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Free Nikon Gear? You Can't Be Serious! - Martin Jordan went along to Wimbledon to see what Nikon's Professional Services scheme is all about.
Here's a test… if I said, strawberries and cream, Pimms, new balls please, you can’t be serious! Where would I be? Ok, easy. So what comes to mind if I say NPS? Not so easy. No it’s not a car park; it stands for Nikon Professional Services.
So, on a sunny day in June I was met at gate 13 by the fragrant Lily Bungay, a Nikon PR executive who guided me to the Press Building where the service centre is set up. Nikon have these centres at many international sporting events, they also had one at that posh wedding recently. Basically they go anywhere there is going to be a lot of pro photographers. The Olympics? Yep, they’ll be there.
What Nikon rather grandly called their Depot is one small windowless room open on one side with a counter onto a general press reception area. Here you can get your camera serviced, your sensor or lenses cleaned, or you can take your pick of lenses and bodies to borrow; from fish-eye to a 600mm worth £8000. And it’s all free, how Coolpix is that?!
Once you have joined this elite group, you can share in the goodies lined up on the depot shelves. On the top shelf they have the bodies, but no need to be furtive. On the bottom shelf the big beasts lurk, the 600mms. Pros only though, as an amateur slinging one of those babies over your shoulder is a bit like driving a sports car, some will view with envy, some will wonder if you are compensating for something else.
If you’re not happy with your equipment, Rob and Ricardo, the two technicians at the sharp end, will sort you out. They can loan you a larger lens or get rid of your dust. While we chatted a photographer lurched up to the counter, weighed down with all the gear hanging round his shoulders. Threw a body at Rob and asked him to clean it, then was off in a flash to get that award-winning shot, or preferably; money-making shot. Rob promptly delegated it to Ricardo.
As Rob was explaining to me that their busiest time was when rain stops play, another photographer came up to the counter and bagged a long lens. I asked perhaps rather naively why anyone needed such a big lens for tennis. He told me it’s for ‘papping’ celebrities in the crowd, which will probably make more money than the tennis shots. The buzz this day was that Pippa was in, you know, the one with the bum.
Rob also told me that many of the pro-togs were covering the Ladies Finals on Saturday flying off to the Haye / Klitschko fight in Hamburg Saturday night and then coming back to cover the Men’s Final on the Sunday. The guys at Nikon obviously have a close working relationship with ‘their’ togs.
At this point as a guest of Nikon, it seems rude to use the ‘C’ word, however I have to let you know that this tiny space was shared with Canon. Nikon and Canon cheek by jowl! Apparently they often share facilities at these sporting events. They obviously all know each other and get on well. Please take note all you flame-throwers on the Nikon v Canon forums.
As I chatted all things Nikon with Lily, we were interrupted by an announcement on the tannoy that Federer was about to be available to interview in the main room. Lily suggested we go. As we were close by, we got there first and grabbed a couple of seats, but within seconds it was full of journalists; standing room only.
Federer had just had a shock defeat, and the journalists started firing questions at him. A recurring theme being 'are you gutted?' This was massive news. I resisted the temptation to stick my hand up 'Martin Jordan - ePHOTOzine.'
The whole press building had a real buzz to it, everyone intense and focused. As you walked down the corridor, you could look into rooms with photographers huddled round computer screens, editing and sending their photos. In another area there were banks and banks of booths each with a monitor, most reserved with a newspaper name. All the Nationals were there as well papers from around the world. In each booth was a journalist intently filing copy for tomorrow’s papers. I could almost hear the sound of headline puns being made.
Now seemed like a good time to get out and take a few shots. I had access all areas, apart from the Centre and No. one court. It was good fun to just walk around dipping into various matches around the outside courts. Soak up the atmosphere and do a bit of people watching.
I was armed with a Nikon D5100 attached to a 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR DX. I have never used a so called ‘super-zoom’ before and I have to say I was very impressed. This must be the ultimate ‘walk-around’ lens. The range is fantastic, no need to faff about changing lens, and adding spots to your dust collection. It’s also very light and yet still goes down to f/3.5 at 18mm. and has VR – vibration reduction worth 3 stops they say.
At Wimbledon the lens was perfect for capturing an overview of the courts at the wide end, and at the long end great for intimate close ups, all at the quick turn of the barrel. No need to miss anything while you change a lens. Now where’s Pippa?
I soon got used to the camera, even though I’m not, (ahem) a Nikon user myself. Everything was very intuitive and had a feeling of quality. My own camera is a bit of a heavy weight attached to a decent lens, I think there is a lot to be said for the light-weight approach that a compact camera like the D5100 provides. You will take more pictures because you will have it in your hand rather than in a rucksack, waiting for the right moment before you unfurl it in anger.
Looking at the images on the computer I was very impressed with the quality. This camera is aimed at the novice but it is still a great piece of equipment. My only gripe would be that it has no dedicated button for ISO adjustment. Along with shutter speed and aperture I’m always changing the ISO setting, I don’t want to be delving about in menus.
I captured some action shots of the tennis players, 4 frames a second being quite adequate to capture the movement. Then I wandered around people watching, the middle classes and higher tribes in their element.
As I approached one court, I could hear noises that if made on a Saturday night at home in Rotherham, would have your neighbours banging on the wall threatening an ASBO. Yes, it was a ladies doubles match…
I took a trip up to Henman’s Hill now called Murray’s Mound. Even though Andy was playing, there wasn’t quite the atmosphere I was expecting. Henman used to lose gallantly, we liked that. Andy was just winning too comfortably to get the crowd really going.
All in all a great day out, Wimbledon is worth experiencing and if you are carrying a camera all day, the D5100, 18-200mm combo is ideal.
If you dream of being a pro, add being a member of the NPS to your wish list, you know you want to.
New balls please.
Words and images by Martin Jordan.