D800 or D800E suitable for evidentiary photography/OOC JPEGs?

Started Jun 11, 2013 | Discussions thread
Zlik Contributing Member • Posts: 990
Re: D800 or D800E suitable for evidentiary photography/OOC JPEGs?

Rexgig0 wrote:

This came up in another thread, and instead of taking that one off-topic, I am starting this new discussion. Some photographers are expected to upload non-PP'ed JPEGs. This includes my wife, who must provide Nikon image files as a forensic investigator for the Medical Examiner, and I, as a big-city police officer, who may use any brand of camera, but must also upload SOOC JPEGs.

I may use settings other than the default settings, if I document these settings in my reports, and can truthfully testify that my settings represent true and accurate images, as I saw the original scene. I have been using the default settings in my Canons thus far.

My concern is multiple assertions, in blogs and forums, that the D800 images absolutely need post-processing.

The Nikon USA site, if I recall correctly, indicates that the D800 is the better choice, of the D800 and D800E, if shooting JPEGs.

The largest prints normally used in court are 8" by 10", but the prints may be placed onto a projector that displays the images on a large screen. The judges, lawyers, and jurors do all get to handle the prints, so anything unclear on the large screen may be examined on the print.

I know I do not need 36 MP, nor FF, for evidentiary photography. The M.E. does not want big files, so my wife will continue to use DX. I prefer, however, to use my Nikkors, none of which are DX, on their native mount, so I am considering an FX DSLR purchase. (My Nikon F6 and FM3A SLRs shoot film.) In my personal shooting, I often use large apertures with a Canon 5D (or Nikon SLR) to get a shallow DOF, so I know I like FF, but the 5D is 2005-era technology, and especially for low-light shooting, or extremes of light and shadow, a more modern DSLR would be an improvement.

This should not be a "jumping-ship" debate! I am a dual-brand shooter, so to jump ship, I would be leaping from a catamaran!

I love the way a D4 handles, but I do not want to write a book here, so will leave this at the D800 and D800E, but comments on the D4 are welcome.

Thanks in advance for any discussion!

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I wear a badge and pistol, and, primarily with 7D cameras, shoot evidentiary images at night, which incorporates elements of portrait, macro, still life, landscape, architecture, PJ, and occasional action.

Although it is true that you can get even better results with RAW + correct processing, the D800 certainly does not "absolutely need" post processing.

Every single photo I soot is RAW, but I will sometimes add the JPEG as well (RAW + JPEG), when I want to have a file I can share instantaneously, or to have a copy on a second card. Thus, I have usually always tried to find the best JPEG settings (size, picture control, etc) for my needs, and I would say that you can get beautiful JPEGs out of a D800. The only thing that looks worse in a D800 JPEG than a D3s (owned one) is the color noise at high ISOs, but the difference is not that big. Other than that, I have found that a small sized JPEG out of the D800 (9MP) usually looks better than a JPEGs out of any other 12MP FX Nikon camera (D700, D3, D3s), until 4000 ISO, because the other cameras are at "bayer resolution" whereas the D800, after downsampling from 36 -> 9 MP, is at "real resolution".

Here are the settings I use for my JPEG copies :

  • JPEG size depending on situation, usually M (L for backup, M or S for quick use)
  • Picture control either Portrait +1 contrast, standard, or landscape -1 contrast
  • sharpness between 4 and 6
  • high ISO noise reduction normal or high (36 MP + noise reduction "high" = great lower resolution JPEG, except for color noise, which you can't really do anything because the Nikon engine does a much worse job vs for example Lightroom color noise reduction)
  • active d-lighing off, low or normal depending on situation (to put more range inside the JPEG)
  • white balance usually AUTO B2 (slightly colder) or custom (PRE) when in difficult lighting

One of the best things to do is to shoot RAW + JPEG.

I never really understood why people say that the D800 can't produce great JPEGs. Sure, they're not as good as RAW -> PP -> JPEG, but for quick use, or in your case, I wouldn't worry about it.

And about your D800 vs D800E question, both are excellent cameras, and they are nearly identical in the photos they produce. The D800E is slightly sharper and slightly more expensive, if you can afford it go for it and never look back.

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