It was a rainy day in Prague. At some point in the afternoon, the rain held off for some time. The sun was trying to appear, hopeless. No golden hour, not much time. Still, I took some pictures do demonstrate my budget long exposure gear for those who, like me, value to travel light and prefer to save the money for flight tickets.
- Camera Nikon D3300 (US$ 330, with the kit lens).
- Lens Nikon AF-P 18-55mm.
- Filter Haida PROII Multi-coating Graduated ND0.9, 12.5% 55mm (US$ 75).
- Filter Haida Slim PROII Multi-coating ND3.0, 1000x 55mm (US$ 30).
- Tripod Vanguard Espod CX 203AP (US$ 40).
- Remote JJC MC-DC2 (US$ 30).
Everything was bought new, in physical stores. All the prices are listed as I paid for. You might be able to find them cheaper. Or not.
Nikon D3300 – Pros (as in why I bought this camera):
- Cheap (as you might have noticed).
- Light: 430g (body only).
- APS-C 24mpx sensor without lowpass filter:
- Very sharp images.
- Big margin to crop, if needed.
- Same sensor characteristics as in bigger brothers D5300, D5500, D5600, D7100 and D7200.
- Expeed 4 processor:
- Fast NR processing.
- Great ISO performance.
- Video in FullHD up to 60fps.
- Same processor as in bigger brothers D5300, D5500, D5600, D7200, D750, D810 and D4S.
- Sensor cleaning.
Nikon D3300 – Cons (as in what I miss):
- No wifi: fixed with an EyeFi Mobi Pro SD Card.
- Lack of physical controls: that’s the trade-off for the price/weight.
The 18-55mm kit lens is just enough for non-professional landscape photography. Also for long exposures. The mid-range zoom is perfect for landscapes. And for long exposures, you don’t need a wide aperture, you need the opposite, so you can use very slow speeds. And this lens goes up to f22 at 18mm and f38 at 55mm, while many wider lenses can’t go above f16.
This first picture was taken without filters, in the tripod, f16, ISO 100, 1/15s. No post-processing other than the in-camera Noise Reduction and the Lens Correction automatically made by Lightroom Mobile on RAW import:
Notice how dark is the bottom/left part of the picture. Next picture was taken with the Haida PROII Multi-coating Graduated ND0.9, 12.5% Filter 55mm
The filter was set to cover the sky with the 3-stops dark part. Notice that the image is way more balanced, with less difference between shadows and highlights. The speed here changed to 1/6s and aperture changed to f22.
The issue with this Graduated Filter is the lack of flexibility. You can rotate the filter, but the transition from dark to clear will be always in the middle of the scene if you are at 18mm. Zooming-in makes the transition to approach the bottom, leaving less and less of the scene in the clear part. I was at 18mm the entire time.
Now, mounting the Haida Slim PROII Multi-coating ND3.0, 1000x Filter 55mm on top of the graduated filter, the speed went to 162 seconds, same aperture from the previous image (f22). Here’s the result:
Water is just beautiful and the sky has now a blur instead of well defined clouds.
The issue about using the Graduated ND and the ND filter together is that the second filter creates a small and heavy vignetting, since it’s far from the lens. But Lens Correction (automatically executed by the Lightroom Mobile) removes it almost completely. And you can cut off whatever is left. Also, you have to be careful when attaching the ND filter on top of the Graduated ND filter so the Graduated ND does not rotate. The screen will be completely black and is almost impossible to re-position the Graduated ND perfectly.
Below is the final image. It’s the last one with some small adjustments (crop/rotate, exposure, shadows, highlights, contrast, blacks and saturation) using Lightroom Mobile:
You can see this final image in high resolution here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dodopahim/32703416224
I’m quite happy with the results, considering the money I put into this and how light I travel with that gear. And you? Are you going to buy a full-frame camera, a boat-anchor lens and a Lee Filters kit to make long exposures? In that case, I hope you’re making money with photography. I’m not.
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