Nikon D800 Experience

I have had my D800 for about 3 weeks now.  I have done two studio shoots, a christening, a wedding and two location portrait sessions.   I have played around with some video, but the sessions were still photography.  I have only a couple of observations that are based on looking at tens of thousands of images a year shot with my D700's with the 24-70mm f2.8 or the 70-200mm f2.8 VRII.  That is my reference point.  I shoot everything in RAW and postprocess through Aperture 3.3.2.  The studio pictures were shot tethered to Aperture running on a 15" Retina Macbook Pro and displayed on a 27" Apple thunderbolt display device.

I will give my conclusions here and they are not technical but rather my impression.  I have found many times in the past that I have attempted to do a technical analysis only to be a little disappointed, but once I have used the equipment in the field, I will frequently come to a very different impression.  

Having said that, here are my thoughts.  The clarity and smoothness of the D800 images are quite remarkable.  This clarity offers a double edge sword.  First any movement of the camera becomes visible in the 100% view of the image as camera motion and I suspect that many of you will discover how bad you really are at holding the camera still.   In response to this observation, I have pushed my shutter speeds up a bit and and very conscious about holding the camera still.  I have shifted back to AF-C with release on focus to take away the second step of pushing the shutter button down a bit further.  The second 'downside' is you will see ALL of the imperfections of your subject matter.  This may translate into an increase in post processing time, depending on your level of compulsion.   The last observation is you may notice depth of field effects more particularly when viewed at 100%.  The focal points are very sharp but as one moves front or back of the focal point, DOF that normally was not particularly visible now becomes visible in the digital files.

The ability to crop significantly adds an additional valuable tool in the pursuit of artistic interpretation.  

1. The D800 images at ISO 200 have remarkable clarity.  This first picture was shot in the studio.  The first image below is the original image downsized to fit on my page, while the second image is a crop.

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Model Kruti Mehta for SarisandThings.com

2. The ISO performance is excellent and probably better than the D700, particularly when collapsed to a size equal to that of a D700 image.  The second image is at a christening in a dark church,  I use the Pocketwizard MC2 (Paul Buff Einstein 640), and Pocketwizards MiniTT1/AC3 on the D800 to control my off camera lighting.  I had to upgrade the firmware and as a result I had to reset the modeling light controls (to off!) so they would not turn on.  Took me a couple of shoots to figure out what was going on.  Nonetheless, the first image is the original sized image, while the second one is the cropped version.  The ISO on this picture was 1250.  In this image the tonality (I call it creaminess) is quite remarkable and far exceeds anything I have ever seen with the D700.

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Here is a second image from the christening shot at ISO 2000 with the D800 using bounced SB900 flash.  The first is full size and the second is a tight crop so you can see the level of detail in the image.  In these images I have used the standard noise reduction algorithm in Aperture.

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And one last image from the wedding.  The wedding was at Wilder Mansion in Elmhurst, Illinois.  A small, intimate venue.  This picture were shot at ISO 200, f10, 1/125 @ 38mm.  The first is the original image, the second is the 'final' of the picture  and the last is a crop so that you can better see what I am trying to demonstrate: the clarity and tonality of the D800 images is something that I have never seen before and is quite remarkable.

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This is best camera I have ever worked with; however, as a portrait photographer, I would really like the focal points on the sides were also cross hair.  This would greatly improve focusing on people's eyes.

I have tested a couple of other features such as the multi-exposure and bracketing and they both work quite well and I have found the menu to be pretty faithful to past menus.  The one big change is the focus selection switch between AF-S and AF-C.  On the focus lever by the lens you can choose either AF or M, but to switch between AF-S and AF-C, one simply has to push the button and use the back finger wheel.

A© 2011-2015 by Steven Seelig, Chicago Photographer                          630-561-6581                                      e2photo@e2photo.net