Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New Camera ( the latest in my not really a review set )

First I want to apologize, this is a gear post.  I try not to do much of that here, I don't think most of you are interested.  Pictures are more fun.  But, a few maybe interested, so here goes...  There are also some links to some other posts and pictures in here, so it might be worth scanning through for them. 

I haven't bought a new camera or lens in almost 2 years.  This is fine by me, buying stuff upsets my stomach.  A lot.  There is only one thing on my want list ( 35mm/1.4 ), but it is only a want, it can wait.  But, that changed this week.

For a long while I have found it important to have a set of backup gear with me for every photo outing.  If someone is paying me, it should clear why that is important.  If it is a personal project that I have invited someone to participate in it may be less clear.  But, I feel if someone is giving up their time for my photo project I should do everything within my control to actually bring home some useful and good images, even if I manage to drop a camera off a cliff, or in a river, or its shutter blows up, or.... .

For this reason I have been using a D200/D700 pair, before that it was my F100/D200 as a pair, and before that it was an N80/F100 pair.  This goes back about 15 years.

Those of you familiar with Nikon's cameras probably know a D200 isn't quite the same as a D700.  The biggest difference, for me at least, is sensors are different physical sizes. Also because of its (lack of?) light sensitivity it needs to be used more like film than a current digital camera.  That is okay if its role is purely backup.  I know how to use it for the images I want.  But about a year ago, I started trying to use both cameras in concert with one another.  This introduced complexity and problems, and I began thinking about using two cameras that were more similar in how they were used.

I had decided that I would probably add a second D700 to the mix.  Then the tsunami hit.  The camera became impossible to find, and if you could find one the cost was astronomical, especially for such an old design.  By the time things really calmed down the D4 had been announced, and I wanted to see what the "small" professional FX sensor-sized camera would like.  Nikon announced the D800 shortly after.

The D800 wasn't exactly what I wanted, I don't need so many pixels.  But, I'm guessing that in the near future (or maybe ever), Nikon won't build exactly what I want.  After some thought I decided it was better to buy a camera of new design over a second D700 [which have gotten very easy to find again].

So I bought one as soon as I found it in stock. [ Nikon always has supply issues with new, relatively popular gear-- always, always, always... buy Canon stuff if you don't like the game of finding gear.  I don't buy enough stuff to worry about it, so I tolerate this. ].

So far, I think it will satisfy my purpose. The two cameras behave similarly enough I can use them side by side.  I'm pretty excited about that.

My first shots were of the dog-- I have a theory that most expensive cameras and lenses are sold to people who use them to only take pictures of dogs and cats.

I like to carry on traditions.

I haven't done much shooting with it yet.  But here is my "not a review" anyway.  I don't have to use it much more to know it feels almost exactly the same as my D700, and most of this review is a comparison to the D700.  I also doubt my first impressions will change very much.  I haven't installed  LR4 yet to use it's files in my "normal" workflow, but that will be in the near future, I want to make sure I can go back to LR3 and backups in case the switch makes some of my current projects go egg-shaped.

D800 (not a review)

Image Quality
Its good.  There isn't really much more to say.  It controls noise well at high enough ISO, the resolution is beyond ridiculous, and the colors and such are what I have learned to expect.  I also think its quite silly to worry about any of this with the modern crop of dSLRs.  They are all good from the very bottom of the ranges to the very top.  If you are looking at buying a camera and worry about this, stop, it's silly at this point.

The Physical (the important part to me)

The build is good.  I'd feel comfortable making this rainy-day picture with it, just like before (my camera, lens, and I got soaked).  Overall it feels a little lighter than my D700.  This is fine by me.

The buttons, for the most part, are layed out in exactly the same order as the D700.  This is good, my fingers know where to go, and I don't have to think to use this camera.  If I'm thinking about the camera, I am generally not thinking about the picture.  That would be a problem.

The default directions of the meter indicator, and exposure compensation controls are "backwards" from old school Nikon cameras-- but you can customize them back to "normal" if you prefer that way ( I do, remember I don't want to think about the camera and I learned the old way ... though its backwards from every other camera manufacturer! ).

Some things are improved from my D700.  The selector pad on the camera's back is much more solid.  It has a satisfying clunk to it.  From the day I unboxed my D700 I thought its selector was loose and squishy.  The frame rate selector dial is much nicer than the D700.  I also like the card door, and battery door better.  Small improvements to be sure, but noticeable.

The only thing I don't like about the layout is the position of the exposure compensation button and the mode button.  They are in the same general place as on earlier models, but a third button (for video) is near them.  With the new arrangement it is an awkward reach to hit the mode button with my index finger.

The autofocus feels a little faster than any camera I have used before.  For me to really know I will need to use it a bit more.

Finally the shutter feels a LOT quieter than the D700.  It sounds a little more like the D200.  I think this is a good thing.  Although, it might be a consequence of the the frame rate on the D800 is slower than the D700.

I haven't used the video mode yet, but I am looking forward to it.

Overall I am excited about the new toy.

But, now, please excuse me my stomach is still in turmoil from buying this, and I should attend to it.

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