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D800 for concerts and PJ work (night, image heavy)


Cape Coral, US
5751 posts

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Ferguson Silver Member Fellow Ribbon awarded for the generous sharing of his high level expertise in the spirit of Nikonians Nikonian since 19th Aug 2004
Tue 03-Apr-12 12:47 PM

Caveat: I do not do this for a living but for fun, so invite education on contrary opinions.

I have read a lot of comments saying that the D800 is not suitable for PJ work, or even night work.

I spent an evening at the Surf and Song Festival at Ft. Myers and experimented with concert shots, and was delighted. I used the D800 with a 85/1.4G lens, so stuggled a lot with DOF, but found the camera could focus in FAR less light than it could shoot, and focused fast. Metering in matrix was a failure (not too surprising) with burned out faces in spotlights, but spot metering worked extremely well.

The dynamic range was terrific for allowing me to pull details out in post processing otherwise lost; concert lighting in some ways is worse than bright sun in having a portion of the shot be extremely bright and another dark (think spotlight, but you then have to deal with huge color variations as well).

Others complain that 4fps is too slow for this kind of work, but I found myself very rarely shooting more than one frame at a time (though keeping up with Doug Bell moving quickly was quite a challange). And I think the ability to get usable tiny crops from an FX frame more than make up for it, I find I have FAR less cases of cut off arms, legs, etc. than I did doing similar work with a D300.

So those of you doing night and PJ work -- what am I missing? Why are so many relegating this to still work in studios and landscapes?

Full gallery here with full resolution: http://www.captivephotons.com/Events/SurfAndSong2012

ISO 720, 1/200th, F1.4:

1/200th, F2.4, ISO 2000. A bit grainy and not quite enough DOF, but the lighting was terrible for this one. I have lightroom near the max on both shadow detail and highlight suppression yet there is still reasonable detail showing in the shadows (this one actually looks very nice in B&W).

This one at ISO 2000, F2.8 and 1/200th. I did some light noise suppression in lightroom (67), and extreme highlight suppression (-98 of 100). In the original the glare on the RH singer's face was completely blown, yet in the full resolution while not great, you can see skin texture. Yet in the LH singer's jacket under his arm in the very dark you can still see the pattern (at least in the full res shot, not so much here). Not scientific enough to measure, but that's a LOT of range.

And when I did have enough light for low ISO (this one at 200), you get a nice smooth texture (F1.4, 1/250th):

Final image is also about DR, moderate ISO (450), F1.4, 1/200th. You can see detail on the forehead and look behind the neck of the guitar you have detail on the wood grain there which is in the shadow. This would have been better exposed more to the left, but there was enough DR in here to salvage it (lightroom highlight suppression is fully -100 of 100, and the forehead still almost looks like skin and not plastic.

Criticism of the shots of course welcome, but more curious what people who do this for a living would expect of the D800 in this kind of setting that it doesn't have?

PS. I will add that I found the 85/1.4G on my D300 to focus perfectly in concerts, and had a lot more trouble on the D800. Not sure if that is a need for better fine tuning (I had not), or what. I did try the next day to fine tune and had a lot of trouble, different subjects and distances yielded wildly different fine tune "best" images. I am still trying to figure that out. My 14-24 also needed a lot of fine tuning (-16) but was very stable and predictable in the amount needed, unlike the 85.

Comments welcomed on pictures: Http://captivephotons.com

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