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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 The bracketing button that was at the top of the D800 has been replaced by the metering button.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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miggo07

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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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miggo02

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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 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

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

Review: Phottix Odin TTL flash triggers

 

Updated 2012/10/11  We did a quick test of the Odin with the newly released Nikon D600. From what we can see, everything seems to be working perfectly. All the basic controls, high speed sync…etc It’s good to see the Odin is working great with new cameras without the need  to wait for new firmware.

 

Nikon has a pretty decent camera flash system called CLS (Creative Lighting System) that allows you to trigger and control remote speedlights from your camera. It’s pretty easy to use and most of the Nikon DSLR can use it’s built-in flash as the commander to control the remote speedlights. Unfortunately because it’s an infra red based system, it requires direct line of sight and the working distance can be quite limited. While there are tricks and workarounds, a lot of photographers also use aftermarket radio based trigger system when the Nikon CLS is not the perfect solution.

There are two major types of radio based triggers: Non-TTL triggers and TTL triggers

Non-TTL triggers pretty much do only one thing, trigger the remote speedlight(s). The Non-TTL triggers are generally more simple, more reliable and cheaper.

TTL triggers on the other hand are more sophisticated. They don’t only allow you to trigger the remote speedlights, you can also adjust the power and some other speedlight settings remotely. TTL triggers doesn’t mean you have to fire the flash in TTL mode, you can control the power in the good old manual mode as well. The obvious advantage with the TTL triggers is that you can adjust the power of the remote speedlights quickly and easily. Imagine if you have mounted multiple speedlight(s) behind a softbox, up on a light stand. If you are using non-TTL trigger, you have to bring the speedlights down to adjust the power and put them back up when you are setting it up. Not only it takes time, and you may have changed the position or angle of your speedlights when you are adjusting the power. If you are using TTL triggers, you can just press a few buttons on your camera’s transmitter unit. Unfortunately, the TTL triggers are usually quite expensive and a lot of them are not that reliable as well.

Phottix has released their Odin TTL flash triggers for Canon system last year and just a while ago they have also released the Nikon version as well (They have just announced the Sony Alpha version recently too). After reading some positive feedbacks on our forum and some other websites, I have decided to try out the Phottix Odin TTL triggers and see how good or bad these TTL flash triggers are.

The Phottix Odin TTL Triggers

The Phottix Odin TTL Triggers consist of two main components, the Transmitter and Control Unit (we’ll just call it the TCU) and the receiver unit (we’ll just call it the receiver).

So this is the Phottix Odin “Flash Trigger” set:

And this is what you can find inside the box:

Phottix did a pretty good job and included most if not all the accessories you’ll need. My only complain is that the User manual is only a PDF file on the CD. It may have saved a little tree, but I personally always prefer a printed version that I can take and read anywhere easily.

The Odin TCU looks very similar to the Nikon SU800. It has a decent size LCD at the back and a group of buttons below the LCD.

The LCD displays all the important information, like the channel, flash mode, battery level indicator ..etc The LCD and buttons on the TCU are all backlight.

This is how the Odin TCU looks like when mounted on a camera: (Front View)

(Rear View)

The TCU doesn’t have any hotshoe mount so you cannot attach a speedlight on top of it. It is probably partially because of the shape of the TCU (which is quite tall). It is a bit of a shame as it means users can’t mount a on camera flash for a bit of fill flash, and you have to remove the TCU every time you want to use a on-camera flash. Personally I would prefer the TCU and the receiver to be a bit smaller but at least they all use AA batteries so it’s easy and cheap to replace them. I am using rechargable AAs on both the transmitter and receiver and they seem to work great.

The receiver doesn’t have any LCD screen, instead it has a small LED light, it will light up in different colour under different conditions. The receivers can also be powered by 5V power supply if you want.

If you have more than 1 speedlights, you will probably want to order some additional receivers:

The Odin triggers operates at 2.4GHz frequency so there is only 1 version for every country in the world and you don’t need a special radio license to use them. This is great for photographers who travel to different countries regularly.

Both the TCU and receiver are mostly made of plastic but feels reasonably solid (for a plastic device anyway), maybe just a little bit too light. When I placed the Odin TCU and receiver next to my Nikon SB900 speedlight, the build quality of the Odin is almost as good as that of the SB900. While I haven’t drop or tested how strong the hotshoe mounts are, it seems strong enough and doesn’t have too much play when the Odin units are mounted onto the camera/speedlights/lightstand.

 

Using the Odin

The Odin Triggers are quite easy to setup. When I received the Odin triggers, I haven’t actually read the manual (as it was a PDF file and I was not in front of a computer). Basically I just took them out from the box, insert the battery, mount the TCU on the camera, mount the receiver onto a flash. Turn everything on, set both to the same channel (and remember set the flash to normal TTL mode) and it just worked straight away! You don’t need to link/sync the pairs or do any other setup steps. If you have used a SB900 or SB910 before, you should know how to setup the Odin TCU as they have a very similar user interface. You should have everything working within a few minutes or even seconds.

While the big LCD makes the system quite easy to understand and use, I personally actually prefer the mechanical dials on Pocketwizrd’s AC3 control unit and believe it is faster than having to go through the menus on the LCD screen. But it’s a personal preference and the disadvantage of the smaller Pocketwizard AC3 unit is that it doesn’t have a LCD display which also displays a few other important information.

With the Odin triggers, you assign your remote speedlights in one of the three different groups. And then you can fire each group in either TTL mode or Manual mode. You can adjust the power in 1/3 stop steps (either in TTL or manual mode). Or you can set the power of your remote speedlights in A:B ratio if you want. You can adjust the speedlight’s zoom as well. Either set it to follow your len’s focal length or you can set the zoom manually between 20 – 200mm.

The remote speedlight’s focus assist light can also be switched on if you want. There is also a modeling light mode which flashes all the speedlights for 1 second. That helps you to preview the lighting setup or help you do the focusing under dark environment when the built-in AF assist light is not enough.

When you are changing the settings on the Odin TCU, the remote speedlight would update immediately, just like they are directly attached to the camera. For example, when I change my camera’s ISO setting from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. I can see my remote SB900’s display updated pretty much at the same time.

Phottix claims the Odin TTL triggers support high speed sync so you can shoot at maximum shutter speed of 1/8000s (but it depends on camera/speedlight). This is a very important feature and I will test it and see if it works a bit later in this review.

 

Working Range Test

Phottix claims the Odin’s working range is 100m+ which is quite a long distance. So I took my camera, SB900 speedlight and Odin triggers outdoor to see whether the claimed 100M+ range is true or not

I connect my SB900 to an Odin receiver. The TCU was mounted on my Nikon D800. And set the flash firing mode to MANUAL.
I started the test by standing at approximately 15m from my remote speedlight. 3 consecutive shots was fired and I reviewed each photo to see if the flash was triggered successfully in all of the 3 photos. If true, then I walk a bit further away and repeat the test. Although the radio base trigger like the Odin doesn’t require a direct line of sight to work, the trigger signal strength will be reduced if there is any object in between the TCU and the receiver. And the signal strength reduced will depend on the size, shape, material of the object in between. So to keep things simple and consistent, I made sure there is a direct line of sight with the receiver during the working range test.

So the flash got triggered successfully 100% at 15m, 30m, 45m (which the CLS would normally stop workng), then 60m, 75m, 90m.

Then at 105m, eveyrthing still worked perfectly. So the claimed 100m distance is true. I decided to conitnue the test and see how the Odin response.

So 120m, 135m, the flash was still triggered 100%

And this is the results at 150m:

In case the photo is too small to see, the remote SB900 150m away was triggered successfully in every one of the three test shots.
Unfortunataely I ran out of space and couldn’t really continue the test.

 

Working Range Test 2

In the previous test, I found out the triggers still working perfectly in an open area up to 150m away. I want to see how much further away can I go, so I went to another bigger outspace and retest the maximum working range.

I started at around 150m distance. Just like the previous test, the trigger worked perfectly at that distance:

So I continue walk further and further away from my remote SB900. And repeated the test every 15-20m. Very soon, i couldn’t see my speedlight anymore (partly because it was quite dark already) while the trigger was still working 100%.

And this is the last photo I took before i ran out of space again!

The distance from my speedlight at that point? 350m !!!!

Yes I was 350m away,and the trigger was still firing the remote speedlight perfectly at that distance!

I don’t know how much futher I can go before the trigger will stop working, but to be honest, at 350m away, I can’t even see my remote speedlight anymore and the output from the speedlight was really pretty weak even I was shooting at ISO3200 and f/1.4 already. So yes I’ll probably have to come to the conclusion that the Odin’s working range is more than anyone ever needed!

 

Hi Speed Sync

Phottix claims the Odin TTL flash triggers support hi speed sync and the maximum shutter speed is 1/8000s. This is a very important feature if you are a wedding photographer  as it’s very difficult to keep the shutter speed before your normal sync speed (e.g. 1/250s) when shooting outdoor at daytime at large aperture.  So I want to test and see if it really works. I’ve assigned my speedlights to 3 remote groups. And I shot a number of different photos at very high shutter speed (up to 1/8000s) to see if the hi speed sync really works.

The result?

Yes it works.

I’ve took around 50 photos, most of them at 1/8000s, with my speedlights at different distance and position. And every single photo the speedlights light up the scene sucessfully from one corner to the opposite.

1/8000s? Not a problem for the Phottix Odin!

 

TTL Mode

To see if the TTL mode really works, I’ve assigned my speedlights to different remote groups, all in TTL mode. And then I placed the speedlights in different position and I shot a number of different photos and at different TTL power settings.
So does TTL works? Yes it works, even at hi speed sync mode. But my testing seems to suggest the Odin fires the remote speedlights at different power than the Nikon CLS would do. Usually I got a brighter image with the Odin. But at least the result is fairly consistent so it’s still very usable.

 

Apart from the testings I didabove, I’ve also used the Odins at a dozen of weddings and portrait sessions. Overall my result is very positive. My remote speedlights (that is triggered by Odin) fire and at correct power 99% of the time. I did have some occasional issues with one of my receiver. But apart from that, the Odins are very reliable.

 

Conclusions

When I first heard Phottix has released the Odin TTL triggers, I was a bit skeptical. I was skeptical because even the TTL flash triggers from some big name companies are not reliable and have many issues. So i told myself no way Phottix could just release a good and reliable TTL flash trigger. Turned out i was wrong. The Odin TTL triggers have lots of features, easy to use but most importantly, they are very reliable! The 350m+ working range is unbelivable, shooting at 1/8000s works perfectly and the TTL mode also works quite well. Apart from a few minor complains, the Odin flash trigger is almost perfect! So if you want some good and reliable TTL flash triggers, you definitely need to have a look at the Phottix Odin!

 

Pros

It works! And it works consistently!
Very long working distance, works perfectly at 350m+
Use AA batteries on both the TCU and receiver
Decent Build Quality
Firmware upgradable by USB
High Speed sync up to 1/8000s
Lots of features, e.g. modelling light, remote AF assist lamp, flash zoom adjustement
Works perfectly with the latest cameras like the Nikon D800 straight out of box

 

Cons

The size of the transmitter and receiver can be a bit smaller
TCU doesn’t have a hotshoe mount so you can’t attach any on camera flash when using the Odin system
TTL mode seems to fire the remote speedlights at different power compare to the Nikon CLS
While it’s not the most expensive TTL triggers, buying a set of Odins with multiple receivers can still be quite expensive.

 

Welcome to  add your comments, experience and discuss about the Phottix Odin trigger on our forum:

http://www.nikonjin.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=1801&pid=13555#pid13555

 

 

 

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

Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 C Review

The Nikon F-mount is basically the same since 1959. You can get some classic Nikkor SLR lenses and just mount it on your latest Nikon DSLR and shoot straight away!
The Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 lens is one of those classic lens from the film age.

Reflex lens (or catadioptric lenses or mirror lens) has quite a distinctive look. There is a small circular plate at the center of the front element. If you are wondering how it works, basically, incoming light first gets reflected by the main mirror located at the back of the lens, then goes towards the secondary mirror at the front (that’s the small circle plate you see from outside). Then it finally reflects back towards the image sensor. If you are interested, you can read more about mirror reflex lens on wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catadioptric_system

Nikon has made a number of reflex lenses in the past. The first 500mm reflex lenses was made back in 1960s and the latest version, the 500mm f/8 N was still in production until 2005.
Not surprisingly, the latest 500mm f/8 N is the best of them. It is not only the smallest and with the best optical quality, it also allow you to focus as close as 1.5m (which gives you a very good magnification ratio of 1:2.5). Unfortunately they are extremely rare and when one finally pops up, it also comes with a very high price tag.
The one we are reviewing here is the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 C. The “C” version is one of the later model, just before the latest “N” version. It has multi-coating, but is not as compact as the “N” and the minimum focus distance is around 4m.

Like most of the old Nikkor lenses, the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 C is made of metal and it feels like a tank, yes it’s very solid! Obviously, being such an old lens, it has no autofocus, no VR or any fancy features like Nano coating.

The metal focus ring is pretty smooth and the tension is just about right, with quite a long travel. The long focus ring travel is essential as the 500mm lens has a very narrow depth of field so you’ll need to adjust the manual focus ring very carefully and precisely. With the small f/8 aperture, the camera’s viewfinder is quite dim even during the day and that makes it hard to see if you object is in focus or not especially if you are shooting it with a DX camera. Good luck if you want to shoot under low light as you will have a very hard time just trying to locate your target through the very dim viewfinder. If you are like me shooting with a full frame DSLR like the D800, the larger viewfinder with the AF arrow indicators together would make the manual focus a bit easier and quicker. But still, I got a large number of shots that were out of focus. Using the liveview to zoom in would be a good way to improve the focus accurarcy. Unfortunately when you are shooting in liveview mode, it is really tricky to keep the camera steady. I have to use a tripod or monopod if I’m shooting in liveview mode.

Because of it’s long focal length and lack of VR, it’s also quite hard to keep the camera steady without help from a tripod or monopod. I need to keep the shutter speed above 1/500s when I’m not using a tripod/monopod. As a result, I am regularly shooting at ISO 800-1600 or above during a bright day.

Since it’s not easy to have the focus 100% correct and have virtually no camera shake, a large number of photos I took with this lens were blurry (either camera shake, or misfocus). But if I manage to nail the focus and keep the camera shake to minimal, the photos can be pretty sharp. Just don’t expect every single photo to be tack sharp unless you are shooting static objecct with a solid tripod.

The CAT design means the aperture is fixed. It means two things:
1. We can’t use the aperture to adjust the exposure. Since we have to keep the shutter speed quite high to reduce camera shake, most of the time we can only use ISO to control exposure.
2. We can’t control the depth of field and the depth of field is always very shallow. This is a bigger limitation than #1 as it greatly limits our photo composition and also what kind of photo we can take. For example, you cannot take photos of a group of people and have everyone in focus unless they all line up in a straight line perpendicular to you.

The lens comes with a pair of beautifully made metal lens cap and lens hood. The metal lens cap screws onto the metal lens hood, which can then screws onto the lens. So you can either just remove the flat lens cap and leave the lens hood on, or remove both together. I quite like this design but I can see the disadvantage is that the lens hood were made shorter than it should to minimse the lens’s overall length.  There are really a lot of interesting designs in the  older generation Nikkor lenses, for example, the Nikkor AF 135mm f/2DC has a built-in retractable metal lens hood which i quite like as well.


Lens cap and lens hood both attached to the lens


Lens cap removed, leaving the lens hood on the lens.


Both the lens cap and lens hood removed.

One of the biggest advantage of the reflex lenses is that they are a lot smaller and lighter than the traditional lenses with the same focal length. For example, the Nikkor AFS 500 f/4VR lens is nearly 4kg and 400mm long, while the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm is less than 1kg and the length is about 150mm. So the Reflex-Nikkor 500 f/8 is not really a small lens, but it’s small and light enough for me to carry and walk around and shoot handheld whole day. Don’t think I can say the same thing if I’m carrying the AFS 500mm f/4VR.

The lens also comes with a set of 39mm rear filters. If you are shooting digital, the L37C UV filter is probably the one you’ll use. I remember reading somewhere saying you have to install one of the rear filter as it’s part of the optical design. Personally I haven’t take off the L37C and check if that is true or not. But if you are looking at buying a second hand one, it’s safest to make sure the 39mm filter is included as well.

 

The most special characteristic of this lens, or any mirror reflex lens in general, is it’s bokeh. The bokeh matches the shape of the front element, looks like a donut ring. If you have any bright light source in the background, you can easily get that funny looking O ring bokeh in your photos which look very very busy. So if you don’t want a distracting background, you need to try find a smooth low contrast background when shooting with this lens.
But the funny bokeh is actually a double-edged sword. Try to be creative and the unique bokeh can help you create some interesting photos.

Be creative, and turn the enemy into your best friend

 

Most of the photos from this lens has low contrast, and the colour doesn’t seem to be as vibrant as well, especially when compared to the photos from the latest nano coating lenses. Fortunately, with DSLRs, this can be fixed easily by increasing the contrast/saturation settings either in camera or in post processing. You also have to be careful and try avoid any bright light source in front the camera as it’ll lower the contrast even more. The contrast can become so low that you can’t even fix it in photoshop. But if you are looking for that “artistic low contrast film” look, then you may see the low contrast as a good thing.


Unedited JPG straight out of camrea, notice the low contrast.

There is a hot-spot near the center of the image due to the catadioptric optical design, fortunately this is not really visible in most of the photos.

On the positive side, I didn’t notice any chromatic aberration at all, even when i was shooting some high contrast scenes.

The lens has an integrated metal lens mount that can be rotated but cannot be removed.

The reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 is a very special lens. It’s not suitable for everyone as it has a lot of limitations and it’s not easy to create nice and sharp photos. You will probably be frustrated if you are trying to use it to shoot a evening sports game. But if you understand what are the limitations and be careful and creative, this 500mm lens can become one great, low cost telephoto lens.

Pros:
– A lightweight, small and affordable 500mm lens
– no chromatic aberration
– Decent sharpness, but only if you got everything right.
– Funny bokeh
– Solid build quality and interesting lens hood/cap design

Cons:
– Manual focus, with very narrow depth of field
– Fixed aperture, which means you cannot increase the depth of field by stopping down.
– No VR, tripod/monopod is essential to keep the camera steady under low light.
– Low contrast, especially when there is strong light source in front of the camera
– Funny Bokeh

Feel free to discuss or add your comments on our forum:
http://www.nikonjin.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=1706&pid=12775

Sample Photos
(Edited to taste with Adobe Lightroom, click to enlarge)

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

I AM D800 – our unusual Nikon D800 review

D800’s spec was leaked way before it’s official announcement. but Nikon was still managed to surprised us at the last minute with a much lower than expected price.
It’s pretty obvious there will be a huge demand and low supply for this latest full frame camera. So after it’s announcement, I went and pre-ordered one from Auckland Camera (www.aucklandcamera.co.nz)  immediately.

 

 

Unfortunately because of the new Japanese regulations, the ENEL3 and the ENEL4A battery that were used on the D200,D300,D700,D2,D3..etc are now replaced by the new ENEL15 and ENEL18 batteries.
To prepare ourselves for the new camera, Igot ourselves some ENEL15 batteries and large memory cards. And waiting for my camera to arrive.

 

 

One day, I got a call from Ken, Nikon’s NZ product manager and he asked me to call Auckland Camera tomorrow. He didn’t say clearly why so I can only hope it has something to do with the D800!
I called the shop the next morning and confirmed my D800 was already on the way to the shop. Hooray!!

 

Nikon claims the D800 is now able to autofocus down to -2EV. So one of the first thing I tested was the low light autofocus performance. I turned off almost all the lights and mounted a Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.4G lens on the camera. I put a lens cap on the floor as the AF target. Because it was so dark, it actually took me a long long time before i can see where the lens cap is through the viewfinder, and to be honest i can not actually see the lens cap, i can only tell there is something there! I thought there is no way the camera’s autofocus system can see anything.
But surprisingly, the camera can do a AF lock successfully on the lens cap (even though it took a bit of time), I set the aperture to f/1.4 and the metering system tells me at ISO25600 my shutter speed still has to be around 1/30s. I took a photo with that setting, and examine the photo on screen, at f/1.4 and close shooting distance the DOF is very shallow, but the autofocus was spot on!
Then I mounted the same lens on the D700. The D700’s AF system just can’t even see the target even after 15 tries. I don’t really blame it as my eyes can barely see where I should aim! I mounted the lens back on my D800 and yes it was able to focus and accurately again!
So, yes D800’s improved 3500FX AF system’s low light performance is simply amazing!
p.s. both camera’s AF assist lamp was turned off

At 36MP, the pixels on D800’s full frame sensor are a lot smaller than the one on the D3/D700. So as a wedding photographer who shoot under dim light regularly, I was quite worried about if D800’s high ISO performance could be worse than the previous Nikon FX cameras. Amazingly I found the 36MP D800’s high ISO performance is just as good as the 12MP D3/D700. Actually after taking some more comparison shots under controlled environment, I can confirm D800’s high ISO performance is at least 1 stop better than the D700. Even at the maximum ISO 25600, while the photo is a bit noisy but it retains tonnes of details if you look at the full size image and the colour and contrast still remain reasonably good! Nikon could have push the max ISO to 51200 or even 102400  if they want. I guess Nikon is  a bit conservative and don’t want to output barely acceptable photos from their cameras.

D800 has the dual-axis electronic virtual horizon that tells you your camera’s pitch and roll angle. This is very useful for landscape or architectural photographer. While D3/D700 also has the virtual horizon feature, it was single axis only and the implementation (especially the viewfinder mode) isn’t as good as the D800.

I did a little test to test D800’s RAW file’s quality and dynamic range. I first set the camera to aperture priority mode and took a photo. Checked the photo on the LCD screen, even though there was a bright light source in the scene the exposure seems pretty much perfect, so that’s good! Next, I dialed in a -5 EV exposure compensation on the camera, yes 5 stop underexposed the photo and took another photo. Now the photo looks very dark (of course, it’s 5 stop underexposed!). Then I loaded the photo in Lightroom, pushed the exposure up by +5 stop. Amazingly the photo still look very nice! The colours are still there, there is very limited noise and there are still lots of shadow details. I then did some quick editing in photoshop and created this photo. I  think it’s hard to believe the original photo was underexposed by 5 stop, what do you think?

 

 

I went to the Zoo today with the D800 and a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I quickly took a photo of this giraffe when it was walking past me. But even at 200mm I still can’t get the close up shot I want. Fortunately the D800’s 36 megapixel output means we can crop a lot and still have a lot of pixels left. I cropped the photo so the output is prerty much what I would got if I was shooting with a 300mm lens. The cropped photo still have more resolution than a D700 can output and virtually I have a 1.5x teleconverter I can use anytime. When shooting with the D800, be very careful with your shutter speed and remember to keep your hands and body very steady if you want to capture sharp images.

 

 

If you take a DSLR with you when you go out with your friends or family, normally you will be the only one that taking photos as most of your family members or friends probably don’t know how to use a DSLR. But D800’s much improved liveview mode makes taking photo a lot easier and similar to a compact camrea.
The contrast detection in D800’s liveview mode is a lot faster. It is not as fast as most of the latest mirrorless cameras but it is a big improvement over the D700 and make the liveview mode a lot more usable.
The new 91000 RGB pixel metering system helps doing the face detection and tracking. The face information is also used to adjust the exposure. While I still need to dial in a bit of exposure compensation, the frequency and amount of exposure compensation i need to adjust is a lot less than before. Overall the metering system is a lot smarter than D3/D700’s 1005 RGB metering system.

So with all these improvements, you can now give the camera to anyone in the family (or even strangers, just make sure they won’t run away with your D800) and they can take some nice family photos easily.

I took this photo in liveview mode. Autofocus set to AF-S + Face detection. I use the LCD to compose the photo and the camera detect my daughter’s face straight away. I press the shutter button and the camera focus on my daughter’s face accurately. Also the exposure seem pretty good even though there is strong backlight on the right hand side.

Ok, no sports photographer would buy a D800 as their main camera. The 4fps shooting speed is probably the camera’s biggest weakest and my biggest complain about the camera as well.
But if we consider the huge image size, 4 fps @ 36MP = 144MP/s. That’s more MP per second than even the D3s (9fps @ 12MP = 108MP/s).
I remember I was shooting lots of motorsports events with my 10MP 5fps D200 happily just few years ago and I was not really complaining about the speed. With the D800, we can also shoot at 5fps if we shoot at the 1.2x crop mode. And even with the 1.2x crop, we are still getting 25MP images. That is still more pixels than the D3x or the Canon 5D Mk3. And with the same latest autofocus system as D4 (which has features like 3D tracking, but we’ll talk more about that later) , there’s really no reason we can’t go to a race track and be a weekend racer with the D800.
And yes we can boost the speed to 6fps in DX mode. But we have to get the MB-D12 grip (and use the correct battery). Seeing the D7000 powered by the same battery and EXPEED2 chip can already do 6fps at a similar resolution (as D800’s DX mode), it makes me wonder if Nikon purposely limit the D800 just to sell some MB-D12 or is it really caused by some kind of hardware limitation.

But anyway, yes the D800 can definitely be used as a casual sports camera when it doesn’t want to be a landscape or portrait camera.
This photo was shoot with the D800 + Nikon AFS 28-300mm VR lens at 1.2x crop mode.

I haven’t really test the D800 under severe weather conditions yet, but I have used the D700 and the D200 under heavy rain and all different kind of weather many many times and the cameras never have a problem. So there is no reason why the D800 would be any different. Afterall, they all have alloy magnesium body and protected by extensive weather and dust sealing. Just make sure the lens you use also has good weather sealing and you dry the camera and lens properly afterwards.

Street photography is all about capturing what’s happening on the street, especially the action or interaction between people on the street. Most of the time the photo oppournity appears and disappears quickly. You have no control of the subject you are shooting, you have no control of the lighting and you only have a short period of time to capture the scene.
So what makes a camera good for street photography? If you ask me, I would say the ideal street photography camera should be able to take great quality under various lighting condition, it allows you to change camera settings and take photos quickly, and it should easy to carry around and take photo without drawing too much attention.
Is the D800 a good camera for street photography?
D800’s very good high ISO performance, amazing dynamic range allows us to can take great quality photo under various lighting condition.
Then all those quick access buttons and dial + button combination means we can adjust most of the camera settings quickly without even have to look at the camera. The improved AF system + new metering system with face tracking/detection feature means the camera can help you nail the focus and give you a decent exposure without too much hassles. Oh Nikon if you are reading this, I would actually like to have the cross type AF points a bit more spread out if that’s possible, that’s my biggest complain about the otherwise awesome AF system.
Now the D800 is definitely not the smallest camera in the world, but it’s still one of the smaller/lighter full frame camera (with the exception of the Leica M9). It’s considerably smaller and lighter than cameras like D3, D4 and definitely looks a lot less intrusive when you point it to a stranger on the street. While on paper, it’s only 95g lighter than the D700 which doesn’t sound like much, but if you are a regular D700 user, you will feel the D800 is considerably lighter when you hold it on your hand. Also compare to the D700/D3, D800’s shutter sound is more quiet now, it allows you to take a photo more discretely. D800, like most other new DSLRs, also has a “Quiet” mode, but to be honest I don’t find it to make too much a difference. It’s a pity as sometimes I do want the camera shutter to be more quiet.
So is the D800 a good street photography camera? I leave it to you to answer this question but I know I love doing street photography with the D800.

 D800 has the enhanced Multi-Cam 3500-FX AF system with 51 focus points. 15 of the points are cross-type sensors and 11 midpoints. It’s based on the AF system used on D3/D700 but with a few improvements.  For example, the AF system can now operate at f/8. It means you can mount a 2x teleconverter on a 600mm f/4 lens (which gives you an effective f/8 maximum aperture) and go take some bird in flight photos and the camera’s autofocus system will still work. But I don’t have a 600 f/4, actually i don’t even have a 300 f/4! But i still went out and took some bird photos with my little 28-300mm VR instead. The camera also uses information from the 91000 pixel metering system to improve subject tracking especially when tracking smaller size subjects. And I do feel the autofocus system can track fast and slow objects more accurately when compare to the D700 which uses the original Multicam 3500FX AF system. There are lots of autofocus settings and it may take a while to understand it. (Nikon didn’t do a really great job with the D800 user manual explainingg the different AF settings. I probably had more question marks in my head after i read the user manual) The different autofocus mode, like 21 point AF, 51 point AF, or 3D tracking AF mode, all has their plus and minus and sutiable for tracking different kind of objects and you really need to spend a bit of time to get familar and understand what works best for you. But when you got the correct setup for the photo you are taking, the autofocus system can track the object with great accuracy and allows you to capture some amazing photos.

Even though Nikon released the first ever video DSLR – the Nikon D90 back in 2008, their whole video engineering team probably immediately went away to celebrate as all the following DSLRs were sharing pretty much the same basic 720p video mode, including the otherwise fantastic D3s. So it’s not really surprising that we never see any professional or even amateur videographer that uses a Nikon DSLR for video. But when their engineering team finally came back from their 2 year long vacation, they knew they got some catch up work to do and we saw improved video recording capability on the D7000, D3100 and D5100 . Now, with the D800 and D4, Nikon is clearly putting a lot of efforts in the video department and we see 1080/30p record mode, HDMI umcompressed output, external microphone input, headphone out, full time continuous autofocus (with face tracking), crop mode recording, new liveview/video recording buttons…etc in both cameras. So while the D800’s video mode is still far from perfect, (for example, the noise performance in video mode could be better at high ISO, the autofocus speed is quite slow compare to the mirrorless cameras, the internal mic picks up a lot of autofocus noise), Nikon DSLRs are finally no longer lagging behind the competitors behind when it comes to video mode!
If you have watched the short video Joy Ride (https://vimeo.com/36326055) you’ll agree the D800 can create awesome quality videos even under challenging conditions.

I AM THE BIG PICTURE – this is the offical slogan for D800 and you can print some really big photos from D800’s 36MP photo. While some people love the huge output from the D800, there are also people who don’t like it and think most people will never need anything bigger than 12 (or 16, or 18) megapixels and the extra resolution is just a waste of memory card and hard disk space. Funny thing is, I remember a few years ago, we were all saying 6MP is more than enough and 10+MP is a bit of overkill (and admittedly i was one of them!). But anyway no matter which side you are on, the 36MP sensor is definitely the biggest talking point among the Nikon users (or even non-Nikon users). I picked the same slogan as the finale of my D800 “I AM” review.

So what can I shoot to show “THE BIG PICTURE”? I don’t live in France so I can’t go to the Nation library of France and replicate Benjamin Antony Monn’s beautiful library photo in the D800 brochure).

Now if I can’t think of a beauitful building with lots of details to capture, how about I capture lots of buildings instead? I decided to go up to the top observation deck of the Sky Tower, which is the tallest free-standing structure in the Souther Hemisphere. I want to take some photos of the beautiful city I live in.
So I went up the Sky Tower, and I mounted the Nikon AFS 16-35mm f/4 VR onto my D800. I took this long exposure photo without a tripod through the observation deck’s thick glass window, in spite of that, the D800 still managed to capture a beautiful and detailed photo of the Auckland City. From the street and buildings nearby, to the bus parking space a bit further away, to the marina far away, there are just tonnes of details everywhere.

I wish I could go outside the observation deck so I don’t have to shoot through the thick glass and setup a tripod and shoot a better photo, but I’m still quite happy with what I got!

 

 

For comments and discussions, please go to the forum:
http://www.nikonjin.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=1584

Remember, You can check-out the full screen size photos on our facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/NikonJin

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