A VSL reader asked a question: "Why did I choose to buy a D800e, a D800 and a D700 instead of a D810 or D850?

It's a fair question and one which I actually have a well thought out rationale for.... So, without any further delay...

I owned the D810 a few years ago and did much work with it. Where it beats the pants off the D800s is in its video capabilities. But I struggled to get some of the Nikon lenses I was using at the time to focus correctly. They liked to focus just a little further back than I would have liked. We went round and round with the fine-tuning dance and, to be fair, most of the lenses worked pretty well after we spent an entire weekend coaxing them into compliance. The shutter in the D810 is quieter and sounds off at a lower (hence more pleasant) frequency. But when it comes to ease of use and image quality there isn't much difference between the older models and the D810. But here's where the "working commercial photographer" rationale comes into play; I could buy two D800 series bodies, in good shape, for the cost of one D810 body. I still believe that no professional image maker should go on a paid assignment without a back up body. And the best back up body is one that is nearly identical to your primary camera.

Since I already own another complete system (two Panasonic GH5's and a bag of lenses) I wasn't in a hurry to drop $6800 on a couple of D850 bodies, or $4,000 on  a couple of used D810 bodies when I could have two D800 series bodies for only $2,000. The buffers in the newer cameras are probably better but I'll never know because I'm not a sports photographer and just use single frame advance.

I am, sometimes, interested in being a low light photographer but when I went exploring on DXO Mark I found that the older d800's are within a gnat's whisker of matching the high ISO performance of both newer bodies. Not much of a difference in the quality of the raw files either....

All in all, the more I use the D800 cameras the more I like them. So much so that they are the cameras I packed up in order to do a P.R. shoot at the Fairmont Hotel at midday and to also haul down with me today to Matamoros, Mexico for tomorrow's photographic assignments. In fact, if all goes well I intend to shoot most of my work tomorrow with the D800 and the 24-120mm f4.0 VR.

I hope I get smarter someday. I decided to drive down here to Mexico. I grabbed a rental car from Avis, packed it up with photo goodies and headed over to the Fairmont Hotel to photograph the Boys and Girls Clubs of Austin Spring Luncheon (a nice fundraiser). I used the D800 and the above mentioned lens, along with a manual flash to cover the event. I was floored this evening, when editing the take, to see that what I saw on the rear screen of the camera as I chimped through the job matched what I ended up with in post production almost exactly. A first time for everything.

But back on topic. After wrapping up the event around 1:30 I got in the rental car and started the long trip to Brownsville, Texas. With one stop for nature and one stop to get a Whataburger hamburger with jalapeƱos it took right at six hours and fifteen minutes of steady, more or less 75 mph driving. That's a lot. And that only gets one halfway across the state (measuring from north to south). I logged nearly 400 miles today! No frequent flyer miles, no bags of peanuts but no groping by the TSA and no idle time sitting stationary on the tarmac.

We've got an early call tomorrow and we'll shoot all day. I'll get back to the hotel, eat dinner and crash. But if I can get myself out of bed by 5:30 am I'll have a fighting chance of getting back to Austin on Thursday just in time for the noon swim. Won't that be nice?

The short answer to my reader is that the D800s do everything I need from them and they handle really well. I'll save the bucks and see what Nikon launches in the Fall. Night....


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the answer to my question about latest camera choices in this article. And this makes sense, to get the best value for similar performance to latest cameras, and to afford 2 D800 bodies. I know you already have 4K video covered with GH5, which is a great performer in itself and Nikons are great for stills. My latest 2 cameras were barely used cameras (less than 10K shutters) for over 35 percent or more off retail price from private sellers switching systems, it only makes sense to buy if the need is there.

It has been a pleasure seeing you discuss how these different brands perform over the years, in Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and Nikon (all 4 brands I too have used and upgraded as time went on - bought, used, sold or kept). Have you used Canon at all?

Anyway still love my D700 and Nikon 24-70 F2.8 lens and getting used to my lightweight D750 and 24-120mm F4 lens. Picked up a Canon 80D for video blogs and maybe client work (sold my Sony A77ii (was lightly used at 1K shutters when I bought, kept it 3 years and sold it for same price I paid with only 15K shutter activated, as I used it mostly on video), no money for a GH5 yet. Time will tell though. If a lightly used GH5 comes up or the need for 4K happens (with its very large video files, so far Full HD is suffice for my needs, but I am picking up a few quality Canon lenses). Also owned the Fuji S2Pro and S5Pro originally starting out in 2004 (Fuji used a Nikon body back then) so that is why I am a big Nikon fan now with lots of Nikon glass, shooting weddings, some video and lots of portraits these days and also product photography from my original 10 year background in marketing. Now mid 50s. With lots of great cameras out there, nice to try out a few, but always liked the Nikon colours for stills. (GH5 video does impress, but did not want to buy the glass for now for it.)
Adrian Van L. from Toronto.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, very refreshing.

Wally said...

Ahhh GAS- Gear Acquisition Syndrome- has been conquered... For now.

eric erickson said...

Kirk, good post. I share your curiosity about Sony cameras. I like you, shop at a local camera store, Midwest Photo in Columbus. It is actually a good store with helpful retail associates that know cameras. Every time I go into the store one of the associates wants me to try the new "Sony A7 3". I have held it a bit and played with it but never shot it. I find it a bit too small and unbalanced, similar to my Fuji XT2 with the 16-55 lens on it. I still like my Big D 750. It is balanced and works well and produces great files. But my point of the comment is to say, I think Sony has juiced up the commissions on the A7 Cameras so that the sales associates want to "push" the cameras a bit. It is just a feeling I have. Maybe some of your readers who are also camera sales folks can chime in and let me know is my assessment is correct?
The bottom line is I really think the Canon and Nikon cameras are built for the long term. I am not sure the mirrorless cameras including my fuji have that same build quality and will be around for 5 or ten years as are the Nikons and Canons. Just my two cents. All the best. Eric

ODL Designs said...

Isn't that the point? As long as you get what you need what else is needed :)

I got my E-3 yesterday and am blown away by how much DR has improved, but also how good the colour/WB is from the ISO 100 files.

It is a ton of fun, and I immediately used it for a social media shoot in the studio. The big question is, how are camera companies going to keep selling cameras?

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk,
I'd love to hear how you're getting on with the 24-120 f/4 on the Nikon. I had high hopes for that lens but got very poor results using it on my D810, focus was very hit and miss and at f/4 just poor sharpness.
I'm hoping maybe I had a bad copy as I still think that focal range is perfect for my needs.
Thanks for any insights!

Eric W said...

I think the other Eric nails it...one of the problems with smaller bodies is the mismatch with the faster glass some of us may want. The ergonomics of an 18-55 Fuji 2.8-4 is perfect on the X-E2 or X-T2. In fact it is very Canon AF like (like the film AF my Dad taught me on) in size. If you put a 16-55 F2.8 on those bodies, the "balance" is gone even with add on grips. Same thing on the Sony bodies A7 and their "pro" glass. One thing I enjoy about the M4/3 is even the G85 or E-M10II w/ an Oly 12-40 F2.8 is extremely manageable all day long for travel shots. The EM2 or G9 would be perfect for more demanding shooting all day long in my opinion with my hands. If I was to shoot full frame...I'd want a body to make shooting the lenses I need comfy all day long as well. Nice series Kirk. Thanks