My Nikon D800e has arrived and…
…I’ve started putting it through its paces. [Many thanks to Lan at Vistek Mississauga for finally getting one of these into my hands!] I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that, at least for me, this is the dawn of a new era in photography. Sorry for the melodrama, but I’ve been using 4:3s DSLRs since I switched from 35mm and while I can state unequivocally that I made some absolutely wonderful images with them, I always felt just a little hampered with the lack of fine detail I had become used to when shooting 6×7 and 4×5 (and 35mm Velvia). It would appear the D800e might just bridge that IQ gap I have been missing.
This morning I was out before dawn putting the camera through its first paces and am just now sitting on the deck waiting for the images to upload to my computer. As background, I am using a MacBook Pro (mid-2011) 2 GH Intel Core i7 with 8 GB of ram. As the D800e has two card slots, I have put into the CF slot a Lexar Professional 32 GB 400X UDMA card (dedicated for video and overspill) and into the SD slot a Lexar Professional 32 GB 400X SD UHS1 card. I am dedicating my raw images to the SD card since I can easily remove it from the camera and plug it directly into the MacBook Pro (I would prefer to be doing that with the CF card, but I guess that would be asking too much of Apple).
So the images have uploaded and didn’t take as long as I expected given that they are all raw files between 40 and 50 MB in size. The 78 images were uploaded in just a few minutes into Lightroom 4.1. This is partly because I have only Medium size jpeg previews made and 1440 pixel previews and a Standard Preview size of 1440 pixels at Medium quality. While this speeds uploads, it does mean that I wait for full-sized previews to be generated upon zooming for the first time in Lightroom.
I set out this morning, as usual, with my complete kit of tripod + electronic remote, polarizing and ND3 filters plus lenses: 20/2.8 AF-D, 28/2.8 AF-D, 50/1.8 AF-D, 105/2.8 Micro AF-D and 300/4 AF-S. They are mostly D lenses because I was able to pick them up used for a great price and just couldn’t justify the extra expense for the AF-S versions when the optics are virtually identical (particularly with the 20mm and 105mm Micro-Nikkor). I hardly ever use a 28 or 50, so my key focal lengths are well-covered with near excellent glass and the 105 AF-D is a much more manageable size compared to the AF-S version. AF might be a bit slower, but for most of my work with that lens I am using MF anyway.
Field Experience – so far, anyway…
I have enjoyed the switch from Olympus to Nikon over the past two months, although I greatly miss having both shadow clipping and highlight clipping show in LCD previews. Olympus would show Shadow clipping as blue and Highlight clipping as red just as Lightroom does – I can never figure out why Nikon does’t do the same except that Highlight clipping is much more important to be aware of than Shadow clipping. Also, I miss being able to program the delay between mirror lock-up and shutter activation. Olympus would allow 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 & 10 seconds; the D800e only allows up to 3sec. so I just set the dial to “Mup” and count my own 4 or 5 seconds – no real problem there as it is identical to how I use my Pentax 67.
Everything seems to be in its place for other settings and I haven’t found the camera to be cramped. One thing I did notice right out of the box was how light the camera felt. I am glad of it not being the “professional” size of a D4 or D3 as I much prefer something that is more “backpack-able” and “portage-able”.
I plan to shoot at the base ISO of 200, unless there is a compelling reason to change, as ISO200 does provide the greatest dynamic range. Typically, I shoot using Aperture-Priority (A-mode) as it is aperture that I wish to control more often than shutter speed. I work on a tripod, so unless the wind is blowing, shutter speed is not usually significant.
I am greatly enjoying the much larger viewfinder experience offered by a full-frame camera. There is space to look around! I make constant use of the digital level projected in the viewfinder and find Nikon’s implementation quite good except for one thing – the markings are in black. If they were at the top (as they are when I shoot vertically) then it’s not too bad as they are more often projected against the sky (for landscapes). But with black markings at the bottom, I found they were difficult to see at times. Depressing the shutter release 1/2-way does give a split-sceond of the “ambient-red” look so I can see where I’m at, but I must admit to finding the implementation of the digital level in the viewfinder less helpful than my experience with the Olympus E-30, although the Nikon seems to be slightly more precise with finer markings.
Breakfast is calling. More to come…