D800 Diary – 2 Months

I have now used my D800 for 2 months.  Well actually that isn’t quite correct.  I have owned my D800 for 2 months, 1 week of which Nikon had it.  It all started after I had shot some portraits of my kids and noticed that when using the edge focus points they weren’t  as pin sharp as the central point.  I had read about this online and didn”t think my camera had the same problem.  After some ad-hoch tests (see below) I emailed Nikon NPS in the UK and they asked me to send it in.

My focus tests were performed on a Sigma F1.4 50mm lens (This exhibited the strongest focus problem)

Left edge – Was around 10cm out
Right edge – Was around 6cm out

Nikon NPS UK were brilliant and 1 week later I got it back and the problem has been improved but not solved but does seem to be exaggerated on the Sigma 50mm F1.4 lens.

I have decided to work around the problem until Nikon has admitted the issue and rolled out a permanent fix.  It doesn’t impact on most of my photography and actually can be avoided most of the time.  The only instance that I find it problematic is if I am shooting fast moving action that I want to be in the LHS of the frame.  I will have to make sure that all my footballers are running from right to left!

The Great Ridge, Mam Tor

The Great Ridge, Mam Tor – Nikon D800 and a Nikon 16-35mm F4 and Lee 0.9ND

This wasn”t the only problem I has with my D800.  I had one of the explosive batteries and my camera locks up!  That is what happens if you get one of the first D800 cameras I suppose and Nikon have acted extremely well in helping me solve these issues.

On a more positive note I have taken some stunning landscape shots on the D800 over the last month and the results don”t fail to amaze me.  For me it is 3 areas of the D800 that really stand out as a landscape photographer

The resolution – The images printed big are simply breathtaking.  The resolution also allows you a lot of room for creating images from images.

The dynamic range – Something that isn”t spoken about too much is the dynamic range the D800 has.  The level of detail is amazing – especially out of the shadows.

The usability – I am going to write my next blog on 10 things you must do with your D800.  The tools that are available are great and the ergonomics of the design really helps access them quickly.  The view finder is bright and the live view with horizon is an invaluable tool.  It really does all add to an all round package.

Evening at Mam Tor

Evening light at Mam Tor – Nikon D800 and Nikkor 16-35mm F4 VR.  F/16 1/20s ISO 200 16mm

One of the big decisions I had to make was around a ultra-wide angle lens.  It came down to 3 choices

Options for a sub 20mm ultra-wide lens for D800 FX format camera

Obviously the Nikon 12-24 is an amazing class leading lens.  But you can’t fit a Lee filter system to it without a seriously expensive add-on from Lee.  The Tokina really appealed to me as I loved the 11-16mm DX Tokina I used on my D200.  Again though you can”t fit filters on the front.  I really don”t understand why these 2 lenses haven”t been designed with this in mind.  They will be used by landscape photographers and they always use ND Grads.

View more of my images taken with the D800 and Nikon 16-35mm F4 VR lens on Flickr >>

So I went for a Nikon 16-35mm Lens and love it.  The 2 images above are taken with this lens and the prints of these look stunning.  I really can”t see why you need to pay more and go for the Nikon 12-24mm.  Obviously you get 4mm more at the wide end which is a lot and if you think you need that then go for it.  For me, 16mm is wide enough and any wider would result in difficult to correct distortion.

Rapeseed, Cheshire

Rapeseed at Tidnock – Nikon D800 and Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8.  F/8 1/640s ISO 200 24mm

D800 Diary – Week 2

I have had the D800 for 2 weeks now and it is a week since my last post.  I have managed to do some landscape photography – but not managed to get the light necessary for any amazing shots.  You can click on most of the images for a high res photo in Flickr (you need to go to the size view in Flickr though)

Twisted Tree
Twisted Tree – Nikkor 24-70 @ 24mm – ISO 125 F/8 1/500s (Handheld)

I still love the D800 – after 1 week here are some of the things I have found.

It is ok to handhold and shoot.  The twisted tree is handheld (albeit 1/500s @ 24mm).  The are a lot of people saying you get blurred shots and it is unforgiving.  Basically – it is the same as any other camera – but you may not get the absolute best resolution and may struggle if you print to A2 and look at the photo from 6″ away!  You do need to be careful though when shooting at around 1/60s and slower on a tripod and always used mirror lock up and a remote shutter release.  The mirror does create a lot of vibration that does lead to a lose of high resolution detail.

The battery life is really really good.  I used the camera for 3 days and shot over 1000 images and about 10 movies continuously using the screen and still had 15% left.

So far I haven”t got any dirt on the sensor (a massive problem with the onlinecasinocanada1 D200).  I have been counting the number of times I have changed lenses – it now stands at 159 (sad I know!).

The auto image rotation doesn”t seem to work correctly – I have noticed when taking in portrait mode on a tripod it is fine when first comes up on view finder – then shows in landscape rather than portrait.

Editing the photos isn”t too bad – I have used a ipad (see my blog from a few weeks ago on the iPad apps I use >>) and Aperture and not had any issues at all.  Yes, it takes a while to transfer them to the iPad and they take a lot of room – but I have mostly shot RAW and never had a problem.  For reference , I have an iPad 3.

Morning light on DerwentMorning light in Borrowdale – Nikkor 24-70mm f/8 1/20s ISO 50 (Heavy crop from original – edited on iPad)

I don”t care what anybody says – having the resolution (as long as you have good lenses) means you can crop more and compose different shots.  The shot below is a heavy crop of an original I took.  The sky wasn”t great and the image that was interesting was this crop.  You could still print this at a push at A3.

Buttermere TreesButtermere Trees – Nikkor 24-70mm

View_to_keswick_585View towards Keswick – Nikkor 24-70 @ 50mm ISO 50 1/15s F/8

Finally – here is a fun shot I spotted whilst walking up Catbells – again handheld.  The full resolution shot is crisp and you can actually see a lot of detail in the people.  View more shots from my Lakes trip on Flickr >>

ridge_walkers_585Ridge walkers – Nikkor 24-70mm @70mm 1/800s 

D800 Diary – Day 7

Ok – this is going to be my last daily update on the D800.  I will still post updates but they are more likely to be on a weekly basis.  Over the weekend I am going to do a lot of landscape photography – in the Lake District which is close by in the NW of England.

I wanted to thank everyone for the kind emails and comments on my blog.  It has actually been fun writing – but I am running out of things to photograph on a daily basis!  My blog has attracted over 7,000 hits a day which is amazing – I thought if I got anybody reading it would be miracle.

Sunset TreeSunset Tree – Nikon D800 and Nikon 24-70mm F/2.8 Lens

I thought for my final daily post I would list a few sites that have caught my eye over the last week.  All the sites below have some amazing images and information about the Nikon D800.

My Best Nikon D800 sites >>

Ming Thein First Impressions review – Some amazing street photography using the D800 – and probably some of the first real life images

Flickr Nikon D800 User Group  – Some of the latest images from D800 photographers and a great discussion group

500px D800 photos – A selection of photos with the tag D800 on the amazing 500px website

Some great street photography from Bill Mcdad – great b&w photos in this dpreview forum

The dpreview.com production samples – great site with studio photos

D800 first impressions – Richard Wright talks about his first impression of the D800 – some good photos (keep the posts coming Richard!)

Aurora reflection – One of my favourite photos so far taken with the D800

I am sure other people have spotted great sites as well – please post these as comments on my blog and I will take a look and add them to the list

I hope to post again in a few days time – in the meantime happy shooting!

 

D800 Diary – Day 6

Today I had some time in London to do a bit of street photography.  It isn”t something I have done a lot of before and I found it quite difficult to spot opportunities for creating some good images.  I started shooting around 5pm and finished around 9pm (with a stop for some food and beer!).

I used 2 lenses – the Nikon 70-200mm VR I and the Sigma 50mm F/1.4 although the Sigma was on 80% of the time as I felt the longer lens was too intrusive  and obvious for capturing the images I wanted.  In fact I think all the final images I choose for this entry bar one where taken on the Sigma 50mm which is fast becoming my favourite lens.

Eye on youEye on you – ISO 2000 – Sigma 50mm @ F/1.4 1/200s (Heavy crop of the original – see below – click to see larger image in Flickr)

The original image for image - eye on you

I am not sure about the next photo – I like the shadow but could get the crop correct – it seems as though there may too much of the actual women.

Shadow D800Shadow – ISO 500 – Sigma 50mm (I forgot to lower the ISO for this)

I waited ages to get the next image – the lighting was good and the women were heavily lit by the light from the shop window.  I took 100 photos at this location to get this image.  As with all the photos I took today this was hand held.

Opposite DirectionsOpposite Directions – ISO 1600 and Sigma 50mm lens

The next image is actually my favourite of the shots I took today – It was a quick shot that I saw and I managed to focus correctly – which did prove difficult with the tolerance that you have with F/1.4.  It wasn’t the fault of the D800 – just the operator.  I do wish I had used face focus more though.

SmileSmile – ISO 2000 and Sigma 50mm at F/1.4

I have also included a few more of the images I took below.

In total I took 450 RAW images and 5 videos.  I also used the screen on the back of the camera a lot.  My battery went to its lowest yet of 53% left.  One thing that I have noticed more and more with the D800 is that it does over expose photos.  This isn”t a problem as I set -0.3EV to compensate.  I just don”t understand why Nikon would do that?  It is very good practice to expose to the RHS of the histogram though as this great article from Luminous Landscape illustrates 

3 People – Sigma 50mm and D800

Cafe – Sigma 50mm and D800

D800 Diary – Day 5

Again I have struggled to get time with my D800 today.  I did get an exciting package through the post though – A Nikon AF-S 24-70mm F2.8 lens to replace my trusty 17-55mm DX lens (which I am now selling if anybody is interested – check out eBay in the next few weeks).   I managed to get the 24-70 on eBay for around £350 cheaper than a new one and first inspection shows it to be in mint condition.  This will be put through its paces this weekend as I am doing some photography in the Lake District.

A positive consequence of not having a full frame wide angle lens is that I have spend a lot more time using the Sigma 50mm F1.4 lens. For those of you who like a bit of Bokeh (the blobby out of focus highlights that you get with F1.4 lenses!!) this is such a bargain.  For £360 it is amazing how sharp the images are.

Daffodils - Sigma 50mm and D800

Daffodils – Taken with Sigma 50mm at F5

I decided tonight to see how the focusing performed in low light.  Focusing was always accurate and quick.  In fact I had to go into a room with no lights on at all (It was really dark!) and still it managed to focus quickly.  I took this image in reasonable room light (but it wasn”t bright).  Click on it to see a larger version in Flickr

ABC D800 - ISO 5000High ISO and focusing in the dark with the D800 is as easy as ABC – Sigma 50mm – F/1.4 ISO 5000

I don’t think looking at the full size image is the best way to judge images like this – I think if they look perfect at around 1000 pixels wide then they are fine for the web.  Anything bigger than that and they will be printed.  I printed this image off at A3 and it was again brilliant.  I am trying to find fault with the D800 but just can’t in terms of image quality.

D800 Diary – Day 3

I didn’t manage to do as much with my D800 today as I was out in the garden enjoying playing football with my kids and generally loving the Spring sunshine.  Us Brits love to talk about the weather and at the moment we are having a great spell of blue sky and warm weather for March.  Being a landscape photographer though, I don”t want blue sky as it doesn’t really lend itself to dramatic light and I still haven”t managed to get any landscapes that are worthy of uploading.  What I did do was a few studio photos with my very (un) willing kids.  Why anybody goes into portrait photography I will never know!

The results are simply amazing- the detail in the image and the tonal range is breathtaking.  The series of images below give some idea of this.  What I was struck with was the colour in the images and the sharpness of the RAW images.

Emily b&w with D800 at ISO 50Emily – ISO 50 – Nikon 70 – 200mm (crop of main image below)

Emily crop - d800

Emily 100% image on D800 at ISO 50

The colour image of Emily below is a large crop of the original image – again showing the crop potential of the D800.  I know I have gone on about it – but it is so useful to be able to do this.

Emily colour D800 at ISO 50Emily – ISO 50 – Nikon 70-200mm Lens (sorry about the 2 catchlights for the portrait pros out there!)

After using the D800 for 3 days now here are the main highlights and a few lowlights.

  • The resolution is amazing – it is so useful to have this resolution
  • Editing the images in Aperture isn”t a problem – I have not experienced any speed issues as people were worried about. I am using 2.8Ghz iMac with 12GB of RAM.
  • The focusing is quick and accurate.  The focusing modes available in the D800 are really useful.  The image of Thomas below was taken with face priority AD on – it worked very well and of the 20 images I took only 2 were not spot on.
  • The ergonomics are good – the front AF and Fn (Function) buttons really work well and allow you to quickly change settings when you need to
  • The movie mode produces amazing 1080 HD movies and the focusing is very quick.  However it is difficult to produce a movie with moving subjects – I have tried to take movies of people running and it was difficult to keep them in focus.
  • Having 2 memory cards has proved useful for a number of reasons.  I have set all movies to record to the SD card and used the CF card for photos.  The other main reason having 2 cards slots is great though is that I aways forget to put a card back in the camera – this way there is less chance of doing that!  In terms of the cards and write speeds – I have a SanDisk 32GB SDHC Extreme Pro 95MB/S card (from Amazon) and a SanDisk CF 16GB Extreme Pro 90 MB/s card (from Amazon).  I have seen no difference in performance between the SD and CF cards – so if you are only going to buy one go for the cheaper SD card.
  • The DX crop mode is useful if you want to have a faster frame rate or want to save space.  I haven”t really used it after the 1st day though and don”t think I will use it much going forward.
  • My DX lenses are useless in FX mode (as expected)  See below for the performance of the 17-55mm Lens in FX mode.
  • The battery life is good – I think I will be averaging around 1200 images per charge with lots of viewing of the screen.
  • The time lapse function will be useful and the fact it makes a movie is great.
  • The exposure is good – however I have been under exposing my shots by -0.3EV as it has tended to burn out some highlights.  I prefer that it exposes to the right though and for most of my work I will manually expose photos.  The image below shows how good it is with people – here it didn”t under expose Thomas”s face.
  • The rear screen is exceptional
  • The viewfinder is exceptional

Here is an image I took whilst messing with the AF focus modes on the D800 – this was with face priority AF – it worked amazingly well – even at a strange angle like this.

Thomas - D800 - ISO 1600Thomas – ISO 1600 – Sigma 50mm @ f/1.4

D800 Diary – Day 2

First of all – thanks to all the people that viewed and commented on my day 1 diary.

A lot of the photos I post in this blog have higher resolution images in Flickr (Some are full resolution) – I have created a D800 gallery in Flickr >>

Today I have had chance to take a look at the auto focus performance as I photographed my son”s football match.  In the D800 you can set various dynamic area AF modes (9-point, 21-point and 51-point).  I set it to 21-point dynamic auto-focus during the whole of the match and the results were amazing.  Almost all my photos were perfectly in focus using the 70-200mm Nikon VR I lens.  What is really good is when you are in DX mode (which I used for half the match to get 5fps) the tracking points fill a larger part of the final image.

Football Match (1) Shot with D800Saturday Under 8s – ISO 500 – Nikon 70-200 VR I @ 200mm F/3.5 1/8000s

Most of the shots I ended up using for the game where shot in FX mode as I found that the DX mode meant I accidently cropped parts of the images I wanted.  I could sacrifice the 1FPS for the extra area this gave me to play with.  The image below shows the amazing resolving power of the D800.  Click it to open the full resolution image in Flickr.

Football D800 - open full res image in Flickr

Football - D800 - Image 2

 The main benefit of the camera I am finding is the versitility. The resolution means that you can shoot and have the ability to crop later.  The photo below again shows this.

Football Nikon D800 - ISO 500

Football 3 crop Nikon D800 - ISO 500Crop of FX image on Nikon D800 taken with Nikon 70-200mm @ 190mm F/3.5 1/6000s

The detail in the image above is amazing – here is a further crop at 100%.  You have to remember that I am at F/3.5 here – so not all ball is in focus.

100% crop D800

I also played with the HD video during the match – it is obvious though that this will need some practice.  The auto-focus in live view is quick but on moving subjects you need to have a lot of skill.

Early that morning my son had spotted some canadian geese that had landed in the field about 100m from our house.  So I put on the 100-300mm Sigma and took the shot below at ISO 1600 and heavily cropped to get this image.

Canadian Goose - Nikon D800Canadian Goose – ISO 1600 – Nikon D800 with Sigma 100-300mm lens at 300mm f/4 1/4000s (In DX mode)

One things that I have been emailed about by many people is the performance the Nikon 17-55mm F2.8G\AF-S DX IF-ED lens lens and Tokina ATX 116 PRO DX AF11-16mm F/2.8 that I currently use for most of my landscape photography.  I haven”t used then too much yet as I haven”t had the time to go on a morning landscape shoot.  But I can show you some of the results I have got from various trials in DX and FX mode.  The results aren”t great and it is clear I will have to swap these lenses for new FX landscape lenses.

This is the Tokina 11-16mm lens at 11mm.  You have to go down to 15mm before you see no black vignetting – however the corners are unusable.  I did some test and for the Tokina you have to use the 1.5x DX crop mode to get good results.

Tokina 11mm D800 Heavy Vignetting on Tokina 11-16mm wide angle lens at 11mm

Daffs Nikon D800 with Tokina 11mmDaffs – ISO 50 – Nikon D800 with Tokina 11-16mm Lens f/5 1/400s DX mode

The corners on the DX crop are still soft (actually slightly softer than on my D200!) – but the central detail is very good.

Daffs_tokina_585_cropDaffs – ISO 50 – Nikon D800 with Tokina 11-16mm Lens f/5 1/400s DX mode (Central crop)

Finally as the sun set rather than going out and taking landscape photos I decided to take a time lapse movie with the D800.  One thing that is great about this is that it produces a 1080P full HD time lapse automatically.  The results are amazing.  However – one word of caution – the video speeds up at the end as the longer exposures kicked in and the 15s interval was less than the exposure.

For the full 1080P HD version click here >>

Tomorrow I am going to test the D800 out with some studio shots.

 

D800 Diary – Day 1

I have had a D200 for 6 years now and it has been an amazing camera. I have been tempted by the D700 for the last couple of years but always wanted to wait for the next generation camera (this wait went on a little longer than I expected!).

When the D800 was announced I decided to take the plunge and over the next few weeks I am going to write a blog about my experiences with the D800. This is day 1.

Blue Tit - D800 - Sigma 100-300mm F4 LensBlue Tit – ISO 1600 – Sigma 100-300 @ 300mm in DX (effectively 450mm) f/5.6 1/1600s (RAW – processed in Aperture). 

The main type of photography that I do is

  • Landscape Photography – this is my main area of interest
  • People photography (mainly my kids)
  • Sports photography
  • Starting to do more natural history photography

What I do with my photography when I have spent hours editing it!

  • Share on Flickr
  • Enter competitions
  • Print it (up to A2 on Espon printer) and hang it at home / exhibit it

First of all I wanted to address the main reasons that I bought a D800 and why I wanted to upgrade from a D200.

  • I wanted better noise performance – the D200 isn’t great above around ISO 400
  • I wanted to take videos
  • I wanted slightly more resolution as I often crop my photos (however never thought I needed 36 MP)
  • I wanted better dynamic range for landscapes

There are also quite a few things that I haven”t liked about the D200 (this list was difficult to compile as most things have been brilliant!)

  • Dust on the sensor – I have to get it cleaned every 4 months
  • Screen – it is poor quality and makes it difficult to review images
  • Focus problems – I have had a few focus problems on fast moving subjects and in low light
  • Battery life – it is poor and only good for 250 photos

Finally a few points to note

  • This test isn’t an absolute test of the D800 – for that go to dpreview”s great d800 review 
  • This is my opinion as a keen photographer – I maybe wrong – but it is how I see it!

The D800 arrived from Park Cameras at 9:30am.  What I had completely forgotten was that I needed to charge the battery – so 1 hour later (and about 65% charged) I started shooting.  What is immediately obvious is how clear the view finder is and how good the screen is (Very good colour rendition, brightness and sharpness).  You can use it to actually review your images accurately.  So I put on the only normal length lens I had that would have any chance of performing with the D800 and started shooting – the Sigma 50mm F1.4!  All images were shot in RAW (not RAW ).

Some of the images link to Flickr higher resolution versions – so click away!

Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX DG Lens

This is one of the first few images from the camera.

sigma50emilyISO1000Emily – ISO 400 – Sigma 50mm F/1.4 1/1600s (RAW) – click the image for full resolution image access on Flickr

I then decided to have a run out with the camera.  I left the Sigma 50mm lens on and snapped away

Sigma 50mm and D800 100% crop centreTwo Trees – ISO 50 – Sigma 50mm f6.3 1/640s (RAW – No processing) – CENTRE OF IMAGE

Sigma 50mm and D800 100% crop Top leftTwo Trees – ISO 50 – Sigma 50mm f6.3 1/640s (RAW – No processing) – TOP LEFT

These photos show the performance of the Sigma from centre to edge.  As you can see there is some Chromatic Aberration towards the edge of the shot.

I also wanted to compare the D200 to the D800 even though it is comparing a 6 year old camera to a camera that is just released I wanted to see how much impact the 32 Mp had.

Cheshire Wall - Sigma 50mm D800

Cheshire Wall to Shutlingsloe – ISO 50 – Sigma 50mm f/16 1/6s (RAW)

I took this shot on the D800 with Sigma 50mm and used the 17-55mm Nikkor on the D200 @ 34mm.  The Nikkor lens is far superior – so it isn”t by any means a scientific test.  What it does show though is the level of detail (even with a £400 sigma lens) the D800 can produce.

d800vsd200

Cheshire Wall to Shutlingsloe – D200 (TOP) vs D800 (BOTTOM) D200 is upsized

Ok – the boring stuff over with – onto creating some great images.  I decided to take some natural history shots and where better than the garden!

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Lens

The 70-200mm lens is a great lens – it is pin sharp and produces great Bokeh.

The first thing I tried was shooting in DX mode which you can force the D800 to do.  The photo below is shot in DX mode.  The highlighted crop below is taken from this 15 MP DX image.

Coal Tit Large D800 DX

 

nikon70-200 D800 DX modeGreat Tit – ISO 640 – Nikon 70-200mm @ 200mm in DX so effectively 300mm f/5 1/1250s 

100% crop of D800 DX on 70-200 NikkorGreat Tit – ISO 640 – Nikon 70-200mm @ 200mm in DX so effectively 300mm f/5 1/1250s  (100% crop)

A lot of people have said that hand holding the camera would prove difficult – however here is a snap I took with the 70-200mm lens.  The detail when blown up on screen is stunning!

nikon70-200 D800 testBull! @ ISO 400 Nikon 70-200 @ 200mm f/4 1/2500s

Bull! @ ISO 400 Nikon 70-200 @ 200mm f/4 1/2500s (100% crop)

Sigma 100 – 300 F4 EX DG HSM

I then switched to the Sigma 100 – 300 f4 EX DG HSM and decided to take some video.  I shot this @ 50fps and then created this 50% slow motion video @25fps.  I will investigate the video function a little more tomorrow.

View this video in 720P HD >>

The blue tit image at the start of this post is actually a fairly small crop of the original DX image.

Blue tit crop

Blue Tit - D800 - Sigma 100-300mm F4 Lens Blue Tit – ISO 1600 – Sigma 100-300 @ 300mm in DX (effectively 450mm) f/5.6 1/1600s (RAW – processed in Aperture). 

I also managed to capture a nut hatch!

Nuthatch Sigma 300mm F4 D800Nuthatch – ISO 1250 – Sigma 100-300 @ 300mm in DX (effectively 450mm) f/5 1/1600s (RAW – processed in Aperture). 

Before I invest in a new wide angle landscape lens (probably the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens and the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR II AF-S IF SWM Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens) I wanted to see how the Nikon 17-55mm F2.8G\AF-S DX IF-ED lens lens and Tokina ATX 116 PRO DX AF11-16mm F/2.8 that I currently have operates (obviously I can”t use it at 36.2 MP)

I have got some interesting results on both these lenses – but that will have wait for tomorrow as it is getting a bit late now!  Need sleep!

Oh – the battery went down to 32% (from 65%) and I took around 400 photos, 10 videos and used the viewer lots!

Finally – I found a list of lenses that Nikon recommends on the D800 (should anybody be interested in spending a lot of money!)

[table id=1 /]