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Equipment Etc

Nikon D800E

In terms of photography, Bhutan is the ultimate travel trip. It includes everything from landscapes to portraiture, sport to religion, festivals to wildlife. You need a camera that is capable of capturing the small enclosed spaces inside the dzongs, as well wildlife and landscapes at a great distance.

Choosing which cameras to take was a difficult choice.

So I didn't limit how the images could be used (website, publication, exhibition), I wanted as many pixels as practicable. However, having looked at Robert van Koesveld and Libby Lloyd's excellent book on Bhutan, I also realised I would need a camera that worked quickly in low light. I needed fast, precise autofocus to capture moving subjects and there would be many times that a tripod would simply be an inconvenience.

I wanted a DSLR with lots of pixels and Nikon graciously lent me its new D800E to take. With 36-megapixels, fast autofocus and the ability to work without a tripod, it seemed the ideal camera for the trip.

In terms of lenses, I took the 14-24mm and 70-200mm f2.8 zooms. I also had a 24-70mm f2.8 available, but I swapped this for a 50mm f1.4 and an 85mm f1.8. These filled in the gap between the zooms, so to speak, and the only focal length I was really missing was 35mm (which I could fix by cropping from 24mm - I was playing with 36-megapixels after all).

So how did the Nikon D800E perform? Unbelievably well! What I really liked was being able to set the automatic ISO setting and letting the camera adjust the ISO upwards as the light levels and shutter speeds dropped. Although there was a hint of noise, I could shoot at up to ISO 6400 and get very good results.

I also found that hand-holding the camera at the reciprocal of the focal length (e.g. 1/30 second for a 35mm lens, 1/200 second for a 200mm lens) was no longer a satisfactory approach. The extra pixels in the D800E picked up even the slightest camera shake, so I shot at 1/60 or 1/125 second (or faster) as much as possible. Good camera technique was very important.

So, is the D800 or the D800E better? I didn't do any direct comparisons, but I kept my eye out for quality issues. There are reports that the D800E with its different sensor design can produce moire (which sometimes shows up as an unwanted rainbow or chequeboard pattern), especially when photographing fabrics and subjects with fine patterns. While I am sure this can happen, I haven't yet noticed it in any of the 8000-odd exposures I made, and this included a lot of photographs of people and fabrics (clothing). So, given the D800E is designed to produce sharper, clearer results than the D800, I don't think there's any question that the D800E is the best model for enthusiast and professional photographers. Obviously this can't be a definitive statement, but for the way I shoot, the moire was never an issue.

Peter Eastway Uses

Peter Uses

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