When you have an opportunity to get out to somewhere where it’s dark; and I mean dark, astrophotography is really quite fun. I shot this image with a Nikon D800e camera and 16-35mm f/4 AFS G VRII zoom Nikkor lens. I processed the RAW (NEF) image in Lightroom 4 and then used Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4 to polish it off in post.
A long time ago (as in 2005, when I got my first DSLR), I routinely shot RAW+JPEG when I traveled. The big reason for this was because at the time, most laptop computers were just not capable of rendering RAW previews fast enough to make browsing lots of images feasible. Since then, computers got faster, and software got better, and a RAW-only workflow became a viable option for travel.
It’s an argument we hear all the time: the camera doesn’t matter nearly as much as the vision and talent of the person operating it. And yet, we still hear that nagging voice in the back of our head… “if I only had a better camera/lens/accessory.” Indeed, I’ve worked my way up from my old Nikon EL2, to my first AF camera (Nikon N70), to an F5, and then to all flavors of digital cameras. Along the way, of course, I was taking more and more photos and growing into my gear. To make things even more complicated, the camera manufacturers release new models all the time, begging us to upgrade to the latest and greatest features. So whether you’re just getting into photography or considering an upgrade, I want to take a quick look at the discriminating factors with today’s digital cameras. Continue reading Why your camera doesn’t matter, and why it does→
I previously discussed how camera shake and focus accuracy can affect maximum image sharpness with the Nikon D800 (or any DSLR, for that matter). Another contributing factor to image sharpness is lens performance, especially with respect to aperture. While the primary use of aperture is to control depth of field, most lenses just aren’t quite at their sharpest when used at their extremes.
Wide-open, most lenses will have sub-optimal performance. Contrast and sharpness will be reduced, and you might also see light fall-off (corner shading). As you stop the aperture down, both sharpness and depth of field increase, and light fall-off diminishes. How much you need to stop down to get razor-sharp images is related to the quality of your lens. Some of the telephoto prime lenses, like the Nikon 300mm f/4 lens, are very sharp wide-open, especially compared to a consumer-grade counterpart, like the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR Nikkor (a good lens, but not nearly as sharp wide-open). Higher quality lenses usually require less stopping down to get optimal sharpness.
However, beyond certain apertures, images will actually start to soften due to the effect of diffraction. Diffraction softening is a physical function related to the size of the pixels on your camera sensor. The smaller the pixels, the more noticeable diffraction effects can become. Continue reading D800 Sharpness: Diffraction→
If you are using a Nikon D800, chances are that you want to make big prints or crop aggressively. To get the kind of sharp images that can stand up to these stresses, you need a tack-sharp image. Focus is a big part of getting sharp images.
As I mentioned yesterday, camera shake is a critical factor in determining image sharpness. For best results, you want to use either a very fast shutter speed or a tripod to eliminate camera shake from softening your images. Today, I’ll take a quick look at focus accuracy and how you can maximize it with your Nikon DSLRs. Continue reading D800 Sharpness: Focus Accuracy→