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/

Saturday, April 14, 2012

D800 manuals available

Heading to Jasper for wildlife

I am heading off to Jasper/Yoho National Parks for a few days shooting while on my way to an Urban Wildlife Interface Conference in Cranbrook, B.C..  Hopefully I will have some time in the evenings for blogging, though there is light until 8pm now, so more likely I will be downloading and backing up on my two portable hard drives. Park websites say some wolves are hanging around and the bears are out. Bighorn sheep are a fairly sure bet and then I'm looking for Mountain goat, the ubiquitous elk of Jasper and anything else that crosses my path.  Then, of course, there is the stunning scenery of the Icefields Highway.

Mountain caribou near Wells, B.C. They are part of a small endangered herd
 that frequents our area. Richard Wright photo.

The Mountain caribou are back here in Wells, so I was able to get a few quick shots on a dull morning. When I am back next week I will spend more time on their migratory trail, in a blind and maybe hiking into the back country with friend Dave J. And, the game cams will go up again.

As I rush out the door I thought I would mention and link to two manuals that are available for the D800: the user manual and a technical manual that addresses high rez and blurring.  Nikon suggests the use of a tripod to prevent blurring that can show up with high rez, 36 meg photos.  My son found the same with HDR - a tripod is necessary.

D800 manual:

D800 Technical manual

These will allow you D800 fans to read up before your camera arrives.  No, I have no word on mine.

See you down the trail.

Any questions leave a comment

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nikon D800 features tested

Testing of the Nikon D800 features: Image size and HDR

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
Shot in DX mode with a 35mm , giving a 52mm crop. f10, 1/400th. Richard Wright photo.

One of the appeals of the D800 for anyone moving from DX to FX, ie: cropped to full frame, is that the D800 makes an easy transition from one format or one set of lenses to another.
If you are a DX shooter, with say the great D7000, you may have invested in several or many DX lenses, which tend to be cheaper than FX lenses.  Making the transition to shoot with just FX lenses would be very expensive.  With the D800 you can do this gradually. Of course, with DX lenses you will not get 36 megapixels photos. According to Nikon they will be 15 megs, more like the 16 megs. of the D7000.
How do you make the shift?  Well, as I was first of all shooting intuitively, ie trying not to use the thick manual, it took me awhile to find it.
First of all in the menu you can choose to have the camera recognize any DX lens that is mounted. In that case the image you see is the cropped DX image. Secondly you can go to the menu item called IMAGE AREA.  Here you will have four choices:
FX full frame
1.2 cropped image
1.4 cropped DX image
5:4 crop.

The first choice is obvious.  The second, 1.2 crop, gives you the option to pre-crop your image in the camera, rather than perhaps cropping later in whatever software you use.  I am not sure why one would want to pre-crop as it takes away some of your later options, except that it does give you 5 fps instead of 4 fps. Some sports shooters (which this camera is not really marketed toward) might want to do this and I am sure there will be times when I will choose the 1.2 option.
The 1.4 DX image crop is also obvious, except that if you choose this option with an FX lens you do not see a viewfinder image reflecting a DX crop. What you see in the viewfinder is a box or crop mark showing what the framing will be.  The first time I used this is was a little surprising. But it sort of works.
Finally we have the choice of a 5:4 crop, often referred to as the 8x10 crop, as it emulates the image proportions that will appear in an 8x10 print. This will be a 30 meg image. One could argue that this is similar to the 1.2 crop and that you are always better to have the options to crop later. However, I can imagine times, such as weddings or portraits, where you might want to be sure that you are seeing what the final proportions will be. I know I have often shot a full image and then been disappointed when it would not crop to an 8x10 to my satisfaction.
So, there are the options.  I found it a great feature.

Butterfly with 200mm in DX mode, for a 300mm image.
Butterfly at 200 mm FX mode. Richard Wright photo.

 The 35 degree slant of the shutter button is great and is more comfortable to use.
The D800 has a built in flash and the little testing we did with it found it quite adequate for fill-flash and some night shots. Though it will not replace a SB flash it is useful to have onboard.
The Nikon D800 has a redesigned 35 degree slant to the shutter release.
 Richard Wright photo.

I did not have an opportunity to try the in-camera HDR feature. This allows High Dynamic Range photos to be shot and processed in the camera, rather than in post processing.  This is basically a means of combining a greater dynamic range, the lightest and darkest areas of your photo, into one image.  Shooting out a window, dark foreground and light sky, and so forth, similar in some ways to using a ND filter, are some examples.
However, my son recently took his D800 to China and shot some HDR in the Reed Flute Cave, Guilin, Guangxi. This limestone cave is 180 million years old and has been an attraction for over 1200 years. Here are a couple of low rez, yet brilliant, images:

Reed flute cave, China. D800, HDR, no post production. Richard Wright Jr. photo

If you go to his Flickr site at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rtwright/
you can have a look at the spectacular shots he got. They really are exceptional, as the number of views on Flickr demonstrates.

If have questions please leave a comment.
Website: http:richardtwright.photoshelter.com 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Nikon D800 remains elusive.

 Nikon D800 - deliveries trickle in 

My left eye, and Nikon D800.
Amy Newman photo taken with Nikon D5100, a great entry level  DSLR

Hong Kong and my brief affair with the new Nikon D800 is now a week behind me. We traded the hazy skies, heat and humidity of Asia for the cold of British Columbia's north, and brought with us a bronchial infection of some note.

As soon as we arrived in Vancouver I visited my local supplier, Kerrisdale Cameras, to see how my order was coming along and pick up those few things that seem to go missing while traveling - lens caps, rear caps, LCD protector and so forth.  The good news is I am now about number 10 on the order list which has grown significantly since my order. While I was there another woman placed a deposit for her D800.  Later at London Drugs the clerk said, "We are really frustrated, we not only have none to sell but we can't even get one for display!"
There is a disconnect with Nikon Canada, who really need to see a media specialist like my friend and colleague Jim Stanton and get in front of this fast-moving story and the increasing angst of Nikon customers. I visited Nikon Canada in Richmond to see about getting my sensor cleaned, but it was going to take three days and I was leaving town.  So, I asked how the D800 was coming in terms of shipment. "Oh, you can get it. There are lots of people coming in here with D800's. (Say what? Why are they coming to the repair facility?). I know pros who have their 800s."
When I questioned the young lady and explained that no, I could not go out and buy one, she offered the observation that, "the camera store (which I did not name) is just saying that because they do not want you to buy somewhere else."  Oh yeah? Tell that to the 100 cameras stores in Hong Kong. 
I tried to post a review of the D800 on Nikon's product review page. I added that it would be great to be able to buy one. Within 24 hours my review had been rejected. They did not comment on delivery times.  

Jim Stanton.
The basic premise of good media relations is: Tell the truth and tell it fast. This is a great opportunity for Nikon to use the incredible wave of desire this camera has created as a good news story, instead Nikon Japan, and all the world wide affiliates are remaining "in camera", seemingly hoping bloggers will do their media work and dealers will answer the consumer's questions.  Poor form Nikon. Really, give Jim a call. He can be found at: Stantonassociates.ca. (In the interest of full disclosure I will say I often work with Jim.)

A few people, readers of this blog and others, have questioned whether the D800 Richard bought was grey market. The short answer, is no! Richard lives in Hong Kong and therefore buys in Hong Kong and has a warranty and guarantee in Hong Kong. (By the way Nikon, all your offices should emulate the excellent service and displays of the Kowloon office. They have long lenses pointed out the window for viewing.) Grey market is not the same as Overseas Purchasing.  When I buy gear in Hong Kong I get a Hong Kong warranty on the cameras and a Worldwide warranty on lenses.  All the reputable dealers such as Wing Shing or Man Shing, will tell you this when you are looking at equipment and caution you. This is not a matter of buying a cheap camera from the web. In fact prices in Hong Kong are very similar to Canada. What is different is availability. In several cases now Rich and I have been able to find rare lenses that we could not find on shelves anywhere else, by prowling Hong Kong. If I am in Hong Kong for six weeks it is likely I will buy some equipment. I know if the camera dies in Canada I have to ship it back, or pay to have it serviced locally.
This works both ways. When Amy's S9100 stopped working in Hong Kong we took it to Nikon Hong Kong. They tested it but would not repair it under warranty. It would cost us about $200 cdn to have it fixed. It cost $299. It is now being repaired by Nikon Canada.

Wing Shing Photo Supplies Co. in Kowloon. Richard Wright photo.

For more information and opinion on grey market equipment look at these sites:

Shooting with the D800 and the 70-200mm f2.8 on a carbon fibre Manfrotto tripod,
with the Manfrotto 363 Gimbel.  Amy Newman photo with D5100.

There are a few features of the D800 about which I have not yet written, and my son will continue to report his work with the D800. Suffice it to say he is ready to sell his D300 and buy a second D800 or D800e, when they are available. So stay tuned, I am writing the final D800 installments now - then on to reports on Hong Kong.

If you have questions leave a comment.
My website is: http://richardtwright.photoshelter.com

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Nikon D800 night shooting - a test

Ongoing testing of the Nikon D800 - night shots.

Sai Kung front street with no exposure compensation on D800. Richard Wright Jr. photo.
Our time in Hong Kong is drawing to a reluctant close. After close to six weeks we will be returning to the comparative cold of Canada; Amy to Vancouver and me to home in Wells where I will face some 20 feet of accumulated snow and below zero temperatures.  Tomorrow in Hong Kong it is supposed to be 27 deg.C. We will leave a city of 7 million - my home town has 250, no subway, and no noodle shops. There is lots about Hong Kong and the New Territories that we will miss.

Boats in Sai Kung harbour. To the unaided eye this was dark. We could see the boats, but they
were lit only by shore lights from storefronts. 1/30 sec, f2, 35mm Nikon lens, auto white balance,
ISO 3200, no flash. Richard Wright Jr. photo.

Last evening we took a trip a little north to Sai Kung, a seaside village renowned for it's sea food restaurants, for a departing dinner. Fi had reserved at a particularly good restaurant so off the five of us went, all laden down with our Nikons of course.
The food was fantastic - lobster, squid, bean curd, gai lan steamed greens, topped off with Tsingtao beer. After dinner we walked the streets and waterfront and tried out the D800 in evening light and poor light.

My grandson and I. No flash, lighting only from restaurants across the street. ISO 3200, f2. 1/20, 35mm lens. Auto white balance. Again, one would have thought this far to dark to shoot.  The red in my face is from the street lighting. The color depth and definition is bang on other than that. The balance from foreground to the background boats is actually quite amazing. Richard Wright Jr. photo.

We wandered the town in the warm evening looking for good subjects, while Richard enjoyed shooting the D800 for the first time since it had arrived.  We both found the ergonomics improved, with the tipped shutter release and the weight.  I will not be adding the overpriced MB-D12 battery pack for some time. On my D7000 I found I like the weight the battery pack adds.
Rich found it wanted to eye an eyepiece as the hard plastic of the D800 does not block light well, nor is it comfortable. The D7000 on the other hand does have a soft rubber eye cup.
Rich also remarked on the cost of the CF cards. Here in Hong Kong an SanDisk Extreme Pro 100 megbyte/sec 16 gig cards is $200. The 32 gig card is $300. I bit of a kick in the pocket.

The three Richard Thomas Wrights. The lighting is just from the ambient street lighting,
again no flash, no reflectors. A great balance of foreground and background and good color balance.
ISO 1100, auto white balance, 1/40 sec., f4, 35mm lens. Fiona Tsang Wright photo.
"Throw away the flash," Rich said - only joking of course, but the results we got were so much more pleasing than using a flash, and we were deliberately not trying anything other than the auto features of Program mode. (Unlike some models, the D800 has no AUTO mode.)

Finally we saw a pick-up basketball game.  I exposed one shot for the court and included the court lights, and another without the court lights.  Both were acceptable.
ISO 450, 1/40 sec., f2. 35mm lens. D800.

ISO 400, 1/40 sec., f2, 35mm lens, D800 Including the court lights seemed to make little difference
 to the exposure, and again the color balance on the court was bang on. Richard Wright photos.
Our final appraisal was that the D800 is superior to any other Nikon we have used for night shooting.  Add to that the 36 megs and it is a hands-down winner.

Back to the waterfront: here is a shot of a neon sign, and a radical crop.

A full frame shot, D800, 35mm, ISO 1000, f2, 1/1000 sec, no crop, no adjustment.
Richard Wright Jr. photo

Shark's dentures, cropped from above photo.  No adjustment. The original holds up well
for this crop though some noise came be seen with this magnification. Richard Wright Jr. photo.
We have more D800 shooting to report on but it may have to wait until my return to Canada. In the meantime I have to leave the D800 behind with my son, unless another turns up in Hong Kong by tomorrow night - without a 25% premium.  Stay tuned.

An addendum.  Several days ago when we took a ferry ride to Sharp Island, Amy lost her monopod - in a cab, a bus, a ferry, a bookstore or a cafe.  Several phone calls later she had no luck finding it, so she bought a tripod at Chung Pui Photo Supplies on Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong. When we visited Sai Kung for dinner she decided to have one more try at the cafe, Classified.  Sure enough, there it was, identified as a walking stick, not a "camera stick".  $40 better off it was a good night.

For those who are interested in birding stay tuned for a report on our visit to Mai Po WWF Reserve with guide John Holmes of Walk Hong Kong - a great guide who went out of his way to get us a total of 74 species for the day.

If you have any questions leave a comment.

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