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ISO 3200 on Nikon D810

Get at B&H Photo: Nikon D810, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A, Nikon AF-S 50mm

I was shooting the Nikon D800E against the Nikon D810 this evening, to try and see if ISO 3200 was any different in performance between the two, ISO 3200 being an inflection point for quality beyond which it is dubious to go with either camera.

I noted several things between the two:

  • The first frustrating nuisance is that L brackets do not mount exactly the same way, so one can’t just swap cameras and get the same framing, at least not with the two cameras and brackets I have on hand. I like to lock down the tripod head when comparing, but this difference makes that troublesome to do (cannot). The D800E L-bracket fits the D810 body plenty well to use, but there is a difference from the D800E that makes the fit less than perfect (side ports in particular) RRS lists a Nikon D810 L bracket with a different part code of BD810-L.
  • The histograms for the same exposure on the two cameras were quite different for the same exposure, yet the RawDigger histograms shows only a small difference. Odd. I’ll have to double check settings. Or maybe the sensor response is just different somehow or maybe it’s that shooting RAW-JPEG delivers a different histogram from embedded vs full size JPEG—not yet sure.
  • Dynamic range is severely impaired at ISO 3200, perhaps by as much as three stops. True for both cameras.
  • The D810 is vastly easier to focus. I focused on the “Keep this and you’ll never go broke” penny inside aluminum-framed coin near center (I’m keeping it). It was a blurry mess devoid of details with the D800E, very difficult to perceive critical focus without a lot of back and forth to verify, but with the D810 everything just pops right in with high confidence. This operational advantage by itself makes the D810 worth every penny to me (consider comparing the D810 to D800E for sharpness and just what a major impediment focus matching is; I’ve dealt with this for two years and I’m fed up). See Nikon D810: Live View Quality vs Nikon D800E/D800.

I liked this side lighting (and it’s certainly good for certain other projects), and I’m going to have to reshoot under constant and more mellow light in order to lay down an identical exposure for both. The trusty Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon will be put to the task (BTW, Zeiss “APO” really means a standard way above anyone else, even Leica. I look forward to more such designations).

Update: reshot, results coming soon.

Click for larger image.

ISO 3200
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon

Dan M writes:

Yeah, the old RRS and the Kirk L brackets for the d800 cameras don't really fit the 810 at all. You have to stress the USB 3 rubber door to get it open far enough and the HDMI door won't open at all as it is blocked along its bottom edge the entire length of the door. You have to move the bracket out a quarter inch on the Kirk bracket to get these doors to work. Kirk says they aren't doing one special for the 810. Which means don't get Kirk. The camera body is different. Simple.

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