D800- my experience

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ZinMe
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D800- my experience
9 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.

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ZinMe
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

Here is an example of a relatively good shot. D800, f4, 1/5000th, ISO 640, 1.2x crop mode

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ZinMe
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

Another.

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coronawithlime
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

Commenting only on the areas where I have personally observed anything noteworthy, I generally need to AF Fine Tune multiple times to avoid leaving something on the table. And in my limited experience shooting soccer, the buffer is not large enough for my use. YMMV.   Note that I don't shoot crop however.

It may be that D800e, while it's working out as a great choice for most of the stuff we do ourselves, may not be optimum for your projected use. At 50% sports and general purpose use I suspect I might personally be looking for a good used D3s.

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rospotte
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

I have not shot with a D7100 but I coming from the 24 mpx Sony A900, the resolution of the sony does not come close to what I shoot with now, the Nikon D800E. The D7100 is going to be close to the D800 and having no OLPF is going to be very sharp right out of the box. Since you shoot 50% sports and 50% landscape, people and other, I would get the D800E.

You already have some really good glass. And you will being using a tripod for your landscapes. I would say again get the D800E. If you tested both cameras on a tripod with a remote shutter release, mirror lock up, 2 second exposure delay you will see the D7100 can not produce a sharper higher resolution image than the D800E. Do not forget the crop advantage of the D800. Also the auto iso setting, with you setting the min. shutter speed works very well on the D800E. With the glass you have it would be a shame not to put it on the highest resolution camera you can buy. Of course if you could afford two camera bodies it would be the D4s for sports and the D800E for other.

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Rogerlange
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to rospotte, 9 months ago

i could never get my d800 to focus fast no matter what it was set to.

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Oscar Rico
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

I have the D800 and the D3s. Hands down the D3s focus much,much,much better than the D800. I tested and retested, calibrated and recalibrated close to perfection and the D3s still a king. The d800 is not a replacement of the D3s, at least for sport and low light application. Regards: Oscar

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T O Shooter
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

ZinMe wrote:

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.

"Focus was inconsistent" in my experience, is a part of the D800 experience.  I assume you've returned the body but it would be good to know if it had the latest firmware.  That knocked the edge off the inconsistency.  I bought a D4 to cure the problem.  Far better AF. Sold the 800 after a year and a half, but not sure my 800e is much better.

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caspianm
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

Blue shadow is caused by bad white balance. In the field set the WB and do a test shot. If good then keep it. In partially shadow/sunlight AWB can be problematic.

I have used the D7100 and it is not really better nor equal in resolution. 36mp is not easily manageable for fast moving even w.tirpod. It takes time to master.

My e has not showed any inconsistencies for everyday use. If you got oof with static subjects I would investigate for reasons before jumping to any conclution. For sports generally a D7100 or Dx3,4 are better options but not needed unless that is where your priorities are.

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IainD
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to caspianm, 9 months ago

+1 for the D3s. Most of my bird in flight keepers are D3s. In fact most of my keepers are D3s!! Still a great camera.

My D800 sometimes did weird stuff with focus. I wasted  a morning of grizzly bears because I had the wrong setting in my custom menu! Once I set it the way I meant to have it, no problem.

In my case it is always user error. Somehow the D3s lets me get away with a lot more errors and still delivers the goods!!!

IainD

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seahawk
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

D800 needs some time to get used to. The focus mode should always be on focus priority, the number of AF sensors used must be made carefully. Using all 51 often throws it off balance. The reduced DOF compared to the D300 takes some getting used to. The shutter speed needs to be high. 1/2x focal length at least. VR can cause problems. You see  it when the VR was not fully in sync. This is typical for the first shot being less in focus than the 2-4. I either turn VR off or have learnt that I need to half press the shutter longer before taking the shot.

After 8 months I am now at least as confident with my D800 for fast moving subjects as I was with my D300, but one thing needs to be said. The D800 will show faults (slight blur, AF not perfectly centred) that will largely go unnoticed with a D300.

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elliotn
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to caspianm, 9 months ago

caspianm wrote:

Blue shadow is caused by bad white balance.

Blue shadow is caused by blue sky. It's normal in these conditions.

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user_name
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D800 ≠ Sports
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

Too slow and too many megapixels.

A DX camera would be better because of the extra reach or if you have money to burn a D3/D4/D4s  camera for the pro build and speed.

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ZinMe
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

Thanks for all the responses, although its disappointing to here about the AF limitations of the D800e. From reviews I'd read, I thought the AF would be better than my D300, some of these reviews said "same AF performance as D4.... basically state of the art" but the reality is a bit different I guess.

There are some changes I could make based on the input above:

  • Re-tune AF for longer distance (ex. 100ft vs. 60ft)
  • Experiment with few AF tracking points
  • The point about DOF is good-- perhaps I need to use f4.0-4.5 for FX mode whereas f3.2-f3.5 was OK for DX
  • My shutter speed was high, so that isn't the issue
  • Better lens collar, monopod and technique would help

But, I can't tell from the comments above if these changes are likely to yield a better than or equal to D300 AF experience from the tone of the comments above?

I may rent a D3s + 200-400 for comparison. My problem is that I would likely want another camera body for non-sports, not sure I could justify the expense for the amount I shoot.

Reading about the Canon 5D MkIII, at 6fps and reportedly best of class AF, I'm a bit jealous.

Thanks,

Dave

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ZinMe
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to caspianm, 9 months ago

caspianm wrote:

I have used the D7100 and it is not really better nor equal in resolution. 36mp is not easily manageable for fast moving even w.tirpod. It takes time to master.

Just to clarify, the point I was trying to make about the D7100's resolution is in comparison to the D800e in DX mode.  Yes, in FX or 1.2 crop, the D800 has better resolution, but if the vast majority of photos are shot in DX mode or cropped back to those proportions, the D7100 sensor is actually superior I think?   The ability to shoot larger format and crop back is definitely an advantage however in composing/framing for the D800 over DX cameras, no doubt.

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caspianm
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

In DX mode yes obviously D7100 has higher pixel density. I have not compared them so I'll take words for it. I had D300 for 4 years and my impression was that they were the same AF when purchased the D800e. It has been debated and there seem to be two camps about D800 AF.

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DenWil
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36MP in crop mode or a 5D3
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

ZinMe wrote:

Thanks for all the responses, although its disappointing to here about the AF limitations of the D800e. From reviews I'd read, I thought the AF would be better than my D300, some of these reviews said "same AF performance as D4.... basically state of the art" but the reality is a bit different I guess.

There are some changes I could make based on the input above:

  • Re-tune AF for longer distance (ex. 100ft vs. 60ft)
  • Experiment with few AF tracking points
  • The point about DOF is good-- perhaps I need to use f4.0-4.5 for FX mode whereas f3.2-f3.5 was OK for DX
  • My shutter speed was high, so that isn't the issue
  • Better lens collar, monopod and technique would help

But, I can't tell from the comments above if these changes are likely to yield a better than or equal to D300 AF experience from the tone of the comments above?

I may rent a D3s + 200-400 for comparison. My problem is that I would likely want another camera body for non-sports, not sure I could justify the expense for the amount I shoot.

Reading about the Canon 5D MkIII, at 6fps and reportedly best of class AF, I'm a bit jealous.

Thanks,

Dave

If the sports photos are paying the bills then  a camera that was promoted as a medium format substitute  is an illogical choice. The Canon has a third fewer MP - what you get in DX mode perhaps on the 800- and was designed for multi purpose.

If you consider that the 1Dx and D4 are pro sports, 5D3 multi purpose, D800e  MF sub with a lean towards landscape, art and product,  I would conclude the 5D3 is your  best bet.

I shoot MF and when I do shoot sports the subject is less than 15 feet away and often I can prefocus. For all other uses the 800e and its 36MP would suit my output fine, and I would not go fewer.

I would conclude that it comes down to priorities. Higher MP available for sedentary subjects or a more robust AF for when you do shoot action. Since you were shooting in crop mode it would seem the MP count is not a biggie. Once again that leaves you with the Canon unless its a glass thing.

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seahawk
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

I can tell you that my D800 beats my D300S when it comes to AF, it just needs perfect technique. The AF is not worse the camera exposes faults more clearly. 1.2 cop mode is a good compromise imho.

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PatMann
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to ZinMe, 9 months ago

15 megapixels for D800 in DX mode vs 24 megapixels for D7100 - that's significantly higher resolution, almost 2x as many pixels on any given spot as the D800. So of course the resolution is better on the D7100 for the same optics.

So why is it again we want a true DX action camera with a modern sensor for sports and wildlife?

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T O Shooter
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Re: D800- my experience
In reply to PatMann, 9 months ago

PatMann wrote:

15 megapixels for D800 in DX mode vs 24 megapixels for D7100 - that's significantly higher resolution, almost 2x as many pixels on any given spot as the D800. So of course the resolution is better on the D7100 for the same optics.

So why is it again we want a true DX action camera with a modern sensor for sports and wildlife?

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Pat

Just a guess but I would say frame rate, pro build and probably #1, BUFFER!

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