Sunday, 27 May 2012

Something New

I'm not doing too well with my promise (threat) to blog more regularly. The problem is that this year has, so far, offered very little opportunity for landscape photography and that is what I primarily set out to write about. Luckily for you (ahem), I have decided to broaden my scope and the impetus for doing that come from the purchase of a new camera - the Nikon D800. What was wrong with old camera you ask? Perhaps you don't but I'm going to tell you anyway - nothing! At least, nothing beyond the fact that it had a relatively low resolution compared with many pro-spec cameras today (the D700 has a resolution on 12.6mp). That, however, is not the reason I have bought a new camera. When photographing weddings, Julie and I carry three camera bodies between us; Julie has two DX (cropped sensor) cameras and I have the (full sized sensor) FX format D700. This combination works fairly well and provides some degree of backup in case of failure but, for a while now, I have been feeling that opportunities are being missed with me having to change lenses os a regular basis. It might also be considered a distraction by a registrar or minister while photographing at the front of a church. Consequently, I felt it was about time I got a second body and, ideally, this needed to be FX format. I could have simply bought a second D700 but I suppose I was always a little bothered by the resolution when it came to landscape work, despite the excellent high ISO performance of the camera. D4? I simply couldn't justify the expense. So, it was a happy day when the D800 was announced - particularly given the modest price difference between it and the D700. The one thing that did concern me was whether the high ISO performance would match that of the D700 but numerous reviews convinced me this was the case so the decision suddenly became very easy - if you can ever call spending that amount of money easy.

My new camera arrived just under a week ago and a busy, non-photographic week has made for little chance of testing it out properly. However, I have had a dabble around the house and garden and will offer you my very early first impressions. All of the photographs shown here were taken using what is quite possibly my favourite lens, the Nikkor 105mm f2.8 micro. It might be considered an odd choice given my love of landscape photography but it is just a fabulous lens and one that I use extensively at weddings - I hope you can see why.

This then is one of the first few images from the new camera. After the battery had charged, I just looked around me for subject while I sat at my desk. It was taken at ISO 800 and f3.2. the lighting is possibly trickier than it appears as the ball is in shade but is lit directly from the window behind it. Exposure is good and needed no adjustment. At the point of focus, the detail is astonishing.

Taking the ball outside, I gave the camera an even harder test in terms of exposure. and it coped well.

So then I cast around for even more difficult subjects:

In each case here, the exposure was again very good but, given the tonal range, they did all require a little tweak in Lightroom to take the highlights down. However, they were very minor adjustments and the detail is certainly there to be found. So, all good so far and certainly encouraging with regards to usage for weddings - the D700 has always had a slight tendency to overexpose which can be managed through fine tuning of the metering but is something I found a little irritating.

The next thing was to try it with skin tones as it will get a lot of use here. The photograph, of my youngest daughter, has not been altered at all for exposure or tone and, again, the detail is impressive:

Next I decided to experiment with an alternative crop factor. Having come to DSLR from a medium format camera, I still find myself missing that format, especially for portraiture. The D800 offers a simple menu selection of 5x4 which is much closer to the format I was used to and I was very pleased with the results:

All of the remaining images here were taken using the 5x4 crop and I am certain it is an option I will get plenty of use out of. It is true you can simply crop afterwards but I am still a little bit of a dinosaur I think and I like to do as much in camera as I can.

One thing I have never really bothered with is action photography so the following test is not a comparison with the D700 - I don't think I ever used autofocus tracking in this way with that camera. I was, however, very impressed with how well it worked. The flowers were blown by the wind quite a bit and the camera was hand held very close (they are very small flowers) and yet, in each case, the main subject is pin sharp despite me using a very small depth of field (f3.2):

So, hardly an exhaustive test and there are certainly many more detailed and much better appraisals to be found of this camera. I also suspect that of the very few people who stumble across this blog, even fewer will be remotely interested in the D800's capabilities. However, it has provided me with the motivation to start blogging again and an excuse to share my pictures. I hope, at least, that you like them.

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