D800E thoughts, round 2 / plus some more lens thoughts

Started Jun 25, 2012 | Discussions thread
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anotherMike
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D800E thoughts, round 2 / plus some more lens thoughts
Jun 25, 2012

A few weeks ago I posed my initial thoughts of my D800E and some lens opinions. There were a few people who were curious to my findings, so I will finish off with this thread, based upon some more testing and a test shoot in the studio. This pretty much concludes my testing regimen for the time being. There are still some things I'd like to look at, but won't have the time for a while.

So:

Skin Tones: Thank god the D800 is not producing the issues I had with the D7000 skin. That was my primary concern for studio use. Yes, Nikon has changed the relative strength of the red channel versus the D700, but overall the skin tones don't have that tendency to occasionally go somewhat lifeless and flat like I experienced on the D7000. Now, this is a subtle thing - I'm sure some D7000 fan will come chiming in here with a near albino white model and pronounce the skin tones excellent, but I'm picky about skin, and the D800 is pretty accurate with skin tones. Is it perfect? Not quite - if anything, it's leaning every barely so slightly to the cyan (but not green) side of the house, whereas the D700 would lean slightly to the warmth. Nothing that can't be addressed in post. But most importantly, it maintains the tonal (and color) differences in skin, the slight things that make skin look real - and the very thing where I felt the D7000 was a bit weak compared to other bodies. Again, this is a subtle thing, and I shoot a LOT of skin, so I'm likely far more sensitive to this aspect of image quality than most.

White Balance: Seems to also run just the tiniest nudge to the cyan as well. Very subtle. Easily corrected in post.

AF in low light: Excellent news. VASTLY superior to the D7000 here; the D7000's flat out inability (even with center AF point) to get me a decent number of keepers under studio modelling lights (dynalite and profoto strobes) was the primary reason I got rid of that body. I'll also note that all my colleagues who have evaluated the D7000 also had low light AF issues and the vast majority have also sold their bodies and moved on to bodies that perform the basic function of AF in low light better as well. Sorry D7000 fan boys, it's not just me. Compared to the D700, you know, it's a hard one to call. I think some colors seem to trip up the D800E more than the D700, but the speed of initial acquisition on the D800E is a bit better. I'd need to look at this aspect more to have a final answer. Not a problem for what I do... I rarely missed focus, even when working "free form" posing with a constantly moving model and no static poses). NOTE: This (above) topic should be read under the understanding that I used the center group of AF sensors only. See the next section for some less wonderful news.

AF Accuracy on non-center points: Mixed Bag. I don't seem to be having the major problems some do with the non-center posts, but there are some minor ones: after a round or two of very stringent testing using various focus targets that even Mr. Shepperd would approve of, there is some inconsistency based upon what focus point is selected, with the outer ones not being quite always up to snuff as the center group (basically the 3 center columns I like). It's not enough of an item to be a deal breaker for my studio or landscape work since I tend to use mostly the center-ish zones for that anyway, but I'm not sure I would want to rely on the D800E as a theater/dance performance camera where I'd be relying on wide open AF ability at this point. I may end up at some point sending the body in for service. I'm not seeing the horrible examples some have posted here, but on the outer sensors I do see some issues my D700 did not have. For my work it's not an issue, but at some point I'd probably get it looked at. My best guess is that a buyer of a D800 six months from now won't have as many issues - this thing seems like a manufacturing tolerance kind of thing that would be addressed "silently" along the manufacturing line. So in some ways I understand why some folks are having problems, but I'm also lucky in that mine aren't as bad and my needs for 90% of what I do don't require anything but the center 5 focus points anyway.

Battery Life: Decent in the studio if I'm not using a lot of image review or live view. Lousy if I'm using a lot of live view or image review. Landscape guys who use live view or a lot of review, bring a handful of spare batteries, you'll need em.

Moire/Aliasing: Since my studio work is at apertures that start to live in the land of diffraction, I've had no major issues with moire or aliasing. The one time I picked up some minor moire on a mesh fabric, it was fixable to a reasonable degree in post - I had worse moire on this fabric with the D700 actually. Another pleasant surprise.

Lens wise: Finding in real life work the 24-70 is absolutely fine - for studio I don't need deep corner performance, and at studio apertures, it's very, very sharp if I stay in that 30-60mm range.

The 35/1.4G is a lens that shines on the D800E, as is the bloody excellent 85/1.8G, and the 70-200/2.8 VR-2 is nothing short of stupendous at 105mm in the studio range (as in, I don't even bother mounting my 105/2 DC for studio work any longer). My 24/1.4, 14-24 and 200 are more for landscape work, and I've discussed the two wides in my previous post from a few weeks ago.

Overall: I'm exceedingly happy with the camera. Base ISO image quality is bloody tremendous - no problems with noise in the shadows, you can push the shadows hard, continuously toned backdrop colors stay clean, and while the highlight headroom isn't quite what the D700 had, it's still enough that if I blow a highlight a little I can rescue it. Given my needs as primarily a studio and occasional landscape shooter, the D800E is a perfect fit.

-m

Nikon D700 Nikon D7000 Nikon D800 Nikon D800E
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