More time spent with the Nikon D800E

Recently I am writing more and more about the Nikon D800E, and for a good reason, that is. I was reluctant to carry this heavy DSLR with me on my trips, I thought if I was to take a rather large and heavy camera, my first choices would my 4×5 view camera or one of my medium format cameras.

But since my vast majority of my photos are taken close to my car, I packed the D800E with a couple of lenses and kept it in the trunk. I found out that there were many cases when I didn’t take a photo of a particular subject since it required some time setting up a tripod, take exposure meterings, etc (with the exception of the Makina 67 which I almost always shoot handheld). But by having the D800E with me, it was just a matter of a few seconds to make the shot.

The readers of this blog know that I am mostly a film shooter. I love the look of film and whole procedure of making a photo using film. But I am not a “film fanatic”. I embrace both mediums (digital and film) and use them according to the situation. Until the arrival of the D800E I didn’t consider making my “serious photos” with a DSRL, but as you can guess, I am starting to change my mind. There are many things that a 4×5 view camera cannot do, and also some things a medium format camera cannot do. This is where the D800E comes in to fill this gap. By being a digital camera I can also experiment much more than with my film cameras. Recently it also serves me as a digital Polaroid, to take exposure meterings and preview how a subject will look before I waste some film. This way, it also works a a digital backup of the image I am going to shoot with film, so in case something goes wrong, I wills still have the digital version of the image.

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(Nikon D800E, Nikon 28-300 f/3.5-5.6, polarizer filter)

At some point I tried to make head to head comparisons of the D800E with my film gear. But after a couple of tests, I got bored. The images between them were far beyond a simple resolution, color and dynamic range comparison. Personally, I find that you can’t get the color of Velvia or the tonality of a b&w film with a digital camera (just two short examples). Other people find the crystal clear look of digital much more to their tastes, so it all comes down to your personal preferences.

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(Nikon D800E, Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, B+W 0.9 ND filter, LEE 0.9 ND GRAD HARD filter)

The image above is one of my first with the Nikon using the LEE filter holder (which I frequently use with my 6×17 and 4×5 cameras). The superb dynamic range of the D800E allows you to do some heavy post processing without affecting a lot the image quality. That means that you can digitally add in post processing effects like a polarizer filter and a ND Grad filter. But, I prefer to return home with an image that will not require much post processing, that’s why I am using filters while in the field. On the image above, I used a stronger filter than I should but currently I only own the 0.9 ND Hard GRAD !!

In order to full exploit the 36 megapixels of the D800E you will need a good lens and a good tripod. Diffraction appears earlier than other cameras, so you also have to think seriously in getting a sharp photo with the desired depth of field. It’s a serious camera, and the huge megapixels number shows your mistakes more than any other full frame camera.

In terms of absolute image quality, my 4×5 view camera easily gets ahead of the D800E, but… the Nikon can be used instantly in any situation, whether that’s a landscape or action shot, its superb available light performer, etc, which basically means that its a camera for everything. That’s a fact I cannot ignore, in today’s terms, the D800E is the 4×5 camera of its era. Of course if you consider the ability of movements which a a view camera possesses, that’s a whole different game, but after all, that’s why I added a view camera in my arsenal. Someday I will probably try to use the D800E as a digital back on a view camera, but that requires an investment out of my reach right now (the small sensor of a full frame camera means that you will need modem large format lenses which are very expensive, so for a hobbyist like me, its now wise to invest on them).

So, one more post about the mighty D800E, many more to follow !!

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(c)2013 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved

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