What advantages does the Nikon D4 offer over the D3S?

JL: The D4 is extremely light. That's considerable because I carry cameras on my shoulder for hours on end. The image quality is fantastic, but to be honest it's not significantly different from the D3S or even the 1D X. That's not what would sell me on one of these cameras over the other. I do love the Nikon glass and their color rendition.

I've been impressed with the D4's AF speed and accuracy. In my work I need for that first shot to be in focus because that might be the only chance I get to capture a moment. As a photojournalist it's unethical for me to ask someone to redo something. So I need it to be in focus when I hit it the first time.

Nikon D4, AF-S Nikkor 85mm F1.8G, ISO 220, 1/6400 @F1.8. John Lok/The Seattle Times.

Is there anything the Nikon D3s offered that you wish the D4 had?

JL: Nothing! The D4 is a wonderful camera for all the metro assignments I've used it on.

If you could change one feature or performance aspect of the D4 what would it be?

JL: Ergonomics. Now I've shot with Canon cameras for a long time. And for me the Canons feel like an extension of my hand. On the D4 the position of the rear AF button feels a little off when shooting in horizontal orientation. And in the vertical shooting position I feel like there's not enough of the texturized grip element for my hand. But this is personal and if I had started my career shooting Nikon I'd probably feel differently. But the D4 does shoot at a slower frame rate than the 1D X. 

Canon EOS 1D XEF 70-200mm F2.8L USM ISO 400, 1/1000 @F2.8. Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times.

What advantages does the Canon EOS 1D X offer over the 1D Mark III?

DR: In your hand, the 1D X is an entirely better build from top to bottom. I like the contours of the 1D X, how it feels in the hand. I think the weight is better balanced than the Mark III. The rear 1D X 's AF button is a bit larger so your thumb finds it naturally. There's nothing about the Mark III that I like better than the 1D X. The color rendition of the 1D X is better, with more pleasing saturation and the ISO sensitivity matches that of the 7D which makes it much easier when I have to use both cameras on an assignment.

If you could change one feature or performance aspect of the 1DX what would it be?

DR: I actually don't know that I'd have any obvious changes I'd make to the 1D X.

Canon EOS 1D XEF 70-200mm F2.8L USM ISO 4000, 1/1000 @F2.8. Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times.

Talk about how you use the cameras' AF systems. There are a lot of options to configure on both cameras.

DR: It's complicated because there are so many options. The 1D X has numbered Case settings but I've talked to guys at the (London) Olympics and SI (Sports Illustrated) shooters and there's no agreement among us as to which setting works best.

As for focus points it used to be that the center AF point was the most reliable and I'm not sure that's still true. But I still stick with the central cluster of AF points simply because with the full frame finder your eye is so much to the middle that it's actually a big jump to go to the outside. I'm not seeing the outside focus points as well as on the previous cameras.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 15mm F2.8 Fisheye ISO 1600, 1/800 @F4.5. John Lok/The Seattle Times.

JL: When I first got it I obviously spent time tweaking the AF settings on the D4 to my liking. It doesn't have the Case settings like on the 1D X but I find I can get the same effect on the D4. It just takes a little more time to configure.

What was your take on the infamous AF issues with the 1DS III. Did Canon adequately address the issue with their firmware updates? Is the 1D X an improvement?

DR: I thought the firmware updates to the 1D Mark III were a big improvement and I was happy with it, until I started using the 1D X. The 1D X is vastly superior to anything the Mark III does.

What's the pressure like when covering breaking news and sporting events?

DR: Shooting sports there's incredible pressure. Especially when it comes to the Olympics. you're competing against hundreds of other photographers at the same venues. You're trying to get your images into print when you know that your editors are seeing every other available source for the same event. But it's a wonderful challenge.

Here's another example: Two seasons ago the University of Washington men's basketball team won on a buzzer beater with two seconds left on the clock and almost before I could even look at the back of my camera I'm getting text messages from the office saying, 'Did you get that?'

JL: I don't consider it pressure in the sense that I worry about it. I've grown to revel in it. I perform better when the pressure's on. Part of why I love photojournalism so much is that you have to be self-reliant. I'm the problem-solver, the negotiator to get access to places. No one is telling me how to get that picture. It's up to me. I really enjoy knowing that people are relying on my work. I enjoy the responsibility to really come through; not just to give them (my editors) a picture but to really kill it.

Behind the shot

Dean Rutz gives us the back story from one of his most satisfying shots from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In discussing the pressure of vying for a special shot among the best sports photographers from around the world, Dean shares the important role that personal relationships with the athletes can play.

DR: I'm fortunate in that Washington state produces a number of Olympic athletes. These are athletes that I have known and covered for years, so I have a relationship with them. My favorite example of this is when Megan Jendrick (nee Quann) won the gold in Sydney in the 100m breaststroke.

This shot of Megan Jendrick immediately following her gold medal ceremony in the 2000 Olympics was possible because Dean had known and covered her for years before the Olympics. Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times.

After her gold medal ceremony there's the usual clamor of photographers. Everybody wants the shot of the kiss of the medal. Well, I stepped way off to the side of that group because I kind of knew what Megan would do. She was so excited when she got her medal and when she saw me, mine was the first familiar face she spotted and she ran over to me, so I was able to get a nice tight shot of her showing me her medal without being part of the gaggle of photographers, all because I had a relationship with the athlete. That was very special to me and shows that you can compete against thousands of other photographers if you know your subject.

What photographers do you draw inspiration from?

JL: I've become known for my portrait work so I really admire magazine portrait photographers like Norman Jean Roy, Annie Leibovitz, Dan Winters and also Damon Winter from the New York Times. I like fashion photographers as well, like Steven Klein and Mario Testino.

Canon EOS 1D XEF 16-35mm F2.8L USM ISO 400, 1/100 @F20. Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times.

DR: Growing up, Neal Leifer was a huge influence. Everything he did was iconic. Looking at his body of work, his photographs are benchmarks in time that are drawn on by everybody who refers to that time. Walter Iooss Jr. is a classic SI photographer. Heinz Kluetmeier is one of those guys who was able to create onsite and plan ahead to capture great sports moments.

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