Two weekends ago I did something I didn’t think possible. I paid off all of my credit cards. I paid off all of my student loans, years early even! And after all of that I still had money burning a hole in my pocket. How much money? Well… let’s just say enough for me to pay cash for a few new toys.
First I picked up the big guy. A brand new Nikon D810. For the last six years I’ve been shooting with a Nikon D700 and I’ve loved it. This camera changed the way I shot photos and put me ahead of almost everyone in my photography courses with the incredibly powerful sensor and ability to capture such dynamic range. It is what allowed me to make the images I made with the awesome subtly that became my style.
Alas, things started to wear down after shooting over 100,000 images with the D700. Don’t get me wrong, I could have shot for another six years with this camera if I’d gotten it tuned up and repaired a few things but I’d also be hindering me just as my Nikon D80 hindered me before I got the Nikon D700.
For those wondering why I continue to choose Nikon over Canon, it’s down to three things.
- My library of lenses would be far to expensive to replace
- I love the the fit, finish and ergonomics on the Nikon
- Nikon sensors regularly score higher than other sensors in their class (and beyond)
For an example, check out the DxO Sensor Test chart below:
That’s my camera vs the comparable Canon vs my old camera. The Nikon D810 beats all three handily while the Canon only barely squeaks by the Nikon D700. I don’t want to incite some sort of Canon vs Nikon vs Sony debate here. I know Canon does lovely video and they have a very loyal following and they have hacks like MagicLantern. That’s all great but for me it comes down to raw numbers and my experience with both brands.
After the camera purchase I felt a burning desire for a new lens. As you may know I shoot almost exclusively with prime, or fixed, lenses. Switching from a kit zoom lens (Nikon 18-135mm f3.5-5.6) to a 50mm f1.8 made me a better photographer, by a lot. A fixed 50mm equivalent lens is the only lens a new photographer should have in their camera bag. Period.
After I felt I’d mostly mastered the 50mm f1.8 I added a few more to my kit. A macro Nikon 60mm f2.8, a Nikon 24mm f1.8 wide angle lens and finally a Nikon 85mm f1.8. I already had a Nikon 80-200 f2.8. What I wanted for so long was a replacement Nikon 35mm f2.8, mine was a hand-me-down that was DOA.
But then I thought, why not go for broke and get the Nikon 35mm f1.4? Oh, well because it is $1,600. Then I saw the Rokinon 35mm f1.4 and I was in love.
No, this lens doesn’t have autofocus and no it doesn’t have any anti-vibration and no it doesn’t have all the wiz-bang coatings or computer chips in it. What it does have is the smoothest focus ring and has proven to be one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever used. The first one I got was defective unfortunately (just my luck) but a few days later the replacement was here and my love for this lens was realized.
I wandered around North Park and took a few photos on the first day with the camera to see what it could do and to have some raw files to play around with. By the way, the uncompressed raw files come in at 70mb per photo! That’s crazy but not too surprisingly this thing has a 36.3 megapixel sensor.
I have tons of other photos but can’t really share them at this point. Turns out the camera is new enough that Apple hasn’t updated it’s operating system so that it can handle them natively. Photoshop can open them but even Lightroom can’t preview the images unless I shoot them in the compressed format. It’s only a matter of time before software updates are released but until then I have to open each image in Photoshop just to see what it is.
Now that I have a camera that can shoot video, and since my two BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Cameras are still on back order (probably going to cancel that order) I’ve been building out a DSLR video rig for this camera. These things can get hella expensive, remember the Zacuto I reviewed? I might have the money for the camera and lenses but adding a $1,600 rig on top of it just wasn’t going to happen. So I went the cheap route.
I am totally going to do a longer review of this setup once I have finished outfitting it. So far I’m pretty confident that I made the right decision. For around $200 I have a rig that does everything I need it to do and more. Plus it saved me hundreds, perhaps over one thousand, dollars.
In the meantime here’s some video from the Nikon D810 before I had the shoulder rig or LCD viewfinder which are both essential to great DLSR video.
Nothing too great here but I was just fooling around. I’m hoping to do some really cool stuff down the line with this camera, not just in photography by also some video work. This is a new frontier for me, outside of client work, so I’m very excited!