Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Nikon D810 and Df - The Best Combination Available Today?

Well, I've been thoroughly enjoying my Nikon Df for some time now. The low light capabilities of this camera are spectacular.
 
I've recently purchased a Nikon D810, specifically to take advantage of the increased resolution (36 megapixels) for nature photography. Mounted on my Nikkor 200-400mm f4 AF-S VR G lens, the D810 should allow me more freedom in cropping, which is always useful in wildlife photography, especially with active species like birds.
 
I've only had my D810 out a couple of times so far. One was this morning, shooting birds on a kayak outing. Here's a tightly-cropped shot of a swallow hitting the water surface.
And here's a 100% blow-up (cropped even more).
What I've found so far is that while the D810 does allow significant cropping, it doesn't handle high iso noise nearly as well as the Df. Of course, that's well-known in the Nikon crowd, and makes perfect sense, given the much higher number of pixels crammed into the same sensor real estate as the Df. The shots above were made at iso 1600, and noise is quite visible on my screen, looking at the images in Lightroom.
 
Here's a snapshot of DxO Lab's comparison of the two cameras:
 
Image Source: http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Nikon-Df-versus-Nikon-D810___925_963
 
As you can see, the D810 wins in overall score, color depth, and dynamic range. But, it performs significantly worse in low light (high iso). Again, no new information here, but it's helping me to form my opinion of this pair of cameras and how best to use them.
 
Basically, the D810 will fill my need for high resolution and cropping ability when shooting wildlife in good light. Or anything else in good light, for that matter. The Df will remain my go-to camera for more challenging lighting situations, and when cropping is not as necessary.
 
So, I think that for me, yes, this is the best combination of Nikon bodies available today.
 
I have to get the D810 out in the field again, and shoot at lower iso settings. I'm sure that's going to really impress me.
 
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