D800 Test Image - flowers

My first images with the Nikon D800

My D800 finally arrived, charged the batteries and headed out with my dogs the next morning. Resisted the urge to photography my keyboard, floor, ceiling, and anything else boring just to play with it. Tried to make the first frame count!

I want to mention that I'm not that happy with the grip of the D800. I have big hands, XL gloves, and it seems small to me. I may just need to get used to it, but it is smaller than I expected.  It's not comfortable in the hands, especially with a bigger lens on the body.  I may have to buy the grip, which is not something I wanted as I like the size of the body as it is.   I'm going to shoot it without the grip for a while, see if I get used to it.

Some people have posted on various forums that their D800 came with a few hundred shutter actuations.  I checked the shutter count on my first frame, it was showing "2". Maybe they do a test shot at the factory?

This is the first frame from my camera.  I didn't set all of the settings I should have, but it is what it is.  Shot using the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8, auto ISO, aperture priority mode.  Processed from 14-bit lossless compressed raw in lightroom. Not the best, but I'm happy with things so far.  My dog Cedric, who is always an unwilling participant since there are more interesting things to do at the beach than sit around.  And yes, I can see my reflection in his eye.

First photo taken with my Nikon D800, my dog Cedric

Any my second shot, same settings.  This time of my dog Jammie.

Second photo taken with my Nikon D800, my dog Jammie

Flower shots below are shot on a sturdy tripod, Nikkor 105 f/2.8 VR, 2 second timer, 3 second exposure delay, live view focus. Processed from 14-bit lossless compressed raw in lightroom.  Better, happy with the first samples as I know they will get better from here.

D800 Test Image - Apple blossom

D800 Test Image - flowers

The full resolution jpeg (18MB) can be seen here.  The detail captured by the camera is amazing.


Nikon D800 D800E side by side

Why I chose the Nikon D800 over the D800E

I have been waiting for an update to the Nikon D700 for the better part of a year.  During that time, I have sold some DX lenses and bought FX lenses in preparation.  The delays were many and I almost picked up a D700 on several occasions and even looked around for a used D3s.  I wasn't in a hurry and still happy with the images my trusty D90 was producing.   In the end, the wait was worth it as the D800 looks like a fantastic camera.  I think the official specification surprised a lot of people.  36 megapixels, the fancy autofocus and metering from the D4, top notch video, and two models to choose from.  I did a rundown of the features I like and don't like in a previous post, suffice it to say it's mostly good.

Nikon D800 Angle 2

The latest camera announcement from Nikon produced two new bodies, the D800 and D800E.  For the first time ever, Nikon has produced a digital SLR camera without an optical lowpass filter, also known as an anti-aliasing (AA) filter or blur filter.  This is far from the first camera to ship without the filter though.  The Leica M8 and M9 (possibly others) don't have it, nor do many of the medium format bodies.  The two-body strategy has created some turmoil on the various internet forums and blogs as people are confused about which model to buy.  I was also confused, and flipped back and forth on which model to invest in until I settled on the D800 (with includes the filter).  I'll outline some of my reasons for the choice, maybe it will help someone else make their decision easier.

First, let me say that I'm an amateur photographer currently shooting a D90.  I have enjoyed the hobby for a number of years and plan to continue learning to improve my photography.  I have never shot a camera without the AA filter so this announcement threw me for a loop. My initial reaction was to jump on the D800E.  Everyone was saying how much better it will be, sharper, more contrast, etc.  I got caught up in the "sharper is better" mentality and put a deposit on a D800E.  I often shoot in RAW and before exporting to jpeg I always apply some sharpening (if you shoot jpg the camera does some sharpening for you), so I thought that I wouldn't have to do that if the camera was capturing a sharper image to begin with.  I also thought, by proxy, that the D800 would be soft and not give me the level of detail I wanted.  Those moiré issues won't bug me as I shoot landscapes and nature. In the end, a lot of assumptions and not much critical thinking and looking at how I will use the camera.  The gadget geek in me wanted the D800E, but in the end the more practical me won the argument.

Below are the reasons I have decided to get the plain ol' D800 but before I get there I would like to point out that the D800E still has some type of filter, but the effects cancel each other out.  If you are producing both types of bodies, this is likely necessary to maintain the integrity of the optical path to the sensor.  In the image below, you can see that the light gets split but then re-aligned in the D800E, unlike the D800 where it is split twice.  One can assume that this is not the same as removing the filter completely, but doing so would likely mean a slight re-design to the body which makes no sense from a mass production point of view.

Nikon-D800-vs-D800E-Low-Pass-Filter

An objective look at the D800

Suppose there was no D800E, we would all be saying how great the image quality (IQ) is on the D800 and comparing it to other models on the market.  We would be thrilled with the increased resolution and level of detail this camera will provide.  Everyone who was planning to get the D800 would by happy.  Nikon threw a wrench in the works with the D800E.  I think their plan was to provide a camera that appeals to the medium format (MF) crowd.  The high resolution and lack of AA filter certainly has a draw for that crowd.  The D800 is a much smaller package compared to the MF offerings and would be considered fast by comparison.  Many of the MF shooters are working with one frame per second, so 4?  WOW.

The availability of the D800E does not make the D800 worse.  It will not make softer images or produce results that the vast majority of shooters would not be thrilled with.  The sheer resolution of the sensor will make images that were not possible with previous Nikon bodies (save for maybe the D3x).

All other Nikon DSLR bodies have an AA filter

I have seen a lot of stunning images shot with Nikon cameras in the past and never thought that things looked bad or were lacking detail.  Images shot with a D3s, D700, and even DX cameras are all shot with the AA filter in front of the sensor.  No one was complaining that the AA filter is destroying quality then, and shouldn't now.  Even the new flagship D4 has an AA filter, and I'm sure that will produce fantastic results.

Depth of field

When you are shooting with a fast lens wide open (low f-stop), the plane of focus is not very big.  Depending on your distance to the subject, it may be just a sliver.  The sharpness advantage of the D800E is only in the plane of focus.  The areas that are naturally blurred by the lens are not sharp anyway, so the lack of the AA filter does not come into play.  In fact, it would be interesting to see if the lack of an AA filter has any effect on bokeh.

You can increase the depth of field (DoF) by stopping down your lens, though this is not an option for every shot from an artistic point of view.  If you do stop down the lens, the plane of focus is wider and the sharpness advantage will increase over the D800, however there is a limit to this.  Thom Hogan suggests that f/8 is the aperture where things start to get less sharp due to diffraction.  Beyond f/8, diffraction actually reduces the effective resolution and the more you stop down the greater the effect of diffraction.  Both models are affected by this, but I speculate that the gap in sharpness is closed between the models as you stop down beyond f/8.   I have no scientific basis for this, but it makes sense in my head.  We need real-world testing to prove or disprove this.

Look at the D7000

The pixel density of the D7000 is very similar to that in the D800.  The D7000 has the AA filter, and produces the best images I have ever seen from a DX camera.  They are sharp and have a lot of dynamic range and contrast.  The D800 has newer sensor technology, a larger sensor area, and slightly bigger pixels so the results will be even better.

I spend enough time in post production already

When shooting in RAW, processing your images is just part of the workflow.  I already spend plenty of time preparing my RAW files for export and I don't want to spend even more trying to fix moiré problems in my images.  They may not crop up all the time, but when they do you will be forced to spend time trying to get rid of it.  I have watched several videos online and read many tutorials on the removal of moiré and it isn't easy.  It also affects the quality of the resulting image, possibly more than shooting with an AA filter in the first place.  Capture NX2 is supposed to have tools to help, as is Adobe Lightroom 4, but they will not be perfect.  I have tried the tools in LR4 Beta and they help with color shifts but don't do a good job of removing the strange patterns that are introduced.

The D800 is going to be my only DSLR, I most of often shoot landscapes, architecture, and nature.  Of those, architecture is the most problematic because of the repeating patterns but moiré can certainly come up anywhere.   Inevitably, I will also be shooting pets, friends, family, vacations, and more.  I want the camera to perform well in all situations and don't want to risk the color shift and banding effects that shooting without an AA can introduce.

Video

The D800 introduces some fantastic video features that I'm eager to try out.  My D90 has video capability, but it is pathetic.  The D800 is likely going to be so good that I may actually try shooting video from time to time.   I would have a hard enough time removing artifacts from still images but wouldn't even know where to begin to remove them from a video clip.  I'm sure if I had access to Pixar's systems and software it would be possible, but I'm a video newbie and prefer to avoid problems than try to fix them after the fact.

Note: I'm not 100% sure that the moiré issues affect the video output, but given what I have read they will.  If so, the D800E may not be a good camera for video capture.

What is the real difference?

I have seen a few samples of the D800 and D800E at 100% resolution and there are visible differences between them.  Of course, these are Nikon samples and I have yet to see the RAW files from the two bodies showing the same scene, same lens, shot at the same time.  It is difficult to compare what the real-world performance will be once these are in photographers hands.  Certainly, the difference will not be dramatic as some expect it to be.

The final output of the image is also a factor.  If you take 36 megapixel images form either body and shrink it down to a 800x600 jpeg and put it in your blog it's unlikely you would see any difference.  The jpeg compression alone would likely kill any of the minor details captured with the D800E.  If you print, I suspect the difference will be minimal or invisible at 4x6, 5x7, ... ?  I honestly don't know how big you will need to print an image before differences will be visible.

On screen, when viewing the entire image, the difference will be invisible or subtle.  Pixel peepers who view things at 100% on 30" screens will see the difference, most others will not.

Lens selection is still key

A better lens will make a MUCH bigger difference to overall  image quality than removing the AA filter.  The D800 will resolve more detail than any other body in the lineup, combined with a quality lens the results will be stunning.  Anyone thinking they can use a lesser lens on a D800E will quickly learn that the lens quality is the difference maker.

Technique

Having the extra sharpness of the D800E means nothing if your technique is not able to make use of it.  To truly extract that last bit of performance from the E model you need to know what you are doing.  If your tripod is not solid even the slightest breeze may soften the results.  Understanding of diffraction effects, hand holding steadiness, and your subject are all going to play a part in the final image sharpness.  The less you get right, the less difference you will see from a D800.

Conclusion

I was eager to get the D800E but it's not the best camera for my shooting needs.  I will rarely print massive photos, I want to try video, and I will likely shoot a variety of subjects.  Also, the 'if it's good enough for a D4 it is good enough for my D800' argument is valid.  I'm not planning to test lenses for a living or spend hours shooting test charts and looking at my images at 100%.  I want to shoot and have fun, the D800 will let me do that better than a D800E.  The fact that I get it three weeks sooner and spend $300 less is just icing on the cake.


Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, Edit

Nikon D800 High ISO Sample Images

The Nikon D800 and sister model the D800E were announced to much fanfare.  It looks like a winner but like all gadgets it is not perfect.  One of the first thing people ask is if it's as good as the D700 when shooting at high ISO.  The rule of thumb is that as pixel density increases, and thus physical pixel size decreases, the noise in an image will increase.  There is more to this, but as a general rule that holds true.  The 12mp sensors in the D700, D3, and D3s have shown that shooting in available light at high ISO values is possible and can produce stunning results.

Here are the pixel sizes for several of Nikon's cameras:

D700: 8.45µm

D3s: 8.45µm

D3x: 5.94µm

D7000: 4.78 µm

D4: 7.3µm

D800: 4.88µm

As you can see, the D800 pixels are significantly smaller than a D3s and D4 and about the same size as the D7000.  However, the physical sensor size is the same among all the FX cameras so the number of photons hitting the sensor is also the same.  Noise performance when viewing images at 100% will be better on a D700 than a D800, however to make the test fair you need to downsample (resize) the image to the same resolution.  When you do that, quality improves and noise is reduced.  To be objective, you need to shoot the D700 and D800 side by side, in the same light at the same time.  However, the image samples below do show that the D800 will be a capable performer, likely as good or better than the D700.

The images below are form ferra.ru.  Their site was painfully slow when viewing the images and I wanted to post some samples that were processed a bit to show the difference.  First, the images as they came from the camera.  All jpeg, no post production (according to the source), shot with the 50mm f/1.8G lens.  They have been resized to 1920x1281 to view online (click to view at that size).

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G
Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G
Nikon D800, ISO 3200, 50mm f1.8G
Nikon D800, ISO 3200, 50mm f1.8G
Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G
Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G
Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G
Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G

 

At the small sizes viewed on the web, all of these images can be considered acceptable.  The samples up to ISO 6400 are all quite good and even the ISO 25,600 is usable.  At 100% resolution though problems are visible.

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, CROP
Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, CROP
Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, CROP
Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, CROP

 

ISO 800, not bad actually.  25,600, ouch.  However, if we do some post processing to clean things up the situation does get better.

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, Edit
Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, Edit
Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP
Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP

 

And at ISO 6400 it still holds up well.

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, Edit
Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, Edit

Before and after editing.  Note that I just did some quick adjustments in Lightroom 4 and used Noiseware to clean up the noise.  Overall, the result is quite promising.

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, CROP
Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, CROP
Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP
Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP

 

Even the ISO 25,600 can be cleaned up.  While a stretch to say this is 'good', it may be useful for a blog or facebook.

Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, Edit
Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, Edit
Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP
Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP

I'm not sure if the technique used to capture the image was ideal and I'm sure you can do even better if you have the RAW files (.NEF) so I'm hopeful that this will be a very good camera in low light.


D800 Logo

Nikon D800 & D800E: The Good and the Bad

The D800 and D800E are now official and all the rumor and speculation about specs can end. There seems to be new debate about whether 36MP is too many, if the E model (without the optical low-pass, anti-alias filter) makes any sense, and if the D4 is worth the money now that this camera is out. In short: no, yes, and yes. I may elaborate later but for now that is sufficient. If anyone cares, I think the D800 is going to be an excellent camera and I have already put a deposit on mine.

I wouldn't be buying something I don' t think is a good buy.  The D800 isn't perfect, but it certainly is an upgrade over my current D90 and should serve me well for years to come.  I know that I enjoy this hobby, and I believe I can take advantage of the new features.  So below, some things I like about the new body and some things I don't.

The Good

Autofocus

"Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, fine-tuning, 51 focus points (including 15 cross-type sensors; f/8 supported by 11 central sensors)."  This is the same system the D4 uses, which means it's going to be amazing.  Nikon did us all a favor and gave us it's best focusing system to date.  If you are into shooting wildlife at a distance, you can now use the long f/4 lenses with a 2x teleconverter and still have autofocus at an effective f/8.  Further, you can use the DX mode of the D800 to get an extra 50% reach and still have 15.4MP images to work with.  Not bad.  Add face detection and 3D-tracking and this will be a lot of fun to shoot with.

Metering

Like the autofocus system, Nikon gives us the new 91,000-pixel RGB sensor for metering straight from the D4.  Includes scene detection and prioritization of exposure for faces.  A big jump from previous models, the D700/D3x had a 1,005 pixel sensor.

Video

The D700 had no video features, and my D90 (the first DSLR to get video) was pathetic.  Nikon had no answer to Canon's stellar offering, the 5D Mark II.  I don't think they expected so many people to start using DSLR cameras for shooting video.  Even Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon for feature films.  Nikon is late to the game, but has thrown down big contenders in the D4 and D800.  The video capabilities are now the best in the game for DSLR cameras, but I suspect Canon may have something to say about that with the release of the 5D Mark III (if and when it happens).  I haven't shot much video, but with the capability at my disposal I may give it a shot.

100% Viewfinder Coverage

A full-frame camera with 100% viewfinder coverage paired with a fast lens (f/2.8 or better) is a joy to use.  I haven't owned such a camera, but have peered through the viewfinder of several.  Once you see it, hard to go back.

Pixels, Pixels, and more Pixels

36.8 million of them to be exact (36.3 effective).  Nikon's strategy is really to follow Canon's lead, and that is to provide a clear separation between the compact full-frame bodies and the large, fast, and expensive flagship models.  The D700 ate up sales of the D3 and likely the D3s as they were all 12MP and produced similar results.  The D3s is king of high iso shooting, but cost a pretty penny compared to the also capable D700.  Canon went a different route, and provided an high resolution (21MP) 5D Mark II with great video and it seems to have worked out well for them.  Now, Nikon has the D4 which is a high speed, high ISO, pro body and the D800 which will be the high resolution, slower and more affordable body.  I think the 36MP resolution surprised many, including me.  The resolution certainly opens up a lot of possibilities.

Dedicated Bracket Button

I like to shoot HDR often, so this is a handy addition.

Upgraded LCD

Same LCD as the D4, with ambient light control.  Nothing earth shattering here, but several incremental improvements throughout the body make for a better overall user experience.

DX Mode

Not new, but now useful.  Shooting in DX mode on a D700 resulted in 5.1MP files.  Not what I would call stellar.  It may work in a pinch, but I doubt it was used much.  On the D800, resolution in DX mode is 15.3MP which is very close to the resolution of the fantastic D7000.   If needed, you could use DX lenses.  If you need more reach, use DX mode and get the 1.5x equivalent boost in focal length.  Not something I will use all the time, but nice to have and very useful when used.

 

The Bad

Four Frames Per Second

I realize you are shooting 36MP images and that is a lot of data, but it just *feels* slow for a brand new DSLR these days.  The D800 and D4 share the same Expeed3 processor, and if the D4 can churn out 11fps at 16mp the D800 should be able to do 5.  That is assuming there is no headroom in the process.  5fps would be good, especially if we had a 7 or 8fps DX mode.  We are stuck with 4, oh well.

No illuminated buttons

I guess we can't have all the goodies of the D4, and keeping this out helps Nikon keep the costs down.  Would have been nice, but I can live without it.

Insanely Priced Grip

The grip is optional, so you don't need to buy this.  However, Nikon priced this so high it is a hard pill to swallow. If you want faster frame rates, pony up. Note: the FX column is also for shooting in the 5:4 crop mode. Costs based on pricing from B&H in February 2012 and shown in USD.

Cost

FX fps

1.2X fps

1.5X (DX) fps

EN-EL15 battery$0455
MB-D12 grip & EN-EL15 battery$449.95455
MB-D12 grip & EN-EL18 (D4) battery$999.80456
MB-D12 grip with AA batteries$449.95 +456
AC adapter$129.24456

MB-D12 D800/D800E grip: $449.95
MS-D12 AA holder: $47.95
EP-5B Power Supply Connector: $49.95
EH-5B AC Adapter: $79.29
EN-EL18 (D4) battery: $169.95
MH-26 Dual Battery Charger: $349.95
BL-5 Battery chamber cover: $29.95

So let me get this straight Nikon, if I want to get the 6 frames per second and not use an AC adapter (duh) or AA batteries I need to use the battery from the D4 in the grip. In order to do that, I need to buy the grip, en-el18 battery, battery cover, and battery charger. Grand total $1000 USD. Are you kidding me? This is just a cash grab, you can count me out.

Video

Yes, this is also listed in the good section.  I'm not sure I'll use it, but I'm paying for it regardless.  Does video belong in a DSLR? I don't know, but it looks like it's here to stay.  I don't know anything about video, shooting it, editing it, etc.  Might be a big waste of time for me.  TBD.

Pixels, lots of them

Definitely a plus, I'm not really complaining but it's worth mentioning that you will certainly need to buy some big storage cards, probably 64GB or better.  You will also need a ton of storage and backup space on your computer and a fast system to deal with the giant files this body will produce.  75MB uncompressed RAW files will eat up memory and put a strain on any older CPU.  The upgrade cost of the D800 goes well beyond the cost of the body.

Nikon D800 Skeleton


D800 Banner

My New Camera, the Nikon D800E

UPDATE Feb 14, 2012: I'm no longer getting the D800E but the regular D800.  I have outlined the reasons for doing so in a different post.  I'm sure both models will produce great images, if you have any thoughts about one model or the other feel free to leave a message in the comments.

I have been waiting impatiently for a new, affordable, full-frame camera from Nikon for over a year.  I have been shooting with a Nikon D90 and it's a capable camera but I knew I wanted to make the jump to FX.  Over the last few years, my lens selections have definitely been with a future FX body in mind.  I could have bought the D700, which is certainly a capable camera but the next model was 'just around the corner'.   From what I have read, the new D800 was to be released in the first half of 2011, but mother nature doesn't always cooperate with corporate schedules.  First, the earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan disrupted the Nikon plant in Sendai.  The plant makes the high end bodies and lenses and that put a quick end to any chance of a D800 release.  Nikon was well underway with repairs when the heavy flooding in Thailand hit.  Nikon's plant there was underwater, which stopped production of their very popular D7000 among other bodies and lenses.

Two major disasters would cripple any company, and Nikon did their best to keep production up and repair the damage.  Schedules were delayed, products in short supply, but Nikon seems to have handled the situation very well and pulled out of the mess and started 2012 off very strong.  First, they released their flagship D4, a camera packed with the latest technology from Nikon.  It has received a great welcome, and should be a good performer when it starts shipping in late February or early March.  Second, they finally announced their compact full-frame model, the D800.  They surprised many with two variations of the same camera: with anti-alias filter (D800) and, for the first time from Nikon, one without the filter (D800E).  I have put a deposit on a D800E and hope to have my hands on one in April.  It will be a long wait.

I won't go into the specifications of the D800, there are plenty of good links and preview articles out there (Nikon D800 pagedpreview, Rob Galbraith).  I'm excited by the new technology in the camera, 36mp sensor, new autofocus and metering system (same as the D4), top notch video features, and much more.  I plan to shoot with this camera for the next few years and continue to learn about this great hobby.

Once I get the thing in my hands, I'll post some sample images and an update.

Camera Size has the D800 in the database now, see how it compares to the D90 (my current camera), D300S, and D4.

Nikon D800 Front

Nikon D800 Angle 1

Nikon D800 Angle 2

Nikon D800 Back

Nikon D800 Top

Nikon D800 With Grip


Nikon D4 Zoom

Nikon D4: The New And Cool Stuff

I wrote a short post previously on how the D4 stacks up against it's closest competition (Nikon D3s and Canon 1D X). It covers at the features photographers will look at most often when comparing bodies, things like sensor resolution, frame rates, buffer size, and low light performance. In this artile, I'll go over some of the new things Nikon threw in there that make the body interesting.

Nikon D4 guts

Video capability

The D4 can record 1080p Full HD video at 30/25 or 24p in H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format.  Full HD video is available in three formats: FX-based, DX-based (1.5x) or 1,920 x 1,080 (2.7x) crop movie format. It can also export its uncompressed video footage via HDMI.

Nikon was the first company to add video to a DSLR in the D90.  Having used a D90 extensively, I can tell you that the video feature is weak and almost useless.  Canon nailed a home run with the 5D Mark II, and even Hollywood caught on and started using the camera in some scenes.  The 5DII sold well, Nikon missed the boat and lost customers.  The D4 addresses all of the previous problems and, for now, puts Nikon at the top of the DSLR video heap.  It's not perfect but it's a video monster that will please almost everyone.

For those of you that think video doesn't belong in a still camera... get over it.  Video is here to stay and almost everything with a lens these days can take stills and video.  People want it so the companies are going to include it.  I don't think it affects the still photo capability of the camera, the D4 is looking like Nikon's best still camera to date.  The only drawback is likely a higher price, but I guess that is progress for you.

Here is a sample video shot with a D4. Looks good, even compressed for the web (available in 1080p)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZZMIo7Zfys

Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX AF sensor module

51 AF points, with all 51 (15 cross type) points of the D4 are usable with every AF NIKKOR lens of f/5.6 or faster. AF detection is fast and accurate down to an impressive -2 EV. 15 cross-type sensors in the central area and 11 focus points compatible with f/8.

The D4 keeps the same number of AF points as the D3s but just makes everything better.  One of the big things here is the ability to use lenses with minimum f-stop of f/8.  You find this when using some of the big telephoto lenses (such as the 200-400 f/4) with a 2x teleconverter.  You can now have a 400-800 f/8 lens that will autofocus for a change.  No other Nikon body will do this, so you were forced to use fast telephoto lenses like the 400mm f/2.8 or go without auto focus.  This should be good for sports or wildlife shooters that commonly use these lenses.

Exposure Meter and AF Improvement

The D4 is fit with a 91,000 pixel RGB sensor for metering. This is a massive improvement over the 1,005 pixel sensor in the D3s. Because of the increased resolution, the D4 now offers face detection autofocus and can account for up to 16 human faces in the frame even when using the optical view finder. Previously, face detection was only available in live view because you were using the entire sensor and contrast detection autofocus.

The D4 also adds scene detection. The 3D Color Matrix Metering III metering mode compares metered scenes to a large in-camera database of scene types, before determining exposure variables. To me, this seems like a gimmick and reminds me of Clippy from the old MS Office programs: "It looks like you are trying to compose a sunset shot, let me bollocks that up for you". On a camera targeted at professional shooters, do you need this?

Remote Operation

Remote viewing and operating of the camera for stills and video from your laptop/iPad/iPhone in real time. This is built into the camera, and just damn cool. No extra software needed, but you do need the wireless adapter (WT-5A) which isn't cheap at almost $900 US. Once it's up and running though, you can see the live view image, adjust most camera controls, trigger exposures remotely and view the captured image. This means you can mount the camera somewhere where it may not be easy or safe to be during an event to capture images. In other settings, clients can immediately see captured images on a big screen as you are shooting. I'm sure there will be a lot of creative uses for this, a nice feature.

Watch the video of the ipad control in action.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0DnEoqm-wc&feature=player_embedded

Improved exposure bracketing

The camera will allow 3, 5, 7, or 9 exposures in either 1/3, 2/3, or 1 full stop (plus 2 stops and 3 stops) The possible dynamic range capture for very difficult HDR situations has been massively increased! The D4 also features a quick HDR feature that makes an in camera file based on a overexposed and normal frame. I don't think the in camera HDR feature will be that useful, but the extra bracketing options is going to be great for HDR shooters.

A few minor items

Illuminated buttons, a very nice addition when you are shooting in low light (which is certainly where this camera will get used).

Time lapse movie creator will compile multiple exposures (based on your settings) into an HD movie but it does not retain the images so may not be useful for most.

Improved rear LCD.  3.2" 921,000 dot with expanded color gamut and a sensor to detect ambient light levels to automatically adjust brightness and saturation.

 


Nikon D4 with body

Nikon D4 High ISO Sample Images

Mircea Bezergheanu has been posting some sample images from the Nikon D4. These are the first images I have seen that are not from Nikon or part of the Nikon advertising campaign.

I'm not sure what type of post processing is involved, however the images do look great even up to ISO 12,800. I think some post processing would make them look even better.

Until we get side by side comparisons of the D4 and the D3S, shooting the same subject in the same light, it will be tough to compare the two bodies directly. Right now though, the D4 is certainly looking good.

View the images on Mircea's Smugmug page.


Nikon D4 Front 220

Nikon D4 Versus the Competition

Now that the Nikon D4 is official, we can compare specifications with its closest competitors.  To me, the two closest competitors are the Nikon D3S and the soon to be available Canon 1D-X.  I'll throw in the Nikon D3XCanon 1D Mark IV and Canon 1Ds Mark III as they are all pro bodies with similar capability.  I don't consider the Nikon D700 or Canon 5D Mark II direct competitors to the D4 so I'll exclude them here.  They can certainly be considered competitors for some applications and are themselves excellent cameras but they primarily target a different market.  I'll also exclude the Sony Alpha A900, it's a full frame camera but it has been discontinued.  Sony is rumoured to be developing a new full frame shooter, but no word on when it will be available.  Also, things like the Leica M9, Pentax 645D, or even more expensive models from Hasselblad are not direct competition.  So let's compare the D4 to five of it's closest competitors.

Sensor

Canon EOS-1D XNikon D3SNikon D3XCanon 1D Mark IVCanon 1Ds Mark III
Effective Pixels16.218.112.124.516.121.1
Sensor Size (mm)36 x 23.936 x 2436 x 23.935.9 x 2427.9 x 18.636 x 24
Max resolution4928 x 32805184 x 34564256 x 28326048 x 40324896 x 32645616 x 3744
Pixel Size (µm)7.36.958.455.945.76.4

Looking at the table, we can see that the odd-ball in terms of sensor size is the Canon 1D Mark IV which does not have a full frame sensor but one slightly smaller and what Canon calls the APS-H.  Prior to the 1D-X, Canon's high speed pro camera used the APS-H sensor and their slower, high resolution camera used a full frame sensor.  The 1D-X is a blend of both, full frame, high speed, and 18MP.  On simple spec alone, the D4 is nothing special.  It's not not highest resolution and Canon's latest flagship is 2Mp ahead in the 'megapixel race', if you are counting.  Pro shooters realize there is a lot more to image quality than megapixels, but it's worth to note.

Resolution is only part of the story, the size of the pixels affects sensitivity and as you cram more pixels in the same amount of space those pixels get smaller and thus less sensitive to light.  The D3S still has the biggest pixels in the list, which makes sense as it's the lowest resolution.  The D4 increases resolution but claims one stop better low-light performance over the D3S.  It remains to be seen if that claim holds up, but one can assume that the new generation of sensors are better than the old so this may be true.  Time will tell.

Performance

Canon EOS-1D XNikon D3SNikon D3XCanon 1D Mark IVCanon 1Ds Mark III
ISO Native100-12800100-51200200-12800100-1600100-12800100-1600
ISO (boosted)50-20480050-204800100-10240050-640050-10240050-3200
FPS10 with AF/AE, 1112, 14(JPG)9-111-5105/3
Autofocus points516151514545
AF f-stopf/8f/5.6

The benchmark for low light performance for the last several years has been the Nikon D3S.  It was one to two stops better than the already good D3 and well ahead of anything from Canon.  The D4 is said to improve on the already impressive D3S by at least one full stop but no real-world testing and comparisons have yet been completed.  The new Canon 1D-X is a wild card here, on spec alone it looks better than the D4 but I personally don't think it will match the performance.  Nikon has had the edge in this department for some time and once both models are available for side-by-side testing I think the D4 will come out on top.  It may be even possible to get relatively clean images from the D4 at ISO 12800 which will be boon to many types of shooters.

In terms of speed, the D4 will shoot at 10 frames per second (fps) with full autofocus and metering in RAW.  The 1D-X has an edge here, shooting at 12fps.  Honestly, I doubt any Nikon shooter would make the switch to Canon for 2fps but if you have no investment in glass and are looking to buy a pro camera it may sway some to Canon.  For my shooting needs, I don't need anything with even 10fps so it's a moot point.

Nikon has enjoyed an advantage in autofocus performance for some time.  Some Canon shooters may disagree, but I see it in review after review that the pro Nikon cameras just focus faster and more consistently than their Canon rivals.  The 1D-X has more focus points and more cross-type focus points but one of the big new features of the D4 is the addition of 11 autofocus points that work down to f/8.  This should mean even better autofocus performance in low light, and combined with it's expected performance at high ISO this should translate to great shots in available light (weddings, concerts, sports, etc.).

At the end of the day, both the D4 and 1D-X are the top of the DSLR pile in terms of features and performance.  The D4 has potentially caught up to Canon in video performance and Canon to Nikon in autofocus and low-light performance.  There is no doubt that both models will make their owners very happy and saying one is clearly better than the other is not possible.  The new D4 is clearly an evolution in Nikon's lineup but not a revolutionary camera.  I'm looking forward to hands-on reviews and sample images in the months to come.

There are a lot of other features worth talking about, but I'll leave that for another post.  Now Nikon, please release the D800!

 

Visual comparison of the Nikon D4 and Canon 1D X

Nikon D4 Front

 

Canon-1DX

Nikon D4

 

Nikon D4 High Res Top Transparent

Nikon D4 High Res Back Transparent


Nikon D4 Logo

Finally! The Nikon D4 is Announced

Nikon did not have a good year in 2011 as they were affected by two major disasters. The earthquake in Japan and following tsunami forced the shutdown of their plant in Sendai.  This plant produces their professional line of cameras and lenses.  Later in the year, the flooding in Thailand submerged the Nikon factory at the Rojana Industrial Park.  This plant produces many of their consumer cameras and lenses.  Because of these disasters, their entire product line-up was affected and shortages of equipment were common.  Nikon planned to introduce a few new camera models and lenses in 2011 but all announcements were postponed while they worked to rebuild their facilities and solidify their supply chain.

Towards the end of 2011, things were looking up and production was getting back on track.  Nikon did make one product announcement, the SB-910 Speedlight but the year ended with no significant products for us to drool over.  The good news is that 2012 has started off with a bang.  Leading up to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Nikon has announced a new flagship digital SLR camera, the D4 (official press release).  Along with the new pro camera, they announced an 85mm f/1.8G lens and a wireless transmitter.  A big announcement to start the year and I expect more to come in the coming months.  The rumoured D700 replacement, the D800, is very likely the next body that will be announced but when that will happen is anyone's guess at this point.

Nikon D4 on Nikon's website

Nikon D4 brochure (PDF)

Nikon D4 full specification

Nikon D4 High Res Front Transparent

Nikon D4 Back

Nikon D4 High Res Top Transparent


Nikon D4 Trio

Nikon D4 Leaked by the French

The rumours were flying around for months and the mill was in high gear for the last few weeks about Nikon's new flagship camera, the D4.  Official announcement is likely to come on Friday, Jan. 6th (late Thursday in Canada/USA) but a French magazine spilled the beans early.  A scan of the article can be seen here.  Looks like a great body, and should compete well against the new Canon 1DX.

Specs:

  • 16 megapixels
  • ISO 100-12800 (expandable to 50-204800)
  • 51 autofocus points
  • 100% viewfinder coverage
  • 10-12fps
  • 91000 point metering system
  • 1080p video recording
  • CF/XQD card slots
  • 1.34kg weight
  • €5,800 (likely to be about $6,000 USD)

Full details when officially announced by Nikon later today.

Nikon D4 Front

Nikon D4 Left

Nikon D4 Back


50mm lens shootout

Seven 50mm prime lenses for Nikon F-mount compared

Cary Jordan compares seven 50mm lenses for Nikon F-mount including several Nikkor lenses, Sigma, and Carl Zeiss.  Full results at the link below.

Overall, your best bet is the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens.  You can buy the f/1.4 version at substantially more cost but most people don't need the extra speed.

More at Nikon Rumors


Internet Explorer drops below 50% market share 1

Internet Explorer drops below 50% market share

browser market share

Interesting browser market share stats at Ars Technica.  Combined market share for IE is below 50%, Safari dominates mobile browsing.  Personally, I have switched to Chrome from Firefox and don't see any reason to switch back.  I haven't used IE in years other than to view pages that require it.

Details at Ars Technica


Giant Negative

A Six-Foot-Long Camera That Shoots Enormous Photos

For some people film is superior to digital, for others film is a joke and medium format is the only way to go. for one guy, no existing camera was good enough so he decided to build this monster that produces negatives 3 feet long!

Via Popsci.com


iPhone Test 1

iPhone 4S vs Canon P&S vs Nikon D90

An image shootout between the iPhone 4S, a digital point and shoot (Canon SD870 IS), and a digital SLR (Nikon D90). I have tried to match focal length as best I can.  On the Canon I zoomed in slightly to try and get the same field of view.  On the Nikon I used a 14-24 lens at 24mm.

iPhone Camera

  • Sensor: 8 megapixel CMOS sensor (1/3.2")
  • Focal length: 4.28mm
  • Aperture: f/2.4
  • Image dimensions: 3264 x 2448
  • Focal length multiplier: 7.61
  • 35mm equivalent: 32.6mm

Canon SD870 IS

  • Sensor: 8 megapixel CCD sensor (1/2.5")
  • Focal length: 4.6-17.3mm
  • Aperture: f/2.8-5.8
  • Image dimensions: 3264 x 2448
  • Focal length multiplier: 6.02
  • 35mm equivalent: 28-105mm

Nikon D90 with Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 Lens

  • Sensor: 12 megapixel CMOS sensor (Nikon DX)
  • Focal length: 12-24mm
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Image dimensions: 4288 x 2848
  • Focal length multiplier: 1.5
  • 35mm equivalent: 18-36mm

Photos were taken with the Canon set to Auto, flash disabled.  The D90 was set to "P", flash disabled, lens at f/2.8.  All devices were hand-held, medium light.  Here are the results.

 

iPhone 4S

iPhone Test 1

 

Canon SD870 IS

Nikon D90

Nikon D90 Test 1

Taking a crop on the clock face you get this.

iPhone 4S

Canon SD870 IS

SD870 Zoom 1

Nikon D90

D90 Zoom 1


Nikon 1

Nikon 1 System Preview Preview

Digital Photography Review has just posted a preview of Nikon's newest cameras, the J1 and V1. There are a few image samples and comparisons to the competition. Worth a look if you are interested in these models. Me, I'm still waiting for the D800.

http://www.dpreview.com/previews/nikon1system


GoPro Hero 2

GoPro Launches HD HERO2 Camera

GoPro has announced a new camera, the Hero2. 11-megapixel sensor (versus 5MP for the old GoPro), sharper lens, and new remote features. Looks like a good buy, and will likely entice me to buy one myself.

2X More Powerful in Every Way 11MP Sensor

  • 2x Faster Image Processor
  • 2X Sharper Glass Lens
  • Professional Low Light Performance
  • Full 170º, Medium 127º, Narrow 90º FOV in 1080p and 720p Video
  • 120 fps WVGA, 60 fps 720p, 48 fps 960p, 30 fps 1080p Video
  • Full 170º and Medium 127º FOV Photos
  • 10 11MP Photos Per Second Burst
  • 1 11MP Photo Every 0.5 Sec Timelapse Mode
  • 3.5mm External Stereo Microphone Input
  • Simple Language-based User Interface
  • Wi-Fi BacPac™ and Wi-Fi Remote™ Compatible (coming soon)
  • Long Range Remote Control of up to 50 GoPro Cameras
  • Wi-Fi Video/Photo Preview + Playback + Control via GoPro App
  • Live Streaming Video and Photos to the Web

Check here for a comparison of GoPro cameras.

Awesome promotional video shot entirely with the Hero2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GUEZCxBcM78

 

Press Release

GoPro Hero 2
GoPro Hero 2

Puppy Chomp

iPhone 4S Video Test and more PUPPIES!

A quick test of the iPhone 4S video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOm7qUfoqMs&hd=1

Link to the HD video on YouTube


Lytro camera

Lytro introduces world's first light field camera

Interesting technology, remains to be seen how well it works in the hands of consumers. May become the new standard for digital sensors if they can increase the resolution.

Lytro introduces world's first light field camera: f/2 lens, $399, ships early 2012

View sample images at the Lytro image gallery.


Lytro camera


A quick review of the iPhone 4S 2

A quick review of the iPhone 4S

Hardware

Signal strength for cellular and WiFi seems stronger. When choosing from Wifi networks, I get more options than I did with the iPhone 4 in the same locations which suggests it's picking up things further away. Also, I can pick up my company WiFi signal further away. Well done Apple, this is a change everyone will appreciate.

The new dual-core A5 processor (800MHz) is an improvement over the iPhone 4 and this phone feels faster overall, especially when using the photo app. Things render just a bit faster.

Screen is the same, but still excellent if not the best on the market.

Camera is improved, it's faster and 8MP. I haven't used it enough to comment on the performace though. I do love the fact that iOS 5 allows me to launch the camera from the lock screen, handy if you need to pull out your phone for a quick snap.

Software

Notification center is a 1000% improvement over the previous system. It's now not annoying and useful, something Apple should have done years ago.

Still no week view in the calendar app, lame.

Addition of iCloud is nice, a backup away from the computer is certainly the way of the future.

Siri, the voice assistant. I'm not sold on it yet, it worked well for some things but not others. It can't find restaurants in Canada, nor can it give directions making it less useful. It does have location and geofence capability, so for example it knows where you work and if you are currently there. I can then tell Siri to "remind me to call my wife when I leave work" and it will create a reminder that triggers when I leave the office. I think I need to live with it for a while, but it could be an interesting feature.

Overall, a good upgrade to the iPhone 4.


Canon 1D X top

Canon Unveils the 1D X

Wow, Canon just took the wraps off a new DSLR.   It's a blend of their previous two high end models, mixing high speed and a full frame sensor.  14fps, 18-megapixel full frame shooter, sounds like a winner if you have the cash ($6800 when it ships in March 2012).

Canon 1D X

Canon Unveils the 1D X: One DSLR to Rule Them All

If you want to see and hear what 14 frames per second is like, have a look here.

DP Review article on the 1D X

Excellent summary by Rob Galbraith