D800 + 14-24 blew me away

Started Feb 21, 2013 | Discussions thread
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MichaelK81 Regular Member • Posts: 205
D800 + 14-24 blew me away

Up until last summer I was using a D300. Portraits being our bread and butter, the D300 seldom saw landscapes before its lens.  Though landscapes is where I got started, and landscapes is what I still enjoy.  After some 4 years and 200k exposures, my D300 was retired last summer, and replaced by the D800.  Though I've never had a chance to fully test D800s capabilities (being that it mostly sat in my bag as a back-up to the D4).

But on a recent trip to the southwest, I really got to see what she can do.  Mounted on a tripod, with the lens stopped down, I was expecting the level of resolution I had never seen before, and boy, did the D800 shine!!!

Part of the switch from DX to FX involved selling all of my DX lenses and replacing them with FX ones.  For landscapes, my D300 had the 12-24 f/4 DX Nikkor mounted on it nine out of ten times. And while the lens performed fairly well, there was some softness in the corners.  I never stopped it down past f/11 due to diffraction softening the overall image quality.

So when I switched to FX last summer, my main question was, do I get the 16-35 f/4, or 14-24 f/2.8 (at a significantly higher cost).  I went with the 16-35, but soon found its corners suffering from the same softness as my 12-24 f/4 DX.  I suppose for most work, the softness would be negligible, but I'm a quality snob, and like to blow my landscapes up to 40x60. I wanted something better.

So I took the 16-35 back and replaced it with the gargantuan 14-24. Whoa!

Does it weigh you down on 5 hour hikes?  Yes!  Do filters fit on it?  No!  Does it cost a fortune?  Yes! Is it worth shooting with despite all these detriments?  Absolutely. Hands down.
After a bit of research, I found out that Lee Filters actually makes a specialty filter holder for the 14-24 (they call it SW-150).  So I retired my stack of Cokin filters back from my DX days, and decided to give Lee a shot.

The build quality was far above Cokin, and the filters for the 14-24 were naturally bigger.  
But what surprised me most is the sharpness of the 14-24, from edge to edge.  I had never seen this level of clarity.
So here I'd like to share a few shots, from Death Valley and Antelope Canyon.  The Death Valley is a stitched panorama (some 100mp in size).  The exposure was ISO 50, with a shutter of 1/30 and f/11.  I had used a mahogany hard-edge filter for the sky (and to bring down the sun), and a light blue hard-edge filter to further enhance the cool tones of the salt flats in the foreground.

The Antelope Canyon shots were a lot trickier, being that Winter is the off-season there, and it was brutally cold (and dark). So focusing played a big role. Exposures there ranged from 10 seconds to 2 minutes (yeah!).  Quite a few hot pixels showed up on the 2-min photo, so a bit of retouching was required to take them all out.

Antelope is one of those rare places which really strike a spiritual tone with you.  The purple hues are due to the blue sky, whereas warmer tones are a result of sun directly hitting and bouncing off the wall.  Quite a remarkable piece of art, made by nature.
Here are a few of the best picks from the trip, and some behind the scenes shots that my buddy took (Death Valley is one of those places you do not want to go to alone, if only from a standpoint of keeping your sanity
Thanks for reading everyone, and if you're a landscape photographer who can forgive themselves the expense of a D800 and a 14-24, you will be WELL rewarded. The combination will yield THE BEST results available today to anyone shooting 35mm.


Nikon D300 Nikon D4 Nikon D800
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