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/

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 

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