D800- my experience

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ZinMe
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D800- my experience
6 months ago

I've been trying to decide between a D7100 and D800e as an upgrade for my D300.  This weekend, I rented a D800 with grip and shot a baseball game and lacrosse game.   I want a general purpose camera- while I shoot 50% sports, I want something that I can use for people and landscapes.  (I have a Fuji XE-1 for travel.)

I shot it with my 300mm f2.8 VR1, and switched mostly between 1.2x and 1.5x crop.  Used a monopod.  I AF fine-tuned before I shot.  Used apertures between f2.8 and f4 (mostly at f3.2 however.)  Shutter speeds were between 1/3200 and 1/8000th.   I switched between AF-C d9 and d21.  AF lock on "3."   Both games were on turf and it was 11am - 2pm, so I was fighting the heat reflection which made sharpness challenging.  Here are my observations:

  • Shadow areas on white uniforms were very blue (I reduced blue saturation to -18 in LR5 to minimize it.)
  • Focus was inconsistent.  In come cases, resolution/sharpness was fantastic, in other cases it just missed focus, even using center for stationary objects that were relatively close (ex. 40ft) where I could frame, shoot and stabilize methodically.  I would say ~35-40% of my shots were focused well enough.  My D300 probably gets > 66% but I have more experience with it.  
  • In a series of shots, the first shot was seldom focused, but it improved over 2-4 shots, where the later shots were focused better.   
  • When shooting within 60ft, sharpness was better, past 60ft not as good.  Could be related to the mirage effect from the heat or sub-optimized AF Fine Tune
  • Frame rate was acceptable-- even though 5fps at 1.2 and 6fps at 1.5 crop isn't great, its a "good" 6fps, very consistent, and buffer was fine.  I measured slightly better than 6fps using the grip with alkalines.
  • I liked the format flexibility- I shot mostly 1.2 and 1.5x crop depending on the situation. 1.2x is a great combination with the 300mm f2.8, although in PP I found that after cropping I was generally closer to a 1.5x format
  • For those shots where the D800 nailed focus, the sharpness / resolution was definitely better than D300.  Compared to the D7100, it was about the same maybe a little below, although I have a few shots with the D7100 where it is a cut above the D800-- perhaps the D800e will close that gap a bit.   (I have to say, that D7100 sensor is terrific, but the buffer is pathetic, the AF is very tricky, and the frame rate is inconsistent.)
  • Dynamic range is very good-- in a very challenging / contrasty environment I had no issues pulling up shadows or pulling back highlights.   
  • I have the original collar for my 300mm f2.8, and decent monopod- the experience made me wonder if I need to upgrade both.   

If any experienced D800 users can comment as to whether the above limitations are manageable through better technique (or perhaps the rental needs some AF adjustments??)  I would appreciate it.   I may rent a D3s + 200-400 for comparison (I think I would need min of 400mm to shoot effectively with a D3s)

Thanks.

 ZinMe's gear list:ZinMe's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Nikon D300 Fujifilm X-E1 Nikon D7100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF +8 more
Nikon D300 Nikon D3S Nikon D7100 Nikon D800 Nikon D800E
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