'Kay, first of all, I think I mentioned the Universe is mocking me for my attempt at camera rental. Today is one of my five days with the D800E, but though the Big Dawg departed the UPS depot at 4:28 a.m., it made its way to the doorstep of TOP World HQ at exactly darkfall. About fifteen minutes after sunset to be exact. Which means I will have to wait till tomorrow to show you just how wretchedly unphotogenic the weather is.
Meanwhile, I couldn't resist, so I dragged it out into the inky dark. I'm just playin' at this point, but I will say that I have no idea where this notion came from that you must use the D800E with a tripod. Balderdash and hoo-ha. I suppose if you're trying to absolutely max out resolution, but the darn thing has resolution to burn, so why not just relax and let it do its thing and be happy? If there's one thing this camera does not need, it is help resolving things.
Anyway I took both these snaps handheld, whilst stumbling blindly about and barking my shins on things I could not see, and, while you cannot tell from these tiny JPEGs, the originals are sharp down to the pixel level as far as I can tell. And I had Photoshop cranked up to 400%, which is ridiculous. The second shot was intended as a torture test, but the big dragoon simply swatted my paltry challenge aside with a flick of its mighty mirror and a flexing of its stupendous sensor. There is detail in the highlights, there is detail in the shadows, and I am scorned. The D800E is mighty, mighty; the darkness itself trembles before it.
ADDENDUM: To answer some of the many questions in the comments: Let me run through my five days with the camera before I pronounce my opinions about various usability issues. I promise I'll do at least one more post about the D800E (probably more) and I'll give my overall impressions then. —MJ.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Oskar Ojala: "The amount of shadow detail this camera can hold is insane...very practical for many photographic situations, though."
Paul McCann: "You're taking photos with a soldier?"
Mike replies: I certainly am.
("Dragoon" can also refer to a large pistol with a healthy kick sold before the Civil War by Colt. I used to own a very faithful non-working replica Colt Dragoon, and I'll be darned if I can remember what happened to it.)
paugie: "How much was it again? Oh, goody! Can't afford it. Down, wallet, down. Sit, stay!"
James Symington: "Balderdash and hoo-ha? Use it more and repent. Nobody is saying you have to use a tripod but if you are happy with slightly—or even very—unsharp pictures you don't generally need them to be 36mp. The beauty of the D800E comes when you nail the focus and all that detail jumps out. This is harder than you might imagine."
Mike replies: I do take your point, and you're right, but then, that's true of any good camera. I went through all of this with John B. Williams' book Image clarity and a 55mm Nikkor and Tech Pan film, as well as a tripod I'm still glad I don't have to lug around any more. I should mention again that I'm personally not primarily interested in this camera's resolution capability at high magnifications on the computer screen. (Which absolutely doesn't imply any criticism of those who are.)
John Nollendorfs: "The beauty of the D800 is that you can just crank the ISO up and shoot to you heart's content. Yep, lower ISO images could look slightly better, but sometimes the higher ISO allows you to get shots that you couldn't do on a tripod, even if you are not lazy. I have no problem shooting at 800 or 1600 and still have very good IQ. The shadow detail this camera can capture with no noise is phenomenal even at the higher ISO's."
Will: "That top shot is an amazing example of shadow detail and separation. I'd love to see a carefully-printed print from Digital Silver Imaging of that one!"
John Brewton: "Couldn't agree more, Mike. I use my D800 handheld all the time. I've managed one at 1/8 sec., something I never could do even with my Leicas. I think it has terrific balance with a decent prime."
Brent Parkin: "Been shooting one now for over a month and the shadow detail and highlight recovery is awesome. I don't think this camera will go down in my history as a favorite tool (too small and slightly akward controls compared to my D3). But its images are among the most beautiful I have made since digital came along. Enjoy your time with it!!"
Steve Jacob: "For those considering remortgaging the house or selling the pedigree cat to get one of these, the D600 is quite a bit cheaper and as far as I can tell, equally awesome."