Rented a D810, the good, the bad, and the ugly...

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ralittle2
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Rented a D810, the good, the bad, and the ugly...
9 months ago

Despite all the excitement about the possibility of a new Nikon FF camera, I decided to rent a D810 since I knew I had an upcoming twilight middle school football game. The parents & teammates think my photos are great. I'm really just a rank amateur who is trying to get better. But since there are a lot of folks who are experts on this forum, I thought maybe a few of you wouldn't mind some observations from someone of my skill level. I currently shoot a D300s, but am seriously considering purchasing a D750.

The game took place this afternoon and into the evening. The conditions were constantly changing with a line of light dividing the field upon kickoff. Late in the game the light was quickly vanishing as there were no stadium lights. So, I'll share a couple of observations, questions and a few pictures. Thanks for playing along.

Here are some of my observations, in no particular order. I brought both the D810 and mounted my Sigma 150-500 while my D300s had the Nikon 70-200 2.8 VRII. I shot almost exclusively with the D810 as I planned to use up the card on that camera and then move to the D300s, but that didn't really happen.

1. Viewfinder - folks talk all the time about how nice a FF viewfinder is, and not having shot a lot with a FF camera, it was still an eye opener. I really liked it.

2. Feel of the camera - it felt great, and was, to me, similar to my D300 & to the D700 that I've used in the past. It was comfortable and felt well built. Nothing earth shattering here, but some folks don't like the feel of the smaller cameras and I concur.

3. FF, 1.2 crop & DX - Due to both teams moving up and down the field early on, I got a little lazy with my feet and starting playing around with the two crop modes. I kinda liked the extra reach of the 1.2 crop on occasion, and wasn't terribly bothered by the smaller area in the viewfinder. I'm sure I didn't always get what I thought I was getting, but I could see the occasional use of this mode. I can't say the same for the DX crop mode. It was a bridge too far. I don't mean that I don't like a cropped mode, but the area covered in the viewfinder was much smaller and I wouldn't feel comfortable using the DX crop mode in a D810 or D750.

4. Much better high iso - The changing light meant I was quickly going from iso's in the 200-400 range to the 2000 range. This is something that would have been impossible with my D300 as I'm not happy with anything above iso 800.

5. Aperture - the first thing I did was to download the D810 photos and was quickly reminded that Aperture doesn't yet support the D810. I was worried that I had messed things up completely as I deleted the photos upon import, but then exported the originals to Lightroom. It is my understanding from reading a few posts that the new OS for the Mac will most likely fix this in the coming weeks. However, I guess that's something to consider when buying a new camera. I then changed the settings on the camera to RAW plus JPEG so that I can at least look at them in Aperture.

6. High iso banding - Towards the end of the game the light had gotten horrible, so I said wth and cranked up the iso to 12,800. On the lcd the results didn't look too bad, but when I got home and looked at them in Lightroom, my pictures were not only bad, but looked horrible with very noticeable color banding. I realize that 12,800 is really up there and I wasn't shooting a D4/s, but this still surprised me a bit.

Could my lens (super slow Sigma) be part of the reason for this?

7. FPS in FF mode - 5 fps in FF mode seemed a lot slower than my D300s. Yes, I know, it's only 2 less than 7, but it just seemed much slower. However, the additional 1 fps in 1.2 crop seemed much better. Even I can't rationalize that one, but that's how it felt.

8. Group AF - I was excited to try the Group AF in the D810. I wasn't terribly happy with it, but I'm not sure that what I was shooting was the best use of this. Thoughts?

9. Focus acquisition - At first it seemed much slower than my D300, but then that made no sense so I'm attributing that to my slow lens and the low light I was shooting in. I picked up the D300s to get some solo shots at halftime and realized that the 70-200 2.8 was so much faster.

10. 36mp - Two observations. One, Wow! Given decent light, the image quality is stunning. Two, some have complained about dealing with these larger images. Well, one thing that lessens at least the import time is the USB 3.0 speed that the D810 requires. There really didn't seem to be much of a difference in import time due to the much faster transfer rate. I've got about a two year old Mac and it had no problem dealing with the importation or managing the images.

11. The USB cover - I liked the plastic cover for the Usb, hdmi & mic inputs. It's a lot better than constantly trying to push the rubber flap completely back on on my D300.

12. D300 isn't bad either - Yes, the D810 surpasses the D300 in many ways, especially higher iso pics, but given good light, you can still get some really decent shots with the old tech.

Heavily cropped shot.

Thanks for your time, and I'd really like to know what you think about my couple of questions.

 ralittle2's gear list:ralittle2's gear list
Nikon D300S Nikon D750 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM +2 more
Nikon D810
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