Thursday, April 2, 2015

OT: More Auditions (update)

The search for my next camera has taken a rather scatter-shot approach so far. I've tried mirrorless, iPhone, and small travel-size cameras. I've tried Apple, Fuji, Olympus and Canon products. About the only thing missing has been a pinhole setup. 

I haven't given up, but I have changed course again. Today I get got my hands on a Nikon D810 and a Sigma 24-105 f/4 zoom, rented for a week from This set-up is neither small (4+ pounds) nor cheap (don't ask), making it appear that I've abandoned my search for a travel camera. Maybe I have. But the D810 has (reportedly) the best resolution of any DSLR on the market at the moment and I'm seduced by that (I've daydreamed about working in medium format). And using mirrorless cameras made me realize that I prefer optical viewfinders.

Others have influenced me, of course. Tony Northrup's buying guide suggests this camera and lens for landscape photographers. My friend and long-time Nikon owner (and proprietor of Adventure House books) John Gunnison has often nudged me toward Nikons and seems quite smitten by his new D750. He mentioned something I'd read about: with enough resolution, you can crop instead of packing a longer lens; a sports pro told John he does it. Even my next-door neighbor is carrying a new D810...I mustn't get left behind, right? 

A week is too short to learn much about a new DSLR, crammed as they are with features and settings. But the demise of the bricks-and-mortar camera shop leaves few options but to rent and try. Even if I was ready to buy today, the Sigma is back-ordered at B&H, so this is the fastest way to try out the combo. At very least I'll have some images to compare against all those others, and I'll know whether I'm still fit enough to lug it all around. Dear God, I hope I don't break it.

Update: The camera arrived and I took it for a walk. It focuses very quickly, even in rather low indoor light, which is a welcome change. Quietly, too. The D810 body isn't too heavy, but with the 24-105 lens mounted it gains a lot of weight. I'm beginning to see why normal lenses are regaining their popularity. Overall, though, it's responsive and fits my grip nicely.

Naturally I wanted to see lots of resolution. Here's a couple of shot and a detail from it, to give you an idea. The shot is wide open. The Sigma has noticeable vignetting at f/4 (look at the upper left corner) that mostly goes away by f/5.6.

And here is a tight crop of the same shot (less than 19 percent of the original pixels):
Daffodil (detail)
These aren't jaw-dropping images, but they give you a sense of how many pixels are in play. Bear in mind that these are JPEGs, though with minimal Lightroom manipulation, and were handheld.

There's a lot more work to do before I know if this camera (and this lens) is for me. I hope to do an A/B comparison with the Pentax K-5 in my favorite landscape location before my week-long rental comes to a close. Stay tuned.

The details:
Daffodil: Nikon D810, handheld, 1/1600 sec. at f/4, ISO 100, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 at 24mm.
Detail: same as above at 3013 x 2260 pixels (original: 4912 x 7360 pixels)

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