Which Nikon DSLR would you recommend for me?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by rexmarriott, May 16, 2018.

  1. Owning both a D700 and a D810: you do see the difference, even in relatively small prints (A4) you just notice there is tad more detail. The key difference however is about 2 stops more dynamic range. The D700 had a fine dynamic range, the D8x0 have an excellent dynamic range. ISO6400 performance of the D8x0 is better than a D700 too for identical sized prints. As much as I liked my D700 (and still do actually), the newer cameras do show visible improvements, and if you haven't tried, perhaps it's safer to not assume it won't be so. In addition, the average price that is being asked now for 2nd hand D700 bodies is just too high. Great cameras, but too often overpriced.

    As for the "shutter is rated to XXX amount of actuations", please do notice that Nikon does not guarantee that is will do that amount of actuations. It only states the average amount of actuations where failure is most likely to be expected (MTBF). Meaning a shutter can fail after 10 actuations, of after 10 million: there is no way to know. So, when buying 2nd hand, it's not so much about the "number of clicks" but rather about the overall condition of the body, and its age combined with the number of actuations - which will tell you how heavy it was used. If those 50k actuations were done in 1 year, I'd be more hesitant than with a body with 100k actuations in 5 years, for example.
  2. I'm going to say... maybe. Having had a D700 and D800(e) alongside each other for a while. They do feel roughly the same in the hand - the D750 is a much lighter body, for better or worse.

    I've made precisely one D700 print large enough for the pixel count to be a problem - see last week's Nikon Wednesdays. On the other hand, I've zoomed in on images to work out who's been at an event, and the extra detail from a D800 definitely makes a difference. If your style is to zoom in on photos that you're viewing electronically to look at the detail, there's a lot more captured by the D800. If you make reasonably sized prints, the detail is almost irrelevant. It's less than the difference between an HDTV an a UHDTV - you can absolutely see it if you look closely, but may not 90% of the time.

    At a larger scale, the dynamic range of the D800 is absolutely higher at low ISOs than a D700, so you can avoid some banding when pushing shadows. And, at an image level, you've got about a stop of extra quality at higher ISOs. But if the scene you're trying to capture is fairly well lit and you're not doing large dynamic range adjustments, it doesn't matter. My workflow typically does involve recovering some highlights and pulling out a little shadow detail, because I can.

    As an example, there are some images here that I took with a D810 of Upper Antelope Canyon, pushing the dynamic range. The sky is blue; the lit bit of rock is not pure white - but there's still a lot of detail in the shadows. They're not perfect, but there's something there. Since I've just been looking at the previous time I was in Antelope Canyon for last week's Nikon Wednesday, here's what a D700 does if you try to recover the same level of dynamic range - the sky is blown (it was blue, look at the sunlit rocks), but despite shooting at ISO1600 rather than minimal ISO, I still had to push the shadows, and they're mostly noise. And this is with DxO's decent noise reduction.


    The solution? Well, when you go around Antelope Canyon, they say "don't get the sky in the shot". And also use a tripod, because you need to capture the light. With a D810 (and pretty much with a D800, and I guess an A7R if we're being inclusive) you can hand-hold and include the highlights, and everything still works because you can push the shadows so far acceptably. "Doctor doctor, it hurts when I poke my elbow." "Then don't poke your elbow." It's more useful for outdoor weddings - fill flash is just way more optional. You can take many decent shots with a camera with worse dynamic range (as Canon were able to attest, for several years) - but the capability is there, and measurable. And to my mind, worth paying for.
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  3. Bracketing. Then blend the differently exposed images together or create - dare I say it - an HDR image. With the D810 (and the A7/A7II/A7RII), I definitely don't have to resort to these "tricks" as often as I did with the D300/D700 (pretty much the same dynamic range) but I've gotten in the habit to bracket whenever I have doubts that a single image will cover the dynamic range of the scene.
    Last edited: May 23, 2018
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  4. True. Although it's a bit painful if you're not in a tripod, and if anything's moving in the scene.
  5. Less painful then attempting to recover details in the shadows and getting noise instead.
    Good HDR/exposure blending software has build-in features to correct for slight mismatch of bracketed images due to movement when hand-holding (the resulting crop may interfere with the intended composition of the image though). They also have a feature that allows to remove ghosting caused by moving subjects. The entire process is pretty much automated - if all else fails, there's still the option to do it manually. Granted, things do work better if one can work off a tripod for bracketing.
  6. The larger dynamic range would be nice. I use graduated ND filters though if I'm shooting the sky. They definitely help with that.
  7. Ben. I see you mention Grafmatics.

    I suggest you check the register on yours - the distance from faceplate to film surface. On my Grafmatics it's non-standard, and gives a slight focusing error.

    IIRC the standard depth of a (plastic) DDS type 5x4 filmholder is 5mm, and most cameras have their GG screens adjusted for this. My Grafmatics didn't have a standard 5mm register. I don't remember what I measured it at, but the difference was enough to make me stop using them years ago. What's worse, the register varied slightly between film sheathes.

    I also came across an issue with Fidelity slides. The closure flap is prone to warping and standing slightly proud of the rest of the sheath. This too can give a slight focus shift.

    Luckily I only had a couple of offending Fidelity/Lisco filmholders, but the only ones I'd trust today are Toyos.

    Sorry. No thread hijacking intended. Just a word to the wise to Ben. Or anyone else that thinks Grafmatics are a good idea.
  8. Dieter: Yes, you can do it (and some cameras can do other tricks, such as running different pixels at different amplifications - something you can use, with the Magic Lantern firmware, to "fix" the dynamic range of the 5D3 to some extent). Likewise, ND grads help, although they're kind of a broad approximation to tone mapping. Pushing the shadows obviously also introduces noise (at least if you were planning on getting at the shadows by a mechanism other than increasing ISO), but you can do that quite a lot before the result is visible on the D8x0 bodies (and most other recent Nikons - but up to ISO 800, the D3s and D5 are just as bad as the D700); this might also have an effect on generating images for HDR displays. All else equal, I'll take a sensor with more dynamic range than not, and it does mean the process is completely, rather than mostly, automatic. My shot above was taken leaning against a wall of a canyon with a non-VR lens while the group I was with were trying to leave - other techniques would have been pretty intrusive.

    Anyway, it's just one factor, but it is a difference between sensors of the D700 generation and the alternatives we've been discussing, and it has made a difference to my images.

    For what it's worth, on my infamous-and-still-to-be-written up list of Nikon feature suggestions (and I think this one already went to Nikon) I proposed a "safety exposure" - if the sensor read-out contains blown pixels, automatically take a second shot at a reduced shutter speed, automating HDR to some extent. But I'll write it up properly. I'm actually hoping to get to my list this weekend, but then I've been saying that since before the D850 was launched...
  9. It's for situations like the one for your image that I value the VR in the 16-35/4. Your shot is at 1/60s and even without VR, I would have attempted to get a +1 and +2 EV image (1/30, and 1/15s). Good chances the 1/15 would turn out blurry unless I'd manage to get of a few shots in a row. With VR, I'd be fairly certain to get a usable 1/15s exposure. I understand that setting up a tripod might have been intrusive in that situation but fail to see why bracketing would have been cause for any concern in that department.
  10. Talking of DR and HDR, with a mirrorless DSLR with electronic shutter, if I auto bracket 3 frames at say f5.6 1/1000, so spot on, 1 under and 1 over, how 'long' is the total process? I suppose I'm asking what's the dead time with a CMOS sensor and electronic shutter?

    It could theoretically all be over from start to finish in 1/1000 + 1/2000 + 1/500

    I'm thinking just how much movement with either subject and/or camera can be tolerated.

    I'd guess in the Canyon sequence, even with a slightly swaying photographer, sorry Andrew..;), they could all be aligned in post.
  11. Depending on the frame rate the camera delivers, realistically about 1/3 - 1s. The Sony A9 may need 1/6s.

    Without the need for ghost removal - it depends. People moving are one big issue, leaves and clouds can move sufficiently to cause issues. Waves also create quite a problem. And then there is the inadvertent movement of the photographer that leads to misaligned shots.

    Most certainly.
  12. The Nikon j5 can do 60 fps as true, full-res 20mpix stills, so I would think it could be done very quickly!
  13. I keep forgetting that one. Not surprisingly though, the Nikon 1 Series seems to be quite forgettable as a whole ;)
  14. True, Dieter - if I'd had the camera set up to bracket I might have been able to hold position without being jostled for long enough to cope. I actually did try a longer shutter speed to get the shadows to work, but the blur was unmanagable. In some photos there's the matter of sand falling, too, which varies, but I concede that most of the canyon shots were relatively stationary (and the D810 shots were with a tripod - which you're not allowed to bring unless you're on a photography tour). I actually did manually bracket (spinning a dial), and should have had the wherewithal to engage the bracketing mode even though I wasn't intending to HDR blend afterwards, which says something about how often I do this.

    Anyway: yes, it's relatively rare that the capabilities of a modern DSLR let you do something you absolutely couldn't do before. This speaks partly to how competent cameras were even in the D700 era. Nonetheless, knowing that you have a good chance of recovering shadow detail when you've taken a single shot, and having it guaranteed to work cleanly with a moving subject, is a useful thing. Sometimes we set up an HDR landscape on a tripod. Sometimes we just try to take a snap at a relative's outdoor wedding where the groomsmen stand in the sun and wear white and gold, and the bridesmaids are in dark purple and hiding from the sun under a tree, and the shot we try to get is taken with the camera on the end of a tripod dangled above our heads. I certainly don't make a habit of it, but it's nice that it works on the rare occasions it comes up. (That one actually was with a D700, but I'd have got a bit more detail if it wasn't.)

    Of course, this is also an argument for the D800 having video support, which the D700 doesn't. :)

    I got a 1 series almost entirely for the high speed shooting - but video, not stills. I note the latest RX100 can do the same trick but possibly at more sensible resolutions, which would tempt me if they were a bit cheaper...
  15. That's a thing.. I do not hesitate recommending the D800 as a perfect camera for the current prices, or getting one myself as a backup.
    But video.. I did make use of it once and liked the process and results. But video has moved on! from HD to 4K.
    That now would in fact be one of the main points of doubt.
    For still photography, few camera's beat the D800, even more modern ones. But modern video comes at a premium.
    Even finding a dedicated 4K camcorder at a reasonable price seems a challenge.
  16. I fail to see why a 'middle' exposure is needed for HDR. You need to capture the highlights without overexposure, plus the shadows with sufficient detail. That's two shots.

    HDR is not a bracketing exercise where you're hedging your bets on the correct exposure. It's a separate technique. However, I must admit to disliking the look of it, and having rarely encountered a subject that can't simply be shot in RAW and have its tone curve manipulated to give all the detail needed.

    WRT video. Unless you're shooting it professionally, full-HD is more than good enough for 'home movies'. The quality easily beats what super 8 could deliver and competes with 16mm film. There are no broadcast 4k TV channels, and very little commercial distribution of 4k media. So why would it be essential on a camera designed to primarily take still pictures?
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
  17. I appreciate that the D850 has 4K as an option, but I'm not expecting it to be a marvellous choice. I gather, other than some narrow depth of field images in House shot on a 5D2, the main benefit to video on high-end DSLRs was to allow photojournalists to shoot video clips and stills with a single rig. Canon at least have better video autofocus, for the casual shooter. I've shot videos with my D810 for presentations, but not at pro quality.

    That said, my D850 is the third device I own that'll shoot 4K video - the others being my cell phone and a Mavic Pro. If you want good 4K video, I suspect you're better off picking up the latest Blackmagic pocket cinema camera, or going down the Panasonic or Sony route - you can do it with Nikon, but I don't believe it's exactly a streamlined process. But I don't claim to be expert enough to tell whether I'm maligning Nikon's design team.

    Still, I'd rather have it than not, because that 0.01% of the time when something happens right in front of you that's worthy of video...

    Also, the D850's 30fps silent shooting mode, that captures 8MP JPEGs for a short burst... in this case, I suspect you're better off capturing 4K video with a much longer time limit and pulling frames out of it. This is, for the record, a much more effective way of getting shots of lightning than most of my experiences with a lightning trigger!
  18. Good arguments above, regarding the video function of Nikon DSLR camera's.

    That however strongly resonates with the "Nikon's 12Mpx is enough" statement that was endlessly repeated some years ago. Until it wasn't enough. (I saw some large prints in an exhibition last weekend and was properly amazed .. SONY camera, but oh well ).

    I want professional quality photo results even when I'm not a 'pro' . Same for video. Whether DSLR's are suitable for a pro workflow is not for me to judge here..
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  19. Actually, I'd missed Joe's comment about the absence of 4k content. There... really is some. My satellite provider has sports, movies and box sets available in 4K, as does the obvious competing cable provider in the UK; YouTube has 4K, Netflix has 4K, Amazon has 4K. There are certainly significant standardisation efforts in terrestrial radio broadcast of UHD - but since I neither have a 4K TV nor anything connected to my home antenna, I've no idea what state they're in. Several of these sources, more significantly, also support HDR. A few places are starting to think about 8K video (and the Dell 8K monitor is almost affordable; there are a lot of reasonable UHD TVs on the market), although I'm not sure that's terribly worthwhile, with the possible exception of VR.

    Sure, a lot of what I watch is HD or even standard def, but I wouldn't say that someone who records 4K content will be unable to find a way to distribute it. I've not upgraded yet, but then I have a few hundred hours of stuff recorded on my PVR that I'd have problems transferring, and I kind of need to watch them first...
  20. Oh well.. Admittedly I still watch DVDs on a smallish HD TV screen.. But a large 4K screen is just over the horizon.
    So.. If I was serious with video I would not try to work in HD .. Also depending on the expected longevity of the film of course. An instruction video or birthday message might not need 4K resolution..

    That's where DSLRs like D800 and D750 for example are fine choices still
    Andrew Garrard likes this.

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