Update: Back in Kenya

Long hiatus, hey?

Between my last blog post - a review of the excellent DxO PhotoLab software - and now, I returned to Kenya with the family.

With the change in circumstances, so to comes a change in the tone and content of what I will blog about. (I do other stuff now. Plus, it’s a bit harder to get the latest kit for review here in East Africa!)

I have re-transitioned (that’s officially a word) from UK photo press to image maker and storyteller for the faith-based charity SIM. It was time again to put the kit to good use!

There’s lots to catch up on from six months in East Africa. I’ve traveled some, and worked on a few fresh stories for SIM. (Plus all the usual image making outside of work.)

SIM Stories, developing that eye and technique for video, pictures of places and people - look out for new blog posts about it all from this point forward!

 New kit for the Kenya return: GH5 camera, M4T to NIkon manual lens adaptor, 20mm f/1.8 lens

New kit for the Kenya return: GH5 camera, M4T to NIkon manual lens adaptor, 20mm f/1.8 lens

Kit update

For those interested in the kit, the new videos I will share with you have been shot using the Panasonic Lumix GH5 - a camera that I picked up a few days before flying to Kenya.

In East Africa I make more videos than I do photos. The Nikon D800 isn’t quite geared for that. Put the GH5 and D800 in the kit bag together and that’s both covered, with each camera having a set purpose - happy days.

Having delayed for so long because strictly speaking I didn’t ‘need’ it, I finally took the plunge on a full-frame wide-angle lens for all those luscious landscapes I shoot with the D800. I no longer use the 12-24mm f/4 crop-format (DX) lens for landscape photography on that full-frame body, but a shiny new 20mm f/1.8 G (FX) lens. This lens ticked all the boxes for me: focal length, price, size, filter thread, maximum aperture.

Lastly, I also purchased a micro-four-thirds to Nikon manual lens adaptor, in order to access all the Nikon glass I have for use with the GH5.

What has been a pleasant surprise is just how great a pairing the GH5 and 20mm f/1.8 lens is for video. With a 2x crop factor, that’s a 40mm f/1.8 lens that is very sharp and offers great control over depth of field, albeit without stabilisation or AF.

I’ve had a little fun with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on the GH5 via the adaptor too - that’s a 400mm equivalent maximum reach.

The only new glass I need to consider in the future for the GH5 is that which would give me AF and stabilisation. The just announced Panasonic 10-25mm f/1.7 lens certainly has caught the eye and has jumped to the top of the wishlist.

All in all, I feel smug about how significantly I’ve improved the kit bag for video and for landscape photography, with what was a relatively modest outlay.



Nikon D850 for action

Can a high-resolution camera like the Nikon D850 really be suitable for action photography? Nikon thinks so.

I thought I'd give it a go, capturing kitesurfers and cyclists among others and have been encouraged by the camera's snappiness. So what are my top four reasons as to why the D850 is up to the task?

  • Body
  • Shooting modes & Performance
  • Auto Focusing
  • DX crop mode

Body

Getting close to action often puts the camera at risk of damage. Thankfully, the build quality of the D850 is excellent. I had no hesitation exposing the camera to salt-water splashes and sand at the beach. (I stood waist deep in the ocean against the waves, with the review sample of the camera in hand, shh.)

Shooting action usually means taking lots of pictures which drains the camera battery, while going to places where it is hard to access charging points. We were blown away when seeing the battery life of the D850. It's a class-leading 1,840 single shots. If that wasn't enough, it's 5,140 shots with the optional battery pack and MB-D18 battery inserted. That’s plenty of high-speed sequences covered.

nikon d850 action cycling for blog 23.jpg

Shooting Modes & Performance

With such a high-resolution it seems optimistic that the D850 could deliver for action, but it has the same EXPEED 5 processor as the Nikon D5, which is a camera used by professional action photographers.

With more pixels, the D850’s 7fps high-speed shooting does not match the 12fps of the Nikon D5. However, add the optional battery pack and you'll get 9fps, with full-time AF. From experience, you’re highly likely to capture that key moment with 9fps at your disposal. 

At 7fps, the camera will shoot up to 51 full-resolution raw images in a single burst before slowing down. That seems kind of crazy - around 350MB of data per second sustained for 7 seconds approximately. However, you’ll need to use an XQD and UHS-II compliant SD memory card to get the most out of the high-speed shooting. 

Autofocus

More importantly than high-speed shooting modes, the D850 has the same phase detection AF system as the Nikon D5. It is just about the best autofocus system of any camera. 

The 153-point AF array covers a large portion of the frame so will track off-centre subjects. Plus, AF sensitivity is down to -4EV in the centre AF point, which enables sharp and quick focusing in near darkness. 

With kitesurfers and cyclists, once the subject is tracked the camera will keep it in focus for the entire sequence, for what is on average 9 out of 10 shots.

DX crop mode

You've got to get close to the action, right? Here’s where the high-resolution really comes into play. In the DX crop mode you’ll get pictures at a totally useable 19.4-million-pixels with a 1.5x magnification factor of Nikon’s full-frame lenses. That’s almost the same resolution as the D500 and D5, which have 20.9MP. 

In DX mode and with a 2x teleconverter, I have a good relatively portable and cost-effective wide aperture telephoto lens option for action. My Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II lens becomes a 270-600mm f/5.6 lens!

Also, in the DX (APS-C format) crop mode that wide 153-point AF array covers virtually the entire frame - that’s how wide the coverage is. Most AF points are the more sensitive cross-type down to f/8, so the best AF accuracy is possible in DX crop mode. 

For a little more detail about my experience using the Nikon D850 for sports and action, you can read the full feature over at Photography Blog.

Nikon D850 for portraits

Last week I shared my review of the Nikon D850, which I said may well be the only DSLR camera you ever need. As a follow up I have used the D850 in various scenarios to check its prowess in popular photography disciplines.

First up is portraits. Here are my five top reasons as to why the Nikon D850 is so good for portraits:

  • Resolution & Detail
  • Dynamic range
  • Colour & Metering
  • Lenses
  • Composition

Resolution & Detail

45.4-million-pixels gives you a heck of a lot of detail and massive prints sizes of 874x583mm at 240dpi. Of all DSLRs, only the Canon EOS 5DS out-resolves the D850. Detail is clean from ISO 32 to ISO 1600

Dynamic Range

From my experience with the D850, its dynamic range is quite exceptional. At its true base ISO 64 setting, the breadth of tonal detail from highlights to shadows has been likened to medium format cameras. Less detail lost in those bright highlights like shine on skin. More detail recovered from dark areas too.

Colour & Metering

Perhaps one of the bigger surprises is just how well the D850 renders colour. Nikon’s latest 3D colour matrix metering III system and 180,000-pixel RGB metering sensor gives accurate exposures right off-the-bat and skin tones are lovely when using the Neutral picture setting.

Lenses

You'll want dreamy out of focus areas in most portraits. Well, there are plenty of fast-aperture f/1.4, Nikon-fit prime lenses that give the control over depth of field akin to medium format cameras.

Composition

Getting the right composition is key too. With Nikon's largest through-the-eye viewfinder yet and vibrant 3.2in tilt-touchscreen, you can clearly see the composition even when it's dark or the camera angle is awkward. 

For a little more detail on my experience using the Nikon D850 for portraits, including how it compares to the Nikon D800, please read my feature on Photography Blog.