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.

(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).



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.



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.





(c)2013 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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