This past Saturday I gathered up some lenses, my new Nikon D800, and my youngest son and headed out to Manassas Municpal airport to see some cool aircraft and watch a little aerobatics. This was my first real photo shoot with the D800 and I had a real blast putting it through its paces. The weather was fantastic so I can’t tell you about the ISO performance of the camera (I shot between ISO 100 and 200 all day). For lenses, I took my Sigma 24-70 f/2.8, a Nikon 70-300 f/3.5-5.6, and my 50mm f/1.4. I could have used a little more reach than my 300mm provided but I wanted to keep things light. My son was using my D7000 with the 18-200 and he happily clicked along beside me as we watched some great aerial acrobatics.
The show started off with an appearance by the Army Golden Knights who presented the colors as only they could. That was followed by some amazing stunt flying by the Oracle stunt flying team. Then came some wing-walking, which just amazed my son. It really was a great day and I’m glad I got to share the experience with my son. As for the D800, what can I say? It is just as good as you have heard. I know it only shoots at about 4 frames per second but it seemed to be enough for me on this day. The meter nailed exposures shot after shot. The autofocus system was spot-on, even with some pretty fast moving targets. I shot using a variety of different shutter speeds, some fast to freeze the action, and some slow to pan and capture the movement of the aircraft. All day long the camera performed just as I hoped it would. Oh yeah, and besides being huge, my images have some pretty amazing detail.
So was there anything that I didn’t like?
Well, the battery life on the camera could be a little better. The D800 uses the same EN-EL15 battery that is found in the D7000. It’s not the most powerful of batteries and I would love to have a larger cell or add a second one with the battery grip. Also, the other thing that I wish I could change is the bracketing. I was really happy when I bought my D7000 because it let me bracket in 2-stop increments. The problem with that though was that it was limited to just 3 exposures. The D800 allows for a much larger bracket range but only in 1-stop increments (it also allows 1/3 and 2/3 bracket options). This means that if I want a 3 bracket image from -2 to +2 stops, I have to shoot a minimum of 5 frames. It’s not a huge deal but I really wish they would allow me to raise the brackets to 2 stops per exposure. This would really make my HDR life a lot easier. Speaking of which, check out the HDR shot below that I grabbed before leaving for the day. The image was created from 3 bracketed images that were combined and tonemapped in Photohsop. I also added a little Lucis Pro and some Topaz Sharpen. I finished things off with some minor tweaks in Lightroom.
Here’s a few more shots from the day. If you want to see more, you will need to check out my next book.