[REVIEW—NIKON D810 DSLR]

Nikon D810

Price: $3700 body (street price)
Still the prince

THE LOW-DOWN: The Nikon D810 combines the best features of the 800 and 800E into a single model. It has the 36 megapixel full frame sensor and is not very different from the predecessors. The low pass filter is removed, as it is in the 800E. Small RAW has been added to capture mode, saving 9mp files. The shutter and mirror mechanisms have been redesigned to reduce the effects of shutter shock blurring images at slow speeds. Burst mode is up from 4 to 5fps. And for video shooters there is now a “Flat” picture style that reduces contrast and gives a more professional look to video. Inbuilt stereo microphones replace the mono mics in the 800/E. The body is the same beautifully made, rugged, ergonomically delightful piece of gear.

LIKE: Image quality is superb, both RAW and JPEG. The resolved detail from the high resolution sensor is breathtaking without any objectionable noise diminishing the sharpness. This is medium format quality in a 35mm body.

DISLIKE: The weight! Does it really need to be this heavy or do Nikon think that this is what professionals expect? And the LCD does not swivel.

VERDICT: When we reviewed the D800 in June 2012 we judged it the best camera for general use that we had ever tested. The D810 is still the prince of DSLRs. However, in 2012 it was unique, with its 36 megapixel sensor and that is no longer the case. The Sony a7r also has a 36mp sensor (probably the same unit) and is smaller, lighter and $1500 cheaper. The Sony is handicapped by a dearth of lenses whereas the Nikon fits a vast catalogue of lenses. We are inclined to say that the Sony is for the serious photographer and the Nikon for the deadly serious.

NikD81002

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[INSPIRATIONAL IMHOFF]

 Imhoff bookRobert Imhoff, a photographer of “creative brilliance” according to Paul Burrows, is the subject of a monograph and an exhibition running at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Burrows, the editor of the book, says that Imhoff , without the benefit of Photoshop, created “the fantastic, in-camera, using his knowledge of lighting, optics and photochemical processes to to take his images into a whole new world of visual magic.”

All absolutely beyond dispute and well worth making the trip to Ballarat or buying the book Imhoff: a life of grain & pixels to see for yourself. ($34.95 www.writelight.com.au/contemporary-photographers)

Imhoff, like many fine photographers, started young. When he was seven, at the time of the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, he was given a Kodak Box Brownie E. He showed immediate promise as a determined photographer, prepared to go the extra distance to get the memorable shot, by crawling between the legs of the adoring crowd to get a photo of HRH, the Duke of Edinburgh. And because he is also a meticulous archiver the photo is in the book.

One day an obsessive researcher will count up the number of famous photographers who got their start with a Box Brownie. The lovely thing about the Brownie (we speak from experience – we got ours when we were twelve) is that it enticed a child into exploring the physics and chemistry of film. Digital seems a little cold by comparison with 620 monochrome film, with the image magically appearing in the darkroom. But that was then and this is now, and one thing hasn’t changed: any child with an interest in photography should be encouraged.

When we last wrote about cameras for children the prices were a deterrent, but right now camera companies are finding compact cameras hard to sell, so there are bargains to be had.

A quick survey of the on-line auction and stock remainder vendors, some acting for big local retailers, reveals some bargains that would be nice stocking fillers for the budding photographer in the family.

A Canon Ixus 150, with a 16mp sensor and 8X zoom, can be had for $89 if you do a bit of web searching. We have also seen a Nikon Coolpix L29 camera with similar specifications for $80 plus postage. Although these cameras are relatively inexpensive they produce good results, and nothing will kill a child’s enthusiasm for the art faster than consistently disappointing output.

These days the darkroom magic is in the computer and both Apple and Windows operating systems come with the darkroom built in – iPhoto in the Mac and Photo Gallery Live in Windows.

Give the kid a camera for Christmas – it worked for Robert Imhoff.

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[NZ ON THE SHOULDERS OF ANSEL ADAMS]

Glenorchy

The challenge was thrown out: go to New Zealand and come back with black and white landscape photos in the style of the great Mr Adams.

So off we went, in the first week of September, to the city of Queenstown, at the heart of the Lord of the Rings mountain locations. This is breathtakingly beautiful country of snow capped mountains and vast crystal clear lakes.

These photos were taken with an Olympus OMD EM10 which we chose to take because it fits into a small Crumpler bag, along with three lenses [18—300mm in film terms] with room left over for the usual bits and pieces that tourists carry with them.

We will be going back!

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Apple’s big Retina pleasing to the i

It is easy for any photographer to describe the ideal computer monitor for reviewing, editing and displaying photos. It should render blacks and whites without colour cast or other impurities; colour, brightness and contrast should be accurate and matched to the printer output; and the pixel grid should be invisible.

Easy! Perhaps.

Last week Apple announced a new incarnation of the 27 inch iMac with what they call the Retina display – their word for very high resolution. The high resolution display was first seen on the iPhone, then was incorporated into the iPad design. The Macbook Pro laptops were next to get Retina, and now it has come to the big desktop.

How good is it? Let’s just say that it comes close to the photographer’s ideal. We have had enough time with the new iMac to be able to compare it with the model it replaces and we are impressed.

Like its predecessor it comes with the Fusion Drive setup that marries a small solid state hard drive to a conventional 1TB mechanical disc. The computer learns which applications should be given priority to speed up opening so that boot up and opening Photoshop and Lightroom are almost as fast as flicking a switch and turning on the light. The new iMac starts at $2999 which makes it competitive with any Windows system with similar specifications – and as far as we know there is no Windows equivalent of the stunning 5120×2880 dot display. (The previous iMac’s display is 2560X1440.)

When viewing photos on the new iMac the pixel grid is invisible to the naked eye, so looking at a picture is like viewing the subject through a clean window. The resolved detail from a properly exposed and focused RAW file is breathtaking, but this has consequences. Images prepared for internet distribution through Flickr or Picasa, for instance, need to be created in a higher resolution form than we are accustomed to or, as we have seen, they can look shabby on the iMac screen which shows up and emphasises any defects.

Photo editing in Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture is made especially pleasurable because you not only see more detail but you see more picture. On the previous iMac a RAW image from a micro four thirds camera (2592X4608 pixels) at full size, overflows the work area, necessitating scrolling for editing. On the new iMac the same image zoomed to 100 per cent nicely fills the work-top rectangle – you see it all. It sounds like a small thing but it changes the editing experience.

With Final Cut Pro X installed we will try true 4K video editing as soon as we can get a suitable camera. In the meantime we can report that 1080 video looks splendid.

Although every iMac is individually calibrated at the factory we found that out of the box the display looked a little warm, adding a sepia tinge to black and white photos. We let the computer run for three hours, spooling a full screen video, and then calibrated it and the cooler white balance suited us better.

Viewing angles are very wide and there is no backlight edge bleed which has been a distraction for us on the previous model. Apple has put a lot of R and D into reducing reflections and it has paid off.

Because the outer form of the computer has not changed we still must cope with all the ports for externals, such as USB, Thunderbolt, Ethernet and SD cards, being on the back where they are accessed by feel. There is no optical disc drive, so factor in the cost of an add-on because, whatever Apple says, you will need one.

However, notwithstanding the triumph of form over function, Apple has raised the bar yet again for photographers. It’s the cat’s pyjamas, as they say in the classics.

iMac27

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