Dynamic Range of the Nikon D800E

Dynamic Range of the D800E

For landscapes, well, let’s be honest about this, for all photography, the dynamic range of a cameras capture medium is vitally important. Two friends of mine, pro photographers Jim Pascoe and Barry Whitcher, who both assist on some of my workshops at times, ply their trade on a daily basis as wedding photographers. They need good dynamic range to capture the detail of the bride’s dress against the groom’s morning suit amongst other situations. Erstwhile professional photographer Jonathon Gooding, down in Dorset, shoots anything and everything, (have a look at his website and you’ll see what I mean). His clients‘range of subject matter is so wide, that he needs every tool in his box to meet their visual demands, whether it’s a cow shed or a priceless piece of jewellery. Dynamic range is vital to him. And then there are the landscaper photographer friends such as Adam Burton and the World Famous David Noton, for whom good DR certainly helps capture clean detail across the range of tones.

I am no different. As well as my landscapes, most yacht races I cover take place during the summer days, with bright white sails against dark hulls and if in the Med., dark blue seas as well. All these things are set to test our equipment and our shooting skills.

Generally cameras have never been able to capture all that we see, but test reports suggest that the Nikon D800E gets pretty close. So to the woods.

On this first day out with the D800E, I’d finished the pre dawn shoot and now the mist was being burnt off by the rising sun. The total range of tones from pure black to no detail white was before me, with back lit trees in an enclosure and the sodden bracken producing a beautiful red/orange colour amongst the swirling mist.

Shooting hand held this time and with the ISO set to 400, which ordinarily would reduce the DR from its optimum, I took a series of images. As normal, the images were taken in RAW so that I can process the image as I see fit, not what an engineer in Japan thinks I want, i.e. Jpeg.

Opening the images back in my office and using Capture NX, I see that the histogram shows masses of highlight blow out, but with the blacks well controlled, just touching the zero. First I try recovery of the highlights using NX’s eponymous slider, but that doesn’t cut the mustard. It reduces the highlights a little but not totally. Now my thoughts move to asking myself if I’ve pushed the camera too far with this test? I see if the detail is there by swinging the exposure right over to -4EV. Guess what? No blown highlights, so the details is there. Adjusting exposure to -2.25EV recovers all the highlights in the sky, amazing to say the least. Now for the dark and black areas.

I added fill light, brought the black back a little and dodged the lower left corner to lighten that. I then added some contrast and do you know what? Despite that, there is no visible noise anywhere. As an experiment, I lightened the near black area on the tree trunks and still no noise. Nikon have definitely done a good job here.

Impressive stuff.

DSC 0079-original
The original image

…and adjusted as described above


…………………and a crop from the centre

Keep practising

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