ADVENTURES IN LIGHT
PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY: As a member of the Nikon family I was pretty happy when I got invited to test the D5. It's their latest flagship camera which is really the work horse and backbone of their whole new camera range. In a lot of ways people have trouble justifying and spending a significant amount of money to get what is seemingly incremental improvements, but in this case I think the professional photographers really get a pretty big bang for their buck, so to speak.
It's a camera that's probably the best low light camera in the world at the moment. So I wanted to devise a test that would be applicable to the way I work, something that's relevant and more meaningful rather than some sort of scientific investigation that might measure the corner sharpness of something that's totally irrelevant to what I'm shooting.
So in this case it was that I love shooting in the low light, post sunset when you get a really soft even light and quite often I'll usually shoot with a small hand held little Manfrotto LED light. But the only problem that arrives at this time of the day is that you only have a very limited time in which to achieve a number of shots.
With this camera I really wanted to test how it effected that time frame. And in effect, what it did was to produce amazing results at high iso's, which meant that it actually extends that sweet spot for shooting. Instead of just a 10 minute window of just beautiful soft light, it made it into a 15 to 20 minute window, which might not sound much but it's an incredibly productive time.
The increase in the motor drive was really relevant too because I could perform low light shots with sufficient shutter speeds and have a motor drive that's going to capture those moments, and with a model working in this situation, just running along the beach, little things like the exact way her hair is falling across her face and other details, make a huge difference to having a winning shot to one that didn't quite make it and you wish you had a faster machine, so to speak.
Like the high end in anything, it costs significantly a lot more for the very best and then after that it sort of tapers off into a much more even playing field of features and price. It's like, do you want to buy the second fastest racing car or do you want the fastest racing car? The rewards for the fastest racing car go without saying as does this analogy - you get what you pay for and the benefits are the rewards.
This (the D5) is the best work horse camera currently on the market as far as I can see, and that I've definitely used for low light, high speed photography.
400 - 40,000 ISO
The test basically bore out some pretty interesting things. I started shooting at about 400 iso which is nothing ground breaking by anyone's standards but it allows a nice combination of shallow depth of field that I was using fast prime lenses and a fairly high shutter speed, and shooting during these pastel tones, just as the sun had set, then as the light faded out I incrementally increased the iso to around 1600, then 3200 iso.
Pretty much after that in my other high resolution camera (the D810) I don't like going much beyond that range of iso. As you start to see a definite change in the image structure, even though it can go much more beyond that, but as far as I would professionally do, or give a client, I tend to steer away from it.
But with this camera I jumped up form 1600 iso to 3200 iso, and then up to 20,000 iso and it was still fine. And even to 40,000 iso produced totally acceptable results, as it was pretty much dark when I was shooting at the 40,000 iso. The fact that the camera could even focus was remarkable, you know we're talking well after sunset and the results were pretty incredible given the lighting conditions. Normally at this time, I'm well packed up and finished shooting unless you have a whole lot of artificial light involved.
So, the results in the test for me where quite gratifying in the sense that the grain structure/pixel structure held together right the way up through the range of iso changes. The boffins will actually tout of much higher iso's, but I really just wanted to test this camera in a way I would normally shoot, I wanted to keep it real and relevant for my work and my style of photography.
I think the images here pretty much demonstrate that, they are all acceptable to give to a client - I'm totally thrilled with the results and possibilities this camera has and can offer me, it's an incredible advancement by anyone's standards. Beautiful files and I'm really really happy with the results.
SPECIAL THANK YOU to model Jayde Heath and to Nikon and Manfrotto for their contribution in this product test.