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Nikon D7100 First Thoughts

29TH APR: D7100 First Thoughts

Two months or so back I purchased Nikons D7100 camera, targeted towards the 'enthusiast' photographer I was a little sceptical whether this camera would be up to the job of replacing my Nikon D300s. The camera uses a 23.5mmx15.6mm 24.1 megapixels APS-C sensor with the ability to add another 1.3x crop in camera reducing resolution to 15 megapixels. Well after two months of use its fair to say this little camera is punching well above its weight, since buying the camera I've managed to test it out a couple of times in Wales shooting fast jets in the NWMTA or more commonly known as the Mach Loop and also at some track days I have been covering for MSV and I've been pleasantly surprised. 

In fact my D300s hasn't been taken out of the bag since and is now my second camera body, the images from the D7100 are above and beyond those that are from the D300s - not only in terms of resolution and the ability to crop but also the fantastic tonal/dynamic range and sharpness of the images, no doubt down to the lack of an optical low pass filter. 
 

41(R) TES Squadron Tornado GR4 'Rebel 84' on a low level sortie in the NWMTA/Mach Loop. 

41(R) TES Squadron Tornado GR4 'Rebel 84' on a low level sortie in the NWMTA/Mach Loop. 

One thing the Nikon D7100 doesn't have going for it is a large buffer, with online tests varying between 5-8 shots depending on memory cards and RAW set-up. Initially this was a little worrying, after a little testing at the race tracks with only a 45mbs write and read Sandisk SD card my worries were cast aside. As long as you aren't a 'spray and pray' kind of photographer this shouldn't even be an issue, up until this date I've only hit the buffer once and that was down to myself machine gunning a Tornado GR4 through Cad. 

12(B) Squadron commemorative tail Tornado GR4 makes its way towards Cad in the Mach Loop, the jets last flight before RTP at RAF Leeming to sustain the current Tornado fleet. 

12(B) Squadron commemorative tail Tornado GR4 makes its way towards Cad in the Mach Loop, the jets last flight before RTP at RAF Leeming to sustain the current Tornado fleet. 

For me the ultimate test of a camera for my style of shooting and subject is the Mach Loop or LFA7, here you can witness RAF & USAF fast jets operating at 250 feet and between 420-450 knots - a test of both how well the autofocus works, buffer, FPS, exposure and any grain issues from high ISO (although I rarely shoot above ISO 400 if I can help it). 

The AF is lighting fast, I haven't yet tried the 3D tracking however as I've essentially set the camera up as my D300s is. As a friend once told me, the more you ask a camera to do the more it slows it down - ie keep it simple. I've found it trying to 'hunt' a couple of times but I've put this down to heat haze and also the bright light on the front of the Hawk T1 which used to confuse my D300s constantly. Initially looking at the images on the back of the camera I wasn't that impressed, they seemed to have a green tint to them but it seems this is more a back screen issue on the D7100 as the WB has been absolutely spot on for the most part apart from some tricky shooting conditions on my first trip to the Loop where the light was incredibly hazy. 

Up close in the cockpit with a pilot and WSO from 9 Squadron based at RAF Marham, you can see the WSO waving.

Up close in the cockpit with a pilot and WSO from 9 Squadron based at RAF Marham, you can see the WSO waving.

Although not a direct replacement for the D300/D300s I couldn't be any happier with the D7100, it is leaps and bounds ahead of the D300 (rightly so) and is so much better than I expected. I really feel the camera has helped to 'up' my photography as I felt I'd reached my limit with the D300s. 
I'm really looking forward to giving the camera more of a challenge especially at the air shows this year.

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Highs & Lows Of The Good Kind

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 1ST JUNE

With the promise of good weather and also the hope of seeing Richard's modified Pitts S-1E Special take to the skies for a test of the new smoke system fitted I headed over to Bidford On Avon. 

Whilst waiting for Rich to arrive me and Ben took the chance to discuss our forthcoming shoot a little more, we both had a good idea of what we wanted to achieve from it and with Ben seeking the relevant permissions from the CAA it was all looking good for the planned date of the 4th. 

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After a brief discussion and introduction with Rich we set to work removing the panels surrounding the cockpit so a new breaker could be installed. Unfortunately this took considerably longer than anticipated and meant that the planned air to air with G-EWIZ was canned. As luck would have it Steve was just about to take G-BOZS out for a quick flight so we planned a quick A2A flight.

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After pushing G-KLAW out of the hangar, strapping in, taxing to the end of the airfield with Steve in G-BOZS we performed a formation take-off. The conditions couldn't have been better for the flight bar the fact it was little bumpy at times and flying 'out of balance' can make you feel slightly nauseous but the light was fantastic. This was only my second A2A sortie so I still need some practice but I'm learning quickly.
 

G-BOZS Pitts S-1C Special near Bidford On Avon.

G-BOZS Pitts S-1C Special near Bidford On Avon.

 
 

4TH JUNE  

Knife edge pass from Ben in G-KLAW.

Knife edge pass from Ben in G-KLAW.

Four of us arrived at Craig Goch reservoir around 6:30am in anticipation of the shoot with Ben, after checking the bags to make sure we hadn't forgot anything (a little late at this point!) we made the short climb up the hill over looking the reservoir. 

The location and conditions could have been any better, fantastic views and visibility and the light was fantastic, this was one of the main reasons for the rather early time of the shoot. The light is at its best during the first few hours of sunrise and sunset where as during midday it can become a little harsh throwing unwanted shadows around and generally making shooting that little more difficult. 

  Smoke on pulling up over Craig Goch!

 Smoke on pulling up over Craig Goch!

Ben arrived on scene bang on 7:15am and began display over the water performing a series of different flight profiles and routines complete with smoke as you can see from the photos above. I was able to tell Ben how close he needed to be & how low etc from the ground thanks to the use of his radio he had very kindly lent me. 

  One last pass with smoke on! 

 One last pass with smoke on! 

So after nearly 30 minutes we called it a day, the plan to do another one a few hours later was canned as we didn't want to draw too much attention despite having all the relevant permissions. 

After a relaxed drive from the reservoir to Cad West in the Mach Loop we arrived on the hill just in time to capture a two ship of 29(R) Squadron Eurofighter Typhoons, the lead jet being flown by this years Typhoon display pilot, Flt Lt Jamie Norris. 

29(R) Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 diving into Cad.   

29(R) Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 diving into Cad. 

It was then down to a couple of passes from an RAF King Air and the resident Loop locals IV Squadron in the Hawk T2's to pass the time until the main event. 

RAF King Air from RAF Cranwell on a low level nav ex.

RAF King Air from RAF Cranwell on a low level nav ex.

Although the King Air doesn't capture the same interest as say a Tornado GR4 its still a rarity in the Loop so I was rather pleased to nail one or two photos of it. 

IV Squadron Hawk T2 from RAF Valley storms through Cad as the instructor brings the jet through for the first time, the second pass was a little higher which would lead on to assume it was flown by the student. 

  Close up with student and instructor from IV Squadron based at RAF Valley.

 Close up with student and instructor from IV Squadron based at RAF Valley.

"Single GR4 entering the Mach Loop from the North" Time for the main event then, an absolutely fantastic first pass from the pilot of this Tornado GR4, with the wings swept back to 67º and going like the clappers if you'd have blinked you would have missed it!  

67º wing swept Tornado GR4 from RAF Marham.

67º wing swept Tornado GR4 from RAF Marham.

Coming back around for a second time, this time with the wings back to the normal 45º that you will usually see. You may just be able to see the vortices left in the air as the wing tips essentially cut through it. 

  Coming around for a second pass with the wings back to 45º.

 Coming around for a second pass with the wings back to 45º.

I think the WSO (weapons system officer) may have noticed us on the hill as he gives us the rocks horns!

Rock horns from the WSO! 

Rock horns from the WSO! 

 
 

9TH JUNE

With the weather looking fantastic again and the opportunity to scope out the displays for the coming year at various other air shows I decided to pop along. I wasn't go to take the camera let alone take any photos but I'm glad I did, its seem I just can't help but take photos! 

I was there mainly to see Jamie Norris's display in the Eurofighter Typhoon and also the RAF Red Arrows display team, unfortunatley due to the heat there was a significant amount of heat haze around which has ruined the majority of my shots but I came away with one or two shots I was happy with. 

 

     Jamie Norris puts the Eurofighter Typhoon through its paces producing a massive amount of fluff/spluff.

  Jamie Norris puts the Eurofighter Typhoon through its paces producing a massive amount of fluff/spluff.

Seven of the Red Arrows at the top of a loop during their display at RAF Cosford air show 2013.

Seven of the Red Arrows at the top of a loop during their display at RAF Cosford air show 2013.

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