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D800e first impressions

July 7th, 2012

This is not a review, there are tons of reviews out there. I just like to share the impressions I got after “upgrading” from D80/90 to this camera.

Size and weight. It doesn’t feel that big. The weight is relative, with a 70-200/2.8 it actually handles better than a smaller body with such a lens. With the 24-85 VR it is noticebly bulkier than a D90 with a 35/1.8, but barely different from a D90 with a 17-50 Tamron.

Resolution. The angular resolution is at the level of a D7000, so keeping the speeds at the level where I was comfortable with worked out. Using Auto ISO the D800 adjust the speed to 1/focal length. Due to the good grip and the well designed shutter button I get enough 100% sharp pictures out of it (you can still tune this in the settings)

Dynamic range: Mindblowing. In Lr4 pull down Highlight by 100 and pull up shadows by 100 - no visible degradation, not color shifts.

High ISO: Auto ISO works really well, but shooting at 6400 is still OK. At pixel level the results are like a D90 at 1600ISO, scaled down it equates a D90 at  ~ 1000ISO. For normal usage (web, small prints) perfectly OK.

AF: I never used Auto selection, but the D800 changed that. When shooting a face it locks on the nearest eye. Perhaps in 98% of the case it makes the same decision I made only faster. I can concentrate more on the composition and let the camera figure out the rest.

Moiré: Yes, it exists. But the Moiré brush gets rid of it. I customized this brush by adding +12 saturation and after a quick swipe with this tool it is gone. It is important that you know where to find it, otherwise you might miss it.

Exposure: Very different from the D90. Spot metering is spot metering, you have to be very careful to pick the right spot. Matrix metering looks a bit underexposed sometimes, but it is not a flaw: It tries to preserve highlights and thanks to the excellent noise characteristics you can pull up shadows to almost no end.

File-size: I always shoot RAW, current setting 14-bit lossless compression. This gives you ~90 pictures on a 8GB card. I will experiment a bit with these settings, perhaps using uncompressed files to speed up post-processing.

Still, it is not a beginner camera, you need a good shooting technique, good glass and a solid understanding of the principles of photography. The camera is so good, it mercilessly shows you your mistakes. It will make you a better photographer.

Nikkor AF-S 24-85mm 1:3.5-4.5 VR review

July 7th, 2012

I needed a standard zoom, but I wanted something compact for landscape and general use. The 24-70 was out for this reason, too heavy and 2.8 aperture was low on the list of needed features. VR was more desirable to capture motion and low-light work where no tripod is at hand.

I researched a bit the Tamron 24-70, but 82mm filter size, a flimsy hood and pronounced onion patterns in highlights made me drop that thought.

The recently announced  AF-S 24-85mm 1:3.5-4.5 VR fits the bill. I would have preferred weather-sealing and a constant f/4 aperture, but for $/€600 not all wishes will come true. It has a rubber seal on the mount.

This brings me to the features:

  • Rubber seal at mount (full metal)
  • M -M/A (fulltime manual focus override)
  • VR

Build

  • Full plastic, Made in China
  • Focus / zoom feel a bit rough, but operate precisely
  • dual cam tube, no wobbling
  • 72mm filter

Heck, why 72mm filter thread? (this went up from 67mm of the non-VR model)

AF-speed is good, slower than the 24-70. I’d say 2/3sec from close focus (38cm) to infinity. Barely audible when 1m away, very reliable, no hunting.

Vignetting, very little, less than 1 stop wide open and almost none at f/5.6

Distortion, slight barrel at 24 (12 in Lr4 correction), even slighter pincushion from 35mm upwards.

CAs need correction in Lr, but this is a one-click.

Pretty flare resistant, dead sharp in the center. Borders very good at f/5.6, some additional sharpening brings corners to center level. It seems to have some field curvature that prevents it from performing better in the corners, but not too pronounced.

Close focus, don’t expect too much, it doesn’t have near field correction, results are good, but nothing to write home about.

VR - 4 stops - no way. I’d give it 2 stops on the wide end and 3 stops on the long end. Note that this gives more handholdabilty than the 24-70.

Summary, good deal for the asked price. As I don’t shoot wide open much, this lens gives me everything I need for a third of the price of  the 24-70 (sorry for mentioning it so often, but it is simply the reference in this focal range). The small size and low weight make it preferable for landscape work: Better balance on the tripod and smaller profile in windy conditions. If you capture moving objects you would like to have a lens that is faster, but I ask if a 50/1.4 would do there an even better job

Sample images

Jumbo Frames and Internet access

July 7th, 2012

I recently added a Synology 411 NAS to my gear. Running in RAID 5 to have a good compromise between data safety and speed.

As easy as it is to set up such a NAS, to get it work in simple home network with full performance is less trivial.

My internet access is via a Netgear modem/switch. Sleak device that works perfectly with my 100Mbit fiber connection (thanks numericable).

Problem: Such switches are 100MB only, so the NAS attached via this switch tops out at 10Mbyte/sec - disappointing.

Solution: Get a Gigabit switch. I opted for a Netgear GS 605 which supports 9K Jumbo frames. So I cabled the modem, the NAS and my computer to the switch. Then I activated Jumbo frames 9k on my network card and on the NAS. Much better speed, around 35MByte/sec.

Not the end of the story: With these settings I wasn’t able to connect to facebook anymore, all browsers timed out. Facebook doesn’t like big frames. So to access FB I would have to deactivate Jumbo Frames again… Jumbo Frames might also impair performance of VoIP, etc. - the normal internet connection is set for MTUs of 1500 or even lower.

Solution: Get a second network card. If your computer already has a Gigabit Ethernet which supports 9K Jumbo Frames, get the cheapest you can find. The new card will become the internet gateway.

After installing the new card, connectit directly to the modem/router. This is important, because it will then run in 100MB mode. This will make Windows prefer the 1GB card if it can resolve a peer via that connection.

With this connection I got over 65MByte/sec from the NAS - good.

Last tuning step: Make sure that the GB connection will not be used for internet connections: Go the properties of the GB connection and select the IPv4 compenent and open its properties. Select using a fixed IP and enter an address like 192.168.0.201 and no default gateway. 201 is outside the DHCP range I configured in my router.

Now everything works as expected, hope this is helpful for you