Regular readers of this blog know that I don’t often write about equipment. Equipment is necessary, and important, but not the most important thing in photography.
However, equipment does matter in some situations, like when trying to capture fast-moving subjects, or the faint light of stars, or when you want to make a large print that’s sharp and noise-free.
My regular camera is ancient by the fast-moving standards of the digital age. It’s a 16-megapixel Canon 1Ds Mark II, first introduced in 2004. I haven’t felt a compelling urge to upgrade. Newer models like the Canon 5D Mark II and Mark III have a little higher resolution (21 and 22 megapixels, respectively), but the difference isn’t that significant. They also handle noise better, but again, the advantages are relatively small.
One of the reasons I’ve been slow to upgrade to a new model is because while Canon has been making these modest improvements in image quality, Nikon has been making big leaps. For several years the Nikon sensors (some of which are made by Sony) have outclassed Canon in handling noise – something I could see clearly when looking at student’s photos during workshops. And last year’s introduction of the 36-megapixel Nikon D800 and D800E set a new standard for resolution in a 35mm-style DSLR. All this makes me think about switching, and hesitant to invest in more Canon equipment.
Although impressed with the image quality of student’s photographs made with the D800 and D800e, there’s nothing like actually using the camera yourself. Thanks to my friend Jim Goldstein, and the good people at Borrowlenses.com, I was able to try out a Nikon D800e and three lenses during a recent night photography workshop. I’ve written about Borrowlenses before, but I just want to say again how impressed I am with their service: quick, easy, efficient, friendly, and reasonably priced. A first-class operation.
Night photography is demanding of lenses and sensors, so I thought this workshop would be a good test. In the field, the D800E performed well both day and night. It’s always challenging adapting to a new camera, but I found the transition to be pretty painless, perhaps because I had become so familiar with the Nikon controls and menus when working with students.
Looking at the images later, my tests confirmed what I had seen with student’s cameras: that more megapixels do make a difference – if you have lenses sharp enough to take advantage of that resolution. I made 26×40-inch prints of two images, and in both cases I thought the prints easily surpassed the sharpness of other DSLRs I’ve tested, including the Canon 5D Mark II and Mark III. The D800 prints actually approached the quality of 4×5-inch film. Yes, a high-resolution scan of a sharp 4×5 transparency will be sharper, but not by much, and the D800e has much better dynamic range than transparency film, and far superior high-ISO performance.
The noise performance was also excellent, despite packing all those photo sites into a 24x36mm sensor. At 25,600 ISO the color shifts became problematic, but I made some Milky Way photos at 12,800 ISO with good color and relatively little noise. Here’s a comparison of the noise at 12,800 ISO with two Milky Way images, one with a Canon 5D Mark III that I used last year, the other with the Nikon D800E.
With both images, I used my standard Lightroom sharpening settings (Amount 40, Radius 0.5, Detail 70, Making 0) and no noise reduction. Both photos are shown at 100% (1:1, or one pixel in the image equals one pixel on the screen). The grain size is a bit smaller in the D800, and there’s less color noise, but remember that, because of the difference in megapixels, the noise in the D800 will be even smaller and less noticable than the noise in the 5D III when you make a print of equal size. You don’t have to enlarge each pixel as much to make the same size print with the D800 as you do with a lower-resolution camera, because you have more pixels to start with.
Shadow noise with the D800E is also very well controlled. Here’s another comparison with the 5D III; in both cases I used images made at 100 ISO, and cranked up the Exposure slider in Lightroom to +2.00 to bring out shadow detail in water, a smooth area where noise would be readily visible. Again, I used my standard Lightroom sharpening settings and no noise reduction. You’re seeing a 100% view again in both cases. The noise in the 5D image isn’t bad, considering the extreme lightening and magnification, but the noise is virtually non-existent in the image made with the D800. Now, I can’t imagine when I would lighten shadows that much, but it’s nice to know I could. The D800 has almost bottomless usable shadow detail at low ISOs.
Of course there is more to a camera than image quality. I could go on an on about the features that Canons have that Nikons lack, and vice-versa. I wish I could combine the best features of both into one camera, but alas…
And there’s a lot of value in just being familiar with your camera. The less time you spend thinking about the operation of the camera, the more you can concentrate on more important things, like light, composition, and mood.
But when looking at image quality alone, the D800 and D800E are outstanding. To me they’re a clear step above any other 35mm-style DSLR.
Does this difference in image quality really matter? Only if you make large prints, and are persnickety about sharpness and noise. If you never make prints larger than, say, 11×14 inches, you’ll probably never notice the difference. And even with a 16×20 print you’ll have to look closely. For those of us who make big prints, and care about fine details, the D800 and D800E are great options. If you rarely make big prints, then other features are probably more important.
Should I sell my Canon gear? Rumors keep surfacing about a higher-resolution camera from Canon – but then we’ve been hearing such rumors ever since the D800 was announced, and we’re still waiting. Even if Canon does announce a higher-megapixel camera, will they be able to pack that many photo sites into their sensor without creating too much noise? And will this higher resolution only be available in a top-of-the-line $8,000 body, or will they make something that’s a true competitor to the $3,000 D800? We’ll see. Of course I don’t expect Nikon and Sony to stand still either.
It seems likely that Canon will announce new models soon, so I guess I’ll hang on a bit longer. But I have to say it was hard to send that D800E back to Borrowlenses.com! I miss it already.
Oh, and the workshop was wonderful. Our second night I took the group up to an alpine lake to photograph star trails and the Milky Way. After sunset, the wind died completely, and the lake turned to glass – a rare occurrence at a large, high-altitude lake like this. As we waited for our star trail sequences to finish we watched Perseid meteors overhead, and reflections of stars shimmering in the water below. Then we capped the evening off by photographing the Milky Way reflected in the lake – the photograph at the top of this post. That experience was worth more than any camera or lens.
— Michael Frye
Related Posts: Photographing the Milky Way; A Memorable New Year’s Eve
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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.
Ahh, coming over to the Dark Side. Or at least a camera capable of taking amazing pictures in the dark side.
I was a Canon shooter when I started digital, but came over with the D7000. I did not have a large lens investment, since I was using my old R lenses with adapters, so it was easy(er) to make the switch.
But no matter what camera, anything in your hands with your eye and skills will produce the amazing shots like you show here. WOW and double WOW! I don’t think I have ever seen reflections of star trails before, or if I have, they did not make the mental impression that these have.
Thanks Aram — glad you like the photos. I’ve seen reflections of star trails before; I think Jim Goldstein has some. But it requires a very calm lake.
As for going over to the dark side, I take that literally, since Canon has white lenses, while Nikon’s are black. But I haven’t gone over yet! 🙂
I have read your review blog of Sony a7r and nikon D800 and D800E.
And pics were awesome, specially the milkyway pic.
Sir i myself is amateur pursuing photography. But i can’t afford full frame Dslr. I have dx format basic Nikon D5100, so can you plz guide how to make most of it. And some links to guide knowledge of composition and other aspects of photography.
Great review, your comparison to 4×5 makes me look at the D800e with new eyes. I almost bought one a year ago but alas, it would only collect dust, as I still prefer my large format film cameras.
Out of curiosity, what is the typical RAW file size that the D800e produces? Did you notice any moiré in the photos that you took with the D800e?
Thanks Eric. I was pleasantly surprised by the resolution when I first made a large print from the D800E. I wasn’t sure if lenses could actually provide enough resolution to take advantage of all those pixels, but they can — or at least some lenses can.
My Raw files from the D800e are from 43 to 50 MB. I think I missed the setting for uncompressed Raw files that Garry mentions below, so I’m thinking mine are using the lossless compression. I do notice that they’re slow to load in Lightroom, which may be the result of having to de-compress the file.
I discovered a long time ago that there isn’t really a meaningful relationship between the file size of scanned film vs. Raw digital capture. To get the most out of a film scan requires maybe a 5000 ppi scan (debatable, of course — some might think that’s overkill, some might think that’s not enough, and it depends on the scanner). That results in about a 100MB file for 35mm film, much larger for medium format and large format. Yet the 18MB Raw files from my Canon 1Ds Mark II easily produce sharper prints than anything I’ve seen from 35mm film. I think a lot of resolution is lost by the diffusion of light through the film emulsion compared with directly capturing the light onto a digital sensor.
Give the new Canon 6D a try. I recently switched to this when my original 5D died. The low light, high ISO performance exceeds the D600 and 5D Mkiii and is close to the D800 (according to trustworthy reviews IMO. I’ve not shot any of them). Plus, the 6D is loaded with the features that Nikon users wish they had. The features that matter to me the most are low light, high ISO performance, live view with histogram, and the wifi iPhone remote control. It’s nice to be able to compose and shoot without laying on the ground or stooping down and getting knee cramps. I’m considering buying a jib to do some higher vantage point shooting, and with the wifi, I’ll be able to compose and shoot while my camera is 10-15 feet in the air or hanging over a cliff. The 6D has a plethora of other features like an electronic level (which I use all the time), and the quick menu is pretty much perfect with every shooting relevant setting available with one touch and viewable on the rear screen instead of on the top (seems like a small thing until your camera is 6 feet high on a tripod and you have to use the top display to adjust something).
Better yet, it uses all my Canon gear I had from my 5D (L-series lenses, and even the remote cable, which I still use when the wifi iPhone app is too slow). It’s the lightest, most compact full frame DSLR on the planet which is nice for hiking, etc. You can even carry a lighter tripod as a result. Better yet, it’s over $1,000 less than the D800e (not considering if I had to sell my Canon lenses for less than I paid and then buying new Nikkor lenses).
The 6D has gotten some negative reviews, but the features they mention don’t matter to me. For landscape photography, the 6D is a power player IMO.
Brad, I have no doubt that the 6D is a great camera, and I’m glad you’re happy with it. The 5D Mark II and Mark III are also great cameras. As I wrote here, my comments were mostly about image quality and resolution, a category in which the D800 and D800E are, in my opinion, clearly a step above anything else in their size and price category. But if we start comparing features, I’d give the edge to Canon in most instances. Top of that list would be better live view performance in low light, which is great for focusing at night, and the ability to fire off an auto-bracketed sequence with one shutter click if you use the self-timer. Canons also have better video, if you care about that. I wish Canons had the auto-bracketing options that higher-end Nikons have, like the +3 option (metered, a stop lighter, then 2 stops lighter). I wish some engineer at Canon would actually use their cameras on a tripod in portrait mode, and realize that their cable-release socket is in the wrong place. For what it’s worth, the D800 has a histogram in live view, and an electronic level.
Michael, The 6D has the type of bracketing you describe, I think. It has 2, 3, 5, or 7 shots plus the ability to shift the entire thing plus or minus 5 stops. Metered, plus one, plus two, and more are easy to set up. You could do -1, metered, +1, +2, +3, +4, +5 if you wanted.
Thanks for the tip on firing the bracket sequence with the self-timer. It’s a bit annoying to use burst mode or single shot. The shutter is so quiet on the 6D, that if there’s any noise around, I’ve had to put my ear close to the camera to hear it and count shots while bracketing.
Oh yeah, The auto focus on the 6D has taken a lot of criticism, but let me defend it by saying that it’s awesome for what it’s designed for – focusing in ridiculously low light conditions.
Thanks Brad — I’ll try the auto-bracketing on the 6D if I have a chance.
I looked at the 6D what put me off was the auto focus points. It only has 11 and only 1 cross type , compare that to canons 7D 1.6 that has 19 all cross type. In my opinion that lets it down.
I should also add that I’m not suggesting the 7D is great. I have used one to shoot sport for a couple of years and it’s good in So Cal sunshine with great glass . But in low light the 1.6 crop is terrible. Nikon rules right now and I have to much invested in glass to change. So I’m in the praying for Canon group.
Ahhhh, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. This is the classic leap froging of Canon and Nikon. Prior to the D800 Canon was all the rage since the D800 Nikon has been all the rage. While both companies make excellent cameras they have been leap froging one another throughtout their competitive history and I am sure it will continue. As one takes maket share the other must improve to recapture what they lost. Compitition gives us better equipment at better prices. I agree with your assessment, if image quality is what you crave the D800 is the best option on today’s DSLR market. I am sure Canon is feeling this sentiment in their sales (folks who are yet to upgrade like yourself or others buying a full frame camera for the first time) and it will have to respond or leave this segment of the market to Nikon. So, we as consumers are left wondering what and when will we see a response and/or strategy shift from the frog in the rear.
Greg, I hope you’re right that Canon is going to respond with sensors featuring greater resolution and less noise. I will say that as far as noise is concerned, Nikon leaped over Canon several years ago, and so far Canon hasn’t leaped back. We’re still waiting. Maybe this is beyond their technological capability for the moment; if so, they should just order sensors from Sony! (Okay, I’m sure that won’t happen, but I can dream…)
I think you are right. sony is indeed doing something right, and Nikon is doing the rest even better than Sony can with their own sensors in their cameras. Nikon gets it. The low light is why I switched from Canon to the D7000, and when I got the D600 last December, that was probably an order of magnitude even better. And the dynamic range is nothing short of phenomenal. I don’t have to do nearly as much work to balance shadows and highlights as I use to, and the results are much better.
Aram, thanks for bringing up the dynamic range, which I didn’t really talk about. This is something that I would really have to do side-by-side comparisons of the same scene with other cameras, which I didn’t do. But just as a general impression the D800 seems to have excellent dynamic range, which goes along with all the tests and report that I’ve heard.
Michael, Very well done review by a most trusted source in my opinion! The proof is in the final product, which you clearly illustrate. This new technology is incredible. I fully agree that the camera does not make the photograph, but the eyes and skill behind the lens are the #1 factor. The improvment in the technology makes their image better, again as you illustrate.
I have been using the D600 as my first FF camera, and the IQ and low light performance is really incredible. I have yet to make a super large print, but my normal 13×19 prints come out beautiful. Can’t wait to see how it performs in the upcoming night photography workshop!
I’m sure many of your readers have seen DxO’s sensor test and rankings on all the current camera’s, but I’ll post the URL for those interested. It certainly backs up your findings. http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Camera-Sensor-Ratings.
Love the images by the way. Hope we get similar conditions on the next workshop. See you soon!
Marc, first, thanks for the kind words about the images — glad you like them. And I’m glad you like the D600. A lot of Canon users think the DxO tests are skewed somehow, since they consistently rate Nikon and Sony sensors higher than Canon sensors. But, as I said in this article, I work with a lot of workshop students one-on-one, and see all kinds of cameras, and look closely at images made with all these cameras under many different conditions. From what I’ve seen, the DxO ratings are accurate. I can confidently crank up shadow detail on any newer Nikon camera, even those with APS-size sensors, and know that I’ll see little noise. With Canons, lightening shadow detail is often more problematic. Shadow noise can usually be dealt with, and you can also bracket and blend exposures to avoid having to lighten those shadows, but it’s so much easier to just use one frame and push up the Shadows slider in Lightroom.
Really beautiful shot – I’ve seen so many shots of the Milky Way but this is a new perspective.
Your use of light – dawn, dusk, mist, moonlight – it’s just outstanding.
Thank you Chloe!
I’ve been using my 20D since it was the number three camera in Canon’s lineup, and taking it to Yosemite daily when I worked for YARTS from 2007 till March of this year, when I moved to Lompoc Ca. I’ve been looking very hard at the D800e and will most likely make the switch from Canon to the D800e. In my case I only have 3 lenses for the Canon and none are L lenses, so I really won’t lose out on what I’ve spent so far.
To be honest I’ve more than recovered the cost of my current camera when figuring in the cost of film and processing. My original plan for upgrading was to at least double the resolution from my previous camera, since my first digital was an Olympus E-10, it was easy to make the switch back to Canon, my film camera is a F1 with 4 lenses. Before the D800 came out I was looking at the 5DMKII and MKIII, and now the 6D. Have to admit that those extra pixels, for about the same money are very compelling. For me I will wait a bit longer,since the rumors seem to be getting stronger, but I’ll definitely will go for the camera that gives me the most bang for my money. Until then
window shopping sure is alot of fun!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this Gerry. I will probably wait a bit longer too, but it would be nice to see some clear signs from Canon.
Michael, I certainly hope Canon announces their leapfrog camera soon. Here is the (March) link I saw which suggests September/October time frame:
I for one am certainly not married to either C or N – both companies offer fine equipment, and when both have more-or-less equal offerings, everyone has a choice and ultimately wins:)
Still, if C is going to announce a new sensor technology (no Bayer filter) then I would wait until the reviews are in because sometimes first-gen new technology needs to mature a bit…
Also, when you hit 50 MP, you have to wonder what existing lenses are suited for this resolution.
Richard, I have the same concerns about first-generation technology, and also what lenses might be able to resolve even more megapixels. But I had the same doubts about whether lenses could resolve enough for the D800, and my doubts proved unfounded, at least with some lenses…
Thank you, Michael – a nice review!
Well, I finally got my first FF camera this past December (a D800, not D800e). I now wish I had gotten the D800E… I’m a relative beginner wrt serious photography, btw;)
I guess the main reasons I’m commenting here are:
1) In my opinion, the D800 has a superior sensor both for resolution and noise vs. the Canon 5DM3. That said, it’s important to turn in-camera and post-processing noise reduction off when making noise comparisons (to the extent that you can turn it off). From what I’ve read, if you just compare camera-produced JPEGs with default settings, the Canon may appear to have better noise, but the reviews I read when initially selecting my camera suggested that Canon’s noise reduction algorithm is a bit more aggressive and, as a result, sacrifices other aspects of IQ.
2) Very few lenses are sharp enough towards the edges to match the D800 sensor’s resolution. So, to benefit from those finer pixels, very good glass is required. This of course assumes an accurate focus can be obtained (see Live View below).
3) For star photos, I would recommend using reduced sharpening values as sharpening filters amplify noise. (I used to write software for image processing workstations.) The same goes for ‘pushed shadows’. Btw, I think Nikon’s Capture NX software has a special ‘Astro’ noise reduction filter which may be worth looking at. I believe you can get a free 2-month trial. I have tried it, and while it can do a nice job on the stars, it can sometimes (intermittently) reduce detail in the rest of the (non-sky) image areas.
4) I have had a lot of problems keeping my D800’s sensor clean, even though I take extreme precautions to prevent this when changing lenses. I don’t know if this issue is the same, better, or worse with Canons, but certainly something to think about.
5) I have heard from reliable sources that the Live View screen on the D800 is supposed to be (significantly) inferior to the Canon 5DM3’s. Did you happen to compare the two? I certainly am unhappy with my D800’s Live View screen. This is important because, at 36 MP, achieving a precise focus is very challenging! Yet, without a precise focus, those extra MP are just going to be wasted.
Still, even though I’m a beginner, I have managed to get a few high-quality photos, and so am happy with my D800, overall.
Thanks again for sharing this review!
Well Richard, for a beginner you sure know a lot about cameras!
As for the D800 vs. the D800E, I haven’t used the D800, and didn’t do a side-by-side comparison, but from everything I’ve read there isn’t a lot of difference between the two.
1) In-camera high-ISO noise reduction only affects JPEGs, so if you’re using Raw it wont’ make any difference. Long-exposure noise reduction does actually work on Raw files, but is mostly useful for eliminating hot pixels, not the random noise that’s really more of an issue. When you’re looking at any test or review it’s important to understand how the tests are being done. If I read that someone is comparing JPEGs I’ll just move on, since that’s not relevant to me. For the comparisons I show here, I used Raw files in all cases, and, as I said, used the same sharpening settings in Lightroom with no noise reduction.
2) Yes, good glass is required to fully benefit from the increased resolution of the D800 and D800E, especially, as you point out, in the corners. If your lens isn’t sharp in the corners at the aperture you need to use, consider composing wider and cropping off the corners — you’ll probably get a sharper photo this way.
3) Finding the ideal sharpening and noise reduction software and settings for high-ISO images can be quite challenging. The best methods that I’ve found often involve selective sharpening and noise reduction, so that you’re applying less sharpening and more noise reduction to smooth areas like sky and water, more sharpening and less noise reduction to textured areas and edges. Making selections to apply this selective sharpening can get pretty complex. It can also help to blend exposures. For example, in the top image here I lightened the water to better balance the top half of the image. But doing so brought out a lot of noise in the water. That’s not noticeable at this small size, but it would be with a large print. But I also made a lighter exposure at a wider aperture so I could use that lighter exposure for the water, and blend it with the top half of the image that you see here. I haven’t had time to do that blending yet, but that lighter exposure has less noise in the water, so if I make a large print of that image I will make that blend.
4) I doubt it’s any different, as Canon doesn’t have any special dust-repelling mechanism that I know of. Dust on sensors is a problem for everyone.
5) Yes, the live view on the Canon 5D Mark III, and most other Canon cameras, is better than anything Nikon offers. The main differences are that the Canon live view works better in low light levels, and you can use the depth-of-field preview in live view, which you can’t do with Nikons – very helpful for determining whether you’ve got everything in focus at a certain aperture. Having said that, focusing with the D800 in live view is just as easy in relatively bright light as it is with Canons. And I would disagree with your statement that precise focus is necessary to take advantage of all those megapixels. That’ true only if you’re using wide apertures. If you’re stopped down to f/8 or f/11, such ultra-precise focusing is unnecessary.
Thanks for your detailed thoughts and tips, Michael:) Also, thanks for correcting me in (5) above.
> Well Richard, for a beginner you sure know a lot about cameras!
Well, I used to write image processing and system software for Aerospace CT scanners, medical retina imaging, and radiology. So I guess I understand image processing, but have a lot to learn about photography, but I’m learning;)
> I used Raw files in all cases
I didn’t mean to suggest your tests were invalid. I was addressing comments I’ve seen on the web where people made statements such as “I can almost shoot in the dark with my 5DM3″ and to a certain extent, it is reasonable to expect the 5DM3 to have a better signal-to-noise ratio simply based on the area of each photo site. However, the method by which those photo site voltages are read out apparently can make a significant difference. I (with some Physics and imaging experience) was certainly surprised when I read the test results showing that this part of the processing chain more than made up for the smaller pixel site area difference. Still, I don’t know how many more pixels can be squeezed on to a 35mm sensor.
Regarding (3): Unfortunately, my D800 + 3 lenses more than exceeded my original camera budget, so I don’t yet have Photoshop, only LR 4.3 (I can’t upgrade to LR5 because it doesn’t support Windows Vista and I haven’t been able to afford a laptop upgrade yet). I hope to get some software package soon which allows me to use layers.
When I was photographing Mount Hood last week, I took 3 bracketed 25-second 1000x ND filter images with Lost Lake in the foreground and blended them using Photomatix to get a pretty realistic exposure. I had long exposure noise reduction turned off, and sure enough, I had to manually go in and remove a lot of bright single-pixel dots. I guess I’m still deciding whether or not to trust the in-camera noise-reduction to not degrade non-noise image detail. I guess I’m not confident that the same white pixels would light up in the subsequent dark image exposure. I’ll have to experiment with this…
If I were to suggest a short D800 improvement wishlist:
1) A brighter LCD ( for bright daylight). I guess I should invest in a loupe.
2) I’d like a fold out, tiltable LCD. When my camera is 8” off the ground aiming at a wildflower + background mountain, I either have to lie down on the ground or use a remote control tablet app (which I don’t have).
3) Extend the longest exposure computation engine’s exposure time from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. This would be helpful when using ND filters.
Richard, I like your suggested improvements. I’ll add being able to use the depth-of-field preview in live view, better low-light ability in live view, and a way to trigger an entire auto-bracketing sequence with one click. I’m sure there are more if I think about it.
Without layers, you can still apply some selective sharpening and noise reduction in Lightroom with the adjustment brush. It can get a bit tricky though if you need to make a precise selection.
Thank you, Michael. I like your ideas, too! My only concern with (I’m assuming) rapid, successive image capture for a bracketed sequence is vibration. If, say, a 7-image bracketed sequence could be triggered with one click, I’d like to be able to configure the sequence to use mirror lockup and the delay between exposures to let the vibrations settle down between successive exposures. Of course, this makes the menus/screens a bit more complicated.
Yes, I do use the adjustment brush for non-global changes when I can. I just wish I could define an arbitrarily shaped region of interest using cubic splines in which the operation would take effect and be blended/feathered in. Still, I probably only know about 20% of LR’s functionality;)
I also wish I could tweak the saturation, hue, and luminance for the individual (HSL?) colors when using the adjustment brush and graduated filter – not just for global operations.
Michael, What a brilliant Milky Way shot! Speaking of brilliance, thanks so much for recommending David duChemin’s work. I went to his seminar in Vancouver in early July — well worth it!
Thanks very much Monika, and I’m glad you enjoyed David’s seminar!
I would wait until 2014 if you can. As your wrote, according to some rumors Canon is experimenting with something a lot bigger than 36MP. Even if this is bullshit, I am pretty sure that Canon will bring a camera with 35-45 MP in 2014 that is a serious competitor for the D800. I just bought a 1DX, mostly for birds and mammals but use it also for landscapes. Works great but I agree that a 40MP body would be a nice addition.
The IQ of the EOS 1DX is stunning but it is “only” 18MP. For birds in flight, I think the 1DX + the new 4/600L II is the best on the market. The new 4/200-400L IS 1.4x is also spectacular and a dream for animals when you can get close.
If I shot mostly landscapes like you do, Nikon would probably be my choice.
I am sure 2014 will see new Canon bodies. They have only recently added the 2.8/24-70L II which is really, really sharp and I am sure they have already tested this lens on a larger sensor in their labs.
I also believe that Canon will introduce a new wide angle zoom next year.
For me staying with Canon was obvious due to the AF and 12fps of the 1DX and the 4/600 II with just 3.9 kg and 4/200-400 1.4x (just spectacular).
I your case it is tough – I am happy that I am currently not thinking about this 🙂
Btw way, I really, really like your new Lightroom 5 ebook. The best LR + landscape information I’ve seen anywhere on the web.
Your print book is also fantastic.
Markus, if I were primarily photographing wildlife I’d want the 1Dx also. It’s a great camera for wildlife and sports. And the new 200-400mm f/4 lens sounds great; if I had an unlimited bank account I’d get one.
I’ve heard those same rumors about a 70-something megapixel camera from Canon, but I’ll reiterate my concerns: price, and noise. If it’s an $8000 camera it won’t be a true competitor to the $3000 D800, and all that resolution wont’ matter if they can’t get better noise control. In fact the noise might be worse if they pack that many photo sites into a 24x36mm sensor. Even if it’s a 36-40 MP camera I’d have the same concerns.
Glad you like the new ebook!
Even Nikon’s D4 and Canon’s 1Dx (with 10-15 FPS) are only 16 or 18 MP. The Pro’s that are using that level DSLR are shooting sports and events. 36MP is over-rated unless you have optimal lighting conditions with a steady tripod/hand. 36 MP is like using a bazooka to kill a lion.
Thanks for the review, Michael. Makes me want the D800E even more (stepping up from my trusty and worn D200, once I have enough in the piggy bank).
Just curious about which 3 Nikkors you used. I am assuming the 14-24 2.8, 24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 VR II. But, maybe you used some others? Please let us know. Thanks.
Thanks Martin. I used the 17-35mm f/2.8, the 24mm f/1.4, and 70-200mm f/2.8. I’ve heard great things about the 14-24 f/2.8, but it’s a tank, and you can’t put filters on it. Plus I didn’t want to carry around that, plus a 24-70, and the 24. The 17-35 has issues in the corners, especially toward the 17mm end, but otherwise it’s fine. The 24mm f/1.4 is great, and a wonderful lens for night photography.
Should have tried the new 16-35/4. Not 2.8, but it is a vast improvement over the older 18-35 or the 17-35/2.8 that you used. I used both the previous ones for a bit as two friends had them. The only real drawback is at 16 there is a lot of distortion, but it is usually not an issue with landscapes. I guess if you really want excellent ultra wide, the Zeiss 15 is suppose to be the cat’s meow. I’d love to rent one of those suckers, but then again, I might then wish I owned one, and that would set the old pocket book back a bit.
Aram, I just rented the Nikon16-35mm and Zeiss 21mm for my Oregon/Washington trip last week. The 16-35mm was good but after I viewed my images when I got home, I regretted not taking more shots with my 28mm f/1.8G prime. The Zeiss 21mm had issues, sadly. I’m with you on the Zeiss 15mm:)
Richard. I’ve been thinking of the 28/1.8 and have almost bought it twice. I have a few primes of longer length and one zoom left over from my Leica R days that I have converted to Nikon mount. I’ll go out on a limb and say that nothing touches the ones I have, but I only have down to 35mm converted. My 24 won’t work on a FF Nikon or Canon. Mirror will hit it. 28 would be nice. So, I take it you found the 28 to be noticeably superior to the 16-35 when used at 28? Or did you just miss a faster lens?
What were the issues for the 21?
My eyes are getting too old to focus those old manual lenses on the modern, vastly inferior, viewfinders. Give me an R8 viewfinder on a Nikon digital and I’ll be one happy camper.
Aram, I’m out of town and my cell battery is low and forgot charger, so let me get back to you Sunday evening. If you send me your email, I’ll send you a couple of Zeiss images when I get home. My email is email@example.com.
Very good review and pretty much spot on as to my experiences with the D800E and I’ve been shooting mine for over a year now.
To expound on Eric’s question, after shooting almost 20,000 images with my 800E (mostly nature and landscapes) I have not seen any sign of moiré patterns.
As to Richard’s comment regarding sensor dust – I too find the sensor more susceptible to dust than any previous camera I’ve owned. The good news is that I have learned how to check my sensor in the field and have learned how to clean it myself when needed.
As for file size – my RAW files are about 72 MB.
Hope to see you switch… Keep up the good work.
Thanks for the info, Garry!
I thought the file size would be much larger, based on the many complaints I’ve heard about needing more disc space.
My film scans are in the size of 1.6 GB – 3 GB, so my idea of large file size is a bit skewed, haha.
To balance that out, I am taking only a few photos on a shoot vs the potentially hundreds that a digital shooter will create on a given excursion, so I can see those 72 MB files adding up quickly.
I have heard other complaints about image sharpness due to such pixel density that any vibration at all shows up. Has this been a problem for you?
I hope to see Nikon get away from old, outdated technology and move toward a mirrorless design. As the megapixels increase, it’ll become more and more important.
Garry, thanks for answering Eric’s questions!
I’m a bit surprised at your RAW file size. I just took 2,115 photos in Oregon and Washington and the average NEF file size was 44.5 MB. And this is pretty much on par with all the photos I’ve taken to date (around 9,000) since I got my D800.
I use lossless compression 14-bit RAW file storage mode. What mode are you using?
Hmmm, I wonder, is the increased RAW file size is due to the additional detail in the 800E vs. 800? That alone would be a pretty compelling argument to move to the 800E vs. 800. I’m guessing that using the uncompressed 14-bit RAW file mode would have RAW files much larger than 72 MB, but haven’t tried it… Using that mode would probably speed up LR image load time, though, come to think of it.
Regarding dirt on sensor, I know how to check for contamination (especially if I can contrast enhance defocused blue sky f/22 images on a laptop) but I have been unsuccessful in cleaning my sensor myself (or at local camera store). I’ve tried the Photographic Solutions sensor swabs, but they were too saturated and left a residue. Any tips/links would be appreciated as this is a serious problem for me.
Richard, I can’t imagine why there would be more dirt on the D800 sensor than any other camera. Maybe you notice it more on the D800E because it lacks the low-pass filter. The low-pass filter adds a little distance between the dust and the sensor itself, throwing the dust out of focus unless you stop down to f/16 or f/22. But then maybe there’s something there on the D800E anyway, even if it’s just for protecting the sensor.
No matter how great this camera maybe I could never make the switch. Like you I’m a Canon user and have a hugh investment in lens. How do you turn your back on Canon with all your L lens.
Bob, that’s the issue many people face. Once you invest a lot in lenses, you’re kinda stuck. Let’s hope Canon comes out with a true competitor to the D800.
Canon is likely gong to release a 36 MP DSLR soon. Even Nikon had to release the D600 for people who don’t need or want the massive files to output 10-15 inch prints.
I think sharpness with the D800[E] is a factor of three items: 1) steadiness 2) focus technique and 3) lens resolution. High end lenses for most cameras are just fine but not for the D800[E]. If and only if you can master the other two requirements for sharpness does it really matter but then a top of the line lens will make a difference.
Also, I have rechecked my file size and it is about 72 MB shooting 14-bit uncompressed.
As for checking sensors, Rick’s technique works well for recording the sensor’s surface in the field. But, without a laptop, you can zoom in really close using the LCD display and scan L-R from top to bottom. Contamination will be visible if it is there.
As far as sensor cleaning goes, remember the manufacturer does not recommend self cleaning. My experience has shown that even professionals don’t always do a satisfactory job even if you have the time to use them. I first use air from a blower bulb and then recheck. If anything is left I then use a static charged sensor brush. After checking again, if anything is left, I will try the blower again, brush again and if necessary carefully wet clean repeating any and all as necessary until the sensor is spotless.
Garry, I also clean my sensor myself. I don’t trust the so-called professionals to do it well and care about getting all the dust off. Besides, it would be way too costly and time-consuming to send it in for cleaning every week.
I mostly use the Arctic Butterfly by VisibleDust.com, but use their swabs and fluid when something gets stuck on the sensor. That’s another post. But I’ll just add that most people are way too scared of cleaning their sensor. I’ve cleaned my 1Ds Mark II sensor hundreds of times, maybe thousands, and it’s just fine.
Good points on sharpness, Garry. I’ve found achieving a tack-sharp focus on the D800 to be quite challenging! For me, getting close is not hard, but getting it perfect… well, that still has a lot of luck involved for me…
Re: 72MB RAW uncompressed files: You might want to consider using the camera’s lossless compression 14-bit RAW mode because this type of compression is 100% reversible – no data loss/degradation. Note that this is NOT the lossy compression mode which is also available in the camera. This will save you about 50% space on your memory chips (72 MB vs 45 MB rough numbers). The only thing you’ll lose is a slightly longer data decompression time when loading images into editing apps like Lightroom.
Finally, I just wanted to mention that you while you can find obvious spots on the LCD, the more subtle spots require a laptop and using an editing app like Nikon View NX. In the field, by all means, do what you can with the LCD:)
On the laptop using View NX, I temporarily convert the image to Monochrome, then set Contrast to 100, and then interactively vary the Brightness and/or Exposure as needed over each 1:1 FOV box to catch spots in light and dark sky regions.
The camera LCD simply doesn’t have fine enough brightness/color gradations (dynamic range) to show the more subtle spots. In fact, neither does a laptop. If you think about it, mapping a 14-bit (0-16,383) RAW color plane value into an 8-bit (0-255) display (laptop has 8-bits for R, G, B – 24 bits total) means dividing each RAW pixel color plane value by 64. That is, you lose (they become invisible) any image indications (spots) which vary from their background by less than 64 RAW pixel value gradations. That’s why the image editor process is useful if you really want to find all the spots. Finding the more subtle spots is important because you may end up pushing pixels in those areas in post to the point that they show up on prints.
Yes, Nikon does not recommend self cleaning. That said, my sensor gets dirty quite rapidly (couple of days in the field even though I’m very careful and fast), so while I don’t want to attempt wet cleaning again, I do think I’ll give the static sensor brush a try.
Thanks again for your comments.
Richard, see my reply to you above about focusing. To this discussion I’ll just add that the new “Visualize Spots” mode in Lightroom is great for finding hard-to-see dust spots. And see my comment in reply to Garry above about sensor cleaning.
Using swabs is tricky, because it’s easy to leave streaks. I use a dry swab to polish the sensor and get rid of streaks after I’ve use a wet swab. I’ll also use a lens pen for further polishing if necessary (make sure you tap the head of the pen to shake out extra graphite first). Those two things have always worked for me, but I suppose it’s not for the faint of heart. 🙂
One of the best things about taking a Michael Frye workshop is his thorough knowledge of DSLRs other than the Canon he shoots. I have had some annoying experiences in workshops with “Canon bias” so I was pleased in a workshop with Michael he was quite able and willing to teach me some things I didn’t know about my Nikon.
Thanks Anita! I do try to be knowledgable about all cameras. I’m sure there are workshops with a Nikon bias too, but I hope most workshops are not skewed either way.
I agree. Michael’s workshop changed my work to another level. He was only concerned about making a great photo.
Which lenses did you test Michael?
Jerry, I’m going to cheat and copy and paste from my reply to Martin above:
I used the 17-35mm f/2.8, the 24mm f/1.4, and 70-200mm f/2.8. I’ve heard great things about the 14-24 f/2.8, but it’s a tank, and you can’t put filters on it. Plus I didn’t want to carry around that, plus a 24-70, and the 24. The 17-35 has issues in the corners, especially toward the 17mm end, but otherwise it’s fine. The 24mm f/1.4 is great, and a wonderful lens for night photography.
Too bad you didn’t use the 14-24. I wonder what filters you would use with this lens if it was capable? Since I mainly shoot wildlife using the 600mm f/4, the weight of the 14-24 certainly isn’t an issue.
I am a Nikon fan, but also realize it is the eye behind the camera that is the deciding factor in making great images, which we all see in your work.
Thanks for sharing your view of the “dark side” 😉
Ken, I use polarizing filters pretty often, not usually for the sky, but for reflections and other things. And I like to use ND filters (not graduated NDs) for getting slower shutter speeds with water.
Living in the Sonoran desert, it goes without saying that I have problems with sensor dust also. I looked at Arctic Butterfly, and I see that there are several models. Which do you use?
Jerry, the model I use is several years old, and they probably don’t make it anymore. I’m not really versed in all the latest versions they have. I think the main decision is whether you need the LED light or not. I don’t have one, but I could see it being useful.
Thanks Michael for the comparison. The debate goes on…
It depends on your use: nature photographer or sports photographer or videographer or me: A little bit of everything. I have the D700 for event photography and the Mark 3 for personal photography (nature and video work). The reason why I abandoned Nikon was because the whole debate with MP is not important to me. 40MB Raw files add up. Unless you are using studio lights or using a tripod or have a steady hand, fine details are likely going to turn out blurry. Who actually prints 24×30 (or larger) prints on a regular basis? I don’t so I don’t need a medium sized 36MP to print out 24×30… My 12 MP D700 prints that size just fine.
Most of your fans dare nature photographers so the Nikon 800 may be a better choice if you’re planning on a huge output. So if you want to buy a new set of Nikon lenses, you may want to consider the switch. As a person who owns both systems, I prefer Canon for their better lenses. The DSLR itself it’s a toss up. I still love the way a Nikon feels and works natural in your hands. BUT after a month on the Canon, you do adjust and get used to the way it works.
My Nikon lenses were getting beat up and needed major repairs or replacements. So in my situation I made the switch to Canon. Canon lenses are solidly built and QUIET. My Nikons were always noisy. it always scared birds away and event people always get annoyed.
I don’t think MPs are Canon’s priority. They have a huge following for videoso they are working on better video-like smooth focusing. Rumors says Canon is working on a megaMP DSLR to compete…. eventually.
Quyen, you’re absolutely right, it depends on what kind of photography you do. For landscapes, where I almost always use a tripod, and I care about detail in the prints, the D800 is a great camera.
As you probably know, although I pay attention to equipment and how it works and sometimes write about it, I also think that gear is one of the less important things about photography.
That said, about gear… I also use a camera that is (almost) as old as your 16 MP body, and it the vast majority of cases the “differences” turn out to not be that important. The body I use has been said to have a problem with “noise banding,” but I’ve only run into a single situation where I thought it might actually affect my final print.
Like you, I’m not upgrading my Canon body until there is a significant increase in MP resolution of the sensors. In general – though it is a bit more complicated than this – I would wait for a doubling or near-doubling of the number of photosites. As you point out, for people who don’t print or who only print at rather small sizes, these things don’t really matter – but they do matter to me when I push print size.
Right now, the Nikon cameras are really performing well in terms of resolution and low noise. For anyone who is a very serious photographer and doesn’t already have an investment in lenses and so forth from Canon or another brand (does such a person exist? Well, yes, I can think of one. But only one), the Nikon gear looks awfully tempting.
Nicely balanced comments Dan — as always. 🙂
I’ve seen noise banding in a lot of Canon models when you try to lighten a smooth, dark area (typically water in landscape photographs), and it can be quite troublesome. I’ve had some success in reducing it’s appearance with the Moiré slider in the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom 4 and up (or ACR 7 and up).
A tripple coincidence! My friend forwarded your blog to me knowing I use a D800E. SO I don’t count this as a coincidence, as this was known and deliberate, but it coincides with i) the second day I started to read – and very much appreciate – your excellent book, Digital Landscape Photography, b) it’s just days after I took night pictures of the Milky Way with the D800E (on my way to capture two Perseid meteors with it!) and c0 it is at the time I started to look into workshops at Yosemite. Happy coincidences, except for the lack of room in your October Yosemite workshop. But I am contemplating a private arrangement in the spring.
As for the D800E, being an ‘enthusiast’ I am far from being able to take full advantage of all it’s features, but what I do get is wonderful. Not being a highly skilled photographer, I get a lot more out of the D800E than my previous D200 and D7000, due to the flexibility gained from its high resolution, low noise, andof course from consistently using RAW, leaving JPG for the Pro’s.
I was cautious – wrongly so – going to higher ISO for the night shoot, but did get some useful comparisons. I also avoided – rightly so – exposures over 30 sec.in order to keep on shooting for catching the rather scars meteors without wasting time during the camera’s long exposure NR processing. Lens was 21mm f/2.8 wide open. Bottom line: I went from deliberately under exposed shots at ISO800, to closer to well exposed at ISO3200, and had much easier time with the latter in post-processing. Next time when out at night with the D800E, I will definitely start with ISO3200 and experiment with higher ISO numbers till I fall off at that end.
I intend to become a consistent follower of your blog. Bob K.
Thanks Bob – a nice coincidence indeed! Sorry that there’s no space for you in the October workshop, but they tend to fill quickly.
My standard Milky Way exposures, with a 24mm lens and a nice, dark sky, are 20 seconds at f/2.8 and 6400 ISO. The D800 handles 6400 ISO quite well, I think. Even 12,800 ISO is pretty good. You have to use shorter exposures with longer lenses to avoid the stars streaking, which means either a wider aperture, higher ISO, or both.
You have to shoot mirror-up mode to get the most stable shot (supposedly the mirror causes vibrations) … I know Canon M3 has that feature. Does the Nikon D800 have that feature?
Is this feature helpful for these night shots??? Or is the exposure so long it’s not critical?
I can answer your first question. Yes, the D800 has Mirror Lockup. I use it all the time with cable release, day and night. You press the release button once which the locks mirror in the ‘up’ position (and I think activates the autofocus and metering if not in manual nodes) and then you wait a few seconds to let the vibrations settle down before pressing the button again to trigger the shutter.
Btw, my Nikon cable release also has a Lock slider which allows you to keep the shutter open for a long time at night (minutes) without having to keep pressing the button down with your thumb – you can put your hand back in your warm jacket pocket;)
As far as your second question goes, I think you’re right that mirror lockup isn’t quite as important for exposures over 5 seconds, just guessing – Michael will know better.
It’s probably akin to taking a 30 second exposure of a building and all the people walking by are erased because they’re not in one spot long enough to register on the photo. I always use mirror lockup at night though because brighter stars may just show some wiggle.
I only use mirror lockup when shooting slow shutter speeds with macro, or when shooting the Sun or the Moon with the 600 plus 1.4 TC. I usually share those online at full resolution on my FB page and that is where any little bit of vibration would show up. No matter how rock solid your tripod and mount is, there is some vibration, unless you are shooting with reasonable shutter speeds. I usually don’t bother to use the remote in these cases, simply let the 30 second delay in Mup mode trip the shutter.
I suppose I use the cable release sometimes when it’s not necessary and I don’t always use it. But a lot of times I find it useful, not just for when vibration could affect my images, but also for times like when I want to shade my lens from the sun with my hand or when taking bracketed exposures – I don’t want to wait 30 seconds between each bracketed shot because clouds move…
Most DSLRs have mirror lockup, except some of the cheaper, entry-level models. And if you use live view the mirror is already locked up.
To answer the second question, no, mirror lockup is not important for longer exposures like 20 or 30 seconds. It’s most critical with longer lenses, which magnify vibration, and with shutter speeds in the ½ second to 1/60th second range, although you may notice a difference with even faster shutter speeds with really long lenses. With a shutter speed of 2 seconds, for example, let’s say the mirror vibration lasts ⅛ th of a second. Therefore the vibration would be 1/16th of the total time the shutter is open, and for the vast majority of the time the camera would be still, so you probably won’t be able to see a difference in sharpness between having the mirror locked up or not. Having said that, using mirror lockup doesn’t hurt, and I use it (or live view) routinely. On the other hand, it can interfere with a fast auto-bracketing sequence, or using an interval timer for star trails.
Of course a cable release or self timer is always essential when using a tripod, so that you’re not moving the camera with your fingers when you press the shutter. And turn vibration reduction or image stabilization off! They’re designed for hand-holding, and if your image stabilization lens detects any slight vibration when on a tripod, it will try to correct for it, but not in the right way, and your photograph will actually get blurred.
Just be careful with 10 pin connector in case you decide to use a GPS device or similar. The connector on the camera body is highly fragile. I have used before D2X, D3, D3X but never had any problem. But the connection in D800E broken in the first use of the GPS tracking device which was original Nikon as well. All the other features of the camera are perfect.
Thanks Alper – I heard about the problem with the 10-pin connector from someone else. Strange and troublesome.
I have not used the GPS device, but regularly use the 10 pin connector with the wireless remote on my D800 without any problem. That said, I seldom screw it in since it stays pretty will without it. My 74 year old fingers are sort of numb from neck problems, so it is hard to tell what I am doing with small stuff like this.
Michael, great to see you trying out the D800! I know a few folks came over from Canon. I love the D800 but Canon has to be on the brink of a new large megapixel body, so hold out and keep those awesome lenses! One hidden cost in those large megapixel files is the cost of new computer you might need just to handle those files!! Just downloading them and rendering can take an eternity if you have older hardware. It definitely will get you in the habit of shooting smarter!
As a few folks have noted – the one thing that REALLY hurts on the D800 is the live view focusing compared to the Canon. Especially for night photography!! If you ever borrow it again or have students that use it, have them take a look and subscribe to diglloyd’s blog. It costs $$ to subscribe but he has some GREAT tips to get the most out of the D800. One great tip is he created a custom picture control that gives greater contrast and detail for live view focusing. It REALLY helps! I use it for focusing and then switch back to my standard setting for image review. That setting file is worth the subscription alone! http://diglloyd.com/blog/2012/20120618_4-NikonD800-PictureControl.html
John, thanks for the tip about that custom picture control. I’ll let my D800-using students know. I was able to focus on stars at night with the D800, but it sometimes took awhile to actually find a star bright enough. And you have to have Nikon’s equivalent of Exposure Simulation on (I don’t know what Nikon calls it, if anything). In other words, you have to be able to see an exposure scale and histogram in live view. If you don’t see an exposure scale, and press info and cycle through all the live view viewing modes without seeing a histogram, press the OK button to turn on the exposure scale and live view histogram — and also enable the live view to work with lower light levels. Note that this only works with the D800, D4, D3x, and D3s. As far as I know, no other Nikons have a live view histogram.
Just for calibration… I’ve been shooting a D800e for over a year now, and the increased resolution is clearly visible in prints (to me at least) at 11×14, and it hits you in the face at 16×20. I shoot landscapes, mostly, and I have several images of things like bare-branched aspens that work because of the resolution. Enough so that non-photographers comment. And since in those images the delicacy of the tracery is really the point, the resolution is a win. I’m very much an amateur, but it does seem to make a difference.
P.S. I notice the Ansel Adams Gallery is featuring some of your work in their email newsletter. Good stuff!
Thanks Eric. Well, yes, you probably can see a difference in 11×14 prints, though maybe not enough to matter for most people. Certainly you can at larger sizes. In your case, what are you comparing the D800 to? What was your former camera? I’m comparing it to something like the 5D Mark III.
I’m glad you noticed The Ansel Adams Gallery print sale — I just posted something on this blog about it.
Three comparison points:
1) Film – 35mm and 6×7 scanned on a Coolscan 9000. As you’ve noted before, these film scans seem a little soft.
2) D300, 12 MP and D7000, 16 MP, both DX format
3) Sony RX100, 20MP, 1″ format
I’m still using a lot of manual focus Nikkors, though, mostly 24mm and 55mm.
It’s hard to really do comparisons to film, since I don’t have identical images, but even 11×14 prints *seem* sharper than 35mm prints to Ciba, and the 16×20’s *seem* at least as sharp as 6×7 prints to Ciba.
But I don’t want to be dogmatic about it — these are my impressions, not measurements, and I haven’t compared directly to a D600 or 5D Mark III. That said, I was gratified that the resolution helped support the intent of the aspen photograph I mentioned.
Okay, thanks for clarifying Eric. The jump in resolution between all the cameras you mentioned and the D800 is pretty big I think. In my experience, a 16 MP full-frame digital camera with sharp lenses, and the right sharpening workflow, will make sharper prints than medium-format film, even when that film is scanned on the Heidelberg Tango drum scanner, which is about as sharp as a scanner gets. A 16MP full-frame sensor will also out-resolve APS and smaller-size sensors with even larger MP counts, because the lens resolution comes into play.
There’s no question that the D800 represents a noticeable jump in resolution from anything else short of (really expensive) medium-format digital backs and large-format film, and I can see that difference in 16×20 prints, even compared to 20+ MP cameras like the 5DII and 5DIII. But not everyone is as discerning as you and me!
I just saw a file taken with the D800. It confirmed my opinion that it’s not a camera for portraits (outside the studio). The details were blurry. It was due to the fact the photographer used a slow shutter with lo-ISO 64-200. She did use ISO 1000 but still used a slow shutter. Not sure if she used a tripod BUT looks like she used some artificial lighting (LED???)
The details were phenomenal when the photo was in focus. BUT it’s being published on a Magazine 5×7 8×10 tops. 36MP Overkill?
Michael, was the night workshop you participated in a one on one? I had been looking to see if you were hosting another night workshop this year, but I didn’t see anything on the Ansel Adams Gallery website.
Mike, not all of my workshops are through the Gallery, nor are they all announced publicly, so if you want to hear about them you should join my mailing list (on this page at the top of the right-hand column).
Thank you, Michael. I knew you had done a night workshop with the Gallery last year that I was unable to attend. Hoped you would be hosting another, as I love shooting at night. I have definitely registered for the mailing list now.
I was just browsing your blog tonight, my attention was snagged, and I spent some time contemplating your shot of the milky way. I wanted to tell you that the more I look at it the more amazing it is, almost like a blend of a good landscape with a NASA astro-photograph. There’s even color on the galactic clouds! I don’t know how you did the shot, but it’s one of those that just pulls you in. Bravo.
Thanks very much Eric! Glad you like that image.
Love the reflections of the stars in the water… can’t recall seeing that before.