Stepping Up A Gear

Stepping Up A Gear by haggisandchips
Stepping Up A Gear, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

A while back I finally scratched an itch that’s been bugging me for a long time.

There’s really only two reasons why I upgraded from the fabulous D300S to the D800 and that was for the jump from crop sensor to full frame and the extra capabilities for dealing with high ISO. After much research I learned about other capabilities of the D800 compared to the D300S but these were not in areas that concerned me and played very little part in my decision to go for it.

Firstly, what does the full frame sensor give me? Well I’ve done quite a bit of street photography in the past (see my 100 Strangers: Round 1 page) and I truly loved it and I’m slowly getting back into it again (see my Round 2 page) but there is one thing I have always struggled with … blurring a busy background to my liking. I’m not a fan of f/1.2 as the depth of field on the subject is too shallow for my taste so the answer is full frame and taking a few steps closer to the subject.

Secondly, the superior ISO capabilities … I have quite shaky hands so higher ISO = faster shutter. Simple!

So now I have the camera in my hands how does it perform? Well I’m pretty confident my backgrounds will be slightly more out of focus from now on but I’ve yet to test that properly. I can however confirm that for a given composition Christmas lights give bigger bokeh blobs on my new camera 😉

The ISO has put a real smile on my face though – when forced to I would sometimes let the ISO go to 1600 on my D300S but that would require quite a bit of post-processing and would always leave me a bit disappointed, with the noise only slightly less annoying than the softness that camera shake causes. On the D800 I’ve used it at ISO 2000 a few times and the noise is relatively easily dealt with in post-processing and even more than that I think it is a much more pleasing noise … it is more grain-like and less “digital“.

Before I bought the camera I had a fairly major concern about the resolution. You can find all sorts of rubbish on the internet but one thing I read that made sense to me was that the higher resolution meant smaller photocells and that demanded a good technique to achieve sharp pictures. Given my shaky hands this concerned me but my only local camera shop was not willing to let me try one out so I just had to bite the bullet. Thankfully this proved to be a non-issue and in fact the very first photograph that I took blew me away with the sharpness despite being handheld and even more so when I took the same shot with my D300S and compared. WOW … for the first time I started to realise that there was much more to this “upgrade” than DX v FX. With exactly the same settings the D800 had produced a sharper image with much more detail (obviously) but what knocked me was the colour – the image was much more vibrant and a faithful representation of the subject. The D300S image was flat and dull in comparison.

The colour is the main thing that has amazed me with this camera – my parents have a deep red sofa and when I photographed my son on it the rich colour was fantastic – I didn’t have a D300S shot to compare against this time but I didn’t need one – I’ve used it for long enough to know that it does not render colours as rich as the D800 does.

I am in no way knocking the D300S – it really is a superb camera and I have taken many, many photographs with it that I am more than pleased with but the simple fact is the D800 is just an nth degree better in lots of areas. I guess that’s no major revelation though!

It’s early days yet but so far I’m loving this camera.

About Ivor Potter

Ivor is a keen amateur photographer. Having completed a project called 100 Strangers, Ivor now finds himself spending much of his time approaching people going about their daily lives to photograph them and find out a little about what makes them tick.
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