Monday, September 10, 2012

Prima Facie - Nikon D800 DSLR

After talking and anticipating about it for a week, last Tuesday thanks to Ben of Photo Warehouse, we were given a chance to try out the 36.3MP Nikon D800 DSLR!

Our manager Simon told us we have just three days to play with this "King of Mega Pixels" and he is interested to know how this full-frame DSLR compare to the Mamiya 645DF he bought for the office 3 weeks ago.

Simon's intention is to find out if the D800 can deliver the kind of sharpness and dynamic range like a medium format digital back is able to.

 My agenda was different from Simon ;)

That is Simon having the D800 connected to his PC and checking out the Live View feature. The Nikon is wearing a  AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D lens, this is Nikon‘s most compact Micro lens for extreme close-up and general photography with continuous focusing from infinity to life-size (1:1).

 This is the shot of the lens test chart with the D800 and the 60mm Micro, it show corner to corner sharpness as good as a much larger format DSLR!
This is a 100% cut from the capture above which compare favorably with one taken with our Mamiya 645DF and 80mm Schneider Kreuznach LS f/2.8 Leaf Shutter Lens. See picture below...
Simon was obviously pleased with what he saw! Oh... the D800 is build tough and strong, just like Simon's Nitro racing helmet ;)

The D800 streamlined intuitive body design is a real beauty, some think it is more "macho" than the Canon variant; my colleague Nigel can't resists such body beautiful and did a few quick grabs with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 and my old evergreen Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens!

Very nice studies Nigel!  Well done!!  

Finally now I have my hand on this King of Mega Pixels DSLR ;)

So what was my intention with this camera?  I really some other camera to compare it with... that night after dinner, I set up my standard "fruit test".

Yes! I am comparing the humongous 36 Mega Pixels full-frame D800 with my tiny HALF-FRAME Olympus OM-D E-M5!  Are you laughing yet?

What more I decided to cut to the chase and go straight to show you what both sensors can do at a whopping ISO 6,400!
D800 @ ISO 6,400
OM-D @ ISO 6,400
Top - D800   Bottom - OM-D
Both cameras were using the same Nikon 60mm f2.8 AF Micro, both were shot at f8.  You gotta compare apple with apple!

With only a total of 16 MP against the 36 MP of the D800, the little OM-D did not too badly at ISO 6,400.  Do you shoot at that high ISO at all?

Believe you me, at ISO 400; you CANNOT see the differences!  Take a look below, the top picture is from the D800 and bottom, the OM-D; both shot at ISO 400.

What is the lesson here?  I reckon for the 99.999% of photographers, they DO NOT need all that pixels!

A D800 RAW file weigh in at 44 MB,  OM-D RAW is only 18 MB; because of the HUGE file size, Nikon claimed you can fire away at FOUR frames per second.

What they did not tell you is that your CF card speed play a very important part in how fast your D800 can rock and roll!
I was given a 45X CF card from our 2 year old DSLR and to my horror the D800 took a leisurely TWENTY SIX second to write ONE RAW + JPEG files!

Even when I switched to a much faster 133X card it still took EIGHT seconds to write same!

On the other hand, my little OM-D rip away at a blistering NINE frames per second!  An action camera the D800, not!

So what good is this NZ$ 4,400.00 camera?

It is a great camera if you intend to BLOW UP your work to giant A1 or A0 size!  In that respect, there are not many camera that can even come near!  But do YOU really need all that pixels?

My next intention of using our loaner D800 is to test some of my old manual prime lens and see if they are able to perform on a high end DSLR.

I packed the camera with my Nikkor 20mm f2.8 and my favorite 35-70 f3.5,  80-200 f4 zoom lenses. All of them are manual focus glass.

The D800 with my 15 year old 105mm f2.8 Micro Nikkor.
These were shot with my 15 year old Nikkor 20mm f2.8 wide-angle lens, 15 years on; my fav 20mm still deliver solid colour on the latest mega sensor!!

The three pictures above were shot with my old Nikkor 80-200 f4 "one touch" zoom lens. Before the advent of the Canon 70-200 f2.8 auto focus glass, the Nikon was my work horse telephoto zoom.

Famous Last Words...

So would I buy one?

Not any time soon ;)  My intention of using the D800 with my arsenal of manual focusing lenses was not really practical. Focusing was difficult and the resolution of the older lens do not do justice to the super sensor!

I concluded that the sensor in this camera is so good only the best quality Nikon lenses are good enough!  If you are thinking of getting the D800 to use with cheaper lenses, don't waste your time; your cheaper lenses will perform as well on cheaper DSLR!

A D800 body and three top notch Nikon zoom can set you back at least NZ$ 15,000.00!

Finally, to all those photographers who bought this camera thinking it might make them a better photographer; hello....

It Is YOU, NOT the camera!


Simon Gotlieb said...

Brilliant work, as always CY. How nice of you to completely avoid my obvious question which was - How does it compare in a production studio environment to our Canon 5D MK IIs? And for that purpose, I believe it well and truly kicks the Canon out of the park - primarily for the extra pixels, and secondly for it's TIF output. Yes, it's too slow with a standard Compact Flash card - I really would have like to try it with a UDMA card and a SDXC (it can take both) - but used tethered in a studio environment like ours the USB3 connection allows for some fantastic speeds. Would I buy one? For work - absolutely yes. For me? Well you already know the answer to that one. I'm the proud owner of a Canon 60D.

cy.leow said...

You know yourself that the 5D Mk2 is OLD and the D800 of course will kick its butt ;) 60D is a really good camera, enjoy!