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

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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

Background

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!!

32GB LEXAR SET

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%)

16GB LEXAR SET

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

Nikon D800e vs Canon 5dmkii Landscape Photography Comparison [UPDATED]

canon 5d mark2 v nikon D800e landscape photography comparison test

Which is better for landscape photography – the Nikon D800e or the Canon 5dmkii?  Thinking of upgrading from the Canon 5dmkii to the Nikon D800e?  Who knows?  Hopefully I will have the answers for you by the end of this test shoot! 

UPDATED 25 JULY: NOW WITH DYNAMIC RANGE COMPARISONS

[UPDATE BEGINS] When I first wrote this review I figured that the big story between the Canon 5d markii and the Nikon D800e was the headline grabbing resolution shootout.  Well, the resolution battle was indeed interesting, but not quite as blood-spattered and gory as I was hoping to be honest.  The D800e certainly out resolves the 5dii but it only matters once huge enlargements are made (important to me).

After shooting with the Nikon D800e for a while it became starkly apparent that it’s most usable great leap forward for landscape photography was actually it’s dynamic range performance.  The D800e is so good in this respect that I actually found myself penning (on my keyboard? :) another article entitled Are ND Filters Dead? – where I revealed the Nikon D800’s almost disconcerting ability to create terrific looking landscape images out of RAW files that would be little more than train-wreckage on other DSLR camera bodies. 

However, I am well aware that a placebo effect kicks in with new cameras – you find results that verify your preconceptions.  Maybe my trusty Canon 5d mkii would have been equally capable of rescuing highlights and opening up shadows as the D800. I decided, once again, to channel my newly discovered testing nerd personality and pit the Nikon D800e vs the Canon 5dmkii in a dynamic range fight club – here’s what I found:

Test Details: Both cameras were shot on aperture priority -1EV and they selected identical shooting settings of f/8, 1/250th @ ISO 100.  I then ran both RAW files through Lightroom 4 at identical synced settings – shadows +100 and exposure +.85.  I tested the shadow performance rather than highlight recovery, because I tend to actively avoid clipping highlights when photographing. I prefer blocked out shadows to blown highlights.

This is what we got with the Nikon D800e (another stunning test shot :-) :

Nikon D800e Dynamic Range Shadows Test.
Left Image: -1EV exposure compensation from camera.
Right Image: After +0.85 Exposure and +100 Shadows slider in Adobe Lightroom 4

And this is the Canon 5d mkii:

Canon 5d Markii Dynamic Range Shadows Test.
Left Image: -1EV exposure compensation from camera.
Right Image: After +0.85 Exposure and +100 Shadows slider in Adobe Lightroom 4

Look about the same to you?

Well take a gander at this 100% crop from the two cameras side by side (Canon 5d mkii on left and Nikon D800e on right)

100% Detail Comparison

Dynamic Range Shadows Test 100% Detail Comparison.
Left Image: -Canon 5d mkii after lightroom adjustments
Right Image: Nikon D800e after Adobe Lightroom 4 adjustments.

Now I remember why I never felt inclined to toss away my Singh Ray ND grad filters while I was shooting with the Canon 5d markii (or any other Nikon DSLR for that matter).  Compare the dark fence rails –  crazy colour noise and criss-cross patterns emerge on the Canon while the D800e looks like it could be pumped up another stop or two.  Wood patterns emerge from the murk on the D800 that are almost destroyed by colour noise on the Canon.

Compare the midtones on the leaves – the same story repeats itself.  Once again, it is not that the Canon 5d mkii is doing a bad job (noise reduction would tidy this up a bit) – it is that the D800e is doing a freakishly good job.  Not only does the Nikon D800/e deliver a significant bump in resolution it does so while re-writing the DSLR book on noise control and Dynamic Range – I didn’t think that pixels crammed this close together could do this.

For what it matters I personally proclaim the Nikon D800 to be the world’s best (and best value) landscape photography DSLR.  

[UPDATE ENDS]

Please take the time to read the rest of this report and view the image quality and resolution comparisons.

VIEW THE IMAGE QUALITY COMPARISONS>>>>>

READ: ARE ND FILTERS DEAD – D800 DYNAMIC RANGE LANDSCAPE EXAMPLES>>>

Nikon D800e Dynamic Range For Landscape Photography | Field Test Revisited

I wrote a post on Friday entitled Are ND Filters Dead?  in which I surprised myself as to how well I could pull up the shadows in an underexposed foreground from a Nikon D800e file.  I went to bed that night quite chuffed at myself for  the scientific rigour that I had imparted upon that test (sad, I know) until I was wrenched from my near slumber by a thought (yes, this is how far I go for you guys – the least you could do is comment ;-(.

That thought: What about the ‘over-exposed’ images? Can they be brought into line with a bit of Lightroom magic?

The answer is of course yes.

Look at this finished image:

Nikon-D800e-Landscape-Example-Dynamic-Range-1-2

Nikon D800e Landscape Image | Finished image after Lightroom exposure and highlight recovery. The histogram shows a perfectly contained tonal range.

Histogram and adjustments to the image – of course a grad adjustment was applied to the sky – exposure adjustment.

And here is the original image: This was shot at the camera’s suggested exposure – turns out the D800 knows best?!

Nikon-D800e-Landscape-Example-Dynamic-Range-1

Nikon D800e Landscape Dynamic Range Field Test | The original un-edited image – Yuk!

So, yet more compelling evidence that the world of landscape photography has taken yet another really big leap forward.  I can’t remember witnessing such a quantum leap forward in meaningful and useable  image quality between camera bodies.  As you will see in my next post, the Dynamic Range capabilities of the Nikon D800/e are in a totally different league to my previous camera body, the ground breaking Canon 5d mkii.

So are Graduated Neutral Density filters still needed? That depends, if you are shooting any other DSLR the answer is yes (unless you are into HDR or serious exposure blending).  If you are toting a D800/e the answer is no – not at all IMHO.  That makes me a little sad, as I genuinely like my Grad filters and Singh Ray are a great company – but like my postcards, which are being purchased less and less, times change and products become obsolete as technology marches on…..

My advice – if you want to be making the best landscape images possible for an ‘affordable’ price – buy the Nikon D800 (Amazon)

Cheers – Todd