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

 


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


iPhone 4S shot of D90 and D800 WB adjustment to paper

D800 LCD Green Colour Cast Test

There have been numerous reports of a slight colour cast to the D800 rear LCD screen. The colour does not seem to affect the files but can create some issues when shooting. I'm not really sure how to test this, but I attempted to set up my D800 to take a shot of a white piece of paper. I tried comparing the LCD to my D90 screen, and took a shot with my iPhone of the two LCD screens side by side. Maybe this will be useful to some.

First, a shot with the iphone unadjusted for white balance showing the D90 LCD screen (left) and the D800. Both in live view mode, not displaying a captured frame. They look different but I'm not really sure if the D90 is cooler than expected or the D800 is warmer.
iPhone 4S shot of D90 and D800 no WB adjustment

Next, I used the custom WB adjustment in Lightroom 4 and selected the white of the paper as the target neutral.
iPhone 4S shot of D90 and D800 WB adjustment to paper

Finally, a shot taken with the D90 showing the paper and LCD screen of the D800. White balance adjusted in Lightroom using the paper as target neutral.
D90 shot of D800 LCD screen to test for hue

To my eyes, there doesn't seem to be an objectionable colour cast to the D800 LCD. I'm not sure if this is common to all D800 models or only some (early run?). I could do more testing, but not sure how or what else to look at. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know.


Jammie: Nikon D800 @ ISO 3200

Nikon D800 High ISO Test

This isn't meant to be a critical test, it was just a shot I tried with my new D800. I shot hand held in poor light to see how the camera would do. Compared to my Nikon D90, where the image started to fall apart at ISO 800, the D800 is still going strong at ISO 3200.

Details:
Nikon D800
Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR
Aperture: f/4
Shutter: 1/80"
ISO 3200
High ISO noise reduction: normal

Processed from 14-bit lossless compressed raw in Lightroom 4, than ran through Noiseware to clean it up a bit. Overall, very happy with the image, completely usable shot of my dog, Jammie. The room was quite dark, Lightroom brought back the shadows and exposure, there is lots of dynamic range available to play with. (Click for bigger version).

Jammie: Nikon D800 @ ISO 3200


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