>>>> Street Photography eXchange #13 <<<

Started Jun 2, 2012 | Discussions thread
Veteran MemberPosts: 7,820
note on the nikon d800
In reply to fad, Jun 8, 2012

i've had a chance now to play with two d800s (several friends have upgraded and/or switched) and it is very impressive. compared to the d4, dynamic range at base iso is clearly better, and overall quality at base iso completely blows the 'pro' nikon out of the water. compared to the m9 (which some of you may recall held up very well against the d4 in my previous comparison), the d800 surprisingly does not blow the 3 year old leica out of the water where base iso dynamic range is concerned. several tests showed that the m9 was actually able to pull up shadow details which were completely absent in the nikon. otoh, the nikon showed no pattern banding or noise whatsoever; blown blacks simply raised smoothly as lighter gray. the m9 will produce cross-hatch banding if pushed to the extremes required to raise those details out of the black. but, the banding is usually not so bad that it would destroy a print, and the recovered details are stronger than the banding.

the d800 excelled at retaining sharpness and detail within the (wide) range where it was recoverable. when recovering details from 4-or-more-stop underexposed areas on the leica, sharpness and detail takes a serious hit; with the nikon, it hardly looks different from a properly exposed frame. color is a different matter; the nikon displayed some seriously weird color shifts in recovered areas, e.g. a grey sweatshirt turned bright teal. but, when reasonably exposed, the nikon produced the most neutral blacks from ir-active synthetic fabrics (motorcycle suits) i have ever seen in digital. it also seemed to resist ambient color taints better than normal for digital, turning in results under foliage which more closely resembled emulsion-filtered color neg portrait film. skin tones and tones in general were extremely good, lacking the sorts of magenta tints which canon and even leica often fall prey to, while retaining good separation and detail (no plastic look).

shooting the new nikon 35/1.4 next to the somewhat older leica 35/1.4 asph (ver. 1, not current version), the leica lens unsurprisingly looked better, particularly in terms of longitudinal ca, which was pretty severe on the nikon. but, if processed in nikon's own software, the ca is automatically corrected, and it seemed to do a very good job (lightroom can also attempt to correct this, but i didn't test that aspect). it was difficult to control the focus at f/1.4 as precisely as with the rangefinder, of course, unless you have a tripod and can use live view. it has been weeks since i'd last shot with a dslr, and frankly i was surprised at how clumsy and slow the nikon was compared to using a leica, to say nothing of the shock of losing sight of the subject as the mirror flapped. of course, i'm used to the rangefinder, and for some purposes (e.g. long continuous tracking in sports) the slr would undoubtedly be faster.

finally, i was somewhat surprised that many control functions on the d800 entail a half second or longer lag. i've gotten used to instantaneous response from dslrs. slinging around those gigantic files clearly comes with a cost.

also, if anyone is keeping track, one of the two d800's did exhibit asymmetrical back focus with the outer focus points, though it was not as severe as some of the examples floating around the web. if it were my camera, i'd definitely exchange it or have it fixed, though. (the second body appears to be fine.)

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