Product

Three months with the D800

Wow, I can not believe that it has been five months since I last entered anything onto my blog. I knew life had been busy but there are no excuses.

During the five months since I last blogged, I have not been suffering from 'Photography Block'. In fact the opposite. I have been using my camera more than ever. In part due to an upgrade:-)

In March I finally decided to cough up and move to a full frame DSLR. I had been looking for a long, long time but various life events delayed this.

Whilst I would have loved to have purchase the D810 it was just well above the price I was prepared to go to. I settled therefore for a used D800 from www.wexphotographic.com. I really couldn't be happier. The price was reasonable, the service was excellent, and I can not fault the camera that I have ended up with.

The previous year I had bought a Nikon 24-70 2.8 (part of the holy trinity) and this lens was just crying out for a Full frame body to attach it to. The two coupled together has revolutionised the way I take photographs and I just wish that I had done it earlier.

Here are just a few things that I LOVE about this camera.

Using the AF-ON button at the rear of the camera along with AF-C focus mode, capturing eyes perfectly becomes far less about chance. Something that is critical when photographing energetic kids.

Using the AF-ON button at the rear of the camera along with AF-C focus mode, capturing eyes perfectly becomes far less about chance. Something that is critical when photographing energetic kids.

FEEL

The D90 that I was using felt extremely unbalanced with the 24-70 lens attached. All of the weight was at the front, and after a full days use I could really feel my wrist taking the strain. A larger body on the D800 now balances things nicely, I guess this is no coincidence since this is the type of body the lens was intended for.

SPEED OF FOCUS

Having a small child (almost 2) and a hyper 6 year old, trying to get sharp photographs on the D90 took a lot more time and patience. The D800 focus is lightning fast and enables me to capture the moments that would have otherwise been missed.

ISO Performance

Using the D90 I never really strayed above ISO600, and I knew that if I did it would be noticeable. Low ISO performance on the D800 is something that I don't even have to think about anymore. If the situation demands an Auto-ISO setting to keep the shutter/aperture desired I know that, within reason, the photographs are still going to come out lovely and clean

Being able to capture a sunset and recover the details within the underexposed foreground is something that lesser sensors wouldn't have been capable of.

Being able to capture a sunset and recover the details within the underexposed foreground is something that lesser sensors wouldn't have been capable of.

DYNAMIC RANGE

After watching/listening/reading so many things about full frame sensors, it was hard to avoid the mention of tonal range. I never really knew how much this would mean to me until I got my hands on a few files and experienced the flexibility that this gives you. Shadow areas can be recovered easily and made to resemble exactly what the eye would see. Underexposed photographs can now be rescued within minutes using any photo editing software.

DETAIL

File sizes are huge, and pack a massive 36MP. Nailing the focus results in such rewarding, and detailed images.

Due to the sheer pixel count this also enables images to be cropped whilst still maintaining their original sharpness. For someone that is a fan of the 1:1 format this is big benefit.

No concerns whatsoever when cropping an image to 1:1. Details are retained and sharpness is still superb.

No concerns whatsoever when cropping an image to 1:1. Details are retained and sharpness is still superb.

So with all of these positives, what are the downsides. To date I only have a couple….

WEIGHT

Handing the D800 over to people to take a family photograph is a risk manoeuvre. Many flinch at the weight of the body, and the lens. And I am already thinking hard about what I will take with me on a forthcoming holiday abroad.

FILE SIZE

There is no getting away from the fact that the file sizes produces by this camera are huge. Approx 75Mb each my 2011 iMac is really beginning to creak at the sides whilst processing the RAW files that come out of this camera. So much so that something drastic needs to happen (significant uplift of RAM and HDD, or a new computer!!)

CONCLUSION

All in all I think you can probably tell that I am 'over the moon' with my recent purchase. It excels in all of the areas that I hoped it would.

For anyone teetering and wondering if they should take the plunge into Full Frame. Do it, do it now and don't waste those valuable shots. I have so many photographs now that I wish I could take all over again with a Full Frame camera. 

Each Nikon camera I have had has lasted me for someone between 3-5 years before trading up. This one is certainly going to take some beating.

Low Key Photography and That Bottle - Adventures in Portrait Flash (Part Two)

One of the techniques that I have been desperate to try out is High Sync/Low Key flash photography. One of the main reasons is so that I can just get rid of any background. Attempting portrait photography in the house is hard enough, add to this, wallpaper, photographs on the wall etc, and it becomes a real tough job to get a clean looking photograph. I knew that mastering this 'Low Key' technique would allow for some really dramatic effects and most importantly clean looking images. You see this method used in B&W portraits often. It would also negate the need for any cumbersome backing, and stands. Something that I just can not accommodate at the moment.

To achieve the effects below I rigged up two speed lights (SB800 and a newly acquired SB700). Flipped the camera body into Auto FP, and then either went into full Manual mode, or Shutter priority.

I had read a bit this week about the use of ambient light and the methods used to incorporate it, or completely lose it. With this fresh in my mind I knew that once my shutter speed was set to 1/4000th of a second there would be no ambient light getting in. And the only way to change the lighting effect from the flash would be to either adjust the power, modify the distance of the flash from the subject, or adjust the aperture. Actually once this was embedded into the grey matter it was quite easy to get to a point where I had the exposure of the photograph to the desired level(s).

Breaking Bad

For the 'selfie' image I wanted something very dark, it was purposefully set so that one half of my face was almost completely in shade (in fact in the image below I just used the single speed light) I was basically looking to represent some of the silhouetting depicted on my t-shirt. I thought that it would work... Me, Walt, Jessie and Mike looking moody!!

Let me know what you think, could I be an extra?

If I ever get a recording contract this would be my album cover.

N.B. Anyone that knows me will understand I can not sing to save my life so this is never going to appear in the shops!

That Bottle

Next, I had purchased the most awesome bottle of red wine yesterday. It wasn't cheap but the bottle just blew me away, the character, the shape the texture. It could have been filled with Rolla Cola and I would still have bought it. I tried to disguise the fact that I had bought this purely to photograph by saying it was to be a special drink on my wife's birthday in a few weeks time.

Anyway I like taking photographs of drinks. It gives me an excuse to drink them afterwards.

So the same technique (as above) was used. With both of these images you really have to get the flash light close to the subject otherwise you're not going to see anything.

Below is a photograph of the setup. The optibox was from Calumet. In the setup the SB800 firing through the Optibox was set to Full Power (not ideal but it was working well). And the SB700 (with the diffuser on) was shooting at approx 1/128th.

And here is the result

Just look at the shape of that bottle… Now you will understand why I had to buy it.

I absolutely love the effect that you get from the Low Key, Hi Speed Sync photography and can not wait to play around with it some more.

This setup literally took me 5 minutes to setup and the very first photograph was a keeper. The only thing that I changed as I went through a few shots was to bring some rim lighting onto the side of the bottle so that the strange shape of the bottle was not completely lost in the black background.

I would encourage anyone to have an attempt at this effect. High Key has been done to death (although that is what I will be looking at next). This is a great alternative with very different purposes.