The D810 is fun because you can set the ISO dial at 64. It's just fun. Like Kodachrome 64 only better.

I know that as a blogging, professional photographer I am supposed to make all of the photographic assignments I shoot sound big and dramatic, and matters of life and death (or matters of "Light and Depth" ---the title of one of my favorite books on lighting by R. Lowell---yes, the founder of Lowell Lighting). But the reality is that most of my assignments are re-shootable and most of the photographs I take are actually just for fun. I do earn nearly 100% of my living taking images but that only constitutes about 1/5th of the total images I take. The rest I do because it's fun and the act of photographing makes me feel as though I'm doing something artistic even when I am just taking images of my coffee cup or the same street corner I've looked at a thousand times before.

So, when I proceed to talk about my walk around downtown yesterday with the big, honking Nikon D810 you won't imagine that I was embarking on any solo master class aimed at shifting any paradigms. I was just out to enjoy the heat, the biker rally in downtown and the straightforward act of looking at stuff and playing with the camera. My little exercise for the day was to use the camera at its lowest, native ISO (which is 64) and couple that with my favorite new lens, the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens.  I wish I had seen noble bikers or luscious biker babes but most of the people I saw were obese, middle aged people who just happened to own Harleys. Everywhere I looked downtown it seemed as though I was watching scenes from the Tim Allen movie, Wild Hogs. 

I stopped looking for interesting biker photos and satisfied myself by finding scenes which would show of the capabilities of my camera and lens combination. Setting the camera ISO at 64 means you have to pay closer attention to shutter speeds and f-stops. I shoot mostly in aperture priority when I'm just goofing around so if I set f11 for a sunlit scene that I need depth of field for I must remember to head back to the wider apertures when I get into areas of open shade or walk through a hotel lobby, otherwise I'll end up with some shutter speed like 1/15th and since neither camera nor lens have I.S. it's a real issue.

The interesting thing about shooting the D810 at 64 and using the 14 bit, uncompressed raw files is the sheer amount of dynamic range you end up with in each exposure. You can be a stop or two under and at least a stop over exposed and you can make a beautiful image just by moving the sliders in Photoshop. Of course I love to take things to extremes so when I played with the image above and the image below I went a little slider crazy. My own wacky version of HDR. Only shot in camera and realized in post. 

The amazing attribute of the D810 that I never read about from other photographers and reviewers is the way the camera's sensor renders clouds. The absolute lack of noise coupled with super high resolution means that for the first time since I started shooting digitally I don't see any unwanted texture in the solid blue sky areas. That was my real epiphany from yesterday: The combination of low ISO in combination with high resolution means totally convincing blue skies