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Nikon D810: Sensor Cover Glass Quality?

Jorn O writes:

I just received 2 new Nikon D810 cameras( August 25, 2014) and sent them to my local repair technician to evaluate. One of the things I always have him check is the sensor and low pass filter for defects, inclusions, and etc. The 2 new D810 cameras were both supposedly corrected for the long exposure/white spot issue.

However, it appears that the low pass filters (or protective glass) on both cameras have a significant number of dark specks of some kind in the surface coating or embedded in the sensor glass. He observed (30 power microscope) 18 of these specks on one sensor and 24 on the other. The size and quantity of these specks indicates to me a significant quality control problem and I am going to return both cameras. I can’t be sure, but I suspect that Nikon’s solution to this problem was to just map out all of the photosites affected by the specks and consider the problem solved.

I have had similar problems with the D3x and D800E sensors – my records indicate returning and replacing 4 new cameras over a 3 year period due to significant inclusions in the low pass filter glass. I guess Nikon doesn’t think anybody is really looking hard at the sensor systems they are putting out.

It is interesting to note that the first D810 I purchased from B&H in July was also inspected and cleaned by my repair technician, and did not have the problem with the specks on the sensor glass even though the serial number indicates that it is on the recall list that Nikon has.

I also have 5 D800E cameras and they do not exhibit the speck on sensor glass issue. I was going to upgrade 3 of them to D810's, but not sure if I will now. With regards to the D3x sensors and imbedded inclusions - I did not keep them so I do not know if they would have had an impact on image quality. However, when you pay 8000.00 for a camera body I think it is reasonable to expect first class quality in a sensor, especially when your technician tells you he does not see this issue on most other vendors cameras that he works on (Canon, Sony, Pentax,etc).

DIGLLOYD: I can’t say much more than “seems concerning”. But given Nikon’s financial performance (~27% drop in sales YOY), could there be cost-cutting or lowered standards going on that might compromise quality? A hunker-down retrenchment rather than moving ahead with innovations like supporting an EVF option on a DSLR?

Taken together though, inclusions in sensor cover glass and white spots requiring a camera recall out of the gate do not speak well to Nikon’s release of the D810. Coming on top of the D600 dust/oil issue, it might shake one’s confidence, if only a little. The D810 is a flagship camera after all.

Still, I doubt that the white spots service advisory has anything to do with the sensor glass 'specks'; the white spots seem to be a hot pixel type long exposure issue (Nikon has been obtuse on the cause of the issue, or why some but not other cameras are affected). Sensor quality is not a fixed thing; sensors come in grades too (number of defects and similar). What grade sensors are used in the D810 (what yield/quality cutoff?). Are camera bodies now like lenses where one has to worry about “good sample” or “bad sample”?

Nikon D810: Recommended Picture Control Settings for Magnified Live View Focusing

I spent some time with various combinations of Nikon Picture Control settings to arrive at what seemed to be the most helpful and decisive sharpness and contrast for accurate magnified Live View focusing.

These Picture Control files are now available for download in my review of the Nikon D810, with instructions for loading them. They load in addition to any existing choices so there is no downside to trying them to see if they help your own workflow.

Recommended Picture Control Settings for Live View Focusing

Picture Control settings ready to load on camera card
Picture Control settings ready to load on camera card

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: Various Varying Examples

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

To my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP are added various aperture series intended to show a variety of subject matter and the camera + Pentax 90mm f/2.8 macro rendering style. I find that such series are an excellent way to get a feel for a camera system and lens.

Series includes HD and UltraHD images and large crops. Click each image for its series.

  Aspen with Black Branches Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/2.8
Aspen with Black Branches
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/2.8
  Green Aspen Leaf on Black rock Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/11
Green Aspen Leaf on Black rock
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/11
  Dual Aspen Trunks Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Pine Creek Buildings
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
  White Daisies Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
White Daisies
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
  Mining Cabin Gearbox Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/22
Mining Cabin Gearbox
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/22
  Death Valley Alluvial Fan near Eureka Dunes Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/4
Death Valley Alluvial Fan near Eureka Dunes
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/4
  Dual Aspen Trunks Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Dual Aspen Trunks
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: 'Atlas Permaguard'

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP is a close range still-life study with soft lighting and very pleasing bokeh:

Aperture Series: Atlas Permaguard (645Z)

This aperture series shows a peripheral forward focus shift that might be useful to understand for critical work. Includes HD and UltraHD images and large crops.

  Artifacts of early Miners Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Artifacts of early Miners
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: Wet Aspen Trunk

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP:

Aperture Series: Wet Aspen Trunk (645Z)

This aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images and commentary on placement of focus and depth of field.

  Wet Aspen Trunk Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Wet Aspen Trunk
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: Thunderstorms over Pine Creek Drainage

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP:

Aperture Series: Pine Creek Thunderstorms (645Z)

A discussion of the field curvature is included and should be read by any Pentax 90/2.8 user as essential working knowledge.

This aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/16 along with extensive crops and commentary. The crops are also in UltraHD, as I deemed the larger size useful for context.

  Pine Creek Thunderstorms Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Pine Creek Thunderstorms
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

How to Find Coverage of Lenses, Cameras, Technique, etc

It requires some curation effort (and can miss some things, always consider site search), but the new menu system at top of site pages affords convenient topical access to content throughout the site, whether in the blog, in a diglloyd publication or in the free articles area.

Give it a try, and feedback is welcome.

See also MacPerformanceGuide.com and WindInMyFace.com.

diglloyd image

Zeiss 55/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Thunderstorms over Pine Creek Drainage (Nikon D810)

This aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/11 along with extensive crops and commentary.

The light was changing by the second, and the interplay is beautiful to behold. This frame caught the foreground in sun; others have it shadowed.

In Guide To Zeiss:

Thunderstorms over Pine Creek Drainage (Nikon D810)

A similar scene is coming from the Pentax 645Z; the D810 and Otus compare very favorably as it turns out.

Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon


Stephen M writes:

Your B&W conversion of Pine Creek Thunderstorms D810 with 55mm Zeiss Otus is really excellent. Great work! Composition and image processing is excellent! That deserves to be printed at 40 x 60! The image quality is amazing, especially at f/1.4! Wow! No other lens can do that! I purchased an 55mm Otus awhile back and I love that lens!

Many thanks again for your wonderful work with all the reviews and comments on a wide range of cameras and lenses. I always enjoy reading, and learning from your work and reports. Keep up the good work.

DIGLLOYD: I’m sure the images can be presented even better, but this would take some time and effort to do right.

Samuel L writes:

Hope you're doing well and that the earthquake wasn't so bad.

I just wanted to echo the comment of Stephen M. on your blog: the B&W version of ‎your Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage photo with the Nikon D810 and the Zeiss Otus looks fantastic. Wow!

The Wet Aspen Trunk with the Pentax looks great too.

DIGLLOYD: I never even noticed the 6.0 Napa earthquake (I’m 60-80 miles south of there). At any rate, I store my bargain wine the expensive way: in a styrofoam cooler in my garage, must in case of an earthquake.

Both the D810 + Otus and Pentax 645Z + 90/2.8 macro are terrific systems and highly recommended. The choice depends on one’s particulars.

Hardware Failure (fixed): Please advise if any image issues

A hardware device at diglloyd.com failed yesterday, and was replaced around 13:00 PST.

New hardware means potential issues (behavioral), so please advise if there are any unusual and repeatable problems in viewing images, such as images that are missing and show only a thin black line, or similar. Sporadic issues happen and are not of concern (e.g. a web server restart can kill image loading for 5-10 seconds).

The hardware change should affect images only, not html pages.

Sony RX100 Mark III: Better than a DSLR When Gone Fishin'

Trout dinner for two nights from Ellery Lake.

Salmo trutta (brown trout) and Oncorhynchus mykiss (Rainbow). I prefer Salvelinus fontinalis from high mountain streams, but that’s a chore up where I go (very, very hard to catch, and I’m unusually good at it).

Stockers mostly (not my usual fare but I wanted dinner). The large brown and rainbow had an extra year of 'wild' on them and both fought with more vigor and tasted better.

The Sony RX100 Mark III works nicely as for image quality, but like the original is far from its rated megapixels (lens limitations). Very pretty images in most cases though. But Sony made it a little too big and chunky and heavy. I’m sticking with my original Sony RX100: smaller, lighter and still takes great shots.

RX 100 III EVF: I was not clear in my initial comments on the EVF so here is a correction: I had two loaner Sony RX100 Mark III cameras. The first one I had no difficulty adjusting the EVF at all (instantly worked), but I returned it in late July. The 2nd one which I took with me in early August had a “sticky” EVF. With that 2nd one, I could not adjust the EVF to work for my eye. I should have made this clear initially in my comments; the EVF option is a great tool to have available.

Trout Dinner Sony RX100 Mark III
Trout Dinner
Sony RX100 Mark III

As for that “medium format look”, Zeiss Otus has it, wide open at ƒ/1.4.

See also The Medium Format 'Look' in Guide to Zeiss.

Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon on Nikon D810 (Lundy Canyon Creekside Yellow Flowers)

The Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon offers imaging qualities that make it especially suitable for environmental portraiture, reportage, etc. It’s a compact gem of a lens. It offers very high overall contrast and a vignetting that I like a lot.

I wondered how it would fare on the new Nikon D810, in fact I made a point of shooting a number of the Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on my recent trip (on the D810), to see how they would are.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Aperture Series: Creekside Yellow Flowers and Dark Rocks, Lundy Creek (D810)

Includes HD and UltraHD images and large crops from wide open through ƒ/16. Two variants (in brightness) of ƒ/2 are shown, as this is an important aperture to understand relative to ƒ/2.8.

  Yellow flower, Lundy Creek Nikon D810 + Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/2
Yellow flower, Lundy Creek
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/2

Nikon D810: Single-Pass Faux HDR in Adobe Camera Raw

It’s fascinating just how good the Nikon D810 is for scenes that would require the hassle of HDR bracketing and post processing (Canon users fall about 2 stops short of the D810 and with a ton more noise in shadows). The Nikon D810 at ISO 64 has a rewarding dynamic range for field shooting.

Faux HDR: Converting High Dynamic Range Images with Adobe Camera Raw

Includes RawDigger histogram, the D810 rear LCD histograms, the ACR conversion settings, the as-shot and as-converted images, and explanation of what was done.

This particular image was the brightest one of a bracketed series: I was sure it was blown out, since the histogram said so. But it is not so, as shown/explained.

This piece is useful for any model camera, so it is under the DAP Workflow area. See also Extracting Shadow Detail with Shadows/Highlights and Curves.

Toggle to compare the as-shot image to the one given a massive adjustment.

  Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Nikon D810 vs Pentax 645Z: Visual Impact Out in the Field with a Real Image (Comparison)

I’m working on an interesting comparison between the Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon and the Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 macro on this scene, a challenge in extreme dynamic range (major contrast control used here).

Now published:

Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO vs Pentax 645Z (Pine Creek Sunflowers)

Includes RawDigger histogram and info for both images as well as Adobe Camera Raw Conversion settings for both.

Both are impressive cameras and this comparison cannot be “scientific” due to different aspect ratios and mismatched focal lengths and varying light (second by second), but I deem it interesting and instructive to see how both cameras fare out in the real world in many aspects: depth of field, color and contrast, noise, etc: in short just how does the image feel from both? Because in the end, an image is a sum total visual impact having little to do with measurements or a rating scale. I shot other comparisons also, but this one seems like a good place to start.

  Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
  Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 Macro
Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 Macro

Nikon D810: Highlight-Weighed Metering Compatibility Issues, Especially with Zeiss ZF.2 Lenses

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

Side-note context: the Nikon D810 also has autofocus compatibility issues with Sigma autofocus lenses, reportedly the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A and in my personal experience, the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro. It’s unclear why an incremental camera update (over the D800/D800E) should have such issues.

While 90% of the time I shoot on full manual, the new Nikon D810 Highlight-weighted metering option sounded promising for fast-changing lighting situations. But this new metering option is not straightforward for anyone using a mix of lenses.

The Nikon D810 downgrades to Center-weighted metering with certain lenses when Highlight-weighted metering is used, even CPU lenses, such as Zeiss ZF.2. Even if the lens supports Matrix metering.

The metering downgrade behavior seems an ill-considered choice on Nikon’s part: Center-weighted hardly ever gives me the right exposure for my shooting. At the least a custom camera setting ought to allow the preferred fallback option: I want the camera to fall back to Matrix metering if Highlight-weighted cannot be used. The last thing I want is for my Zeiss ZF.2 lenses to meter with Center-weighted metering if I happen to have the camera set to Highlight-weighted.

Planning to explore the new metering option, I had shot a variety of comparisons using Matrix metering vs Highlight-weighted metering using Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, which have a CPU chip. These A/B shots now turn out to be useless for that purpose.

Highlight-weighted metering compatibility matrix

It is unclear why the Nikon 45/2.8P and Voigtlander 40/2 Ultra should support Highlight-weighted metering, but Zeiss ZF.2 lenses do not (all have a CPU chip). It could be a licensing issue; an inquiry to Zeiss is open at this time.

It is also unclear why in the age of digital, metering can’t be done properly the right way, at least in Live View, where the camera is fully informed of exactly what is striking the sensor—innovative design lags available capabilities.

Lens type Supports Highlight-weighted metering?
Nikon AF-S YES
Nikon 45/2.8P (older Nikon chipped lens) YES
Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 YES
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A YES
Zeiss ZF.2 lenses (all) NO, reverts to Center-weighted
Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro NO, reverts to Center-weighted
Nikon AI-S NO, reverts to Center-weighted
Unchipped lens NO, reverts to Center-weighted

A compatible lens supports Matrix or Highlight-weighted metering:

  Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center   Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center
Nikon 45mm f/2.8P: Matrix and Highlight-weighted metering both work on Nikon D810

A chipped (CPU) lens might not support Highlight-weighted metering even if it supports Matrix metering. All Zeiss ZF.2 and Zeiss Otus lenses revert to Center-weighted when Highlight-weighted is chosen.

  Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center   Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center
Zeiss ZF.2 15mm f/2.8 Distagon: Highlight-weighted metering unsupported on Nikon D810

The user manual

Page 114 of the Nikon D810 user manual is confusing in its vagueness, at least to me. All Zeiss ZF.2 lenses have a CPU chip that supports matrix metering. The description does not seem to cover the ZF.2 lenses (CPU-chipped manual focus lenses, just like the Voigtlander 40/2 Ultra noted above).

Highlight-weighted: Camera assigns greatest weight to highlights. Use to reduce loss of detail in highlights, for example when photographing spotlit performers on a stage.

...
Center-weighted metering will be used if highlight-weighted metering is selected with non-CPU lenses or if matrix metering is selected with non-CPU lenses for which lens data have not been supplied.

Note that center-weighted metering may also be used if highlight-weighted metering is selected with certain CPU lenses (AI-P NIKKOR lenses and AF lenses that are not of type G, E, or D).

 

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