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Nikon D810 review

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When Nikon announced the D800, the camera’s 36MP was a big surprise and quite opposite to Nikon’s low resolution, big pixel trend back then. But it became a big success and the D800 quickly became the camera everyone go for when you want the best picture quality, no matter you are a enthusiast or professional photographer.

At the same time Nikon also announced the D800E, a twin brother to the D800. The only difference was that the filter in front of the image sensor was modified to remove the effect of the antialisiing, and that gave us sharper image. While I’m not too sure what D800E’s E officially really stand for, to me it means “Experimental”. It’s an experiemental product to test the results of removing the anti-alising filter.

So 2 years have passed and it’s time for Nikon’s engineer to show us what they can do to improve the D800, and the new camera is called the D810.

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D800 and D810 (right),  similar but different.

“Most of these are actually quite small changes, but when combined together they make the camera feel better and more refined.”

The D810 is largely based on the D800 (and of course D800E). It has the similar weather sealed metal body. In fact, when I first saw the camera, I thought the D810’s body is exactly the same as the D800. But once I picked it up and had a closer look, i realised that’s not the case. The camera feels quite a bit lighter and fits better in my hands. I noticed there is a new “i” button at the back of the camera. The bracketing button that was at the top of the D800 has been replaced by the metering button. The focus mode selector button now has some texture pattern on it. On the left of the camera, the big rubber cover for the connection ports have now being divided into three smaller one so they can be open/close separately. The memory card door is covered by rubber and provides better grip. Most of these are actually quite small changes, but when combined together they make the camera feel better and more refined.

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The rubber cover for the connection ports is now seperated into three smaller one. Also notice the new Qc mode

As mentioned earlier, when the D800 was released, Nikon also released a D800E, which outputs sharper photos than the normal D800 (but downside is you have a higher chance of visible moire effect). This was achieved by having a special filter in front of the traditional low pass anti-alising filter which cancels the effect.

Now this time with the D810, there is only one version of the camera and Nikon have completely removed the low pass filter.

In theory, the complete removal of low pass filter should give us even sharper images and I’ve seen some photos on other websites showing the D810 output sharper photos than the D800 and the D800E. But my quick comparison with D800’s RAW files didn’t reveal any difference in terms of image sharpness. So whatever the improvement is, it is quite small and probably not noticeable in most daily photos. On the flip side, I didn’t notice any increase in moire effect caused by the absence of the low pass filter neither.

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 The 36MP D810 captures insane details.
Top: Full Photo
Below: Small Center Crop (click on photo to see it at 100%)

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“I’m mostly excited about the fact that the minimum ISO that has been decreased to ISO 64 “

While the images from the D810 may not look any sharper than the D800(E), the camera can capture insane amount of details, as long as you have the right lens and settings. But what really excited me is the wider ISO range.
D810’s maximum ISO is increased one stop to ISO 12800 (expands to 51200). Comparing the results with a D800, if you shoot in RAW, D810’s high ISO performance is actually very similar to the D800. But if you shoot in JPEG, thanks to D810’s improved noise reduction algorithm, the high ISO output is noticeably cleaner. But to me, I’m actually most excited about the minimum ISO that is now reduced to ISO 64 (expands to ISO 32). That is around ⅔ stop lower than the previous ISO 100 limit.  I’m excited because finally this allows me to shoot wide open with my f/1.4 lenses under bright sunlight without the need of any external help. Previously I have to either use a ND filter (that means I have to carry multiple ND filters for my different lenses!) or stop down to f/2 to avoid blowing the highlight. Also, when shooting landscape photos, I can nearly double my exposure time for smoother waterfall or sea effect. In the last few years, camera manufacturers have been battling on who can do high ISO the best. As a result, even the entry level APS-C DSLR today have very decent high ISO performance. So while it’s always good to have better and better high ISO performance, I’m even happier to see Nikon shift it’s focus on improving low ISO and other areas that is just as important to us photographers.

The camera’s autofocus system remains the same 51 point system.  Nikon has finetune and improved the autofocus performance. I found AF tracking more reliable than D800 when shooting moving target and performs very similar to the D4s. There is also a new “Group-Area” AF mode that has less chance of missing a smaller target.

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The D810 has no problem handling high dynamic scenes

While I do wish the 51 autofocus point can spread out a bit more and not all of the cross type AF point are placed at the center, the autofocus performance is very good and there isn’t really much I can complain about. So let’s see if we will see a new autofocus system when Nikon release the D5 in a few years time?

“I found that I can indeed shoot at slower shutter speed with the D810 and still manage to get a similar percentage of sharp photos.”

When shooting photo with a D800/D800E handheld, most user would use higher than normal shutter speed to avoid image blur caused by camera shake. With the D810, Nikon has redesign the shutter/mirror module and also added an electronic 1st curtain to reduce the internal vibration. I found that I can indeed shoot at slower shutter speed with the D810 and still manage to get a similar percentage of sharp photos. This means I could use lower ISO and get better quality picture.
And because of the new shutter/mirror design, the shutter sound is much quieter and better dampened. It’s almost as quiet as a D7100. While some users may prefer D800’s more crisp and louder shutter sound, the quieter D810 is definitely great if you want to shoot without attracting attention.
The Q (Q for quiet) mode is still available if you want even quieter shutter sound, and there is also a new Qc (Quiet Continuous) mode as well.

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The D810 ‘s shutter sound is much more quiet. than all the previous FX cameras. I shot this photo with a 58mm lens and the shutter sound didn’t wake up my newborn baby from his sweet dream.  I wouldn’t dare to do this with my D800.

The camera uses the same metering system as the D800 which is as good as you can get from any camera.  There is a new ‘highlight-weighted’ metering mode, which is designed to preserve highlight detail in contrasty scenes. If you have shot stage/concert photos before where your main subject is always under strong spotlights, you would have found it very hard to get the correct exposure using the normal metering modes. Matrix metering would overexpose your main subject easily. Spot metering and lock the exposure wouldn’t work as well as normally the stage lighting is changing constantly and quickly. This new highlight-weighted metering mode would be perfect for shooting this kind of photos. I also found this new metering mode useful for shooting sunset/sunrise landscape photos so you don’t get completely blown out sun and highlight area.  Now Nikon, how about share some love to us D800 users and release a new D800 firmware with the highlight-weighted metering mode? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t require any additional processing power compare to the existing metering mode.

d810review_09Top: Matrix Metering
Bottom: Highlight-weighted Metering

Live view mode always feel like a last minute added feature on most Nikon DSLRs. While Nikon has improved their cameras’ live view mode quite a bit in the last few years, it is still slow and clunky. I’m glad to tell you that D810’s live view mode is a lot more usable when compare to the D800. Turn on the live view mode is quick and everything in live view mode just works a little bit smoother. Most importantly, taking a photo in live view is a lot faster and doesn’t lock up the camera for 2-3 seconds like other previous cameras. There is also a new ‘Split screen zoom’ display in live view which allows horizons/lines to be leveled precisely. Overall, te whole live view interface is just a lot more refined.  Because of that, I found that I actually used the live view mode a lot more when reviewing the D810.
Now if Nikon can improve the autofocus performance in live view mode and make it as fast as some of the best mirrorless cameras, then the live view mode would be perfect

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The new split screen zoom mode is quite handy when shooting landscape

The D810 has a sRAW output option which outputs 9MP raw files. To be honest I’m still not too sure why people want to buy a high resolution camera and shoot in small size as memory cards, storage space and fast computer are so cheap these days. But anyway for those who wants to use sRAW,  thanks to D810’s high resolution sensor, it’s 9MP sRAW is a lot more useful than the D4s’s tiny 4MP sRAW. With a good 9MP image,  a decent size and quality print is possible even after some minor cropping.
I’ve also compared the sRAW and full size RAW file taken at high ISO, and I didn’t see any advantage in picture quality with the sRAW files.

D800’s maximum burst rate is 4fps, this is largely because of the high resolution output. While 4fps is not painfully slow, sometimes I do wish it could go slightly faster. So I’m quite happy when I heard that the D810’s maximum burst rate is increased by 25% to 5fps. Or 7fps if you shoot in DX mode with supported batteries (which requires the optional battery grip). It’s still not a 11fps D4s, but it makes shooting fast actions a lot easier.

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Nikon D810 + Nikon 58mm f/1.4 – f/1.4 1/8000s ISO64
This is not a wedding photo, (not wedding season at the moment) but wedding photographers shooting with prime lenses would love the new ISO64 setting!

For people who want to upgrade from a D800, you are lucky because the D810 uses the same battery and same optional battery grip as the D800.  Not only that, Nikon tells us the rated battery life has been improved from 900 shots per charge to 1200 shots per charge. This is probably due to the more efficient EXPEED4 processor and it’s great for wedding or event photographers who need to take thousands of photos per day.

Just like the D800, the camera has dual card slot, 1 SD and 1 CF. I completely understand why Nikon choose this setup.  But after using the D800 for 2 years, I would really prefer a single card format for both slots. Either make it both CF or both SD.  It’s just a lot easier when you don’t have to carry 2 type of cards.

The D810’s 100% viewfinder is pretty much the same as the one on D800. It’s large and bright. But it now has a OLED display panel which has higher contrast and easier to read.

“After using so many cameras and smart devices with touchscreen, I do really want a touchscreen on the D810. “

The camera’s main LCD screen has been upgraded from a 3.2” 921k screen to a 1229k RGBW screen. The increase in dot count doesn’t actually increase the resolution, instead the new screen has better brightness and that makes screen easier to see at outdoor. After using so many cameras and smart devices with touchscreen, I do really want a touchscreen on the D810. Imagine you can just pinch to zoom when reviewing photos, or touch on the screen to select AF position in live view mode. It would make reviewing photos and liveview operation a lot quicker and easier.

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D800 (Left) vs D810 (Right)

Just like the D800, the D810 doesn’t have built-in WIFI support. Instead, it requires you to buy the optional Wifi adaptor.  Not only the Wifi adaptor is expensive and more importantly it’s another piece of accessory you have to carry and add externally to the camera. A few years ago when D800 was released this was not too bad but it’s now already mid 2014. Having the ablility to wirelessly transfer photos to other computer or smart devices and to the internet is very useful for both professional and consumer users. Even a lot of compact cameras comes with built-in WIFI these days  so come on Nikon, make the Wifi built-in and make it standard feature for your future DSLRs please.  Similar but maybe slightly less important is the  GPS  receiver for geo-tagging photos.

” if you are a videographer, you will definitely find the D810 a lot more attractive than the previous Nikon DSLRs.”

For the videographers, there are tonnes of improvements for you You can now shoot 1080p video at 60fps, there is zebra display, a new flat picture control for maximum post-processing flexibility, auto ISO is now supported in manual mode, the built-in mic is now a stereo one. You can also record to memory card while simultaneously outputting video over HDMI. While I haven’t really done too much testing on the camera’s video features, but if you are a videographer, you will definitely find the D810 a lot more attractive than the previous Nikon DSLRs.

The camera has many more little touches and improvements here and there that you may not notice straight away. For example, the top LCD displays a looping animation when you are doing a long time exposure. While some are quite minor, they all add up to a more refined shooting experience.

 

Summary

As a D800 user, when the D810 was announced and I read about the press release, to be honest I was not that excited. I thought it’s just a D800s, a small update to the D800 and there are only a few things I really want that my D800 can’t give me.

Now, after using the camera for two weeks, in some way that’s still true. There are a few things I really want, for example the ISO 64, the highlight weighted metering mode, the faster FPS. But there are so many other improvements that individually may not be too important, but when you add them up, the sum equals to a much better camera than the orignal D800.

I’ve used the word “refine” a few times in this review, and this is exactly what the D810 is.   It’s not a revolutionary new camera, it’s not a camera that would WOW us (unless you never heard about the D800), instead the camera is all about refinement.

The D810 has a better image sensor, handles better, autofocus better, responses faster, is more quiet, battery last longer. The camera is just does everything a bit better.

A lot of these improvements are not really noticeable if you just read the spec sheet, but after you spend some time shooting with a D810, you’ll then see the efforts and improvements Nikon has put into the D810.

If you have been thinking of upgrading to a D800 for a while but still haven’t done it, do yourself a favour and go order a D810 now.  It’s not a flawless camera, but it’s pretty damn close.

 

Pros

  • that insane 36MP output!
  • native ISO 64 
  • excellent image quality
  • More quiet and better dampened shutter
  • Much more refined than the D800
  • The new Highlight-weighted metering mode
  • Long list of improvements for video recording
  • Better battery life
  • Refinement!

 

Cons

  • Liveview autofocus speed is still nowhere as fast as the mirrorless cameras
  • A touch screen LCD would be nice
  • No built-in Wifi/GPS
  • The SD/CF dual slot configuration

 

 

Sample Photos
All photos RAW ->Converted to DNG and edited using Adobe Lightroom 5.5, to taste. (click on the photo to see a larger version)

 

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 Nikon D810 + Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G – f/2 1/40s ISO12800

 

d810review_12Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 85mm f/1.4G – f/1.4 1/8000s ISO100

 

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 Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 58mm f/1.4G – f/1.4 1/8000s ISO64

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Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 85mm f/1.4G – f/5 1/400s ISO100

 

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 Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS24mm f/1.4G – f/6.3 1/500s ISO64

 

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Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 85mm f/1.4G – f/1.4 1/2000s ISO100

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Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 58mm f/1.4G – f/2.5 1/4000s ISO64

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 Nikon D810 + AFS 85mm f/1.4G – f/1.6 1/8000s ISO100

 

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Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 58mm f/1.4G – f/6.3 5s ISO64

 

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard

Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo and ProPhotographer magazine.

All photos and text Copyright© 2014 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Nikon D4s review

Nikon has recently announced the Nikon D4s, an update to it’s 2 year old flagship professional DSLR Nikon D4. We have borrowed one from our friends at Nikon NZ and have been shooting day and night with it for the past week. So do we like it? Is it better than the original D4? Here are our thoughts and comments about this latest flagship camera from Nikon.

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If you are reading this review,  chances are, you probably know quite a bit about the Nikon D4. But in case you were living in a cave for the last 2 years and know nothing about the D4, the Nikon D4 was released in Jan 2012, replacing the highly successful D3s. The D4 basically followed the same formula as it’s predecessor, a full size, high speed professional DSLR with tank like build quality. It has a full frame (FX) 16MP sensor and has amazing high ISO performance. It was also the first Nikon flagship camera to have full HD video recording capability (D3s can only do 720p). Now two years later, here comes the D4s, an updated version with improvements in many areas. Here is a summary of some of the changes:

– New image sensor, maximum ISO increased to 409600
– EXPEED 4 processor with more processing power
– Improved autofocus and new group AF mode
– Maximum burst speed of 11fps with continuous autofocus
– 1080p 60 video recording
– Spot white balance
– Small RAW image output option
– Bigger battery

There are many other changes as well, for example, the ethernet port speed is now increased to 1000Mbps and there are some improvements to the time lapse feature but to be honest we didn’t have enough time to go through every single improvement during our review period. So, we’ll focus on some of the main changes and also the general performance and feel of the D4s in this review.

“The whole camera feel very solid, very tough and build quality is simply excellent.”

Just like its predecessor, the new Nikon D4s is a full size professional DSLR. This flagship camera has a magnesium alloy frame and everything else is made of heavy duty material. The whole camera feel very solid, very tough and build quality is simply excellent.

Overall the body design is mostly the same as the D4 but there are a few minor improvements in the ergonomic design. For example, the 2 joystick at the back feel slightly better. The main grip has been redesigned and should fit and feel better when you held it in your hands. Because of that, your hands just wouldn’t feel tired easily when holding the D4s for long period, even with a heavy lens attached. In comparison, the secondary/portrait grip is a bit smaller. It still not bad but just not as good as the fantastic primary grip. All the controls and buttons are logically placed and you should be able to adjust pretty much all the common settings easily and very quickly. Overall D4s’s ergonomics is just fantastic and there isn’t much you can complain. This is very important as thousands of reporters, photojournalists, sports photographers around the world will be using their D4s as their main work camera everyday and a friction of second delay could be enough to cost them a priceless photo opportunity.

d4s_2D4s’s ergonomics is just fantastic

 

“I found myself keep wanting to take a few more photos so i can listen to that wonderful shutter sound”

The D4s has a very crisp and beautiful shutter sound. It may sound like a trivial thing but just like how a sports car’s engine sound can make or break the ultimate driving experience, the shutter sound is big enough to affect how I feel about a camera. When reviewing this camera, I found myself keep wanting to take a few more photos so i can listen to that wonderful shutter sound. Oh the camera sounds like a machine gun too when firing at the maximum frame rate.

As a professional camera, the D4s has full weather seal to protect it from bad weather conditions. While I have not really tested the D4s under heavy rain, I’ve previously used my D700, D800 when it was pouring under many occasions with absolutely no problem at all. So I can only imagine D4s can handle bad weather even better. Just remember to use it with a weather sealed lens as well.

Following the Nikon tradition, this updated “s” model’s image sensor output resolution remains identical to the original D4 at 16MP. But it is of a new design, and combined with the new and more powerful EXPEED4 processor, it allows the camera is output cleaner images and have better high ISO performance. As a result, the maximum ISO has been increased one stop to astounding 409600! Yes it’s almost half a million ISO. At low ISO, the image quality is very similar to the D4 as it was just very clean, with nice colors and dynamic range already. But as we increase the ISO, then we notice how good the D4s’s high ISO performance really is, especially the JPGs straight out of camera.

d4s_sample_13When shooting with a D4s, you very rarely need to worry about if the scene is too dark. Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2 1/160s ISO 2200

 

“ISO25600 is the new ISO800!”

It was not too long ago when I was shooting with a D200, I’ve to limit the ISO to 800 or below to get decent image quality. With the D4s, anything shot in four digit ISO range are just great. And ISO25600 is the new ISO800! Yes ISO25600 maybe a bit noisy, but the colour, contrast all both remain at very acceptable level! In fact, photos taken at pretty much any 5 digit ISO range still look alright after a bit of noise reduction. Once you entered the six digit ISO range (i.e. ISO102400+) then the image quality start to drop very quickly. Having said that, I have a few photos shot at six digit ISO that is still usable. Not great, but still usable.
So while you may not need to take photo at ultra high ISO all the time, with a base ISO at ISO100, the D4s has over 10 stops of usable ISO range (ISO100 – ISO51200+). This extreme wide ISO range opens up a lot of possibility and flexibility. It also allows photographers to take photos at place/time that was simply impossible before. For example, you can now shoot with a smallish aperture (so the DOF isn’t too shallow) under light low without any camera flash.

d4s_4So, you tell me, who is the Dark Lord?

The 51 point Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus system is based on D3’s 51 point autofocus system and many other high end Nikon DSLRs. Nikon has improved it when they release the D4 and now with the D4s , Nikon has refined the AF system again to improve the accuracy and speed. This autofocus system has being well tried, tested and proven to be very reliable and the latest version works great on the D4s. When shooting in AF-S mode, it is more snappy and gives you a higher accuracy especially when shoot with fast prime lenses at maximum aperture. It works very well under low light too just like the D4. But what seems to be most improved is when I was shooting In AF-C mode, the continuous focus just reacts faster, has less chance of tracking the wrong target and the overall successful rate is just noticeably better. I’ve spent quite a lot of time testing the AF-C performance and I was more than impressed when I review the photos on my computer. As long as you can tell the camera what exactly you want to focus when you start, the camera would do a pretty good job in following your target. There is also a new group AF mode, which basically uses your selected AF point plus four surrounds it. This new mode is quite useful when you want to track some small or unpredictable objects.

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The autofocus tracking works very well even under challenging conditions. Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – AF-C 3D Tracking – f/2.0 1/1600s ISO 100

The 91k pixel RGB metering system is basically the same as the D4. I noticed there is a new option in the settings menu that allows user to specify whether he wants to prioritise the exposure using the detected face or not.

Another pretty handy new feature is spot white balance. Unlike the normal custom white balance feature which tries to measure white balance from the whole frame , the new spot white balance allows users to manually measure white balance from a very small white or gray portion of the frame in liveview mode. It makes manual white balance measurement a lot easier as you don’t need a large white/grey object anymore.

“…following object when shooting at 11fps is actually pretty easy.”

D4s’s burst speed has been increased to 11fps with continuous autofocus. When shooting in burst mode, there is usually quite a long blackout time (i.e. time when the viewfinder is completely black) between shots and that makes it really hard to pan your camera correctly. But with the D4s,  I was quite impressed that the blackout time seems to be minimal and following object when shooting at 11fps is actually pretty easy. And yes continuous focus works very well even when shooting at maximum speed.
The camera’s 200 full size JPG image buffer means there is enough buffer to capture a 100M sprint race from start to end and a few more seconds to spare.

The original D4 has two memory slots, one is a XQD and one is a CF. XQD is the new card format and it is supposed to be the new format for professional users replacing the CF cards. The D4s uses the same XQD + CF dual slots configuration so its a good news for existing D4 users and also photographers upgrading from the older cameras such as D3s. My only concern is that it’s already 2 years since the D4 release and there still isn’t another DSLR that uses XQD cards. (the only other device that uses XQD is the Sony PXW-Z100 video camera) Hopefully there will be more cameras with XQD support soon.

You can now save a small RAW file with the D4s. While all Nikon DSLR allows you to output to small JPGs, the D4s is the first Nikon to have a small RAW feature. The small RAW file is half the width and half the height of the full size image is the size is approximately 4MP (in 3:2 FX mode anyway). While I am not too sure what kind of user would benefit most from this new small RAW format, it’s always good to have more options and it appears the small RAW also improves the high ISO output file as well (compare to downsizing the full size image yourself). Hopefully the rumoured D800s will have a 9MP small RAW output option as well?

d4s_3I AM D4s

Battery life is never a problem with any DSLRs especially Nikon professional DSLRs. Having said that, Nikon paired the D4s with a new bigger EN-EL18a battery. This new battery has 25% more capacity than D4s EN-EL18. During the whole review period I’ve only recharged the battery and I’ve took a lot of photos, a few videos and spent a lot of time going through the menu, trying out different settings and reviewing a lot of photos.  And before someone says not another new battery again, the EN-EL18a is compatible with the original EN-EL18.

Nikon has also made a few improvements to D4s’s video features. The camera can now capture 1080p video at 60/50fps. You can get the camera to record to internal card and output to external uncompressed HDMI output simultaneously. You can also select the audio range and level for your video recording. However there is still no zebra/focus peaking display on the LCD screen.  Unfortunately due to time constraint, we’ve only briefly use the video feature.

 

Summary

The original D4 is an amazing camera, it’s image quality, autofocus system,  metering, handling, build quality..etc are  all pretty flawless even when judged by today’s standard.  And now the D4s brings a lot of improvements over the original model.  Better image quality, faster, better autofocus, better ergonomics, better video, a lot of better.  While none of them are really revolutionary, together they make the D4s a much better and even more mature camera.  It raise the bar of what a flagship camera should be like.

So should you upgrade to D4s? This is always a tricky question to answer. If you are a D3/D3s user, I guess my answer would be yes. The improvement in the autofocus system and the better overall image quality are two reasons big enough for you to upgrade. If you are a D4 user, now this becomes harder, the D4s is a better camera, there is no doubt about it. But fundamentally they are still the same camera, just one does pretty much everything better. So if you need or want absolutely the best camera, upgrade it. If not, you really need to see how many improvements would benefit you and work out the cost vs benefit yourself.

In our Df review (http://www.nikonjin.com/2013/12/nikon-df-review/), we said if Df was a car, it would be a classic sports car re-released with a modern engine. So what about the D4s?
If D4s was a car, even though it has virtually the same engine (image sensor) as the Df, it would be a completely different kind of car. The D4s would be a latest 4WD turbo racing car that comes with every latest technology you can think of. It’s super fast, it’s super reliable and it’ll help you release all your potential!

Nobody would be disappointed by it’s performance as it’s really the ultimate choice.

 

Pros

  • Amazing high ISO performance
  • Excellent autofocus system
  • Tough as tank build quality
  • 11fps burst rate baby!!
  • Excellent Ergonomics
  • That shutter sound!

 

Cons

  • Weight and size (but it’s a nature of full size professional camera)
  • I have to return it after the review

 

Sample Photos
All photos RAW -> JPG using Adobe Lightroom 5.2, edited to taste.

d4s_sample_01Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2.0 1/800s ISO 100

 

d4s_sample_08Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G – f/4 1/50s ISO 2000

 

d4s_sample_05Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR – f/2.8 1/2500s ISO 400

 

d4s_sample_07Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/5 1/320s ISO 91228

 

d4s_sample_09Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR – f/2.8 1/8000s ISO 400

 

d4s_sample_10Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR – f/5 1/5000s ISO 800

 

d4s_sample_03Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2.0 1/5000s ISO 100

 

d4s_sample_04Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2.2 1/640s ISO 100

 

d4s_sample_06Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2 1/320s ISO 2200

 

d4s_sample_12Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2 1/200s ISO 720

d4s_sample_11Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G – f/2 1/250s ISO 100

d4s_sample_14

 

Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2 1/250s ISO 2000

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard

Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (www.dphoto.co.nz)

All photos and text Copyright© 2014 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Miggo Strap and Wrap + Grip and Wrap Review – Kickstarter Project

Earlier this month, we were contacted by a new company called Miggo. They told us they have a new revolutionary camera bag which they’ll start fundraising on Kickstarter very soon. And asked if we are interested to try out their early samples.

So I watched their introduction videos, and it is really quite an interesting new idea, so I said yeah I would be keen to give it a try and a box with some pre-production Miggos arrived my door the following week.

Miggo was started by people who have previously designed bags for KATA. I’ve used quite a few KATA bags so I’m pretty interested to find out what the Miggo team came up with.

The concept behind Miggo is actually pretty simple. Usually when we go out with a camera, we carry a camera bag to protect the camera, but we might also carry another bag for the our normal daily items and it means we end up carrying two separate bags which is just cumbersome. While there are some camera bags that are designed as a multi purpose bags, they are usually camera focused and not the most suitable design for you to carry your non-camera items. So the team at Miggo came up with the idea which works the other way round, instead of putting your camera into your camera bag, you still use your normal day bag and you put your camera inside it. But your camera will be wrapped around and protected by the Miggo which is also a camera strap.

Miggo has designed two products. One called “Strap and Wrap” and the other called “Grip and Wrap”. As the one I received are early pre-production samples, they came with no packaging or instructions but Ohad from Miggo has also sent me some video instructions on how to use the Miggos. To be honest even without the instructions, its still not hard to figure out it by myself.

Miggo Strap and Wrap

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The “Strap and Wrap” is a bit like a camera neck strap, with the camera attached to one end using the camera’s tripod mount and provided steel screw. There is a little pocket on the strap for you to store your lens cap when you are shooting. But the most clever thing about the Strap and Wrap is the big zip in the middle which allows you to transform it from a neck strap into a long wrap so you can wrap the camera inside it in literally a few seconds. You can then put the wrapped camera into a normal bag and no need to worry about it being damaged or scratched.

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 It’s a neck strap

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And now it’s a camera wrap

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A built-in pocket for you to store your lens cap

Even with its unconventional design, the Strap and Warp feels really comfortable when you wear it around your neck. The slightly elastic fabric with the paddings inside and shape of the strap make the Miggo Strap and Wrap one of the most comfortable camera neck strap I’ve ever used, on a cold day at least. On a hot day, my neck does feel a bit uncomfortable.

There are two things I don’t really like with the Miggo strap and wrap. Firstly, the strap near the base of the camera is quite wide ion order to protect the camera, unfortunately it also makes holding the camera a bit harder as the strap is blocking your hand slightly. The second thing is, with my Olympus EM5 attached to the Miggo, the camera has a tendency to point downward or even towards my tummy instead of forward when I’m wearing it around my neck. This is not really a biggie but I just prefer the camera hangs vertically with the lens is pointing forward.

 

Miggo Grip and Wrap

The Miggo “Grip and Wrap” is quite a bit smaller than the “Strap and Wrap”. Instead of being a neckstrap with a big zip in the middle, it’s much shorter and is a wrist strap. You attach the camera to one end just like the “Strap and Wrap”, and you can put your arm through the big hole in the other hand and the “Grip and Wrap” is your camera wrist strap. When you are not shooting, you can remove the camera from your wrist, and quickly wrapped the camera around with the “Grip and Wrap” and throw it into your normal bag. There is even a little handle so you can just carry the camera by itself if you want. Just like the “Strap and wrap”, there is also a little pocket for you to store your lens cap when you are shooting.

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There is also a pocket for storing the lens cap just like the Strap and Wrap

The quality of both Miggos are as good as what you can expect from any leading brands. High quality fabrics, zips and steel screws are used and everything is stitched together professionally. The samples I received are designed for the smaller CSC (mirrorless) cameras but they also have a bigger version for the DSLRs. The DSLR version of the Strap and Wrap is also quite a bit longer so you can wear it like a sling strap.

Frankly the Miggo isn’t the best for photographer who’s carrying multiple lenses, as each time you mount a different size lens, you should adjust the mounting position on the Miggo (and you probably want to use a proper camera bag anyway). But for people who only carry one camera with one lens when they go out, the Miggo is really a great new way to carry your camera. It’s easy and simple to use.
While both Miggos are very creative designs, personally I prefer the “Strap and Wrap” a bit more as I find it more comfortable to use with my Olympus micro four thirds camera.

It’s really good to see people who can think outside the square and came up with innovative ideas on something as common as camera bags/straps which have been around forever. While the Miggoes are not perfect, the guys at Miggo has done a great job designing the Miggo and turning them into actual products. Their kickstarter campaign starts today so if you are interested into getting one, you can go to their website and support them.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/580723045/miggo-cameras-best-amigo

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard

Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (www.dphoto.co.nz)

 

All photos and text Copyright© 2014 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

 

 

Nikon Df Review

NikonDf-1

“Taking photos with the latest cameras is a bit like driving a modern sports car with semi-automatic gearbox, launch control, traction control and all those computer assisted technology.”

We are now living in the insta-photography age. People want to take photos instantly and with minimal efforts and modern cameras heavily depend on electronic automation. Taking photos with the latest cameras is a bit like driving a modern sports car with semi-automatic gearbox, launch control, traction control and all those computer assisted technology. It’s fast and it’s very easy, but it does not necessarily give you the most rewarding experience. If you are a driver who enjoy driving rather than just getting to the finish line in shortest time, you may feel like you lost a lot of fun with all those modern technology and design, compare to the oldies where everything is very simple and manual .

If you feel the same, you will probably be interested in the Nikon Df.

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The Df kit comes with a special edition 50mm f/1.8G lens

The Df is Nikon’s latest full frame DSLR. It’s quite an usual camera and Nikon uses “Pure Photography” as the slogan for the camera. This is the company’s first DSLR that doesn’t follow the usual D then some number naming convention (e.g. D90, D800, D4) as it’s doesn’t belong to any of the normal Nikon  DSLR lines.

The Df is a fusion of modern technology and old style and control. The retro styled body resembles the F2 and F3 series SLR cameras from 1970s and 1980s.  Internally it shares some of the latest technology from the latest Nikon DSLRs. Nikon told us the Df is their smallest full frame DSLR. However, it’s more angular design makes it look bigger than it’s actual size. When I first saw the camera. I put a D800 next to it immediately to compare the size as I thought the Df looks slightly bigger than a D800. Of course Nikon didn’t lie and the Df is the smaller camera.

The camera comes in two colours,  silver or black. Silver one pays homage to Nikon ‘s traditional film SLR camera and is probably the signature colour for the Df  But personally I prefer the black one’s understated look and the black finish seems to have a slightly better feel than the silver Df.

Choosing the right setting and rotating the dials between each shot give you that wonderful feeling that is long lost in this DSLR age”

At the top of the camera, there are separate metal mechanical dials for setting the shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO. The design and nature of the dials mean you will never be able to change the settings as fast as a normal DSLR. You have to slow down and think. Choosing the right setting by rotating those beautiful dials give you that wonderful feeling that is long lost in this modern DSLR age. You feel like you are the one that is controlling the camera.

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The mechanical dials are beautiful

If you really really want, you can configure the camera so it can be used like a normal DSLR and shoot without using those dials at the top. But why would anyone buy a Df and not use those attractive dials?

“when Nikon was designing the DF, they have to sacrifice ergonomic for that retro style look and control”

Camera manufacturers have spent a lot of time and effort on body design and all modern cameras have excellent ergonomic design. Pretty much any DSLR would fit into your hands nicely and all those multi-purpose controls are designed to allow you to change settings as quick as possible. Unfortunately what it means is, Nikon have to sacrifice ergonomic for that retro style look and control when they were designing the Df. For example, Df’s main grip, like the old film SLR, is quite small. This makes holding the Df not as comfortable as holding a modern design DSLR with full sized grip.  My hand would be really sore if I have to shoot a full day wedding using a Df. But for more causal use (which is what Df is designed for), it’s not too bad.

The top LCD screen is pretty small and simple. It only display the most important information such as the remaining photos and battery life.  There is no AF point, no output format, no WB info. To illuminate the LCD top screen, you have to press that little button next to it, just like a lot of the SLR cameras back in 1990s. Just one of those little nostalgic touch by Nikon.

While the front and top of the Df have the retro design, the back of the camera looks just like a D610 with it’s large LCD screen, directional pad and array of buttons. It means any existing Nikon DSLR users would feel right at home, but personally I would love to see a more retro and simplified design at the back, to give the whole camera a more consistent look and feel.
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Apart from the silver colour, the back of the Df looks very similar to the “normal” Nikon DSLRs 

Df’s retro theme doesn’t stop at it’s body style and controls, Nikon has included a retractable AI coupling tab which means the camera can accept the old pre-Ai Nikkor lenses (pre-1977) as well as the modern age Nikkor lenses. The older Nikkor lenses is perfect match to Df’s retro body style!

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 The Df looks the best when paired with an older Nikkor lens

 

“it make perfect sense the Df uses D4′s 16MP sensor”

The Df shares the same full frame sensor and EXPEED 3 processor as the flagship camera D4.  As mentioned earlier, Df supports all the older Nikkor lenses even the pre-Ai one. I imagine a lot of users will be using the camera with those old lenses which has lower optical quality, no VR and maybe  manual focus.  So it make perfect sense the Df uses D4′s 16MP sensor as it would not reveal every single tiny artifact in your photo as clearly as a high resolution sensor would do .

D4 is famous for it’s high ISO performance, and Nikon might have made some more improvement to the sensor/processing when they were designing the Df as DxOMark reports Df’s high ISO performance is even better than D4. The Df is the best high ISO performance camera they have ever tested. During the review, I spent a lot of time trying out the camera’s high ISO performance, anything under ISO 6400 is not even testing the camera’s high ISO capability. When we go into 5 digits ISO region, then we start to see some noticeable image degradation. At ISO 12800 the picture quality is still pretty good and ISO 25600 (Hi 1) is what I would normally go up to to maintain reasonably good picture quality. Having said that, I would not hesitate to push to ISO 51200 (Hi 2) or even 102400 (Hi 3) if I really want to get a photo in a dark place. Photos took at those crazy ultra high ISO are noisy with poor colour and contrast, but with a bit of post processing, they are still perfectly usable for web or even small prints.

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Photo of my daughter taken at Hi3 ISO setting, yes that is ISO 102400!

One controversial feature, or missing feature with the Df is the lack of video recording. You cannot take any video at all with the Df. Why take away a big feature that won’t cost much to implement? Maybe it’s to match Nikon’s pure photography theme? Maybe it’s to help clean up the camera design a bit? Or maybe Nikon knows whoever buying a Df should at least have one or two camera that can take video?

The camera has the same 39 point AF system as the D600/610. While I would love to have the same 51 point AF system from D4 (who wouldn’t?), in real life I found the 39 point AF system more than enough for the type of photos people would take with the Df. I mean, no one would buy a Df to shoot a basketball game or formula 1 racing right? So apart from the fact that all the 39 AF points are located quite close to the center of the frame, there isn’t much to complain about this AF system. It’s pretty fast and reliable.

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The 39 point AF point is pretty fast and accurate

“With great power, comes great responsibility”.

Although the camera doesn’t have any AF assist lamp, the AF works reasonably well under low light without any external assistant. But  “With great power, comes great responsibility”. With the camera’s amazing low light performance, there were quite a few times when I was in almost pitch black places, I knew I can still get some decent shots by crank the ISO to six digit region, unfortunately the AF system just can’t see it’s target and failed to focus. To be fair, I can’t really blame the AF system as it was really really dark and no human made DSLR can autofocus when it’s so dark. But it just highlights the fact that the latest full frame sensor’s low light performance is so good that the autofocus system just can’t keep up. Camera manufacturers really need to improve autofocus system’s low light performance significantly to fully utilise the sensor’s amazing low light performance. Maybe Nikon’s R&D is already working on some new hybrid active/passive AF technology that works in absolute darkness?

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Df shooting dance under low light – ISO 51200 f/2.5 1/500s

Yes Df’s autofocus has it’s weakness and limitations, but as long as you understand what they are and work around with it, you can get pretty good results from it. What actually disappointed me is the absence of split prism focusing screen for manual focus lens user. While there are still the usual green dot/arrows in the viewfinder can guide you to get the focus correct, they are not the most accurate nor fastest manual focusing tool. One of the biggest selling point of the Df is that it accepts the pre-AI manual focus lenses. So a lack of dedicated manual focus aid really surprised me and is my biggest disappointment about this camera. 

I was a bit annoyed that the Df comes with the EN-EL14 battery that is normally used in the small DX DSLRs, not the larger EN-EL15 that comes with the D610 or D800. But when I opened Df’s battery door,  I can see why the reason. Df’s small grip design means there simply isn’t any space for a larger battery. Fortunately Df’s battery life isn’t too bad at all. With a single charge, I can easily take a few hundred photos including reviewing the photos, playing with liveview quite a bit, and also play with different settings in between the shots, that is very similar to what I can get with the D800 and the EN-EL15 under similar usage pattern.

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Behind the battery door is the EN-EL14 battery

Some critics complain about Df’s price and say it is an overpriced camera.  Is it really an overpriced camera?

Df is an expensive camera, it is a premium consumer DSLR camera, there’s no doubt about it. But is it overpriced?

Internally, the camera shares the same sensor and processor as the flagship camera D4 and both camera can output identical quality photos. While Df is missing some of the features such as video recording, D4’s tank-like build quality, dual card slot (but you get the more common SD card slot on the Df)  and super fast frame rate, in return you get that special retro style design and controls, pre-AI lenses support and also a 50% discount compare to the D4.  So is the Df really an overpriced camera? I wish the camera could be a bit cheaper so it would be a bit easier for me to convince my wife that this is the last camera I need in my camera cabinet. But no I don’t really think it’s an overpriced camera, just the ability to capture usable photos at five to six digit ISO range alone pretty much worth the Df price tag in my opinion.

“If the Df was a car, it would be a classic sports car re-released with the latest engine upgrade”

After using the camera pretty much everyday for 2 weeks, it becomes really clear what the Df really is.

If you are a amateur who want a good, easy to use  full frame camera, or if you are a professional photographer wanting a camera you can use whole day non stop, the D610 or D800 (or the D4) would be the safer choice.  And they would most likely be disappointed if they buy a Df, because the Df  simply is not targeting  most ordnary users. The Df is designed for a very niche market, the DF is designed for a very special group of photographers.

The Df is for photographer who doesn’t just love taking beautiful photos, but also enjoy the whole process of capturing a photo. Photographer who would take his time when taking photo. Photographer who would pause, think, then click the shutter button and enjoy every second of it.

If the Df was a car, it would be a classic sports car re-released with the latest engine upgrade. It still has all those old quirky design that you either love or hate. For most people, driving a modern sports car would be be faster, easier and probably make more sense.  But if you love that classic look, feel and raw control, this reborned classic is definitely one of the most exciting camera release this year.

While Df is designed for a niche market, it is a very important product for Nikon. If Df becomes successful (which I think it will be, judging by the number of people I know that have ordered one already), then we will probably see a Df2 or similar products in the future. It will also be  a green light for Nikon to create more cameras outside their normal product lines.

Dear Nikon, if you are really designing the Df2, please consider take this pure photography concept one step further and create us a pure manual camera.  I don’t mind if the FPS is lower, the camera doesn’t have live-view, HDMI output, postprocessing filters, face detection, weather seal, wifi connection..etc.  Remove the optional modern control completely and give us a camera for a small group of photographers who wants that basic manual mechanical control and feel, something like a FM2 with an electronic sensor would be pretty amazing. 🙂

 

Pros

  • Amazing picture quality
  • Unbelievable ultra high ISO performance
  • Retro style design and control
  • Good battery life despite the small battery

 

Cons

  • No proper manual focusing aids
  • Design of the rear of the camera is not consistent with the rest of the camera

 

Sample Photos  

 (All photos RAW -> JPG using Lightroom edited to taste)


NikonDfSample-1Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G   f/1.8 1/320s ISO 50

 

NikonDfSample-5Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G  f/3.2 1/100s ISO2500

 

NikonDfSample-10 Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G    f/1.8 1/250s ISO100
 

NikonDfSample-8Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G  f/2.8 1/125s ISO 6400
 

NikonDfSample-3 Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G   f/1.8 1/250s ISO100
 

NikonDfSample-6 Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G  f/2 1/125s ISO100
 

NikonDfSample-9 Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G  f/1.8 1/320s ISO 2500

 

 

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard

Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (www.dphoto.co.nz)

 

All photos and text Copyright© 2014 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

 

 

Nikon Coolpix A Review

We are all greedy bastards! We want the best of everything but don’t want to pay the price.
For us photographers, it means we want big sensor camera which captures fantastic image but we don’t want to carry a big and heavy camera! Maybe that’s why the mirrorless cameras have become so popular these days. But while the mirrorless cameras are smaller than DSLRs, the one with large sensor still aren’t that small. So the camera manufacturers are also putting large sensor into their compact cameras. The Nikon Coolpix A is what Nikon has created for those of us who wants a camera with excellent image quality but compact enough that can fit inside your pocket.

I was quite surprised when I saw the Coolpix A at the Nikon NZ office. Despite the large APS-C sized sensor and the f/2.8 lens, the camera is roughly the same size as a lot of small sensor compact cameras. It is a lot smaller than the P7700 (which has a much smaller sensor) which we played with recently. It is a lot smaller than the other large sensor compact that I’ve seen/used previously, such as the Fuji X100, Sony RX1…etc

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The Coolpix A has a metal body, it feels very solid and high quality. No cheap plasticity feeling at all. While the camera doesn’t have a large grip, it still feels reasonably comfy and safe when you hold the camera with one hand.

The camera uses the EXPEED2 processor, not the most powerful EXPEED3, but it is still very responsive. Switch on the camera and you can take photo within a second. The menu and dials responds very quickly, you don’t feel the camera is lagging behind when you quickly press the buttons or rotate the dials. The menu and button layout is very similar to Nikon’s DSLR, so if you are a Nikon DSLR user, you don’t need to read the manual and you should be able to figure out how to use the camera and change most if not all the settings immediately.

The autofocus system is not as fast as the Nikon 1 or Olympus OM-D E-M5 (both are very fast), but I won’t call it slow either. With a 28mm equivalent fixed lens, I don’t think anyone is going to shoot sports or motor racing with the Coolpix A. So for other kind of photos, the autofocus system should be good enough. The camera’s manual focus mode is very simple, but also quite easy to use by rotating the large focus ring on the lens.

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The camera’s maximum shutter speed is only 1/2000s. Fortunately the ISO can do down to 100, so very rarely you will overexpose because you are limited by the 1/2000s shutter speed.

Just like the old Nikon 28Ti, the lens on the Coolpix A is simply superb. The camera captures very sharp photos with lots of fine details, even at the corner. That’s partly thanks to the anti-aliasing filter-less sensor design. Traditionally the AA filter was added to minimise the nasty moire effect, interestingly while the Coolpix A doesn’t have an anti-aliasing filter, it doesn’t seem to suffer much from moire effects.
Even without Nikon’s famous Nano coating, there is very minimal lens flare when shooting towards a bright light source and the contrast remains reasonably good. Barrel distortion and CA are also minimal. The 28mm equivalent focal length means the Coolpix A is not really a bokeh machine. But when you are shooing close up objects, the background bokeh is beautiful and smooth. I do noticed there is a moderate amount of vignetting especially at wide open but luckily that’s pretty much the only problem I can find with this 28mm equivalent lens.

With a large APS-C sensor that is very similar to the one from the D7000, there really is no surprise when I tell you the camera’s high ISO is very good. All the way up to ISO 3200 the image quality is still very good, ISO 6400 is not too bad and with a bit of noise reduction and post processing, even ISO 12800 is usable when you are shooting in very dark environment. Definitely don’t try that with your small sensor compact cameras!

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With the Coolpix A, there is no need to scare of dark. ISO12800

The camera’s auto ISO mode is similar to the one on the latest Nikon DSLR. My minor complain is that you can’t adjust exposure compensation when you turned on Auto ISO in manual mode.

While I haven’t done much direct comparison, I believe the image quality from the Coolpix A is at least as good, if not better than an DX DSLR paired with a mid level lens. You can mount a pro level lens on a DX DSLR and get better image quality, but the size and price will both be a lot more than the little Coolpix A.

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Flare is well controlled.

The Coolpix A has an internal flash, a tiny one but it can be used as fill-flash effectively. It also has a standard hotshoe so you can use the normal Nikon speedlights with the Coolpix A. Just for fun, I tried mounting a SB900 onto the Coolpix A and took some photos at a wedding. The images look pretty good. But it looks really funny and unbalanced as the SB900 is a lot more heavier than the Coolpix A! So if you do want to mount an external hotshoe flash, something like the SB400 or SB600/700 would be the much better choice.

I am a big fan of viewfinder. Whether the camera has a viewfinder or not is one important factor for me when I pick a camera. I was a bit disappointed when I heard the Coolpix A doesn’t have any built-in viewfinder. (But there is an optional external optical viewfinder). Thankfully the 3” LCD screen is probably one of the brightest LCD screen I’ve ever used. Even on a very sunny day, the LCD screen is still highly usable. So after using the camera for about a week, I kind of feel it’s ok to not have a viewfinder on the camera.

I know a lot of traditional photographer may not agree with me on this, but I do hope Nikon can make the LCD a touchscreen. I want to use the touchscreen to change the autofocus point quickly by touching the LCD screen. I think it would be especially helpful for street photography. (Nikon please consider it if you are reading it 🙂 )

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Fits into your pocket easily

While most of the camera features are quite nicely designed and integrated into the camera, the video mode seems really like a last minute feature. There is no direct video recording button. And there is not even a video mode in the mode dial. You have to go into the menu system to switch the camera to the video recording mode. (and do the same thing to switch it back to photo mode). Also for some strange reason, the manual focus mode is disabled during video recording. But While the video mode really could be better implemented, I don’t think it is a big problem. Most people will buy the camera because of it’s exception image quality and compact size. If someone wants a lot of features, he would have bought a Nikon 1 instead.

Coolpix A is Nikon’s first large sensor compact camera. Nikon designed this camera with one clear goal, exception image quality inside a compact body, and they definitely have delivered that with the Coolpix A.

Pros:
– Truly pocketable large sensor camera
– Excellent Image quality, as good as your APS-C DSLR! (that is if you are not using your kit lens on your DSLR)
– Very Responsive
– Good build quality
– Excellent LCD screen, makes lack of viewfinder a smaller problem

Cons:
– Autofocus is not as fast as some other compact/mirrorless camera
– No built-in Viewfinder
– No direct access movie mode buttons/dial.

Sample Photos
All sample photos are RAW file converted to JPG (adjusted to taste) using Adobe Lightroom

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coolpix_11

coolpix_09

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Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (www.dphoto.co.nz)

Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard

 

All photos and text Copyright© 2013 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Nikon 1 V2 Review

Nikon 1 V2 is the latest mirrorless camera from Nikon. The letter V in the model name indicates it’s the high end model that is targeting users who wants more features than the base J and S models. While the V2 has inherited a number of internal features from it’s predecessor V1, Nikon has also made a number of changes internally and externally such as a new image sensor, different button/dial layout…etc and made it quite a different camera to the V1.

The most obvious difference between the V2 and the previous Nikon 1 cameras is it’s much larger grip and a more industrial look. While the larger grip does make the camera quite a bit larger, holding the camera especially with one hand also feel a lot better and more secure. Nikon has also redesigned the button layout, and make it more similar to it’s DSLRs. There are also two big dials on the top of the camera which makes changing mode and settings a lot easier. With the big grip and changes in the button/dial layout, the Nikon 1 V2 is definitely the most comfortable Nikon 1 camera to hold.

V2 has a new 14.2MP CMOS sensor. ISO range is from 160-6400. From low to mid ISO up to around 800, the picture quality is really good, the photos have very nice colours, and decent dynamic range. At ISO 3200, you can see the noise reduction algorithm is starting to remove quite a bit of finer details but overall the picture quality is still ok. ISO 6400 is for emergency use only. While it’s high ISO performance is definitely nothing like a full frame sensor, it’s still very good for a 1” sensor and can easily challenge a few mirrorless cameras with slightly larger sensor.

As a top end model, the Nikon 1 V2 has a built-in Electronic View Finder (EVF) in additonal to the main LCD screen. The EVF is pretty bright, smooth and has decent resolution. The lag is minimal so I can take action photos using the EVF easily. While I still prefer full frame DSLR’s good old optical viewfinder, the latest EVF like the one in the V2 is getting very close to the quality of the OVF and you have the advantage of WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) when you are adjusting settings like exposure or white balance. Having said that, I did notice that sometimes the brightness of the image I see in the EVF is quite different to the final image captured by the camera and i can’t figure what is causing that. But apart from that, I enjoy taking photos using V2’s EVF.

One thing that can make or break a camera is it’s autofocus system, and V2’s Autofocus system is simply amazing. It’s a hybrid autofocus system that combines both phase and contrast detection. There are a total of 73 phase detection AF points and 135 contrast detection AF points that gives you a total of… 200+ AF points. Yes crazy! And it does work very well in real life too! Not only autofocus is lighting fast when shooting static object, (somehow i feel it’s even faster than my D800!), the autofocus accuracy is also very good. And when I was shooting moving object, the tracking works quite well too. I tried using the V2 to take photos of cars, birds or my daughter running around, and I was really amazed by the very high percentage of good photos that the V2 managed to capture. In comparison, my Olympus OM-D, which is also pretty fast and accurate when shooting static objects, performs very poorly once the object starts moving. V2 with it’s hybrid autofocus is definitely the best mirrorless camera for shooting moving objects.
Just a note, the V2’s autofocus system is basically the same as all the other Nikon 1 cameras, so V1, J1, J2, S1..etc they should all have the same amazing autofocus capability,

V2’s mechanical shutter speed has a maximum speed of 1/4000s which is similar to most cameras in this class. But it also has an additional electronic Shutter with a maximum shutter speed of 1/16,000s! And if you switch on the “Silent” mode, the camera makes no shutter sound at all when you are taking photos. This is really great when you want to take photo at a quiet place and don’t want to create any noise. Like taking photos of your baby and not worry about waking him up from his sweet dream.

Nikon put a lot of creative features into it’s 1 system camera and the V2 is no exception. The V2 not only inherits a lot of features from its predecessor like the Smart Photo Selector , it also has some new features like the Best Moment Capture Mode. The Best Moment Capture mode allows you to use slow view a moment you are capturing in real time. You just need to half press the shutter button and the camera will start capture live action (approx. 1.33 seconds). At the same time, the camera plays it back at five times slower than normal speed (approx. 6.66 sec) and you can pick the best moment you want. This action is replayed repeatedly as long as the shutter-release button is half-pressed.

Another big selling point of the V2 is it’s high burst rate. V2 can take photos at 15fps, with autofocus and at full resolution! It’s faster than the Nikon D4! But if 15fps is still not fast enough, you can increase the speed to 60fps if you don’t need autofocus between the continuous shots. And you still get the full resolution files (RAW/JPG). It means the camera is capturing 840 megapixels per second!! Crazy!

With the V1, a lot of people have complained that it doesn’t have a built-in flash, so you have to use the accessory port to plug in an external flash. But it means you can’t connect another external accessory (e.g. GPS) when you are using a flash. Good news is, the V2 now has an built-in flash as well as the accessory port.

Another cool feature of the Nikon 1 cameras, including the V2 is it’s ability to capture slow motion video at either 400fps or 1200fps. And tell you what, slow-motion videos are super fun! 1200fps is amazing and reveal things you never see with your naked eyes. But at 320 x 120, the resolution is really a bit too low for any real use.. The 400fps 640x 240 video is a better compromise in terms of speed and resolution. And is a LOT OF FUN! We spent a lot of time running around taking random slow-motion videos instead of photos when we were reviewing the camera. A lot of ordinary scenes suddenly look very interesting when captured at 400fps!

You can check out our youtube channel for some more slow motion video we captured using the V2:
http://www.youtube.com/user/NikonJin

For more advance video users, you can have full manual exposure controls when shooting in the Advance Movie Mode. And the camera also has a external mic input port.
Another cool feature is that you can capture high resolution photos when you are capturing full HD video. You won’t be missing a great photo opportunity anymore just because you are taking video.

If you compare the Nikon 1 cameras with other brand mirrorless cameras, you may notice the Nikon 1 camera bodies is a bit smaller, but not significantly smaller. But with any interchangable lens system, the size of the body is only part of the equation. Some of the large sensor mirrorless cameras may have a very slim and smallish body. But then once you mount a lens onto the camera, all of a sudden the camera is not really any smaller than a small DSLR anymore. Fortunately this is not the case with the Nikon 1 cameras. The loan unit I got from Nikon consist of a V2 + 4 different lenses: 2 zoom and 2 prime lenses. Everything fit inside a very small camera bag and total weight is next to nothing. Or I can easily put the camera with a prime or even zoom lens attached in my trouser pocket and put one or two more lenses in another pocket. The Nikon 1 lenses are really small and in my opinion that’s one of the biggest advantage of the 1” CX sensor. Among the 4 lenses I’ve tried, I especially love the 18.5mm f/1.8 lens. It’s nice, small, fast and picture quality is pretty good.

While the V2 doesn’t have wifi built-in, there is an optional WU-1b wifi adaptor. With the wifi adaptor and a iOS or Android device, you can have control the camera and take photos from your smart device. You’ll have realtime liveview, and ability to download photos through wifi. The wifi is pretty easy to setup, and the remote liveview has almost no delay, this is a lot better than the GoPro3 I recently tried which has a 3-4 second delay with it’s remote liveview display.. The only thing is, make sure you don’t lost the WU-1B as it’s really quite tiny. It would be good if Nikon can make the wifi module built-in for it’s future cameras.

During the review, I noticed the left side of the camera gets a bit warm after the camera’s being used continously for a while, especially after I took a number of slow motion videos. I am guessing the heat is generated by the cameras EXPEED 3A processor. The heat won’t make you feel uncomfortable but the camera is reminding you it’s got a really powerful processor and it is processing a lot of data!

But even with the powerful EXPEED 3A processor, battery life seems not too bad and is similar to most of the mirrorless cameras I’ve used in the past.

Conclusions:
For a camera that is small enough to carry with me almost all the time, the image quality from the V2 is really pretty good. The Nikon 1 V2 has an amazing autofocus system, very fast 15fps (or 60fps) burst rate, 400fps slow motion video, wifi remote control..etc make this camera a lot of fun! My biggest concern for this camera is it’s price. The camera is not available for sale here in NZ yet when I’m doing this review so I don’t really know the street price. But looking at the V1’s price, I have a feeling it won’t be cheap when it’s finally available for sale. There will be a lot of really strong competitors at the same price range, most of them are mirrorless or even DSLRs with a much larger sensor. So will the market prefer V2’s very impressive feature list and compact size, or will people prefer a larger camera with larger sensor? I guess it’s a really personal choice. If you want a good small camera that is easy to operate, and with lots of cool innovative features, you definitely should check out the Nikon 1 V2.

Pros:
Amazing Autofocus system.
Long list of innovative features
Capture full resolution photo at up to 60fps!
Slow motion video up to 1200fps
Compact size, that includes the lenses too.

Cons:
EVF brightness is different to the image captured occasionally.
Retail price could be higher than what people want to.
Wifi could be built-in instead of external

Sample Photos
(All sample photos are RAW file converted to JPG using Adobe Lightroom)


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (www.dphoto.co.nz)

Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

 

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM ART Quick Impression review

I had a chance to play with the latest Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM lens today. This is a lens that got some really great reviews including a Gold Award from DPReview.com. So while I’m not really planning to do a full review on this lens, I’m still very interested to find out more about this lens, and see if it’s really as good as what other people are saying.

It is really only a quick impression review as I’ve only played with the lens for about fifteen minutes, so anyway, my first impression? I really like the new Sigma “ART” design and finish. It feels so much better than the old Sigma lenses. It does not feel plasticky at all. It’s solid and dense, I kind of felt it’s heavier than my Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G (Just checked the specs, the Sigma’s weight is 665g, the Nikon’s weight is 600g) The manual focus ring is nicely dampened. I really like the new Sigma style and finish.
So how about the picture quality? With a D800, even when shot at wide open, the center of the photo is very sharp. The corner seems slightly soft, but only slightly and it is still pretty good for a f/1.4 lens. I then tried stop down a stop and the corner is now pretty sharp as well.
I didn’t really notice much CA. But all the test shots I did was indoor with no high contrast scene so I didn’t really test this area.
Bokeh is quite smooth and round at f/1.4. And it’s still pretty round when stop down to around f/2.8.
Next, the autofocus. It’s quiet! Very quiet! While i was not testing the lens at a very quiet place, i just can’t hear the AF motor noise at all. Also the AF speed is pretty fast, not Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, but it’s noticeably faster than my Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G. It doesn’t seem to hunt much as well. You press the AF button and it just snap into focus straight away.
Now AF speed is one thing, one thing Sigma is quite famous (unfortunately in a bad way) is it’s AF accuracy or lack of it. The last few Sigma lenses I played with all have a bit of AF issue. For example the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM. But it seems Sigma has finally found the solution, with the test shots we took at f/1.4, the AF is spot on in every single photo. That’s pretty damn good! I would probably love to take some more photos with this lens if I got a chance as I think the AF accuracy is probably the biggest issue with the fast Sigma lenses in general.

So, the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 does appear to be a very decent lens. At only half price of the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G, the Sigma is now offering a good alternative especially for people who can’t afford the Nikon’s price. Even if you can afford the Nikon’s price, I would say you should check out the Sigma one as you maybe surprised by this 3rd party lens.

You can now order the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 HSM from your local camera shops, or you can always talk to our friends at Auckland Camera Centre http://www.aucklandcamera.co.nz/

NikonJin is also on Facebook now, here is our FB page:

http://www.facebook.com/NikonJin

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard
Richard is also a contributing writer for the New Zealand D-Photo magazine (www.dphoto.co.nz)

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Lastolite Professional TriFlips 8:1 Deluxe Kit Review


If you are a portrait photographer, you will probably have a reflector in your camera bag.
In my camera bag, I normally have a collapsable circular reflector. It’s a medium size one with 4 different surface: Gold, Silver, White and Black.

If you have not used a reflector before, here is a quick summary of what the different colours are for:
– White reflector gives you soft netural reflection
– Silver creates a stronger reflection and can be used to create a high contrast look
– Gold is similar to silver but creates a warm golden tone to liven up the skin tone of your model
– Black is not really a reflector, it’s more or less a light subtractor as your reflector will become a light shield instead.

For me I use the white and silver reflector surface the most. Sometimes i use the gold one to warm up my model’s skin tone a little bit. But quite often i have the problem when the silver is too reflective or gold is just too gold. I want something that is half silver half white, or maybe half gold half white as the pure silver or gold reflector just doesn’t look natural enough.

Another problem with my circular reflector is that it’s impossible to hold it myself when I’m shooting photos. I need someone to hold the reflector for me. This is okay when i have an assistant but the problem is I don’t always have an assistant with me at every photoshoot.

I remember seeing Joe McNally (www.joemcnally.com) uses the Lastolite Triflip (trigrip) in some of his books and videos. The Triflip is basically a triangle shape reflector/diffuser with a handle at one end so the photographer can hold the camera with one hand and hold the Triflip with the other hand.

The Triflip comes in three different sizes: 18″, 30″ and 48″.
Personally I found the 48″ one just a bit too large and the 18″ too small and only useful for close up shots, so I like the medium size 30″ one the most.
And Lastolite is also selling something called “Lastolite Professional Triflip 8:1 Deluxe Kit” which includes not only the Triflip but also some useful accessories.

The Lastolite Professional Triflip 8:1 Deluxe Kit contains:

1 x 30” TriGrip 2 stop diffuser
1 x Set of TriFlip covers containing 7 different surface: white, silver, softsilver, gold, sunlite and sunfire reflective surfaces as well as a black surface.
1 x Air Cushioned Lighting Stand
1 x TriGrip Bracket
1 x Carry Case with shoulder strap.

Pretty much everything you’ll need are included in this kit.

I contacted the NZ Lastolite distributor Focal Holdings and after a quick trip to their Auckland office I came back with a nice blue Lastolite bag.


The Lastolite TriFlips 8:1 Deluxe Kit – a very portable portrait lighting solution


The kit includes many useful accessories and everything fits inside the carry case.

My first impression of the Triflip is, I can easily feel the difference between the Triflip and the cheap unbranded reflectors. The Triflip is made of high quality material. While so far I have only used it for about 2 months, i believe I will be using this kit for a long long time.
Apart from the build quality, the main difference between the Triflip and other generic reflector is it’s triangle shape design and the handle at one hand. With this handle, I can hold the Triflip reflector comfortably with one hand while my other hand is holding the camera.

Or if you got 2 triflip, then one can be held in each hand by an assistant to have more control and create some more creative results.

There are a total of 7 different reflector surface comes with this kit: the basic white, black, gold and silver. And there are three more that is a mix of white, silver and gold. The different surfaces allow you to fine tune the reflected colour and strength easily.


7 different surfaces are included: white, silver, softsilver, gold, sunlite, sunfire and black.

The lightstand can fit inside the supplied carry case. But while it’s quite compact when collapsed, it can actually be extend up to over 3 meter tall (312cm exactly)! Just like the Triflip, the air cushioned lightstand is also a very good quality one. It is a lot stronger and better construction then the other light stands I got of similar size.

The kit comes with a set of brackets so you can mount the triflip on a lightstand.

The Triflip can be mounted onto the supplied lightstand easily and quickly. And you can adjust the angle of the triflip reflector easily using the adjustable ball joint bracket.


This is how the Triflip looks like when it’s mounted onto the lightstand using the supplied brackets

The brackets not only allows you to mount the Triflip, you can also mount a speedlight and turn it into a active light source when there is not enough ambient light for reflection or when you want to give a bit more light power to your reflector. Out of the box (or bag), you can mount only 1 speedlight onto the bracket. But you can easily modify it to take 2 or even more speedlights if you want to have more firepower.

The only major problem I found with the kit is that the lightstand can get blown over easily when it is used on a windy outdoor day. But to be fair, this is a common problem for pretty much any medium to large size light reflector or modifier such as umbrella or softbox. At least the Triflip itself is flexible and will deflect a bit of wind. If you really want to use it on a windy day, make sure you bring a few sandbags or find someone to hold the lightstand.

But on a normal day or when used indoor, then the lightstand + adjustable bracket combo works perfectly.

Yes indoor, the Triflip works very well indoor especially when you are inside a tiny room and you don’t have space or time for the bigger lighting/reflector gears. You can just hold the triflip one hand and take photo with the other hand. As you are controlling the reflector yourself, you can quickly adjust the position and angle to get the result you want very quickly.

 

Summary
After using the Lastolite TriFlips 8:1 Deluxe Kit for about two months and shot a number of weddings and portrait photoshoots, I’ve now decided to replace my old reflector/umbrella/softbox/lightstand setup with this little kit. I just love how versatile it is and how it allows me to setup and shoot easily, even when I don’t have an assistant with me. It works very well both outdoor and indoor as long as it’s not super windy. And with the adjustable lightstand, brackets and multiple reflector surface, it gives me a lot of flexibility and adjustability on how to light up my model and scene, either using it as a passive reflector/diffuser or add a speedlight or two and make it an active light source. The best thing is, everything fits inside the carry case and i can setup and pack up everything very quickly. This is really important when shooting weddings as we normally don’t have a lot of time to waste.
The price may not be as cheap as the unbranded diffuser + light stand setup, but you get what you pay for. The quality of the Lastolite gear is excellent.

Pros
– Suitable for solo photographer. Triflip can be used by only one hand.
– Everything you need comes with this kit, just need to add your camera and speedlight.
– Good quality material and build quality
– Easy to carry around, easy to setup, easy to pack up
– Can be used as a passive or active light source

Cons
– Not as cheap as the unbranded equivalent gear
– Not suitable for windy day (which is a common problem for most large size diffuser/reflector..etc)

NikonJin is also on Facebook now, here is our FB page:

http://www.facebook.com/NikonJin

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard
Richard is also a freelance contributor for New Zealand D-Photo magazine (www.dphoto.co.nz)

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Nikon Coolpix S800c Review

When Nikon announced the S800c, an Android based compact camera, it really surprised a lot of people. Nikon is traditionally a camera and optics company and has never made any smartphones. So not a lot of people are expecting to see this kind of product from Nikon. But there were also concerns about whether Nikon can make the S800c a decent product or will it be slow, buggy and hard to use?

Now we finally get our hands on a production S800c, and we have been taking photos and playing since last week, and here comes our thoughts about this new smart camera.

The S800c looks just like a typical compact camera, it’s pretty small, thin and light. It has a 10x optical zoom lens at the front, that hides inside the camera when the camera is off. And at the back, there is a pretty large 3.5″ OLED touchscreen that takes up almost the whole back side. While it’s not a super high resolution screen like some of the latest smartphone, the 3.5″ OLED screen is pretty bright and easy to view.

The touch screen responses quickly. Menus response quickly and accurately, gesture controls like pitch to zoom..etc are very responsive. You can setup the camera so if you tap your finger on the screen it’ll do a AF/AE lock.  Unfortunately, the tap to focus autofocus  area does not cover the whole screen, it’s a square area that covers approx 80% of the screen. This is actually pretty common for most of the compact cameras and I don’t think this is a problem for most users to be honest, but it’s more obvious now because of the touch screen tap to focus user interface.

Nikon is obviously targeting the S800c to the consumer market, and they give you limited control over the camera settings. There is no aperture, shutter or manual mode, instead you have a few different Auto and Scene modes. Fortunately the auto/scene modes do pretty good job and creates good quality photos most of the time. I was a bit frustrated when I tried to take some slow speed panning shots as i couldn’t really find a mode that allows me to capture the image I want. Eventually I managed to capture a few shots I like but then think again, I’m probably asking a bit too much from this little compact camera as otherwise the S800c handles most everyday photos pretty well.
The camera can capture at 8.1fps at full resolution and there are some other continuous shooting modes like BSS (Best Shot Selector), 120 fps capture (at VGA resolution), Multi-shot 16..etc. It can also do video at various resolution/speed up to 1080P30.

While the camera is quite compact and can fits inside your pocket easily and no you don’t need to wear pants with oversized pockets, it still packs a 10x optical zoom inside the body (25-250mm 35mm equivalent) which gives you a lot of versatility for different kind of photos. The aperture isn’t specially fast at f/3.2-5.8 but is pretty normal for a 10x zoom lens.


10x optical zoom in a compact body

The image from the compact 10x zoom lens is really not bad at all. While some of the photos can be sometimes a bit soft with a bit of light bloom, it normally only happens when you shooting some very high contrast scenes. Most of the time the photo is sharp and nice. VR works quite well and allow you to get a sharp photo of static objects at slow shutter speed.

While the s800c look like a typical point and shoot compact camera,  once you get out of the normal shooting screen, you’ll find there is a big big world out there. If you have an Android device, you should feel pretty much at home as you’ll find the full Android OS there. If you haven’t use an Android device before, then it might be a bit confusing at the beginning. But as long as you are a semi tech-savvy person, then you should be able to figure out how to setup and use most of the features within a day or two. If you don’t know what facebook or wifi and what is an “app”, then frankly i think  you are looking at the wrong camera. A “normal” camera like the Coolpix S6400 would be a much better choice for you.


Hello World!

 

Now if you have a smartphone, which you should already have if you are interested in this camera, you’ll know it take at least 10-20 seconds for a smartphone to boot up from power off. While this is okay for a phone, as you normally only power it on once a day, no one wants a camera that takes 20 seconds to start up. And we can’t really keep the camera on standby mode all the time as otherwise we have to  recharge the camera every night no matter we use it or not.  So what Nikon did is they created a  hybrid on/off mode for the S800c. If you the camera is completely turned off, and you press the power button, the camera will switch on within a second or so, just like most compact camera. And you can start taking photos quickly. At the same time, the camera’s Android OS will start booting up in the background and it will take another 15 seconds for the android OS to boot up completely. Once the Android OS is completely boot up and ready, you can access all the other features  like using your apps, checking email, or access the advance camera settings.  This may seem a bit strange initially but it is a compromise you have to make when your camera have a heavyweight (for a camera at least) operating system and you don’t want to attach a heavyweight battery  to it.

While it’s not running the latest Android, S800c’s 2.3 Gingerbread is still the most popular Android version and you can download and run most of the apps from Google Play.

You can install all those photo apps like Instagram, Camera+, flickr onto the S800c. And you can also install Facebook and other social networking apps too to share your photos from the S800c immediately. You can either use the camera directly from within the apps like Instagram or Facebook, or you can take the photo first, then access the photos from your app. Whatever way you prefer. Someone may ask why you need a S800c while you can do all this with a smartphone. I doubt any smartphones out there will give you the same level of image quality and a 10x optical zoom lens. And the S800c’s price is less than half of any top end smartphones. By the way, Instagram seems to run a lot smoother and faster with the S800c than a iPhone 4 or even 4S.

Instagram works fast and smooth
 
Since the camera has built-in GPS, the photos you took will be geo-tagged automatically, this is awesome for those of you who do travel a lot.




Browsing facebook with the S800c

 

Of course you can also install other normal apps or games. Angry Birds runs pretty smooth on the s800c, just make sure you don’t use up all the battery playing Angry birds.


Now you can play Angry Birds on your camera!

 


With a built-in GPS, you can use the S800c as a GPS navigation device too

 

Speak about the battery, this is probably the biggest weakness of the S800c. S800c’s EN-EL12 battery is the same battery used by a lot other compact cameras like the AW100. While it’s 1050mah battery give you decent battery life when used on the other compact cameras, the Android powered S800c can drain the battery very quickly, depends on how you use the camera.
During the review, I took the fully charged camera with me for a walk.  The battery lasted about 1 hour 45 minutes and I took about 150 photos then it went completely flat.  I did turn on both the wifi and GPS. And the camera (and it’s 3.5″ LCD screen) was mostly ON during the walk as i was taking photos, reviewing them and playing with the different features.  So if you don’t turn everything on and keep everything running, the battery can probably last you a full day, but if you are a heavy user , be warned the battery won’t last too long.
But to be fair, a lot of  compact cameras are not really much better than the S800c. I have 3 batteries for my Fujifilm x10 because I can easily go through all of them in one single day.  And my x10 has a smaller screen, doesn’t have wifi, GPS and no Android running in the background. But anyway, at least the battery are not internal like some of the smartphone that you can’t replace easily, so if you like to take a lot of photos (or play a lot of Angry birds), make sure you buy one or two spare batteries. The battery can be charged using the supplied USB cable, so maybe you can use your laptop or those portable USB charging device to help extend your S800c’s battery life a bit while you are on the road.


Battery life is not really the strongest point of this camera.

 

When I was reviewing the camera, most of the time I turned on my phone’s hotspot function and get the  S800c to connect to it and then I just upload photos to the internet directly from the S800c using one of the apps. But there is another way to connect the S800c to the world.

You can  install the Nikon S800c app on your smartphone (available free in both iOS and Android version) then you can pair the S800c with your smartphone and  grab the photos from your S800c to your smartphone.  It’s quite easy to do and you just need to follow a few easy steps. But it did take me a little while to figure out how to get it going.  Ok I’m lying,  I actually thought the phone was faulty and went back to Nikon NZ and their product manager Ken showed me how to do it (Thanks Ken!) It’s actually quite a easy process to connect your phone to the S800c, so if you are stuck, just READ THE INSTRUCTIONS carefully!


Pairing the S800c and your smartphone is actually quite easy… as long as you try to read the on screen instructions.

When you use the S800c this way, you can browse the photo previews from your smartphone and download the photos your want to your smartphone. The photo transfer works quite smooth and fast consider the photos are 16MP each.   There is just one little annoying thing, after you transferred the high resolution photo from the S800c to your phone, you actually have to switch to your smartphone’s photo gallery app to see the full size photo. This is purely a software limitation so maybe Nikon can update the S800c app in the future and allow user to see the full size photo inside their app directly.

While I personally prefer to just upload the photos directly from the S800c to the internet, there are still some good reasons to use the S800c this way. For example, when you are out with your friends or family and someone has an iPad or an Android tablet, you can immediately download your photos from the S800c and view the photos on the tablet’s much bigger screen with your friends, even when you are at place there is no internet access. You can also do a batch photo backup a lot quicker in this mode.

It’s great Nikon gives us different options to suit different needs.

 

 

 

Conclusions


As a wedding photographer myself, one of the most usual question I got asked these days is when can they see the wedding photos on facebook. While it’s unlikely I’ll be using a S800c to shoot any weddings, it tells you for a lot of people facebook album, Instagram photostream is getting more and more important and become a very important part of our life. Nikon understands it and that’s why Nikon went outside of their comfort zone and made this S800c, a camera that allows you to upload photo and interact with the internet easily. While the s800c is not perfect and there are a few things I hope it can do better (like battery life), overall I’m still quite impressed. It takes good photos, is small, light, fast and responsive and give users many ways to share their photos with their friends and family. It is a brave move as smart device is a completely alien territory to Nikon but I’m really glad Nikon made such a move instead of just doing things they are traditionally good at.

This is the first smart camera from Nikon, and it definitely won’t be the last. Combining the power of the Android OS, apps, a good quality photo/video camera and internet connectivity, the potential is really unlimited.

So what will we see from Nikon in the future? Maybe a Nikon 1 mirrorless smart camera? What about DSLR?  Maybe wedding photographers can shoot, do a quick edit and upload photos to facebook and tag people from their DSLR during a wedding? And what about the Android app developers? Maybe we will see some exciting photo app that can take advantage of the much better camera on S800c and other future models?  I guess we just have to wait and see, but for now the Nikon S800c already allows you to do a lot of things that traditional cameras can’t do.

 

 

Pros
– Small and compact size, fits easily inside your pocket while still have a 10x optical zoom lens
– Large and responsive touch screen.
– Thousands of existing apps you can download and install onto the camera
– Built-in GPS
– Edit/upload photo easily using one of the photo apps or social networking apps through your smartphone or any wifi
– Hybrid power on/off mode allow user to turn on and shoot quickly
– Fast continuous shooting speed (8.1fps full resolution or even faster at lower resolution)

Cons
– Poor Battery Life
– Not the latest version of Android
– The S800c iOS/Android app requires you to go to the phone’s photo gallery to view the full size photo after download.
 

Sample Photos
(Nikon S800c, all photos are unedited JPG straight from camera, click to see larger version)


f/4.8 1/1000s ISO 125
 


f/3.2 1/640s ISO 125
 


f/5.8 1/30s ISO 140
 


f/4.5 1/400s ISO 125
 


f/4.3 1/100s ISO 125
 


f/5.0 1/13s ISO 800
 


f/3.2 1/1600s ISO 125
 


f/4.7 1/125s ISO 125


f/3.2 1/1000s ISO 125
 


f/3.5 1/1000s ISO 125
 


f/4.0 1.0s ISO 125
 


f/5.8 1/320 ISO 125
 


Multishot f/5.8 1/640 ISO 125
 


f/5.2 1/80s ISO 200
 


f/6.4 1/500s ISO 125
 

For more information and specification of the camera, please visit Nikon New Zealand’s website:
http://www.nikon.co.nz/productitem.php?pid=1523-b76abc0297

NikonJin is also on Facebook now, here is our FB page:

http://www.facebook.com/NikonJin

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Nikon D600 Review

After releasing the D800, D800E and D4, Nikon has released it’s 4th full frame FX DSLR this year, the Nikon D600. Unlike the previous full frame cameras, the D600 is mainly targeting the enthusiast user market. It’s Nikon’s smallest, lightest and also cheapest full frame DSLR so far.

 

When I first saw the D600, I nearly mistaken it is a D7000! It’s design looks very similar to the D7000 and it’s only slightly bigger and heavier. The D800 is quite a bit bigger, taller and heavier than the D600.

D600 and D800 size comparison (Left: D800 Right: D600)

It shares the same metering system 3D color matrix metering II 2,016 pixel RGB sensor as the D7000.
And the autofocus system is based on D7000’s 39 point AF system. 9 of the autofocus points are cross type and seven of them can now focus at f/8. Like all the Nikon FX camera, all the focus points are within the central DX crop area and spot metering is linked to the active AF point. While I haven’t really spend much time testing the AF tracking or use some test chart to test the autofocus accuracy, the AF system seems pretty accurate and responsive when I was shooting real life photos.

The D600 also shares a lot of improvements and new features with it’s bigger brother, the 36MP FX D800. For example, the LCD screen is the same as the D800, it uses the same Expeed 3 processor, it has very similar video mode including uncompressed HDMI output, headphone out, external mic in and 1080p30 mode…etc


Videographers would love all these ports!

 

The camera has a partially magnesium metal body. The shutter rating is 150,000 and I was told the weather seal is same as the D800. So while it’s not as heavy or solid as a D4 or a D800, it is still a very solid and reliable camera that you can take it anywhere, and shoot it under pretty much any weather condition.

There are also infra red sensors on the camera so you can use an infra red remote trigger to trigger this camera. In additional to that, you can use the optional wifi module and control it with an Android or iOS device. Unfortunately there is no 10 pin remote Connector so you can’t use a normal remote shutter cable with the D600.

The camera is pretty responsive because of the Expeed3 processor. Going through the camera’s menu is quick and easy.

If you are a street photographer, you would also love the D600’s quiet shutter sound. It is a lot quieter than the other Nikon full frame cameras and won’t draw as much unwanted attention when you are taking photos. I’ve used the D600 to take some photos of a newborn baby during the review period. The little one was only 1 day old and was sleeping peacefully when I arrived. I switched the camera to the quiet mode, and took probably a dozen photos at short distance. The shutter sound didn’t upset the baby at all. I’m pretty sure it would be a different story if I was shooting with my D700 or D800 as those camera have a much louder shutter sound.

And for those of you who care about how the camera look, I think it’s a very good looking camera. It’s not too boxy nor too curvy, and with a medium sized zoom or prime lens attached, it looks and feels very nice and balanced.

 

As i’ve said in the beginning, the D600’s design is very similar to the D7000, but with some new changes. For example, the new live view control, the position of the video record button is the same as the new one on D800. There are now 5 buttons instead of 4 on the left hand side of the main LCD screen. The ISO button is now moved to the buttom most, allow user to adjust ISO easily when you are shooting. Auto ISO can now be enabled by pressing the ISO button and turning the front dial, just like the D800. So you don’t have to go into the menu to turn the auto ISO on/off anymore!


Zoom in at top, Zoom out at bottom. It just makes more sense isn’t it?

 

The D600 has dual SD card slots. You can assign the second slot to act as overfill, backup or storing a JPG. Just a few years ago, the only camera that has dual card slot was the flagship camera like the D3!

While the D600 doesn’t have the circle shape viewfinder like other FX cameras, it’s viewfinder is a 100% pentaprism and is really bright and large! There are also tonnes of information displayed in the viewfinder. And if you are using the Auto ISO mode, the actual ISO the camera selects is now also shown in the viewfinder.

 

The camera has a built-in RAW converter and some postprocessing ability. It also has a built-in HDR mode. The camera creates a “HDR” style image using 1 or multiple shots automatically for you. The HDR JPG output captures a wider dynamic range then normal photo. It works pretty well especially when you are shooting a high dynamic range scene, for example part of your photo is indoor and part of it is outdoor. Just don’t expect the crazy Photomatrix style effect as it’s designed for more subtle HDR effect.


Normal Mode


HDR Mode – Smooth Setting = low

 

But you need to remember the HDR mode can only be enabled when you are shooting in JPG mode with bracketing turned off. The camera will only grey out the HDR option unless you met all the requirements. I wish Nikon can improve this in the future and either offer to adjust all the settings to allow HDR mode, or at least tell you explicitly what is causing the HDR mode disabled. It’s not only the HDR mode, there are also a few other menu options that could grey out depends on other settings/conditions and if you are not familar with the camera it really can take you a bit of time to find out how to re-enable it.

 

D600’s live view mode is pretty much the same as the D800 and D4 and uses the new live view button/level design. It’s a lot easier to use when compare to the older live view design, The autofocus in live view mode while not as fast as some of the fastest mirrorless system, is still quite fast and doesn’t hunt too much. Unlike D800, you cannot adjust the aperture size once you are in liveview mode, unless you are using a AF lens with mechanical aperture ring. Unfortunately, the live view display’s framerate also drops quite a bit when you zoom in the picture, just like the D800. It makes manual focus using live view harder than it should be.

 

To differentiate the D600 from their own and more expensive D800, Nikon has to tune down some of the otherwise amazing D600 spec list. Fortunately, most of the missing things (when compare to the D800) like limited number bracketing frames, or the lack of AF-ON button I mentioned earlier..etc are minor and there are usually some workarounds. But the slower maximum flash sync speed of 1/200s (which can actually be boost to 1/250s) and the max shutter speed of 1/4000s are probably the biggest complains from me. If you are a landscape photographer or street photographer then you most likely don’t care but if you shoot a lot of sports, or you are a strobist, then the lower max sync and shutter speed (also with the lack of PC Sync jack) could really annoy you. But then Canon’s newly announced 6D (which is D600’s direct competitor) also has the maximum shutter speed of 1/4000s and max sync speed is even slower at 1/180s. So maybe I shouldn’t really complain too much?

 

When I first pick up my D800, I found that it requires me to pay a lot more attention to my shutter speed, aperture setting, lens selection and also I need to try to be steady as possible if I want to get maximum quality photos. With the D600, probably because of it’s lower 24MP resolution, I find it is a lot more forgiving as it doesn’t reveal every tiniest mistake I’ve made. The smaller image size probably is more computer friendly too for most people that doesn’t have the latest and fastest computer with the biggest storage space.

 

During the review period, 90% of the time I was using the camera with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR kit lens. The 24-85VR is one fantastic kit lens! While it’s a little bit plasticky, it’s also a lot more compact and lighter (and of course cheaper) than the 24-70mm f/2.8G and the picture quality is nearly as good under most situtations. And at f/3.5-4.5 it’s not too much slower neither. Some of the photos I took at wide open, look awesome even when viewed at 100%. A short review of the 24-85 lens will come soon!
So if you are upgrading from DX and need a standard full frame zoom lens, I would highly recommend you to check out the 24-85G.

 

So how’s the image quality?

 

After using the camera for about a week, under daylight, moonlight, shooting various kind of photos, I’ve to say I’m really impressed by the photo comes out from the D600.

The dynamic range is very good, a lot better than the D700 and probably just as good as the D800 which is the current king of DR according to DXOMark.
Combined with the clean image it generates, you have a extremely large amount of freedom to push the shadow details or recover highlight during post processing especially if you are shooting at low ISO.


Left Half: RAW -> JPG in Lightroom, all default settings
Right Half: RAW -> JPG in LR Exposure increased 6 stops, otherwise default settings, no noise reduction applied

For the photo above, the Correct Exposure should be around 1/15s but I shot the actual photo at 1/1000s so this photo was 6 stops underexposed. I pushed +6EV in post processing I’m guessing if I didn’t tell you the original photo was 6 stops underexposed you probably wouldn’t know.

Yes 6 stops!

 

When Nikon released their first FX DSLR Nikon D3. It’s high ISO performance completely blown everyone away. Maximum 5 digit ISO was something we never thought of being possible and it started the new high ISO war between different camera manufacturers. D700 uses the same sensor as D3 and it was the camera of choice for low light shooting for many professional and enthusiast users. So how does the new D600 and D800 perform when compare to the original low light king?

I did some quick tests to compare the picture quality of these three cameras at different ISO.

I tested each camera from ISO 100 all the way to 25600. All cameras were in manual Mode, all the photos were shot with the same lens, same shutter speed and aperture for each ISO setting. Same white balance was used and the camera was on a tripod. The RAW file is then loaded in Adobe Lightroom 4.2 , all default settings, no noise reduction, no sharpening, output to 10MP JPG to allow us to compare the results at same zoom level.

This is the test photo:

And here are the 100% crop results from the 10MP JPG.

[CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE FULL SIZE]

Crop 1: Green Box


Crop 2: Blue Box

 

All test photos were taken indoor during daytime within an approx 10 minutes period. It was a partly cloudy day and the sun went behind the cloud from time to time, so the ambient light varies slightly. If you are wondering why some images are brighter than other, this is probably the main reason.

Up to ISO 800, there is virtually no visible difference between the three cameras. The D700 starting to show a little bit more noise at ISO 1600 but it’s not until ISO 3200 then the difference become very apparent. At higher ISO, the D800 still managed to retain a lot of fine details. But while D600’s photo has slightly less details, the chromatic noise seems to be much better controlled compare to the D800. So overall, I would say the D600 and D800 is pretty similar overall at high ISO.
The D700, which was once the best high ISO camera just not too long ago, really got beaten by his younger brothers. It’s approximately 1 stop behind the D600 and D800 in terms of overall image quality. Looking at the performance at ISO 25600 (remember these are photos with no noise reduction applied), I felt Nikon can easily push another 1 or maybe 2 stop and claim a maximum ISO of 51200 or 102400 if they want. But they probably want to be a bit more conservative and therefore limited the maximum ISO at 25600.

 

 

Conclusions

Nikon has released some really nice DSLRs this year, the latest D600 doesn’t disappoint either. In some way it’s probably the most exciting release this year as it’s the most affordable full frame camera that still comes with a very impressive spec list. And more importantly, the actual performance of the camera in real world is just as good as the spec sheet.

If you are a strobist, the lack of sync port, 1/200s sync speed may annoy you a bit. But for most of it’s target users, it’s really hard to find any major thing to complain about.

It’s probably the best ever camera for enthusiast photographers.

Even for the professional photographers the D600 would be a great lightweight 2nd camera to go with their D4 or D800. If someone is offering to swap my D700 (which is my 2nd camera at the moment) with a D600, I would accept his offer immediately! Anyone?

Now Nikon has completely refreshed the complete full frame DSLR line up and also their entry level DSLR this year. I wonder what the next DSLR release will be like?

 

Pros
– Fantastic dynamic range
– Great high ISO performance
– Small and light but still with decent build quality and weather protection
– Decent autofocus system and metering system
– Lots of features for a enthusiast level camera: Dual SD card, 100% viewfinder, mic in, headphone jack, uncompressed video out…etc. hm… my D700 doesn’t have any of them!
– More forgiving and computer friendly than the D800 because of it’s lower resolution
– Great quality kit lens

Cons
– 1/200s sync speed and the lack of PC Sync jack would disappoint strobists
– Cannot adjust aperture size once live view mode is turned on (unless you are using a AF lens with mechanical aperture ring)
– Live view mode still low framerate when you zoom in.

 

 

Sample Photos
(Nikon D600 + AFS 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR, all photos are unedited JPG straight from camera)

 

[CLICK ON A PHOTO TO SEE THE LARGER VERSION]


f/6.3 1/800s ISO100

f/7.1 1/400s ISO100

f/7.1 1/400s ISO100

f/7.1 1/500 ISO720


f/6.3 1/13s ISO1600

 f/4.5 1/30s ISO1600


f/18 0.3s ISO100 (Handheld, don’t you love VR!)


f/9.0 1/0s ISO100


f/4.5 1/200 ISO180

f/6.3 1/13s ISO1600

f/4.2 1/1000 ISO100


f/6.4 1/100s ISO6400

f/4.5 1/200s ISO1400


f/7.1 1/13s ISO3200


f/8.0 1/400s ISO100

f/5.6 1/200s ISO220

 


f/7.1 1/132 ISO3200

 

NikonJin is also on Facebook now, here is our FB page:

http://www.facebook.com/NikonJin

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions