Wetpixel D800 review
Posted 14 July 2012 - 10:14 PM
The image quality of that crop is god awful, but I know that wasn't a high priority with these particular shots. I'd blame your lens combo more than the camera for such poor detail - the camera is better than that at ISO 1600.
Posted 15 July 2012 - 01:01 AM
Tim's crab image won the British Underwater Photography Championship at Plymouth, UK yesterday.
He had gone to bed (or was posting on this forum) when the results were announced
A full report on the event will follow later today.
Posted 15 July 2012 - 03:32 AM
However. I discovered that it doesn't matter which camera you have. What matters is the photo opportunities presented. A young man with a Canon 5D got two better pictures than me because he got the close encounters I would have loved to have been given. Meanwhile...with my 15mm Sigma:
I used the Sea & Sea (Athena) optical dome port. It vignettes slightly but I usually find it can be cloned in or cropped out.
Edited by John Bantin, 15 July 2012 - 10:18 PM.
Posted 20 July 2012 - 07:58 AM
I think that those of us using the D800 are still adjusting to just how good it (potentially) is
I have used Alex's 16-35mm and it is very clean I does need a big (9"+) dome and a long extension though.
Hey Adam - this string is exceptional and I love your reviews. One thing I haven't been able to find much info on is the comparison between the D700 and the D800 for UW photography. Do you have any thoughts or experience with this? Clearly you get the video bonus with the D800 but I'm wondering what impact the 3x MPs have underwater...is that a good thing, or do you get fewer quality images because of motion blur? Most photogs I know using the D800 on land use tripods almost all of the time to minimize the blur.
Posted 20 July 2012 - 07:10 PM
Edited by loftus, 20 July 2012 - 07:26 PM.
Posted 20 July 2012 - 11:20 PM
The D800 will always take great pictures. It is a lovely camera to use - a very good camera for getting the shot - with great ergonomics and excellent AF.
But you need to get everything right to make the most of the full 36MP. And I found, underwater, in the clear Red Sea, shooting with flash, it was actually easy to get everything right. Good technique and be mindful of the rules of shooting Nikon FX.
Importantly, there is no real need to worry if you don't, you still get a great picture, but maybe you end up with a useable resolution of <20MP. We'll that's hardly the end of the world (it is probably still more than your old camera!). It is still a completely useable file for just about any need.
I think Tim's crop of the crab is a perfect example of this phenomenon, which he posted above and with a crop. Shot without strobes it is pretty lousy at a pixel level.
But seen as a whole image it is great. The D800 has so many pixels, that even if circumstances that prohibit you getting a technically perfect shot at 36MP, it should still look great when downsized.
So all you really loose is some of the crop-ability of those very big files.
p.s. I note that it has been over a month now since I came back from the Red Sea - where Adam kindly lent me his D800 and Nauticam housing. I must share some results and further thoughts.
Posted 21 July 2012 - 12:47 AM
(I want to thank Pascal of Hugyfot for getting a housing for the D800 to me in time for the trip.)
Edited by John Bantin, 21 July 2012 - 12:51 AM.
Posted 21 July 2012 - 02:40 AM
It was a workshop trip, so my own photography was pretty low on the agenda, so I wasn't able to do more than shoot it out there. Then, I went directly from the Red Sea to Scotland (via Adam's to return the camera) on another shoot and so I've not really had a moment to look through the D800 shots (in fact there are so dives I've not looked at all) and certainly no time to write a formal review. Feeling guilty, I've quickly batch processed some shots, that I hope make some important points about this amazing camera (don't judge the camera's ultimate quality from the images I have chosen, they are here mainly to make specific points).
Yes, the D800 is AMAZING. It forces you to recalibrate possibilities and probably the best way to shoot. If you can get the best out of the D800, I am in no doubt that it moves the game on considerably. That said, it comes with the problems/challenges/compromises of shooting FX underwater.
I only had a week shooting it underwater, but we had such great diving, that I was able to shoot so many subjects - I feel I've given it a good workout. So I'll share some thoughts below, which I am sure will form the core of my contribution to the Wetpixel review, when I have time to write it up (I guess this will be a very rough, first draft)! But with the Wetpixel Whaleshark trip looming at the end of the week, I am not sure when that will be.
King Of The Dive Deck?
Central to the D800 experience is that amazing 36MP sensor, which as is well documented isn't just thrashing other SLRs in tests, but also some medium format systems. There is no better question to be asked as a D800 owner than "How many megapixels has that got then, mister?" As John Bantin has already jokingly remarked he only got one for dive deck credibility!
And my experiences are that it is well deserved credibility. The camera delivers stunning resolution, excellent dynamic range and resolution on a whole new level. It has 100% viewfinder, 1/320th flash synch and a pop-up flash, ideal for running TTL strobes via fibres. It is also small(er than D-series Nikons and 1D series Canons) and competitively priced.
It also delivers where it matters from macro:
To wide angle:
And here is a fun video of me shooting the camera in the Red Sea:
More to follow...
Posted 21 July 2012 - 03:04 AM
As many have discussed in this thread, 36MP brings many advantages and a few disadvantages. I think that they also bring more stress than they need to. Read the posts of Jeff (Loftus), Me and John before these ones - and you will see that all our experiences is that while it requires precise technique to realise the full potential of the 36MP, if you don't, the files doesn't go in the bin, it is still useable when down sampled a bit to a mere 18MP, say!
That said, I would like to suggest that the D800 is easier to shoot underwater (in terms of realising that full 36MP resolution) than it is on land. But underwater I mean in clear water and with subject matter that can be easily and fully illuminated by strobes. And the reason is those strobes. Underwater we mainly shoot with strobes and this near instant artificial light - gives us sharp, still detail for the D800 to record.
Perhaps what surprised me most about the D800 in the Red Sea is that almost every shot I took had incredibly sharp detail when zoomed in to 100%.
I don't believe there are many outputs that really require 36MP, so the main advantage of getting great detail at 36MP is the ability to crop. Which means even poorly composed or posed shots can be highly useful.
This was originally a poorly framed image of a grouper. So I cropped it. It is now only 25MP!
That said 36MP don't come cheap for hard drive space. I shot 3346 photos in a week in the Red Sea. OK we had a particularly amazing week in terms of plentiful subject matter and I was taking extra pictures for test shots (see below). And the files are big.
Earlier in the thread I posted that
my largest file is 48.7MB. Most of the wide angles are 44MB - as I am shooting schools of fish with sunbursts etc - so lots of detail throughout the picture. The smallest file is 39MB. Macro with black background.
Assuming an average file size of 44MB, I shot close to 150 GB in a week (I can't give the exact figure because I was deleting as I shot)!
The D800 creates a lot of data and a needs a fairly neatly laptop to throw the files around in the field. The payback is the detail. This yawning snapper is cropped out of a wide angle shot.
He's so small in the original you have to look twice to spot him:
Another consequence of so much resolution is that the D800 has a slow-ish frame rate. A lot of mileage has been made of this. Probably because it is one of the few areas that the D4 and 5DMk3 can better the D800 on paper. I really did not find the frame rate a limitation for mainstream photography. This is a sequence of the Goose taking to the air (which I took with his D800). How many more frames per second do you really need?
More to follow...
Posted 21 July 2012 - 03:23 AM
These are outstanding. Shows two things, a great photographer can probably take great photographs with any camera, and a great photographer can really show how awesome this camera really is.
What lens / dome setup did you shoot the over under with; can you tell us a bit about exposure etc?
Edited by loftus, 21 July 2012 - 03:23 AM.
Posted 21 July 2012 - 03:35 AM
This is a fire coral detail, no strobe, backlit by the sun:
And here is a 100% crop, which shows good pixel level detail:
To achieve its resolution the D800 has smaller pixels than other full frame cameras, yet tests on land show excellent noise performance. However one of the first things everyone said about the D800 files when they saw them on board is - "they are a bit noisy".
This is because we're used to judging noise in files by looking at them at 100% and quantifying the amount of speckles! But the 36MP has so much more resolution than other cameras that it does not make sense to look for noise at the pixel level - because most printing won't be using this pixel detail and the noise will disappear when the image is downsized (either by you or by the printer when it tries to put it on the paper).
I felt that the D800 showed a similar level of pixel noise underwater to the D7000 and therefore looks much worse than a D3 or D700. But this is not the fair test - because when down sampled to the resolution of the D3 or D700 it is actually better. I hope that makes sense.
One consequence of this as a D800 shooter is that by downsizing to hide noise you loose the crop-ability of the 36MP. But the plus is that you have the choice in post, which to sacrifice. And of course, you can do a bit of both. But you can't have low noise at high ISO and a full 36MP of goodness for crop-ability.
Detail and Noise
Here is an available light/Magic filter shot of the Giannis D wreck (Note that this is one of the few pictures here that I have done a bit of post on - although I have not applied noise reduction):
Here are some crops - I am very impressed with the detail for an available light shot - where there is no strobe to help ensure the pixel level sharpness:
But there is also plenty of noise in shadow areas:
These are at ISO 320.
More to follow...
Posted 21 July 2012 - 03:46 AM
Here is what I mean: First a D800 100% crop in Aperture - look at the little window to the right that shows the proportion of the crop to the whole image, then the D700, see how much bigger the 100% crop is.
Edited by loftus, 21 July 2012 - 03:59 AM.
Posted 21 July 2012 - 03:57 AM
A feature of the new Nikon files (both D800 and D4) than has attracted a lot of excitement is the amount of detail that can be lifted from shadows in post production. This is indeed very impressive, however I think enthusiasm needs to be constrained slightly for underwater pictures.
I know Adam and Keri have both posted very impressive examples of shadow lifting in underwater images - but both of their examples are available light shots. I am sure most people get this point - but someone asked me about this by email - so I think it is worth clarifying. I know Adam agrees on this.
Yes, you can open up shadows extensively on the D800. But in an underwater photo, if you didn't light the shadows with your strobe (hence why it is a shadow) then when you open it up you will get detail, but not much colour. In other words, this feature is great for available light shots, but doesn't mean you should go around under exposing everything with the D800!
The second problem I have found with the technique is that with an underwater picture if you colour correct and open up shadows on the same file it gets very noisy, very quickly.
This is an unprocessed shot of a dark, high dynamic range scene, inside the same wreck as above:
This is the same scene, different file, with the shadows opened up extensively and some colour correction:
Viewed at 100% it is pretty ugly (ISO 320):
For this reason I still think there is a need for shooting HDR for these scenes. This is a post processed HDR (just a quick one with JPGs), but produces a much cleaner result (I don't have a 100% crop of this):
OK, final bit on pixel peeping. Resolution and Diffraction.
I have never felt that diffraction has been significant in underwater pictures before, but I do with the D800. AFAI understand, the D7000 and 7D should show more as they have more densely packed pixels, but I see it in the D800 files, but not in the other cameras. I am not sure why.
Here is an example shooting a macro coral detail. This type of shot needs the lens stopped down so that everything is sharp. Even at this low resolution, f/13 is too open and you can see the top of the frame is out of focus - f/25 looks great - plenty of depth of field:
However, stopping the lens down does loose us detail due to diffraction (note this is a real world test, not controlled conditions) - at 100% I definitely see a fall off of detail above f/16-f/20, f/29 and f/45 definitely soft:
These were shot with 105mm. No dioptres.
So for macro you do have to be very careful on stopping down if you want to achieve ultimate resolution. Going above f/22 is clearly softening the detail at 36MP.
Posted 21 July 2012 - 04:01 AM
When shooting the backlit fire coral (backlit by the sun) I decided I wanted a black background. But there wasn't one I could frame against. So I took off my fin and held that behind the coral! However my arms weren't long enough to back away and get the composition I used before - so in the end it didn't work. It must have looked funny, though.
Posted 21 July 2012 - 04:09 AM
It will be interesting to compare diffraction quality drop off looking at equivalent magnification as I just mentioned above. 100% with 12 or 16MP is not enlarged as much as 100% with 36MP
Edited by loftus, 21 July 2012 - 04:10 AM.
Posted 21 July 2012 - 04:22 AM
Or the white ball of death, as they are know to some photographers. The D800 is the best digital camera I have used for shooting sunbursts. But in all honesty I found it only a small improvement over the D7000. In fact on some of the dives, photographers on the workshop shooting with D7000s, as it happens, were definitely getting equal or better sunbursts than I was with the D800.
I think in controlled conditions the D800 would always win. But the sea isn't controlled conditions and my point is that I don't think the D800 is revolution in this regard. I think conditions (and more importantly photographers making the most of them) still play the dominant role in capturing a great digital sunburst and this is a much bigger differentiator than the difference between the modern Nikons.
Here is a lovely sun taken with the D800:
And with a green turtle:
And here are some when you (me) don't get it right. Not particularly ugly, just detracting from the picture, rather than enhancing (and if it not enhancing, then why is it in the frame?):
And other poorly put together shot results in an ugly sun - showing you (I) still need discipline to get a good sunburst with the D800:
More to follow - I want to talk about the NA-D800 and domes and wide angle with D800/FX
Posted 21 July 2012 - 06:48 AM
Posted 21 July 2012 - 07:08 AM
I've not seen any other brand of housings yet for the D800 in the flesh. But I see from Wetpixel and other places that Ikelite, Nexus, Seacam, Aquatica, Isotta, Sea & Sea and Hugyfot housings are out there now, and I hear the Subal is due this coming week or the one after. But a month ago the Nauticam was the only option open to me.
And I have to say I was very, very impressed. Ergonomically this is one the best housings I have ever used for any camera - we'll have to wait to try more of its direct competitors to see how it stacks up against the latest offerings from the manufacturer's listed above.
Nauticam have put so much effort into the design and it really shows underwater. The primary controls of shutter, shutter speed and aperture (these front and rear command dials are also used for scrolling through). The aperture (above) and shutter speed controls (below) fall right under your fingers/thumb and the design of the dials mean that they can be easily adjusted with a single finger and without taking your eye from the viewfinder. Few housings get them as right as this.
The ease of access to these controls makes all the difference when shooting, allowing fast changes to be made to the settings so that no opportunities are missed. I inadvertently took a perfect example to show this, which I only discovered when talking about the settings I was using during the workshop.
Below are three consecutive photos of schooling snappers that I took as I drifted under the school in the current. As an almost automatic/instinctive reaction I shut down my aperture as I drifted closer and closer to the school to compensate for the shorter strobe to subject distance and also the more upward camera angle that I was now using, thus getting in more of the bright surface. I certainly didn't think about this before hand, it was just a trained response, I suppose. Just 5 seconds elapsed between the first shot and the third.
But the important point is that the design of the Nauticam housing allowed me to do this without having to stop or take my eye from the viewfinder. To achieve this, a housing needs shutter speed and aperture dials that can be rotated easily with a single finger (not ones that need a thumb and finger - which mean taking your hand off the shutter release). For me this is the mark of a very well designed housing.
The feature that impressed me most on the NA-D800, though, is the new multi-selector - used for positioning the focus point in the frame and for navigating menus etc. This feature is incredibly intuitive and easy to use, indeed it is just a scaled up version of the one on the back of the camera and can be easily reached from the handle.
This is rte ally great for macro and the ease of use of this feature on the NA-D800 meant I found myself encouraged to move the focus point around the frame, much more than I would always be bothered to before. Giving me exactly the composition I wanted, with the focus precisely where it needed to be. Here I moved the focus point to be exactly on the left-side (as we look) rhinophore.
As with the NA-D4 I reviewed, I also really like the ears - the pair of paddles on the top corners of the back of the housing, where important controls are placed and are easily reached with your thumbs.
Perhaps the one change I would make is not to have the ISO here on the D800, as I certainly didn't feel as inclined to want to change ISO as freely on the D800 as I do on the D4. Although that may just be me needing to get used to the fact that although the D800 clearly shows noise as ISO is increased, it is not significant when you think of print sizes rather than viewing the file at 100%. Anyway I would prefer to see the INFO on one of these levers. The INFO button is hard to locate on the back of the DN-D800 without looking, and it is easy to press the live view button instead. The INFO button is important on Nauticams because they typically do not have a screen for the top LCD panel, and you cannot over turn the on/off switch to bring up INFO that way.
However, when discussing this with Adam, he pointed out that as a video shooting you are much more likely to change ISO all the time (often as your main exposure control, to avoid changing depth of field or loosing that all important rolling shutter look) and therefore Nauticam choosing to prioritise the ISO control does make a lot of sense.
I am wracking my brains for some negatives on this really well designed housing. Drew's post earlier in this thread pointed out some minor rusting issues, although Adam's housing, although scuffed, showed no signs of this. And I guess, much as a praise the ergonomic quality of the Nauticam, they do have a complex engineering style (compare the insides with the Seacam D800, Steve Frink has posted pictures of), and this does make me a little nervous for reliability. That said Nauticam dealers have a very strong reputation for immediately fixing any problems that come up. And not that I had any problems at all on my trip.
Complex doesn't equal less reliable and running workshops I have seen every single housing brand there is go wrong or break in one way or another.
The housing performed faultless for me. For a week! Of course most users plan a rather longer ownership. And it was in fact that D800 that was a little buggy. I did have a recurring problem with the camera. From time to time, after taking a picture, it would take 20-30 seconds for the D800 to show the picture on the LCD screen. It would occur when taking the first picture after the camera had been in active for a while. It could be a bit annoying when you wanted to check exposures/lighting on the first shot in a sequence. But was not of serious consequence. One other D800 owner on board said his camera did this too. Maybe the latest firmware fixes this problem.
OK, I'll do the dome bit now...