Finally Saturday rolls around and I had time to dig into the 451 page manual that comes with the Nikon D800. I concentrated on the various focus modes available with the camera, which are slightly different from the D700. Though I found the best tips were in this review of the D800 over at Luminous Landscape (thanks to a reader who sent me the link). Feeling a bit more confident, I went out last night with the camera, my trusty 24-70mm F2.8 lens and also my equally excellent Nikon 50mm F1.4D lens – I picked this up used a couple of years back dirt cheap and it’s a fabulous lens that I don’t use often enough.
I decided that I would shoot “semi-manual” – meaning that I’d adjust the aperture and shutter speed myself and let the camera handle the ISO settings (this in part because Luminous Landscape does say that the D800 has one of the better implementations of an auto ISO feature).
(Note that photos in this review, for the most part, will have been enhanced in various ways via Lightroom.)
So, at dinner, playing around a bit while waiting for our food to come:
This is 50mm, f2.0, 1/100th of a second, ISO 1250.
I’d actually momentarily spaced on the fact that the lens opens up to f1.4, but I adjusted and the next shot is f1.4, 1/100th of a second, ISO 720:
Honestly folks, if you only have zoom lenses in your bag, get a few primes. While some of Nikon’s f1.4 primes are quite expensive, their 50mm lenses are inexpensive and perform beautifully. The Nikon 50mm F1.4G costs US$459 (get it from Amazon or B&H) while the 50mm F1.8G will only set you back US$219 (get it from Amazon or B&H) – and honestly, most people will be fine with the f1.8. And if you want to go even cheaper, do what I did and get an older Nikon lens – the 50mm F1.4D (a bit over US$300 on Amazon or B&H) or save even more with the 50mm F1.8D (about US$130 on Amazon or B&H).
Possibly the most useful tool that the Nikon D800 provides for getting sharp focus is the new implementation of LiveView. That’s because you can now press the little + button next to the screen – normally only used when reviewing shots you’ve just taken – and digitally zoom in on the shot you’re composing, allowing you to carefully check your focus. It was really helpful in this shot – the camera couldn’t lock focus on the black little flower pot thingies at the top of these stands but I zoomed in to the dangly bits and consistently got nice sharp shots – this one is F1.4, ISO 1,000.
I wish that the EXIF info would record what focus settings I used, because I was trying out the various different combinations throughout the course of the night. Here I dropped down to F6.3, hoping for a bit of depth of field, still 1/100th of a second, and the auto ISO went down to ISO 6400 (which is what I’d set as the limit). So I’ve had to apply a bit of noise reduction here:
People love photos of HK’s trams.
For this shot I was still at F6.3 (I simply wasn’t thinking) so ISO ended up at 1,000.
Now here’s a shot that I think really proves the sharpness of the D800-50mm combination. Autofocus simply could not lock in on the building, I switched to manual and used the LiveView zoom feature to make sure this was going to be what I wanted. 50mm, F2.8, 1/100th of a second, ISO ended up at 6400.
Let’s zoom in on that image.
Oh man, if I only had my tripod with me, longer exposure, lower ISO – still I think the results are impressive.
If memory serves, my focus point on this shot was the Show Biz Club sign, f2.8, 1/80th of a second, ISO 280, think I dialed exposure compensation down to a -1 so the neon signs wouldn’t burn out.
I love Hong Kong neon.
The real test for me was to see if I could shoot a band. I tried a variety of different focus modes and can’t recall which ones were used on any particular shot. I was going back and forth between AF-S (stationary subjects) and AF-F (moving subjects) and trying face priority (something the D700 didn’t have) and 3-D tracking. Honestly, at this point, I was more focused (ahem) on the camera and its settings instead of my subjects, so I wasn’t capturing the moments I normally go for. I’m not happy with the shots themselves but I do feel that the camera will work really well in a concert or club setting.
Also what I noticed is that when shooting in LiveView mode, there’s a noticeable lag from the time you take one shot till the camera’s ready for the next. If I shot in continuous mode and LiveView, it could take 5 seconds or more for the camera to process and save the photos it just took before it would let me shoot again. This lag time goes away when using the viewfinder.
Anyway, I shot the band Icebox in Amazonia Bar. A great Filipino bar band, incredibly miserable lighting – and at some point midway through their first set I switched from the 50mm lens over to the 24-70mm.
(Okay, the focus here is on the guitar, not on Willy’s face, but I like the pose.)
So still a bit more learning and practicing but every day I’m more and more impressed with the D800. I think in the long run the only thing it doesn’t seem to be good for is street photography – great for shots of buildings and streets and signs but not as good for quickly grabbing shots of people.
Thinking about buying a Nikon D800 or D800E for yourself? You can order the D800 from Amazon or from B&H; or the D800E (with the anti-aliasing filter removed) from Amazon or from B&H. (Clicking these links and buying anything at all will help support my humble blog and my photography. Thank you!)