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Thursday, 08 November 2012


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Yes, very good in the dark... but, how is in full daylight, at low ISO, where usually the best sensor quality resides? Pardon me, but I seldom shoot at more than 400 ISO, so that is what interests to me...

Don't get mugged out with your new shooter. Am looking forward to seeing the day shots. The second shot would look very nice as a square photo. How is the noise?

You'll need plenty ink to print a few of these!

And just to stir the pot a little, I see the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens is a fair bit cheaper than the Nikon... though not any lighter.

My little Nikon D5100 has a similar number of pixels on its cropped sensor, as the Dragoon in cropped sensor mode (and your K5) - no tripod required for that, for most of my usage. So no surprise with bigger camera. How many Nex 7 users rely on a tripod for near 54MP equivalent (35mm full-frame) sensors?!

I love that first picture! If I sell my Naim pre/power amps I could almost afford one.....noooooooooooo!!!!!

paugie: "How much was it again? Oh, goody! Can't afford it. Down, wallet, down. Sit, stay!"

Don't you mean "play dead!"?

But Mike, what do you think about the heft and size of the camera?

Given the earlier posts about only keeping your interest for about 6 months - will you be better off just extending your rental??

Then of course, you could get a new toy every couple of weeks. Perhaps give the Fuji a try if you really want to go for digital black and white.

Love my D800.

Suck it, 12mp. Never going back.

Amazing resolution and detail, and noise kept well under control. Still some inquisitive minds want to know what the ISO sensitivity employed was. The absolute lack of motion blur suggests something in the 1600 region or higher, but this is just a wild guess, of course.

Please do not in any way feel tempted to compare like-for-like scenes & settings with anything micro4/3rds...


Mike, I will be very interested to know if you have any issues over the coming week with internal vibrations causing unsharpness (rather than camera shake). I've seen this mentioned a few times on the web recently, including Ming Thein's mid-term report where he indicates problems around 1/30th sec. I would like to think that I can hand hold a camera adequately at 1/30th (I'm not too bothered about pixel level sharpness, just decent prints), but internal vibrations would be a cause for concern.
P.S. I've been reading your stuff for a decade - thanks for all your hard work.

As Dave indicates, this kind of dynamic range isn't unique to the D800, but is seen in most cameras using Sony's 16Mpixel APS-C sensors. The D800 just has more of the same real-estate, and maybe better sharpness in the 'e' version.

The pixel pitches of the 16x24mm 16MP and the 36MP 24x36mm sensors are identical, as (apparently) are the physical structures of the photosites and the on-chip A-D convertors.

Fuji's X-Pro1 also uses a Sony 16MP sensor (albeit with a custom colour filter array), and also has no anti-aliasing filter at all.

More proof that one no longer requires light for photography!

The D800's sensor's performance is not surprising, given that from all appearances it is a larger version (i.e. same tech, same pixel density, but larger area) of the marvelous 16MP Sony sensor already found in the Pentax K-5, Nikon D7000 and a few other cameras.

"...I suppose if you're trying to absolutely max out resolution, but the darn thing has resolution to burn..."

Don't you know that no one should ever pay for an expensive camera and then fail to do every last little thing possible to make sure that the sensor capabilities are fully optimized in every situation every time they press the shutter button?

I have seen many, many comments stating that if you buy the D800 you really need to upgrade your lenses to the very best possible.

And while I suppose that's true, there's nothing wrong in my head with wanting the extra resolution just to, say, make sure you're maxing out the capability of your current lens. Or maxing out the detail you get handheld late at night. Or maxing out the detail you get at very high ISO so you can down-sample into something useful. Or just wanting the sensor because you can bring up good shadow detail like crazy regardless of the resolution.

I thought he meant dragoon as a verb. As in he was forced to shoot in the dark. It says here that Dragoon is a type of pigeon too!

Mike, rumor control has it that UPS schedules home deliveries for after 6 p.m. so that the percentage of folks being home to sign for the package will be greater.

Very irritating when one tracks ones package, "sees" it on the truck before dawn and then one has to wait 14 hours for the truck to (seemingly) travel twelve miles.

Also makes it very difficult to sneak new gear into the house while the spouse is at work...

I'm glad to see you testing a bit of kit that (a) I don't need, (b) I can't afford, and (c) is well over twice the weight of my OM-D. It's much easier on my wallet, while quite entertaining.

Take it easy on the back muscles while playing with the new gear, we don't need to see you laid up...



All the pre-disdain and definitely-not-for-me prejudice melted away when the heretofore invisible librarian seductively removed her thick-rimmed spectacles and let her tightly-bunned hair fall gracefully down her back. I was smitten! Ready to throw it all away and never look back.

How does the autofocus compare to that of the Sony a900? I currently use an a850 in the studio to photograph canines in motion. It would be nice to have a camera with an excellent full frame sensor, loaded with lots of pixels, that has faster auto focus than the last generation of Sony fullframe cams.

So you're saying you like it so far? (g)


Looking good!
I bought the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 to my Canon 5D mkII, after replacing two copies because of bad AF (one did go for calibration) I decided to go for Nikon D600 and the Nikon version of the Sigma (obsessed with that lens).
After trying the Sigma on D600 I still had the same problems with AF.
So, now it's Nikon 50mm f/1.4 instead, so far it looks good.

I know you did write some good things about the 50mm from Sigma at some point, will you use it on your D800e?


got the 800e a while back. it is amazingly good. have used lge format(4X5) in the film days linhoff/schneider. will be doing some 30 inch plus prints with the 800e. have a 7880 available for larger work.
Now printing with a epson 3800. The 800e is much better than i got out of E-6 (4X5) for tonality and shadow detail for color....shot handheld in normal daylight for scenics at 400 speed and you can get your doors blown off by its image quality. have been printing B&W riverscapes with it using lightroom. It is a showstopper of a camera.
tripods earn their due with this camera. Don't leave home without one if you want this camera to do its thing.
We are all living in an age of great imaging capabilities.

Now we're talkin' photography! Any schmoe can take a picture in bright daylight (and, it seems, most do).

That first image has a little De Carava in it, don't you think?

Go forth into the darkness, young man! Hunt photons while they sleep. The rewards are to be had!

Hmmm...Harry Callahan might have gone for this camera for those dark-shadow street views

Hmm, how much would I get if I sold my 2 D200s, 2 D700s, my old Fuji S9500 and my Canon S95...

/me runs away cackling madly and counting on his fingers

I bought a D800E with 60 macro and 24-120 in May, six months of use and I am adjusted to the new normal. This is not a pocket camera but I try to carry and use it to the neglect of my lesser and lighter burdens as often as possible.
When I was a younger man I carried a Pentax 67 and three lenses, the Nikon is lighter and much more capable of holding up its end in the camera photographer equation.
Enjoy and create.

"...I will have to wait till tomorrow to show you just how wretchedly unphotogenic the weather is."

I make it a point to get out and shoot when the skies are gray, and I'm always disappointed if my schedule doesn't allow it. There's plenty of detail that can be pulled out of heavy overcast, and for me, that look is often more compelling than the clear blue sky with puffy white clouds that we've got most of the time here in New Mexico.

And, yes. The myths that have sprung up around the D800 sensor and the rigorous discipline required to exercise it properly are just that: myths. I suspect they originated somewhere in the marketing departments of Zeiss and Gitzo...

Enjoy the new toy. ;-)

For the sake of information, I will mention the Pentax K-5. It is much smaller, has in-body stabilisation, and the same dynamic range -- well, .2EV less. Of course the sensor is smaller. I don't own either but wish I did!)

I haven't tried the D800e and in fact have asked the owner of the local camera store to restrain me physically if I even try. However I do have a D700, while not a Dragoon, it could be equated with a Barrett .50 cal M82 Sniper rifle. Very accurate, heavy and extremely capable of getting the job done. One of the things that have impressed me the most about the D700 is it's low light performance. With the new technologies incorporated in the D800(e) I'm sure I would want to catch my breath and light up a smoke after shooting one of these babies in a dark smokie jazz/blues bar.

Just wow. I don't know how much you worked the first pic in software, but the amount of detail and separation is incredible. And hand held to boot! I think you already made up your mind about this camera. Come on, just tell us. Is that a slight vignetting I see?

What ISO did you use? My D7000 can chase single photons pretty well with not-unreasonable noise levels, and I expect the D800 should do at least as well.

You might just as well buy a clean refurbished or reliable used one, even if you have to pay a bit more from a respectable dealer with easy return privileges. Then if you decide against it or need the money you can resell it for a break even price over the next 3-4 month window, maybe loosing a couple of hundred if you keep it a year or so (assuming you aren't some spray and pray wedding photographer who will run up the shot count). That's a pretty cheap rental price ~ and given the poor quality control of the D800s so far, buying used with right of return may be the best way to know you are getting a good body. It probably has better odds of being right than a factory fresh one!

I must get one of these for next time I'm taking my 2 black dogs for a walk in the black of night :)
Still, for those who need it, seriously impressive.

Looks like the perfect camera for the proverbial 'black cat in the coal bin at midnight' application.

I well remember when Kodacolor 400 first came out. "Who would ever need that" cried the doubters. And, "If it's so dark you need that it's too dark to take pictures anyway" others opined.

What would those same people think now?

Pardon me while I look for my Diafine.

Interested to hear more about your impressions, Mike. After shooting with 4/3 and now m4/3 for a long time now (my genre is what I guess you would call "urban landscape"), and especially with the E-M5, I have gotten used to setting the camera to A 5.6 with the appropiriate ISO for the light, pointing the camera and pressing the button and voila, tack sharp images with deep focus. I am right now trying out a D800 for a week or two, and it is a whole nother beast. Check distances/DOF, select focus point for what you want in focus, steady camera, monopod preferred, ease off shutter release on the exhale. It's a whole different approach, the more so since I am using my old AIs 55mm Micro-Nikkor. I shot color 4x5 for a good while, so I am used to a more deliberative pace and following shot discipline, but I have gotten to quite like the much more free-wheeling approach the 4/3 format allows. That said, I have been forced to shoot in marginal light, so things may be different. Anyway, enjoy your time with the Dragoon.

close the comments now, don't need the positive feeling for this camera especially now that my konica hexar af and mamiya 6 both die in the same week.

btw, what lens was used in the photos?

Richard and Bill,
The lens is the 35mm f/1.4G. The ISO for both pictures was 3200. Top picture was f/2.5, bottom picture was f/5.6.


"...I'll do at least one more post about the D800E..."

Actually Mike, I'm more curious about about your experience with the lens. I'm shooting with the same combination, and I'm very happy with it, but I don't have anywhere near the variety or depth of experience you've got with 35mm (in 135 format) primes.

The Nikon 35/2 (pre-AI, K version) was hands down, my favorite lens back in the film days, and one of my ten best film shots came from a Nikon 35/3.5 rangefinder lens on an S2, but the new 35/1.4G is the only 35mm prime I've used on digital body.

It's not going to change my opinion of the lens at all, but I'd like to hear how you (subjectively) rate its optical character against some of your favorite 35s.

I've been making good use of my D800 for the past few months, and for a while I scoffed at those who claimed 36MP would make it easier to crop and still print large. I don't crop; what you see is what I framed.

But now, darn it, I'm starting to see the joys of cropping again. Since I mostly stick to prime lenses, I'm getting used to popping on a wide lens when I can't frame with a longer one, and then cropping to split the difference. Cropping down on these 36MP images is *almost* like have a prime and a zoom at the same time. (I'm not getting anywhere trying to work out a pun based on "Having your cake and eating it, too.")

The only thing I miss from previous Nikon bodies is a faster frame rate. I was spoiled by the D700 and grip combination, which gave me something like 8fps. I bracket exposures on a *lot* of my shooting, so the 4fps of the D800 is just a little too leisurely for my taste.

But that's the only thing I miss.

First let me say, tripods are good :)

Second let me say tripods are evil :)

Not sure who said you need to use a tripod with the D800 series, but they are wrong. You don't need to use a tripod with any camera, it all depends like everything else on what you want.

But, if you use a D800/e handheld you may want to use a couple of shutter speeds faster than you are use to, especially if you use a lens longer than 70mm, kick up the ISO if needed. you will lose a bit of DR at every ISO increase - tripod maybe good now, maybe not - all depends on your needs.

And that's it, the D800/e is an amazing camera, best in class DSLR today for still work, no doubt. But it requires great glass, and a skilled shooter to maximize it's true potential. And by the way, don't bother taking the ISO up beyond 1,600. You are better off lifting the shadows in post, as the shadow lift in camera basically stops at 1600 ISO.


Hi Mike,
Can I make a suggestion?
Why don't you put the first picture to sell.
I don't know but this image turn out to be very symbolic to me.
Basically about this new moment we are living in photography.
Many new possibilities. lots of challenges at least for me.
I am 51 and professional for 31 years now.
Anyway I would like a copy. 8x10 or 11 x 14 would do.
Thank you, for the epiphany.
Fausto Chermont (sorry about the bad English)

Good night, man, I love that top photo. Printed just right, and nice and large I bet it would be a stunner - small doesn't do it justice I am sure.
ISO 3200 for them both? Wow. I love what I can pull out of my D7000 but that sort of (apparent) clean-ness at that ISO seems another whole level of sweet. Can we see a detail of that street lamp shot (yes, I want to pixel-peep. I cant help it)

BrianW: "Fuji's X-Pro1 also uses a Sony 16MP sensor"

There is no evidence for that. Lots of speculation which come down to the syllogism "Sony == Good; Fuji is Good therefore Fuji == Sony".

It's most likely that Fuji are using custom made sensors from Toshiba (their long time sensor design and fab). Chipworks have shown Toshiba made EXR sensors in their teardowns.

I'm not the only who thinks this Thom Hogan has a similar view too. We await the Chipworks teardown to really find out.

One thing to think about is Toshiba don't make big sensors for anyone else neither do STM in Europe (making CMOSIS/Leica's new sensor) but both make lots of cellphone sensors. When they apply small sensor tech (low power; high fill factor moving the transistos to the rows and columns; shared pixel designs; compact ADCs) to larger sensors the results are amazing.

I suspect that's one of Sony secrets too: applying their compact and cellphone sensor tech to bigger sensors.

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