A fresh take on the D4 vs D800 bird photography issue

Started Apr 26, 2012 | Discussions thread
Senior MemberPosts: 1,590
Re: A fresh take on the D4 vs D800 bird photography issue
In reply to David H Dennis, May 2, 2012

For the scenario you describe with shooting birds in flight, I would use the D300 with a telephoto at 8 FPS.

David H Dennis wrote:

Let's pretend I had a D800. I have the 24-70 f/2.8 lens, which is my only truly excellent lens, well known for its sharpness. I visit Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach, Florida, where birds are readily visible.


A spectacular grouping of Roseate Spoonbills is visible across the lake. I zoom in to a downright pathetic 70mm, and snap the picture. Once home I can crop it to a usable 1024x768 image at the middle, which has the bird filling the frame, just as though I'd used a telephoto lens. Since I print about 0.00001% of my images and display about 5% of them on Facebook in about that resolution, this seems like a pretty good deal.

Now, that sounds at least somewhat like i would be better off doing that than shooting the same image with the D4, since the D4 doesn't have the resolution to let me crop in such an impactful way.

To make matters more confusing, the main reason I can justify the high price of the D4 is that I want to get beautiful high ISO photographs of various parties and events that are held with dramatic atmospheres. There is virtually no light at those parties, and I gleefully anticipate clean ISO 6400 and even 12800 pictures. But I was shocked by the D800 tests - it seems like it's very nearly as good at those ISOs as the D4!

Now, in my heart of hearts, I would rather have the D4. I want the higher shooting speed and I prefer the way it looks and works. But could I be missing out on better pictures on the D800? I would certainly have no trouble keeping birds in the frame at 70mm, while a lot of the pictures I take with a telephoto are ruined because the bird is half in the frame, half out.

I read on bythom.com that this would not work well, due to phenomena such as diffraction. Alas, I read the information on diffraction and was baffled.

Can some kind soul explain why taking crops out of 36 MP images isn't a great way to get better pictures, more frequently? On paper it seems perfect, and I already take crops out of my existing images on the D300. They still look great to me, but many of them are too small to display, thus the desire for higher resolution.

My "masculine intuition", such as it is, tells me I'd really prefer a D4. But if I got a D800, I could also afford the 70-200 f/2.8 and maybe even a teleconverter. So I might well get better overall pictures, but in trying to photograph birds in flight, the low speed might be frustrating (as it already is with my D300, which I actually think is a shade faster than the D800).

I'm leaning pretty heavily towards the D4, mainly because I tried a D3S in the store and it felt just great in the hand and when taking pictures. It just felt right, and I'm sure a D4 would give me basically the same experience. But I'm quite honestly a bit shaken by how good the D800 turned out to be for half the price.



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