Up until yesterday there have been 2 things I hadn’t done in a long time.

1. Relax.
2. Go back to my roots.

Two Things that were remedied  yesterday with a brief trip to London, combined with a few hours of just walking around town and making photos for nobody else but me.

I met up with a couple of colleague photographers, Matt and Pete to do nothing more than relax, catch up with life and make photos of the London streets. All 3 of us had our Fujifilm cameras with us. I had my X-Pro1, Pete his X-Pro1 plus X-E1 and Matt his X100.

If you haven’t yet tried shooting with one of the ‘X’ series from Fujifilm and are looking for a camera that is different, lighter, less imposing but not as petite as a Micro 4/3 camera, give the one of the X’s a go. The image quality is stunning and being slightly bigger than M4/3 cameras, they feel better in the hand. Handling is an acquired taste and can be frustrating when you’re handling a DSLR day-in and day-out, but most people who have used an ‘X’ have enjoyed it. Shooting with a Fujifilm system camera is a breath of fresh air. Simple.

Enough wordage, a few images from my X-Pro1 follow.

  • Tyrone ShoelaceNovember 21, 2012 - 01:30

    I’m guessing the tea DID NOT have any ice cubes in it whatsoever.

  • tchNovember 21, 2012 - 11:10

    Absolutely stunning pictures!

  • AndreNovember 22, 2012 - 14:35

    Really nice and crisp images! I’m sure you had fun ;-)

 

When choosing a camera we’re usually confronted with a few choices, Brand and model usually are the main 2. Nikon have added another sub-choice. The D800 or D800E. A few manufacturers have offered sub-choices before, offering a very specific version of a model for a very specific task, the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro UVIR for example. A version of the S3 Pro camera from 2006 specifically designed to make photos in the Ultraviolet and Infrared light spectrums.

Nikon’s decision to make 2 variations of the D800 isn’t quite as dramatic but nevertheless it has caused many to think more than twice before committing to buy.

On paper the standard and E version differ in one small but significant factor. Simply put, Nikon haven’t fitted an anti-alias filter into the D800E that deliberately softens the image that the sensor sees. Sensors with anti-alias filters have become the norm in DSLRs and we don’t usually even think about them. You could ask why there is a filter there in the first place, especially when we crave the sharpest images possible. The answer is simple. The filter is a compromise between image sharpness and the risk of the pure unfiltered sensor creating artefacts, or ‘Moiré’ in the final image.

Armed with a D800 and D800E with identical settings and lenses, I set out on my own personal quest to see if I could justify to myself the +/-400 Euro difference between the Nikon D800 and D800E.

I’ve been using the D800 for wide variety of projects and never noticed any Moiré in the images and to be honest, never really thought that the images were not as sharp as they could be. On the other hand, I have never looked for Moiré or assumed the images were not sharp.

For this testing I had to deal with my pixel-peeping phobia and really look for the Moiré phenomenon and to see if there was a noticeable difference in sharpness between the 2 cameras.

 

Test 1

For my first outing I went to the city to do some cityscapes, random locations and views to try and trigger any differences that the cameras would reveal. Regularly patterned brickwork or roof tiles are a good way to try catching any issues.
Both cameras were mounted next to each other, settings the same, same lens, same focal point and both cameras triggered at the same time. Comparing the images on the LCDs, there was nothing in it. Impossible to see any difference.
Only under intense scrutiny in Lightroom, with the D800 and D800E files side by side did I detect some Moiré pattern in the D800E files. Some very distant details of roof tiles were showing the typical coloured patterns, but that was all. The D800 files were clean. The same was true for just about all the shot. At 100% zoom the D800E files sometimes had some Moiré creeping in. Only at 200% plus was it really getting obvious.
Then I stumbled upon one shot that happened to have 2 people in the centre of the frame. One was wearing a striped shirt. At 100% the D800E image showed some serious blocking and confusion at the details on the shirt. I put the D800 file next to the D800E file and it to my surprise, it too was seriously affected. I had to double-check to make sure I hadn‘t selected another  D800E file but no, it was the D800, very aggressive and disturbing artefacts.

Test 2

For the 2nd test I enlisted the help of Stijn to pose for a few shots in just about the most challenging patterned clothes we could imagine. Immediately Stijn and his Moiré magnet trousers were sending the D800E crazy. The distinct patterns in the fabric even caused a moiré effect to be seen in the LCD. Every shot of Stijn provoked artifacts in both cameras. The only time he didn’t was when he was in the distance; obviously far away that even the D800’s couldn’t resolve the detail of his trouser pattern.Back on the PC, both cameras were suffering from the discolouration and artefacts. At 1:1 zoom the D800E was noticeably worse. At 200 or 300% both had it bad but the ‘E‘ had me really worried. Worried how I would deal with this in a real life shoot.

Correction.

Luckily, Lightroom and Nikon’s own CaptureNX2 come with a Moiré filter that can be locally applied and both tools work a wonder on the affected areas. Mostly.. In the case of the cityscape image with the striped shirt, the actual pixel pattern was disrupted so much that some additional post processing would be needed if the D800E photo was to be used a full resolution on a large print. Having 36mp files is a blessing and a burden, the detail shows up any flaws very quickly. If the image was to be output at about 5000pix wide, a lot of that moiré pattern and problem vanishes. However, we have a 36mp camera for a reason. To use it when we need it.

Sharpness.

This was the reason Nikon left the anti-Alias filter out of the D800E. To squeeze the maximum sharpness out the sensor. Honestly, in the real world I found it very hard to see any difference at all. I’m sure on chart tests there is a difference. There must be. Mustn’t there? However you really have to see the images side by side to actually believe the D800 is any less sharp than the D800E. There are a couple of times I have spotted a difference, usually on distant text in images or a hard defined edge of a building. For most work though, it’s nice to know it’s there but it’s not going to be noticed if it’s not.
The deep pixel level difference can be seen during processing though. Zoom into levels of 300% and more and the D800E’s pixels are very defined and hard compared to the softer more fluent D800 pixels.

White Balance.

I’ve also noticed a consistent difference in white balance between the 2 cameras. Despite the settings being identical in Lightroom ,the D800E images look slightly warmer in tones. Probably another effect caused by the lack of anti-alias filter. No big deal but could be important when processing D800 and D800E images together.

What to choose?

This is a question I’m bombarded with and I have battled with the same question.

It has been made clear to me that both cameras are susceptible to Moiré, probably due to the sheer level of detail they record. All but the most aggressive Moiré can be worked out of the image very quickly using any one of many of the processing applications available to us.

I can see 2 buying groups here. The photographer who is very detail minded would quickly opt for the D800E. Serious moiré creeping in might be a shame, but not a disaster.

Then you have the photographer who needs to be sure their shots are good and the processing workflow is efficient.  If they’re heavily shooting Macro or fashion, they might opt for the safe low risk D800. Saying that, I know people who haven’t taken the safe route and not had problems with the D800E.

Nikon have given us a choice and warned us in no uncertain terms about the pros and cons of going with the D800E.

I have no hard answer to anyone wondering which to buy. Are you going to miss anything by buying a D800? Not really.

Are you going to gain anything by buying a D800E? Slightly.

Is the risk worth it? Only you can know based on the type of work you do.

 

Personally, I like to live on the edge. I took the D800E.

(I will ask Stijn to wear different trousers next time though…)

 

Below some screenshots of my test shoot. Under the screenshots a link to download a .ZIP of the full resolution .JPGs talked about in this article.

At 2:1 zoom Colouration in the roof tiles and bricks is quite prominent in the D800E (left) image and very slight in the D800.

The D800E (right) does definitely have sharper images. The difference is minimal but can clearly be seen in fine details such as this architectural comparison.

This is scary example of how bad things can get. The detail might be minute in the overall image but if this was being used a full resolution, both the D800E (left) and D800 (Right) images would need some extra processing.

Stijn’s trousers really did test the cameras as I wanted. Strong repeating patterns cause both cameras to suffer quite heavily from Moire.

Luckily all but the more aggressive Moire pattern can be quickly removed with moire fix tools found in most RAW processing software.

This shows that Moire isn’t always a huge issue. The same trousers shot at a different angle and although both cameras are displaying Moire, it is a lot less.

Whichever camera we choose, we are spoiled for detail and sharpness levels.

 

 

Link to to the high-res images used in this test. (2x zip files ±75mb each)


This article was originally published in Shoot magazine, edition 21. The Belgian photography magazine.
Thank you to Erik for allowing me to reproduce the document in for the blog.
Thanks also to Stijn for giving me a hand with the testing. 

For more regular updates on what I’m up to in my job, please feel free to join my page on Facebook.

 

  • HalJanuary 28, 2013 - 16:19

    Good comments! When I originally put my name on the waiting list I opted for the D800E because I decided that if I was going to spend that much on a camera I should get the “top of thelinBuprofessional photographer. After reading a number of revews like yours I moved over to the D8t and saved a few hundred dollars while getting what I really needed. I decided that buying the D800E was like paying extra to have the factory air conditioning removed from your new Mercedes because professional race car drivers do that even though I only intended to drive on the street. Not smart.!

  • […] The D800 and D800E were launched back in the begin of 2012, I was lucky enough to go with Nikon Europe to New York to have a first glimpse and test of the D800 and followed up the trip with  a magazine article about the differences between the D800 and D800E […]

 

It seems I’m turning into one of those pixel-peeping types lately.. but this time it’s for a practical reason…
I’m doing a lot of aviation photography lately which includes high quality 360 panoramas and stills of business jet interiors. These jets are typically quite compact so photographing the interiors is quite a challenge. Up until recently I was using my trusty Nikon 17-35mm on a Nikon D800E but for some shots the 17mm was just not wide enough.
To take things a little wider, I managed to acquire one of Nikon’s older prime lenses, the Nikon AF 14mm F2.8 D. Despite being seriously weighty, the 14mm is relatively compact, even with it’s bulbous front element and fixed hood. This lens gives me that tickle of extra image width I need to allow some cropping or composition inside the planes. Like all ultra wide lenses though, there is some heavy distortion at the edges of the frame, especially when shooting from odd points of view. I’ve noticed some colour fringing around the extremities of the image but nothing that can’t be corrected. All in all, despite being discontinued, the lens has performed very well and given some shots that I couldn’t have made with the 17-35mm.

The 14mm is good, but it is also restrictive in the jobs I’m doing. I don’t always need the extreme of 14mm so having some flexibility without a lens change does speed up my workflow.  The  flexible 14mm alternative comes in the form of the more recent Nikon AF-S 14-24 F2.8 G. It has the ultra-wide plus plenty of flexibility. Nowhere near as compact as the prime, this similarly bulbous fronted lens has many photographers drooling over it, even Canon users go the extra mile to fit this lens (with adaptor) onto their cameras. Some say it is one of the best lenses that Nikon produce.

So here I am. I have both lenses in my bag, what else can I do than make a couple of test shots with them to see just how the new kid stacks up against the old boy.

I’m not a technician, I’m a photographer. My observations are just that. MY observations. My tests are out of my own curiosity and directly linked to the work I do. This is also why I didn’t do wide open 2.8 tests, the jobs I need the lens for are shot at F8 or smaller. Please do not expect charts, graphs or any finite words of wisdom. Enjoy.

All the following images are screen grabs of the 1:1 views within Lightroom4. Resized to 900px to fit on the page. The full sized comparison images can be downloaded via a link at the bottom of this article.

1. Overview
Ok, first up. A comparison overview of a street scene. Ghent city.  Just glance at the 2 shots. Nothing really to dislike in there, some noticeable vignetting on the left (14mm) image and some difference in distortion between the 2 shots.

2 – Top Left detail
At the top left of the image there is a fair bit of difference between the 2 lenses. The 14mm clearly has some colour fringing going on and the vignetting is affecting the image.
There is a distortion difference too. Bearing in mind the camera was in a fixed position, I just swapped lenses. The column under the ‘b’ is noticeably wider and more stretched in the 14mm image. Sharpness-wise, not a lot in it  I think.

3. Middle – Right detail.
Looking at the bike in the comparison shots, the 14-24mm has a nicer black point as well as being less distorted. The details in the buildings are a lot sharper than the 14mm. Generally I think the colour, contrast and overall feel of the 14-24mm are shining through here. The prime’s image just feels soft and washed out.

4. Mid frame
Not really a whole lot to split the 2 lenses here. The relief detailing of the carved figures looks crisper and more defined in the 14-24mm shot but in general, the 14mm is not displeasing in any way.

5. A general detail
For me, the 14-24mm is scoring gold here. These are the details I need in my work. Definite crisp and clean edges on the right, compared to an image on the left that would probably be sufficient with a bit of tweaking and sharpening.

6. Middle of frame, bottom edge.
Ok, this one has me confused. The detail of the 14mm prime image is far superior to that of the 14-24mm. pretty much the same shots with the same settings and suddenly such a vast difference. Almost different enough to be disturbing. As I’ve mentioned though, these ‘tests’ are of a random scene. I’ve yet to use this newly acquired 14-24mm on a job. I’m certainly going to do a few more shots though before I commit it to a critical task. Ok, my focus point was dead centre of the overall image but to have such a difference in the foreground between the prime and zoom? <gulp>  This is the danger of looking for faults and pixel-peeping;)

 

So. To sort of conclude.. The Nikon 14mm might be a discontinued lens but it is obviously still very capable, even on the megapixel monster of the D800E. There are obvious differences between it and the newer Nikon 14-24mm. More colour fringing, heavier distortion at the extremes, less contrast. I hate to say it, but all are fixable in post.

However, it could also be said that I’m testing apples with pears here. A prime lens vs a zoom lens at one of its extremes. Hardly a fair comparison is it?  But considering that I need an ultra-wide lens for my work, this is what I have available in the Nikkor lens range. If you look at it again from that prime vs zoom perspective. Wow, that 14-24mm really is one piece of kit. Worthy of the acclaim that many attribute to it. A zoom lens that is overall better than a prime lens? How often have we been able to say that?

For those insistent on having a peep themselves, the 2 original files in JPG can be downloaded here.

As usual, comments and feedback are always welcome.
I hope you enjoyed reading.

 



  • Bob OwenSeptember 29, 2012 - 20:46

    Good and useful review Rob, thanks for doing the legwork.

  • GianlucaMay 23, 2013 - 10:49

    Thanks for the review!
    I’ve the 17-35 and I’m looking for something wider.
    I guess the higher sharpness of the 14mm shown in the last picture is due to the field curvature of the lens. Field curvature could be a nice thing when shooting interiors…

 

Like many photographers, I can never have enough bags. I’m scared to even think how many camera bags I’ve tried and used over the last few years. Always on the lookout for the perfect bag and thinking more about travelling light on some assignments, I was happy when the nice people over at Thinktank sent me a bag to test.

The type of bag I was looking for was easy. I wanted something that could carry a small system camera in, a selection of lenses, batteries, iPad and other bits and bobs. The usual ‘day bag’ ideals. It also needed to be big enough to carry a DSLR, a few lenses, flash, iPad, batteries, memory cards, etc.

The bag I was sent was the Retrospective 7. One of a series of bags in the Retrospective range. Constructed from and slightly weathered look textile, the Blue Slate coloured bag certainly doesn’t glare out that it’s a camera bag, never a bad thing when moving around a busy city.

The construction is good and feels like it’ll last a good few years of use and abuse. I’ve used it for many assignments now and really getting to enjoy travelling light.
Nice features like dedicated tablet pocket, internal accessory and document pockets as well as a Velcro closure system that can be muted to avoid that wretched ripping noise, ideal for not attracting attention when working in quite environments. Of course, as with just about any camera bags,  the internal dividers can be repositioned to suit personal gear storage requirements. A nice little touch here, the dividers have a shoulder flap that can be folded down so a body fitted with a lens can rest on top of them.
A removable rain cover is also included. I’d guess the textile is relatively shower-proof but obviously not going to withstand a heavy downpour.

Ok, so the important bit. What can I get in the bag?

Set 1: Fujifilm X-Pro1 with 18, 35, 60mm lenses,  EF-X20 Flash, iPad, cards, batteries and lunch.

Set 2: Nikon D800E, 70-200, 85, 35mm, SB900, iPad, cards, batteries and a pack of mints.

Both sets are more than adequate for a lot of reportage work that I do. For the Nikon setup, I could quite easily replace the 2 primes with  24-70 and 17-35. The Fujifilm setup has a ton of space over. There would be no problem getting a 2nd body in there and another lens.

During testing and use of the Retrospective 7, one thing did concern me a little. When wearing the bag fully loaded with the Nikon gear, it naturally curves slightly to fit your body. As the iPad is tucked into a rear pocket, I was worried that the weight and curvature might cause some issues for the iPad. To help prevent too much curvature I made an insert for the tablet pocket. This was simply cut from some 3mm thick hard plastic and slides in the pocket along with the tablet or into the internal document pocket. It gives some peace of mind and does seem to help the bag keep shape.

All in all, if you’re looking for something less ‘camera bag’ looking and carry a similar setup to me, I’d certainly recommend the Thinktank Retrospective 7.

 

The Nikon gear setup - D800E, 35, 85, 70-200, flash, cards, battery.

The Fujifilm setup. X-Pro1 - 18,35,60mm, flash, cards, battery, lunch.

The Thinktank Retrospective 7 in Slate Blue.

Handy internal pockets for accessories.

A quick and simple reinforcement for the tablet pocket.

 

Simply fold back and secure the Velcro closure tabs for silent gear access.

 

The complete Thinktank range can be seen here. You can also keep up to date with them on Twitter

 

  • Howard LucasSeptember 23, 2012 - 20:17

    Nice lunch, nice bag!

A slight devation from my review posts to a little bit of actual work..
I was asked by Nikon Belgium to supply some images for an educational campaign they are working on. I thought I’d share a couple of the first comic strip layouts that they have produced. :)

  • supermasjSeptember 17, 2012 - 23:59

    Looks really nice work Rob. Or do I need to say… Prof Nikon ?

    Tom