From D300 to D810: first impressions

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kurt_story|1, Aug 1, 2014.

  1. I've had my D810 for a week now, replacing my D300. What an incredible upgrade! Here are my first impressions:
    • The form-factor was immediately more comfortable; the improved handgrip in particular feels more secure and therefore steadier in shooting. It's no surprise that button/control operation feels more sure and durable too.
    • At 36 megapixels, the D810 effectively functions as a medium-format digital, but at a fraction of the price. I can crop down to ~30% of full-frame and get a photo quality 8" x 10" print.
    • I love shooting in ISO 64 whenever possible! High ISO noise levels are vastly superior over the D300, which would degrade images markedly by ISO 800.
    • AF in single-point mode is considerably quicker and more precise; my D300 seeks more and does not adjust focus with slight camera movement on macro shots.
    • The monitor is noticeably brighter even in daylight, which should be especially useful in Live View.
    • The D810 has fantastic color rendition, especially at lower ISO. I find that "flat picture control" is excellent for shooting subjects such as polished metal in bright sunlight, without blowing-out the highlights.
    • The quieter/softer shutter produces noticeably less shake. I already see the benefits in hand-held shooting, feeling less jar when I focus/shoot on close subjects. Moreover, the electronic front curtain shutter should reduce shake to nothing in macro photography.
    • The D810 not only produces 3X the image information, but much better image quality when down-sampled to the 12mp resolution of the D300. Obviously, the D810 is making far better use of max. resolution of top lenses such as the 105mm VR micro, the 24-70, and the 70-200.
    • Uploading my full-format NEF files off the card takes about 50% more time than my D300. That's no surprise, but I haven't seen much if any delay in opening/processing NEF files in Photoshop. Granted, my computer is a bit of a beast--an HP Z420 workstation w/ quad processors and 32gb ram, running a 1 TB scratch disk just for Photoshop files.
    • And I appreciate the fact that Adobe was quick to release the D810 DNG converter, Camera Raw upgrade 8.6, as well as the codec that makes D810 NEF files viewable within Windows Explorer.
    I have also seen a lot of discussion that moving up to a 36mp camera would require more tripod use and/or improvement of hand-held technique. Therefore, I wondered how slow I could go with hand-held shots before the image degrades noticeably? To find an answer, I took a series of hand-held macro shots at a highly detailed subject: George’s eye on the US $1 bill. Here I am using the Nikkor 105mm (VR on) at approximately 1:1.1 magnification. Three shots were taken at each shutter speed, picking the sharpest one; the full-size images below are at 100% crop. There is no sharpening applied or post-processing other than adjusting contrast to ease comparison. Admittedly not a technically perfect test, I gleaned some insight about my shooting style. Obviously, 1/80 shows the effects of hand-held movement at 100%; at ISO 1250 and above, the IQ starts to degrade from noise. While the best result may be @ 1/400, I think I could be satisfied with hand-held results as low as 1/250--especially with a little sharpening applied in Photoshop. Since that’s only about 2/3 stops faster than shooting on my D300, I suspect that no big adjustments on my part will be needed to capture quality images. Full-resolution can be seen here.
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Nice review. I am also upgrading from my D300s and D810 is going to be my first FF DSLR. You have not said anything about how the view finder differs from the D300. Are they marginally different or it is another 'wow' factor?
     
  3. While the best result may be @ 1/400, I think I could be satisfied with hand-held results as low as 1/250--especially with a little sharpening applied in Photoshop.​
    shooting handheld macros doesn't necessarily replicate real-world results. if you need to shoot at 1/400-1/250 to get a sharp image from a VR lens, the effects of the sensor may be more limiting than you think. you're still above 2/focal length, which isn't particularly impressive. i realize that shooting at 1:1 induces more lens vibration, but try shooting another series of shots with a live subject, i.e. a portrait, and see how low a shutter speed you can get for normal and low-light shooting. if you can get sharp results at 1/15 or 1/30 with that same lens, then that would be impressive. also would have liked to see results at ISO 1600 and 3200.
     
  4. Very nice review. Thanks for posting it. Thanks for commenting on the usefulness of the flat profile.
    I would suggest only that with careful execution one could make an 8x10 print from much less than 30 percent of the frame, perhaps as little as ten percent if camera shake is eliminated and the focus is accurate.
     
  5. You should turn off VR when shooting at faster than 1/500s as the VR can reduce sharpness slightly at those speeds. I generally don't use VR often, as I find fast shutter speeds (1/(3*focal length) is a good ball park for me) a more reliable way to turn out sharp images. The 36MP sensor of course doesn't limit sharpness but enhances it, at any shutter speed, compared to lower resolution cameras.
     
  6. Nice review. I'm debating a similar upgrade (from a d300s) but am having a very hard time deciding, I think mostly because of the price tag and knowing I jut got my D300s about 5 years ago. It has a lot of life left in it. I look at how much the D800 has suddenly dropped in market value and it kind of scares me, not that I would ever plan to sell a camera less than 2 years after I bought it just to have the latest model, as some are doing now with their D800's. Shooting mostly landscapes I can't decide whether to stick with DX (better DOF) & save some money, or switch to FX and possibly get slightly better image quality, but at a hefty price. I'm also weighing whether it would be worth waiting a year to see how the D610 gets upgraded. Having so many options these days is both a good and bad thing.
     
  7. I have a D300 and you have to admit, its better looking than any Nikon DSLR before or after it. They just got the proportions perfect. A classic, and none of that silly video stuff to get in the way.
     
  8. Kurt,
    Welcome to the D8__ world. I bought 2 D800's to replace my 2 D300's the day the D800's were available. First off I listened to all the talk about " tripod required " for sharpness noise that initially erupted because of the 36MP file size. What a load of crap. I own some good Nikon glass..16-35 f4 - 24-70 f2.8 - 70-210 f2.8 - the astounding new 80-400 VRII and the amazing 400 2.8 VR. Although not a pro by a hundred miles I can truthfully say that the D800 has changed everything about how I feel about digital photography. It is simply astounding with the D800. I almost never miss a shot I want. I break EVERY rule and the camera consistently captures great shots. Shots at 5,000 ISO...no problem...shots handheld at 1/40th...no problem...
    My only advice is shoot everything you want and shoot at any setting it takes to get the shot.
    I'm not good a sharing or posting to photo sites but here are a few almost all shot with the D800.
    http://500px.com/johnr78735
    Best regards and get shooting.
    John in Austin
     
  9. Fantastic pictures John. Now those make me want to move up to the D810 today (or a good used D800/e)!
     
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Obviously, 1/80 shows the effects of hand-held movement at 100%; at ISO 1250 and above, the IQ starts to degrade from noise.​
    I have been using a D800/D800E for well over two years ago. My experience is similar to Kurt's using the D810, which should be a bit better at high ISO. It is quite clear that the 1/80 sec one among Kurt's sample has the least amount of sharpness.
    Of course, one can use a 36MP DSLR any way you want, like hand holding at 1/15 sec, ISO 6400, etc. I have in fact used the D800E at ISO 6400 in some occasions simply because it was very dark in some restaurants, and that was the only camera I had with me. Noise is of course serious at ISO 6400 such that there is not much sharpness and details left; that is, 36MP becomes totally meaningless although the image files remain large (in terms of number of bytes). There is nothing really wrong with using a D800/D810 in that manner; it definitely beats not having any image at all.
    However, if you would like to get the most out of 36MP, good technique and good optics are necessary. Otherwise, I would rather have a 12, 16, or 24MP DSLR so that at least my image files are smaller.
    Another issue to keep in mind is that a 36MP FX body has the same pixel density of a 15MP DX body. Therefore, when you upgrade from a 12MP D300 to a 36MP D800 or D810, while there are 3 times as many pixels, there is only a very moderate increase in pixel density.
     
  11. When handholding my D800E, I try to shoot at 1/250th or faster even with wide-angle lenses. At slower shutter speeds, I'm sacrificing the sensor's resolution to camera shake.
    If all I need is a 4x6-inch grab shot, a little bit of camera shake is no big deal.
    But if I anticipate printing the image at even a modest size, I'll want to preserve every bit of detail that the camera and lens can provide. That requires a fast shutter speed (when handholding) and highly accurate focus. 1/250s is the minimum where I can count on sharpness at 100 percent, and 1/320s works even better for me.
     
  12. I've been blown away how much better my D800 is compared to the D300s. After I got used to the body, I've not used my D300s since. It's a backup.
    Ilkka - I've never heard of the 1/500 and up being a problem for VR. Is this a known thing that I just didn't know?
     
  13. I would not call it a "problem"; it's just that in practice you may get more consistent sharpness with VR off at fast shutter speeds because the exposure time is short enough to reduce blur beyond the precision of VR, and you avoid the unpredictability of VR. Also when the shutter opening is in fact a moving slit between two curtains, the sharpness may be unevenly distributed depending on what VR does while the slit is moving. In general VR can be helpful when hand-holding at relatively slow speeds such as 1/250s to 1/60s but it is not a substitute for a tripod or a fast shutter speed. Actual performance of course depends on the particular lens as well. The advantage of stabilization during autofocus may outweigh the slight loss of sharpness due to VR use at fast shutter speeds, depending on the situation and goals.
     
  14. Since that’s only about 2/3 stops faster than shooting on my D300, I suspect that no big adjustmentson my part will be needed to capture quality images.​

    this comment from the OP seems a bit confusing. a d300 should be able to shoot sharp handheld shots at 1/60 with a 105 VR with VR on. 1/250 is more than 2/3rds of a stop difference, its 3 full stops difference (1/60, 1/125, 1/250). meaning that an ISO 800 shot on a d300 will need to be at ISO 3200 on a d810. 3 stops represents a lot of light loss, and since by the OP's reckoning, IQ starts to degrade at ISO 1250, we could have a problem, Houston. it's nice to see that Nikon improved the shutter slap on the 810 from the 800, but i think it's a bit premature to surmise that no adjustment will be needed to account for the larger sensor. just the fact that the sensor is that much bigger means focus errors, camera shake, etc., is magnified. while every shooter has a different shooting style, it's good to understand at what point the law of diminishing returns will come into play. this applies equally to shutter speed/ISO on a 36mp camera as it does to the poster on the other thread who wants to shoot a 36mp camera at f/16-32, which is well past the diffraction limit. ultimately, YMMV, but a lot has been written/documented about the practicality of large sensors, so i wouldn't just toss all that off as hogwash.
     
  15. I agree with the comments about not using vr at high shutter speeds. I have a d800e and a d300s. I still use the d300s for
    most of my bird photography in that it's higher frames per second is a needed feature lacking on the d800 and d 810.
    Your shooting technique has to be almost perfect with the d800 to have keeper rates that match those of the d300s. I love
    using the two crop settings on the d800e when the edges of the image are not needed.

    Joe Smith
     
  16. What lenses did you use with the d300 and what fx lenses did you replace them with? When you went out to shoot with
    your d300 what lenses did you carry? How does that compare with what you carry with the 810? What I am driving at is
    the weight of your total kit.

    So if I am reading this correctly the d810 is about $500 - 1000 more than the d300 plus you have to (should) replace your
    dx lenses. This is a sizeable hunk of change but no doubt you reap many many benefits that you listed. I'm tempted
    being as the phantom d400 does not seem to be a Nikon priority. The less expensive upgrade path for 300 shooters is
    the 7xxx line but there are things I do not want to give up such as the high frame rate.

    I imagine jumping from the d300 to the 810 must be a little like jumping from the d70 to the d300 which was like a night
    and day difference that I clearly remember.
     
  17. I have in fact used the D800E at ISO 6400 in some occasions simply because it was very dark in some restaurants, and that was the only camera I had with me. Noise is of course serious at ISO 6400 such that there is not much sharpness and details left; that is, 36MP becomes totally meaningless although the image files remain large (in terms of number of bytes). There is nothing really wrong with using a D800/D810 in that manner; it definitely beats not having any image at all.​
    Downsampled to say 9mpix, and printed to 10 x 8, is there a better camera that would show cleaner results in this situation?
    I'd have thought the big downsample would have 'recovered' about 1 to 1.1/2 stops worth of ISO? Maybe I'm being overly hopeful!
     
  18. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If the objective is to get a 9MP image and cost is not a concern, I would use a D4S over a D800/D810 any day.
    Down-sampling doesn't really gain or recover you anything. When there is less resolution, all the flaws become less obvious. For example, the focus can be somewhat off but the image still looks decent in a 700-pixel-wide attachment to this forum.
    The problem with down sampling is that you have all the disadvantages of 36MP, namely huge image files, slow frame rate (4 fps for the D800/D800E, 5 fps for the D810) ... but you can't take advantage of the resolution. In that case you are much better off starting with fewer pixels. However, at least I don't carry a D4S, D800, and D7100 with me all the time. Even though it is not necessarily the best tool for the situation, sometimes you have to use the camera you have with you, which occasionally means the one on my smart phone.
     

Share This Page