Nikon High ISO Comparison using D600, D800E, Df, D4 and D4s

After I posted my last article comparing the high ISO performance of the Nikon D4s vs D4, a number of our readers requested that I provide a similar comparison with other cameras such as the Nikon D600/D610, D800 and Df. Instead of posting multiple articles that show these comparisons, I decided to put it all into a single article, so that our readers could look at the side by side comparisons, or download the files to their computers for closer examination. Before you start comparing the below images, however, I would like to point out that the images are just provided as a reference, and only represent one side of the camera performance – high ISO in low-light, indoor conditions. Each camera comes with its own set of features, strengths and weaknesses, so please do not draw conclusions from these shots. Please note that ISO performance might vary in different lighting conditions. My recommendation would be to read the comment exchange I had with Brad Hill of Natural Art Images in the previous Nikon D4s vs D4 comparison article, where we discuss the topic of comparing sensor performance in detail.

Nikon D610 vs D800E vs Df vs D4 vs D4s

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Recommended Nikon D800 / D800E Settings

After I published the article on the recommended settings for the Nikon D600 / D610, I received plenty of requests from our readers that asked me to write a similar article for the Nikon D800 and D800E cameras. Since I own and use both frequently, I decided to expand the series to other cameras (and I do have plans to publish similar articles for Canon DSLRs as well). In this article, I want to provide some information on what settings I use and shortly explain what some of the important settings do. Please do keep in mind that while these work for me, it does not mean that everyone else should be shooting with exactly the same settings. The below information is provided as a guide for those that struggle and just want to get started with a basic understanding of menu settings.

Nikon D800

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Eye-Fi Pro X2 Review

When testing lenses, I have to make sure that my setup is calibrated and the camera is perfectly aligned with the test chart. The process can take quite a bit of time, since I have to take a picture, make minute adjustments, then take another picture and retest again. In some cases I have to repeat the process many times over, which can be very painful. To simplify and speed-up the process, I have been connecting my laptop (which sits right under the tripod) directly to the Nikon D800E with a USB cable and have been using Nikon’s Camera Control Pro to dump files into a local folder, from which I pick up and process images using Imatest software. The problem with this approach has been speed – Imatest is pretty demanding when it comes to processing large RAW files from the D800E and my laptop just could not keep up. So I ended up moving the software to my powerful desktop machine, which created another problem. Every time I take a picture and need adjustments, I have to walk back and forth between the camera setup and the computer to analyze the results and make adjustments. USB 3 cables have length limitations and even with “active” USB 3 extension cables, the maximum length is typically under 10 meters. And that’s just not going to work for me, since I often test telephoto lenses and I have to be more than 10 meters away. To address these issues, I decided to try some wireless solutions that are available on the market. The first and the cheapest product to try was the Eye-Fi Pro X2 memory card. I got a 16 GB version and wanted to see just how well the card with its software could work for my setup. In this review, I will be focusing primarily on the transfer speed of the card and its usability with the Nikon D800 / D800E DSLR.

Eye-Fi Pro X2 Review

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Sony A7R vs Nikon D800E ISO Performance

In this article, I will show noise performance from the new high resolution Sony A7R mirrorless camera and compare it to its direct competitor, the Nikon D800E. Both have 36 MP sensors and both lack anti-aliasing (AA) filters, which should make it a good case for analysis at pixel level with no re-sizing/down-sampling involved. The Sony A7R is a pretty hot camera right now thanks to its compact camera body, high resolution and excellent image quality. Let’s take a look at how it fares against the older Nikon D800E.

Here is a comparison at the boosted ISO level of 50:

Sony A7R ISO 50 Nikon D800E ISO 50

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Nikon D800 / D800E for Wedding Photography

While I had talked about my plan to use the Nikon D800 / D800E for wedding photography on our site a few times before, I never had a chance to post sample images and talk about my experience. Part of the reason, was that I wanted to give it some time and get a good feel for the cameras, rather than making hasty conclusions. It has been over a year since the D800 was announced and about 10 months since my D800E was finally shipped to me. As you may already know, I decided to go for the D800E instead of the D800, because I wanted to use it primarily for landscape photography and occasionally for weddings, when helping Lola out as a second shooter. Due to a busy 2012 wedding season, I ended up using the D800E for weddings a lot more than I expected. So I gathered some thoughts from my experience with the camera and decided to share them with our readers today.

Nikon D800E Sample (7)

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Nikon D800/D800E/D600 Instant Rebates Extended

I was first told that the D800/D800E/D600 instant rebates from last week would only last a couple of days. It turned out that the deals got pretty popular, because B&H ran out of the D600 stock pretty quickly. They were able to get a brand new shipment of the D800, D800E and D600 cameras quickly today, so I was told that the rebate program will continue, probably till the end of the year (December 29th, 2012 is the last date) or until the stock is completely depleted and Nikon cannot supply cameras fast enough.

Nikon D600 vs D800

Anyway, here are the Nikon deals once again:

  1. Nikon D800 – $200 off instantly (body only) – $2796.95 ($2,999 reg). Click on the “Savings Available” link and add Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G for another $200 off, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II for another $200 off, Nikon 70-300mm VR for yet another $200 off and Nikon 28-300mm VR for another $150 off – a total of $950 in instant savings! The Nikon D800 also comes with the following: Lowepro Rezo 170 AW Camera Shoulder Bag, Vello FreeWave Wireless Remote Shutter Release for Nikon w/10-Pin Connection, SanDisk 32GB CompactFlash Memory Card Extreme 400x UDMA and Pearstone EN-EL15 Lithium-Ion Battery Pack (7.0V 1800mAh) ($214 value) – Up to $1,164 in total savings
  2. Nikon D800E – $200 off instantly (body only) – $3096.95 ($3,299 reg). Same deal with lenses – pick any of the above-mentioned lenses and you can shave up to $750 off in instant savings in lenses alone. Unfortunately, no other incentives except for the 2% cach back are included.
  3. Nikon D600 + Nikon 24-85mm VR – $700 off instantly – $1,996.95 ($2,699 reg). Same deal with lenses – pick any of the above-mentioned lenses and you can shave up to $750 off in instant savings in lenses alone. To sweeten up the deal, B&H is also adding the following: Lowepro Rezo 170 AW Camera Shoulder Bag, SanDisk 32GB SDHC Memory Card Extreme Class 10 UHS-I, Pearstone EN-EL15 Lithium-Ion Battery Pack (7.0V 1800mAh) and Oben ACM-2400 4-Section Aluminum Monopod
    ($174 value) – Up to $1,625 in total savings

Please note that there are additional savings to the above – the Nikon D800/D800E qualify for 2% additional cash back, while the D600 has a 4% cash back program through B&H!

Nikon D800 vs D800E

I got a number of emails from our readers, asking if they should go with the D800 or the D800E for their photography. As I have pointed out a number of times in articles like Nikon D800 vs D800E before, the D800E is a specialized tool that should be used for landscape, nature and macro photography, where fine, repetitive patterns are rarely present. If you like doing portrait photography and occasionally shoot landscapes, then get the D800. The difference between the D800 and D800E is very minor that you normally won’t be able to see. So for 98% of photographers out there, the D800 is the camera to get. Plus, the deals above for the D800E do not include all the goodies from B&H – just the bare $200 off, plus lens rebates…

For dedicated landscape gurus, the D800E is going to give the best possible image quality from the 36 MP sensor.

Nikon D800 / D800E Asymmetric Focus Issue

There has been quite a bit of buzz around the Nikon D800 / D800E focusing issues and one of the most recurring topics of discussions seems to be around the asymmetric focus issue (left AF focus issue). As I have already explained in my “how phase detection autofocus works” article, any DSLR is prone to having AF issues, simply because of the way the phase detect sensor works.

Nikon D800

Folks that have been shooting with DSLRs for years and have gone through different camera bodies know very well that every camera announced to date had a small number of defective units out there. Some had rare issues that required service or replacement, others had defective components (such as battery) that had to be recalled and some units were plagued with autofocus calibration issues. In the big picture, however, the number of truly affected units was very small. The Nikon D7000 DSLR, for example, received some negative feedback specifically on its autofocus problems. After doing some extensive research and gathering lots of data from our readers, it turned out to be that most problems I looked at were user-related issues and very few units actually had manufacturing defects, as I have previously shown in my Nikon D7000 Review Follow-Up. Negative feedback is always more popular and when someone complains about a rather serious problem, it quickly gets blown up. Most people don’t even bother providing positive feedback anyway, so all the bad stuff gets surfaced rather quickly. Also, when looking through customer feedback before buying a product, have you noticed that you typically tend to look for negative feedback more than positive? There is a simple explanation for this type of behavior – people would rather read about product issues to understand limitations and potential problems, than only look at rave reviews.

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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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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

Nikon D800 Review

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This is an in-depth review of the new Nikon D800 camera, one of the most anticipated DSLRs from Nikon that the photography community has been impatiently waiting for more than a year now. The camera was supposed to be released in the summer of 2011, but due to several natural disasters that heavily impacted Nikon’s capability to produce cameras both in Japan and in its Thailand factories, its launch was delayed until February of 2012. There has been a lot of hype about the D800 and while our team has been posting quite a few articles about this camera, there are still many questions pouring in on a daily basis from our readers about its features, capabilities, limitations and performance, especially when compared to the older cameras like Nikon D700, D3, D3s and the new Nikon D4. In this review, I will not only provide detailed information about the Nikon D800, but will also try to answer the many questions that we have gotten so far on the camera, along with comparisons to other DSLRs. Specifically, the comparison includes sensor ISO performance with the following DSLRs: Nikon D700/D3, D3s, Canon 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III and Fuji X-Pro 1 mirrorless camera.

Nikon D800

Was it worth the wait? There has been a lot of buzz about the D800 before and after the camera was announced. One of the main reasons is the popularity of the existing Nikon D700 camera and the sheer number of people, especially part-time and full-time pros, who were dying to upgrade their aging cameras. In addition, the production delay further fueled the heat and spiked up the interest from the photography community that was getting rather impatient, wondering what Nikon would bring to the table for the next several years in the full-frame arena.

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