photo team geared up for a feast, as we set off on an afternoon of eating and drinking (and, of course, photography too). Beautifully sharp, the D3400 rendered the delicate range of textures and colours across the various plates that arrived to our table.

At 24.2 megapixels on an APS-C sensor, it wields the same resolution as the D3300, and Nikon has removed the anti-aliasing filter to deliver sharp, stunning results. With an update to an Expeed 4 imaging engine, the D3400 boasts an even better noise profile in low light — bringing the imaging system into similar territory to the pro-grade D5300 when shooting within a restaurant’s dim ambience, or simply away from direct light.

In addition, the top end of the D3400’s ISO range now stretches to 25,600, allowing even more possibilities with our incredibly visual subject. This is important too, as camera-mounted flashes are generally off limits when capturing food, as directional light from a single source flattens dishes, erases subtle light variations, and dispels natural shadows.

Of course, having a fast lens with consistent illumination from edge to edge helps — and we had to choose between the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G, the Nikkor 85mm F/1.8 G, and the Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 G. Of these lenses, the AF-P DX Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 G VR is included in the kit. It boasts a retractable design, making the lens more portable when it’s not in use. It’s also equipped with Nikon’s Stepping Motor technology for quick, smooth and quiet autofocus, and offers up to four stops of image stabilization to combat the effects of camera shake and blur. Being a zoom lens, it’s extremely versatile, with enough reach to fill the frame for a variety of subjects.

But now that we’ve got the tech and spec out of the way, here’s the real talking point of the D3400: SnapBridge. In just the time it took for our server to pour water for the table, we downloaded the free SnapBridge app and connected the D3400 to a smartphone. From there on, images automatically transferred to the device.

As the first entry-level DSLR to boast the company’s SnapBridge software, it means that no Wi-Fi is required. First introduced with the D500, a more expensive prosumer DSLR, SnapBridge is an always-on bluetooth low-energy connection that lets the camera automatically transfer images to any smartphone or tablet. It works instantly and seamlessly through Nikon’s Image Space, a cloud storage and sharing site — and it means that you can easily share your shots however, and to whoever, you choose.

For more information on the Nikon D3400 18–55mm kit, visit nikon.co.nz or head to your local photo retailer.

Putting the Fujifilm XF 50–140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR to the test

Rebecca Frogley puts the Fujifilm XF 50–140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR lens to the test on some quirky, edible subjects

Fujifilm’s XF 50–140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR — a zoom designed for Fujifilm’s X-series lenses — offers the most frequently used telephoto focal lengths, with some serious optics to boot. Providing a 35mm-equivalent focal-length range of 76–213mm (when used in conjunction with the X series’ 1.52x crop factor), and with a minimum one-metre focusing distance across the entire zoom range, it’s ideal for not only capturing fast-moving and distant subjects in the great outdoors, but also for shooting portraits. So, with that in mind, I put the XF50–140mm to the test in the studio with some rather unconventional subjects.

Rebecca Frogley

When I first handled the lens, we were made aware of its solidity — weighty and reassuring — which is something that I’ve come to expect from the majority of the higher-end Fujifilm lenses. While it’s certainly not lightweight, sitting at just under a kilo, it balances quite comfortably on the X-T1 with a battery grip attached — and personally, I’ve never had a problem with carrying a little more glass. Give it a go on the X-T10, however, and it dwarfs the body in a combination that’s particularly front-heavy, requiring being mounted to a tripod for any comfortable use. While it’s not the lightest telephoto that we’ve come across, if you compare the Fujifilm camera and lens combination to its Canon or Nikon equivalent, the Fujifilm stands approximately 40-per-cent lighter and smaller overall. So, depending on your viewpoint, the Fujifilm XF 50–140mm marks a definitive departure from the more compact lenses in the XF line-up, or, it's a lighter alternative to the Canon and Nikon’s heavyweight offerings.

Rebecca Frogley

Weight aside, the XF 50–140mm offers a tripod mount for ease of handling. Attached to the lens, via a circular ring that can be rotated from landscape to portrait orientation, is the all-brass collar, which allows for well-balanced shooting when working from a tripod or monopod — plus, it doubles as a comfortable rig for carrying about. It doesn’t end there with Fujifilm’s well-considered ergonomics; both the focus and aperture rings on the lens are metal, as is the exterior of the lens body, lending to a high-quality finish and resulting in that oh-so-expensive coolness to the touch. The lens barrel is plastic, a little disappointing, but probably essential in keeping the weight down. The XF 50–140mm’s lens ring is generously wide with a ridged and rubberized ring band — to the delight of the chubby-fingered, no doubt. Smooth in action and without any focus creep, they offer the potential for absolute precision.

Rebecca Frogley

In the studio with controlled light, the XF50–140mm worked to it’s finest. It’s got the image quality of a prime, paired with the flexibility of a zoom — a killer combination. Standing out not only for its extreme sharpness, the lens also boasts a near-complete lack of visible distortion, lateral colour fringes, or light fall-off. A camera system is only as good as its glass, and in this case, it’s very good. The lens uses an optical construction comprising 23 glass elements in 16 groups, with five ED lens elements and one Super ED lens element. This greatly reduces the risk of chromatic aberrations — so much so, that I couldn’t find any examples within my test shots. The application of Fujifilm's unique HT-EBC (High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating) to the entirety of the lens surface, ensures ghosting and flare are controlled for sharp, clear images. Also, using the newly developed Nano-GI (Gradient Index) coating technology, which alters the refractive index between glass and air, ghosting and flare are effectively controlled against diagonal light. My edible subjects are captured in immaculate detail, and with striking clarity.

Still, not everyone has access to a full studio set-up, and telephoto lenses have always been the great love of outdoorsmen. So, here’s how the XF 50–140mm fares against the elements: it offers low temperature resistance down to -14 degrees, and boasts a weather-sealed barrel, which keeps out dust and water. The rugged, weather-tight Fujifilm XT-1 is only ever going to be so good without equally resilient lenses to match, which makes me think that perhaps Fujifilm had this perfect pair planned all along.

App Report: we delve into the world of Printicular

 
From the country that brought us the Big Mac comes another convenience — not quite as tasty, but definitely a product that the team at D-Photo agree you should sink your teeth into

Printicular is a photo-printing app, created by Hamilton-based app developer MEA, that allows users to select and print photos straight from their mobile device, and have them delivered directly to their door. It’s currently available on iOS and Android, and is free to download.

Printicular calls itself the “world’s fastest-growing photo-printing app”, and for good reason. They’ve grasped hold of the US market with a collaborative deal with Walgreens, and have received an encouraging nod from the Harvard Business Review. Printicular’s initial hype escalated in a frenzy of Instagram addicts, who have, for the first time, been able to print their square, digitally filtered snaps on the go. However, the app actually offers a whole lot more — you can login and upload images from wherever they are stored; with available sources such as Flickr, Facebook, Dropbox, and Picasa, to name a few.

There’s no syncing, cables, or account registration involved — simply open the app and connect to your platform of choice. From here you can select photos to upload and create a print order, with sizes from 4x4 inches to 8x12 inches, in both matte and gloss stock. Worldwide shipping is offered free with purchases over the value of US$25, which actually equates to a decent stack of prints with prices starting at only 32 cents each.

At first this app can appear as a bit of a novelty, however its success relies in its very simple solution to a common problem we face in dealing with images. Due to the increasingly ephemeral nature of digital photography, we often find that physical prints are only reserved for the winning image, that single moment of brilliance or masterpiece. A lot can be said for the tactile photographic print, in consideration of variable screen resolutions and colour calibrations. With the cost and time involved in ordering test prints, Printicular offers a nifty alternative with very little effort involved.

The single setback to this app is that it isn’t overly user-customizable, though an update to fix this probably isn’t far away. We found that you can only select images in a single size and paper type per order, meaning that you can’t order a single image in a variety of sizes in one purchase. We also found that once images were uploaded, there was no function to edit these selections, instead having to recreate an order from scratch. Still, if you had a series of shots on Flickr to compare in print, or perhaps some visuals sent to you via Dropbox for an upcoming meeting — this app would provide an easy printing solution.

Like anything, this app will be what you make of it. However, there’s no doubt that it could add real value to the photographer on the go.

Check out Printicular via the App Store and Google Play.