Nikon Z7 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera - Full

Nikon Z7 Setup and Configuration

 

Nikon Z7 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera - Full

As I did for the Nikon D800 and D810 DSLR cameras, I'm posting the settings I'm using for the Nikon Z7 along with a file you can download to use as a starting point for your own settings.  Doing this forces me to go through every setting available on the camera and to understand what it does.  I'm using the official Nikon Z7 Reference Manual (English version, others available) to gain an understanding of the features.  Some will be familiar if you are coming from other Nikon bodies, others are brand new found only in the Z7.

Unlike the D800/D810 that used four memory banks that were selectable in the software, the Z7 has three user configurable settings (U1, U2, U3) not unlike a D750 or D7500.  I find this option far superior, personally.  Also, in the D800/D810 I devoted one of the memory banks to a "point & shoot" type setup where the camera did as much of the work as possible.  This was useful for my wife, who doesn't want to mess with settings.  The Z7 has a fully automatic mode (Auto) selectable via the mode dial which is idea for this type of use.

I have set the three modes on my Z7 to preconfigure the camera into landscape, action, or portrait settings.  Often, I make minor adjustments from the standard settings depending on what is required.  If you want to use my custom settings in your camera, feel free to download my settings file here:

Firmware C: 1.00, LF: 1.00 : Download Nikon Z7 custom settings file 1.00

I suggest you back up your own settings first (SETUP MENU -> Save/load settings -> save settings, copy the settings file from the media card to your computer). To use my custom settings file, copy it to the root folder of your media card using your computer, insert the media card into your camera and navigate to SETUP MENU -> Save/load settings -> Load settings. This will copy the settings over to your camera.  Once complete, update the copyright and image comment settings to your own.  If you have questions, or a suggestion feel free to leave them in the comments at the bottom of the page, I'll maintain a change log of any significant changes in my change log and post updated files as new firmware is released.

The settings are all shown below.  Use the search feature at the top of the table if you are looking for a specific setting.

NIKON Z7 SETTINGS

P/S/A/M

U1 : Landscape

U2 : Action

U3 : Portrait

Dale Chihuly Glass Art : 2013-01-05 : Display 7

Saint Marks Summit Hike - Sept 2016 - Foggy Trees

CFL Football : BC Lions vs Montreal Alouettes : Sept 8 2012 : Felions

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Well dressed tour guide

EXTERNAL CONTROLS

Release mode Note 1

As needed

Continuous L (3)

Continuous H (extended)

Continuous L (3)

Monitor Mode ButtonPrioritize viewfinderPrioritize viewfinderPrioritize viewfinderPrioritize viewfinder
Exposure ModeAs selected by mode dialAperture PriorityShutter PriorityAperture Priority

PLAYBACK MENU

DeleteSelectedSelectedSelectedSelected
Playback folderAllAllAllAll
Playback display options"Highlights" and "Overview""Highlights" and "Overview""Highlights" and "Overview""Highlights" and "Overview"
Image reviewOffOffOffOff
After deleteContinue as beforeContinue as beforeContinue as beforeContinue as before
After burst, showLast image in burstLast image in burstLast image in burstLast image in burst
Rotate tallOffOffOffOff
Slide showAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
RatingAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed

PHOTO SHOOTING MENU

Storage folderDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
File namingI set to my initials: MKHMKHMKHMKH
Choose image areaFXFXFXFX
Image qualityRAW (occasionally I shoot RAW+JPEG)RAW (occasionally I shoot RAW+JPEG)RAW (occasionally I shoot RAW+JPEG)RAW (occasionally I shoot RAW+JPEG)
Image sizeLargeLargeLargeLarge
NEF (RAW) recording

> NEF (RAW) compression

On - Lossless compressedOn - Lossless compressedOn - Lossless compressedOn - Lossless compressed

> NEF (RAW) bit depth

14-bit14-bit14-bit14-bit
ISO sensitivity settingsManually set depending on sceneManually set depending on sceneManually set depending on sceneManually set depending on scene

> ISO sensitivity

64 (or higher if necessary)64 (or higher if necessary)64 (or higher if necessary)64 (or higher if necessary)

> Auto ISO sensitivity control

As neededAs neededAs neededAs needed

>> Maximum sensitivity

12,800 (higher than this and the files are unusable)

12,800

12,800

12,800

>> Maximum sensitivity with flash

12,800

12,800

12,800

12,800

>> Minimum shutter speed

Auto (use fastest, which is 1 / 2x focal length)Auto (use fastest, which is 1 / 2x focal length)Auto (use fastest, which is 1 / 2x focal length)Auto (use fastest, which is 1 / 2x focal length)
White balanceAuto1 (irrelevant if shooting raw but useful to preview photos on the LCD)

Auto1

Auto1

Auto1

Set Picture Control

Auto (Irrelevant if shooting RAW.  The only time I ever change this is to set it to Monochrome to preview in-camera what a B&W image would look like)

AutoAutoAuto
Manage Picture ControlI don't use it
Color SpaceAdobeAdobeAdobeAdobe
Active D-LightingOffOffOffOff
Long exposure NROff (turning it on doubles your exposure times as the camera takes a second dark frame exposure to subtract noise)OffOffOff
High ISO NROffOffOffOff
Vignette controlOffOffOffOff
Diffraction compensationOn (I suspect this doesn?t apply to RAW files but until I can confirm I will leave it on)OnOnOn
Auto distortion controlOn (can't turn off with Z-mount lens)OnOnOn
Flicker reduction shootingOffOffOffOn
MeteringMatrixMatrixCenter-weightedSpot
Flash controlTTLTTLTTLTTL
Flash modeFill flashFill flashFill flashFill flash
Flash compensation0000

Focus mode Note 2

AF-CAF-CAF-CAF-C

AF-area mode Note3

Wide-area AF (S)Single-point AF or pinpoint - often manual focus override using 100% zoom on the LCDDynamic-area AFAuto-area AF
Vibration reduction

On (Normal)

On (Normal).  Off when on tripod.

SPT (Sport)

On (Normal)

Auto bracketingOffIf needed (AE bracketing, 3-5 shots, increment 2)OffOff
Multiple exposureOffOffOffOff
HDROffOffOffOff
Interval timer shootingAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Time-lapse movieAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Focus shift shootingAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Silent photographyAs needed (note that turning this feature on disables some other features such as flicker reduction, EFC and changes frame ratesAs needed

Off

As needed

MOVIE SHOOTING MENU

File naming Note5

I set to my initials: MKHMKHMKHMKH
Choose image areaFXFXFXFX
Frame size/frame rate2160p30 (4K 30fps)2160p30 (4K 30fps)2160p30 (4K 30fps)2160p30 (4K 30fps)
Movie qualityHighHighHighHigh
Movie file typeMOVMOVMOVMOV
ISO sensitivity settingsDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
White balanceAuto1Auto1Auto1Auto1
Set Picture ControlAutoAutoAutoAuto
Manage Picture ControlUnused
Active D-LightingNormalNormalNormalNormal
High ISO NRNormalNormalNormalNormal
Vignette controlNormalNormalNormalNormal
Diffraction compensationOnOnOnOn
Auto distortion controlOnOnOnOn
Flicker reductionAutoAutoAutoAuto
MeteringMatrixMatrixMatrixMatrix
Focus modeFull-time AFFull-time AFFull-time AFFull-time AF
AF-area modeAuto-area AFAuto-area AFAuto-area AFAuto-area AF
Vibration reductionOnOnOnOn
Electronic VROffOffOffOff
Microphone sensitivityAutoAutoAutoAuto
AttenuatorOffOffOffOff
Frequency responseWideWideWideWide
Wind noise reductionOffOffOffOff
Headphone volume15151515
TimecodeDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault

CUSTOM SETTING MENU

a Autofocus
a1 AF-C priority selectionFocusFocusReleaseFocus
a2 AF-S priority selectionFocusFocusFocusFocus
a3 Focus tracking with lock-on1252
a4 Auto-area AF face detectionOnOnOnOn
a5 Focus points usedAllAll1/2 Every other pointAll
a6 Store points by orientationOffOffOffOff
a7 AF activationAF-ON only (Out-of-focus release: Disable)AF-ON only (Out-of-focus release: Disable)AF-ON only (Out-of-focus release: Enable)AF-ON only (Out-of-focus release: Disable)
a8 Limit AF-area mode selectionAll checkedAll checkedAll checkedAll checked
a9 Focus point wrap-aroundWrapWrapWrapWrap
a10 Focus point options

> Manual focus mode

OffOffOffOff

> Dynamic-area AF assist

OnOnOnOn
a11 Low-light AFOnOnOnOn
a12 Built-in AF-assist illuminatorOffOffOffOff
b Metering/exposure
b1 EV steps for exposure cntrl1/3 step1/3 step1/3 step1/3 step
b2 Easy exposure compensationOffOffOffOff
b3 Center-weighted area12mm12mm12mm12mm
b4 Fine-tune optimal exposureDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
c1 Shutter-release button AE-LOffOffOffOff
c2 Self-timerAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
c3 Power off delay

> Playback

10s10s10s10s

> Menus

1m1m1m1m

> Image review

10s10s10s10s

> Standby timer

30s30s30s30s
d Shooting/display
d1 CL mode shooting speed3333
d2 Max. continuous release200200200200
d3 Sync. Release mode optionsSyncSyncSyncSync
d4 Exposure delay modeOff

3s

OffOff
d5 Electronic front-curtain shutterOffOnOffOff
d6 Limit selectable image areaAll checkedAll checkedAll checkedAll checked
d7 File number sequenceOnOnOnOn
d8 Apply settings to live viewAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
d9 Framing grid displayOffOnOffOff
d10 Peaking highlightsAs neededOnOffOn

> Peaking level

As needed2 (standard)Off3 (high sensitivity)

> Peaking highlight color

Red

Red

Red

Red

d11 View all in continuous modeOnOnOnOn
e Bracketing/flash
e1 Flash sync speed1/200s1/200s1/200s1/200s
e2 Flash shutter speed1/60s1/60s1/60s1/60s
e3 Exposure comp. for flashEntire frameEntire frameEntire frameEntire frame
e4 Auto flash ISO sensitivity controlSubject and backgroundSubject and backgroundSubject and backgroundSubject and background
e6 Auto bracketing (mode M)Flash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speed
e5 Modelling flashOnOnOnOn
e7 Bracketing orderUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > over
f Controls
f1 Customize i menu

Personal preference

Personal preference

Personal preference

Personal preference

f2 Custom control assignment Note 4

Personal preference

Personal preference

Personal preference

Personal preference

f3 OK button

> Shooting mode

ResetResetResetReset

> Playback mode

Zoom on/offZoom on/offZoom on/offZoom on/off
f4 Shutter spd & aperture lock

> Shutter speed lock

OffOffOffOff

> Aperture lock

OffOffOffOff
f5 Customize command dials

> Reverse rotation

DefaultDefaultDefaultDefault

> Change main/sub

DefaultDefaultDefaultDefault

> Menus and playback

On (image review excluded)On (image review excluded)On (image review excluded)On (image review excluded)

> Sub-dial frame advance

10101010
f6 Release button to use dialOffOffOffOff
f7 Reverse indicators- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +
g Movie
g1 Customize i menu

Personal preference

Personal preference

Personal preference

Personal preference

g2 Custom control assignmentPersonal preferencePersonal preferencePersonal preferencePersonal preference
g3 OK buttonResetResetResetReset
g4 AF speed2 (Always)2 (Always)2 (Always)2 (Always)
g5 AF tracking sensitivity3333
g6 Hightlight displayOffOffOffOff

SETUP MENU *3

Format memory cardAs needed
Save user settingsAs needed
LanguageAs needed
Time zone and dateAs needed
Monitor brightness0
Monitor color balanceDefault
Viewfinder brightnessAuto
Viewfinder color balanceDefault
Control panel brightnessAuto
Limit monitor mode selectionAll checked
Information displayB (dark on light)
AF fine-tuneAs needed
Non-CPU lens dataAs needed
Clean image sensorClean at shutdown
Image Dust Off ref photoAs needed
Image CommentOff
Copyright informationSet your name/site here
Beep optionsOff
Touch controlsOn (default)
HDMIDefault
Location dataBoth on
Wireless remote (WR) optionsDefault
Assign remote (WR) Fn buttonOff
Airplane modeAs needed
Connect to smart deviceAs needed
Connect to PCAs needed
Wireless transmitter (WT-7)As needed
Conformity markingAs needed
Battery infoAs needed
Slot emptry release lockLock
Save/load settingsAs needed
Reset all settingsAs needed
Firmware versionAs needed

RETOUCH MENU (I don't use it)

MY MENU

> d4 Exposure delay mode
> d5 Electronic front curtain shutter
> Vibration reduction
> Silent photography
> Apply settings to live view
> Format memory card

Note 1: Release mode

The User Settings (U1/U2/U3) do not retain the release mode settings.  If you switch user modes you need to remember to switch the release mode (single, continuous, etc.)

Note 2: Focus Mode

I use the 'AF-ON' or 'back button autofocus' technique (for lack of a better term) to focus my camera. You will see that in my settings, I primarily use AF-C as the default focus mode when I use the camera. With the AF-ON technique, you decouple the focusing of the camera from the shutter press. The nice thing is that you can have both continuous, static autofocus, and manual focus modes all at the same time. Focus and recompose is also easier as you don’t have to keep the shutter half-pressed, just release the AF-ON button and the camera stops focusing. It works very well, but takes a bit of getting used to. This technique works on both Nikon and Canon cameras (likely other brands as well but I haven’t checked into it).

Note 3: AF-area Mode

This will be subject to change after more testing. I'm not yet sure how well the Z7 tracks faces in the Auto-area AF mode.

Note 4: Custom control assignment (f2)

  • Fn1 button : Preview - I like to have DoF preview available, especially for macro work.  The Z7 only stops the lens down to f/5.6 so you do not have an accurate preview of DoF in the viewfinder or monitor unless you use the Preview function.
  • Fn2 button : My Menu - quick access to my most commonly used settings (see above for what I keep in the menu).
  • AF-On : AF-On
  • Sub-selector : Focus point selection
  • Sub-selector center : Spot metering (useful for a quick metering override if I'm in matrix and it's not exposing the scene properly.
  • Movie record button : Auto bracketing.  Unlike the D800/D810 I'm used to, the Z7 does not have a dedicated bracket button so I reassigned the movie record button which is otherwise useless in photo mode.
  • Lens Fn button : none of my lenses have this.
  • Lens control ring : Focus (M/A).  Manual focus override, same as most lenses.

Note 5: Movie Shooting Menu/Settings

Despite having the option to shoot video with my cameras, I very rarely do. Please don't consider my video settings optimal, I almost never need them.

Nikon Z7 Setup - Change Log

DateChanges
2018-10-10Initial publication


Nikon Z7 Banding Test - 0EV 1.60s f4 ISO64

Nikon Z7 Banding Test

Update: ISO 3200 test follows below.

I just picked up a new Nikon Z7 and there have been multiple reports of banding in recovered shadow areas.  I decided to test this for myself to see when the problem might crop up.  I shot a desk in my office with a monitor (seems to show up more on flat black surfaces).  There was a lot of back light so the monitor is underexposed even in the 0EV frame.  Settings:

  • RAW (NEF)
  • Processed by Adobe Lightroom Classic CC 7.5 (Camera Raw 10.5)
  • No processing except:
    • Profile: Adobe Color
    • White Balance: Daylight
  • Exposure settings for each photo noted below.

TL;DR:

  • Banding is an issue for files pushed +4EV or greater.
  • Banding is not visible at normal viewing sizes.
  • Noise reduction can smooth out the banding effect.
Nikon Z7 Banding Test - 0EV 1.60s f4 ISO64
0EV 1/60s f/4 ISO64

100% crop from the above image in the top right corner of the monitor.  No visible banding (as expected)

Nikon Z7 Banding Test - 0EV 1.60s f4 ISO64 crop
0EV 1/60s f/4 ISO64 - 100% crop

 

I then took another shot, this time with exposure compensation at -3EV, resulting shot is definitely underexposed.

Nikon Z7 Banding Test - -3EV 1.500s f4 ISO64
-3EV 1/500s f/4 ISO64

The underexposed file then pushed in Lightroom to +3EV (exposure was the only adjustment).  Resulting image:

Nikon Z7 Banding Test - -3EV +3EV 1.500s f4 ISO64
Underexposed image pushed+3EV 1.500s f4 ISO64

100% crop from the +3 push.  No visible banding.

Nikon Z7 Banding Test - -3EV +3EV 1.500s f4 ISO64 crop
100% crop from +3 EV push in Lightroom

 

The underexposed file then pushed in Lightroom to +4EV (exposure was the only adjustment).  Resulting image:

Nikon Z7 Banding Test - -3EV +4EV 1.500s f4 ISO64
+4EV push in Lightroom - 1.500s f4 ISO64

100% crop from +4 EV push.  No visible banding in the deep shadows.

Nikon Z7 Banding Test - -3EV +4EV 1.500s f4 ISO64 crop
Crop from +4EV push

However, I did see some banding crop up in some of the transition areas (light to dark) at the bottom of the monitor.  It's slight but visible at 100%.

Nikon Banding Z7

 

Finally, I did a +5EV push of the underexposed image.  This is now very over exposed and not usable but useful for testing.

Nikon Z7 Banding Test - -3EV +5EV 1.500s f4 ISO64
-3EV image pushed +5EV in Lightroom  1.500s f4 ISO64

100% crop from the +5EV image.  It's slightly visible when I check at 100% in Lightroom but might not come across in the exported jpg very well.

Nikon Z7 Banding Test - -3EV +5EV 1.500s f4 ISO64 crop
100% crop from image pushed +5EV in Lightoom.

As before, most visible in the light to dark transition areas.  100% below.

 

Looking in other areas of the image (not just the black monitor), I can see slight banding in the +4EV and +5EV pushed images.  Typically when you bump up shadows you introduce noise and in many cases some noise reduction is warranted.  I observed that adding noise reduction smoothed out the effect of the banding, though it was still present.  Further, the banding isn't visible at normal viewing sizes and only becomes visible as you zoom in (50% or larger viewing sizes).  For print, this would translate to 14 inches on the long edge assuming no crop and 300dpi.  Anything smaller and I suspect it wouldn't be visible.

For me, I can't remember ever pushing files to +4EV or greater.  If I see a very high contrast scene I will often do some exposure bracketing so that I can capture detail in the shadows without pushing the file in post.  I'll then blend the images for best results, and that type of workflow should avoid banding (I'll test this in the future).  If I have to push files that far, they are likely just casual shots I'll post on facebook and none of my friends would know the difference.  For me, this banding is a non issue.

Banding Test at ISO 3200

After posting some examples at base ISO (64) , a comment was made that the banding would become visible with less drastic editing if a higher ISO was used.  I decided to test this by shooting the same scene at ISO3200.  Results are below.

TL;DR:

  • My testing show that banding is NOT visible at ISO3200 regardless of how much the file is pushed in Lightroom.  I think the noise at higher ISO will mask any banding present.

First, normal exposure (exposure comp at 0EV).  The scene has fairly extreme contrast between light (bright sunlight outside) and dark (no interior lights on, black monitor).

0EV (1/1000s f/8 ISO1600) - Nikon Z7 high contrast scene, sensor banding issue
0EV (1/1000s f/8 ISO1600)

 

Now the same scene but camera has exposure compensation set to -3EV

-3EV Underexposed (1/8000s f/8 ISO1600)
-3EV Underexposed (1/8000s f/8 ISO1600)

Pushing the underexposed file by +3EV in Lightroom

-3EV Underexposed (1/8000s f/8 ISO1600) +3EV push : High ISO banding in the Nikon Z 7 mirrorless camera
-3EV Underexposed (1/8000s f/8 ISO1600) with +3EV push in post

 

100% crop from the +3EV push.  I'm unable to find any visible banding in the image.

-3EV Underexposed (1.8000 f8 ISO1600) +3EV push, 100% crop - Nikon Z7 banding at high ISO
-3EV Underexposed (1.8000 f8 ISO1600) +3EV push, 100% crop

 

Now a +5EV push of the underexposed file.  I find the file far too noisy to be useful so this is just an academic exercise to understand the behaviour of the sensor.

-3EV Underexposed (1/8000s f/8 ISO1600) +5EV push - Nikon Z7
-3EV Underexposed (1/8000s f/8 ISO1600) +5EV push

 

100% crop from the +5EV push.  It's ugly but I don't see banding, just a lot of noise.

-3EV Underexposed (1/8000 f/8 ISO1600) +5EV push, 100% crop
-3EV Underexposed (1/8000 f/8 ISO1600) +5EV push, 100% crop

 

Finally, I tried some editing the 'properly' exposed file (0EV) using highlight and shadow recovery.  Here the exposure is adjusted to +1EV, shadows at +100, hightlights at -100.

0EV (1/1000s f/8 ISO1600) +1EV push, shadow +100, highlights -100
0EV (1/1000s f/8 ISO1600) +1EV push, shadow +100, highlights -100

100% crop from the edited file, no visible banding.  I checked the whole image and could not detect banding anywhere.

0EV (1/1000s f/8 ISO1600) +1EV push, shadow +100, highlights -100, 100% crop
0EV (1/1000s f/8 ISO1600) +1EV push, shadow +100, highlights -100, 100% crop

 

My conclusion is that high ISO noise masks banding and, at least for ISO 3200, banding will not be an issue in editing (noise will be, as it is with any other sensor).  I might do more testing in the future to get an idea at which ISO the banding starts to become less noticeable.


Data Backup Image 1

Home Computer Backup Strategy

Updated May 5, 2015

Since I work in the IT industry, several of my friends have asked me how I back up my home computer.  Rather than repeat the same thing over and over, I decided to create this post to try and outline how I do things.   I'll also tell you what you should do as a minimum to ensure the safety of your data.

If you don't currently back up your data, you should.  That is of course if you would experience any grief if you lost all of your photos, documents, email, calendar, etc.  Personally, I have a TON of photos that I simply can't get back if I lost all of my data.  I can re-write my resume if needed, download some music, but I can't go back in time to capture an image I took on vacation five years ago.  I make sure I have several copies of ALL of my photos as I never want to lose any of them.  Beyond my photos, I treat most of my data in the same way, I ensure it is safe.

Some people think their data is safe because they back up to DVD or an external hard drive.  This is better than doing nothing, but ineffective for two main reasons.  First, no one I know keeps up with a regular schedule of burning DVDs.  Their most recent backup is from 8 months ago and they don't even know where the discs are.  Also, the sheer volume of data we have these days makes DVD backup cumbersome.  If I had to back up all of my data I would need 181 DVDs!  No thanks.  Second, local media like external hard drives are typically plugged into or stored right next to the computer.  If you have a fire, flood, experience a theft, or some other major issue, your computer and backup are both gone.  If you can maintain a rigorous schedule of rotating hard drives off-site, more power to you, but I like to do things the easy way.  In the words of Ron Popeil, I need to "set it and forget it".

Most people I know don't back up their data, they never had a major failure and assume it will never happen to them.  It will happen to you sooner or later, no sense sticking your head in the sand.  Others think that is part of the risk in owning a computer, it just happens or it's too hard to keep data safe.  Below are a few quick and easy things you can do to immediately improve your situation.  There really is no excuse not to do this.

With that rambling out of the way I'll cover what I consider the minimum effort needed to ensure that your data is safe.  I'll also cover what I do with my data which is beyond the minimum but that is what IT guys do.

Data Backup Image 1

PREAMBLE

  • Data backup needs to be easy and automated.  I'm lazy and don't want to be constantly doing something, it should "just work".
  • I assume you have a broadband internet connection.  If you are on dial-up or some back-woods connection this will likely not be helpful for you.
  • I'm running Windows but this applies equally to Mac (though I don't provide links).

THE MINIMUM DATA SAFETY STRATEGY

  • First, ensure you have some kind of anti-virus software running on your computer and keep it up to date.  If your Norton subscription expired two years ago it's not doing much to protect you.  You are unlikely to be infected by a virus from a few years back, and much more likely to get something released yesterday.  There are good options out there for free, so please install one.  Avast is the one I use, it's FREE and scores very well on the various tests conducted by third parties.  If you use Microsoft Security Essentials, I suggest you stop and get Avast.  The Microsoft tools are just crap.
  • Turn on Windows Update and ensure it installs updates automatically.  Lack of updates is a primary infection vector.
  • Turn on your Windows Firewall, it helps.
  • Ensure the safety of your data by installing and running Backblaze (or another cloud based backup solution).  This is the most important part and the part that ensures the safety of your data.  I have tried several online backup options: Mozy, Carbonite, Dropbox, Google Drive, and some cobbled together software sending data to Amazon S3.  Needless to say, Backblaze is very easy to install and set up, and cheap considering the alternatives.  It will cost you $50 per year, which is under $5 per month.  It is money well spent.  Once your data is gone, that $50 will seem like peanuts as most people would be willing to spends hundreds to get their data back.  In many data loss cases, it's too late.  The nice thing about Backblaze is that allows you to log into the web site and download individual files if you accidentally delete something or they will send you a DVD or hard drive with ALL of your data if you have a bigger problem. NOTE: If you have a lot of data to back up, this may take some time even on a high speed connection.  It took several weeks to complete my backup, but after that only your new files need to be stored so it is typically not an issue.

That's it, most of you probably have the first three done already as computers often come with anti-virus software installed and the Windows Firewall and updates are turned on by default.  Just install Backblaze and sleep well tonight.  I suggest you double check now and then to ensure it's running and sending your data to Backblaze.  You can probably complete all of the above steps in under an hour, even if you are not a computer pro.

MY STRATEGY - THE EXTRA MILE

  • Same four things as with the minimum strategy, that is a given.
  • I subscribe to the 3-2-1 data protection strategy, which means for all of my critical data I have:
    • 3 copies of the data
    • on at least 2 different types of media
    • with at least 1 copy being off-site (physically in a different location).
  • If you only do the steps listed above for my 'minimum' strategy you are likely to have just a 2/2/1 data protection strategy (2 copies, 2 media, 1 off-site) but that is still vastly superior to what most people have, no backups (1/0/0).
  • Install an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) to prevent incorrect shutdown during power outages.  A UPS is essentially a battery that will keep your computer running during a power outage.  It gives you time to shut down properly or it can even do it for you if you are not present.  This helps prevent corruption of data if your computer suddenly loses power.  I like APC and Rocketfish brands for home use.
  • Install an internet router, which is a device you install between the device your internet provider gives you (such as a cable modem) and your computer(s).  Many people have one already, they are often used to provide wireless access (WiFi) for devices. I'm not going to cover how to do this, but it adds a layer of security to any computer running behind it as you create a private network inside your house that is not as easily accessed form the outside.
  • Turn on Windows Previous Versions for your data (formerly referred to as Shadow Copy).  Essentially what you are doing is reserving a portion of your hard drive to making backups of your data.  This is good for one major reason: version control.  Windows will create multiple copies of the same file which you can access relatively easily.   This is very handy if you need to revert back to a previous version and is faster than going to backup.  Also, your backup is unlikely to maintain many versions of the same file.  Windows does this in a very space-efficient manner and if you are not cramped for space on your drive you should turn this on.  More info on this at Wikipedia.
  • Use RAID if your computer supports it.  Most laptops don't since they only have one hard drive, but many desktop computers have the ability to run hard drives in various RAID levels.  Currently all of my data is stored on a RAID-5 set (more info on RAID levels at Wikipedia), which means I have three hard drives in my computer and data is written to all at the same time. This allows one of the hard drives to fail and my computer continues to operate without issue.  I can replace the failed hard drive, and carry on like nothing happened.  RAID-1, or a mirrored set, is also a good option for data security.
  • Use external storage, ideally network attached storage (NAS), to keep a copy of your data locally.  I have a Synology 5-bay NAS running in RAID-5 mode which keeps a backup copy of all of my data.  The RAID-5 configuration allows for one drive to fail with no impact on my data.  The NAS is also handy for sharing files between multiple computers on your home network.This is the third copy of my data in the 3-2-1 strategy (one copy on my computer, one on my NAS, one at Backblaze).  I use software called SyncBack (free) to make a copy of all my data from my computer to my NAS every night.  It only copies changed files, so once you have it up and running backups are fast.  I no longer use SyncBack, but instead use the awesome Synology Cloud Station.  Cloud Station enables me to sync my files from my computer to my NAS.  It has a a few benefits:
    • Agent on my computer that is easy to set up and manages all of my file copies to the NAS.  It scans my folders and immediately copies any new files to the Synology.
    • It has an overlay on my synced folders, showing me what is synced and what still needs to be copied.
    • It manages versions on the NAS, so I can roll back files to a previous state in time.
    • There is an iOS client that allows me to securely access all of my files via my iPhone.  Handy if I'm not at home and I need to pull down a file.

That's it, extra safety from several layers of security.  Hardware keeps my computer and network safe (UPS, router).  Within my computer, software prevents data corruption (anti-virus, firewall, updates).  If I accidentally delete a file or even part of a file, I can go to my previous versions or the backup on my NAS.  If I have a hard drive fails within my computer, my data is unaffected.  If a hard drive fails in my external storage (NAS), there is also no issue.  This will cover the most frequent problems and allow me to keep working and keep my data safe.  If I experience a bigger problem, such as a fire, all of my data is also off-site at Backblaze which constantly runs in the background and ensures new files are backed up and kept safe.

There are certainly things you can do beyond this, though there are diminishing returns as my strategy covers most contingencies.  Also, this covers data backup but some like to create a full image of their computer so they can restore their operating system and software in case of a problem.  I don't think that is necessary, I have no issue re-installing Windows and my associated software if I have a complete failure.  Those things are relatively easy to get back up and running, it's the data you can't get back that you need to protect.

TESTING YOUR BACKUPS

Whatever backup strategy you choose to employ, it's important to periodically check things to ensure they are still working.  Services like Backblaze will send you emails letting you know how many files you have stored with them.  Compare this to your previous numbers to ensure new files are getting added to the backup.  Also, test your backups by restoring files.  I do this four or five times per year, less frequent than that and there is potential for loss beyond my comfort level.  Choose a few random files (I usually choose one old file and one recently created) and restore it to your computer from your backups (if you have more than one backup like I do, restore from all of them).  This ensures your backups are working and that you can get the files back if you need to.  Monitoring and sample restores are a critical part of the process.  There are many reasons backups can stop working, so keep an eye on things to ensure your data is safe in case you ever need it.

Feel free to post in the comments if you have questions or would like to add to the items listed here.

 


The Grid Website Builder

The Grid: A New Way To Design Websites?

I remember developing websites when the web was just starting to take off (mid 90's). Coding HTML by hand and using Mosaic 0.9 Beta as my browser. Over time, tools like Dreamweaver gave us WYSIWYG editors to make things easier. Today, this site is based on WordPress, one of the very successful web publishing platforms that sprung up in recent history to make creating websites and posting content easier still.  Themes, plugins, widgets, and other shortcuts means you never have to see the code, or do any heavy lifting.  It's a great way to create a site, but you still need some tech skills to get it up and running.  I still go into the code to make small changes to the templates and plugins, even making a child theme to keep my changes separate from the parent theme.  The beauty is that once running, anyone can post content.  It's no harder than writing an email.

 

Switching themes in WordPress is not trivial, having done this a few times I know that the change isn't seamless.  Layout usually looks terrible and requires some effort to fix.  It doesn't help that themes have unique features (like shortcodes) that don't work elsewhere, so you may also need to edit your posts.  Further, you need a plugin like WPTouch to make the content look good on mobile devices.  As good as WordPress is, there is room for improvement.

 

Today, I saw that a new publishing tool, The Grid, is being developed that hopes to make building a site even easier.  Sites look good in any browser or on any device (desktop or mobile), layout can be changed and everything continues to look good and work well.  The video below gives a quick into to the service.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXA4-5x31V0

 

The Grid harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to take everything you throw at it - videos, images, text, urls and more - and automatically shape them into a custom website unique to you.

 

The Grid Website Builder

 

AI sounds good, but will it actually work and produce what I want?  How much control will I have over the look and feel?  Are "layout filters" really different from templates?  Will the automatic selection of color palette and fonts look good? Hard to say right now, you can't create a site yet.  It sounds good but it is too early to say.  If you are willing to sign up now and be a founding member, you pay $8/month and that rate is locked in for as long as you use the service.  One launched the service will be $25/month so I'll take the chance that it's something I want to use and start paying now.  It won't launch for about six more months, so it's a $50 roll of the dice but that seems like a reasonable amount.  You can also get referral credits if you spread the word and others sign up.  So visit The Grid and check it out for yourself.

 

 


Microsoft Surface Pro 3 : Lenovo X1 Carbon : Apple iPad 4

Making The Switch: Laptop & iPad to Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 : Lenovo X1 Carbon : Apple iPad 4
 
As an IT professional I have used many smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. Each has its place, and I have all of these devices for different reasons. My current devices are:

  • Smartphone: Apple iPhone 5S (32GB)
  • Tablet: Apple iPad 4th Gen (Retina, 3G + WiFi, 128GB)
  • Laptop: Lenovo X1 Carbon (i7, 160GB)
  • Desktop: Custom (giant case, 7 hard drives, 5 fans, etc.)

Though this combo has served me well, I took notice when Microsoft released the Surface Pro 3. It's really the first time that I thought a single device could replace both my laptop and tablet, so I decided to buy one to test the theory.  I went with the top spec Surface Pro 3 because I was already running an Intel Core i7 device with 8GB of RAM and didn't want to take a step back.  If I could have purchased one with 16GB of RAM I would have done so, but sadly that isn't an option.  So how does the Surface compare with my old devices on specifications?

 
Specifications
 

Spec

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Lenovo X1 Carbon

Apple iPad Gen 4

CPU

Intel Core i7 4650U

Intel Core i7 3667U

1.4 GHz dual-core Apple Swift

Cores

2

2

2

Clock Speed

1.7GHz

2.0GHz

1.4GHz

Turbo Clock Speed

3.3GHz

3.2GHz

 

GPU

Intel Integrated HD
Graphics 5000

Intel Integrated HD
Graphics 4000

Quad-core PowerVR
SGX554MP4

Display Size

12"

14"

9.7"

Display Resolution

2160 x 1440

1600 x 900

2048 × 1536

Display PPI

216

131

264

Camera MP (front/back)

5 / 5

1.3 / X

1.2 / 5

 

Though the clock speed is lower on the Surface Pro CPU, it benchmarks higher in both single-core and multi-core tests. Also, the updated GPU in the Surface Pro tests better than my Lenovo X1. I suspect that newer models of the X1 have better specifications, but for me it's an upgrade over my existing hardware.
 
Physical Dimensions
 

Spec

Surface Pro 3

Lenovo X1 Carbon

iPad Gen 4

Dimensions

11.5” x 7.93” x 0.36”

13.03" x 8.92" x 0.53"

9.5" × 7.31" × 0.37"

Weight

1.76 lbs

2.8 lbs

1.46 lbs

Combined weight of the X1 and iPad are 4.3 lbs, which is more than double of the Surface Pro 3. The weight was one of the things that struck me when I first picked up the device, it was lighter than I expected. Granted, you need to add some weight and thickness when you attach the keyboard cover, but it's not that much. I'm saving a lot of weight by replacing two devices with one.
 
When you compare the devices side by side, you realize how small the Surface actually is.  A lot of tech is packed into a small case.
 
Hardware
 
Pros

  • Much lighter than I expected.  It's not a small device, but MS did a great job putting this thing on a diet.  Nicely done.
  • The keyboard (more below).
  • The kickstand is great, you can adjust the angle to suit any position and it's integrated so you don't need to add a case (like you do with the iPad).
  • The Surface Pro 3 docking station is easy to use, and has the ports necessary for a full office setup (3 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, ethernet, audio, and mini display port).
  • The power brick has a USB port that I can use to charge other devices (iPhone, headset, etc.).  Brilliant, why didn't anyone do this sooner.  When travelling I can leave my Apple charger at home (just bring the cable).  I realize I could have just plugged it into the Surface USB to charge, but it only has one (see below) and I'm not even sure it's powered when the device is off.
  • I can only review the writing experience with the pen, so far I have been unable to pair it with my Surface to make the button work with OneNote.  This is likely because I have to run Windows 8.1 Enterprise (not Professional that comes with the device).  I worked with MS and they even shipped me a new pen. So far, no luck.   In general, the writing experience is great.  It is more natural, precise, and fast than other devices I have used.  A bit more on this below.

Cons

  • Only a single USB port on the device?  Seriously Microsoft, this is an oversight.  Everything connects or charges with USB these days, would adding a second port really be that hard?  Two should be a minimum these days.
  • The keyboard (more below).
  • No fingerprint login, I love this feature on my X1.  So easy to access my computer, now that I don't have it I miss it.  if Apple can put one on an iPhone this doesn't seem like an impossible thing to add to a Surface.
  • No 3G/4G/LTE option.  Both my iPad and X1 have the option to add a SIM card for data access while on the go.  Less of an issue now that I can set up my iPhone as a wireless hot spot.  However, for those that travel it's nice to have the option.  I use a SIM in my iPad to spread my data roaming charges while travelling.  Others use a different carrier to have a better chance of connecting in a foreign country.  The Surface doesn't have that option.
  • The fan is loud at times, and the device can get quite hot.  I never noticed this with my X1 and the iPad does't have a fan so totally quiet :)
  • The pen has been a problem.  Not only does it not pair with my Surface (tried two different pens), but the first one went through two sets of coin cell batteries in a few days.  More troubleshooting needed, but so far not a great experience.
  • There is no mute button for audio like there is on my X1 (and many other laptops).  When I need to mute the device (for an incoming call for example), it's a slower process.
  • No SD card reader.  It has microSD, which isn't helpful for most unless you just want to add some storage.   For me, I used it to download photos from my camera while travelling, which means now I need to bring a card reader.

 
Software
 

This is my first Windows 8x device.  I have tried the OS in the past but didn't switch to it on my previous computers.  On the Surface, or any touchscreen device, Win8 is a must.  There is a minor learning curve, but in general you can use the desktop in much the same way as Win7 or previous versions of Windows.  Having said that, I have run into some problems and have wasted many hours trying to solve them (the issues persist).  First, I'm not running the version of Windows that came with the Surface.  It shipped with 8.1 Professional, however for work I need MS DirectAccess technology which is only available in 8.1 Enterprise.  That meant a complete wipe and reinstall, and since then I have two driver issues.

  • I'm unable to pair the Surface with the Pen.  I have tried multiple drivers, including the one from N-trig, nothing works.  Two phone calls to MS and a replacement pen, still no luck.  It would be nice to try the OneNote integration but this will have to wait. Not a show stopper.
  • The ethernet port on my dock is recognized but the driver doesn't load.  As with the pen, I have tried many ways to try and get it working.  Running on WiFi only right now, which isn't a big problem as I don't really do anything bandwidth intensive and if needed I have a Lenovo USB to ethernet dongle which does work.

One would expect MS hardware and MS software to play well together, but that doesn't seem to be the case.  I have been on the phone with MS three times so far, most recently with their Enterprise Support department. The technician had remote control of my Surface device for almost two hours and was unable to get it working. They collected some logs and are now investigating. I'll update this post when I get it working.

 
As A Laptop Replacement
 

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover : Lenovo X1 Carbon : Side-by-side

  • As you can see from the spec, I'm not losing anything in terms of performance (CPU, RAM, hard drive).  In fact, though the clock speed of the CPU is lower than what I have in my X1 laptop the processor benchmarks better in both single core and multi-core tests.  For me, I would say that the overall performance was a lateral move from the Lenovo X1.
  • The screen is give and take.  The overall size is smaller on the Surface (I liked the 14" screen on my X1), but resolution and general screen quality is much better.  It's a beautiful display, and despite the smaller size it's an upgrade over the laptop.  I'll note that the latest X1 notebook has a new 2560x1440 touchscreen though I haven't tested it.  In fact, Lenovo have updated the spec across the board but I'm comparing it to the model I have so don't freak out that this test is invalid.
  • The Surface Type Pad keyboard and trackpad is another story though.  I have long been a fan of ThinkPad laptops (well before they were Lenovo).  I consider them to have some of the best ergonomics in the game and the X1 is no exception.  The overall feel of the X1 keyboard is fantastic, and the dual mouse input (trackpad and the trackpoint) work well.  The tiny trackpad on the Surface Type Cover and cramped keys are a big step down.  I know they have design constraints but as a laptop keyboard it's average at best.  The trackpad issue is partly mitigated because it's a touch screen device.
  • I log into my laptop many times per day, locking it every time I step away from my desk (Win-L FTW).  Logins used to be just a swipe of my finger, but the Surface doesn't have a fingerprint scanner so I have to revert to the Triassic-era method of keyboard input.
  • Dock works well, I have the same general setup as I did with my laptop.  Two big screens plus the screen on my Surface.  Full size keyboard, mouse, speakers, headset, LAN, etc.  For general use at my desk almost no change in my workflow.

Surface Pro 3 : Three Monitor Desktop Setup

  • The Surface is light and very thin, not much different than a full size notebook.  I have yet to travel with it, but that will be definitely better.  Does anyone know if you have to pull the Surface out at airport security?  You need to pull out your laptop, but not your ipad, what type of device is this?
  • InstantGo is nice, boot time is obviously better than my X1 but this is not a big deal as I don't usually shut down my laptop during the day.

 

The X1 is a svelte laptop to start with, the Surface is even thinner and substantially lighter.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover and Lenovo X1 Carbon side-by-side

 
The keyboard on the Lenovo X1, the best I have used on any laptop.

Lenovo X1 Carbon Keyboard Detail

 
The Surface Type Cover is decent, but not nearly as good as the Lenovo.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Type Cover Detail

 

 

As AN iPad Replacement

  • There are a few apps only on my iPad that I wasn't sure if I could replace.
    • Zinio: I have used this for a few years to manage magazine subscriptions.  Much easier to use a device I travel with anyway rather than carry extra weight.  This app is also available from the Microsoft Store so easy switch.
    • Games: I don't play games much at all these days but I had a few I enjoyed on the iPad (Angry Birds, Osmos, Plague Inc., maybe a few others).  They can be good on long haul flights.  There are games in the MS Store, but right now nothing has really caught my eye.  More to come...
    • Keynote and Keynote Remote: A nice way to give presentations.  Keynote on the iPad and the Remote app on my iPhone to view and switch slides.  Slick.  I have PowerPoint 2013 on the Surface, but no slick remote.  A minor loss.
    • Movies: I use the iPad a lot for watching movies on flights (paired with my favourite travel accessory, the Bose noise cancelling headphones).  I don't see any issue with watching movies on the Surface, in fact it should be even better.  The screen is bigger and the great kickstand means I can adjust the angle far easier than on the iPad.
    • iAnnotate: I used this to edit PDF files along with a Jot Script pen/stylus.  It worked well, but the stylus was just ok.  It was by far the best stylus I used for an iPad, but it disconnected often and just never felt natural.  The pen on the Surface is night and day better.  Much more responsive and useful.  I have only tested the writing portion, the button on top doesn't work as I'm unable to pair it (see Software section above). I'm using OneNote to annotate PDF files, so far so good.
    • Adobe Lightroom Mobile: This is one tool I miss already.  Sure, I have a full version of Lightroom on the Surface but Lightroom Mobile is a great companion to Lightroom and they can work well in parallel.  When I shoot a large number of images, I just import into Lightroom on my desktop and sync with Lightroom Mobile.  I then use the iPad to pick and cull my images from the comfort of my sofa.  The swipe gestures make it very easy, and all changes immediately sync back to my desktop.  When done, I use the desktop to delete all my bad shots (most of them :) and then just work on the picks.  It's a nice workflow that is missing if I'm not using the iPad.  Maybe Adobe will develop this functionality for touch screen devices in the full version of Lightroom.
  • The on-screen keyboard on the Surface is about the same as on the iPad, not better and not worse.  Both generally suck for anything longer than a quick email.  However, the Surface has the Type Pad which is a must-have accessory.  As I stated above, it doesn't best a good laptop keyboard but it's infinitely better than the on-screen keyboard of the iPad. It's also better than any of the third party keyboards available that never work and have separate batteries and chargers.  The Type Pad attaches to the Surface with magnets and draws power from it's battery.  The physical connection just works.
  • The Surface is really not that much heavier than an iPad, you can barely tell if you hold one in each hand.  Impressive considering it has a bigger screen.
  • Battery life is good, about the same as the iPad in the limited use I have had so far.

You need to look closely to see a difference in the thickness between the Surface Pro 3 and the iPad 4.  Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Apple iPad 4 naked and side-by-side

 

With the covers, they are about the same, though the Surface cover is infinitely more useful.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover and iPad 4 with Apple Case side-by-side

 
The iPad on-screen keyboard

iPad On Screen Keyboard

 
And on the Surface

Surface Pro 3 : On Screen Keyboard

 
As A Desktop Replacement
 

Not even close.  Anyone who claims that the Surface is a desktop replacement does not have any significant computing needs.  If you are surfing the web and sending email then it's a great desktop replacement.  If you need some horsepower, it definitely isn't.

This is a photography blog, and I use my desktop for editing photos.  When I purchased my Nikon D800 a couple of years ago, I quickly realized that my old desktop would not handle the huge 36 megapixel raw files.  I decided to build a desktop, and with several upgrades over the years I'm running a Intel Core i7 2600K, native is 3.4GHz but I have it overclocked to 4.5GHz and it's very stable with just air cooling.  32 GB of RAM, 2 SSD drives (one OS/apps and one for swap, scratch, temp, etc), 5 hard drives in RAID-5 for data storage, and a GeForce GPU with 2GB RAM.  This desktop doesn't have any issues with photo editing, and is miles ahead of the Surface in terms of performance.
 
By the time a Surface model is released with this type of performance I'm sure my camera will be shooting 100+mp.  For some applications, there is no replacement for a fast desktop computer.

 
Conclusion
 

So far, the Surface as proved to be a device capable of replacing both my laptop and my iPad.  I'm still in the honeymoon phase and haven't used it in every scenario but I don't see it causing me any major problems.  When travelling, I will be able to replace two devices with one, and that is always a good thing.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover : Lenovo X1 Carbon and iPad 4 Stack

 
Surface Pro 3 : With Type Cover and Surface Pen

 

 

 


Nikon D800 Top

What is Nikon Thinking? D300S, D7100, D610, D700, D750, Df, D810, D4s Compared

With the release of the D750, I'm starting to wonder what Nikon is thinking with their lineup.  Shooters I know are waiting for a true replacement for both the D300s and the D700.  Arguments can be made that the D7100 replaces the D300s, and the D750 replaces the D700.  However, an equal number (and maybe more) arguments can be made that no replacements exist.  In this post, I'll quickly cover some of the specs that differentiate the cameras that are current in the lineup.  Nikon has a lot of bodies on their site but I wouldn't consider many of them current (D90, really?).  Here, I'll just look at the D300s, D7100, D610, D700, D750, Df, D810 and the D4s.  The other bodies (D7000, D4, etc. that Nikon still lists are all very similar to at least one model discussed below).

 

 

Spec

D300s

D7100

D610

D700

D750

Df

D810

D4s

Release Date20092013201420082014201320142014
Price$1500$1200$2000$2500$2300$2750$3300$6500
Sensor Resolution (MP)1224241224163616

 Nikon DSLR Lineup: Price vs Megapixels

Nikon DSLR Lineup Price vs Megapixels Sept 2014: D3300, D5300, D300s, D7100, D610, D700, D750, Df, D810, D4s

(Click for larger)

 

I'm not listing the spec of the lower end cams in the table, but they are shown on the graph above. In general the price curve makes sense, even if the D3300 is a kit price (with lens) and the rest are body-only. Higher spec bodies are higher in price.

  • The D4s takes a huge jump in price, but it is as the top of the lineup and does offer great performance.
  • The majority of the Nikon lineup now uses as 24 megapixel sensor, which is plenty of resolution for almost any application.  It must be a sweet spot for price and performance.  Now I realize that megapixels are not the only measure of performance but they do play a role, many consumers still stick to 'more is better'.  The current cameras present a marketing challenge for Nikon, and so far they have not done a good job of telling us why you would buy one model over another.
  • The D300s is sitting with just 12 megapixels (APS-C), for less money you get a much more capable camera in a D7100 but you give up build quality and familiar ergonomics.
  • The D700 is also sitting at 12 megapixels (full frame), and Nikon has options that are more capable but unfortunately not in the same body.  The D750 has a better sensor (six years of evolution is an eternity in the tech world), but in a lesser body.  The D810 has a better sensor (best on the market in any DSLR), but with a much lower frame rate.  There is no clear upgrade path.
  • The Df is an oddball too, having only 16 megapixels, no flash, no video, and a mix of modern and classic controls.

Let's look at a few more stats.

Spec

D300s

D7100

D610

D700

D750

Df

D810

D4s

ISO Range200 - 3200100 - 6400100 - 6400200 - 6400100 - 12800100 - 1280064 - 12800100 - 25600
AF Points5151395151395151
Max Shutter1/80001/80001/40001/80001/40001/40001/80001/8000
Frame Rate7/8665/865.5511

 Nikon DSLR Lineup: Price vs Frame Rate

Nikon DSLR Lineup Price vs Frame Rate Sept 2014: D3300, D5300, D300s, D7100, D610, D700, D750, Df, D810, D4s

(Click for larger)

 

One thing that strikes me is that the D300s is a camera that was released in 2009 and Nikon has nothing since (outside of the very expensive pro bodies) that has bettered the frame rate.  If we look at the D700 it's even more apparent (8fps with grip).  Both the D300s and D700 feature pro build and ergonomics, fast frame rates, great autofoucs and other related 'pro' features (flash sync speed, max shutter, etc.).  The D7100 comes close to replacing the D300s, but you need to accept a different style body with different ergonomics.  Same for the D610 or D750 replacing the D700, they don't truly do so. To me, the Df is a waste of time.  Sure, it's good in low light but that is because it has a great sensor.  The rest of it is there just to get the old guys to buy it for nostalgia.  It is crippled with a poor AF module (relative to price), no video (that isn't a 'feature'), and more. Anyone who was going to buy one did so already, ditch it.  The D750 should have been a pro body (controls same as a D810), with 16 or 24 megapixels.  In fact, this is what I think Nikon should have done, if you don't agree let me know :)

 

DX

FX

Spec

D7100

D400

D610

D750

D810

D4s

BodyConsumerProConsumerProProPro
Price$1200$1800$2000$2500$3300$6500
Sensor Resolution (MP)242416243616
ISO Range100 - 6400100 - 6400100 - 6400100 - 1280064 - 12800100 - 25600
AF Points515139515151
Max Shutter1/80001/80001/40001/80001/80001/8000
Frame Rate6868511

To me, it's a more clear lineup. Two capable DX cameras, one in a consumer body and one in a pro body. The pro body will have a faster frame rate, a tougher build, and the same ergonomics as the pro FX bodies. The FX bodies also seem to have a clear distinction between them. Entry level D610 is a consumer type body, with a less capable AF system and slower max shutter (other features may also be worth discussing). The D750 should have been a true successor to the D700, same frame rate and build quality but with double the pixels. The D810 is the high resolution beast and the D4s the speed demon for those that need it. Each one has a clear place in the lineup and people may buy more than one.


Expert Shield vs GGS Screen Protector : Anti-Glare and Standard

Expert Shield vs GGS Screen Protector for Nikon D800

 

I'm giving away two Expert Shield screen protectors. Draw will take place on September 19, 2014. No stings, no BS. I have an extra Sony RX100 model and the D800 anti-glare model.

 

All you have to do is comment on this post with which model you want, add a valid email address (which won't be visible to anyone but me). Winners will be announced here and I'll contact you for a shipping address. Good luck!

 
Expert Shield Free Draw - Screen protectors for RX100 and D800

 

Update: I only had entries for the D800 model, and the winner is Peter Looper!  I might run another draw for the RX100 model at another time.

Draw Winner

 


 

Some time ago I posted about my issues with the GGS screen protectors.  The first one was faulty, second one was different from the first and had a plastic border which obscured the top and bottom of the LCD.  My third one (same as the first), arrived and it had some scratches on the glass.  I ended up using it, fed up with the whole process.  Needless to say, I wasn't happy with the experience and made worse because you can't seem to contact the company directly.

About a year ago, I purchased a Sony RX-100 and decided to use an Expert Shield screen protector on that camera.  It installed perfectly, no bubbles and you can't seven see it's there.  One year later, it's still on the camera and I have had no problems with it at all.

I decided to finally replace the GGS screen protector on my D800 with an Expert Shield.  I have the standard and anti-glare models, but decided to go with the standard one.  The installation was easy, as before, and the result looks like a naked D800 LCD but I know it's well protected.  Here are a few photos from the process.

The GGS, note how it sits raised above the body.  It isn't a perfect fit, and the one with the plastic frame (gen 2?) is a terrible fit.

Expert Shield vs GGS Screen Protector : GGS on Nikon D800

 

Another shot of the GGS.

Expert Shield vs GGS Screen Protector : GGS on Nikon D800 2

 

Last one of GGS.

Expert Shield vs GGS Screen Protector : GGS on Nikon D800 Back

 

The Expert Shield covers, which come with a microfiber cloth to aid installation.

Expert Shield vs GGS Screen Protector : Anti-Glare and Standard

Expert Shield mounted on D800, a near-perfect fit for the LCD.  It comes with covers for both the rear and top LCD plates.

Expert Shield vs GGS Screen Protector : Expert Shield on D800

 

One more of the Expert Shield, looks and works great.

Expert Shield vs GGS Screen Protector : Expert Shield on D800 Back

 

Overall, I'm very happy with the product and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good screen protector.  It's much nicer than the standard Nikon covers and works much better than the GGS covers I tried.  I will be using this on all of my cameras from now on.

 

 


Sony RX100 Black and White : Jammie Beach : RAW conversion with Silver Efex Pro 2.0, Photoshop, and Lightroom

Sony RX100 Black & White : Camera vs Silver Efex Pro 2

I love this new Sony RX100, it's a fantastic little camera.  I'm impressed with the quality and that is saying a lot since my other camera is a Nikon D800.  The D800 does spoil you with pixels and huge dynamic range, and you really notice the advantage when you start processing raw files from another camera.  However, the RX100 takes infinitely better images when I leave the big camera at home because it doesn't fit in my pocket.

This post is just showing three images from the RX100,  I was shooting in RAW+JPG in black and white mode.  The first image is straight from the camera.  I used default settings, but you can change contrast and exposure settings in the camera before taking a shot.

Sony RX100 Black and White : Jammie Beach : Camera JPG

 

The image below is the same shot (camera JPG) but with minor processing done in Adobe Lightroom 5.  I think it looks a bit better, there some contrast adjustments, sharpening, vignette, and other minor changes.

Sony RX100 Black and White : Jammie Beach : Lightroom Edit

The last image is processed from raw (ARW) using Lightroom 5, Photoshop CS5, and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.0.  I think it turned out the best but I also spent more time processing it than the image above.

Sony RX100 Black and White : Jammie Beach : RAW conversion with Silver Efex Pro 2.0, Photoshop, and Lightroom

 


2012-12-05 : Belize-Dock - WP Retina 2x Plugin Test

Testing WP Retina 2x Plugin

This post is to test the WP Retina 2x plugin for Wordpress. The image was uploaded at 2880x1500 (603kb).  I'm also using CloudFlare and CloudFront with w3 Total Cache so I want to test it out to see if this configuration will actually work.  The photo is from my trip to Belize.

 

2012-12-05 : Belize-Dock - WP Retina 2x Plugin Test


Nikon D800 Autofocus Test Setup

Nikon D800 Autofocus Repair Testing - The Sequel

This is the third time I'm posting about the testing of my D800 autofocus system.  The first time was not long after I purchased it, just to see if it had the problem.  I found that it did have the problem, and I sent it to Nikon for repair.  When the camera came back, I tested it again.  Initially I thought it may have been fixed, but further testing showed there was still a problem.

During this time, I also purchased LensAlign and FocusTune to help me more accurately fine tune my lenses and camera, but also to help me quantify the results.  When I tested my lenses, I noticed that the recommended fine tune values for three of my five lenses was +20 (the highest possible).  This suggested to me that the actual sharpest fine tune value may be even higher than than, but the scale does not allow further adjustment.  Said another way, if the fine tune is at the maximum value, the calibration is not within spec for the camera/lens combination.  I decided to give my D800 and my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8D, and Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 to Nikon along with my results to see if they can fix the left autofocus problem plus calibrate the camera for the three lenses.

I finally received my camera back, and had a chance to test it with two lenses.  I tested with the 24-70 and the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR (this lens didn't go to Nikon).  I did not fine tune the camera and lenses before testing, this is how Nikon sent it to me.  I used the same test procedures I outlined previously, with a small twist because I now have FocusTune to help me out.  The results here are all RAW conversions (the only adjustment I made in Lightroom was to convert to grayscale).  I shot in RAW+JPG (L/Fine), I shot a manual focus control shot for each of the five focus test points tested (center, top, bottom, left right - all at the farthest AF points).  Between each autofocus test shot, I defocused away from infinity and took five shots for each focus point.  I then loaded all of the JPG files into FocusTune and for each focus point I found the SHARPEST result from the five samples, so the results here are the best shots from the group.

One thing to note, last time I sent the D800 to Nikon the work order showed "ADJ FOCUS SYSTEM" and "ADJ AUTO FOCUS OPERATION". This time, the work order had:

[box]

B2

Service Repair Rank B2

Repair

RPL O-RING

CLN CCD

FIRMWARE UPGRADE

GENERAL CHECK & CLEAN

RPR ELECTRICAL CIRCUIT

[/box]

It is worthwhile to note that I was not having any problems with my D800 outside of the autofocus system, I'm not sure why they replaced the o-ring and worked on the electrical system. I see no mention of them even looking at the autofocus system.

 

Lenses Tested

AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G

AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED

AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED

 

Test Results

The grouped results for the 105mm lens, 100% crop under the autofocus sensor tested.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 105mmf/2.8 Micro VR: 105mm Results

Apologies that some of these are dark, I didn't want to make any adjustments so they are presented straight from the camera with no editing.  I don't see any major issues here, the focus system seems to be fairly consistent between all of the points.  Here is a closer look at the 105mm left side results.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR : 105mm L5 Detail

 

I would say this is fine, doesn't quite match the manual focus using live view and 100% zoom but I don't think phase detect AF is ever going to be as good.

The grouped results for the 24-70mm lens at 24mm.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 : 24mm Results

Here, the left side AF sensor is clearly softer than the others in the group.  Here is a bigger version of just the left side results.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 : 24mm L5 Detail

 

The grouped results for the 24-70mm lens at 70mm.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 24-70mmf/2.8 : 70mm Results

Once again, some softness on the left side.  Bigger version of 70mm left side results.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 24-70mmf/2.8 : 70mm L5 Detail

 

I would say it's not as bad as the 24mm left side test, however I would not say this is acceptable performance.  The lens works fine at the other focus points, here are details of the performance at the center focus point at 24mm.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8mm : 24mm C Detail

 

The 24-70mm center focus point at 70mm.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 24-70mmf/2.8 : 70mm C Detail

 

Both of these are completely acceptable and would not give me any reason for concern.  However, the left side AF sensors continue to give me grief.  I'm not sure if it's the lens or the body though, because the 105mm seems to focus fine at the left side.  I'll try to test with my 50mm f/1.8G to see how it performs, and I'll post the results here when I'm finished.

 Update, April 2, 2013

The grouped results for the 14-24mm lens at 24mm, center and lower AF points are good, others soft.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 : 24mm Results

 

The 14-24 @ 24mm L5 sensor detail.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 : 24mm L5 Detail

 

 

The grouped results for the 50mm, again center and lower AF points are good, others soft.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 : 50mm Results

 

50mm L5 detail, not terrible but could be better.

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test : Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 : 50mm L5 Detail

 

In general, the whole AF system seems to be a little off.  Fine tune won't fix this as the various AF points don't correlate to each other in how far out of focus they are.  If they were all equally off, fine tune could fix that.  Some, such as the center and lower (C, D2) AF point are excellent, others (such as L5) are consistently off.  If I fine tune, I'll be throwing off the good ones.

 

 

 


Nikon D800 Angle 2

Nikon D800 and D800E Setup and Configuration

D800 Big Lens

I now have a page with the setup and configuration for the Nikon D810.

A while back, Out There Images posted a list of recommended settings for the Nikon D800. I used that as a starting point to create four custom menu banks for my most common shooting situations.  The menu banks are not great because they don't save all of the settings you need to change, but they are better than nothing.  The U1/U2 settings of the D7000 and D600 are superior to the menu banks both in terms of features and ease of use.  I have no idea why Nikon has decided to leave out such a fantastic function on their high-end cameras.  Neither the D800 nor the D4 have the U1/U2 settings.  Nice work Nikon.

Here are the four menu banks I created:

  • HDR - sets up the camera for high dynamic range shooting.  I usually use a tripod, have time for manual focus, etc.  If the shutter speed is fairly slow, I also turn on "Exposure delay mode" (custom setting d4).
  • Action - I often use this when photographing dogs at the local animal shelter.
  • Portrait - useful not just for portraits but for any stationary or slow moving target.
  • Point & Shoot - Since I use the "AF-ON" focusing technique (*1), it makes it difficult to hand my camera to a stranger if I want to be in the photo.  Rather than try to explain the technique, I just change the settings and let them shoot.  I also use this mode when I give the camera to my wife, sometimes she just wants to take a few simple shots so this mode shoots in jpeg with things configured to make shooting easier.

The settings for all four modes are outlined below.  Note that the settings just make the starting point for configuration easier.  It doesn't mean these are always the settings I use when shooting.  I may not use ISO100 for all situations nor the same AF settings.  If you want to use them as a starting point for your own custom settings it is easiest to just download my config file here: Nikon D800 custom settings file. You should also grab the custom picture control explained in footnote 3. To use the custom settings file, copy it to your media card, insert the media card into your camera and navigate to SETUP MENU -> Save/load settings -> Load settings. This will copy the settings over to your camera.  You may want to save your own settings before you copy mine to your camera in case you need to revert back.

Note the [change this] in the settings below, these are things you will want to change in your own camera before you start shooting.  At the bottom, you can also see what I put in "MY MENU" to access some controls I often change on the fly.

To switch between the various menu banks, you have several options:

  • The slow way.  Go to menu -> shooting menu -> shooting menu bank -> select your bank.  Then go to custom setting menu -> custom settings bank -> select your bank.
  • I have 'shooting menu bank' and 'custom settings bank' as the top two items of 'my menu'.  This allows me to change the settings relatively quickly but also provides a visual reminder of what banks I'm using when I go into this menu.
  • The fastest way is to simply press the "info" button twice, that should select your shooting bank.  Press the center button in the multi-selector, pick your setting.  Do the same for custom settings bank.

If you have questions, or a suggestion feel free to leave them in the comments at the bottom of the page.  If you want more detail on the settings below download Nikon's D800/D800E manual (free), for something even better I recommend Thom Hogan's Complete Guide to the D800/D800E ($30).  Thom not only covers the options but gives you a recommendation on what to use for each setting.

HDRActionPortraitPoint & Shoot
EXTERNAL CONTROLS
Exposure ModeA (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)P (Program)
Metering Mode3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix Metering
Bracketing5F, +/-1 EV (use 7 or 9F if needed)OffOffOff
Shooting ModeTimerCH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)
WBAutoAutoAutoAuto
ISO100Auto100Auto
QUALRAWRAWRAWJPEG FINE
Autofocus Mode *1Manual or AF-C, single pointAF-C, 3DAF-C, single pointAF-S, Auto
SETUP MENU
Format memory cardAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Monitor brightnessManual (0)Manual (0)Manual (0)Manual (0)
Clean image sensorClean at shutdownClean at shutdownClean at shutdownClean at shutdown
Lock mirror up cleaningAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Image Dust Off ref photoAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
HDMIDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Flicker reductionAutoAutoAutoAuto
Time zone and dateSet to local timeSet to local timeSet to local timeSet to local time
LanguageEnglishEnglishEnglishEnglish
Auto image rotationOnOnOnOn
Battery infoN/AN/AN/AN/A
Wireless TransmitterN/AN/AN/AN/A
Image comment *2NoneNoneNoneNone
Copyright InformationOn [change this]On [change this]On [change this]On [change this]
Save/load settingsAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
GPSN/AN/AN/AN/A
Virtual horizonN/AN/AN/AN/A
Non-CPU lens dataN/AN/AN/AN/A
AF fine tuneSet for your lenses if neededSet for your lenses if neededSet for your lenses if neededSet for your lenses if needed
Firmware versionN/AN/AN/AN/A
SHOOTING MENU
Shooting menu bankABCD
Extended menu banksONONONON
Storage folderDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
File NamingMKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]
Primary slot selectionCF card slotCF card slotCF card slotCF card slot
Secondary slot functionBackupBackupBackupBackup
Image qualityRAWRAWRAWJPEG FINE
Image SizeN/AN/AN/ALarge
Image area
- Auto DX cropOnOnOnOn
- Choose Image areaFXFXFXFX
JPEG CompressionOpitmal QualityOpitmal QualityOpitmal QualityOpitmal Quality
NEF (RAW) recording
- TypeLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressed
- NEF bit depth14-bit14-bit14-bit14-bit
White BalanceAuto1Auto1Auto1Auto1
Set Picture Control *3Custom (Live View Max Sharp)SD (Standard)PT (Portrait)VI (Vivid)
Manage Picture ControlDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Color SpaceAdobeRGBAdobeRGBAdobeRGBsRGB
Active D-LightingOffOffOffOff
HDR (high dyn. range)N/A (disalbed when shooting RAW)N/A (disalbed when shooting RAW)N/A (disalbed when shooting RAW)Off
Vignette controlNormalNormalNormalHigh
Auto distortion controlOnOnOnOn
Long Exp. NROffOffOffOff
High ISO NRLowLowLowNormal
ISO Sensitivity Settings
ISO sensitivity100100100100
Auto ISO sensitivity controlOffOn (Max ISO: 6400, Min shutter: auto,faster)OffOn (Max ISO: 6400, Min
shutter: auto,faster)
Multiple exposureOffOffOffOff
Interval timer shootingOffOffOffOff
Time-lapse photographyOffOffOffOff
Movie settings
Frame size/rate1920x1080; 30fps1920x1080; 30fps1920x1080; 30fps1920x1080; 30fps
Movie qualityHighHighHighHigh
MicrophoneAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivity
DestinationSDSDSDSD
CUSTOM SETTING MENU
Sustom settings bankABCD
a1 AF-C priority selectReleaseReleaseReleaseRelease
a2 AF-S priority selectFocusFocusFocusFocus
a3 Focus track lock-onOffLongShortNormal
a4 AF ActivationOff (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)On
a5 AF point illuminationOnOnOnOn
a6 Focus point wrapOffOffOffOff
a7 Number of focus points51515151
a8 Built-in AF assist illumOffOffOffOff
b1 ISO sensitivity step val.1/31/31/31/3
b2 EV steps for exposure1/31/31/31/3
b3 Exp./flash comp step1/31/31/31/3
b4 Easy exposure comp.OffOffOffOff
b5 Center-weighted area12mm12mm12mm12mm
b6 Fine tune optimal exp.0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)
c1 Shutter-release AE-LOffOffOffOff
c2 Auto meter-off delay10s10s10s10s
c3 Self-timer
- Self-timer delay2s10s10s10s
- Number of shots5 (should match # bracket exposures)111
- Interval between shots0.5s0.5s0.5s0.5s
c4 Monitor off delay
- Playback10s10s10s10s
- Menus1m1m1m1m
- Information display10s10s10s10s
- Image review10s10s10s10s
- Live view10m10m10m10m
d1 BeepOffOffOffOff
d2 CL mode shoot speed2fps2fps2fps2fps
d3 Max continuous release100100100100
d4 Exposure delay modeOff (on if exposures slow)Off (on if exposures slow)Off (on if exposures slow)Off (on if exposures slow)
d5 File number sequenceOnOnOnOn
d6 Viewfinder grid displayOnOnOnOn
d7 ISO display adjustmentOffOffOffOff
d8 Screen tipsOnOnOnOn
d9 Information displayAutoAutoAutoAuto
d10 LCD illuminationOnOnOnOn
d11 MB-D12 battery typeLR6LR6LR6LR6
d12 Battery orderMB-D12MB-D12MB-D12MB-D12
e1 Flash Sync Speed1/2501/2501/2501/250
e2 Flash shutter speed1/601/601/601/60
e3 Flash cntrl built-inTTLTTLTTLTTL
e4 Modeling flashOnOnOnOn
e5 Auto bracketing setAEAEAEAE
e6 Auto bracket (Mode M)Flash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speed
e7 Bracketing orderUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > over
f1 switchLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info display
f2 Multiselect center button
- Shooting modeResetResetResetReset
- Playback modeZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnification
- Live viewZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnification
f3 Multi selectorOffOffOffOff
f4 Assign Fn button
- Fn button pressViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizon
- Fn button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f5 Assign preview button
- Preview button pressPreviewPreviewPreviewPreview
- Preview button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f6 Assign AE-L/AF-L button
- AE-L/AF-L button pressAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lock
- AE-L/AF-L + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f7 Shutter spd & ap lockN/AN/AN/AN/A
f8 Assign BKT ButtonBKTBKTBKTBKT
f9 Cust. command dialsDefault (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)
f10 Release button to use  dialOffOffOffOff
f11 Slot emply release lockLockLockLockLock
f12 Reverse indicators- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +
f13 Assign MB-D12 AF-ONAF-ONAF-ONAF-ONAF-ON
g1 Assign Fn buttonPower aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)
g2 Assign preview buttonPower aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)
g3 Assign AE-L/AF-LAE LockAE LockAE LockAE Lock
g4 Assign shutter buttonTake photosTake photosTake photosTake photos
PLAYBACK MENU
DeleteSelectedSelectedSelectedSelected
Playback folderND800 (default)ND800 (default)ND800 (default)ND800 (default)
Hide imageDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Playback display optionsHighlights, RGB histogram, OverviewHighlights, RGB histogram, OverviewHighlights, RGB histogram, OverviewHighlights, RGB histogram, Overview
Copy image(s)N/AN/AN/AN/A
Image reviewOffOffOffOff
After deleteShow nextShow nextShow nextShow next
Rotate tallOffOffOffOff
Slide showN/AN/AN/AN/A
DPOF print orderN/AN/AN/AN/A
MY MENU
Shooting menu Bank
Custom settings bank
c3 Self-timer
d4 Exposure delay mode
ISO sensitivity settings
Long exposure NR
Active D-Lighting

Footnotes

*1 - Autofocus : I have started using the "AF-ON" technique (for lack of a better term) to focus my camera. You can read more about the technique here. You will see that in my settings, I primarily use AF-C as the default focus mode when I use the camera. With the AF-ON technique, you decouple the focusing of the camera from the shutter press. The nice thing is that you can have both continuous and static autofocus at the same time. Focus and recompose is also easier as you don't have to keep the shutter half-pressed, just release the AF-ON button and the camera stops focusing. It works very well, but takes a bit of getting used to. This technique works on both Nikon and Canon cameras (likely other brands as well but I haven't checked into it).

*2 - Image comment : There are two spots to put your personal info into the file EXIF data: "Image comment" and "Copyright information". Some people use both, but there isn't really a reason to do so. I have found one reason not to use the 'image comment' field, and that is because the comment shows up in the description field when you post images online (facebook for example). At times, I post images to facebook and I don't want the description for each one to say "copyright 2013...", blah, blah, blah. My friends want to see something about the image, not a copyright notice. For me, it just makes the upload process more time consuming and it doesn't add any value. You may like it, so feel free to use the field if that fits into your workflow.

*3 - Set Picture Control : The live view of the Nikon D800 isn't great, but I still use it at times to get sharp focus. I zoom in the live view display and manually focus the lens to the best setting. If you change the picture control to the highest sharpening level you actually get a better display. Since I almost always shoot in raw, this has no effect on the final image. You can edit your existing picture control but it's best to create a new, custom, one. To make this easier, you can download a custom picture control I created called Live View Max Sharp. Unzip the file, you should see a "Nikon" folder, copy that to the top level (root) of your flash card and put the card into your camera. In the menu, go to SHOOTING MENU (camera icon)-> Manage picture control -> Load/save -> Copy to camera => Live View Max Sharp, click "OK". Select one of the custom picture control spaces to use (C1..C9) and you are done. Now you still have all of your default picture controls plus the new one to pick from.



Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Left Side

Nikon D600 Vs Canon 6D - Entry Level Full Frame Scrap

Photographers should be happy, both Nikon and Canon have released 'affordable' full frame cameras into their lineup. Nikon is already shipping theirs while Canon simply announced a camera with availability in a few months. Nothing like a 'me too' announcement when the competition gets the jump on you. Nikon is first to market with the D600, a $2100 USD, 24 megapixel camera. Canon follows up with the 6D, a $2100, 20 megapixel camera.

This year, there seems to be a shift towards Nikon in terms of technical camera performance. Before the latest models were released, Canon had a highly successful offering in the 5D Mark II, a 21 megapixel full frame camera with high quality video capability for $2700 (at launch).  Nikon could not compete on video spec, or resolution with the D700 and D3S having only 12 megapixels.  The insanely priced D3X had 24 megapixels but at $8000 it did not compete well with Canon's offering.

Fast forward to 2012 and Nikon has a 36 megapixel D800 ($3000), a 24 megapixel D600 ($2100), and a 16 megapixel D4 ($6000).  Canon in turn released the 5D Mark III adding only 1 megapixel for a total of 22 and is now charging $3500 for the body.  It follows that with a 20 megapixel 6D for $2100 and an 18 megapixel 1D X for $6800.  Megapixels are not everything, but looking at the full frame landscape today it's obvious that Nikon didn't like taking a back seat and has come back with a vengence.

All those megapixels don't mean much if they don't perform well.  Not only did Nikon ratchet up the resolution they also developed some high quality sensors as well.  Looking at the DxO Mark scores you can see that Nikon is at the top of the pile in DSLR performance these days.

DxO Mark D600 D800 5D Mark III

 

Looking at the scores, it's a thorough trashing of Canon. The Nikon cameras have a history of good dynamic range, but the new sensors really take it up a notch. Even the entry level D600 beats Canon's 5DIII. Unfortunately, the 6D scores are not available yet but I'm sure they will be lower than those of the 5DIII. Canon has some catching up to do in the next refresh of the lineup though I doubt Nikon will rest on their laurels.

With the sensor discussion out of the way (mostly), we can see how other features of the two entry level cameras stack up. Comparing the physical cameras first.

Left side view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Left Side
 

Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Left Side

 

Rear view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Back

 

Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Back

 

Front view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Front

 

Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Front

 

Top view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Top

 

Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Top

 

Nikon seems to put more buttons on their cameras, especially on the front. I can't comment much on the handling of the Canon cameras as I haven't spent much time with them so I'll reserve judgement on ergonomics and accessibility of features only to say that Nikon is clearly better ;)

 

Now looking at the basic specs.

Spec

Nikon D600

Canon 6D

Sensor Resolution (MP)24.3 megapixels20.2 megapixels
Max Image Resolution6,016 x 4,0165,472 x 3,648
ViewfinderPentaprismPentaprism
Viewfinder Coverage100%97%
Built-in FlashYes (with wireless control)No
Storage MediaDual SD cardSingle SD card
Frame rate5.5 fps4.5 fps
Max Shutter Speed1/4000 to 30 sec1/4000 to 30 sec
Shutter Durability150,000100,000
Native ISO100-6,400100-25,600
Boosted ISO50-25,60050-102,400
Autofocus39-point AF with 9 cross type11-point AF with 1 cross-type
Autofocus Detectionf/8f/5.6
GPSVia adapterBuilt-in
WifiVia Eye-FiBuilt-in

 

Nikon is clearly ahead in almost all of the performance specs. It has higher resolution, faster frame rates, better autofocus, and dual storage cards. Canon has better ISO numbers but I suspect the D600 will be clearly superior in low light performance compared to the 6D. Makes no difference if the 6D goes to 100K ISO, those photos are not usable. The DxO Mark scores already show that the D600 is better than the much more expensive 5D Mark III so it's unlikely the 6D will fare any better. Canon throws in some gizmos like GPS and Wifi to try and distract you from the obvious performance gap.

It's unlikely anyone would jump ship form one brand to another as an investment in lenses usually means the cost to switch is significantly higher than simply the cost of the body. I'm sure the 6D will be a capable camera however if you are new to the DSLR world and considering these two models the Nikon D600 is a technically better camera.

Also see: Nikon D7000 vs D600 vs D800.


Nikon D7000, D600, D800 Visual Comparison : Front and Rear View

Nikon D7000 vs D600 vs D800 : A Quick Comparison

Nikon just announced their new entry level full frame DSLR camera, the D600. It wasn't a very well kept secret as leaks started getting out months ago. There was speculation that this would be a sub-$2000 USD camera but in the end the retail price at launch is $2100. Still a good price considering the sensor and other options. It looks like a blend between a D7000 and D800 both in terms of spec and appearance. Below you can see some of the similarities and differences between the three bodies.

The Nikon D600 with Nikkor 200mm f/2 lens.
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Nikkor 200mm f/2 Lens

 

I'm not gong to rehash the full specification of any camera. Nikon and many other reviews provide that info already. If you want to check into the details, here are the spec sheets for the three cameras: D7000, D600, D800.

 

What I do want to cover is how the cameras are similar and how they are different. Just taking a look at the camera, it looks like Nikon took a D7000 body and shoehorned a full frame sensor inside. Some modifications to the body were necessary, but for the most part the cameras are very similar in terms of layout.

 

Nikon D600 Front View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camra : Front View
 

Nikon D600 Right Side View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Right Side View

 

Nikon D600 Left Side View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Left Side View

 

Nikon D600 Rear View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Rear View

 

Nikon D600 Top View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Top View

 

Finally, a comparison between the D7000, D600, and D800
Nikon D7000, D600, D800 Visual Comparison : Front and Rear View

 

If you look at the three bodies, you can see that the D600 has some controls more like a D7000 and others more like a D800. Not a bad thing for a model that fits in between the two in the lineup. Users on either end of the spectrum should be comfortable with the controls, though I think it's more like a D7000 and targeted at the consumer/hobby segment of the market.

 

Nikon D700 users who were hoping for a clear upgrade path didn't get one. Nikon provided a clear upgrade for the D3S in the D4, but the D700 was essentially split into two cameras. The D800 a higher resolution but slower camera (which also replaced the D3X) and a D600 which is a smaller and less feature rich body. For professionals, the upgrade path is likely the D800 due to it's ergonomics, autofocus speed, full magnesium body, compact flash storage, flash sync, max shutter speed, and shutter durability. For hobby shooters, serious amateurs, and pros who need a back up body the D600 may be the better choice. It still provides great image quality in a smaller and lighter package. Regardless, the D600 at $2100 US is destined to sell very well.

 

In terms of pricing, Nikon has a very linear price curve at the lower end of the lineup. It's clear that they want to hit every market segment and ensure they capture every type of buyer. Having said that, the D300S seems to be the most in need of an update and without it in the lineup there would be a significant gap between the D7000 and the D600. To me, this means that a D400 will be announced in the not too distant future. It will likely carry on the tradition of a high end, high-speed crop sensor (DX) body with pro level ergonomics.
 
Nikon DSLR Prices : D3200, D5100, D7000, D300S, D600, D800, D4

 

Differences between the cameras button layouts are obvious, no big surprises for anyone used to shooting a Nikon body. There are also some significant differences inside the shells as well.

Spec

D7000

D600

D800

Sensor Resolution (MP)16.2 megapixels24.3 megapixels36.3megapixels
Sensor SizeAPS-C (DX)Full frame (FX)Full frame (FX)
Max Resolution (pixels)4928 x 32646016 x 40167360 x 4912
DX Resolution (MP)16.2 megapixels10.3 megapixels15.3 megapixels
DX Resolution (pixels)4928 x 32643,936 x 2,6244,800 x 3,200
Sensor Pixel Size4.78µ5.9µ4.8µ

 

The D800 is clearly the resolution leader, not just for Nikon but all DSLR cameras as of September 2012 (and likely for some time to come). The D800 also holds it's own quite well even when shot in DX mode. If you need the extra reach or still have DX lenses you get file sizes almost exactly the same as a D7000 but with the benefit of the better sensor and processing. However, no one should buy the D800 and shoot it in DX mode, use it just until you transition your lenses to FX or the odd time you don't need the full 36mp. If you plan to shoot DX all the time, save yourself $2000 and buy a D7000. The D600 has the biggest pixels, and likely the best pixel level noise traits but that is not relevant because what matters is noise level in the final image (on screen or in print). Downsampling a 36mp D800 file to the same resolution has noise benefits. I'm sure there will be a lot of comparisons between these two cameras very soon.

 

Spec

D7000

D600

D800

Frame Rate6 fps5.5 fps4 fps (FX), 6 fps (DX with grip)
U1 & U2 Modes?YESYESNO :(
Sync Speed1/2501/2001/250
Max Shutter1/80001/40001/8000
Storage MediaDual SD cardsDual SD cards1 compact flash + 1 SD card
Price$1000 USD$2100 USD$3000 USD

 

All three of these cameras have weather sealing, pentaprism (not pentamirror), 100% viewfinder coverage which is a good thing. D600 doesn't have USB 3.0, but who cares (most people use a card reader). The biggest disappointment for many users when the D800 was announced was the 4 fps shooting rate in FX mode. That is quite slow by modern DSLR standards but somewhat understandable when you see how much data is being crunched in that time. The D600 and D7000 are a more reasonable 5.5 and 6 fps respectively. I doubt anyone will complain about those specifications, they are fast enough for any enthusiast. The d600 gets the U1/U2 modes just like the D7000, it boggles the mind why Nikon did not include this on the D800. The menu banks are a joke by comparison, I don't even use them. Similar story with storage, D7000 and D600 both have dual SD card slots but the D800 gets SD+compact flash. Why? I get that they want to tailor to pros who may be invested in CF cards but give me a break. If you can buy a $3000 body you can likely but a couple of extra cards. With the resolution of the D800 most people will need new (and much bigger) cards anyway. It should have been dual CF, now I need to buy and carry two types of media.

 

One thing that is clear is that Nikon intentionally crippled the D600 with the 1/200 sync speed and 1/4000 max shutter speed. These may not be problems for many shooters, but for anyone serious about strobes or fast primes lenses in bright light will run into problems. Pros will likely skip the D600, even as a backup, for these reasons. Good for Nikon, bad for us.

 

In the end, the D600 fits very well into Nikon's new FX camera lineup. Unlike the previous lineup which had the D700, D3S, and D3X the new lineup of the D600, D800, and D4 offers better pricing for most users and a better distinction between the cameras in the lineup. I'm looking forward to seeing image samples from the D600 once they start getting into users hands.

Also see: Nikon D600 vs Canon 6D: an entry level full frame comparison


Nikon D800 Autofocus Test Setup

D800 Autofocus Repair Testing

[box type="info"]Update April 1, 2013: Testing after the second repair attempt by Nikon is now online here: https://photokaz.com/2013/04/nikon-d800-autofocus-repair-testing-the-sequel/[/box]

[box type="info"]Update January 20, 2013: Initial testing showed changes to the focus performance and I thought the slight softness in some shots could be fixed with fine tuning. After more testing, I could not get consistently sharp results from fine tuning. I had to set my fine tuning for the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens to +20 and that still didn't result in good performance. My AFS 50mm f/1.8 and AFD 80-200 f/2.8 lenses also had to have +20 of fine tuning. I dropped off my camera and the three lenses with Nikon last week, told them the problems and said I wanted everything repaired. I will once again post my results when I get the camera back.[/box]

[box type="info"]Update February 9, 2013: Got my camera back from Nikon, still waiting for my 24-70 lens. Some testing with the 50mm f/1.8G using FocusTune is not looking promising :([/box]

I made a previous post about the issues my Nikon D800 had with phase detect autofocus, my test charts clearly showed a problem with the left side AF sensors.  I dropped off my camera at Nikon and it came back with the following info.

[box]

B2

Service Repair Rank B2

ADJ FOCUS SYSTEM

ADJ AUTO FOCUS OPERATION

FIRMWARE UPGRADE

CLN CCD

GENERAL CHECK & CLEAN

[/box]

 

So it looks like Nikon actually did make a fix, though I have heard some people had cameras returned with B1 service repair but I'm not sure how they differ.  Today I decided to do some testing on the 'fixed' camera to see if it was any better.  Same test procedure as before, same Siemens Star test chart.  I only tested the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens as that more obviously showed the problems before.   Below you can see the results for the lens at 24mm, ISO 100.  Top row is Live View manual focus (reference), next is Live View autofocus (to test contrast detect AF), then two rows viewfinder (phase detect) autofocus tests.  The VF AF 1 is racking focus to the closest setting before letting autofocus take over, VF AF 2 was a rack to infinity.

Nikon D800 Post Fix Test - 24-70 f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 24mm

 

Disregard the differences in white balance, the right test chart was closer to a different set of lights. Focus should not be affected overall, and shows relatively consistent operation left, center, and right.

 

I repeated the test at 70mm but this time didn't test Live View autofocus. Here are the results.
Nikon D800 Post Fix Test - 24-70 f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 70mm

 

As before focus looks to be consistent, if not perfect, between the three tested points.

 

Finally, putting together my previous test charts with the updated tests shot today. Top row is Live View manual for reference, next row is the viewfinder autofocus tests before the fix and third row are the tests after the fix. This should clearly show that the fix worked. One thing to note is that the autofocus, even after the fix, is not in perfect focus however I hope that autofocus fine tune can fix that.
Nikon D800 Pre VS Post Fix Test - 24-70 f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 24mm


Nikon D800 Autofocus Test Setup

Nikon D800 Contrast and Phase Detect Autofocus Testing

[box type="info"]Update April 1, 2013: Testing after the second repair attempt by Nikon is now online here: https://photokaz.com/2013/04/nikon-d800-autofocus-repair-testing-the-sequel/[/box]

[box type="info"]Update January 20, 2013: Initial testing showed changes to the focus performance and I thought the slight softness in some shots could be fixed with fine tuning.  After more testing, I could not get consistently sharp results from fine tuning. I had to set my fine tuning for the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens to +20 and that still didn't result in good performance.  My AFS 50mm f/1.8 and AFD 80-200 f/2.8 lenses also had to have +20 of fine tuning.  I dropped off my camera and the three lenses with Nikon last week, told them the problems and said I wanted everything repaired.  I will once again post my results when I get the camera back.[/box]

[box type="info"] Update August 23, 2012: I finally had a chance to do some critical tests of my fixed Nikon D800. I can say that Nikon did fix the problem (still to be tested), I have posted updated test charts here.[/box]

[box type="info"] Update July 30, 2012: Picked up my D800 in Richmond today. I did some 'off the cuff' testing, hand held without a test chart. It seems to be fixed though I won't know for sure until I set up a proper test procedure again. I won't have time to do that until next week but will test again and post my results.[/box]

[box type="info"] Update July 20, 2012: Nikon has confirmed that the camera arrived in Toronto. They provided a service order number and a link to check the status, unfortunately the page is 'under construction'.  I hope that means it is just offline for a fix as I haven't visited the page before.[/box]

[box type="info"] Update July 18, 2012: I dropped off my D800 at the Nikon repair center in Vancouver (Richmond) along with my test results. They said that the high end bodies get shipped to Toronto, and I'll be without the camera for two to three weeks. Not fun, but worth it if they can fix the issue. If it comes back the same or worse I won't be too happy about it.[/box]

After reading several posts about the 'left autofocus point' problems of the Nikon D800, I decided to test my own camera to see if it needed repair.  Thom Hogan outlined a test method in his July 16, 2012 post and I decided to follow that method to test my camera, with a change.  Initially, I developed a test target as per Thom's suggestion but it led to problems so I did a second round of testing with the classic Siemens star.

Some notes about the camera and test

  • I have a camera purchased in Canada, it was very early in the release cycle so call it an 'early run' camera.
  • I used two lenses for the test, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G and Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8.
  • I have not made any changes to auto focus fine tune.
  • I used a Really Right Stuff TVC-33 carbon fiber tripod and BH-55 ball head to hold the camera.
  • All exposures shot in RAW, converted to jpg to display here but no sharpening, lens correction, etc. was added.  I only changed white balance and exposure to more easily compare things.  I also cropped to make comparison easier.  Everything managed with Adobe Lightroom 4.
  • The lenses did not have any filters installed.
  • Camera had distortion control turned off.
  • Shot at the widest aperture (f/1.8 for the 50mm and f/2.8 for the 24-70) and ISO 100.  The 24-70mm was shot at 24mm.
  • Camera was leveled using the built in leveling tool and a three-way hot shoe level.
  • The camera (sensor plane) was about 6.5' from the wall.
The notations used may be confusing, but work for me to keep track of what I'm shooting.  I used Live View to manually focus and autofocus.
LV M - L : This means Live View, manual focus, left sensor.
LV AF - C : Live View, autofocus, center
VF AF - R : viewfinder (phase detect) autofocus, right sensor.
For each lens, there are 9 images.
LV M (L/C/R)
LV AF (L/C/R)
VF AF (L/C/R)
I repeated the viewfinder AF tests several times, posted two samples.
I hope that makes sense.   Below are the results of the testing.

Test Results - 50mm f/1.8G

 

Top row is Live View manual focus, second row is Live View AF, and last two rows are viewfinder phase detect AF.  The 50mm does show less detail in the left AF sensor.  Note, bigger versions of these test images are below, this is just a summary.

Nikon D800 50mm f/1.8 AF test

Test Results - 24mm f/2.8G

 

The 24mm lens shows a much more severe left AF issue.

Nikon D800 24-70mm f/2.8 AF test

This is a tedious exercise to both shoot and post.  I did it twice as my first test chart didn't yield useful results.  My D800 does suffer from the left autofocus problem when using phase detect autofocus with the two lenses I tested.  It will need to go to Nikon to get repaired.

Here is my test setup, in case anyone is curious.

 

 

 

 

Nikon D800 Autofocus Test Setup

 

Here are the full test patterns and should be in the same order shown above.


If you want to download the test chart I used, you can do so here.
Siemens Star Focus Test Chart