About Me

Wells, BC, Canada
Richard is a working photographer and writer in B.C. His camera focuses on natural history. archeology, travel, and documentary photography. His photography blog may be found at: http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nikon D800 test drive and shooting

First impressions of the Nikon D800

We unpacked the D800 last night and this morning I headed out to test drive the new camera.  As I am sojourning in Hong Kong for a couple of months we knew just the place to go - Kowloon Park, an oasis in the centre of Kowloon in the New Territories which is alive with birds wild and domestic and an array of gardens.  My idea when I test lenses and cameras is to use it and see how it holds up. I will leave the lens charts for someone else. I want to know how it performs in the field in my hands. I also left the instruction book behind - let's just see how intuitive this puppy is.

Packing two heavy backpacks and a couple of tripods we jumped in a cab and headed out. Amy was carrying her new D5100, which we will report on later. Subways and photo gear don't mix well I have found. First of all the two cards would not format from the menu. Reading the manual tonight did not help, but I did find the two buttons that can be pressed to format and erase.  Fortunately the card I was using was from my D7000 and it worked, sort of, as we will see.

Now, depending on what you have been shooting the D800 may or may not feel similar, and for maximizing the 36 megapixels you need FX lenses.  So today I headed out with my 200-400 f4 V Nikkor and a 70-200mm V1 Nikkor 2.8.  First up was 200-400.

The lens was mounted on a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod with a Manfrotto 393 Gimbal head. I wanted to be sure that I was doing everything I could to make sharp photos. (Watch for a review of the Gimbal in a week or two.)

D800 and 200-400 on a Manfrotto Gimbal. Amy Newman photo.

The first few shots convinced me that 36 megapixels is fantastic.  The lens is, of course, one of Nikon's best, but the detail in 36 megs and the color and depth of the D800 is better than I imagined.

A black-crowned night heron at take-off. Richard Wright photo.

A quick note for now of some of the features I found useful today.
The shutter release repositioning is very comfortable.  A small seemingly insignificant feature, but useful.
The eye-piece diopter adjustment is much better than on the D7000.  A knob is pulled out to release, then turned to adjust, then pushed back in to lock it.  The D7000 is constantly The menu is easy to follow, though it did take me some time to find the FX-DX image menu item.  With this you can set the camera to automatically shift to DX mode when a DX lens is put on, and, you can choose FX full frame, 1.2 ratio and 1.4 DX ratio all from the menu - a useful feature.
The eye viewer has a closable shutter for those long time exposure and some metering situations.
The Nikon carrying strap is a piece of junk. For a $3000 camera it is an embarrassment. It is thin and cheap where it should be padded.  Maybe Nikon knows that many photographers will replace it anyway with a more substantial cushioned strap which does not advertise NIKON to all the thieves of the world.  I either change straps or use a black Sharpie to color in the yellow trademark name and make it less obtrusive. 

Looking for a variety of subjects I swung to a nearby flowering bush.  

This blog photo likely won't show the dynamic range of the colors and exposure but renders surprising depth.  And, for detail, look just above centre.  

Here is the detail - a bee on a flower with pollen its legs.
A few more shots.

Shamrock flowers with the 70-200mm f2.8. Richard Wright photo.

Black-crowned night heron with 200-400 f4. Richard Wright photo.

Hibiscus, with 70-200 mm f2.8. Richard Wright photo.
I will post more tomorrow with some landscape shots as we are heading to Tai O, a small fishing village on Lantau Island for more testing and exploring.

Right now it is getting late, as not everything goes smoothly in testing.

Downloading from the camera should have been simple, I thought, but after several long attempts I found out the dreaded news: Aperture 3 is not compatible with the D800. The photos would import and show up in a browser but not download or enlarge. Arrrgh.  Well, at least Aperture 3 was not compatible until a couple of days ago. With some web searching I found Aperture needs a version 10 upgrade for the D4 and a version 11 upgrade for the D800. Sure enough the upgrades were sitting waiting for me in my software upgrade notifications. A few minutes to download, dump the non-working files, install the upgrade and all was well.

More coming tomorrow.  The main thing is that this is a great camera and the detail and resolution is astounding.


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