Nikon D810

I’m fed up with the autofocus failing me on my D600. On Christmas Eve, with my Fuji X100T down due to a smashed shutter release, my D600 just wouldn’t take the shot on multiple occasions. The light was reasonable, the camera was set to prioritize getting the shot over getting perfect focus (a feature it seems simply doesn’t work well) and it just let me down.

Add to that that the shot I missed (completely out of focus) of the bride’s father at a good friend’s wedding a little over a year ago, I’m done. I think this missed shot was with my D600, not my Fuji, but I can’t be sure without checking. Anyway, lowlight autofocus matters.

For $1,550, I found a “Used – Very Good” (Adorama grade “E”) D810 body from Adorama via Amazon. It arrived at the office today. I took one shot to get a shutter count. Including that shot, the count is 9,385 shutter actuations. That is a good deal.

The D810 has the autofocus system of the D4s, which I have no experience with. I’ve read in multiple places that the D600 has crap low-light autofocus and that the D810 has excellent low-light autofocus.

I paid $1,320 for my D600 in May 2014 with a 24-80mm lens included. I sold that lens for $325 in October of 2016, so let’s say I paid $1,000 for the D600 body. I hope to get $700 for my D600. $300 for two and a half years of rental is not a bad deal at all. That’s provided I get what I want for it.

First night comment at 22:10: AF-S and AF-C seem to mingle their sub-modes. That is, if I change AF-C’s sub-mode (Group, Dyn, 3D), it changes the sub-mode of AF-S. That sucks. And it seems that if I change AF-C to a mode AF-S doesn’t have, AF-S reverts to its default. I don’t like this. I want to leave AF-C on 3D pretty much always, or so I think today. But I want to leave AF-S on a different sub-mode.

5 January 2018 Update: I tried my Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-S lens on my D810 today. To my surprise, Auto ISO worked! What? I had looked into this and believed this would be like on my D600 — no Auto ISO for non-CPU lenses. Confirmed by a stranger here, too. This is a massive, unexpected D810 bonus for me.

3 February 2018 Update: The autofocus is pretty good. I sold my D600 last week and didn’t do any A/B autofocus comparisons. But I did do some controlled conditions comparisons between my D810 and my D600 with my 50mm f/1.8 and my (since returned due to center softness) 50mm f/1.4 D. The photos were pretty much the same between the two bodies. Doesn’t matter. I bought this D810 because the autofocus on my D600 let me down one too many times, refusing to lock and fire. The autofocus on this in similar conditions is awesome. I hope the autofocus at school shows is equally impressive. Could really improve what I get at those shows while also increasing my enjoyment and reducing effort.

17 February 2018 Update: I bought a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G AF-S lens for use with my D810. I really like this combination.

Really Right Stuff

I recently bought my first ball head and started using a tripod. Here’s what happened.

My daughter was losing her second tooth. I wanted a photo before it came out so I told her we were going to take a special picture the following morning. My plan was to use my D600 and 180mm prime. The morning came and she was next to my bed reminding me of our photo shoot plans. Perfect.

I decided to set the Nikon up on my tripod for this. I never do tripod shots. I just don’t. I have an aluminum Bogen 3001 tripod with a fluid head that together just collect dust.

The fluid head was a pain to use. I wanted to flip the camera 90 degrees to portrait orientation. This just wasn’t optimum with my fluid head. I wanted an L bracket for the first time ever. I was already familiar with Really Right Stuff and considered that they made really high quality gear but at prices I wouldn’t touch.

First I took to Google and looked into which quick-attach system to use. Was RRS’s Arca-Swiss system good? By all accounts, yes.

So I took to eBay. I looked at alternative brands (Kirks and a couple others) but it seemed that an RRS BH-55 or BH-40 was in my future. I even saw one user’s testimony that they had a BH-40 and it served their weight needs, but that upgrading to a BH-55 was an improvement for them.

So I took to eBay and KEH.com. I found a $328 EX condition RRS BH-55 on KEH with a screw clamp. $445 new from RRS, so $117 for forgoing their 5-year warranty. Not quite worth the risk, but I took it anyway. Then I impatiently awaited delivery.

It arrived and the clamp was very banged up. Not EX condition at all. It had deep gouges and had clearly been dropped at least twice. The ball head itself was not banged up; just the clamp.

I took some photos immediately and called KEH. The fella there said I could send it back but they don’t adjust price. Then I think he spoke to someone and came back asking me to send photos. I did. A couple days later, they replied that it was indeed in BGN (Bargain) condition and had been miscategorized. They offered me $60 off, based on their BGN price for that item. I accepted. $268 for a BH-55 was just right for me. I didn’t mind the banged up clamp, but I didn’t want to have overpaid for it, which I definitely had. I’ll happily use this clamp at this fair price.

If it needs any repair in the next five years (unlikely, I gather) then I’ll probably wish I’d bought new.

I love this setup.

I took some more photos of my daughter with the BH-55 on my tripod — this time with my Fuji X100T, which I found a used RRS L-bracket kit on eBay for — and I really enjoyed using the tripod now. It stayed planted and I could just take a bunch of identically framed shots. Making slight adjustments to my framing, given my willing subject, was very workable. Not a problem at all.

I’m excited now about doing more tripod shots, whereas before I always shot handheld. Using a tripod seems to support more deliberate photography, whereas all my prior photography had been ad hoc.

Perhaps being set up for quick tripod work (L brackets are staying on both my primary bodies —my X100T and my D600) and along with the iOS remote control feature of my X100T, I’ll be in some of my family photos going forward. I’ve been behind the camera these last 12 years or so and don’t feature much at all in my body of photographs.

Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S Lens

I picked up a Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens on Amazon last week. Used, reportedly in excellent condition and a deal at $320 + 5 shipping. They’re going for around $400 right now on Amazon and eBay.

It arrived USPS yesterday. I love it. MF is a pain in the rear, but this thing is lovely to look at and to hold.

I don’t really need it, but I plan to keep it. It’s just a heavy little gem.

1 December 2016: A little update. At first I used this lens inside, so I didn’t notice that Auto ISO didn’t work with it on my D600 body. But on Thanksgiving Day, I had overexposure problems outside. What?!? I looked into it and found that Auto ISO was, by design, not working. Bad. I never play with ISO. I’m completely happy with my Nikons Auto ISO settings, period. No matter what I’m shooting (of the things I shoot).

This really gave me pause regarding this lens. But I figure I’ll get used to it. Plus, I just bought an AI-S 200mm f/4 Micro non-CPU lens. So I guess I’ll get used to setting ISO. I don’t like it though. I hope the D810 I want to eventually upgrade to (for that fast autofocus, mostly, but also for those gorgeous shoulders) supports Auto ISO with non-CPU lenses. I didn’t find anything about it when I searched online, so I still want to know if it’ll work.

5 December 2016: I just love this thing. I love looking at it. It’s not something I need in order to get good photos. Actually, my X100T is enough for me. My Nikon D600 is really just for telephoto shots (Easter egg hunts, school shows, etc.) But I’m keeping it as I just love the look and feel of it. It’s an art lens and I’ll probably be happy in five or ten years that I hung onto it.