Iceland in January - upgrade to FX for night time shots?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ryan_white|3, Dec 28, 2014.

  1. Hi all,
    Even at home I love night time photography and find my Nikon D7100 to be excellent for hand held shooting at high ISOs (though I don't make very large prints). Heading to Iceland and I plan on shooting a ton at night and since it's hard to go back I'm willing to pay to upgrade if it will give me superior image quality.
    I'm trying to decide if it's worth going FX with a D750 or D810 and a 24mm 1.4 lens. I know that the DX vs FX debate often comes down to "use what you have and find better ways to make more interesting shots" and I tend to agree with that theory regarding gear.
    However, for night time shooting it seems like an upgrade to FX might pay off. From my understanding, FX does better at higher ISO's and with noise in low light (I"m talking about shooting the milky way as well, hopefully, Aurora Borealis). I can only assume that the generation difference between the D7100 and D810/D750 might also give me better low light performance.
    Then there are lenses. I'm not heavily invested in DX lenses - in fact, my 35mm 1.4 has been glued to the front of the camera for quite some time and, coming from film originally, all my other lenses are FX or 35mm. I don't own any wide DX lenses and Nikon doesn't seem to make any fast, wide DX lenses.
    So, it seems a good time to switch before I do invest in more lenses and, of course, if I go FX I can get the 24mm 1.4 lens and use my 70-200mm as well as my fish eye which seems like a pretty complete kit.
    As far as printing, I would love to print out a ton of 11x14s and have a few of the best shots printed out even larger.
    Is my logic sound? It seems like when you add it all up I'll get a pretty big improvement in image quality for night time shooting (and a little bump in general) with the D750 and the 24mm 1.4 vs a D7100 and any of the wide DX lenses available.
    Would love any input, thank you.
  2. You could, but might you be better off putting your budget into a wide angle lens and a good tripod with a tracking rig? There are a lot of web sites that describe the use of those in astrophotography.
  3. Either the 24/1.4 or 20/1.8 AF-S Nikkor would be great choices for wide angle shots at night with FX cameras. The D810 has higher resolution than the D750 but at high ISO the D750 may have slightly lower noise (whereas the D810 should have lower noise ISO 64 which is its base ISO).
    For aurora, if you want good detail, a relatively short shutter speed is needed as they change quite quickly and their fine structure is lost if you use an exposure time of several seconds (such exposures used to be necessary, but not now, with high ISO and a fast lens). E.g. 1/4s or 1/8s gives you more fine structure than 4s. If the subject is just stars then for sure you can get better images by using a tracking system but at least for me I want to include elements of the landscape in my wide angle night shots of the sky and using a tracking system the landscape part of the image would then be blurred (but you'd be able to see more stars and nebulae). I guess it is a matter of choices; there is no one right way to do it. But fast lenses and low noise at high ISO are useful either way.
  4. If you really think you have to use FX then why not just rent one for the duration of your trip?
  5. Funny you should bring this up. Two months ago I added a D800E to my D7100. I am very much a long time night photographer. I've been to Island twice now and am planning a third trip next winter. (It's much warmer there in winter than South Dakota.) First off, I totally passed on the D810. Too expensive, and I HATE tying big money up in a digital camera that will lose half its value in about two years. Money down the toilet if you aren't getting income from it. The decider for me was that image quality between a used D800E and new D810 was exactly the same. A $1,500 used D800E was a no-brainer at that point.
    Do I see any difference between D7100 and D800E for night shots? No, not really. I still shoot at ISO 800 most of the time. I'm not afraid to take the D7100 to ISO 2000 and even 3200 when needed. The D800E gives me maybe a stop more. Worth me buying an FX system? No, it wasn't, not for that. If you are looking at a D8xx camera just for noticeably better night images, you are in for disappointment I'm afraid. The reason I bought the D800E was so I could use the Nikon 24mm PC-E shift lens. I actually bought the lens first, then went looking for a camera. I ended up buying over $4,000 of lenses (all used) for the D800E. This is the other big reason I would NOT suggest buying a new D810, unless you have another $4K to spend on good lenses for it. Anyway, in my own experience as a night photographer, there was NOT a big improvement using a D800E vs. D7100. If you are sticking to 16x20 or smaller prints and not wanting to use the PC-E lenses, you would likely be better off buying a couple of great lenses such as Nikon 20mm f1.8G and 24mm f1.4G rather than a camera. Get a good line up lenses (and tripod)--that will give you a good system to plug cameras into. Cameras are disposable now. Get a solid line up of lenses, and after that start looking for a good deal on a used camera. I almost always advise lenses first as they are the most important thing. If you can do lenses and camera all at once like I did, that works too. In three weeks I quickly spent nearly $6,000 doing that.
    Kent in SD
  6. I don't own any wide DX lenses and Nikon doesn't seem to make any fast, wide DX lenses.​
    but Sigma does. i would think about an 18-35/1.8 ($800) vs. D750 +24/1.4 ($4000+) or D810+24/1.4 ($5000). i can't imagine that your style of shooting, unless extreme, will require $4-5k worth of new gear just to take night shots. so this may be NAS talking. also dont know that you'd see a huge improvement in image quality unless you are shooting above ISO 3200; you do get a stop less of DoF, but that may actually not be advantageous. plus wide fast primes aren't known for being 'bokeh lenses,' although you might get slightly better defocused results with the 70-200. bottom line is FX is much costlier and its advantages can (mostly) be mitigated by other methods.

    from a procedural POV, how much are you planning on doing handheld night shots? how much do you think your success rate will be? you may get some interesting street shots, but for any serious night photography you may be better off using a tripod. below 1/30 things can get shaky handheld, but a tripod will give you far more stops of light than the ISO differential between a d7100 and d750 (about 1 1/2-2 stops, i'd reckon).
  7. O-O-O-H! I forgot about that Sigma 18-35mm f1.8! SUPERB! I'm selling my Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 to buy one, for my D7100.
    Kent in SD
  8. you also have to ask, what would add more capability? a 24/1.4 or a sigma 18-35 + tokina 11-16 + tripod? the cost is about the same, depending on how much you spend on a tripod.
  9. I have the d7100 and the d810. I also have a Nikkor 50mm1.4 G that works beautifully with both of them. There is a real difference, in printing, between 24 and 36mpx when you get much above 11X14 especially at high ISO. I have traveled in Iceland and shot in some low light conditions but in January you will have a challenge. In either case I would bring a tripod. I agree that glass lasts forever and cameras do not at least as technology goes but I truly do love the resolution you get with the d810.
    In any event you will have a great time, it is a beautiful country full of very helpful people.
  10. I saw wher OP said he sometimes handheld at night, but automatically assumed he used a tripod most of the time. If he doesn't have a decent tripod and first rate head, ABSOLUTELY that's your first purchase. That's so basic I didn't even consider it. I agree that at about 11x14 the D800 series does begin to pull away on a print, but 24mp will still make a good print. I bought the D800E to make bigger than 16x20 with, mainly because many of my customers won't pay for a good drum scan of 4x5 negs. A ful res scan of a 4x5 neg will easily fill a CD. The 36mp D800E is the next best (affordable) thing, but honestly the money is wasted if not using a tripod to begin with.
    Kent in SD
  11. the OP is printing at 11x14. that's well within the capabilities of a 24mp APS-C body. handholding on a D810? jeepers. not at low shutter speeds, thanks. there's nothing really out there for FX like the 18-35/11-16 combo for UWA-standard shots. the 14-24 can't take filters, which are helpful in snow. the 24-70 can't shoot at 1.8. i'm sure the 24mm is a lovely lens, but if i'm traveling, there are definitely times im gonna want to go much wider. on a cost-benefit ratio, it's kind of pricey. you really have to love that focal length a lot to want to use it exclusively as your wide-angle. without question, 18-35+11-16 would be the more versatile and practical investment. but hey, it's your money.
  12. 1. You must use a good stable tripod with a excellent head with a remote triggering device on your camera. Exposures could last 10-30 seconds.
    2. Lenses must me fast and of excellent quality. I would consider the Nikon 20mm f 1.8G, or the 24mm f 1.4G or the 50mm f 1.8G or the the Sigma Art lens, 35mm 1.4G in a Nikon mount. How wide you need is up to you.
    3. FX is better than DX, but DX is not a deal breaker. Even if you use a D 800E or a D 810 consider setting a 1.2x crop factor to reduce coma which can appear around the corners.
    4. Renting some of this equipment makes sense if you know how to use it in the dark
    5. A headlamp with a red light so your night vision is not impaired.
    Read these great articles:
    Landscape Astrophotography articles by Adam Woodworth—both pretty much say the same thing. Not too long, are very clear and give you the basics. Make sure you understand what he means by the Rule of 500 or 400 to minimize star trails.
    Roger Clark’s articles: All are very good. They are longer and more technical.
    Joe Smith
  13. One other thing I'll add. For these kinds of trips I ALWAYS take a back up camera. I've seen a number of people drop their camera down a waterfall etc. Little chance of theft in Island, but if you have to buy a replacement while there keep in mind there are only two towns with camera stores--Akureyi and Reykjavik. Prices with their taxes etc. run about triple what you're used to. I dropped a 77mm Hoya polarizer over the edge of Dettifoss once, and the camera store wanted $195 for a replacement. If you have nothing, even a used D3200 would be cheap insurance. You could probably sell it there before you leave.
    Kent in SD
  14. The OP provided a lot of parameters that are being ignored. He indicated he plans to shoot handheld, high ISO. The OP seems to need: (1) wide FOV; (2) good low light lens/body combo. I don't shoot FX, but these requirements just scream FX. As the OP pointed out, there is the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 - I am not aware of a DX equivalent to get this wide and this fast. If the OP wants to wider, he can try the 20mm f/1.8. Yes, Sigma makes the 18-35 f/1.8 zoom, but at a 28mm equivalent I question whether it would be wide enough:
  15. How useful would you find AF in near darkness and with a 24mm lens Ryan? Because if AF isn't an absolute necessity, then Samyang's MF 24mm f/1.4 lens could save a lot of cash. There's not much to choose in IQ between the Samyang and Nikkor - slightly sharper corners wide open on the Nikkor, as opposed to quite a bit less CA at all apertures with the Samyang. And nearly $1400 difference in price.
    That's if you do decide to go FX. Personally I'm not convinced that you'll see any great benefit, apart from the availability of fast and wide lenses.
  16. Many many great tips. I really hadn't realized that I could rent cameras and lenses. It seems like renting the D750 and taking the D7100 for backup would be ideal. Afterwards I can decide from my own experience which camera/lens combo I prefer. I do have a Pansonic GH4 with an Olympus 12mm 1.4 that I was going to bring as a backup and for video. And yes, I have a tripod!
    Rodeo Joe - thanks for the tip on the Samyang. You're right, I don't need autofocus on a dedicated lens for night photography. If I did go with the D750 then that would allow me to get Nikon's 16-36mm F4 for general landscape use when I'm not shooting wide open anyway and keep the Samyang in the bag. I also found out that my 35mm 1.4 DX lens will work just fine on an FX camera so I'd have a couple fast primes for specialty use, the 16-36 for a wide zoom and my 80-200 2.8 for telephoto. I could pick up a 50mm somewhere down the line and have what I would call a pretty complete lens kit.
    I do really appreciate all the input, especially on yet another FX vs DX thread! You have all been very kind and helpful and I appreciate it.
  17. my 35mm 1.4 DX lens will work just fine on an FX camera​
    what 35/1.4 DX lens is that? i wasn't aware of any. nikon's 35mm DX lens is a 1.8 and sigma makes a 30/1.4. AFAIK there are no tokina or tamron 1.4 lenses.
  18. The 35/1.8 DX covers most of the FX frame in some way at close distances whereas towards longer distances the outer parts of the frame go black. The Ai-S 35/1.4 and AF-S 35/1.4 are FX lenses.
  19. Good to know and yes, it is a 35/1.8 and not 1.4. I'll see how it holds up on the FX frame but if it doesn't work then it can go to ebay since the 16-35 will hit that range. I'm excited to compare the two and see if I notice any difference. I know that I'll gain a couple of stops of flexibility which is always nice to have!

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