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Archive 2013 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)
  
 
snapsy
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


Posted this on DP but thought some might find it useful here as well...
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I very rarely shoot weddings (only for friends) and this weekend I shot my first with a pair of D800s, one which I purchased when it came out a year ago and a refurbished unit I recently bought for the wedding. I also used a refurbished D600. One D800 was paired with a 24-120 f/4 VR, the other a 70-200 f/2.8 VR II, and the D600 a 50 f/1.8G. I used a 24-120 instead of a 24-70 because this was an outdoor nighttime wedding with very low levels of ambient light so I needed VR to drag the shutter for many flash exposures. Besides being low light there also wasn't any buildings/fixtures to bounce flash from so I used 4 Speedlights - 2 SB-600s and 2 SB-700s, all mounted remotely on light stands most of the time and triggered via the on-board flash of the D800/D600.

Here are my observations/experiences with this setup. I apologize but it was a private ceremony so I don't have any photos I can share yet.

* The Speedlights' AF assist beam produces wildly inconsistent AF results on all 3 bodies. Luckily I did extensive testing of the setup the days before the wedding so I avoided the problem by using the AF assist lamp on the bodies instead; unfortunately this limits the AF range and also shines an obnoxious white light in people's eyes faces when shooting. The Speedlight AF assist problem is apparently well known because a search revealed a lot of hits and appears to not be limited to the D800/D600. In my testing the AF was not off by a fixed amount but rather just inconsistent. It would give perfect results for 5 shots at a given distance/subject and then start missing if I changed the focus distance only slightly. Horribly inconsistent and unusable

* The AF of all 3 bodies performed brilliantly. I didn't have a single OOF shot. Naturally I tuned each body carefully with their respective lenses before the event. I was limited to the center AF point since the light was low and the body's AF assist only activates for the center point.

* The Nikon CLS (Creative Light System) performed very well. I alternated between a mix of iTTL and manual between the two supported groups. iTTL metering worked well for portraits with people occupying most of the frame, less so for wide shots with more background. Sadly the SB-700 only supports two flash groups (vs 3 on the SB-800/900/910); same for the on-board master flash support. I don't understand why Nikon limits the on-board flash to 2 groups instead of 3; probably just to sell more of the flagship Speedlights.

* Having on-board flash master CLS support is great when shooting multiple bodies/lenses. Many times I had a different aperture dialed in on each body and with per-body CLS settings I could preconfigure the manual flash levels and then grab any body indiscriminately to shoot with the proper exposure.

* Regarding the SB-600, I had the unfortunate mishap of failing to lock one onto its plastic stand before lifting it 12' in the air on a light stand. It came crashing down onto the concrete, after which the batteries flew out in all directions and the plastic cover over the infrared light flew off as well. Amazingly there wasn't a single mark on flash and after putting the batteries back in and reaffixing the infrared cover it worked perfectly for the remainder of the night. Talk about a lucky bounce!

* The support for a configurable single-button zoom on the D800 is indispensable for quick chimping and verification of the system. The feature is sorely missing from the D600 and makes that body much more cumbersome to use in fast-paced shooting environments.

* The 24-120VR is an underrated lens. Sure it gets softish beyond 85mm esp wide open but for the 24-85 range it performs well. For setup shots where I had time to enter a stabilized pose I could get 1:1 sharp images down to around 1/10. I tried to stay above 1/25 though to account for the more hurried pace of wedding shooting.

* The D600+50 f/1.8G is a great featherweight combo for fast-paced shooting.

* The extreme detail from the D800 can be unforgiving to some skin textures. But it's always easier to smooth out detail than to add it.

* The ISOless/low shadow noise of the D800/D600 sensors is unbelievably useful for nighttime flash photography. As indicated I used multiple Speedlights to illuminate nearby backgrounds since there was nothing outside to bounce flash off of. But there was also distant detail that was important for many shots, areas that were too far away to illuminate with Speedlights. Being able to raise the shadows of those areas in PP to match/balance the flash exposure (with still acceptable noise levels is probably the D800/D600's biggest advantage for wedding photography IMO. It also helps when filling out the shadows around where the Speedlight did illuminate, for cases where the subjects weren't positioned ideally relative to the flash. For this wedding I had a choice to shoot with a 5DM3/6D/5D combo and chose the D800/D600 specifically for the shadow raising ability knowing the distant ambient levels would be so low. I shot mostly at ISO 800 since that is the optimal level for ISOless shooting on the D800/D600.

* Given a do-over I would have taken the 70-200 f/4 VR instead of the f/2.8. Typical shooting distances for weddings mostly requires f/4+ for DOF anyway and the extra weight of the f/2.8 gets pretty obnoxious after 4+ hours.




Oct 01, 2013 at 04:05 AM
ucphotog
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


Thanks for sharing. Lots of interesting info here. I'm doing my first wedding for a friend / relative (she's both) in March, so I'm reading all I can.


Oct 01, 2013 at 04:32 AM
scottiet
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


Thanks for sharing. Great info!


Oct 01, 2013 at 10:32 AM
NathanHamler
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


Hmm that's interesting about the speedlight af assist issues you mentioned...you were shooting in af-s (single focus), and not af-c (continuous) , correct?? Cause AF assist is for af-s, single point only....

My d3, d700, d7000, and d300 are all spot on with af assist from an sb-600...

I guess in a situation of AF inconsistency like that, you just gotta shoot more frames than you normally would, to ensure a keeper...



Oct 01, 2013 at 10:59 AM
Next39
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


NathanHamler wrote:
I guess in a situation of AF inconsistency like that, you just gotta shoot more frames than you normally would, to ensure a keeper...


I would totally agree with you Nathan. And that makes me wonder how many photos did the OP take? It makes my head spin thinking about the volume of data from two D800's at a wedding.



Oct 01, 2013 at 11:13 AM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



snapsy
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


NathanHamler wrote:
Hmm that's interesting about the speedlight af assist issues you mentioned...you were shooting in af-s (single focus), and not af-c (continuous) , correct?? Cause AF assist is for af-s, single point only....

My d3, d700, d7000, and d300 are all spot on with af assist from an sb-600...

I guess in a situation of AF inconsistency like that, you just gotta shoot more frames than you normally would, to ensure a keeper...


Yep, AF-S center-point shooting. And it was repeatable across all three bodies and the 4 Speedlights. Shooting multiple frames as a workaround wasn't an option because at certain distances/targets the AF would consistently miss. I'm guessing the problem relates to the spread of the beam relative to the detail on the target. I say this because the AF failed at different distances between the SB-600s vs SB-700s (they have different infrared spreads). Multiple frames also wasn't an option because it was a nighttime wedding and the flash cycle times would have caused me to miss critical moments of the ceremony.



Oct 01, 2013 at 01:25 PM
mfletch
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


Thanks for posting your observations. I may have to give the 24-120VR another look.

A couple of your statements seemed to contradict one another, unless I read it wrong.(and I read it twice) Did the AF assist actually fail in focusing accurately or was it too slow at times to be usable?


snapsy wrote:
* The Speedlights' AF assist beam produces wildly inconsistent AF results on all 3 bodies. It would give perfect results for 5 shots at a given distance/subject and then start missing if I changed the focus distance only slightly. Horribly inconsistent and unusable

* The AF of all 3 bodies performed brilliantly. I didn't have a single OOF shot.




Oct 01, 2013 at 01:56 PM
Ian Boys
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


snapsy wrote:
* The extreme detail from the D800 can be unforgiving to some skin textures. But it's always easier to smooth out detail than to add it.


Yes, I've certainly seen this in a wedding shot. It's not very flattering, esp when combined with flash. I prefer the D700 for this - kinder to the face.



Oct 01, 2013 at 03:22 PM
snapsy
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


mfletch wrote:
Thanks for posting your observations. I may have to give the 24-120VR another look.

A couple of your statements seemed to contradict one another, unless I read it wrong.(and I read it twice) Did the AF assist actually fail in focusing accurately or was it too slow at times to be usable?


Accuracy was the issue. Speed was not a problem; in fact AF is very fast with the Speedlight assist beam, even in complete darkness.



Oct 01, 2013 at 03:57 PM
wellsjt
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Wedding experience with D800 (and a D600)


There are variables which impact the effectiveness of the AF assist. One example is focal length. The SB-600 AF assist is only good to 105mm or something like that, so if you were beyond that you may not have had good results. Another example is distance to subject. The AF assist in the body can work well at short distances, but you are limited to about 10 feet at best. With the SB-600 AF assist you can't be too close (I think the limit is 3 feet or so) but it can work further than the body AF assist.

I don't get a chance to use AF assist though because I am back button focusing with AF-C almost 100% of the time and I fortunately shoot in conditions (and using lenses) where I have not really needed it anyway.



Oct 01, 2013 at 04:38 PM







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