Nikon DSLR Autofocus Problems

The last two weeks have been very busy for me. I am working on multiple reviews of Canon, Nikon and Fuji lenses and you will be seeing many lens reviews coming up this summer. At the same time, I have been shooting with the Nikon D3200, D4 and D800E DSLR cameras, so I will be sharing my thoughts on these fairly soon as well. One question that keeps popping up over and over again from our readers, revolves around the autofocus problems on Nikon DSLRs. Specifically, these questions are on front focus/back focus problems with lenses, the left AF focus point issue found on some Nikon D800 bodies, use of 2x teleconverters with the new Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX (on D4 and D800/D800E), etc. Since there is a lot to cover, I will be publishing articles on each topic with my findings and thoughts I have thus far.

Nikon D4 vs D800

As with any product that is manufactured, there is always a chance that it is defective. I am finding Nikon’s QA (quality assurance) controls to be rather weak lately, especially given the fact that it is manufacturing such fine tools as the Nikon D800 with lots of resolution. Yes, Nikon has had a wonderful year so far with so many great announcements and phenomenal products, but it almost seems like it is rushing its products from the manufacturing plants too quickly, without properly testing all equipment before it is sent out. As a result, we are seeing many defective DSLR cameras with lenses. I have been shooting with Nikon gear for the last 6 years and this is the first time I am seeing really badly calibrated DSLRs (D800E and D4), along with some pro lenses. I can understand when there is a problem with an entry-level camera and a kit lens, but it is unacceptable for Nikon to ship faulty professional equipment that is worth thousands of dollars.

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Add Some Fish(eye) To Your Photography Diet

With the ever increasing rate of technological innovation in the photography arena, it is not too difficult to get caught up in the latest camera model, lens, or other gizmo, all designed to take our photography to the “next level.” The recent hype and debates surrounding noise levels and resolution differences between the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D Mark III alone could likely fill a few petabytes of disk space. In the midst of our obsession with the “latest and greatest,” we need to remember that photography is, at least on some level, supposed to be… well… fun! One of the best ways I know to inject a bit of fun into my photography exploits, is to attach a fisheye lens to my DSLR. These marvels provide a unique curved distortion (in some cases a full 360 degrees) that add a bit of character and spice to otherwise rather common photos and provide a unique perspective.

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Fuji X-Pro1 Camera Comparisons

I have just updated the Fuji X-Pro1 Review with detailed camera comparisons with the Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D800. RAW support has finally become available with the latest updates from Adobe for both Lightroom and Photoshop, so I was able to extract RAW files from all cameras to do a comprehensive analysis. My findings? The Fuji X-Pro1 RAW images look as impressive as the JPEG images. Despite the fact that I down-sampled the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D Mark III images, which should give them an advantage in terms of handling noise, the pixel level quality of the Fuji X-Pro1 sensor is still superior at low ISOs! At first, I thought that I did something wrong in Lightroom – maybe accidentally applied noise reduction to Fuji X-Pro1 images. However, after looking through the images in detail and resetting to RAW file defaults, I was surprised to find out that the Fuji X-Pro1 RAW files indeed looked cleaner. Here is an example comparison at ISO 200 between the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Canon 5D Mark III:

Fuji X-Pro1 ISO 200 RAW Canon 5D Mark III ISO 200

Take a look at noise levels on both crops and compare noise levels on the second DVD from the bottom. The output from the X-Pro1 looks cleaner!

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Maximizing Dynamic Range

The more time I spend in my photography pursuits, the more I appreciate cameras that capture and photos that exploit their maximum dynamic range potential. Digital cameras have undergone dramatic improvements over the last 12+ years, but they still don’t come close to the human eye’s dynamic range capabilities. By some estimates, the human eye can distinguish up to 24 f-stops of dynamic range. Higher end DSLRs such as the Nikon D800 by comparison, can capture up to a theoretical max of 14.4 f-stops of dynamic range. The usable dynamic range of most DSLRs, however, is closer to 5-9 f-stops, considering the impact of noise, which can render some of the DSLRs’ f-stop range impractical to exploit. Thus your eyes – at least for now – are still far more capable than the best DSLR relative to recognizing various tonal gradations. As I will demonstrate via my new model, “Doris” (shown below) of the Pittsburgh Zoo, even photos taken with high quality DSLRs sometimes need a bit of extra processing to match what your eyes can see. The photo below is the result of a processing technique I often employ to boost dynamic range when it is apparent that my camera’s sensor failed to capture what I remember seeing.

1) Good Dynamic Range Starts With A Good Camera

The first step in maximizing dynamic range is to have a camera that scores high in this category. DXO Mark can provide a good understanding of how DSLRs stack up against each other in this regard. The results from the D800 dynamic range testing have been amazing, clearly showing that it has the capacity to pull significant shadow detail while still keeping noise levels relatively low. If and when I actually get my hands on a D800, I will be able to determine this for myself! For this tutorial, I used my trusty Nikon D7000, which despite its modest price, has a very good dynamic range score.

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Firmware Updates for Nikon D4, D800/D800E

Nikon has released new firmware update version 1.01 for the Nikon D4, D800 and D800E camera bodies. The major issue resolved is the reported lockup problem.

Nikon D4 vs D800

From the Nikon website:

Nikon D4 Issues Resolved:

  • When a still image was captured while viewing existing images in playback mode, the monitor turned off, the memory card access lamp glowed steadily, and, in some rare cases, the camera ceased to respond to operations. This issue has been resolved.
  • When network functions were used with certain settings applied, RAW images were also transferred when Network > Send file as was set to JPEG only. This issue has been resolved.
  • When an option that utilized the main command dial was selected for Custom Setting f15: Playback zoom, and an image was zoomed in or out with playback with certain settings applied, shooting shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation settings were sometimes changed. This issue has been resolved.

D4 Firmware update is available here: D4 A:1.01/B:1.01

Nikon D800/D800E Issues Resolved

  • When a still image was captured while viewing existing images in playback mode, the monitor turned off, the memory card access lamp glowed steadily, and, in some rare cases, the camera ceased to respond to operations. This issue has been resolved.
  • When the Wireless Transmitter WT-4 was used with certain settings applied, RAW images were also transferred when Wireless transmitter > Transfer settings > Send file as was set to JPEG only. This issue has been resolved.
  • A dark shadow sometimes appeared at the bottom edge of images captured with Active D-Lighting set to any option other than Off with Image area set to 5:4 (30×24). This issue has been resolved.

D800 Firmware update is available here: Nikon D800 A:1.00/B:1.01

D800E Firmware update is available here: Nikon D800E A:1.00/B:1.01

Pinterest – Copyright Infringement Made Cool?

To start out on a positive note, let me say that I think the story of Pinterest is inspiring. It is tempting to believe that many of the simpler ideas associated with innovation have been thought of, and only very complex, time consuming, expensive initiatives can break new ground. Along comes Pinterest, offering an extremely simple idea – providing the electronic paradigm of a corkboard with photos, recipes, and other notes that people want to keep handy and visible, and giving them the opportunity to link to those of others. If anyone doubts that there is always a simple, yet powerful idea lurking around the corner, look no further than Pinterest.

Pinterest is turning out to be a great opportunity for small and large businesses to gain exposure and increase sales. Other blog and news sites, such as Mansurovs, are garnering additional traffic as a result of people pinning its articles to various photography boards. Many entrepreneurs are developing social networking and marketing strategies based on Pinterest. I believe that Facebook and Google+ are likely scrambling to emulate more of Pinterest’s capabilities, lest they find themselves being marginalized. Pinterest’s user base has exploded over the last few years, so it is clearly gaining momentum and has captured the latest buzz within the internet community.

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A Little Comfort as You Anxiously Await Your D800 or D4 or 5D MK III arrival

Passage of timeAs I, like many of you, have been waiting for a new Nikon camera body to arrive, a recurring thought has come to my mind. It comes from the words of my father and it might hold a cure for what ails you if you, like me, suffer from common Diseases that Plague Photographers. Whenever I wanted something badly, but couldn’t seem to get it fast enough, he would say, “Anticipation is greater than realization”. To a young, impatient boy then and to an older, impatient man now, those words never seemed to comfort me as my father might have liked. Although never very comforting, they were very true.

We have all been there. Maybe it was that new bike that seemed to take forever to save for. Perhaps it was your dream car that required you spend all of your free time working that extra job. Whatever you were hoping for, the anticipation and build up prior to acquiring it was likely much more exciting than actually getting the item. Who can’t identify with the new car owner that seems less excited about his/her new car after the first car payment comes due? And golfers are notorious for claiming to experience longer drives, straighter iron shots, and more holed putts after changing clubs. Interestingly, their new clubs lose their “magic” after a month and start behaving very similar to their old clubs.

I am sure my father was trying to get me to enjoy the wait and learn a bit of patience. Perhaps he was always hoping that if enough time would pass, my insatiable need to spend my money on some new flashy item would dissipate. Although very wise, dad’s tactics in this area often had less than the desired effects on his not so bright son. You may experience better luck with your kids or yourself. So I pass the lesson on to you. As for me [doorbell chime], I gotta go see what is in the B&H box that just arrived. Maybe if I am lucky, it was me that got Bob’s D800 this time. Enjoy the anticipation as you wait!

Greta Got My Nikon D800…

A little more than a week ago, I realized why I had not received my Nikon D800. Through sources that cannot be named, I was informed that Greta Van Susteren, the well-known commentator at the Fox News Network, received the camera originally assigned to my order. I was further surprised to find this unique note (below) from the delivery service. Today’s GretaWire confirmed that my D800 was already being used!

D800 Delivery Notice

Am I upset? Absolutely not. I have no issue with Greta “jumping line” at B&H to get my camera. “Why not?”, you ask? The injustice of it all! Someone must pay for having my D800 rerouted to Greta! Surely someone must be “guilty” of… well… uh… something! Or so the popular thinking goes…

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Nikon vs Canon vs Fuji in a Studio

I have been super busy working on a couple of big projects lately and this weekend I helped out Lola with her bridal work. While setting up the lights, I decided to try out and shoot with three different cameras – the Nikon D800 (see the recently published review of the Nikon D800), the Canon 5D Mark III (a full review is coming up in a couple of weeks) and the Fuji X-Pro 1 (also coming up for a review soon).

The Nikon and the Canon experience was very similar, both were stellar in terms of color, sharpness and autofocus accuracy. The Fuji X-Pro 1 produced beautiful images with great-looking skin tones, but was rather disappointing in terms of autofocus – it just could not seem to lock well to my subject in indoors environment. I will be writing about my overall impressions of the Fuji X-Pro 1 soon, but to give you a short version, I am rather disappointed by it. To be honest, I was more excited about the Fuji X-Pro 1 than I was with the Canon and Nikon cameras, because I was really hoping for a mirrorless camera that could be a great alternative to the higher-end APS-C sensor DSLRs. The Fuji X-Pro 1 just seemed to have so much potential… I guess it will be a while until we see something that good. Perhaps the second or third generation of the X-Pro? Or the upcoming Canon mirrorless?

Here is a fun game for you – all three of the below images were shot with either the Nikon D800, the Canon 5D Mark III or the Fuji X-Pro 1. Care to guess which one is which?

Nikon vs Canon vs Fuji #1

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iPad 3 Wallpapers from Nikon D800

I decided to post a couple of iPad 3 (a.k.a. the “New iPad” or just “the iPad”) wallpapers taken by the Nikon D800 while I am working on the upcoming Nikon 85mm f/1.8G lens review. I am hoping to publish it within the next few days, so that I could start working on reviewing the Canon 5D Mark III and some high-end Canon lenses. These images were requested by our readers in higher resolution and since the new iPad has a whopping 2048×1536 pixel retina display, I thought it would be better to extract them in a bigger size. They should also work as wallpapers for the original iPad and iPad 2, but obviously the images are not going to be as detailed…

iPad 3 Wallpaper 1

1) Click here to download the wallpaper version in 2048×1536 resolution

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