Used Full-Frame DSLR – Which Ones are Worth It?

Yesterday, while thinking about the upcoming wedding that I have to shoot, I glanced at my trusty old D700. The rubber is coming off in places and needs to be glued back on, nothing serious. Two of the batteries that I have need replacing. The plastic screen protector has a few minor scratches on it, but would you expect anything else? No. Those are just minor signs of careful use. In every single way, it’s a damn good camera. And then I wondered, would I recommend it to a beginner looking for an affordable entry into the full-frame world? Oh yes, definitely. And it’s not the only one. So if you are a beginner – either to DSLRs or digital photography – and want to potentially improve the quality of your family pictures, to, perhaps, photograph your son’s football games with more confidence or even start your own photography business, there are a lot of used, older cameras you could go for and not regret it. Let us glance through some of them.

Nikon D700

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Nikon vs Canon Dynamic Range

After I have published my Canon 6D review, a number of our readers asked if there was a way to show a comparison between dynamic range performance of a Canon DSLR and and a Nikon DSLR side by side with image samples. Since the Canon 6D has the largest dynamic range in Canon’s line (higher than 5D Mark III), it was a good candidate for such a comparison. On the Nikon side, I used my Nikon D800E, since it has the same base ISO of 100. Since there was a brightness difference between the two cameras (as noted in the above-mentioned review), I compensated the shutter speed accordingly to make it a fair game. The results are quite interesting to look at, showing visible advantage on behalf of Nikon when compared to Canon. The intent of this article is not to spark another Nikon vs Canon debate, as I personally find such discussions useless. This is done as a case study to analyze recovery options between the two brands when shooting in the field.

Let’s take a look at our base exposure, with no adjustments on both cameras (Left: Nikon D800E, Right: Canon 6D):

Nikon D800E 0 EV Canon 6D 0 EV

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Canon 6D Review

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Although the Canon 6D has now been out for almost two years, I never had a chance to review it. Since the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art series lens was initially available only for the Canon mount, I requested the Canon 6D with the lens from our trusted partner B&H Photo Video. My aim was to review both, as I had been planning to review the 6D for a long time now. Ever since I reviewed the Canon 5D Mark III, our readers have been asking us to test out other Canon DSLRs, including the 6D. So this was a good opportunity to catch up, although quite late. Well, better late than never, I guess! Instead of covering everything in much detail though, I will be mostly summing things up based on my three month experience with the camera and feedback from others – I don’t think there is a need to spend a lot of time on this, especially after the camera has been in the market for so long and reviewed by so many people.

Canon EOS 6D

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sRAW Format Explained

With the release of the D4s and D810 cameras, Nikon has introduced a new format to store images – sRAW, or “RAW Size Small”, as referred to by Nikon. Although Canon has had this format available in its DSLRs for years, this is Nikon’s first time introducing it. As a result, a lot of Nikon users are wondering what this format is, how it works and how it compares to standard RAW files. Personally, I had very limited knowledge of this format and thought it would be an exciting feature, until I dug deeper and found out what it was all about. After a few hours of research (and some input from Iliah Borg, I decided to summarize my findings in this article, which I hope our readers will find useful. Let’s start with the basics first.

sRAW vs RAW Format

1) What is sRAW?

sRAW, which stands for “Small RAW” or “Small Resolution RAW” is a file format that was introduced by Kodak to allow photographers to capture images at smaller size in order to allow more images to be stored on memory cards and allow for faster workflow when full resolution files are not needed (since computers were slow for processing RAW data). The sRAW format was created as a bridge between full resolution RAW files and JPEG images. Since JPEG images are already processed, compressed and only contain 8-bit data, sRAW allowed more flexibility with more bit depth (Kodak’s original design of the sRAW format was 10-bit). The advantage was noticeably smaller file size, but at the expense of resolution – the resulting images contained either twice, or four times less megapixels. Still, these images contained more data than JPEG files for later post-processing, which increased the popularity of the format.

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Nikon D810 Pre-Order Options

If you are excited about the new Nikon D810 and want to pre-order it via our trusted affiliates B&H Photo Video and Adorama, please use the below links. Detailed information about the newly announced D810 is provided earlier here and you can find the announcement, along with promotional information and videos in this post. The release date of the Nikon D810 is scheduled for July 17th, 2014 in the USA, so it is a relatively short waiting window. Please note that both B&H Photo Video and Adorama will serve orders on a first come, first serve basis depending on your spot in the pre-order queue. If you want to get the camera on the day of the announcement, I would recommend to place the pre-order as soon as possible. Those that pre-ordered the D800 / D800E probably remember that they had to wait for months for availability.

Nikon D810

Nikon D810 Pre-Order Links

The Nikon D810 will be available for pre-order in two configurations – body only and a “film maker kit” that contains three Nikkor lenses. The three lenses will be: Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G and Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G – all superb prime lenses for both photography and videography. In addition, Nikon will bundle the Nikon ME-1 microphone, Tiffen ND filters, extra EN-EL15 batteries and Atomos Ninja 2 video recorder. All this for $4,996.95 is actually a good deal, that’s almost $1K in savings there.

Here is an image of the film maker’s kit, showing everything that is included (click to expand):

Nikon D810 Film Maker's Kit

Nikon D810 High Resolution Image Samples

If you are interested in seeing what the Nikon D810 is capable of in terms of image quality and ISO performance, take a look at the below high resolution image samples. These images demonstrate the sensor performance from ISO 64 all the way to ISO 3200. EXIF information is included with each shot.

Nikon D810 Image Sample (1)

Judging by the Sample Image #4 below, ISO 3200 looks pretty clean and impressively detailed. And ISO 64 images (which there are a bunch of, look quite detailed and rich in colors. Please note that these sample images are straight out of camera JPEGs, with no post-processing applied.

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Nikon D810 Announcement

As we have reported earlier today, the Nikon D810 has now been officially announced. While we are still working on providing more information and comparisons, below you will find the official press release, along with detailed specifications for this new camera. Since more information will be revealed by Nikon in the next few days, we would recommend to come back to this page to see more information, videos and other exciting material related to the D810. Everything we have already revealed in our earlier post is accurate, but there are a few missing bits here and there that you can find in the detailed specifications, as well as the official announcement below.

Nikon D810

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Nikon D810 Release Tonight

Looks like the Internet is already buzzing with some information from the upcoming release of the Nikon D810 tonight. According to our friends at Nikon Rumors, a UK website “Expertreviews” published information on the Nikon D810 pre-maturely, along with some photos of the camera. Although we’ve made the decision to stay away from the rumor talks (we’ll leave it all to rumor sites), I decided to post this information, because it is verified and we know that the D810 is coming tonight.

Nikon D810

It has been over two years since the Nikon D800 and D800E cameras were announced, so a refresh of the D800 line was expected sometime this year. Although Nikon is not doing anything revolutionary this time, some of the updates and changes to the D810 when compared to the D800/D800E are pretty attractive. First of all, the sensor has been replaced with a different, more advanced unit with no optical low pass filter (OLPF). This means that both the Nikon D800 and D800E are being merged into a single camera, the D810. Despite the fact that the resolution remains the same at 36.3 MP, the base ISO of the sensor has been lowered to ISO 64, with boost level going down to ISO 32! This is a significant change, because the lower ISO value most likely translates to much higher dynamic range. As you know, the Nikon D800/D800E have been dominating in dynamic range when compared to other cameras for a while now and it looks like the Nikon D810 will take that spot from now on. High ISO range has been expanded by one stop to ISO 51,200, which probably means that we should see some improvements in noise performance. I don’t expect to see much difference at low ISO values, but there should be visible differences at ISO 1600 and above. And with the integrated sRAW format support, you will be able to make images at 3680×2456 resolution, which is equivalent to 9 MP of very clean, noise-free images, even at very high ISO levels!

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Up Close and Personal at the Zoo with the Nikon 1 V2

Recently a Photography Life contributor, Alpha Whiskey, posted a great article here on some techniques that we can use to challenge ourselves as photographers. Finding ways to grow and stimulate our individual creativity is one of the most important things we can do to advance our skill level. I gave myself one such challenge this week and I thought I would share the results of it with you with images taken at the Metro Toronto Zoo.

Zoo Sample Images (1)

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D800 vs D4s For Wildlife in Low Light & Long Lenses

For whatever reason most of the wildlife photography I do ends up being in less than desirable conditions. Its rare that I get that perfect light, with the animal perfectly posed and the weather just right and me in the right place and time to capture it. A lot of times I am in the right place, but all the other elements needed seem like they are on the extreme limits of what is needed for quality photography.  I recently had the opportunity to photograph black bears here in New Hampshire and one thing that a person not from NH must understand is that this is not like going to Yellowstone or some similar place where the bears are more receptive to humans. Here in NH they are the ghosts of the woods, the animal you never hear while hiking or rarely see unless its by accident and then its for seconds before they disappear. I was able to use both the D800 and D4s during this time and I found out some disappointing things about the D800 which has me regretting purchasing it.

Beautiful Wet Female Black Bear

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