What do you do when you have two low-light kings, the Nikon D4s and the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4? You take them for a night shoot of course! After receiving both for some testing / reviews, I took off to photograph Denver downtown at night. It was way past the sunset time, so I knew that I would only have street lights to illuminate my subjects. Since the Zeiss Otus is an insanely sharp lens wide open, I set its aperture to f/1.4 and only changed it a couple of times during the night in order to increase depth of field and ISO. Interestingly, at such a large aperture, I found myself often shooting at pretty low ISO levels – generally under ISO 3200. So it was nice to be able to push my shutter speeds as high as 1/400 for freezing motion:
Although ISO is relatively high at ISO 11400, running a single pass of noise reduction, down-sampling to 2048 pixels long and sharpening the image a little makes it perfectly usable in my opinion. The Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 was a little tough to focus with initially, but once I got used to its position where it gave me perfect focus, it was not too bad (f/1.4, 1/60, ISO 900):
Unfortunately, one cannot purely rely on the optical viewfinder or the green focus confirmation dot, especially with longer manual focus lenses that have razor thin depth of field. The viewfinder makes it hard to see perfect focus, while the green focus confirmation dot just has too much “play”. This play is especially bad at f/1.4 – I could have both a blurry and a sharp image while the camera thinks that the subject is in good focus at both positions. Gladly, it did not take much effort to realize that critical focus was very close to the right side of the green dot. And if you have accuracy issues with the green focus confirmation dot, manual focus lenses can also be calibrated similar to autofocus lenses using the AF Fine Tune feature.
Photographing anything moving with manual focus was out of question, but static subjects worked pretty well, especially when I used Live View to obtain critical focus (f/1.4, 1/60, ISO 900):
Auto ISO worked like a charm, managing my exposure and keeping the shutter speeds at 1/60 and above.
Here is an example of what the camera can do at ISO 25,600 (f/5.6, 1/125):
Not the cleanest image in the world, but still quite impressive! All these images are re-sized to 2048 pixels long, so if you do not have a large monitor, definitely download and check them out! Here is the last sample, captured at f/1.4, 1/60, ISO 500:
I am currently working on doing a lab comparison between the Nikon D4, D4s and Df, so stay tuned for a detailed comparison between the three (planning on publishing it tomorrow). It will be interesting to see how the D4s does against its predecessor and the Df!