Unbridled Cynicism

less bullshit, more often?

First play with the D800

It’s a little bit late, but I thought it’s about time I posted some of these where they can actually be seen properly (ie. not Facebook). They’ve all been run through Lightroom and been exported at full size.

I got the D800 at the start of this month and got to have a good play with it during a weekend outing with friends. First half of the day was at a baseball game, the latter out at Kurnell approaching sunset.

Initial impressions of the D800 is that it’s a fantastic improvement to the D700. It handles pretty much just the same, but with lots of small improvements that make it a pleasure to use.

alt-text placeholder for DS8_0754.jpg

Caption: 300mm, 1/1000 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 400

Red Devils vs. Comets in a game that was close right up until the last minutes. Not being familiar with the sport I had no idea what was going on, but it was good fun to watch.

Very glad I brought the 300mm f/4, she doesn’t get to see very much use. It let me get in very tight on the batter while remaining at a safe distance, and also pull in action from the rest of the diamond.

alt-text placeholder for DS8_0682.jpg

Caption: 300mm, 1/640 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 140

Having 36 megapixels on tap is kind of absurd, I just keep looking and finding more detail. It also makes raw files (14-bit lossless compressed) that are about 50MiB in size >_<

alt-text placeholder for DS8_0769.jpg

Caption: 300mm, 1/1000 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 180

It was quickly evident that getting great sporting photos takes practice. I’m really happy with these, but it’s hard not to wish that I’d set the shutter even faster, caught just the right moment before it got away, etc. The fast focusing of the 300mm AF-S is a godsend, but you really need to anticipate the moment before it happens.


We headed on to Kurnell as planned, the drive took a lot longer than I’d anticipated. After inching our way along a windy single-lane access road for our final approach, we piled out into the makeshift carpark and continued on foot.

It was about 17:00 by this time, with a fierce cold wind blowing. We’d picked a good time with the sun rapidly sinking behind the hills.

alt-text placeholder for DS8_0811.jpg

Caption: 16mm, 1/60 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 100

After heavy-hitting with the telephoto earlier, it was time to bust out the wide zoom, with the sky putting on a generous show.

alt-text placeholder for DS8_0823.jpg

Caption: 35mm, 1/125 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 100

I guess I’m not used to shooting outdoors that much - light levels made this an easy handheld shot even at ISO 100. No HDR either, this is all a single exposure.

alt-text placeholder for DS8_0839.jpg

Caption: 50mm, 1/125 sec. at f/2.8, ISO 2000

25 minutes later and it was getting quite dim, with the Auto ISO getting jumpy. The noise is a bit crunchy at this point. I think it’s far from offensive and adds a little character if you zoom in on the humans, so I didn’t bother applying any noise reduction.

alt-text placeholder for DS8_0855.jpg

Caption: 60mm, 1/60 sec. at f/2.8, ISO 12800

We started being silly and improvised some lighting with smartphones - it works! This ain’t a D3s or D4 though, so Hi1 ISO kinda sucks. But, I think it’s serviceable.

The crappiest part of shooting high ISO is that colour tends to go to shit (your lighting is poor quality, otherwise you wouldn’t be shooting an ISO over 9000) and dynamic range evaporates. That’s somewhat recoverable but far from ideal.

The noise actually isn’t too bad to deal with in Lightroom. I’d go so far as to say that if you converted to black and white for a portrait, it’d make for a pleasing sort of old-school effect.

I see a bit of purple banding at the bottom of the image. It kinda looks like a light leak to my mind, but I’m pretty sure it’s to do with the ISO setting. Switching lenses and exposure times doesn’t change anything, but it could just be that high ISO amplifies an otherwise unnoticeable problem inside the camera. I do wonder, but it doesn’t bother me.

alt-text placeholder for DS8_0877.jpg

Caption: 18mm, 1 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 6400

Moon-flare in my lens! Doing it right. We believe the small points of light in the sky are stars, that was kind of a welcome surprise.

We decided to call it a day at this point. Autofocus was useless with so little light and it was pretty much impossible to manually focus through the viewfinder as well. The tripod was also no good, with the gusty wind ruining any chance of long exposures without blur.


The D800 takes great photos, no question about it. I have a rough list in my head of things that Nikon has improved on since the D700, I’m thinking I’ll write that up sometime.