sRAW Noise vs Down-Sampling

We are continuing our in-depth evaluation of the sRAW format and this time we want to compare noise performance of sRAW when compared to down-sampling / resizing of images in post-processing software. Since Adobe’s Camera RAW processes high ISO RAW images and especially the sRAW format quite poorly, I used Nikon’s Capture NX-D software instead. The results are quite interesting, showing pretty decent implementation of in-camera resizing and noise reduction. For this study, I only exported high ISO images above ISO 800.

Nikon D810 ISO 800 RAW Nikon D810 ISO 800 sRAW

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sRAW Study: WB and Recovery

With the introduction of the Nikon D4S and the D810, Nikon introduced the new sRAW format for saving images. While we have already explained the format in detail in our sRAW format explained article, there were many follow-up questions from our readers, some of whom asked us to provide some image samples from RAW, sRAW and JPEG formats to compare things like white balance recovery and highlight / shadow recovery. In this article, we will explore the sRAW format in detail and show sample images from both controlled lab and outdoor environments, demonstrating what sRAW is capable of delivering when compared to the regular RAW format.

First, let’s take a look at how capable the sRAW format is at recovering white balance. For the first test, we photographed a color chart with the D810 in proper white balance, then changed the WB setting to 2500K (cool) and 10000K (warm). The below comparisons demonstrate the results in both sRAW and JPEG formats to show their differences compared to regular RAW files.

sRAW White Balance Recovery: Controlled Environment

Here is a crop from a color chart shot with correct white balance:

Nikon D810 RAW

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Nikon D810 vs D800 / D800E Dynamic Range Comparison

One of the tests that we will be including in our upcoming Nikon D810 review is a dynamic range comparison between the D810 and the D800E. Instead of making our readers wait for this comparison, we decided to publish it in a separate article. Whether one shoots landscapes or portraits, dynamic range is important, because it allows recovering of both shadow and highlight details in RAW images. With the release of the Nikon D810, one might wonder if it is any better than the D800 / D800E cameras in dynamic range performance. Since the D810 has a base ISO of 64, we decided to provide ISO 64 and ISO 100 samples to see if there is any discernible difference between the two. We also provided ISO 3200 samples to show differences in dynamic range at high ISOs between these cameras.

Nikon D810 vs D800 / D800E

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6 Simple and Useful Tricks for Nikon DSLRs

Our perception of any piece of technology is greatly influenced by it’s ease of use and overall user experience. For example, when I bought my first DSLR, my decision came down to Canon vs Nikon. I tried Sony, Pentax and Olympus and didn’t like them for one reason or another, but I knew that I could be happy shooting with either Canon or Nikon. How did I finally end up making my decision? The menu system. I preferred Nikon’s menus and navigation over Canon’s, so I bought a D40. Now, eight years and tens of thousands of dollars later, I’m still a Nikon guy, all because of the difference in menu design.

In this article, I’m going to share a few simple tricks that I’ve picked up over the years that make using my Nikon a little bit easier. To some of you, these might be completely obvious and old news, but to others they might very well change the way you view and use your camera!

All images shown are from the D800 menu. Your menu may look a little different.

1) Formatting Memory Cards

If your camera has two memory card slots, you’ll usually want to format both memory cards before you start shooting. Back in the days before I learned this trick, here’s how I used to format my memory cards: format my primary memory card, turn off the camera, take it out, turn the camera back on, format my secondary memory card, turn off the camera, put my primary back in, turn the camera on and then start shooting. Do you format your memory cards this way, too? Well, time to stop it! Here’s a much faster and easier way to format both memory cards without ever having to turn your camera off:

  • Hold down the two buttons marked as “Format” in red to format your card.
  • Notice that on the control panel (top screen), one card is flashing. This is the card that you are about to format.
  • Go ahead and format that card by pressing the two buttons again.
  • Now, hold down the two buttons to format your card. Notice the same (primary) card is still flashing.
  • Turn the command dial (rear wheel) one click. Notice that the card that’s flashing has changed to your secondary card?
  • Go ahead and format that card.
  • That’s it! Now both of your cards have been formatted in about half the time as the old way.

Nikon Tricks format memory card

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Why I Love the Nikon E Series (AKA Really Cheap) Lenses

At a time when the digital photography world was buzzing with new gear announcements, I managed to fall in love with some of Nikon’s very old and cheap lenses, the E Series lenses. My experience with these lenses taught me a great lesson: it is really not about the gear. It is rather about being creative with what gear we already have, despite how limited and incapable we might think of it. This was a great inspiration to me, especially with my nagging habit of lusting after the latest and greatest gear announcements. The fact that I’m writing this article goes to show that I still struggle with GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), but for a change, this is a case about some of the cheapest lenses available.

This guest post was contributed by Samer Rizk. See more of Samer’s work at his 500px page.

Nikon E Series Lenses (1)

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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