The Nikon D800 and the Holy Trinity of Lenses by Valerio Trigari

The Nikon D800 and the Holy Trinity of Lenses

by Valerio Trigari

25480_D800_right

Hi Steve,

I’m a big fan of your website and so I decided to contribute to it by writing a user report on the Nikon D800 and the Nikon Holy Trinity of zoom lenses. I hope my review will be interesting and useful to the many readers and contributors to your website.

Before I move to the report itself, I’d like to introduce myself briefly. I’m an Italian born professional photographer from the UK and I’m based in Ipswich, about 80 miles north-east of London. My professional career started very recently, in April of this year, after I decided to quit my job in the IT industry and follow my dream. A lot of people thought I was mad, but I don’t regret my decision at all and I’m very happy!

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The Nikon D800

Since its announcement in February 2012, the D800 caused a stir in the photographic community, due to the astounding amount of pixel Nikon was able to fit into a full frame sensor. Those 36.3 MP, in a way, divided the community between those who thought it was too much, and those who thought it was exactly what they were looking for. I have to admit that initially I belonged to the sceptical side, but then reviews started to appear, as well as lots of pictures, which gave me the opportunity of forming a more discerned opinion. As I said, there are plenty of reviews on this camera already, which go through every single technical detail of the camera; for those interested in those aspects I suggest reading this article, http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikon-d800-d800e/, from the DPReview website. My report will skip on the technicalities and focus on my personal experience with the D800 over the past year.

Let’s begin with the main features of the camera:

  • 36.3 MP FX (24 x 35.9 mm) CMOS sensor
  • 51 point AF system
  • ISO 100 – 6400, expandable to ISO 50 and ISO 25600 equivalent
  • Shutter speed between 30 s and 1/8000 s
  • 100% coverage viewfinder
  • 4 fps in FX mode
  • 3.2″ LCD display with 921K dots
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 146 x 123 x 81.5 mm / 5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 in
  • Weight (camera body only): 900 g / 31.7 oz

I’ve been a Nikon user for many years and my previous camera – which I still use – was a D90. For a long while I was thinking of making the jump from a crop sensor to a full frame, especially after I bought the Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8. For a while I was thinking about buying a D700, but along came the D800 and things became confusing… Which one should I buy? Do I need all those MP? Should I look into a second-hand D3X? After months of indecision – and reading all I could about the D800 – I decided to go for it. And I’m glad I did!

When I first hold the D800 in my hands it looked massive compared to the D90, but it doesn’t fell heavy and actually fits my hands much better. I find the layout of the buttons well thought and all major settings (ISO, white balance, exposure compensations, etc) can be set while composing the image at eye level. The number and position of the buttons is slightly different from older Nikon models, but it didn’t take me long to get used to it. The settings menu is clear, though sometimes it takes quite a few clicks to get to the setting you want; however, in my opinion, that’s only a minor inconvenience. On the day I bought the camera, I was able to use it without the need of reading the manual, which is rather thick, I must say.

So, what about the big 36.3 MP full frame sensor? Is it as good as it’s supposed to be? Yes, it is. The amount of details it captures is simply astounding, beyond my imagination and hope. It’s been said that this camera can compete with the very expansive medium format digital backs, the likes of Phase One and Hasselblad. I can’t comment on that, because I never used one them, but the jump in quality between the D90 and D800 is blatantly obvious. Of course, the improved quality is not only due to the sensor size, but also to the new EXPEED 3 image processor and four years of advance in technology.

Happisburgh_Lighthouse

Unfortunately all this quality comes at a price, and I don’t just mean money: so many megapixels require a more accurate technique when shooting, especially handheld. The usual rule of setting a shutter speed equal to 1/Focal Length is not enough for the D800, especially with a telephoto lens. In my specific case, I need to use a shutter speed of 1/3*Focal Length to get a shot that it’s not blurry. That means that in low light conditions you need to increase the ISO to get a fast enough shutter speed. However, I must say the camera produces good quality images up to about ISO 3200, with very little noise. Above that, noise is very obvious, but unlike many people, I don’t find it such an issue. To me noise is part of the picture and I try to use it in a way which adds character to the image.

Fog_in_Ipswich

Another important “issue” arises from the this massive sensor: the RAW files are rather large. I shoot exclusively in RAW, at 14 bits with no compression and, on average, a file size is about 70 MB. My iMac is almost four years old and sometimes it struggles when many filters, layers and so on are applied to an image. I expected that image post-processing would have been slower, so I wasn’t too worried, though I could definitely do with a newer and more powerful computer. Of course I could reduce the bit depth and add compression, but I don’t see the point in doing that, because I want to the sensor to its full potential.

The main reason for buying the D800 was to use it for landscape and architectural photography. I love printing photos large and show every single detail, and the D800 is certainly up to the task. Of course, to get the best out of the camera, not only you need a sturdy tripod and rock solid head, but also high quality lenses. That’s the reason why I decided to opt for the so-called Holy Trinity of Nikon zoom lenses: 14-24 mm, 24-70 mm and 70-200 mm all at constant maximum aperture of f/2.8. I’ve been debating for a while if I should have gone for prime lenses, but in the end I had to take into account practical reasons, such as number of lenses and cost. I’m happy for the choice I made, because all of them are exceptional zooms and cover all my needs. All these lenses are weather and dust sealed, and have a solid and rugged feel. I will talk about each lens separately.

My everyday lens: the Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8

J2164_AF-S-NIKKOR-24-70mm-f-2.8-ED_front

  • 15 elements in 11 groups (3 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical elements, 1 Nano Crystal coat)
  • Closest focusing distance: 0.38 m / 1.2 ft
  • 9 rounded blades
  • Filter thread: 77mm
  • Diameter x Length: 83 x 133 mm / 3.3 x 5.3 in
  • Weight: 900 g / 31.7 oz

This is certainly the lens I use the most and that’s why it was the fist of the Trinity which I bought, even before I bought the D800. The lens is heavy and big, but it is incredibly good in terms of sharpness, contrast and colour rendition. The only issue I have is a bit too much chromatic aberration on the borders, but that is easily corrected in post-production. Distortion is well controlled on both ends of the zoom range and, again, it can be fixed easily in post. The pictures below were taken with the Nikon D800 in a jazz club in London. The only source of light was on the stage and I was forbidden to use my flash, so I had to use very high ISO to get the shots I wanted. The first image is shot at ISO 3200, the 2nd at ISO 6400 and the 3rd at ISO 12800 (all photos had noise reduction applied in Photoshop). The band is a wonderful gospel group (http://www.606gospelgroup.com) and they use my photos on their website, so I’m very pleased!

606GospelClub_1

606GospelClub_2

606GospelClub_3

Going beyond wide angle: the Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8

J2163_AF-S-NIKKOR-14-24mm-f-2.8G-ED

  • 14 elements in 11 groups (2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical elements, 1 Nano Crystal coat)
  • Closest focusing distance: 0.28 m / 0.9 ft
  • 9 rounded blades
  • Filter thread: n/a
  • Diameter x Length: 98 x 131.5 mm / 3.9 x 5.2 in
  • Weight: 1000 g / 35.3 oz

This is a lens like no other. As far as I know, this is the widest wide-angle lens made by any manufacturer and the quality of images it produces is almost incredible. When I used it at 14mm for the first time I was really and truly shocked by how well corrected it is in terms of aberrations and distortion. At the other end of the scale it’s almost distortionless and that’s just incredible. As you may know, using filters is a bit of an issue, because you need to buy a purpose made holder and filters just for this lens, but that didn’t deter me. I use this lens primarily for architectural and landscape photography, as you can see by the shots below. The lens is rather large and weighs as much as the 24-70mm, because of all the glass elements it contains. One word of advice, be careful when using this lens on the ultra-wide end of the scale: you’re going to be much closer to objects than you think, so you must be careful not to scratch that bulbous front element…

Forest_around_Lake_Fusine

Christchurch_Mansion

Weeds_and_River_Alde

There’s only one negative point for this lens: I had to have go through three of them before I could find one that didn’t have so much front focussing, that even maxing the fine tune adjustment, images were still soft. The one I own isn’t perfect, but it was the best the retailer had in store! So, please Nikon, get stricter tolerances in terms of focussing, before you send lenses out of the factory, especially expensive lenses such as this one!

The ideal telephoto zoom: the Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8

J2139_AF-S-VR-Zoom-NIKKOR-70-200mm-f-2.8G-IF-ED_front

  • 21 elements in 16 groups (7 ED glass elements, Nano Crystal coating)
  • Closest focusing distance: 1.4 m / 4.6 ft
  • 9 rounded blades
  • Filter thread: 77mm
  • Diameter x Length: 87 x 205.5 mm / 3.4 x 8.1 in
  • Weight: 1540 g / 3.4 lb

This zoom comes close to the perfect lens, in terms of build construction and quality of the images it produces. It is long and very heavy, but I do not care, so good are the images it takes! VR is essential, even more so on the D800; without it would be nigh to impossible to get a steady shot, at least with my hands. The VR system can be set to different settings, depending on the shots you’re taking, or completely switched off, if working on a tripod. At the beginning of August I was on holiday in the Alps in north-est Italy, close to Austria and Slovenia, and unfortunately there were many wildfires raging in the area, which lasted about a month. Luckily no one got injured, or worse, but many acres of alpine forest were reduced to ashes and charcoal. The 70-200mm gave me the chance to capture images of the brave and tireless firefighters and volunteers, who fought with every mean in their hand those fires. I believe the lens and camera allowed to produce photos that give justice to their incredible work and perseverance.

Wildfire_at_Night

Canadair_in_Action

Last_Tree_Standing

 

The final word

To conclude my user report, I can only say that I am incredibly happy with my gear and it’s worth every penny I paid for it. The proof of the quality of this camera really came after I looked at prints of some photos. These were 24″ x 16″ C-type prints and the pictures looked even better than they did on the screen. That was the moment when I realised I bought the right camera. Would I recommend the Nikon D800 and the Holy Trinity? The only answer is: Yes!

Thank you for reading my review and I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful.

Cheers!

Valerio Trigari

 

157 Comments

  1. Hi Valerio,
    I am a wedding Photographer nd using Nikon 800 with 18-135 now i am shifting to full frame lens. which lens do you suggest me for me according to wedding’s behalf and why?

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and images. I love Nikon equipment. The D810 and D750 are on my short dream list with this trinity of lenses plus a couple of the Zeiss primes.

  3. Just received my new Nikon D810 & I had to wait a few days and I ordered a Nikon 24-70 2.8 🙂
    I am also considering the 70-200 2.8 with VRII. I really like the looks of some of the wider than 24mm Zeiss lenses that are being made for the Nikon, they supposedly blow away the Nikon stuff. They are Manual focus but you really don’t need much focusing at that wide a lens huh?

  4. Hi Valerio,
    Nice to see that I almost use the same setup as you – which you could call “The Unholy Quartet!” The only difference I have to your “Holy Trilogy” is instead of the Nikon 70 – 200mm f2.8, I opted for the (“unholy”) Sigma 120 – 400mm f4.5 set up just to give me that extra bit of reach (and to keep the weight down more than if I had opted for the larger & heavier Sigma 120 – 500m telephoto).
    As the 14 – 24mm F2.8 does show a bit of distortion for architectural shots that are not perfectly axially aligned, I opted to add the Nikon 24mm F3.5 PC-E lens to my kit in order to bring more perspective control to my architectural shots.
    So all up with my Manfrotto tripod, my kit weighs a chunky 12kg! But I figure that is a better investment than paying for any gym membership!
    By the way a good lens sharpness comparator you can use is on this site:
    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=615&Camera=614&Sample=0&FLI=0&API=2&LensComp=618&CameraComp=614&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=0&APIComp=0

    Cheers – Paul

    • Hi Sidharth, although the kit is very nice, I wonder if it may be too heavy to lug around all day long… Perhaps you should go for the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 85mm f/1.4, that should cover pretty much all of your needs. However, I’m don’t do weddings, so I suggest you look around what other pro wedding photographers do and make your decision based on that.

      • Thanks Steve for your super speedy reply – much appreciated – I knew the size would be an issue – just needed an experts advice. keep up the great work!

        • Hey Steve – i just thought about the A7R and the 55mm Lens Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA – have you seen any images using this combination as yet? Used for Product Shots. Cups, Fruit not too wide or close up… Cheers Ben

  5. Valerio,
    A fine job, with what is obviously your passion ! It is with pleasure I look upon your work.
    The ( HOLY TRINITY ) is excellent terminology for what they accomplish in color, res., and a surprising lack of distortion. Kudos Nikon.
    The D800 is a remarkable instrument for any photographer, as is the Canon 5dMKIII, but I find myself slowing down; like Steve ~ and asking myself – WHAT do I want from a camera, and what size do I actually want to print.
    For me, I like the possibilities of the NIKON Df. I like the look, the MANUAL DIALS,
    and the OLD GLASS idea. I now have -3- older beautiful NIKON fast Primes, and a new IS Zoom 24-85, but not the speed or quality of the incredible 24-70. Still – it delivers stunning images for Landscapes, or portraits. I love my FUJI X-E1 for vacations, but still – the NIKON BREATHES COLOR DEPTH & LIFE into it’s imagery. FUJI get the SKIN right every time, but Landscapes, or Macro’s – the NIKON D700 will drop your jaw. My Tamron 90 2.5 Prime Manual Macro on my D700 still beats my FUJI X-E1 using the same lens. TO me – FUJI is High Res. but Muted color compared to Nikon full frame.
    I digress, the Df looks like my compromise ticket. 16 is enough, and maybe I won’t need a new Imac so soon… Thank you again, Valerio. The D800 with your Trinity can accomplish anything.
    One last thing – NOTHING Replaces the LIGHT PRISM VIEWING SYSTEM. So far.
    I admit – I am still thinking about a FUJI XPRO-2- | POOR MAN’S LECIA ! Just Plain FUN !!!
    Thanks Steve, for sponsoring Valerio. Enjoyable… Hey – where’s MY Df Report from YOU ? Ha !
    Mike

    • Hi Michael,

      thank you very much for your positive comments about my work, it is much appreciated.

      I have to admit I really like the looks of the Df and initially I thought it’s be a camera I’d buy. However, the price tag is too high in my honest opinion. Yes, the Df inherits the D4 sensor, which is exceptional and has plenty of resolution, but still I think it should cost less.

      In my case, if I want to go manual, then I take pictures with my Leica M6. You can’t get more manual than that (in 35mm terms)! In fact, the M6 is my camera of choice when I want to travel light. In a way I need to go back to film now and then, and work slowly and more carefully, so speak.

      Cheers,

      Valerio

  6. Very nice photos, good review. I’m considering a D7100 for my upgrade from d3100 sometime next year when I’m at a different place in life… but the D800 (probably used) is very appealing for the better color depth and dynamic range – any comparisons between these two? I’m having a hard time find a head-to-head comparo…

    • Thank you Dwayne! I’m afraid I don’t know if there’s comparison between the D7100 and D800. For what I’ve read the D7100 is a very good camera, which produce excellent images. Going from or the other is really up to you. It also depends on what lenses you have: if you have only DX lenses, then you also need to upgrade your lens set, which of course adds up on the final bill.

      • Thanks… I only have the kit lens, plus a cheap sigma 70-300. I do plan on buying at least one nice lens – ideally the Tokina 11-16, which is DX, or maybe the Rokinon 14mm. I am going more into landscape/night sky photos – so the better ISO performance of the D800, or even the D610 is more appealing. There’s no way I can afford a nice Nikkor right now…

  7. Terrific article Valerio! I’ve had the D800e since its release, along with your lens selection, in the exception of the 14-24, where I opted for the 12-24 instead. An amazing camera and set-up. Yes it is substantial, but for me the results are worth the size and weight, you learn to pack your kit just to bring what you need! lol
    Thanks for posting your review!

  8. Have you thought of some prime lenses with the D800? I find it to be very lightweight and nimble used this way, and between sensor micro-lenses and AF accuracy it has given new life to my two-decade-old 24/2.8 and 50/1.8. Not quite so much with my 105/2.5 . . . someone needs to come up with a split-image focusing screen for the D800 to work well with that one, I think. But given enough time to focus it, it produces really sharp images even wide open.

    Also, how do you find the edge performance of the 24-70? My (brief) impression was it’s more geared to the long end than the wide, so I got the 24-120, which is more geared to the wide end than the long, like my use of mid-range zooms. I got the sense of much more even sharpness with the 24-120 at 24 at f4, while the 24-70 seems to really prefer 28-70 and leave you with a spot in the center at 24 that’s much sharper than the surrounding area.

    • Hi there! Yes, I did think about using only prime lenses, but I went for zoom lenses because of their versatility and overall cost. If I bought all prime lenses I would like to have and use, then I would have spent probably double or triple as much…

      The edge performance on the wide setting of the 24-70 is not perfect, but I can live with it. Also, if I don’t need to use filters I switch to the 14-24, which is basically perfect – in terms of sharpness, distortion and edge performance – when set to 24mm.

    • Hi Marc, 16 mm is definitely much wider than 24 mm. At 16 mm the angle of view is about 107 degrees, compared to about 84 degrees at 24 mm. Whether is worth or not really depends on the use you’d make of the lens. For me it’s definitely worth having a lens that goes as far as 14 mm, because it give very interesting perspectives, especially in architectural shots.

  9. Thank you for the comments, particularly on the 24-70. I have basically the same
    kit with the exception of replacing the 24-70 with the 35mm f1.4 and a 85mm f1.4.
    While the 35mm is the ‘go to” lens, your writeup will make me reconsider adding the
    24-70.

    • Hi Dick, you’re welcome. The 24-70 is really a versatile lens and you can almost do everything with it. I’ve been toying with the idea of having only prime lenses, possibly Zeiss, but it would too expensive and impractical for the use I do, at least for the moment.

  10. Hi jonsmith, thank you for your very enthusiastic comment on my report and images!

    I don’t know if Nikon glass can compete with Leica, but to me is a bit like splitting hairs. They’re a both fantastic tools and, if I could, I would definitely buy an M240, or maybe an MM (which I tried and it’s absolutely sublime!).

    To answer your question: no, I didn’t have any issues with muck on the sensor.

  11. Brilliant write up, thank you very much, the most obvious point being, if you want the quality, you WILL lug around a bit more kit and probably happily do so, for that image iq and resolution, i would too!
    May i enquire if you have had any issues with muck on the sensor showing up?

    Well thought out, straight forward, logical and perceptive words, with images to back them up, put forward with humble simplicity, good one.

    I get the feeling that in the right hands, and with a good lens, the nikon d800 may very well rival the m240 in some situations, perhaps even surpass, i guess they are different beasts though, suited to differing styles of shooting, both fabulous instruments.

    As for critique about the size and weight, pointless.
    Don’t like=dont buy, how hard is that to grasp?[lol] They are corporations, not football teams.
    I’ve seen the market expand exponentially with choices over 35 years, yet folks still complain, what?, you can carry around 5 pounds of camera but not 6, the golden age of complaining say what!

  12. As a Fuji shooter, size and weight are just as important for me as image quality. If I don’t have my camera slung over my shoulder, I’m not going to get the shot. I carry my camera almost everywhere because I never know where I will see a photo moment.

    But I completely understand that there is no substitute for a full-size DSLR, and the D800 appears to be the king of DSLRs at the moment. In terms of resolution, ISO performance, AF ability, and all around handling, no other camera competes with it. Saying it’s too big and heavy with its lenses is ignoring the fact that other cameras (even the RX1R and Leica) can’t do what it does.

    • Thank you for your comment Michael. I couldn’t think of a better system for my work, with the exception of MF digital backs, which are way out of my league for the moment!

  13. Valerio, have you tried out D600? It’s my work horse, so to say. With 24-70, 35 1.4 and 85 1.8. I do weddings mostly, and cover corporate events and such. I’ve found that the sensor is on par with the d800 when it comes to dynamic range, alltough 36MP is great. 🙂

    Anyway, I do’t get it why people are so obsessed about the size of the camera. I mean, when I work, I don’t mind to sweat for a day, since it’s paying my bills. And D600 gives me what I need. As for a holiday, I stick to my OMD and panaleica 25 and an Iphone. Maybe some day I’ll add a 7-14 mm zoom, but alas, it’s for fun only. I’d rather spend that money on a plane ticket. 🙂

    • Hi Heikki, no, I haven’t tried the D600 yet. Though it would be nice to have it as a second, lighter FF body.

      As I said before, if the weight was an issue, I wouldn’t have bought this kit! It’s not light, but it’s not that heavy that I can’t carry it on my shoulders.

  14. Great write-up and beautiful pictures! I just bought the D7100 (didn’t get on with the D600 for some reason) and 50/1.4, and will certainly consider one of these next, though I would love them all. I’m in Suffolk too btw 🙂

    • Hi Tracy, thank you very much. Good to know there’s another fellow photographer in Suffolk. I’m based in Ipswich, how about you?

      I read the D7100 is a very good camera and certainly the holy trinity would work well on it.

  15. This is the best all-around camera system on the planet. By far. And that is from someone who used to own this setup and sold it to go to something much more specific, but, there is nothing else that can touch the capabilities of the D800 and these lenses. No, not the RX1. Yes, I’ve tried it. No, it’s not as good.

  16. Really wonderful pictures. My favorites are the forest fire at night and the B&W dog walking picture. A very heavy kit overall, but I am still very envious. Sadly I don’t have the back for it, but really that is a cop out as I don’t have the money for it. Though, I’ll admit if I did, my back would probably still hold me back (I am only 30 since so many want to know the age of the poster, but I am still recovering from a recent lower lumbar disc herniation. That marks 4 herniations since I turned 23).

    Of course if I HAD the spare money, I’d love such a kit, it would just likely get stuck in the closet for 80% of my shooting.

    These days it is an OM-D E-M5, m.Zuiko 12/2, 17/2.8, Panasonic Leica 25/1.4, m.Zuiko 45/1.8 and Sigma 60mm f/2.8. A nice 4 (~2kg) pound package when you include the small camera bag and FL300r flash+spare battery. It is good enough image quality (okay, in my opinion very good, if not on the same level as the D800/D800e) in a resonable size and nice light weight (IE good for my back).

    • Thank you Azazel for your comments on my pictures. The forest fire seems to be a favourite of many who posted here (including myself).

      Sorry to read you have a bad back and I hope that would be your last herniation. As long as you’re happy with the gear you have, then there’s nothing wrong with it!

  17. I have a D800 as well, although not being a pro. It’s a great camera, and for me Nikon is the camera maker who makes cameras with the best economics for my hands (my previous favourite camera was the D300 which I maybe think has the optional size/weight. I am using a sun sniper strap for it, and I love that. Takes off almost all weight, no problem for the neck, and I just put my hand down and it is at the grip of the camera! However, I dream of something smaller, and it irritated me that Nikon and Canon refuse to have tilt-their pro and semi pro gear. I would love them to also be a bit innovative on offering HD quality movie with 60 or more fps in video mode, and I would love to have focus peaking. For these reasons I am seriously considering to sell and go to a Sony NEX FF… Of course, that system is only a confirmed rumour right now, and Nikon always managed to get more out of the Sony sensors than Sony… :p

    BTW, I shot lossless compressed raw, my files are between 40 and 45MB, and that is enough! 🙂
    Thank you for an interesting read and view. It is brave to review one of the monsters in this forum. Well done! 🙂
    My latest camera purchase is an iPhone adapter for my Hasselblad 500CM. Does this make sens(or)e ? I get the heaviest setup with the tiniest sensor! Can’t wait to try it! 😀

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/96793993/hasselnuts-hasselblad-camera-iphone-digitalback-ki

    • Hi Kragom, you’re welcome, I’m glad you find my review worth reading. Unlike you, I would probably get rid of video from my camera, because I don’t use it, but then I understand that currently it’s a very important feature in DSLRs. Focus peaking would be a good feature though.

      I had a look at the link you posted and the adaptor looks really cool and, may I say it, nuts! 😉

  18. 1.) fact is, that you have at least two stops more dynamic range if you are using the d800 with a high quality lens. this has nothing to do with print size. this has to do with fine details in structure and nuances in the shadows. and not to be limited in postpro.
    2.) the more megapixels you have the more you can optimize your photos in terms of stright lines for architecture and all that kind of lens corrections with less amount of degradation for the output size.
    3.) the more “real” megapixels/resolution you have, the easier are tasks like retouching, selective manipulations, paths ….

    i would love to drag around a d800, with “my trinity”. zeiss 35/2 (or 25/2), nikon 50/1,8 AF (or 85/1,4 AF), Zeiss macro 100/2 if there wouldn`t be the money issue.

    greetings michael

  19. Not really a system that a photojournalist would want to heft around all day, DSLRs are too heavy and bulky for my liking. Sorry about that, I’m off the DSLRs at the moment. If you only use fast lenses and fast zoom then you need to be built like Arnie.

    • In all my years as a full-time working PJ I carried pretty much the exact same system, though at some points I did go with a 16-35 f2.8 instead of a 24-70 and/or 14-24. Pretty much all my peers who are still working at various publications still are using the same kit so I’m a bit curious which PJ’s you’ve pulled about this topic Stewart.

      I certainly don’t disagree with you when you said its too heavy and bulky for YOUR needs, but don’t see how you can make the assumption its too heavy for anyone else.

      I’m the further thing from Arnie, either in his prime or even today, but I could always easily manage 2 pro bodies and fast glass, as can plenty of other photographers of all different body sizes.

      I just don’t see where people come up with such hyperbole as that what is still the industry standard gear for working professionals could only be carried by a huge bodybuilder.

      Think back just a few years before mirrorless really came out and what did a majority of enthusiast carry ? A DSLR!

      Basically everyone had something like a Canon 1Ds, or 5D, Nikon D3, D700 etc and we all managed. Sure they were maybe heavier than we’d of liked when out on a hike etc, but we all managed didn’t we ?

      Did you see people using a point and shoot simply because a DSLR was physically impossible to carry ? No.

      Mirrorless is a great alternative and I find it enjoyable to throw a DP Merrill into a coat pocket rather than carry my photo backpack out on a walk, but it merely comes down to personal choice.

  20. Horses for courses, as someone commented above.

    I’ve got my gear down to 2 systems. I have a DX equivalent of your trinity – D7000 with 12-24 f4, 35-70 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8 – and apart from a small gap (which I can live with) gives me a FF equivalent 18-300 in a relatively (compared to the D800 etc.) light package. I use this when weight isn’t a big issue and I feel the need for bigger file sizes. For everything else, I use the sublime V1 with 10-30, 30-110 and 18.5 prime. Conveniently, the D7000 and V1 share the same battery and with an adaptor the V1 can use the D7000’s lenses. Synergy, no?

    Just to put the cat amongst the pigeons, I’m about to ditch my MFT system as it falls somewhere in the middle of the other 2 systems in size/weight terms and i never really bonded with the GH2. It feels good to simplify sometimes.

    Great photos, by the way.

    • Hi Col, you give another example that there is no absolute right gear, but only what is right for you. Each of us has a unique style of taking pictures, and at the same time we all have different needs in terms of gear.

  21. Very nice story and really good pictures. I’m glad I’m not the only one that is not too weak to carry some extraordinary gear 🙂

    • Thank you very much Anders. I keep complaining about putting weight on around my waist, so carrying along a heavy kit is also a way of doing exercise, since I hate going to the gym! 😛

  22. When I was a working photojournalist, I carried this amount of equipment (plus a 2,8/300mm and strobes). But since being forced into retirement, I have shifted to the Fuji X-System and taken a new direction in my photography. I do not envy you having to carry all that weight. While there are times I miss my Nikons and their capabilities, I just don’t have an outlet any longer.

  23. I own myself a D800 and seen better lens produce sharper pictures.
    The night fire looks great. I was curious to see the exposure, 25 seconds with tele-lens.
    You need a ultra-strong tripod, some 3kg more…

    • Hi Andrei_P, I’m sure there could be better lenses, but I’m happy with what I have. Sometimes we focus too much on sharpness, without looking at all other parameters that make a lens good.

      I’m glad you like the night fire. The combination of camera and lens allowed me to take the shot the way I wanted. My tripod isn’t the top of the class in terms of strength – it’s a 20 year old aluminium Manfrotto 190A – but it works fine for the moment.

  24. Good article and pictures. You are obvoiusly happy with your kit and know how to use it. I have a dslr but prefer to use my V1 at the moment, but does it really matter? I like to think of myself as a photographer not a collector.

    Some of us might be losing track of what photography is about. Use what you use. Have fun. Enjoy. Create photographs.

    • Hi mj, thanks for your comment. The gear we use doesn’t really matter. In fact my review was not about the D800 being better than other cameras, but how it works for me. As you rightly said, have fun and take pictures!

  25. nice set of photos and a good write up.

    I use a similar setup although I have the new Nikon 18-35mm rather than the 14-24mm as I don’t shoot that wide that often, the weight and size issue is something that has been argued time and again, to be fair having used cameras like the Fuji X system the argument has never been more valid IMO.

    I also use a bunch of primes for my Nikon’s which with the exception of the Sigma 35 f1.4 offer no real IQ advantage over the Holy Trinity if I’m shooting above f2.8.

    That said the D800 and Holy Trinity are designed for processional use and offer features, IQ and DR to accompany that.

    The armature photographer no longer has to spend a small fortune on such a FF DSLR setup to get better image quality than their entry level kit but if you need even greater IQ, DR, weather sealing, twin memory card slots and a better all round AF system then the only option is such a FF setup, at lest for now.

  26. Hi everyone,

    thank you very much for all your comments on my user report. I’m quite overwhelmed by the responses and I’m glad you found it useful. I will try to reply to each and every of them, if I can. I like an open debate, whether people agrees with me or not. Also, as a rookie professional, I’m very glad that fellow photographers like my photos, it boosts my confidence! 🙂

    Cheers,

    Val

  27. Good shots Valerio, thanks for the story. The D800 is neither light nor small (though lighter and smaller than the D700 it sort of replaces). The sensor is very impressive and yes, very critical for sharpness/unsharpness, as can be seen in some of your images.

    Holy trinity? Sort of a Nikon phrase, not really my cup of tea either. I don’t like zooms; you’re always carrying too much glass. My “holy trinity” is the 1.4/24G, 1.4/35G and 1.4/85G; all close to 600 grs. Exceptional optical quality (particularly the 24 and the 85; the 35 has a bit of field curvature that you need to be aware of).

    It’s a pity your pics are so compressed; I’d like to see them a lot bigger!

    • Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 is “only” 900 grams and replaces (considering focal lengths only, not apertures) 24mm, 35mm and maybe even 85mm 🙂 Optically not as good but for long trips zooms are still champions for light weight.

      • I know Ertan; I had the 24-70 briefly. It is very very good, but big, and as I said, always too much. I “force” myself to take just one lens, usually the 35 or 50, and make do with that.

    • Hi Mike and Ertan, thank you for your comments. I’ve never done a comparison between zoom and prime lenses, so I can’t comment on that. All I can say is that the zooms I have are spectacular!

      • Hi Valerio! Yes, I know they are very good, not at all like the zoom lenses of old. But why not make yourself look at things in a different way by choosing a fixed focal length? I have a Nikon F3 with me this week, loaded with Tri-X and, after careful consideration, a 24. Forces me to look differently…

        • Hi Mike, I actually use zooms a fixed focal length. I select the focal length and then frame accordingly, rather that zooming to frame, if it makes sense. Sometime I like using just one lens and that’s when I pick up my M6 + 50 mm. I guess it really depends in which mood I’m in.

        • Ps. Turns out it was expired Agfacolor 200, underexposed therefore by one stop. So much for being the proficient analogue photographer… 🙁

          Will have to instruct my development service: overdevelop!

  28. Horses for courses, of course.

    The big Nikons are designed with working pros in mind. They’re big & heavy, and with good reason. The durability, all the internal motors, the backwards compatibility and so on all adds to the weight. Same goes for the lenses, which are designed to work in extreme environments.

    I remember an old ad for the Nikon F4s back in 1990. “Have a shot in hell” it read, before listing all the nasty environments and circumstances pros were using it in.

    They’re certainly not for everyone … or every situation. If I’m traveling, I’m not going to haul my D3s and the Trinity if I’m shooting just for myself. The X-Pro 1 produces tremendous files and I can carry it with two lenses, an Ultrapod II, a few accessories, and even a 22″ 5-in-1 reflector kit in a small messenger bag — much better for walking around all day in a foreign environment.

    BTW: That 70-200 you list is the original VR version. Is that the one you’re using, or did you just upload the wrong image? Technically the Holy Trinity refers to the later VRII version of the lens.

    As others have mentioned, though, I love those black & white images … and the fire shot is riveting to look at. Well done!

    • Hello Robert, the build quality (and corresponding weight) is precisely the reason why I bought this kit. Plus that wonderful 36 MP sensor, of course. I need my gear to be very solid and it must last for many years to come and, as you pointed out, it must be backward compatible.

      Thank you for your comment on my b&w and fire photos, I’m very pleased you like them!

  29. beautiful pictures! love the forest fire the most. The black and white picture of the trees is beautiful as well.
    You have nice photography gear. I believe the end result and the pleasure you take in deriving the end result is important.
    Congratulations on making that step to becoming a photographer – it is a bold step. Not everyone can make a hobby their profession.

    • Hi Rifat, thank you, I’m glad you you like my photos. I bought this gear because it fulfilled my needs and helps taking pictures the way I want. Fingers crossed my decision to transform a hobby into a profession will pay off!

  30. Congrats. Valerio. For guys who DON’T want something a little smaller . . . . the D800 is a landmark, the 24-70 and 70-200 have been the pro standards for years, and the 14-24 is simply in a class by itself. Sure, it’s not a light outfit, but what firepower and what results !

  31. Wonderful images! Interesting that the comments often lead to a very… lively (!) discussion on gear!

    We’re lucky to live in a time where there’s a vast, diverse range of excellent cameras and lenses out there. We can all chose what suits us, what we feel happy carrying, what inspires us to shoot and what we connect with.

    Your results speak for themselves, you clearly enjoy the Nikon gear and feel passionate enough to want to share that and these results – personally I praise anyone who takes the time to do that! After all, it’s that spirit of sharing knowledge and subjective experience that a lot of us love to read here, regardless of our personal choices in gear.

    Keep up the great work, and good to hear that you’re printing too. It would be a shame for photos like these to only exist on a hard drive!

    • Hi James, thank you for your comment on my photos. I like lively discussion (I’m Italian, after all) and although people had strong opinions, no one was rude.

      I don’t have a printer at home, so I don’t print as many photos as I’d love to, but I found a fantastic lab in London, which produces wonderful prints. Although photos look good on a screen, nothing can beat a fine art print, in my humble opinion.

  32. Thank you for sharing the pictures, they are excellent! If I could justify the purchase to my wife the D800 + 70-200mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.4G would be my dream set up. In any case, I’ll keep enjoying my V2.

  33. Honestly, I’m not a Nikon person. And I personally, with no intention of being rude, don’t care what kind of gear being used. But after reading it, it does seem that you are entirely happy with your system – and that’s what matters. If you are happy with what you’re using, you are bound to produce great pictures.

    Btw – tremendous shot on the fire (the blazing fire pic one).

  34. I suggest you try the D series (D4, D3) : I find the balance (and grip) with the pro lenses better than with the Dxxx cameras.
    I think there may be a D4x soon (D4 with 36 Mpx)

  35. I use a D800E + 70-200 f2.8 from time to time. After a day or two of intensive use I just put the set in the corner which is my way to protest its weight. But then I pick up them up & use the setup again and again. You know why? I enjoy blowing up that mosquito like black speck 300%+, just to find out the airplane make and airline decal. I do enjoy the non-artistic aspect of digital photography.

    • Hi EH, the first time I picked up the D800 + 70-200 + battery grip I thought “bloody hell this is heavy!”, but it’s so well balanced that I got used to it very quickly. Besides, most of the time I work on a tripod, so it doesn’t really matter.

  36. As I understood it, the compression that you can apply to D800 RAW files is lossless, so there’s no degradation in image quality, just as you don’t degrade a text file by zipping it. Or am I wrong? I don’t shoot Nikon now so I’m not up to date.

  37. Sometimes I think Steve puts in some posts just to keep the opinionated opinioneers burbling on with their opinionated opinions – try saying that 20 times fast …

    By the way, in my opinion, some fine photos Valerio 🙂

    And who wouldn’t enjoy shooting a D800 with some of the best glass in the world. These days we can choose equipment that goes from wonderful to the truly sublime. Endless options of cameras, software, fabulous glass; I’ve been shooting for over 50 years, and this is the best time EVER to be a photographer.

    • Hi David, thank you, I’m glad you like my photos. All of us should enjoy the kit they have, without the need of trampling other people’s choices. As you said, we have so much choice, that each of us can find the right kit. So buy it, shoot with it and be happy!

  38. The 14-24 isn’t the widest wide angle FF lens……Sigma makes the 12-24…but its not even comparable the stunning Nikon Glass..just saying

    • Hi LlocQ, I didn’t know about the Sigma glass. I must admit my knowledge of gear tends to be limited to a few specific brands, so my statement about the 14-24 was incorrect! Thank you for pointing that out. 🙂

      • Yes Kragom, but the tokina 11-16 is a DX lens. That said at 16mm it works wonders on my D800. ps- great post Valerio. I’m looking at the trinity but for now my fav is the 50 f/1.4. Lovely piece of walk-around glass.

        • Thanks Peter! I’m actually looking into adding the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens to my kit, I read a lot of good things about and I need a walkabout lens. I do have a 50mm f/1.4, but I need something a little bit wider.

      • Don’t worry about it..I changed systems recently..(Nikon -> Canon) and I found my self looking for a good wide angle lens since the Canon 16-35 2.8 II doesn’t work for me…That’s when I discovered the Sigma which is not a stellar, but fine glass considering the price as well..I have to say though nothing compares to that Nikon…

        Knowing of every lens ever made makes no difference at all to the images you created, speaking of which, totally forgot to cheer for these…(It was late and I was tired) Great Job Valerio!!!

  39. I crack up when someone says “too big” or “too heavy”. Ansel Adams drove his camera around on the top of his station wagon! He’s got to be rolling over in his grave hearing whiners complain about a dinky little DSLRs. The end result is all that matters, not what camera was used.. and the end result of your D800 is very nice. I personally love the color that comes out of both Nikon and Canon DSLRs.. I have an X-E1 and a D800, and for landscape, the X-E1 stays home – the color is just way to funky for my taste.

  40. Some very nice images, love the fire shot, beautiful composition and colors.

    Some really strange comments here though, as if people feel someone is forcing them to swap out their mirrorless system and go back to a DSLR with pro glass or something. I mean relax Jim Horn, no one is making anyone carry any more or less weight than they are willing to deal with.

    “too big, too heavy” for what ? For YOU ?? I’ve seen some rather petite women and older adults out shooting with even bigger bricks of a camera like a Canon 1Ds with pro glass and that is a rig that even weights more than a D800, so obviously people can and do manage.

    Does it mean you have to ? No, and I personally like to carry something like my Sigma Merrill’s over my D3s’s if I’m not working, but its a personal choice.

    I just really don’t get the negativity. Someone show’s some pictures off and rather than comment on the quality of the images or the composition we jump down the guys throat on the weight of the gear ?

    If Ansel Adams walked up and showed some prints of Half Dome would your first response to his LF rig, wooden tripod etc again be “Too big, too heavy” or would you maybe stop and actually look at the image ?

    • Bashing dslr users is the new black nowadays. I bet most people could care less about photography as an art form. They just read the title, got upset about someones expensive camera and wanted to rain on the posters parade.They just want to justify their purchases no matter what it may be if it isn’t what they use. Our planet is in a sad state. Instead of having a love for life people have a love for complaining. Well, nice photos. Use what you want.

    • Thank you MillsArt and BM. Some people like to complain or argue and, to be honest, I let them be. Nobody forces you to buy a specific gear and its weight, in my choice, was the last of my worries.

      I do own a 4×5″ LF format camera, with three lenses and that’s what I call heavy. Yet I’m happy to carry it around in my backpack, when I feel in the mood to shoot B&W film. I come back home tired and my shoulder are a bit sore, but I’m happy and eager to develop the sheets.

      What matters is the end result, the photo!

      • exactly 🙂 that’s why I don’t mind carrying around my Hassy with 2 lenses because I know when I get home, the fun continues with development. There’s nothing in the current digital world that equals to seeing your negatives coming to life – very, very satisfying indeed. Would like to explore the world of LF at some point too.

  41. Thank you for your impressions and nice pictures.

    Of course the (Sony-)sensor of the D800(E) is supremely good – not only in terms of detail/resolution. Even more impressive is the large dynamic range and the good low light performance. And I liked the colors even from the ooc-JPEGs.

    The pity for me was, that the AF module was not able to cope with the rest of the camera components in too many situations and so for me was preferred only for situations where I could use manual or contrast AF through live view.

    I think, the time for these bulky mirror DSLRs draws to a close…

    • Hi 3D, thanks for your comment. Thank you also for pointing out the wonderful dynamic range of the D800, which I completely forgot to mention in my report. It is definitely improved over my trusty D90, but I don’t think it reaches the 12 EV claimed DxO labs. I have serious doubts that it can beat the Phase IQ180, or any other MF digital back, but that’s beyond the point of my review. I’m happy with the system I have and that’s all it matters. 🙂

  42. Beautiful images and we must all work with the equipment that inspires us.
    I like lighter gear personally and yes maybe age is involved.
    Keep up the good work and thanks for posting these great images.

  43. Some saddening negativity on here. I admit I prefer smaller mirror less cameras myself, but that doesn’t mean I would run down someone who has bravely taken the decision to go down the road of photography. So he hasn’t picked the camera you admire, therefore you should belittle everything he says and shares? The comments you post say less about what you’re commenting on, than it does about you.

  44. How old they are if saying its heavy…..It is heavy but, its still the best camera I’ve ever owned and it goes on mega hiking adventures always. I’m in my 50’s. Had mine since early 2012.

    I did try the 14-24mm but, that lens is way too big and heavy. I would destroy it real quick. It simply took up too much room in my pack. I got the 16mm 2.8 instead and love it. Also have the 24mm 2.8, 50mm 1.8, 180mm 2.8 all Nikon and a Sigma 120-300mm 2.8 that’s 9 years old now.
    The big Sigma rarely goes on long hikes anymore.

    The large detailed files are great as I do print at 40 x 60.

    Storage and a PC aren’t issues either. 12gb’s of ram works fine and HD’s are cheap now.

    I do tons of no light/low light photography and this camera excels at it. I find myself shooting at f10 often at night. ISO depends on the shot.

    Don’t forget, it also shoots outstanding video.

    Having said all of that, I look forward to the day a system with the same quality files is tiny. It will happen right when I need it most.

    Nice write up and photos…….

    • Hi lavapix, thank you for your comment. As I said before, I don’t really mind the weight, because the quality of the system far outweighs the inconvenience of carrying around many pounds (or kilograms) of equipment. Besides, when in the 90s I was working with a MF Bronica, my kit was way heavier than now!

  45. monster set up, nice pics, especially love the last three.
    weight has never really been a big problem for me either. i shoot canon/olympus but remember the first time i seen the 14-24 in a photoshop, almost knocked me over, what stunning lens. real game changer.
    id grab a fast fifty lens as well 😉 thanks for sharing

  46. Trouble is your images shown here are so compressed that it doesn’t show the detail.

    I had a back focussing issue on my Canon 70-200 f4. I did a proper test and it was out by 10mm. This made a huge difference at a wedding shoot. Anyway I sent it to Canon but they insisted it was within tolerance. They would only adjust it if I sent a camera body to match it with. I insisted they adjust it anyway and it is now spot on for any camera.

    And yes the problem with high Mp sensors is the need to upgrade you computer and storage/backup. making upgrading even more expensive. One day I might upgrade my excellent 5D to a 5DII. You never know!

    • Hi Dougbm, unfortunately I couldn’t post a full size image, but I can assure you the detail is there!

      I will probably send my 14-24 to Nikon to have it calibrated. They may argue that it is within tolerances, but to me those tolerances aren’t strict enough. They will never get to Leica’s almost psychotic level of precision, but they should definitely be improved.

  47. YES WONDERFUL PICTURES . NATURAL AND A+ . MAYBE STEVE COULD LEARN WITH THIS NATURAL NOT OVERSATURATED PICTURES

    • Everyone has different tastes. What I like, you may not. What you like, I may not. Why would I copy off of someone else? No one should! We should all be ourselves and as long as we are happy then nothing else matters. Maybe you could learn a thing or two 🙂 bet you could, because we all could.

      • Hehe, they tried to get ya again Steve. If you give importance to what people say, you live there life. Good answer on this one.

        You have your own taste, like anyone else, and that’s what counts. Imagine the whole world being like me, like you, or like anyone else, how borrrrring it would be.

        I like your shots, you love high contrasts and saturated colors, so do I, all depends what I work on. The D800 might be a huge tool, but, I have stepped away from the heavy stuff, I could not see any of them making better than my NEX on the usual stuff I do at the moment.

    • Hi Adele, thank you for your comment. I think everyone of us has its own style and we should stick to it. Then, us the viewers have the choice to either like it or not, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

  48. Nice photos. Like to see some printed. Don’t pay too much attention to the weight issue. It’s not the camera it’s the person commenting. When anyone says the D800 is too heavy . . . they need to say how old they are. Although it may not be necessary. The D700 was “already” too heavy for me, so you can guess my age quite easily. No reason why someone under 40 wouldn’t want to haul it around with tripod, lenses, etc.

    • With respect there is nothing wrong with not wanting to carry around additional weight regardless of age. That’s like saying people who drive instead of walk need to say how old they are. I understand this site often has the “heavy DSLR” bashers who try to justify their Leica with weight but to be honest my M9P isn’t much lighter when I held it next to my 5D2.

      • To be honest, if I thought my kit were too heavy to carry around, I would have gone for something lighter. I actually think its weight is correct for the type of camera. Though I admit that when walking long distances sometimes I ask myself why my gear is so heavy… 😉 Actually, I weighed my M6 + lens and it comes to about 900 g, which is not exactly light.

        • Weight is very subjective, and depends on the situation and your role. As a professional photographer, you need to carry what will get you the shot and pay the bills. We hobbyists have a lot more freedom to lighten the load, but then our travels are usually not strictly photographic in nature.

          Oh, when I travel, whether with my Leica M Monochrom or my Nikn Df, its usually with between one and three primes and the total system weight is usually about the same.

  49. Valerio, some lovely shots there. I own a D800E and my essential lenses are somewhat different, the Nikon 28mm F1.8G, the Sigma 35mm F1.4 ART, the Nikon 50mm F1.8G and the Nikon 85mm F1.8G. I also own the 14-24mm lens and it IS an optical tour de force, but it is also huge and I should probably sell it due to it only leaving the house if I’m driving to my subject. I carry a tiny Voigtlander pancake 20mm for UWA purposes.

    All of that fits in a relatively small bag. If I sub my backup D600 for the D800E the kit probably weighs less than a rangefinder with similar focal length lenses… just saying… 😉

    • I’m with you on Nikon’s f/1.8G lenses; they are all small, light and optically excellent. My only “large” Nikon lens is the 58mm f/1.4G, which is big, but still quite light (weighs about the same as the 28/1.8).

      For most trips the 28/1.8 and 58/1.4 by themselves are enough, and sometimes I’ll leave both at him and just bring the 35/1.8 (new FX model). I use the Nikon Df, which also cuts down the weight.

  50. Different tools for different jobs. As a photographer for forty years, who has now retired, I have found the Fuji X Pro to be perfect for me at this point in life. However when I was shooting sports a big slr wiith LARGE aperture lenses was a must. Most folks on this site seem to favor rangefinder or mirrorless autofocus lenses so the responses here are predictable I suppose.

  51. Valerio,

    There’s just nothing like having fine tools that make your pursuit a pleasure. You’ve obviously found the gear that makes you happy, and your images are good.

    Now you can simply get on with it and make images! (Regardless of whether other folks here prefer their own gear choices.)

Comments are closed.