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.

Sony Alpha 99 II review

Wow.

42.4-million-pixel BSI (back illuminated) full-frame CMOS sensor.

12-frames per second with continuous tracking AF.

UHD 4k 100Mbps video recording at 8-bit 4:2:2

5-axis image stabilisation. 

And that is just the start of the Sony Alpha 99 II - the company’s flagship Single Lens Translucent (SLT) interchangeable lens camera.

Sony has gone some way to demonstrate that its SLT line-up is not dead in the water.

On paper, the Sony Alpha 99 II looks like it could cater for both those professionals that want to print big and those that want to never miss a shot.

After using the camera, my take is that it comes close to catering for all those professional level users.

When it comes to landscape and portrait photography, the Sony Alpha 99 II shines.

You get massive file sizes and excellent colour rendition, complimented with excellent lenses. Featuring image stabilisation and a fixed translucent mirror, landscape photographers using the Alpha 99 II can enjoy sharp images with less care, than with similar DSLRs that lack either feature. 

As for action photography, the Sony Alpha 99 II offers much but is not quite backed up by the performance. That's the harsh word, but the camera is put on a pedestal and cannot quite match the best in class. 

The Alpha 99 II represents a marked improvement from its predecessor and a brilliant all rounder. 

Make sure to read my full review of the Sony Alpha 99 II on the Pocket Lint website

Guide to Metabones Speedbooster adaptor

I'd seen how popular the Metabones Speedbooster adaptors are, particularly among filmmakers, but knew very little of the real detail around this rather niche product.

Writing for the Hireacamera.com blog - a company that rents out theMetabones Speedbooster adaptors - I had an opportunity to write a guide and review from the perspective of a 'newbie'.

With the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens on a Panasonic GH4, an aperture of f/1.4 is used for this picture, which is made possible through the Metabones Speed Booster. Vignetting is obvious, but in this case looks rather good!

With the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens on a Panasonic GH4, an aperture of f/1.4 is used for this picture, which is made possible through the Metabones Speed Booster. Vignetting is obvious, but in this case looks rather good!

It was a fun time - receiving the Canon to Micro Four Thirds Metabones Speedbooster, a Canon fit 18-35mm f/1.8 Sigma lens for APS-C cameras and a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with which to use the adaptor.

There is much more detail in my two-part guide to Metabones adaptors on the hireacamera.com website, but in short the Metabones Speedbooster is the opposite of a teleconverter - decreasing focal length and increasing light intake. 

My combination results in a 26-50mm f/1.2 lens for the GH4. It's quick to see why filmmakers with compact Micro Four Thirds cameras in particular love the adaptors so much.

The adaptors aren't perfect - there is a softness in edge detail at the wide aperture settings and AF is slower. However, centre sharpness is mightily impressive, with no discernible difference in images taken with the same lens yet without the adaptor. 

Downsides but in perspective to what a Metabones Speed Booster offers - larger apertures from increased light intake and depth of field control for smaller format cameras - and the adaptors are a real winner. 

For my in-depth Metabones adaptor guide, check out the hireacamera.com blog.

 

Detail is pin sharp when the lens is set to an optimum aperture 

Detail is pin sharp when the lens is set to an optimum aperture 

Canon EOS M6 review

Testing the Canon EOS M6 was my first experience of Canon's EOS M range of compact system cameras (CSC).

Coming 5 years after the first CSCs, the EOS M system has been slammed a bit. But the two-year-old predecessor the EOS M3 showed signs of improvement.

Aimed at enthusiast photographers, the EOS M6 is a diminutive camera packed with the sort of features one would expect from a Canon DSLR.

It's really similar to the EOS M5, save for the exclusion of a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF). The result is that the EOS M6 is significantly cheaper than the EOS M5 and some way smaller, with an optional EVF available. 

Canon JPEG colours are consistently auucrate right off the bat - no editing whatsoever in this picture.

Canon JPEG colours are consistently auucrate right off the bat - no editing whatsoever in this picture.

It took me a while to warm to the Canon EOS M6, but the more I used it the more liked it. The camera sits in the hand nicely, has an intuitive, customisable layout. 

Aperture, shutter speed, ISO and focusing are quick to hand. The touchscreen is great too - being able to touch the part of the frame that you want to focus on increases the hit rate of sharp shots. 

For much of the test I wanted to see if the EOS M6 could be a viable alternative to a camera like the Fuji X-100F, because I had the 22mm f/2 pancake lens which essentially creates the same setup. In summary, it's not quite as responsive as the Fuji.

Once again though, Canon has delivered when it comes to image quality. JPEGs straight out of the camera are crisp and vibrant, with faithful colour rendition. 

The main downside to the EOS-M system is its current lens line-up. Serious photographers will want to see more serious dedicated EOS-M glass available to buy into the system, irregardless of the Canon EF-S to EF-M lens adaptor.

Overall, the EOS M6 tick a lot of boxes and sees Canon continue to move in the right direction with its EOS-M range of compact system cameras. 

Read my full review on the Photography Blog website.

Corfe Castle is a landscape photographer's dream

Catching the last cold morning before the summer, James Jagger and I took the two hour drive for a night and a morning around Corfe Castle.

I'd seen the location a number of times. My first real awareness of Corfe Castle was when it was featured in the winning image of The Landscape Photographer of the Year 2010, by Anthony Spencer.

With a clear, cold night and morning forecasted, it was a fair bet that we'd encounter a misty morning, though it being a full moon the conditions were not ideal for starry nightscapes - though I tried a star trail sequence.

Full moon conditions were too bright for the stars to 'pop', but the landscape is illunimated vibrantly. 

Full moon conditions were too bright for the stars to 'pop', but the landscape is illunimated vibrantly. 

Our time photographing Corfe Castle did not disappoint.

Going for the first time and with no guarantee of return, the real challenge was deciding where best to setup the camera. Truly, it was like being a kid in a sweet shop. 

I had 2-3 cameras on the go at the same time - 2 mounted on tripods and the other handheld. That didn't always work because the front lens element on the camera lens needed semi-regular wiping to remove the build up of condensation.

Keeping kit clean is a tricky task when shooting in the cold and misty conditions that are ideal for atmospheric landscape images.

Ultimately, I wanted to be everywhere, which is a real compliment to Corfe Castle - it is right up there with the best landscape photography locations I have ever been to. 

Just before sunrise, we hiked our way up an adjacent hill to the castle. I decided to stay low in order to get the outline of the castle against the sky, while James went high.

Taken using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Taken using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

We had very different experiences. I like the composition of my images, but the real stand out moment was walking back up the hill to higher viewpoint as daylight unfolded.

On the other side of the castle, the sun-soaked mist was glorious, being moved along briskly in the breeze and illuminated orange in parts. The scene will be etched in my mind for a long time.

Hopefully you enjoy the images here. I will add more of my favourites in the gallery section of the website too. 

Enjoy!