As the title implies, I recently used the Nikon D800E to create some special (artistic) looking images. It was part of a shooting project where I certain objects like candles, rails, fabrics needed to be presented in a certain way.
My first thought was to use a medium format camera like the Plaubel Makina 67. The problem was that I would have to shoot everything on a tripod since there were many low light shots and also I would need at least 20 rolls of film !! So, logic prevailed and I went with the digital solution (which is free no matter how many images you shoot).
I chose the D800E over the Leica M8 because I needed a 135mm telephoto and the M8 is a pain to focus on such long focal length. Also the Nikon 24-70 proved to be very helpful in some of these images. I don’t like zoom lenses, but one a project they give me flexibility and shooting speed.
My relationship with the the mighty Nikkor 135mm f/2 is quite strange. It’s considered to be one of the best portrait lenses ever made, and I have rarely used it for portraits. I find it to be an exceptional lens for special images due to the fast f/2 aperture and the way it renders the background. The 36 megapixels of the D800E allow me to use it either as a 135mm or a 200mm (with the DX crops which stills leaves 15 megapixels, more than enough for my prints).
The 24-70 is a lens with great image quality, but I only use it when shooting specific projects. It’s large and heavy and while very helpful in quick shots without having to move, it’s only a “work lens” for me. When I go out to make my images, I will pack my 24,35,50 mm primes.
One great advantage of the 135mm when compared to a zoom lens like the 70-200 f/2.8 VR II, is that it has a minimum focus distance of 1.1 meters instead of the 1.4 meters of the 70-200. Add to that the fact that the 70-200 at its minimum focus distance is actually a 135mm and the one stop speed advantage of the 135mm DC and you get he reasons why I chose the 135 DC over the 70-200 (which of course, is a much more versatile lens, but I would only use it on projects just like the 24-70, so I decided not to invest 2000 euros, unless my projects keep coming at a pace that justifies this purchase).
It has taken me quite some time (and money) to settle to the lenses I prefer. It’s a trial and error process and most of the serious photographers I know have gone through that process. Reviews are great, but you have to try gear personally in order to see if it fits you. Where I live, I can’t borrow lenses, so I can only try for a limited time lenses from friends or buy them.
Back to my project, I have found the D800E to be an exceptional camera. Of course, there are struggles. Coming home with 600 photos means about 23GB total size of RAW files. It’s huge !! Importing and processing them seems to take forever on my 2.53GHZ , 8GB RAM MacBook Pro. I use Lightroom 4 and there are times where the whole system seems to be frozen, it really is very annoying and time consuming. I could use the D700, but there are some very important advantages when shooting the D800E. Except from the 36 megapixels which can come in handy for cropping or huge prints, the dynamic range of this camera is really mind blowing. I can recover highlights and shadows in a way that no other camera can, and that’s crucial. Actually, this was the main reason for purchasing this camera.
For serious work, the D800E is unbeatable, it flirts with the boundaries of digital medium format (which is not of course, but considering the price, it’s really superb). And after thousands of images, I have not seen seen any moire (or I haven’t noticed it, but if haven’t seen it, then it’s probably negligible or just not there !!)
As you can see, all the images on today’s post (except one) were shot with the 135mm DC lens. It’s really a gem and my favorite Nikon lens. I am sure Nikon will eventually produce a new version soon (?) since this is lens is over 20 years old, but I will sure stay with this version. It has a wonderful rendering and real character, the same way my old Leica lenses have, and character is something I really appreciate on a lens.
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