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A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"

PerroneFord

Tallahassee, US
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PerroneFord Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Apr 2011
Sun 15-Apr-12 02:01 PM

So, I thought I would offer a few comments on where I feel the D800 is weak. At least from my perspective as primarily a sports shooter. Clearly, this camera is not aimed at sports shooters though I have strong suspicions some will try it in that genre. Here are some caveats that I've found.

1. Frame rate is slow. I know.. big shocker there. But what that translates to, is carrying a second body. While I nearly always have a second body, this is different. I am not carrying a second body JUST to have different glass on it. I am now carrying it for different capability. In that regard, the D800 is probably a better choice as a THIRD body, or with some very specific uses in mind. This is somewhat hampering as I find I want to shoot with the D800 all the time, but cannot because of it's limits. I swapped lenses more this weekend than I ever have previously. That was FAR less than ideal.

2. The AF performance is not as good as a D3s. This one surprised me somewhat. I had quite a lot of A/B testing against my D3s this weekend. And what I found was that the D3s locked on faster and stayed locked on better on nearly anything I pointed it at. Now most people who use a D800 aren't going to need to lock as fast as I needed to, but those who are shooting BIF, wildlife, or other difficult targets should digest that information carefully. This is NOT a pro body.

3. Auto-area works REALLY well. One of the events I was shooting was pole vaulting. Because of the highly erratic movement of the vaulters once the pole was planted, I was having some trouble keeping them both framed, and the focus square on them with the 300/2.8. So I started trying different focus modes. The 3D was pretty good, but the auto-area really surprised me. For shooting single targets, I think I will use that mode more. For multiple targets and different distances, it would probably be useless. But for things like gymnastics, diving, tennis, etc., it may be just the ticket.

4. It feels fragile. Now let me say right up front, I am not saying this is a bad camera or badly built. It's certainly not. But after working with my D2H and D3s this weekend, I was struck again by home much more in common the Dxxx have in common with the Dxxxx bodies than the Dx bodies. It certainly has the guts of a pro camera in most cases, but it won't feel like a pro camera to someone used to a pro body. I do not yet have the grip, and I know that will help, but I felt like I was going to drop the thing all weekend as I was working quickly shooting multiple events that were happening concurrently.

5. When the focus is on, it's GREAT. But the focus isn't on all that often on fast moving things. This is related to my comment about the D3s focusing faster, but not quite the same. What I found was that the D800 had a HARD time tracking sprinters. Either it's predicting ability is lackluster, or something else is going on. But when presented with a singular target in the frame, it REALLY struggled to lock it. Curiously, when presented with two targets in the frame, it more often than not locked on the furthest target. I am going to have to play with that one more because it surprised me. That may have been user error, but I will need more practice to say.


All in all, I had a lot of fun using the camera this weekend to capture a number of athletes tuning up for London 2012. The camera performed admirably, but I'd be lying if I said it performed well enough for me to leave my D3s home. I absolutely HATED the idea that when I KNEW I had to get the shot, the D3s got the call. I was hoping to shoot tennis today, but I'm wiped out and have a lot of track pictures to get through.

Hopefully, these comments shed some light on the camera for others.

-P

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gorji

Jamesville, US
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#1. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

gorji Registered since 07th Jan 2007
Sun 15-Apr-12 12:47 PM

Thanks for your review.
What do you think the most fps is when you were trying to capture action shots?

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RRRoger

Monterey Bay, US
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#2. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 1

RRRoger Silver Member Fellow Ribbon awarded for his long history of demonstrated excellence and helping other members with equipment, technique and DSLR video in the true Nikonians spirit. Charter Member
Sun 15-Apr-12 02:18 PM | edited Sun 15-Apr-12 02:22 PM by RRRoger

Will any camera ever be "perfect"?

If I did not have time to set up my D800 properly, I would use a D4.
The D800 needs a lot more "dialing in".
That said, I think the D800 is very capable of being used as a Sports Camera.
I very rarely shoot at 4fps and never faster.
The image quality is superior, so is the cropping capability.
Even in DX the images are 15 MegaPixel and very good quality.
I have had little trouble with the AutoFocus, even in very low light.
I shoot mostly Equestrian Events and MotoCross.

So far, the D800 out shoots the D7000 and my old D3.
I have not yet, had an overwhelming urge to buy a D3s or D4 for my primary sports camera.
I had the D4, but passed on it mostly due to price but also weight.
My shoulder is still aching from hand holding the D800 with 70-200 all day yesterday.
What I want is a D5100FX or D7000FX at 12-16MP.

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PerroneFord

Tallahassee, US
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#3. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 2

PerroneFord Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Apr 2011
Sun 15-Apr-12 02:32 PM

>Will any camera ever be "perfect"?

Of course not.

>If I did not have time to set up my D800 properly, I would use
>a D4.

Well, I've spent the last few weeks "dialing in" the camera, or more correctly, understanding it's capabilities and failings. I shoot far too many subjects to get it dialed in.


>The D800 needs a lot more "dialing in".

Yea, maybe so.


>That said, I think the D800 is very capable of being used as a
>Sports Camera.

Clearly. I've been using it for that nearly exclusively.


>I very rarely shoot at 4fps and never faster.

When I need a fast burst, I really need it. The D800 is not capable of it, but that's certainly no surprise. I certainly haven't found need for anything with more frame rate than my D3s. For me, that is the first camera where I've said, "this is fast enough".


>The image quality is superior, so is the cropping capability.

True in most cases I've found.


>I have had little trouble with the AutoFocus, even in very low
>light.


What do you call very low light?

>I shoot mostly Equestrian Events and MotoCross.

What do you call very low light? Both motocross and horses present a fairly large target for the AF system. Hitting a solitary human target is quite a bit more tricky.


>I had the D4, but passed on it mostly due to price but also
>weight.

I've never found weight to be a significant factor in my camera purchases.

>My shoulder is still aching from hand holding the D800 with
>70-200 all day yesterday.

Why not use a monopod?

>What I want is a D5100FX or D7000FX at 12-16MP.

What I want is a D4s with 36MP, 9fps, AF and ISO equivalent to or faster than the D3s. When that arrives, I can stop buying cameras.

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RRRoger

Monterey Bay, US
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#4. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 3

RRRoger Silver Member Fellow Ribbon awarded for his long history of demonstrated excellence and helping other members with equipment, technique and DSLR video in the true Nikonians spirit. Charter Member
Sun 15-Apr-12 02:54 PM | edited Sun 15-Apr-12 09:18 PM by RRRoger

>Quote>What do you call very low light?

Not just low but also poor quality light.
Yesterday the D800 still AutoFocused accurately at 25,600 ISO inside a barn with sparse and very poor overhead lighting.
The sides were open to bright sunlight.
Unfortunately, I had NR set to 0 and most of those images were very poor even if in focus.
Later when the sun rose higher, I switched to the East side and at lower ISO the images were much better.

Qute>
>>My shoulder is still aching from hand holding the D800
>with
>>70-200 all day yesterday.
>
>Why not use a monopod?<Quote<<

>I tried the MonoPod for vertical but still had to raise the shoulder to shoot without a grip.
I ended up resting the lens on the rail.

I had my right shoulder operated on two years ago for torn rotator cup and bone spurs..
Before that the left and neither has healed completely.
Being 67 probably doesn't make it any easier either.

DX mode and shot at 1800 ISO then resized and saved at 80% for web viewing:


Click on image to view larger version


Attachment#1 (jpg file)

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trialcritic

Palo Alto, US
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#5. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 3

trialcritic Registered since 17th Mar 2012
Mon 30-Apr-12 03:31 AM

>What I want is a D4s with 36MP, 9fps, AF and ISO equivalent to or faster than the D3s. When that arrives, I can stop buying cameras.

I am sure that this will happen in the next 4 years or so. However, I doubt if you will stop buying cameras. Once we get the new camera, we will find new things to capture that you cannot right now due to camera limitations. This is similar to the computers we have now, we always have need for more. The current computers need to be upgraded to handle the power of the D800 images. Similarly, you can work on issues which can use the power of the next generation cameras. That is the greatness of innovation, cool is it not.

PerroneFord

Tallahassee, US
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#6. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 1

PerroneFord Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Apr 2011
Sun 15-Apr-12 02:25 PM

3-4fps. But I have no way to be sure, and frankly am not concerned.

-P



>Thanks for your review.
>What do you think the most fps is when you were trying to
>capture action shots?
>
>http://galleries.gorji.com

Visit
>my
>Nikonians gallery>.


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makiru

Manila, PH
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#7. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

makiru Registered since 27th Feb 2008
Tue 17-Apr-12 05:18 AM

...but you already made that clear I think, unless you have technique and then it doesn't matter...something you stated previously..

"I still don't understand what 4fps has to do with the camera being a sports camera. The D2x was one of the worlds leading sports cameras for years... and it shot 5fps. The F4/F4s was the leading sports camera in the world and it shot 3-5fps. And the AF was not much faster than manually focusing.

I have a feeling that when I put the D800 into single point focus, and put a grip on it, it will make a reasonable sports camera. At least for those of us who are not obsessed with frame rate.

I'll be perfectly honest with you. 95% of my sports shooting is single-shot. Just like I did with hand-winder film cameras. Even when I shoot 2-3 frame bursts, it's typically my first shot in the series that makes the cut. I've spent 25+ years learning timing. And I am comfortable with my skill. I don't need my camera to shoot 12fps to make up for a lack of timing."

...but you do mention that your D3s is the camera of choice, due to the faster AF, even when 95% of the shots are single-shot (I'm not even going down the fps avenue...) and the D800 frame rate is 'slow'.

I'm sure during the 2012 Olympics, the bread and butter sports photographers will probably have a D4, with a D3s and maybe even a D800(E) in the background as they can't afford to miss the shot. As you have mentioned, the D800 is primarily not a sports camera, although some will endeavour to use it as such. Thanks for your extensive testing, the fact that maybe you still prefer the D3s and I, like you, will wait for the D4s when it is available.

Regards,
Russ

aztwang

Avondale, US
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#8. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

aztwang Gold Member Nikonian since 17th Dec 2009
Sun 29-Apr-12 10:10 PM

Perrone,
Have you tried face recognition while shooting sports?

Thx
Don
.

"Technical aspects MUST be innate"



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KnightPhoto

Alberta, CA
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#9. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 8

KnightPhoto Gold Member Nikonian since 18th Dec 2006
Mon 30-Apr-12 11:51 AM

By using Auto-Area, he was using face recognition, that's how it works on the D4/800

Best regards, SteveK

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true_superfly

US
116 posts

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#10. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

true_superfly Registered since 27th Mar 2012
Mon 30-Apr-12 12:47 AM

Russ,

For most sports, like track & field, swimming, ..., you are right about experience and "timing". After a while, you can train your shots spot on. However, there are some photographers have a rotten luck of being tasked to shoot some "unpredictable" sports by their nature.

For example: fighting sports! Boxing, MMA, Fencing, ...

Even if you are standing right next to them, you have no idea if or where, or when they will strike next! Try that with you "single-shot" technique!

Sigh, ..., to make it worse, those sports usually don't have very good lighting either.

true_superfly

rbulley

Sydney, AU
107 posts

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#11. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

rbulley Gold Member Nikonian since 20th Mar 2008
Mon 30-Apr-12 06:19 AM

Thanks for the heads up Perrone, I got the D4, had 2 on order, cancelled one after using it and kept one of my D3s (its excellent) Was thinking of flicking it for the D800 but will now hold onto it and if I have the same issues you have, will keep it for 'other' shoots like studio etc.

As for camera perfection, for me I would love for someone to develop better and better dynamic range, this is the main area I would like some genius to work on!

Richard

km6xz

St Petersburg, RU
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#12. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

km6xz Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, including Portraits and Urban Photography Nikonian since 22nd Jan 2009
Mon 30-Apr-12 03:20 PM

Of course, it IS perfect as is anything we dream of or lust after but can't have(unavailable);>)
Stan
St Petersburg Russia

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jwrupley

Holland, PA, US
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#13. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

jwrupley Registered since 25th Apr 2008
Thu 04-Oct-12 10:40 PM

P
I don't believe that Nikon markets the D800 as a pro camera, but rather a prosumer. If you use a D3 and a D4, why would you drop down to a D800. The only reason that comes to mind is the incredible resolution produced by the 35.6 mp. So rather than focus on the shortfalls compared to a D3 or D4, why not focus on why you bought the camera in the first place; resolution. I don't mean any disrespect, but it seems to me you have to focus on why you purcased the camera, understanding its shortfalls compared to pro bodies. The pictures that folks have posted on Nikonians are incredible compared to my D300s and I love that camera. I will be buying a D800, but not for what it doesn't do, but rather for what it does and that is to take images with incredible resolution.

John

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PerroneFord

Tallahassee, US
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#14. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 13

PerroneFord Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Apr 2011
Thu 04-Oct-12 11:03 PM

>P
>I don't believe that Nikon markets the D800 as a pro camera,
>but rather a prosumer.

True. But that doesn't stop people from considering it a pro camera. And honestly, it works a lot like the pro cameras.

>If you use a D3 and a D4, why would
>you drop down to a D800.

I don't have a D4. I cancelled my order. That said, I don't consider the D800 a "drop down". It's just a different tool.

>The only reason that comes to mind
>is the incredible resolution produced by the 35.6 mp. So
>rather than focus on the shortfalls compared to a D3 or D4,
>why not focus on why you bought the camera in the first place;

The D800 is not the camera I wanted. It was the closest compromise to something I wanted. What I *WANT* will never get made. And that is a pro body with a DX sensor and ISO performance better than the D7000 with 24MP. The D800 offered the resolution, a good body, good ISO performance. But it lacks the size, and speed. Its' not DX, but the resolution mitigates that to a large degree.

> I don't mean any disrespect, but it seems to me
>you have to focus on why you purcased the camera,
>understanding its shortfalls compared to pro bodies.

Probably true. Also be aware that this thread was started quite some time ago. Very shortly after I purchased the camera. I've grown a lot more competent with the camera since then, though it's shortcomings are still there. I've been able to work around most of them, but they still exist.


>I will be buying
>a D800, but not for what it doesn't do, but rather for what it
>does and that is to take images with incredible resolution.

I wish you the best of luck with it.

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nikonus

Southern California, US
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#15. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 14

nikonus Gold Member Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 04th Feb 2007
Thu 11-Oct-12 08:53 AM

I'm happy with the D800 .... for me the big sensor is the main focus . The video end could be eliminated maybe adding a tilting LCD display like Olympus . The FPS and low light capability are not a selling point . For travel and nature photos I don't want a heavy pro body
so I'm good there . Never liked a grip or battery pack setup .

I would enjoy a dual Jpg file saving , say a full sized
Version and 1000 pixel wide thumb nail / proof . I spend a lot of time loading external hard drives with huge files or resizing batches . I do the Raw and full jpeg for each image , eating memory cards like a wood chipper . I don't want to extract the hidden Jpg from the Raw file
in my work flow , as enough pp is done to individual files already .

Its going to end up with me using an old D300 as the snap shot camera and the D800 as a
specialty rig / tripod setup / almost medium format . I dont need 45 MB files of the cat on the fence , the down side of huge files .

Hans K.

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JonK

New York, US
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#16. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

JonK Moderator Awarded for his high level skills and in-depth knowledge in various areas, such as Wildlife, Landscape and Stage Photography Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 03rd Jul 2004
Fri 12-Oct-12 01:19 AM

Interesting analysis, Perrone. Thanks!

Coming from the D3s (still have it) I'm very happy with the D800 (mine's an "e"). The dynamic range and cropability are wonderful. It being lighter and smaller is nice as I age and want to shed weight. The frame rate only impacts me occasionally. The different behavior of the metering system — oh yeah, it is different — I can deal with.

It's the AF system. Perrone is one of the first, if not the first, to say it: the D3s is better. I'm not sure yet, not convinced. When the D800 AF locks on, it's fine. But every so often it misses — badly — in situations where the D3s did not fail. The D800 AF misses are not consistent and don't occur often enough to bother me. I realize it's a different system and its results may be different than previous AF systems, but I loved the D3s AF but with the D800s and I'm not there yet. Auto-area is interesting but I've got to put more time into evaluating it.

But it's still an awesome camera and gets used 85% of the time.

Jon Kandel
A New York City Nikonian and Team Member
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snappysam

IN
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#17. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 13

snappysam Registered since 12th Oct 2012
Fri 12-Oct-12 07:18 AM

Your observations are spot on.

~Sam

ZoneV

US
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#18. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

ZoneV Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Jan 2005
Fri 12-Oct-12 10:43 PM | edited Fri 12-Oct-12 10:51 PM by ZoneV

>4. It feels fragile. Now let me say right up front, I am not
>saying this is a bad camera or badly built. It's certainly
>not. But after working with my D2H and D3s this weekend, I was
>struck again by home much more in common the Dxxx have in
>common with the Dxxxx bodies than the Dx bodies. It certainly
>has the guts of a pro camera in most cases, but it won't feel
>like a pro camera to someone used to a pro body. I do not yet
>have the grip, and I know that will help, but I felt like I
>was going to drop the thing all weekend as I was working
>quickly shooting multiple events that were happening
>concurrently.

People will probably scream about this one...

But I think I know what you mean. Basically, the switches, levers, dials, and ports aren't built as well on D#00 bodies as D# bodies...the metering selector, AF lever, dials, card doors, pop-up flash, etc, are all weak points on these bodies. And even the right hand grip isn't as robust due to the battery chamber...nor is the camera bottom for that matter.

Nikon user since 2000

ZoneV

US
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#19. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 14

ZoneV Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Jan 2005
Fri 12-Oct-12 10:46 PM

>I don't have a D4. I cancelled my order. That said, I don't
>consider the D800 a "drop down". It's just a
>different tool.

From what I saw on TV, at the 2012 Olympics gymnastics events, a lot of photographers used a D4 with a long lens in conjunction with a D800/grip with a short lens.

Nikon user since 2000

ZoneV

US
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#20. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 7

ZoneV Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Jan 2005
Fri 12-Oct-12 10:50 PM

>I don't
>need my camera to shoot 12fps to make up for a lack of
>timing."

It doesn't make up for lack of timing. If someone shoots at 12 fps and 1/1000th sec, they will have captured exactly 12/1000 of that second at essentially meaningless intervals. The other 988/1000 second is lost! But if they were able to time the shot, they might have a better chance of getting it.

Nikon user since 2000

txstone12

Texas, US
627 posts

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#21. "RE: A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"" | In response to Reply # 0

txstone12 Gold Member Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 12th Feb 2012
Sat 13-Oct-12 03:20 PM

>So, I thought I would offer a few comments on where I feel
>the D800 is weak.
>...
>2. The AF performance is not as good as a D3s. This one
>surprised me somewhat. I had quite a lot of A/B testing
>against my D3s this weekend. And what I found was that the
>D3s locked on faster and stayed locked on better on nearly
>anything I pointed it at. Now most people who use a D800
>aren't going to need to lock as fast as I needed to, but those
>who are shooting BIF, wildlife, or other difficult targets
>should digest that information carefully. This is NOT a pro
>body.
>

I realize it's a long time since your Apr post, Perrone, and your experience keeps evolving. I respect your experience, so I take note when you observe D800 AF performance is not as good as the D3s. In a recent post, Jon agrees with you.

So given the D800 AF experience you both report, I wonder how the experience of D4 users compares using the same AF system (as the D800)? Even some of our Nikonians who have both bodies?

Why compare the D4 AF experience? Because the effective pixel count is lower, similar to the D3s, affecting the final result. Also, if the observed difficulty is totally subject acquisition and tracking, we would expect no difference, right? At least on the first 'time to acquire' .


David

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