Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Camera Choices - Part 2 - Nikon D800E

In addition to the Hasselblad H5D I also use the Nikon D800E. I was very excited about this camera when it was introduced because I have always enjoyed Nikon Digital cameras and actually began my digital photography career back in the 90's with a Nikon coolpix camera (I think it was a whopping 2 megapixels!). I slowly progressed through the years with the new Nikon digital cameras as they were introduced and feel the D800 is at the top of the heap now with the Nikon digital camera evolution. This camera is an important part of my toolkit because of its excellent higher iso image quality when compared to the Hasselblad H5D (the H5D image quality noticeable degrades at iso above 100). I use an assortment of noise reduction tools such as Topaz De noise when I need to deal with high iso noise Below are my opinions and impressions from using both of these cameras. There are plenty of other websites that will get into much more technical detail if you want to do some pixel peeping. This article just covers my personal experience and opinions based on years of using both camera systems.

If I am shooting in an environment where I have to hand hold the camera or where it is very windy and I need to freeze motion of blowing plants, I will use the D800E. I still try to use the lowest iso possible to achieve an appropriate shutter speed for the situation. I do not like to go above iso 800 and prefer to be around iso 400 max. I can also get a much wider angle of view with the Nikon Camera system than with the H5D due to the lens selection. I often use the Nikon 14-24mm zoom for wildflower photography, where I have to deal with the blowing flowers and need for very wide angle perspective.

Spring Poppies shot with Nikon 14-24mm zoom

I also find better results when using the Nikon D800E in low light situations. My favorite July 4 fireworks shots were taken with this camera (this was taken with the 70-200 mm Nikon Zoom). This image was an 8 second exposure at F13.
Donner Lake Celebration

There are also times when I want to be more discreet and not have a giant Hasselblad camera around my neck, so I will take the D800E and put on a 50mm lens so I can be more stealth. This is often true for more urban types of environments. If there is a lot of fast action that is going on I also prefer to use the Nikon since handholding the camera is easier in an environment where things are changing and moving rapidly, such as when shooting hot air balloons at sunrise:

If the weather is really bad I also prefer to use the D800 since I do not want to risk damaging the more sensitive H5D. This shot of a blizzard in the forest was shot with my Nikon D700 (which I have sold and replaced with the D800):

Sierra Storm

So my decision on when to use the D800E primarily centers on the shooting conditions I will be facing, including the need to hand hold, the light level, amount of activity I will be shooting, the weather, and the need to be discreet with my photography. I have been very pleased with the quality of the images I can obtain from this camera. In order to get the best image file possible it is preferable to shoot with the same technique as the H5D: Tripod, Mirror Lock up (or live view), cable release, and optimum aperture to avoid diffraction (I generally try to not stop down to a smaller aperture than f16 on the D800E). That being said, often times when I am using this camera I am not able to do that, so I have to rely on higher iso ratings, bigger apertures, and faster shutter speeds to get a sharp image. I think the files from this camera can be enlarged easily up to ten feet in size if needed.  I use On One Perfect Resize 8 for all my up sampling. It is very important to shoot files in 14 bit RAW setting with the Adobe RGB color space enabled to get the best possible file quality for the D800E. I do RAW file development in Lightroom or Camera Raw in Photoshop

I selected the E version of the camera that comes without the anti-aliasing filter since I wanted to maximize resolution of the sensor and generally find I do not have a problem with moire in my images. After working with files from both the H5D and the D800E I have developed a feel for the capabilities of both camera systems. My opinion is that the D800E files when enlarged will fall apart and start to look more digital and smeary when up sampled beyond 56", and the H5D can handle enlargements up to ten feet without ever experiencing the digital smear look. At print sizes below 56" wide I can tell the difference between the 2 camera files but the average viewer would have a harder time differentiating at a normal viewing distance.  Because of the additional color information captured by the H5D I think I can pull a broader tonal range of colors from those files. The bottom line is that I can use the D800E to capture images that would be difficult to capture with the H5D at iso 50 or 100. Beyond iso 100 I think I can get better image quality from the D800E than the H5D. Because of the file quality at higher iso ratings I can make huge enlarged prints with D800E files that will be acceptable to almost any discerning viewer or collector.