Things You can Learn From A Canon Guy With A Nikon!!!

OK, I’m a Canon guy.  Have been using Canon cameras since I ‘went digital’.  I’ve owned many film cameras over the years from 35mm to medium format to 4×5 view cameras.  Once I went to digital I wanted a medium format digital camera. But the cost was just too prohibitive and besides I was working in Electronics for my career & not as a fashion photog in NY, or something like that, to warrant a digital  medium format system.

So, here we are in 2012 and I just bought a Nikon D800E. My Canon friends are all up in arms and the Nikon folks are saying it’s about time! Why you ask?  Well the early reviews looked great & this camera (being 36Mp) might be the closest thing to medium format that I could get to without getting a 2nd mortgage.

As a new Nikon owner I’d like to share my observations as to how the D800E works for me and how it can help your photography too!  It’s really more about photography than what camera you use.

OK, on my D800E, the first thing I like is the menus.  There’s one called ‘Shooting Menu’. What a great idea.  If what you’re trying to set on your camera has anything to do with ‘shooting’ simply go to this menu and look for it.  Wish my Canon/s  were that easy (1DsIII & 1DIV)!  The Canon’s have their menus in color (Red, blue, yellow, etc)  for shooting, playback & utilities but they don’t feel as intuitive for me I guess.  Beyond that though both camera systems have layers of menus within menus.  If I’m looking for something I want to change I really have to hunt for it.  Both camera systems could use a software redesign if you ask me. I realize that these cameras have just about every setting option available to the user (which is great) but the paths to different settings can be difficult at times.

How does the body feel, and work with,  in the hand?  Well it’s not fair of me to compare the D800E to my 1 series Canon cameras.  But, the D800E feels really good.  My fingers can get right ‘in there’ and grab the camera really well.  The Canon 1 Series cameras are big but they are a pleasure to hold and work with. Having been shooting with Canon for years I’m used to the dial & button layout.  I can hold any Canon up to my eye and I know where the buttons are without having to look for them. And most of them are one touch (good & bad sometimes) and in perfect locations.  I can just about ‘run’ my Canons in the dark. I need to get that way with the new Nikon.   Not sure I’ll get to that with the Nikon. We’ll see.

Let’s get to the real reason why I got the D800E.  Scenics/landscape captures and  BIG images. And with that comes BIG files.  I already have a small hard drive ‘farm’ on my desk so I’m sure I’ll need more drives as these files really are huge.  But you know what that’s OK as long as you plan for it.  The native size of the RAW file out of this camera is 18″x24″.  I love it.  Oops, a few caveats are in order though.  The pixel density of this camera requires a few considerations. My shooting ‘style’ is already fine for using this camera and what I mean by that is I use my tripod about 98% of the time.  This camera just about requires that you do.  However, I also use mirror up now and for extremely sharp images this camera essentially requires that you do that too.  ISO 100 is fine even though this camera has low noise up to fairly high ISO which is a huge plus for stopping those windblown leaves in trees.  The big thing is lenses.  For best performance one needs to have the best. Nikon makes some very sharp & high resolution lenses which work quite well with this camera I’m sure (now have the 105 Micro Nikkor and an 85mm Nikkor and they’re great!).  Since I’m a fan of Carl Zeiss lenses (yup…manual focus) they are perfect for this camera.  I now own four so far: 18mm f3.5, 25mm f2, 35mm f2 and the 50mm f1.4.  The micro contrast and Zeiss ‘look’ is great with this camera. In total that gives me a range from 18mm up to 105m for scenic photography.

Here’s a photo of me holding up a 24″x30″ print of Motif #1 in Rockport, MA.  The detail in the building is fantastic and the two folks on the left are full of detail. This camera and prime lens combo is great for making nice large prints with incredible detail.  Print viewers are supposed to stand back & admire the print from so many feet away.  Does it really happen that way?  Actually, no.  Most folks get right up close to a print to check it out so why not give them the detail to see?  This camera is almost like having a medium format for me.  I thought the pixel ‘race’ was dying but I’m glad that Nikon made this camera and I’m enjoying it!

One thought before wrapping up: why did I get the E version?  What about Moiré? Is it a problem?  The E version of this camera does not have an anti-aliasing filter. For those that don’t know just about all digital cameras have one of these ‘filters’ over their sensor (with a few exceptions). The AA filter basically softens the image so that you won’t get (or to minimize moiré) in your photos.  Fabric and architectural type objects can reveal moiré.  I showed the photo of Motif on purpose as when I was taking that photo I could see moiré on the roof shingles on the camera’s LCD!  Once I loaded my files into Lightroom V4 I didn’t see it.  LR4 includes some moiré settings and it works!  Moiré is not visible in the print either.

Wrapping up.  So for me to effectively use this Nikon D800E and for YOU to get the best results possible with your camera one should utilize certain ‘shooting’ techniques such as:

– Tripod (a strong & sturdy one….no spindly little pencil sz legs for me)

– Mirror up mode with a 2-3 sec delay (with self timer or cable release)

– Lowest ISO you can & still get the image you want (no windblown leaves for me)

– Premium lenses (recommend Nikon primes or lenses like Carl Zeiss)

– Live view with critical focusing

– Use the ‘sweet’ spot aperture-wise of the lens (f5.6 -f7.1) if possible

– Keep an eye on the shutter speed though & try to avoid a slow shutter speed even on a tripod (you can change the ISO)

– Shoot in RAW and at 14Bit

– Fill the frame with your subject (don’t plan to crop later if possible)

These are my recommendations for getting the best possible images with not only the Nikon D800E but for your camera too!  Whether it’s a Canon or a Nikon BEST PRACTICES  will result in great images.

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