Our Camera Gear – UPDATED

Morning reflections of Mt Christina and the Darran Mountains, from the Key Summit Tarns. Routeburn Track, Fiordland New Zealand

Morning reflections of Mt Christina and the Darran Mountains, from the Key Summit Tarns. Routeburn Track, Fiordland New Zealand.  This image made on a Nikon D2x using a 12-24mm f/4 zoom.  The lens is reviewed on our updated reviews page but the body ain’t – after all, who would buy a D2x these days!?

Howdy folks – I have updated our camera gear page on the website.  Rather than extensive and time consuming full on reviews I have opted for some highly opinionated bite-sized snippets.  It is mainly Nikon DX and FX lenses and bodies under the microscope, but I have included the gear used during our brief dalliance with Canon as well.


Cheers – Todd


Nikon’s New Android Camera | Coolpix S800c

nikon's first android camera the coolpix s800c

Phone nope. Games console, maybe. Camera probably. The Nikon Coolpix s800c is Nikon’s first Android powered camera. The big question – will Angry Birds work on this?

Nikon Announces First Android Camera | Coolpix s800c 

Nikon announced it’s first casual wander down the body-strewn Avenue de Convergence (it’s in France) this week with the announcement of the Android Coolpix s800c camera phone.

The s800c (memorable moniker eh) runs Android version 2.3.3 (reeses pieces?) and sports a great big touch screen,  a nice zoom and connects with the world via WIFI and bluetooth (does anyone actually use Bluetooth?).  There is no GSM capability so, no, it is not a phone.

The downside to all of this new age loveliness? Crappy battery life – actually, crappier than crappy – a very 2005-esque 140 shots per charge.  Presumably that factors in little or no Instagramming or Angry Birding in between shots too….

Personally, I see this as a dead end street for Nikon.  I see little long term market for a compromised compact camera with partial communications functionality in  world of  smartphones – many of which will have equivalent camera functions within the next 2-3 years.  Who is going to carry around a compact a camera when their phone does it all?

Head over here to read my full thoughts on the Nikon s800c.

Cheers – Todd

Photos of New Zealand | Leaning Rock, Central Otago

Central Otago sunrise leaning rock-1 alexandra

Sunrise over Leaning Rock on the Dunstan Range, Central Otago New Zealand. Photography By Todd Sisson.

I have been getting right into my Panoramic stitching recently – as we are finding more and more demand for large scale canvas prints of  New Zealand scenics.  This image was made on the Nikon D800e with the utterly superb 85mm f/1.4G (my new favourite landscape lens).

This image has a native resolution of 22,000 pixels and prints at about 2 metres without any up-rezzing – you can get an idea of the detail in the image by checking out the sample images in my Nikon 85mm f/1.4G outdoor photography review 

Enjoy and feel free to share!

Cheers – Todd

Nikon D800 Recommended Lens | Nikon 85mm f/1.4G – Landscape Photography Review



Nikon Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G lens for landscape and nature
The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G – Does A classic portrait lens belong in a landscape photographer’s bag?  It’s damn well staying in mine!

You can read my full Nikon 85mm f/1.4G landscape lens review on sisson – New Zealand photography


I don’t recall having been on a drunken bender last April, but it may explain why I have little recollection as to how I ended up owning a Nikon AF-S 85mm f1.4G.  This lens is really not a traditional fit for a landscape photographer, in-fact the B&H description for the lens has “Traditional Portraiture Lens” splashed all over it.   Anyhow, I did order it,  so it was time to see how I could incorporate the lens into my landscape photography repertoire.  I am pleased to report that the 85mm f1.4 is now one of my favourite landscape lenses. Thank God – it wasn’t cheap…..

In all seriousness, I purchased the 85mm f1.4 in preparation for the delivery of my new Nikon D800e.  Prior to the D800e I had been shooting Nikon DX and Canon Full Frame (5dmkii), I had wanted to return full time to Nikon for several years, but the right DSLR body for my needs had not been in the Nikon line-up.  When the D800 was announced it was obvious that it’s 36MP sensor would settle for nothing short of premium optics and I had nothing in my bag that would stand the D800’s onslaught of pixels.

The 85mm is an ‘overlap lens’ in my bag as I also own the superb Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRii (review) however, I purchased the prime mainly because I love defocus in my portrait photography (mainly my kids these days) – the 85mm f1.4 is renowned for it’s silky bokeh and after 12 years of professional photography, I figured it was time to treat myself to something a little exotic.

Unfortunately, that is not sound business practice for me – I make my money from landscapes, so I had to figure out a way to make the 85mm f/1.4G earn it’s keep – here’s how I use it for landscape photography…..

What’s It For?

I consider the Nikon 85mm f1.4G to be one of the most ‘creative’ lenses in my camera bag.  By that, I mean that I rarely shoot ‘standard’ landscape images on the 85mm f/1.4 – I find that have to consciously seek uses for the 85mm.  Now, that may seem like putting the tractor before the haybale but for me that is a good thing – I need to stretch my photographic boundaries –  I think that the 85mm makes me a little bit more complete as a photographer.  So far,  I use this lens for four primary uses:

1. Subject Isolation Via Defocus

Frosty Tree: D800e, Nikon 85mm f/1.4G – @ f/1.4.  Shooting at f/1.8 delivered the razor thin DOF required  to successfully isolate this frosty little tree.  I enoy the creative overlap of applying portrait techniques to nature photography. 

(Download full resolution D800e & Nikon 85mm f/1.4g sample jpeg – password = freeD800pics

2. Panoramic stitching

I like to shoot panoramic stitches that compress distance, primarily to give greater visual presence to distant mountains – I find 50mm and 85mm to be my most commonly used focal lengths for this purpose.  The 85mm f/1.4 provides unparalleled sharpness and detail when paired with the Nikon D800e.

I always shoot in vertical orientation in order to gain the maximum resolution from my stitched files – 85mm provides an excellent field of view when used in this way.

The following stitched panorama is 21,000 x 6,600 pixels wide and prints at 2.1 metres @300 DPI without any enlargement.

Panoramic Stitch from Nikon D800e and Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G Lens. It’s a little hard to get impressed this wide – how about a 100% crop….

100% crops from the above panoramic Stitch from Nikon D800e and Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G Lens. The level of detail is simply stunning (a little sharpening has been applied) – this would happily enlarge to a 4m+ wide print. Please note that these look slightly better in the original file – pre-JPEG compression.

read the full nikon 85mm f/1.4 review  >>>>>

Lexar Savings!!! | My Recommended Compact Flash & SD Cards For Nikon D800

I was just shopping for a new compact flash card for the Nikon D800e and stumbled across some great Lexar savings on Amazon (SAVINGS  END TOMORROW –  7 AUGUST)

I have shifted exclusively to the 400x Lexar cards with the D800 as I find they offer the very best performance value per dollar spent.  Sandisk is the other brand that I have had great performance from, but they seem to be pricier than Lexar at present – especially with 35%-65% off my recommended cards.

If you are planning to buy the D800 or waiting for your D800e you should grab a couple of these TODAY – it is hard to visualise how quickly you will chew up and spit out card space until you start shooting 36mp files for real.  I think 16GB is the minimum card size for serious shooting on the D800 and I have just moved up to a 32GB last month and find it to be good for a couple of days in the field.

Here are my recommended sets (I shoot to CF and backup to SD) – The 16GB sets are extraordinarily cheap!!


Lexar 32 GB 400x Compact Flash Card ($129.88 save 35%)  (only 6 in stock!)

Lexar Professional 600x 32 GB SDHC ($69.95 save 49%)


Lexar 16 GB 400x Compact Flash Card ($49.95 – save 63%)

Lexar Professional 400x 16 GB SDHC Card ($19.95 save 71%)

Don’t dither – these savings end tomorrow!

Cheers – Todd

Nikon D800 vs Medium Format (Phase One IQ160)

My friend Gordon Laing has just posted a Nikon D800 versus Medium Format landscape photography shoot-off at cameralabs.com.  It is an interesting comparison between Nikon’s DSLR du jour and the mortgage extending medium format rig.

In the straight-up single frame comparison between the two cameras the extra horsepower of the Phase One appears to be evident, (not surprising given that it totes double the resolution).  However once two D800 images are stitched together the D800 is very comparable especially once sharpened.  I doubt you could notice the difference in side by side native sized prints frankly.

I do have some issues with the test (most of which Gordon acknowledges in the article):

1) Fuzz Filter Fitted:  the D800 has an anti-aliasing filter fitted – the Phase One does not – a D800e would narrow the gap somewhat.

2) Sub-Prime Portfolio: the D800 was tested using Nikkor  24-70mm f/2.8   & 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms vs a $6,000US Schneider prime.  As we saw in my Nikon D800e prime vs zoom comparison there is a massive difference in image quality between a top nikkor prime and the 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom especially away from the centre of frame.  Gordon acknowledges this in his report, but it is far from a level playing field.

3. Sub-Prime Mortgage Required:  I have alluded to this above – but these cameras do not inhabit the same fiscal universe.  It is very much akin to taking your $30,000 Honda to track day and wondering why it got it’s arse reamed by a $420,000 Ferrari.  The Nikon D800 lists on Amazon for about $3,000 while the Phase One IQ160 is so expensive, not even trawling Google will find you a reliable list price, but I am gathering that it will set you back about $40,000 USD.  Put it this way:  an anti-aliasing free Nikon D800E megapixel costs a paltry $90 from Amazon vs about $665(!!!) for  a million Phase-One pixels. That’s a lot of prints to sell.  In fact, I would rather have the new Honda and the D800e.

I for one will continue to practise my stitching skills in Photoshop :-)

You can read Gordon’s report here