Tag: nikon d800

Summer Morning

On Tuesday, I set aside the early part of the morning specifically for photographing a field of summer wildflowers between Water Street and Municipal Street here in Guelph. My wife Laura and I walk by here regularly as we (mostly she!) completes our 6km loop from home to the Boathouse on Gordon Street (no, we don’t stop for ice cream!) and back again, along the Speed River for most of the way. It’s been interesting to watch how this field has evolved since, amidst much controversy, this forested area was razed by the Hydro One crews two years ago. They seeded it with a wildflower mix which, at this point anyway, seems to be successful. Right now it is ablaze with flowers: Queen Anne’s Lace, Rudbeckia, Evening Primrose, Mullen, various thistles, daisies, and grasses.

When I walked along the trail early Saturday morning, I was struck by the colour, the light and simply how “full” the field was with wildflowers. As I walked, I got thinking about returning with my 100mm macro lens on the D800E first thing in the morning, hand-held, just to see what I could capture, ideally at ƒ2.8 only. I specifically chose my full-frame camera because I wanted to minimize my depth of field, so ƒ2.8 was also my goal. This is a complete departure from my regular shooting style of using a wideangle lens, getting close and using a small aperture to maximize depth-of-field; this allows me to create the environmental portraits I love so much – putting the main subject in its natural context. When I began shooting, though, I quickly realized how shallow the DoF is at ƒ2.8; I just couldn’t come to grips with the limited depth-of-field, so I “slipped up” to 5.6 and even 7.1 for a few shots.

Here are six of the photos I made.

These photos represent another goal of the morning, which was to capture light. I was fortunate that it was cool enough overnight for dew to settle on the flowers, so at 7am they were sparkling, adding another dimension to the morning. However, I can tell I’m a bit out of practice. Some of the parts I wanted in focus are not and despite using shutter speeds over 1/250, my hand-holding is not quite steady enough with high magnification shots like these. The problem is, I’ve become too used to the excellent image stabilization of the Sony RX10iii. Next time, I’ll consider using a monopod, although, to be honest, for these more spontaneous shots, even a monopod would be a hindrance.

Please add your comments, questions and critique using the “Comments” below and be sure to share this post on Facebook. And get out photographing!

Manitoulin Time – 2

We’re back now… and missing the quiet! The hum of the city is all around us. One thing that struck us as we drove along through the pastoral landscape of Manitoulin – there are no traffic lights on the island except for one at the swing bridge that takes you off the island to the north. I suppose it’s there to make you second-guess your decision to leave 😉  In fact, as we drove south on the Bruce Peninsula from our ferry crossing, the first traffic light we came to was at Wiarton, an hour’s drive to the south, and it has two. Even more interesting was on our drive south from Tobermory to Guelph along Hwy 6, then Grey Road 3 then Wellington 7, there were only 5 or 6 traffic lights in total. That’s 250km of backroads – clear and paved with little traffic.

The other feature this island doesn’t have – to its credit – are fast food franchises. No Tim’s, no McDonald’s, no KFC, Subway or Wendy’s or Burger King or Starbucks or…you get the picture. And you know what that means –  no litter on the highways and in the parking lots.  Now, litter in Ontario is not really a big problem except that when you really start looking, it is everywhere. It’s strange and a bit sad how we have become so blind to litter – so blind that it took us a few days to realize that Manitoulin has virtually no litter.

Apparently, Tim Horton’s is trying to get into Little Current, but the islanders (they’re called Haweaters – another story) are working to keep fast-food off the island. What I found ironic, though, was that the only person we spoke to in favour of having a Tim Horton’s in Little Current was a First Nations women in M’Chigeeng. She would drive to Espanola for a Tim’s (that’s 70km away or 43 miles).

Anyway – a few more pics and a few words about photography… the D800E is performing wonderfully, however, it is causing me to relax my technique a bit. I find I’m shooting a lot more off-tripod, for one simple reason – ISO 400 is amazingly noise- and grain-free and it still has amazing dynamic range.

When I shot film, my favourite film was ISO 50 Fujichrome Velvia. Throw a polarizer in front of it (which I used a lot on Manitoulin) and I would be down to ISO 12. For work at ƒ16, that meant a shutter speed of 1/15 in the sunshine – even slower with less light. At ISO 400, with a Hoya HD polarizer (I highly recommend it), my effective ISO only goes down by 1 stop – to ISO 200. That means 1/200 at ƒ16 in the sunshine which gives me much more latitude than previously.

That being said, I still use a tripod for most of my “important”work, but I find that when I’m shooting really creative detail-type shots like those of the limestone boulders at Mississagi Point, I’m working off-tripod to get just the right composition – which would take forever to set-up with a tripod. I find I’m more spontaneous with my framing, more inventive and more likely to explore which are all great ways to “see” and, for me, result in more dynamic photographs. I guess what I’m saying is that with the quality of the D800E sensor, I have the best of both worlds: 4×5″ quality when I want to work on-tripod with the spontaneous creativity of 35mm when I choose.

BTW – I highly recommend the Hoya HD line of filters for two reason: they don’t scratch and they don’t smudge with fingerprints. Additionally the POLs are only 1 stop darker than reality. Case in point: while setting up the low-angle rocks and river shot along the Kagawong River, I suddenly realized my polarizer was no longer on the front of my 20mm lens. To my horror, it had dropped into the rocky, fast-flowing river. At 62mm it’s big enough, but has surface area that can easily get bunged up on the rocks. Amazingly, after putting my hand down in amongst the crayfish-infested rocks and searching around, I found the filter – whew – they’re expensive! A wipe with my shirt-tail and I was ready to go – no scratches or marks at all – whew, again!

Some pics…

Silverweed and Pink Quartzite Erratic, Misery Bay
Silverweed and Pink Quartzite Erratic, Misery Bay
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Manitoulin Island
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Manitoulin Island
Detail: Ringer Washer Spigot, Manitoulin Island
Detail: Ringer Washer Spigot, Manitoulin Island
Loon Island and the LaCloche Range, Evening
Loon Island and the LaCloche Range, Evening
Evening Clouds and Light, North Channel and LCloche Range, Lake
Evening Clouds and Light, North Channel and LCloche Range, Lake
Morning Clouds over Manitowaning Bay 1
Morning Clouds over Manitowaning Bay 1
Morning Clouds over Manitowaning Bay 2
Morning Clouds over Manitowaning Bay 2
Alpaca, Noble Alpaca Farm, Manioulin Island
Alpaca, Noble Alpaca Farm, Manioulin Island
Log and Board Outbuilding, Manitoulin island
Log and Board Outbuilding, Manitoulin island
Detail: Collection of Old Stuff, Manitoulin island
Detail: Collection of Old Stuff, Manitoulin island
Evening Light, North Channel and LaCloche Range, Lake Huron, Ont
Evening Light, North Channel and LaCloche Range, Lake Huron, Ont

AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm ƒ3.4-4.5 VRII Lens Test on a D800E

I love my prime lenses and I love the whole approach to using primes: choosing specific focal lengths to capture specific perspectives then moving to carefully compose the photograph to make best use of the film or sensor perspectives. The alternative is a zoom lens.

Zooms have their place too. While travelling around Africa, Europe and the UK, I found my two zooms, which covered the complete focal length range from 24mm to 400mm, ideal for quick hand-held shots in a rapidly changing environment. They were both Zuiko Digital zooms and simply the best combination out there. In fact, the only reason I moved away from them was Olympus’ reticence (or lack of R&D) in coming out with a sensor with enough pixels to emulate the detail I enjoy with 6×7 and 4×5 photography.

However, since switching to the Nikon D800E and prime lenses, I have, on a few occasions, missed having the flexibility of a zoom lens, especially when shooting family snaps and shots around the school. Now, the D800E is definite overkill for snaps – quite often I have it set to capture 9MP jpegs. And, perhaps buying a zoom lens for this camera is a bit dumb as I could buy a decent point and shoot that has greater range for less than the cost of a good zoom. However, it’s also nice to have the flexibility of an excellent auto-focus, zero shutter delay and, if needed, 36mp (which, by the way, is great for cropping sports photos when the action is on the other side of the field – even when using a300mm lens!).

So what did I do? I have a wonderful family who generously assisted with my purchase of the newest Nikkor zoom, an AF-S 24-85mm ƒ3.5-4.5 VRII. The focal range is almost ideal. I would have preferred stretching it to at least 100mm as my previous zoom was a 24-120 Zuiko Digital and it was ideal. The Nikkor is also a bit slow, but when you put it in perspective, this lens covers four times the sensor size as the Zuiko 4:3s lenses, so losing half a stop and 1/3 in focal length isn’t really a big deal. If 85mm isn’t quite long enough, I can always crop with plenty of pixels “to spare”.

But how is the lens quality. I always fell that when you choose a zoom lens, it’s not for quality, but rather for convenience, so I always expect to give up some lens quality. That being said, my primes are not necessarily Nikon’s best: they are all AF-D (older designs) and cheaper builds than the newer ones. I have a 24mm ƒ2.8, a 28mm ƒ2.8, a 50mm ƒ1.8 and a 105 Micro ƒ2.8. So it was against these lenses that I would test the new zoom.

This afternoon, I set up the tripod and electronic release, set the camera to ISO 100 with Mirror Lock-up and full frame raw capture and shot a series with each lens at wide open, ƒ11 (my most-used aperture) and closed down. It was really ƒ11 that is most important to me. I know lenses are a bit mushy at larger apertures and go soft at smaller apertures due to refraction, so those are the details I will show here.

Observations

I’ll not go into a detailed account of each focal length and aperture. You can see for yourself, the differences between the primes and the 24-85mm zoom as I have included a small gallery of comparisons at each focal length at ƒ11, showing the corners only. In the gallery are comparisons at 100% of the top right corner in Lightroom’s “Compare” mode. The files have had no additional processing or sharpening. NOTE: When you look at the gallery images, be sure to click on “View Full Size” in the bottom right of the window that opens.

Needless to say, the centre of each frame is quite good and not significantly different at comparable focal lengths and apertures. What is most important to me are the corners as that is where a lens falls apart. The 24-85mm zoom didn’t disappoint, but it didn’t match the quality of the primes, either. As expected, the zoom showed more light fall-off in the corners, but quite unexpectedly, it did rather well up against the 105mm Micro-Nikkor. I also didn’t expect the 50mm ƒ1.8 to perform as well as it did – it looks great in the corners.

One unexpected difference was in colour saturation and exposure. While the primes had slightly higher contrast (as expected), the zoom has slightly richer colours which may be a result of exposures from the zoom being 1/3 to 3/4 of a stop darker. Not a big problem, but unexpected. Perhaps the stated maximum aperture of the zoom is not as wide as claimed meaning the ƒ3.5 is really a ƒ4 or 4.5. That is one real bonus of prime lenses – they are generally faster than zooms in the sae relative price range and primes are of higher quality at maximum aperture.

So, is the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm VRII lens good enough to walk around with? Yes it is – just. I am well aware of its shortcomings – which are not too serious, really – and plan to make good use of this lens. However, I will not be using it for my dedicated landscape and nature shots. I will forego the convenience of having a range of focal lengths in one lens and will gladly switch primes when I feel the shot really deserves the kind of quality I can get from prime lenses.

Landscapes of Wellington County

For a while now, one of the projects I’ve been working on is a series of landscapes of Wellington County. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the area, Wellington County is an hour west of Toronto and surrounds the city of Guelph (about 120,000) and the towns of Erin, Fergus and Elora with a hodge-podge of townships trending northwest from there. Predominantly farmland with few natural areas, Wellington County is bisected by the Grand River and some of its tributaries, namely the Speed and Eramosa Rivers. It’s not exactly Madison County with its various bridges, but, there are a few places where the river courses are quite photogenic. As well, Elora Gorge offers some great photographic potential.

There is not much in the way of topography, though, with the highest point being Starkey Hill, just east of Arkell (southeast of Guelph) atop the Guelph Moraine, part of the Galt-Paris Moraine complex left over from the last glacial period. The Grand River valley also provides some topography, but with most of the land being private and the natural areas being either wetland or forest, there are few “vistas” ideal for landscapes.

If I could photograph only one thing, it would be landscapes – those broad, sweeping, three-dimensional vistas filled with  detail that start at my feet and extend to the horizon. However, to really work, they require just the right combination of timing for vegetation and lighting – that dramatic moment that says something more than “I was here”. And, more often than not, landscapes are at their most stunning when I’m on my way somewhere else and can’t stop to photograph. Such is life… Needless to say, my landscapes of Wellington County continues to been a long-term project.

Yesterday morning I made a point of doing some exploring to re-familiarize myself with some spots I hadn’t been to in some time. It was a fine summer morning still fresh after Sunday’s rain. Thank goodness for the rain over the last week, otherwise the river courses would have been nearly dry. I worked in the area just north and east of Guelph – the Eramosa Township area.

Field techniques included, as usual, a Nikon D800e mounted on Manfrotto 055 legs and head, mirror lock-up and an electronic release. Shooting data for each photograph is in the caption. The raw image files were processed using Lightroom 4.1

Here are a few from yesterday…

The Nikon D800e and ISO

In various reviews, one of the “jaw dropping” features of the Nikon D800e that has been identified is its amazing image quality, not just at ISO200 and 400, but all the way up to ISO 3200. I thought I would put it to the test under conditions that are, for a nature and landscape photographer, somewhat “normal” to ideal. Yesterday morning was one of those perfect early summer mornings with soft lighting and no wind. It would have been nice to have a little more dew, but hey, when it comes to nature, you take what you can get and say “Thank you!”

The photographs were made using a Nikkor 20mm ƒ2.8 AF-D lens mounted on sturdy Manfrotto 055 legs with a heavy duty head. They were exposed using mirror lock-up and an electronic release. They were shot at ƒ22 – typical for landscape work where I want everything from the immediate foreground to the “far hills” in focus. ƒ22 does introduce diffraction issues, but more on that in my next post.

The 100% crops were all taken from the centre of each frame as I am trying to show how the camera performs, not the lens. The 20mm is a great all-around wideangle – a focal length I love for landscapes – but it does have chromatic aberration issues in the corners that need a bit of TLC to correct.

Shown below is a series for each of the ISO200, 800 and 3200 shots. The images have been processed in Lightroom 4.1, all in the same way at default sharpening. The values are shown for each photo in theLR  panel at the right of each screen capture. You will see Full image views of each photo plus a view at 100% for the pixel peepers and a view at 50% for the realists. I then applied what I would call “appropriate” sharpening to each image to bring out its best qualities and there is a 100% view of each. Yes, the sharpening is different for each, but that’s what one would expect when working to achieve highest image quality at each ISO.

So, now you can be the judge. How well does the D800e hold up at different ISOs? While you can click on an image and scroll through the gallery one at a time, once you are in the gallery, you can also right-click on an image and select “Open Image in New Window” or “Open Image in New Tab”. That way you can do direct comparisons right in your browser. Alternatively, from within the gallery, you can right-click and choose “Save Image As…” (or whatever the equivalent is in Windows).

If you’re like me, you just might be somewhat astounded at what the D800e can do at ISO3200. Under ideal conditions (“normal contrast”, properly exposed images with no excessive recovery of lost detail in shadows which generates noise) and with appropriate sharpening, it is possible to achieve truly printable images at high ISO. In this case, “truly printable” includes large format prints as ISO3200 at 50% and even 100% is pretty amazing.

Nikon D800 – “Should I upgrade?”

I have been asked by a number of people about whether they should upgrade to a Nikon D800. They are understandably attracted by the amazing potential that this camera holds for higher quality digital photographs and video. Once they get past the shock of its price, they start thinking about that state-of-the-art 36mp sensor – bigger has to be better, right?

Well perhaps, but not for everyone. There are a few things you need to consider before jumping on the D800 bandwagon:

  1. How often do you enlarge photos to 16″ or more? The 36mp sensor in the D800 is 7360 x 4912 pixels. At 300ppi, it will produce uncropped prints of 16.4″ x 24.5″ or at 360ppi (for Epson printers) uncropped prints 13.6″ x 20.4″ in size. If you are making prints this size or larger on a regular basis, then the D800 is for you. Some have asked, “But wouldn’t downsizing from this file size result in better prints as well?” Quite possibly, yes, but the difference at print viewing distance would be minimal and perhaps only visible to someone who really knows what to look for (which is not the vast majority of people who buy large fine art photographs). By the way, I am speaking in terms of uncropped prints, because a photographer who is working towards mastering the craft will routinely compose to either fill-the-frame or at least fill one dimension to allow the other dimension to be cropped. Do you do this as common practice? If not, then perhaps the D800 is not for you.
  2. Do you shoot raw or jpeg format? Many pros shoot jpegs as that’s what their job demands: grip and grins that need to be processed and sent out immediately or news hounds that don’t have time (or the necessity) for post-capture fine-tuning. Even many wedding photogs are still shooting only jpegs. While it may be controversial for me to say this, but if you are shooting jpegs and you are not a pro – in other words if you are shooting jpegs because they are more convenient than doing some post-process work on your photographs – then the D800 may not be for you. The D800 is all about image quality. The photographs you are capable of producing will not improve with more megapixels, only their size will increase. If you are not willing to put the time and effort into fine-tuning raw image files, then the shortcuts you take in producing jpegs may well prevent you from taking full advantage of the benefits the D800 offers. Don’t get me wrong – the D800 produces amazing jpegs, but if it’s only jpegs you want – pre-processed and pre-sharpened with a truncated colour depth – then the D800 is not the ideal machine for you.
  3. Are you prepared for full-frame? This goes along with the next question. Your 18-55mm or 18-200mm zoom will not cut it on the D800 unless you use the camera only in DX mode. If that’s the case, you’d be better off with a D7000. If you are not prepared to upgrade your DX lenses to FX, then don’t consider a D800.
  4. Do you have lenses that will resolve to 36mp? Most of the kit lenses and cheap zooms produced by Nikon and the various 3rd party lens manufacturers will not resolve 36mp well enough from centre to corner to take advantage of the D800 sensor. While they will capture 36mp of data at full-frame, they will not resolve detail in ever one of those 36mp, even if the detail is in the original scene. Like the previous question, if you are not prepared to invest in lenses that resolve 36mp of detail, then you should rethink your decision to buy a D800. For more information, have a look at the work lensrentals.com is doing or the discussions on the Luminous-Landscape Forums here and here.
  5. Is your technique refined enough to get the quality from 36mp you are expecting? A number of D800 users have, in just this short time, realized that to get the most out of the D800 you need impeccable technique. Hand-held shots do not seem to be as sharp as they were with 12mp because even the smallest of movements are now being recorded. Diffraction at f/16 and f/22 is more noticeable. You may find that working on a tripod becomes the norm when using the D800 – would you be happy with that? You may also find (as other D800 users have) that each lens will need its autofocus fine-tuned. As well, many D800 users are making active use of live view for focussing. Are you prepared for that kind of precision?
  6. As a corollary to Q 6. (and there is no insult intended) – would you recognize the additional image quality provided by a D800? Many photographers are quite satisfied with their on-screen results and the prints they are producing. In your current photography, do you recognize that you have reached the image quality potential of your current system? If not, then the D800 is not for you. Do you recognize the flaws in IQ with your current system and wish to go beyond what you can currently achieve? If so, then perhaps the D800 is the way to go.
  7. Are you prepared to buy larger, faster memory cards? A standard raw file from a D800 is almost 75mb. your current 4GB card that may hold nearly 300 12mp raw files will now only hold 53 D800 raw files. Even the jpegs at highest quality are over 20MB in size. You will need to invest in larger capacity memory cards with faster write speeds, not just for raw files, but for video as well.
  8. Is your computer system and image management application up to processing 36mp files? Further to Q. 7, that 75mp raw file you’ve just captured will open in Photoshop at over 200MB – and that’s before you add any layers! Is your system up to manipulating these files? Realistically, however, most serious photographers  will have already migrated to  using a non-destructive workflow offered by Lightroom, Aperture and Capture One. But even there you will notice a speed hit, particularly when it comes to generating 1:1 previews (don’t do this upon Import, but rather only as needed) and when retouching. Be prepared for a slower work-flow!

Your investment of $3000 (+ tax!) for a D800 body may end up costing you a whole lot more if you haven’t thought things through thoroughly. You will need larger, faster memory cards; you may need a few new lenses or at least one of the more expensive high-optical-quality Nikkor zooms (and the circular polarizing and other filters for them); you may need a new computer system or at least a pile more ram. You may also need to invest in Lightroom, Aperture or Capture One to avoid the humungous file sizes generated by a Photoshop workflow. And, if you haven’t already adopted a non-destructive workflow, that may also be a learning curve you need to take on.

My decision to move from my 12mp Olympus to the D800e was not taken lightly. Nor was it taken without a hard look at (a) what style of photography excites me; (b) where I would like to go with my photography; and (c) how well my technique, workflow and equipment fit the requirements of a D800. As I have said before in posts, I come from a background of using manual, mechanical 6×7 and 4×5 cameras with prime lenses. I am quite happy to use a tripod and slow my methods down to squeeze  from every scene as much image quality as possible– in fact, that’s where I thrive. For me, using a D800 will be like going back to my medium and large format days but with the added convenience of digital processing and printing, video capture and, when needed for extra reach from a telephoto, DX capture at 15mp.

I am greatly excited by the prospects and am anxiously awaiting the arrival a D800e body.

A new beginning with a Nikon D800e

Over the past six months, various aspects of my photographic and non-photographic life have caused me to think hard about where I am going with my photography and the equipment I am using.

Up until 2004, I was an ardent film user having started my photography in 1977 with a Praktica camera. My first serious system was a Minolta with their wonderful lenses. Eventually I “graduated” to a Nikon FM system with Nikkor lenses, but, upon moving to Pentax 67 (selling my Nikon gear to purchase the medium format system), I began using my wife’s Olympus system which I have stayed with all these years. The OM system with its small bodies and prime lenses was ideal for carrying alongside my 4×5 system which I began using in the mid-1990s for my serious work.

In 2004, I made the leap and bought a digital SLR. I agonized over the decision and lamented the fact that my Olympus lenses would not work on their new line of 4/3s DSLRs. However, Olympus once again won out as I could get the full range of focal lengths from 28mm to 400mm in two zooms that also had the same filter size – an ideal kit for travelling as by that time we were living and working overseas. It meant giving up my wonderful prime lenses, but zooms made sense at the time. Not long after returning to Canada I upgraded that system to a 12mp body with a zoom that finally allowed be to reach 24mm – my personal “sweet-spot” for landscapes. In fact, the 12-60mm f/2.8-4 (24 to 120mm equivalent in 35mm terms) was one of the finest zooms ever made – a brilliant range for the nature and landscape work I do.

But alas, the writing was on the wall. With Olympus’ new “flagship” E-5 only carrying 12mp (although a very sharp 12mp), the 4/3s system was quickly being out-paced by APS systems and Olympus began putting its efforts into mirrorles-4/3s. Many argue that it’s not megapixels that make an image and they are absolutely correct for the vast majority of photographers. However, I come from a 6×7 and 4×5 background where image quality and every little detail is absolutely essential.

The second big revelation came back in September of 2011, when I finally began doing some serious printing again after a 12 year hiatus. This meant re-tooling and relearning having spent more than 2 decades in the darkroom creating both black-and-white and colour prints. I don’t care what anyone says – a 12mp sensor simply does not hold up on a 17″ print, especially when I am trying to express the amazing detail found in grand landscapes. That being said, I have 5mp images that look stunning in large prints and many 12mp images that look even better, but they are few and far between and suffer from image breakdown upon close inspection.

With my photography moving more and more into fine art prints, I knew it was just a matter of time before my work would begin to take a back seat. Besides, if I am going to invest time and energy into getting myself in the right place at the right time, I want the resulting digital files to be worth it. Yes, I could just pick up my 4×5 and start shooting film again and scanning it, but the beauty of digital is just so tantalizing. The Pentax D645 with 39mp was just about ideal for this kind of work but it started at $10,000. The same-sized Leica system was also ideal but even $30,000 would’t be enough to do it justice.

With the demise of the 4/3s system and my quest for ultimate image quality at a price I could afford, I began looking seriously at the Sony ?900 and 850 bodies and the wonderful Zeiss zooms available for them. But even those cameras began to look outdated. Word began spreading of a new Nikon body with megapixels galore. Really – 36mp! You’ve got to be joking!

Meanwhile, my brother Charlie who lives and photographs down in Naples, Florida helped to bring me back to my photographic roots when he sent me a booklet and calendar showing the work of Clyde Butcher. If you’ve never seen his work, think Ansel Adams in the Everglades. Amazing – you must visit Clyde’s website! His vision in making gorgeous photos of his “home turf” has re-kindled my desire to do the same here in Ontario.

So, now I’m thinking – while I’ve done some very rewarding work with zoom lenses, I enjoyed photography even more when shooting 6×7 and 4×5 (and 35mm) on a tripod with prime lenses. There is something about prime lenses and working on at tripod that makes you slow down, think and look a lot more closely. It’s not that you can’t do that when hand-holding a zoom lens, it’s just that with primes and a tripod, a certain discipline develops and that discipline of careful thought and placement and composition begins to seep into all areas of the craft and vision of photography. I, for one, benefit from that discipline.

Thus, the various alignments of the demise of 4/3s, the move to fine art prints, the arrival of a breakthrough, full frame 36mp DSLR and my recommitment to prime lenses have resulted in this new beginning. Over the past week or so, I have begun that metamorphosis by purchasing a variety of Nikkor prime lenses and selling my Olympus gear (thanks eBay and Kijiji). The metamorphosis will be complete when I begin shooting with the Nikon D800e that is currently on order and not yet available. Hopefully, my name isn’t too far down the list that I won’t be waiting too long to take delivery.

I have scoured the ‘Net for professional opinions of these new, ground-breaking DSLRs. Everyone who has used one arrives at the same conclusion: the D800 and D800e are truly game-changers. They bring what was once only possible with a minimum $15,000 investment into the hands of photographers like myself for whom that kind of expenditure was simply out of the question. In many ways, the Nikon D800 represents a democratization of image quality like we’ve never seen before.

Check out the Internet and you’ll see all the usual splash about new cameras on dpreview.com, but two things have helped me most in making up my mind. First were the numbers posted by DxOmark.com – a whopping 95 for the D800 – better than any camera of any sensor size, right up to 180mp. Phenomenal. While this is only a measure of the sensor, for me it was the D800’s amazing dynamic range of 14.4 stops that counts most – ideal for the kind of nature and landscape work I do. (In comparison, my E-30 scores 55 and the E-5, 56; the Pentax D645 scores 82 while the Sony 900 scores 79.)

The second bit of help I had in making this decision came from a photographer whose work I have greatly admired for many, many years – Jim Brandenburg of National Geographic fame. His 20-minute interview with WhatDigitalCamera.com and his work for Nikon on this project was a revelation. Granted, he would be a bit of a fan-boy as result of his close association, but, given his reputation, I’m sure he’s also not one to jump on a bandwagon that doesn’t have a solid foundation.

So, consider this my first post on the Nikon D800e. I will add more as I continue this exciting new beginning…

Note: Call it serendipity, but having sold my two Olympus zooms yesterday, just as I was writing this post, my E-30 sold on eBay. I am now completely divested of Olympus (yes, with a tear in one eye), but am now looking forward with even greater anticipation to the next week or so.