Some of our readers have been asking about the performance of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens on the Nikon D810, particularly about its autofocus speed and accuracy, especially in low light situations. Lola and I recently shot a wedding with this combo and I had a chance to test out the lens in various conditions – from broad daylight to very dim indoor environments. In this article, I want to talk about my experience with the lens and talk about its pros and cons when using it with the Nikon D810.
While working hard on reviewing the Nikon D810 DSLR, we are doing our best to continue providing detailed coverage about the camera and its capabilities to our readers. Although we have been very happy with the improvements we see on the D810 (which does deserve high praises for its overall performance), we have identified one issue that probably needs Nikon’s attention sooner than later – the D810 seems to have a thermal noise issue when shooting very long exposures. In certain conditions, the camera seems to be produce very fine grain at low ISOs (even base ISO) that should not be there. Although most photographers probably will not notice it, those that photograph the night sky, architecture, waterfalls and seashores at exposures longer than 20 seconds surely will. The grain appears to be of different color and spread, which means that what we see in images are essentially hot pixels. Please note that these hot pixels are not of the same permanent kind discussed in this article – these hot pixels appear as a result of heat and they appear in different locations of the frame. Although such “thermal” pixels are very common in digital camera sensors and are supposed to show up when shooting long exposures, camera manufacturers usually clean them up, whether you shoot in RAW or JPEG format. This clean up happens in the image processing pipeline, before RAW and JPEG files are generated.
While initially testing the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens for our in-depth review, we only had access to the Canon version of the lens (since it came out first), so we could not provide comparison results to other similar focal length Nikon prime lenses. Thanks to our friends at B&H Photo Video, we recently received two copies of the lens for the Nikon F mount to finally complete the review. We also obtained the older version of the lens, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM, along with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lenses for comparisons. Unfortunately, the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 we tested was not available at the time and we could not include it in the below bokeh comparisons, although our usual sharpness tests were carried out and those are included in this article.
I have stated in a previous article that I probably will sell all my DSLR gear eventually, so rarely does it ever get used. Virtually all my work now is done with mirrorless m4/3 (Olympus EM-5). But I must admit to being glad that I brought my DSLR along with me to a recent trip to The Lake District and Scotland. And while I used my EM-5 for virtually the entire trip, canoeing on lakes and hiking up hills with it in a small camera bag, I knew the DSLR would be more effective at capturing the night sky. I was hoping at some point the skies would be clear enough for me to capture some stars, possibly even the Milky Way, and since I had my car bringing along extra gear was not an issue.
We are continuing our coverage of the Nikon D810 and today we want to talk about the capability of the D810 to photograph wildlife, particularly birds. Bird photography is complex and very demanding in terms of gear when it comes to autofocus speed, accuracy and response time. While mirrorless cameras have become a superb choice for everyday photography, they are hard and sometimes impossible to use for photographing fast-moving subjects, like birds in flight. Most mirrorless systems today don’t even have fast telephoto lenses longer than 300mm. Hence, DSLR cameras are the default choice for wildlife photography today.
From time to time, as photographers many of us face issues with the equipment that we have purchased. It could be a problem with a camera, lens, various types of studio equipment, or with camera accessories. How a manufacturer and the selling dealer address the issue and bring it to resolution, or not…can have a significant impact on our continued patronage of that brand of equipment, and the dealer that sells it.
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.
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.
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.
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.