Exploring the Nikon D800E

January was a month dedicated to film. I spent most of my time learning my first steps into large format photography, and for some reason I also started using often my 6×17 panoramic camera. Of course, the quantity of images produced with those cameras is very small, so I uploaded far many more digital images.

Lately, I carry the Nikon D800E in my trips, more often than I used to. This camera was purchased from my wife (who is 100% digital photographer) since I was not going to buy such a camera myself (due to my heavy engagement with medium format film). Large and medium format film remain my first choice of gear, but a digital camera like the D800D offers you the ability to experiment more, take far more many photos and use zoom and telephoto lenses.

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(Nikon D800E, all images on this post are taken with this camera)

I consider the D800E to be the equivalent of 4×5 large format the digital world. It can equal my Fuji GSW690 6×9 camera in terms of resolution, and it is almost on par with a 4×5 photo when scanned with the Epson V700 (I am sure a drum scan would be much better than what the D800E can produce but I don’t own one, neither I am willing at the present to spend hundreds of euros to scan my best photos, since I am not doing an exhibition any time soon !!). I have to note here that my first hasty comparison between the D800E and 4×5 film lead to an undisputed victory in favor of film. Sharper image, better tones and greater resolution. I am not posting any results until I make a few more comparisons since I am not 100% sure about the Nikon image (in terms of my technique).

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My most used lenses are the 28-300mm and the 135mm f/2 DC. The 28-300 is an invaluable lens in terms of flexibility. It’s not on par with the top Nikon lenses, but I really don’t care about that. I am using it exactly the way it was designed for, an all around travel lens, and for that purpose its really great. My 24-70 has not seen many action, since at this focal length range, I prefer to use my medium format cameras (and now, my 4×5 view camera). I find my old 24mm f/2.8 and my 50mm f/1.4 (previous generation with the aperture ring) poor performers on the D800E, so I am not using them often. On the other hand, the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro seems to produce very good images.

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The D800E is very easy to shoot handheld but with 36 megapixels is always better to shoot on a tripod. I have lately started to use my LEE filters (mostly ND Grads) and they really make a great difference. The ability to expose property all parts of the image in combination with the huge dynamic range of this camera, make post processing a very easy task when you shoot RAW. The files are huge and my three years of MacBook Pro really struggles but I shoot the D800E much like my film cameras, which means I don’t return home with hundreds of photos.

I addition to great camera, the D800E also shoots excellent video and makes timelapses in camera. I don’t do much video anymore (and it would require a tripod or a steadycam equipment to do it right), but I enjoy making timelapses when I have the chance.

Also, the D800E serves as en excellent exposure meter for my 4×5 camera. I know it sounds weird to use a camera like that as a meter, but I have found it to be vey very close to my Sekonic readings, so it works like a digital Polaroid in terms of exposure an framing). Of course, when I shoot slide film I pay much attention since the 4-5 stops latitude of slide film will produce very different images than what I am previewing in the Nikon LCD screen. The D800E has a very wide dynamic range almost on pad with the best color negative and b&w film.

So, although I am a film shooter, I don’t ignore the advantages of a high end digital camera. In many cases I will choose to shoot a coupe of frames with the D800E instead of spending money on film and chemicals for a subject that I am not sure it’s worth capturing with film. And of course to don’t have the option of a long telephoto lens with 4×5 film. Also, I can’t hike for long distances with a monorail, for that purpose a field view camera is required, but until I start selling a few cameras, financially I can’t spend money on a good field camera right now.

So, that’s my experience so far with the Nikon D800E. A revolutionary camera at a price level we could only dream a few years ago. It rivals a digital medium format camera in many situations, and although I don’t do the mistake of considering it an equal to a Phase One or Hasselblad camera, the price difference can onto favor the D800E for an amateur (and not only !!) photographer.

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(c)2013 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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