MACRO & CLOSE UPS
Our itinerary, which I had decided for the benefit of the workshop rather than my review, was focused on wide angle. However, on most days we only dived one site, leaving the boat moored up while we operated a pool-is-open policy between meal times. Most of us racked up close to five hours in the water, so there was plenty of time for searching out macro subjects even if the sites weren’t exactly the best for it.
I shot the Nikon 60mm (AFD), Nikon 105mm (AFD) and Sigma 150mm (the first two kindly lent to me by Jarret Brown and Andy Barker, respectively). Most of the subjects were reef fish and the 105mm and the 150mm, in particular were the most useful. I discuss the relative merits of these three lenses for an FX camera in detail in the D3 review.
The D700’s auto-focus is fast and accurate, although the frame coverage of the sensors is lacking compared with Nikon’s DX cameras, such as the D300 and D2X (again see the D3 review for a graphic of this). But I should comment that the AF coverage of the D700 compares favourably to Canon’s full-frame cameras. The D700 (and D300) auto-focus was also clearly more capable than that of the Canon 5D’s that we had on board. 5D shooter, Fergus Kennedy, fresh from collecting his award in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008, commented that he was not able to nail fast moving reef fish head on with the ease of the Nikon D300 shooters. The D700 shares its AF CPU with the D3, making it slightly faster than the D300, particularly in the processing heavy Auto-Area mode. For wide angle, of course, all cameras showed exemplary focusing in the conditions.
In my D3 review I commented that the inherently shallower depth of field of the FX sensor made accurate focus more critical. Pity I did not heed my own words as I found I had to bin quite a few shots of fast moving macro subjects, such as anemonefish, because the depth of field was not there to save the day as it does with DX cameras. The less forgiving nature of FX depth of field was particularly noticeable on this trip because a favourite subject is reef fish, shot in balanced light against the rich blue water of the Red Sea. To get this look it means shooting at around F8-F13 (at 1/60th-1/125th), which does not provide limitless depth of field.
That said, I did continue to shoot some open aperture shots, making use of the shallower depth of field of the FX system, to isolate subjects against pleasing bokeh backgrounds. All in all the D700 was a fine camera for macro.