About the camera
It’s not easy to surprise the photographic world. In an eternal race of technological innovations constantly appear big and small leaders, all advantage of which can sometimes consist in correctly built marketing campaign. In fact, there have been only a few cameras in the last few years that we can say with certainty that they have changed the level of digital photography.
A full-frame sensor with 36 megapixels, with a “rare” arrangement of the sensitive elements and a high signal-to-noise ratio, with high though not exorbitant sensitivity, with the shooting speed enough for a normal reportage. Powerful system of high-precision autofocus, 3D-color multi-mode metering, image processor EXPEED 3.
Dust-proof magnesium body and a guaranteed life of 200,000 shots. High resolution video mode with the possibility to record uncompressed signal through the receiver and high-quality stereo sound recording with adjustable channels. These are the main characteristics common to the two camera versions. In fact the only difference between the models is the spectral filter of the sensor.
All sensors in digital cameras, regardless of type, have an ordered structure. Simply put, lots and lots of sensitive spots spaced evenly apart. It’s a well-known and obvious fact. There’s nothing wrong with it, except for one unpleasant effect.
Usually objects with a completely ordered structure are rare in photographic practice, but if their image, when projected on a matrix, has a matching cyclicity, the well-known moire phenomenon appears, which can completely destroy the natural image. To counteract it, a scattering component in the sensor-covering filter is a must. Because of it, the resolution is noticeably lower, but the risk of moiré is virtually eliminated.
The D800e doesn’t have this effect in its spectral filter, so there is a risk of color distortion and moire ghosting in some areas. In monochrome mode, these defects should be absent, and the sharpness and micro-contrast of the image should be noticeably higher. To realize the sharpest possible image, limited only by the capabilities of modern optics, and was created modification D800e.
By the time the test was held in New York, there were already enough owners of the basic modification of the D800. In forums and on social networks, a lot of interest was replaced by no less eager boasting of the happy owners. Famous photographers published great photos, while techno-oriented photographers kept counting pixels in every image.
It was already clear that the camera has no better resolution today – even the most rabid film advocates agreed on that. But the “E” modification was still a mystery. The questions to it were formed on the basis of doubts that haunted the photographic community.
The main and basic question: will this model be suitable for a wide range of applications, or will it be the fate of “monochrome” professionals?? The prospect of buying a specialized camera for one type of shooting is not very attractive. The second question was about camera resolution: would such a high resolution be desirable and would the result justify a significant increase in file size??
For this comprehensive test, only high-quality lenses were used to capture all the details of an image. In this shooting we used a 16mm f/2 fisheye.8D AF Fisheye-NIKKOR, AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR ultra-wide-angle zoom, AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1 wide-angle discrete.4G ED, NIKKOR 50 mm f/1.8 “Poltinor”, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2 long-focal-length zoom.8G ED VR II. These lenses have very high resolution and contrast and also work well in all light conditions with a fairly even distribution of sharpness over the field. Their performance allows us to fully appreciate the real quality of the image.
The first scenes were chosen with a maximum of small details and were mostly shot with wide-angle optics. After the first shooting I found out an interesting feature, which I had never encountered with other cameras. The well-known principle that in order to get a sharp image when shooting handheld, the shutter speed should digitally coincide with the focal length of the lens in millimeters, did not work in the case of the D800e.
The resolution is so high that the slightest vibration affects the transfer of fine details. The image stabilizer does not always help either. I found by experiment that the easiest way to set the camera to a shutter speed of no slower than 1/200 sec was to not worry too much about maximum sharpness of the picture.
Several dozens of technical series with a variety of optics have convinced that there is no doubt about the high quality of the sensor and the best quality is realized when shooting in the uncompressed NEF format, which gives the best opportunities for further processing. I was going to evaluate the camera’s performance in real-life conditions in the field, in various light conditions and on various scenes, depending on the intended use.
A series of shots of cityscapes showed that to focus only on high resolution and fine details does not really make any sense, – all this comes out by itself when you follow fairly simple rules concerning any other camera, namely: the use of a tripod, the minimum sensitivity and minimum compression when shooting. Tonal reproduction is much more interesting, though not so striking, but ensuring a noticeably finer tonal gradation in the post-processing.
In this case both high resolution and capacity of the camera’s processor, which provides quite a lot of stock of “drag” of the file, have an effect. Color rendering of the camera in different light conditions both in auto mode and at individual settings did not differ from the reportage Nikon D4, and there were no complaints about this indicator. Actually, we didn’t expect anything different, after all the two “top” Nikon models have enough common components and the processing algorithm is probably the same.
Shooting at different ISO settings brought no surprises either. Of course, the D800e does not compete with reportage cameras in this regard, but it does not particularly lag behind, if you do not need a particularly high-quality image. The claimed maximum sensitivity of 6400 ISO is quite adequate for an evening reportage, but really good quality is achieved at lower sensitivities. Expansion to 25,600 ISO is obviously a “last resort.
The continuous shooting speed will not impress sports reporters and fans of shooting long series, but it is quite enough for an ordinary reportage. What’s more, you can’t complain about the speed of the autofocus. The camera “captures” the object steadily in any of the modes, and even with small animals no problems at a sufficient shooting distance were encountered.
Without using special equipment, it is impossible to evaluate video performance in a normal photographic test. The highest level of quality, surpassing most professional camcorders, requires in addition to the visual also hardware evaluation. But the few short clips I took made a very good impression when I watched them.
Despite the manufacturer’s warnings about possible color problems in some scenes, we were unable to detect any noticeable color deviations. Perhaps some special features will show up in studio photography with some specific subjects. The use of polarizing filter on common sensors gives more noticeable color and density deviations, but in most cases no one pays attention to it.
The same can be said about moire: it was hard to find an object cloth , which displayed moire in some parts. When it comes to image sharpness, it is the lens that has the biggest impact on the resolution. It just doesn’t make sense to use budget optics on this camera.
Visually, there is a difference in resolution between full color and monochrome modes, but it is noticeable on top magnifications. The D800e version certainly excels in rendering fine details, but these “superpowers” are only fully apparent when shooting in NEF format and printing at large size.
Picture view test
Sharp image across the entire field. In publications and even when viewed on a computer screen, it is difficult to evaluate the detail of the picture. Only when printing at large print sizes 26mm, f/11, 1/500s, ISO 400 .
Fish-eye lens gives you an extremely sharp image, from foreground to infinity. Well seen and the breadth of the dynamic range: the picture worked even very bright areas 16 mm, f/13, 1/640 sec, ISO 640 .
Average sensitivity. The exact same image structure in highlights and shadows is a special feature of the camera
(155mm, f/8, 1/250 sec, ISO 640 .
Evening light and a characteristic haze. The long focal length lens emphasized the shooting distance with its pattern
(200 mm, f/9, 1/320 s, ISO 400 .
Highly detailed image across the whole image field and excellent rendering of tonality
(28 mm, f/14, 1/800 sec, ISO 640 .
The grid on the window is clearly visible in the background, but no moiré effect appeared due to the large difference between the size of the cells and the size of the sensor structure. In terms of quick autofocus, the camera easily manages to take pictures of animals
(31mm, f/8, 1/80s, ISO 500 .
Great picture detail and good color saturation. The cloudy weather smoothed out the natural brightness variations
(17mm, f/11, 1/500s, ISO 640 .
A scene in which sharpness fades away when zoomed in. The shutter speed was not fast enough to get the nearly stationary parts sharp
(200mm, f/2.8, 1/100sec, ISO 1600 .