Sunday, November 28, 2010

Good Craiglist Post (Part 1)

For all of the time that I spend picking apart dubious Nikon D700 posts, I thought it was time to share one that is a nice simple post, that doesn't raise any red flags, and which would actually compel me to follow up with the seller.

***

FS: Nikon D700 Mint Condition <17,xxx - $2200 (Burnaby)


Date: 2010-11-28, 9:34AM PST


Nikon Full Frame camera with superb ISO.

Got all the box, accessories (strap, batteries) and paperwork. There is a tiny scratch mark at the bottom of the camera. Bought in BC and still under warranty (1.5yrs left)

no shipping, local cash only


keywords, d7000, d700, fx, nikon, pro, professional, best, slr, dslr 

***

This is a beautifully simple ad, the camera practically speaks for itself. The poster doesn't do too hard of a job selling the camera... if I were to hazard a guess, he is probably targeting somebody moving up from a DX camera than than trying to find a professional looking for a backup body. This is very conscientious person, has laid out the fact that there's a scratch on the body ahead of time, which to be quite honest, is something that you would expect from normal use.

The warranty is moot, since Nikon warranties don't transfer... Here in Canada, Nikon warranties last for two years, so 17,000 shutter clicks in about 6 months is a fair amount of usage in six months time, but is not unreasonable if you are dealing with somebody who shoots for a living. It's still relatively young in the life of the shutter mechanism, and the asking price is in line with the current used market.


All in all, this would be worth following up on if you were looking for a used D700.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Anatomy of a Craigslist Ripoff (Part 5, D7000 Edition)

Original posting as follows -

***

Nikon D7000 - $1249

 Date: 2010-11-25, 6:45PM PST



Im original Owner this camera Purchase week ago i show u original receipt From local store

come with 2 year warranty
Some financial Reson so why im selling

was purchase this camera $1279 + HST= 1432 total Purchse Last week from local store








  
***

Usually there's a a talking point to these scam tear downs, but I think the lesson for this one is pretty clear... if you're going to post a picture of the item, post a picture of the item, not the manufacturer's promotional file. Price is right, and item is right, they picked a hot item that's in short supply. However, despite the large immigrant population around here, I can tell you that even English as a second language is not this bad.

Were you to actually respond to this post, I'd think that you'd find that the perpetrators are likely from out of town somewhere trying to grab your hard earned money.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making Money Trading Lenses

I recently sold my Tamron 17-35. I got a little more for it than I paid for it about two years ago. (Overall I lost a little on it because I spent extra to to replace the easily damaged petal hood.) Same goes for a Nikon 24mm AF f/2.8 I had for a short period of time that I had this year. Taken together, the cost of ownership for  these two lenses was essentially zero, not factoring in inflation or currency exchange.

The smart money is on lenses, but only if you choose your lenses smartly. Buying a used lens is like buying a used car... somebody else has paid for the depreciation. The only difference is that you can keep using a well kept lens... a car will breakdown eventually. As much as the world has advanced in terms of technology and manufacturing, it's still time consuming and relatively expensive to produce good optics. That's why lenss are such a good value on the used market.

  1. Don't pick kit lenses. There are too many of them out there.
  2. Pick a lens that has good reviews and tests well. Don't pick one merely for the name brand. About the same time that I was selling my Tamron, a Nikon 18-35 went up for sale as well. I made my sale... the Nikon stayed up on Craigslist for much longer. Why? That particular Nikon actually costs more, but is worse off optically. Some people won't touch the third-party brands, but in the age of the internet, everybody is familiar with everything.
  3. Pick a lens that you will actually use. The value of it is in using it and recouping your money when you are done, not in having it sit in storage for two years.
  4. Know who you are selling to when you are done. Even though I was using the Tamron as a top-notch DX normal wide-zoom, I knew my target buyer would be a D700 shooter looking for a less expensive alternative to the Nikon 17-35 or 16-35VR. And that's who I eventually found.
  5. If it doesn't grab a bite within three days, don't immediately re-post. Both of the lenses that I sold were actually listed more than once. Each time they got a few emails for interest, but nothing concrete. The thing to remember is that the longer an item is listed, the more its value is reduced. Eventually a Craigslist hawk is going to pounce, point out that your item has been up for a long time without being sold, and then negotiate you down off of your price. Think that doesn't happen? Ask any real estate agent what they think about clients who list their homes too high and then have them sit on MLS for months...
  6. Clean your lens. I highly recommend a using sparing dab of Armor All on cloth to wipe down your older lenses. It's an easy way to take years off of the appearance of your used equipment.
A final word about currency exchange. The value of the Japanese Yen to the U.S. dollar is rising over time. The first impact that this has is that it raises the local price of new Nikon equipment. The second impact that it has is that it subtly raises the value of used equipment as well, particularly for lenses that are still being sold. Think of the 24 AF-D, the 50 AF-D, etc... lenses that have been essentially unchanged for the past decade. These guys are still being sold in stores, and so long as the retail price remains intact, so will used prices be preserved.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where I Spend my Time on the Web

 www.dpreview.com
My web traffic stats tells tells me that the majority of the readers of this blog come by way of DPReview. No big surprise, since that's the only other place where I do a significant amount of posting. DPR has its pluses and minuses, but the best thing about it is that its where a lot of the world's photography traffic congregates. This is both good and bad, as you have to put up with a lot of questionable posts and flame wars to get to the really good posters. This is DPR's greatest strength and probably one of its worst shortcomings. Because the staff is no longer the quickest with their equipment tests, DPR has become the de facto gear forum of the photography world of sorts. Heavy emphasis on gear... sometimes you wonder why nobody is talking about photography. DPR's camera test remain some of the best on the web. Though there is probably some site out there that does some aspect of testing better than DPR, its strength lies in the fact that the basic testing format hasn't changed much in almost a decade. Because the setups are so consistent from camera to camera and year to year, it is one of the best resources for camera shopping... if they get around to testing your camera that is.

www.dcresource.com
Take DPReview's consistent testing format, change the writing to a more concise user friendly format and remove the forum bullshit... and you basically have DCResource. It's obviously a smaller operation, but it's very good for what it does, and probably a better place to start shopping for a camera if you aren't looking for an SLR or high end enthusiast compact.

www.cameralabs.com
Like DCResource, but with slightly more comprehensive testing procedures. A small and plucky website that could really do with more frequent testing.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com
The anti-DPR...a very sedate place. A bit off the beaten path, but a good place to be introduced to things that aren't Nikon or Canon or SLR's. Topics covered include Leica, medium format and video.

www.imaging-resource.com
Take DPR's consistent testing format, add in a better section about optics in the review and add in a a compare-o-meter for the pixel peepers and you basically have Imaging-Resource. It's very good for what it does, but I just don't find that it has 'soul'. If anything the flow of events goes like this....Imaging Resource posts sample images of a new camera, then the forum members on DPR pixel peep it to death. Just as the flame wars are dying, DPR comes out with their review that confirms what everybody had been discussing up to then, except that the review will have one controversial section that will fuel the forums until the next camera launches.

www.slrgear.com
IR's companion SLR lens testing site. A key draw is the site's proprietary widget that lets you adjust sliders to see how the image quality of a lens varies according to focal length and aperture. As far as interactive widgets goes, it's one of the simplest, which makes it one of the best. However, the site is not completely clear on what constitutes a 'blur unit' when optical sharpest is being described. It's hard to tell if they are talking about a drop-off in absolute resolution or if they are describing field curvature at times, but to be honest, I find this to be a weakness with most lens reviewing sites.

www.photozone.de
Another excellent lens testing site. It doesn't have an interactive java applet, but the format of the tests results is very readable, and they've accumulated a fairly large database of tested lenses.

www.bythom.com
Experienced, intelligent, articulate, provocative. All words that you could use to describe Thom Hogan. The site is cleanly laid out and offers a pretty realistic view of the Nikon camera world. Hogan doesn't review equipment so much as he assesses it... posts don't just describe what's good or bad, but also what the implications are for each positive or shortcoming. Bythom's PDF guide's to the various Nikon bodies are well worth the money, as they don't just tell you what the manual should have told (but in a more clear manner), they also go into the implications and practicalities of each area of the camera. The Nikon manual may tell you how to set up autofocus on your camera, but Hogan will also tell you which modes work best for which situation and how well each does it.

www.kenrockwell.com
Articulate is not a word I would use to describe KR. Yet I end up visiting his site on a regular basis, this despite the violence that he does to the English language. Why? Because if you read him long enough, you find that he clearly is a bright fellow, and to be honest, he does seem like he would be a big happy goof in real life. KR's testing methods are dubious and his recommendations ought to be taken with tablespoons of salt. However, his "The Camera Doesn't Matter" ethos is very admirable... unfortunately he spoils it by all the hyperbole he lavishes on Leica equipment. About this apparent contradiction, I can only quote the Simpsons episode where homer goes on tour with Lollapalooza...
Q: Dude, are you being sarcastic? 
A:(Sigh) I don't know anymore.

In a similar manner, KR will tell you to skip RAW because life is too short to mesh with post processing, only to wax lyrical about film the next day, glossing over the obvious time and cost of processing negatives. What Rockwell does do well is document older Nikon lenses and equipment. He writes about them in a way that is only his, but the posts are usual a good starting point for researching older lenses and bodies.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Misleading Craigslist Ads (1)

Not a ripoff, but a hilarious misrepresentation that went up today...

****

LEICA summicron f2.0 - $85


Date: 2010-11-07, 11:46AM PST


Comes with Panasonic LC40 camera in excellent condition. All cables, instructions, battery, memory card and original box. Call 778-578-5447 for more info. 
****

In case  you are wondering about the price, notice that the focal length isn't given. Even if f/2 summicron's are the cheapest line of lenses that Leica has to offer, they don't go for this cheap.... unless they are attached to the the front of a digital camera.... I give you..

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Panasonic/panasonic_dmclc40.asp

$85 for a vintage eight-year old camera? Sure. But it just begs the question, what would the seller do if the buyer just wanted the lens...?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Anatomy of a Craigslist Ripoff (Part 4)

 What is it about the D700 that prompts such crazy posts? I thought I wouldn't be revisiting this topic for a while, but this showed up in the wee hours of the morning today -

********************

Like new Nikon D700 package for sale - $3600 (burnaby)


Date: 2010-11-06, 12:07AM PDT
I have a very new Nikon D700 package for sale. I am going to list the things in the package and their regular price i spend. 

Nikon D700 Body (With original box and receipt. Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 11 2010. Regular price: $2349+TAX ) 

Zeiss 50 f1.4 zf II (With original box and receipt. Bought from Leo's camera shop in Sept 15 2010.Regular price: $859.99+TAX) 

B+W UV filter for the zeiss 50 lence (With original box and receipt. Bought from Leo's camera shop in Sept 15 2010.Regular price: $59.99+TAX) 

Nikon Remote Trigger Release MC-30(With original box and receipt. Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 13 2010.Regular price:$89.99+TAX) 

Two CF memory cards. One is Lexar 8GB, another one is SanDisk 4GB, they are all high speed cards(Bought from futureshop in Sept 11 2010. Regular price around $200+TAX) 

Dynex All-In-One Card Reader (Bought from futureshop in Sept 11 2010. Regular price:$32.99+TAX)
Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag (With receipt. Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 11 2010. Regular price: $139.99+TAX ) 

Manfrotto 207302YB M-Y Tripod with Ball Head QR ( Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 17 2010. Regular price: $149.99+TAX ) 

Optex Deluxe Blower ( Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 17 2010. Regular price: $12.99+TAX )
LensPen ( Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 17 2010. Regular price: $12.99+TAX )

So all the stuff's price is going to be $3907+TAX=$4376.87

All the stuff are personal use because of hobby. So all the stuff are perfectly protect and in perfect condition. 

But right now i am selling this package for some personal reason( you can ask me if you like), and i am selling it for $3600. 

All the stuff in this package is like brand new, you can do the math how great it is.
If anyone interested in this package, please email me to XXXX@hotmail.com or call XXX-XXXX. Thank you very much. 

********

And now for the red flags. I`m not even going to try to compare and see if you would be getting good value if you bought all of this. This posting defies all logic. Never mind why all of this stuff is being sold just two months after he bought it, anybody with a knowledge of of the Greater Vancouver area will know that this is just a crazy way of buying camera equipment. Just to reorganize the dates -

  • September 11 - Broadway Camera (Richmond or Vancouver)
  • September 11 - Future Shop (Various locations.)
  • September 13 - Broadway Camera (Richmond or Vancouver)
  • September 15 - Leo`s Camera (Downtown)
  • September 17 - Broadway Camera (Richmond or Vancouver)
Just to spare you the details, but these store are spread over two suburbs and the busy downtown core of Vancouver. All within one week. The question is.... if you can afford all of this stuff, shouldn't  you be working instead of criss-crossing town buying stuff?

Also a red flag.... Leo's camera does not carry Nikon products. You might be able to get a Nikon mount lens from them, but it's not their thing.

They key thing about this post is not the prices. It's the dates and the receipts. I have no doubt that the receipts are real and that the dates are real as well, but that's the biggest cause for alarm. This looks an awful lot like the spoils of somebody who was hitting up stores in a credit card fraud binge. Lots of expensive equipment in a short amount of time at various locations...all to maximize the culprit's time with the card before it gets shut down.

But what if it's not, and it's just some poor rich kid who made a mistake getting into photography? The point of the matter is to train yourself not to entertain questions like that when you are reading Craigslist ads. You want to maximize your chances of conducting a safe and fair transaction, and should automatically gloss over any suspect posting no matter what. The bad guys are out there.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Piggybacking Somebody Else's Flash

Most weddings take place in dimly lit venues which may turn out to be too dark for the camera/lens that you have at hand. Yes, the ISO capabilities of modern cameras is improving day by day, but the best way to counter darkness is to throw light on the subject. Use a flash. Of course, you may not own a flash unit, or the wedding party may have requested that you don't use it.

This is a little trick I came up with for those times that you want to capture the bride and groom. There is one guy who will be using a flash, and that is the official wedding photographer. The trick is to take a few shots when he's shooting...you're essentially using him as if he's a remote flash for your camera. It's pretty hit and miss, but the results can be quite dramatic if you hit it right.
  • Anticipate when the official photographer is shooting
  • Set your camera to burst mode.
  • If you are shooting in a semi-automatic mode like aperture or shutter priority, you should dial down your exposure compensation. How much? It's almost impossible to say, too many variables. Your camera will be trying to generation an exposure off of it's own readings, but it doesn't know that the there will be an external burst of light in the form of the pro's flash unit.
  • Choose a shutter speed of 1/60th or slower. Don't worry about motion blur. Flash exposure is almost instantaneous, but you've got to leave your shutter open long enough to capture this light. In other words, use a shutter speed that is lower than your maximum flash sync speed.
  • Burst-shoot a few frames when you think you've got the timing nailed.
This is a very imprecise method of shooting. You'll need to use burst because you're basically gambling that your shutter is open at the same time that the flash goes off.  You'll probably have to correct the exposure in post processing afterword. Benefits:
  • This works in situations where you are too far for your built-in fill flash to work.
  • Because flash exposure is almost instantaneous, you'll get much less subject motion blur than if you had tried to hand-hold the camera at a sub optimal shutter speed
  • You'll get better noise than taking the camera past it's ISO comfort zone.
  • You'll get better picture detail than either with boosted ISO or with a fast lens held wide open. Both will degrade the amount of detail that your camera can resolve.