Parry Johnson

Parry Johnson

Lives in Canada Regina, SK, Canada
Works as a Photographer and retired school teacher
Has a website at www.pjphoto.ca
Joined on Jan 21, 2004
About me:

I currently use Nikon D800, D7100, and Nikon 1 V3 cameras, and have used Fuji and other Nikon dSLR bodies in the past (S1, S2, S5, D300S, D300, D200, D70S, D700, D2Xs). I shoot film as well in various formats up to 4"x5". I do my own darkroom work, both chemically and with computers, but have mainly had a digital workflow during the last 17 years. I believe that different tools are used for different purposes.

I am a retired school teacher and a photographer specializing in portraiture, weddings, commercial and fine-art black-and-white prints.

Parry Johnson's current gear

Nikon 1 V1
Nikon 1 V3
Nikon D7100
When Nikon created the 1-series cameras, the intention was to bridge from smartphones to DSLRs. For those of us who already shoot with the two extremes (and already have F-mount lenses), the FT-1 adapter is the single most important factor in choosing this system over competitors. The V1 lacks key features like flash integration and controls/dials, but the convenience and size more than make up for those (relatively mild) inconveniences. I tend to take the time to set my exposure preferences and not worry about the rest. This camera is not made for what I would consider "serious" shooting, although it is perfectly capable of doing so -- in those situations, it's simply NOT convenient -- you have to take extra time to choose the right lens (eg F-mount macro), then tediously choose your exposure by going through menus and pushing little buttons, then focus accurately (center point only with non-CX lenses), and finally getting a picture. With all that, it's still got a fun factor - much like shooting with film, and slowing down at times is often good. On the flip side, you really can't beat this kind of camera for action -- up to 60fps bursts, excellent focusing with CX lenses and decent 5fps with mechanical shutter. For $200 CDN on the used market, this camera is worth it. Not bad video, as well! It's my hope that Nikon will come out with a "real" mini-dSLR in the form of a V4. The V3 was close!
After six months of using this camera, I'm finally ready to evaluate it here. First, this is a bit of a "Frankencamera." It's a bit kludgy to have to remove the grip to change batteries, and the removable EVF, although quite solid while in place, does stick out a bit like a sore thumb. The controls are fairly natural (with the grip - the vertical front command dial without the grip isn't comfortable to use). I dislike the use of micro SD cards and the smaller battery, but at least the side door design makes it easier to switch memory cards than the V1. The complete kit with grip and EVF has always been too expensive, but if you can get a good used deal like I did ($550 CDN with 10-30 PD and 10-100 PD -- don't pass up a deal like that!) Now that the bad stuff is out of the way, here's the good: Image quality is excellent -- you may have to watch out for blown highlights, so bracket exposure in those situations. 20 fps with full AF (and up to 60 fps bursts) is simply incredible, allowing focus tracking for sports or wildlife that will put most other dSLRs to shame. The smaller sensor has some limits, such as limited depth of field or subject isolation with CX lenses. However, with the 2.7X crop factor and large aperture Nikon F-mount lenses and the FT-1 adapter, whole new worlds open up. My only regret with F-mount lenses is that only the central focus point is active, and older non-AFS (G) lenses become manual focus only. Other goodies are max 1/16000 sec shutter speed with electronic shutter, high-speed video modes (excellent with PD lenses and normal HD modes, BTW). built-in flash (external only on my V1) and wireless shooting and transfer (limited). So, for a nice, light package that still has enough quality that you won't regret leaving your bigger camera behind, the Nikon 1 V3 is the best camera in the 1-series lineup.
I hummed and haaed about this body when the D7200 came out. For $800 CDN with an after-market grip, it was a better choice. Sure, the bigger buffer on the newer camera would be nice, but if you're shooting quick objects, you're likely not going to have the time to go through every RAW image you shoot -- the D7100 keeps up just fine with JPGs, and if you know what you're doing, no one will notice the difference between images shot with either camera. So, if saving money, yet getting the best DX quality, the D7100 is a no-brainer.
Nikon D800
Nikon 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8
Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom
I used to shoot medium and 4x5 format film for the best quality, and still do when needed. However, the D800, D800E and D810 have been the driving force in quality film obsolescence. They are all that good! I've had my D800 for 7.5 years now (early 2020 edit), and there's no need yet to upgrade. If you can't get an image you (and paying clients) like from any of these bodies and quality lenses (absolutely necessary with these bodies), then you need to reconsider your skills, not the camera. There are few cameras that could be considered investments, or at least long-term assets. This body and its siblings are in that special league.
This is my least-used Nikon 1 lens. It's good, but the only advantages are size and maximum f-stop. Since the 10-30 PD has VR and is only a cm or so longer in size (and up to 2cm longer in focal length), that lens makes more sense for a compact system camera. I've got bigger cameras to use when I need more quality. Nowadays, smartphones will give you the same angle of view and are even more convenient.
Edit: March, 2018. I'm downgrading my rating for this lens because the build quality is sub-par. I just sent out my second 10-100PD for repair (the first was replaced by Nikon Canada 7 months ago). This time, the lens balked while powered on, then a "snap" and it now is completely frozen and even rattles. That's not good! I guess we'll see whether the next one works properly, or whether this lens will once again be replaced under the 5-year warranty. I could only imagine that Nikon will be glad to wipe its hands clean of this lens, and perhaps the N1 system -- too bad, as the concepts of this combination are ahead of it's time. I've used Nikon 1 cameras now for the past four years (Nikon since 1999, and Canon FD before that). The Nikon 1 10-30mm is the basic small-footprint lens. This lens is the opposite in many ways -- it's huge compared to most other N1 lenses, and normally quite expensive (but see below). It's rather hefty, which means that using it feels more like a larger DSLR (with a V-series body / grip), yet small enough you can easily carry it around all day. It's therefore very useful for holiday or family snapshots, and the huge 28-270mm FX equivalent focal range allows you to get the shot simply because it's right there with you instead of in the back seat of the car, stuck in the camera bag, or left at home. Image quality is quite good -- it's a superzoom, so don't expect all images to turn out perfectly sharp, especially since this is only has an f4.5-f5.6 maximum aperture. You'll be shooting at higher ISO, usually in brighter light; and you'll sometimes forget you've got a wimpy on-camera flash that gets cut off by the protruding lens and hood. It's a fair-weather lens. There's a cost for convenience. However, it's sharp enough in most cases, even wide open, and since it's a native CX lens, all focus points work as they should, allowing it to track focus at up to 20 fps. For quick-moving near/far sports shots such as soccer or well-lit hockey, it's fantastic. The PD zoom is near-silent (less noise than my 24-70 f2.8G on my D800), but a bit slow zooming in the fastest-moving situations. As far as video is concerned, the "slow zoom" mode is nice and smooth, especially for more static subjects. So, should you spend $799 CDN in 2018? Nope. You might find some clear-out new copies around $550, but these lenses are becoming rare. Originally, I bought a used V3 (with EVF, grip and 10-30 PD) almost a year ago. The 10-100 PD wasn't working correctly (stuck aperture blades), so it was a fancy body cap! I sent the lens off to Nikon Canada, and as Nikon lenses are sold with a 5-year warranty here, I figured, "What the heck? Why not try?" Nikon sent me back a replacement lens, which works flawlessly. Whether it's a refurbished copy or not doesn't matter -- I'm happy with Nikon's service, and this is the copy on which this review is based. I would have paid up to $200 to get it repaired, as I expected to sell or trash the original, not keep it. The one I'm using may develop problems in time, but in the meantime, it's quickly become my main "just for fun" lens -- and that's what the Nikon 1 system is (was) all about!
Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6
Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom
Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6
I compared results with the original non-PD 10-30 and I can't tell the difference. It's perfect for a compact ILC system -- small size, fairly fast aperture, VR... If there's one lens to leave on your N1 camera, this would be it.
Nikon AF Nikkor 105mm f/2D DC
Nikon AF Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D IF ED
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
This lens takes awhile to get used to, but when you get some practice and experiment - WOW! What a great, useful lens that's capable of producing amazing shots with both FX and DX cameras. I haven't tried it yet with the Nikon 1 cameras (and FT-1 adapter), but that's my next project. This is my portrait and product lens of choice.
This little gem is often underrated. I bought it new around 1998 for my 35mm cameras and paid too much ($900 CDN), but at the time there were limited options for super-wide zooms. Optically, it still works well on my D800 at f5.6 or f8, and edges resolve very well. Distortion is pretty bad, but cleans up pretty well in Lightroom, and of course you have to be careful with vertical lines. This isn't the best architecture lens, so be prepared to do some post-processing. However, it's plenty wide and much cheaper than other lenses on the used market; so for me, it's not worthwhile replacing just yet -- especially considering how sharp my copy is. This is probably my least-used lens next to my 50mm f1.8D
For some, this is a must-have lens. For me, the main purpose is use in low light. It's not wide enough nor long enough, just, well, good enough for regular, "normal" shots. On a DX camera, it's a decent portrait lens, but wide open contrast and sharpness aren't great, and neither is subject isolation or bokeh -- I usually leave it out of my bag, as there are other, more interesting lenses to choose from. All that said, in a pinch, the nifty fifty can do almost anything, and is a good all-round lens, especially to save costs. You should be able to find some version of this lens for next to nothing. (I paid $5 CDN at a garage sale for my current D version, and you can often find a "free front 50mm body cap" on an old 35mm camera.) Stopped down a bit, all Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lenses are among the sharpest available. They work great with extension tubes, close-up filters and reversing rings for a cheap macro setup.
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
Bought used in late 2019 -- I'll rate and write a review after I get a chance to fully test it.
This lens is indeed a workhorse for FX bodies, and a decent portrait zoom for DX users. Sharpness and CA are pretty good, but not outstanding. If you take your time and stop down a bit, sharpness and vignetting improve. It's consistent across the range, which is good. I often switch to DX crop mode on my D800 if I need a bit more reach. To me, the newer VR version isn't enough of an improvement to justify the extra $800 CDN difference, especially if you consider the extra weight and need for 82mm filters. If that doesn't bother you and you need VR, check out the Tamron VC version (G2, preferably), ot Sigma Art -- the quality difference is negligible and you'll save considerably more money, with the caveat that the the others aren't quite as well built and there may be some quality control issues. I've never had an issue with my Nikkor.
Another workhorse, but this one does deliver superb performance in every department. From portraits to sports to landscape details, this lens can do it all. It's a little heavy to carry around all day, so if you're doing something like a portrait session, you may consider a prime; but in rushed or unpredictable situations (think, wedding candids or football action) this lens provides consistent quality across the range, and especially at the long end, as that's why you'll choose this lens over a standard tele prime. VR performance is also excellent, better than the first VR version. Shooting at nearer distances has improved with the latest E version, as focal breathing makes this lens seem as though it's not quite long enough. However, I've rarely found this to be a problem, and in fact I like this fault for portraits because it gives a little bit more distance -- a big lens like this can be intimidating for those who are not used to having their picture taken with a "big gun."
Tamron SP 1.4X Pro Teleconverter
Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF)
Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di Macro
I used to use teleconverters all the time until I could afford larger, more expensive lenses. This was the best I could afford 20 years ago, and it's the only one I have kept besides the excellent TC201. This one will allow AF, which is the main reason for keeping. It won't degrade image quality much, and the 1-stop reduction in light is bearable. Sometimes you just need a bit more reach, so this does the job.
A bit softer than the original non-VC version (especially with 24MP sensors) this lens is still a winner for DX bodies, and a great value. The Sigma OS option is close, but usually more costly and not as sharp, and the Tokina 16-50 isn't sharp at all and with no VR. This lens is still the best value of the three for a general-purpose zoom.
This lens continues to amaze me. I've used a number of macro lenses before, but every time I use it for a different subject, I'm reminded why I chose it over the Nikkor 105VR. The sharpness, combined with buttery bokeh and a but more "normal" field of view translates into photos that look much more natural and require less (if any) post-processing. It's a pleasure to use and will stay in my bag longer than some of my other favourites!
Other gear:
  • Film Cameras 35mm: Nikon F90X, F2A, Nikormat FTN; Canon FT-Bn (2); Pentax ME, Spotmatic II 120: Rollei 6006 4x5: Singer-Graflex monorail, Busch Pressman "D" (2) Other: numerous old cameras in various states of repair, including a 1903 Kodak Canada Brownie
  • Nikkor 75-300 f4.5-5.6 AF This is the zoom lens I keep in the door of my car, just in case I need it. It's slow to autofocus, and therefore the hit rate isn't as good as my other lenses in this range, but the sharpness and colours are decent. For $40 used, it'll do well, and the built-in tripod collar is really useful to quickly attach to my car window clamp. Combined with my Nikon 1 V1, it's a nice 210-840mm equivalent zoom (although the AF doesn't work with that camera). For spy-like shots of wildlife, it does the job quite well. 3.5 stars.
  • Nikkor TC201 2x adapter (teleconverter) Excellent! Much better than my Tamron 2X, although without AF. 4 stars.
  • Nikon SB900 and SB800 flashes There seem to be no flashes in the DPReview database; however, good lighting equipment is just as important as good cameras and lenses. These flashes work well in remote iTTL (or CLS) mode, and expose properly in most TTL situations (and equally so with third-party lenses). TTL in a dark or large room (eg reception hall) works much better when bounced off the built-in white card than directly (with diffuser). They're also built like tanks. The SB900 (and SB910) are too heavy for some shoe mounts, so take care not to bump or store in tight spaces -- camera hot shoes are more robust, but I've broken one (included) plastic tripod mount and loosened the hotshoe on a wireless receiver. Although settings on the SB800 are more fiddlely (and 600/700 models) with buttons instead of switches, I prefer the smaller SB800 as a stay-on-camera flash (which is often necessary if your camera doesn't have one built-in). These flashes also play nicely with most wireless receivers.
  • Tamron Adaptall 135mm f2.5 Bought used for only $15 - decent portrait FX lens or tiny 360mm f2.5 equivalent paparazzi-like lens with Nikon 1 bodies. 4 stars.
  • Tamron Adaptall 200mm f3.5 Really amazing performance, actually! Nice and sharp (with 12-16MP sensors) even wide open. It shows its age with higher-resolution cameras like my D800 or D7100. 3.5 stars.
  • Tamron Adaptall 24mm f2.5 One of my favourite film lenses, and one that still performs quite well on modern dSLRs. This lens is sharper than my (older, non-AI) Nikkor 24mm f2.8, and has a nice "polarizer"-like quality for skies -- maybe it's a mild vignetting -- not really sure, but I like the natural results. Great for IR work, too.
  • Tamron SP 200-500mm f5.6 Adapall 2 I'm a fan of the Tamron Adaptall lenses, as they're still very useful for many of today's camera systems. Although now over 30 years old and only manual focus, this lens is no exception -- it's quite sharp, works very well with the Adaptall 1.4X and 2X teleconverters, and can be found at quite a bargain. (I paid $225 CDN with the TCs, Nikon mount, case, caps, and even the instructions; so way cheaper than current offerings.) There is some CA, and current lenses are a bit more contrasty, are autofocus, plus they usually have some sort of stabilization; however a lens like this does help to teach you proper extreme telephoto technique and planning -- it's humongous! Yet, it's become one of my favourite lenses to use with my Nikon 1 CX cameras with their 2.7X crop factors. 4 stars.

Parry Johnson's wish list

Sorted by most recently added.

Nikon D850

Parry Johnson's previous gear

Fujifilm FinePix S1 Pro
Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro
Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro
This was my first dSLR camera, which I bought used in 2002 for $1000, and sold two months later for $1200. (DSLRS were much more in demand in those days!) You can only really use this camera near base ISO, and although the output is surprisingly good (enabling 11x14 prints if you're careful), it's slow to use, especially in TIFF mode (45 sec. before the next shot), so it's usually JPGs only. Since this is a simpler CCD, infrared photography is easy with just an IR filter -- set to monochrome, it's as though it's a converted IR camera, although with bright pixels. Nowadays, they're practically free, so worth a look.
I used my "Frankencamera" for five years before selling it to a friend (who continues to use it in a studio today, 2014). I paid $3000 for this camera when it regularly sold for over $5000 (CDN). My local pro store was robbed and this camera was found by police, so I sold my S1 Pro and took the full plunge into digital. Compared to everything else at the time (Nikon - I had a full 35mm system already), the image quality blew everything else away. Sure, it was a bit slow and kludgy to use (123 batteries), but the older flashes worked, and more importantly, clients were always happy with the Fuji colours. (Although I had the S1, I trusted film more.). Even after getting the D70S in 2005 and D200 in 2007, this was my main portrait camera. Noise banding occurs at ISO 1600, and even 800 ISO images are noisy, so this is a good-weather camera or inside with good lighting.
I bought an S5 Pro when they were being discontinued, at a great deal ($899 CDN) at the time. I already had the Nikon D200 (the platform on which the S5 is based), and still used my S2 Pro as my main portrait camera. The S5 produced nice results, especially the colours; however it was a but clumsy to change settings (too different from the D200, so confusing when using both together), was quite slow (only 2 fps if using the full dynamic range function) and the batteries were not interchangeable (but the vertical grip works with AAs). All in all, it was too different, and I decided to return it and put my money into other things. The D200 is an all-round better camera, and when the D300 came out, there was no comparison. If you like Fuji colours and effects, but have Nikon lenses, then this is still the best combination. You should be able to find one used cheaply, and professional use in a studio will still yield acceptable results.
Nikon D70s
Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D200
Nikon D300
Nikon D700
Nikon D300S
I bought this camera a couple of years ago as a backup FX body to my D800.  Sometimes a great deal comes along that you just can't pass -- at $350 CDN in nearly mint condition with an AF 50mm f1.8D, how could I say, "No?" These are old cameras, so obviously they don't have all the bells and whistles newer FX bodies do. However, 12MP is plenty good enough for most situations, raw files have good dynamic range and you don't need to max out on expensive top-quality glass to keep up with the resolution of newer cameras. (Those lenses perform even better with this camera -- expect any wow factor to really stand out!) All the pro-level basics went into this camera when it was new, and if you still enjoy features like a built-in flash, iTTL flash, Compact Flash card reliability, rugged build, 8fps with a grip (compatible with the D300 and D300S), a smaller footprint than D-series FX cameras and older AF lenses; then you'll love this camera. If you require video capabilities, you'll hate it. So, if you value quality, affordability and basic features, this is a great used camera for entry to full frame or for use as a backup body. However, in 2020, demands are much different.   Many new photographers demand video, higher resolution and smaller size.  The D700 won't give you these.  Used prices have plummeted, which is good news for buyers, but bad news for sellers.  I sold mine, but not until I reduced the asking price a fair bit, and although I did make some money reselling it, the buyer also got a great deal with the grip, new batteries and a card that wasn't part of the original purchase. In the end, I had considered I had too many bodies, I could use some more cash, and a couple had to go.  Good-bye, ol' buddy -- you served me well for a couple of years -- I hope the next guy treats you well!
Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D
Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM
Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical (IF)
This lens is almost as sharp as the newer AFS-G version. New, it's about $100 cheaper, and easily found on the used market. It's better built, too. Sure, you'll have some more CA and a bit busy out-of-focus areas (7 straight aperture blades), but it's nice and sharp stopped down a bit, and works well with extension tubes for nearer focus. This is a good low-budget portrait lens that doubles as a fast longer-than-usual normal lens.
Nikon AF-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED
Tamron SP 2X Pro Teleconverter
Great lens, but beware of the A/M switch, as it can break easily and usually when you least expect. Each time (twice) it cost $200 to fix. Is it worth it? That depends on whether you use this lens to make a living. Even with that problem, this lens performs for action or portraits.
Don't bother. You'd get better IQ from cropping a native image.
Other gear:
  • Nikkor AF 35-135 f3.5-4.5 I bought this one used for $50 and thought it would make a good general walk-around lens (having a bit more reach than my 28-105). However, sharpness isn't great, it's a bit heavy, and AF was slow. I later gave it away. Put your money into another lens.
  • Nikkor AI-S 55mm f2.8 One of Nikon's sharpest lenses, with no distortion. However, beware of stiffening focusing helicoids (old grease) and oil build-up on the aperture blades (sticky aperture, therefore inconsistent exposure).
  • Nikkor F 24mm f2.8 N-C (pre-AI) Reliable, excellent results; even on today's digital cameras (with AI modification, of course -- I did my own modification with a file and some elbow grease -- it's UGLY, but it works).
  • Nikon AF Nikkor 28-105mm f3.5-4.5D Excellent all-round FX standard zoom with macro; however, with slow focusing and aperture.
  • Tamron Adaptall 28mm f2.5 Not really a bad lens, just not a good one either. Get a used Nikkor instead, or better yet, get the Adaptall 24mm.
  • Tamron Adaptall 90mm f2.5 Sharp and well-built, but lacking in contrast compared to modern lenses. However, the rear element is almost perfectly flat, which means you can get a nasty purple reflection when shooting into direct light. That's avoidable, so this lens is a good option for a first macro lens.