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Working with the Nikon D800

Back when I was in Photoshop World DC, I got a chance to hang out with Richard Harrington of Rhed Pixel.  As we were getting ready to do some videos on the release of Photoshop CS6 Beta, a package showed up at the door.  Richard grabbed the box and brought it into the office beaming.  Inside it is the new Nikon D800.  I was really excited to finally be able to see it and put it through its paces.

After spending some time shooting with the camer, both at Photoshop World and back here in Tampa, There were a couple of thoughts mulling about in the head that I wanted to get down on  paper.

Oh, I’ll Just Get the D800.

Right up until the run up to the D4 and D800, I had a flurry of D300/D700 people excited about the step up to the full frame set of cameras.  Before the D800  the conversation was easy – if you dont have the money to plunk down, get yourself a D700.  D3 sensor – not the D3 price.  This gave you great ISO, and a good all around started Full Frame sensor package (obviously a lot more coin than being on the DX side of things)


But then something funny started happening.  Right before the D800 comes out, many people would jump in and say “Well.. I was really gonna make that push to the D3S or the D4, but I think Im just going to settle with the D800.  Can’t really explain it – but it was like the general idea was that the D800 was just the next iteration of the D700.. so really you were just getting a cheaper D4 – with more megapixels.  Heck.. more megapixels cant be THAT bad right?

More megapixels is great..  but you best be aware that going the D800 route will definitely require some upgrades and changes on your part.  The D700 and D800 are not the same cameras.  At all.

Getting Used To The Filesize

When you look at the D800, you are looking at a camera that is slightly bigger than a D700, but has a 36MP sensor inside of it.  In this, I usually tell people that the D800 is more of an evolution of Nikon’s D3X than it is the D700.  My D3S file sizes for a DNG file hovered at about 13-14MB in filesize. I thought those were big.  A RAW file coming out of the D800 is clocking just shy of 40MB.  That is a very significant jump.  Keeping the quality (which is awesome) aside, this is something that will take getting used to for some people.

Whatever cards you use will more likely need to be upgraded for bigger ones. You definitely have that  “THATS all the shots I get on this card” when you put an 8GB card in it. You will also need to make sure you invest in high speed capacity cards because passing this amount of info from camera to card will need to happen a lot faster if you want to keep shooting out there (I use Lexar 600x cards for all of my stuff, and go between 16GB and 1 32GB card that I have.)

This will also mean that you will tend to shoot less.  I definitely am guilty of overshooting when I get to a shoot I need to do, and then I pay for it in having to whittle down those files.  If you shoot 1000 files.. you are going to see hard drive space just disappear!!  Time for external drives for you .

Loading, Loading, Loading,

The bigger the file, the longer something will take to render in some programs.  Lightroom 4’s definitely made some advances in working with files and the speed at which it can render (Photo Mechanic still being a speed demon in that space), but when trying to render a 1:1 to do some Develop work or to zoom in I definitely experienced a several second “Loading.. ” before i got the big file.

Now.. most of this research is anecdotal, but I found myself waiting about 7-8 seconds going through some files of images.  This is a Corei7 mac with now 16GB of RAM.  If you are operating at less than that? You may have a trip to Crucial in your future to get a RAM bump. Or get a new computer with a faster processor.  Waiting excessively just to cull the files will take an adjustment. If you take the 1000 image shoot scenario and calculate the size and the time on these, you’ll see that your workflow will totally need some adjustments.  Is the D800 worth it? I totally believe so – but I think that being informed of these changes will help you decide if what you get from a quality standpoint is worth that.

Details, Details, Details

Image on left? A 100% zoom of the image on the right.  I shot this picture of my friend as she was standing right in front of a window with the blinds turned open.  You know that because you can see the blinds in the irises!!  When I saw that, I was like whoaaaa baby.. this is a good amount of detail right here.

Then, I thought to myself… this amount of detail in an image is going to totally affect How you retouch an image, what you look for, and how you work on it!  I mean, you can totally see a lot of skin information in the picture of my friend to the right… enough to make me consider working the shot. However, you pull back and she looks beautiful!  I think of this as taking a really pretty girl and putting one of those super magnified beauty mirror up to them.  It looks completely different..   How much of what you see in THAT amount of detail are you going to want to deal with?

My buddy Rob was totally cool with me posting a 100 percent view of the shot in the interests of talking about the detail.  Rob is a handsome looking guy, and I can pretty much bet you that you would never notice this much in a shot, or consider working it.  However.. now that there is so much detail.. will some of these areas now set of alarms to you to retouch?

This is not Rob – and this is totally a PG related bodypart.  I had to zoom in and do a triple take when I saw this.  I was like “What the heck? This isnt even in the shot I made, how am I going to work with this? DO I even work with this?”

Retouching these kinds of details will also take a different approach.  You’ll find that running things like a healing brush or a Patch will definitely give you a more noticeable difference in the retouched area. You’ll have to be a little more thorough if you want to make it look really good.  Is that bad?  Not at all.  But its something you’d want to know going into it.  Your retouching may take longer.  Your settings and actions may need to change.

My Take: I’m Loving  The Quality

Overall I am very excited about the tonal range of the camera and the overall quality of the shots that come out of it.  I think that for those who go into the camera with these considerations in mind, you will have a much clearer expectation and appreciation for what the D800 can do, and what it brings to the table.  We havent even scratched the surface of what these cameras can do on the video side of things and Rob here is determined to go on that journey with me to figure that out.  As soon as we have some more on the field stuff, I will totally share it on!

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