From Fuji X-T1 16mpx APS-C to Nikon D810 36mpx Full Frame..

The quest for the best image quality

Like I said in my previous post, I'm not selling my Fuji X cameras. They still have their place, and I use them a lot. But since photography is my main hobby, and shooting landscapes is what I do most, I one day asked myself this question: "Why not try the 'best' camera out there in terms of resolution and dynamic range - that also got plenty of superb quality lenses?"

So, I googled the web, and found out that a medium format camera would be excellent, like the Pentax 645Z. But unfortuneatly, It was way too expensive. So what was the second best out there? Well, Canon just recently launched it 5Ds and 5Dsr models, 50 megapixels cameras. An obvious choice then, and really, Canon has plenty of good glass! 

Moon over Hvaler Islands, Oslo fjord, Norway. ;)

Nikon D810 + Zeiss Distagon 21mm f/2.8 ZF.2, ISO 125, f/11, 30 second exposure. Lee filters. Benro tripod.

At the time I had to make my descision, the Canon 5Dsr wasn't out in Norway. And there were very few tests on the net. I wanted to have the new camera before the end of my summer holiday. Also, I like sensors with plenty of dynamic range since shooting landscapes is my main thing these days.

My Fuji X cameras have rather good dynamic range, but the Canons I've tried through the years, less so. So then another competitor came up, the Sony A7r (mk I that is, the mark II isn't out where I live just yet). But then I read about the shutter sometimes being problematic with causing vibration on the A7r, also issues with the raw files being lossy compressed worried me a bit too, though I knew these things often was blown way out of proportion on the forums. The lack of fast native lenses also made this a "no go".

A Lighthouse at Hvaler Islands, Oslofjord, Norway.

Nikon D810, Zeiss Distagon 21mm f/2.8 ZF.2. ISO 100, f/8, 10 seconds. Lee filters, benro tripod.

The descision

So then what? The obvious choice was the Nikon D810. Largest sensor on the market (along with the Sony that I didn't want), best dynamic range of them all, full frame, no issues with the raw files (like Fuji X in Lightroom, and Sony's lossy compression), huge amount of lenses and with some of the best on the market to choose among, and ISO 64(!) was a biggie for me, execellent auto focusing system, and not too bad frames per second (5 fps - though that was very low on my priority list). Also, being on the market for a year, I figured it had matured and gotten any needed important updates already.

So off to the camera store, I got myself a Nikon D810 and three lenses, the great Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART, and a Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T ZF.2. The reasoning behind these three lenses is that my favorite landscape lens on my Fujifilm X-T1 is the XF 14mm f/2.8. And the Zeiss Distagon 21mm f/2.8 on a full frame camera gives the same framing/angle as the XF14mm on the Fuji crop body.

I also love the angle I get from the XF 23mm f/1.4 on the X-T1, so a good 35mm on the full frame Nikon body was a no brainer - the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART. And what is a camera system with prime lenses without a good 50mm, right? So, I got the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART as well. All these lenses have been given excellent reviews all over the internet, so I figured they would do justice to the Nikon D810's 36 megapixel sensor.  

Somewhere in Jotunheimen, Norway.

Nikon D810 + Zeiss Distagon 21mm f/2.8 ZF.2. ISO 64, f/8, 125 sec. Handheld. 

New challenges

So all is good now, right? I got an incredible full frame camera with primes that cover the angles of my most used primes of my Fuji-X system. There are some challenges with switching systems itself. Like getting to know the menus and the buttons ans such. Also, the Nikon D810 strenght is almost its weakness too. This might sound strange, and you might be right about that. But the incredible sharpness you get in your files from these lenses and 36 megapixels will show you all your mistakes, from camera shake to slight misfocus easier than on a APS-C 16 megapixel sensor.

And, given the larger sensor, you get a shallower depth of field at the same aperture as APS-C cameras. This is probably well known for many considering the switch to a full frame camera, and it was for me too before I got the D810. So it's just something you have to get used to, where you before would get front to back sharpness with an up close object and mountains in the distance at for example f/11, you now must close it down further to perhaps f/16. These numbers might not be mathematicly 100% correct, but gives you an idea about how you must think when you're used to an APS-C sensor like the Fuji X cameras have. And by closing down the aperture further you need longer shutter time or higher ISO to get the same exposure.  

Somewhere not too far from Vinstra, Norway.

Nikon D810 + Zeiss Distagon 21mm f/2.8. ISO 64, f/8, 1/60 sec. Handheld.

Changes in my work flow

And this leads to - tripod, and some other tricks too... With (sometimes) a longer shuttertime, sharp prime lenses, 36 megapixels - camera vibration might still be visible even with the camera on a tripod because of the movement of the mirror and the shutter. These problems are easily solveable by using 2 features: 

1. The mirror up function, which locks the mirror up at the first shutter release press, and fires the shutter after you press it a second time  - at a chosen time by you, enough to make the vibration end. Let's say a couple of seconds. So that removes the mirror movement vibration. To not move the camera, you use either a remote control or set a delay in the camera. 

And 2. By using the electronic first curtain function that solves the problem with the shutter causing vibration since it's already up when the exposure is taken.

Now, how big problems are these vibrations, are they really visible? I guess it comes down to how big you print your files, or how much you crop your files in post, and the shutter time of course. And how much you pixel peep. I have not done any A/B tests myself, at several shuttertimes and so on, but, I tend to use these functions on my landscape shots since I most likely are using a tripod anyway. And then I also want the best I can get out of this system. But when I shoot handheld, I turn it off. Still, I tend to use tripod at faster shutterspeeds than I would with the Fuji X-T1/X100T.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART. ISO 200, f/8, 1/100 sec. Handheld.

 

 

Missing the X-T1 EVF and focus peaking

Another thing that was strange for me was to not being able to see the effect of my exposure settings directly in the viewfiender. On my Fuji X I would instantly see how the exposure would end up just by looking in the viewfinder. But that's not possible on the D810, being a dSLR. Unless I use the back LCD and Liveview of course. But that's not the same as looking through the viewfinder. And when I use the LCD, I miss my tiltable screen from my X-T1. And I miss focus peaking for manual focus both in the EVF and on the LCD screen! I tend to manual focus my lenses for my landscape shots on my Fujis. And focus peaking is a great tool to see if I have everything in focus. 

And I miss the manual controls on the camera body sometimes. Checking the exposure settings at a small LCD on the top of the camera isn't as easy as just looking at the camera body itself. In aperture mode on the Nikon D810 it has happened to me a few times that I have forgotten that I had some exposure compensation set. 

 

Vøringsfossen, Norway.

Nikon D810 + Zeiss Distagon f/2,8 ZF.2. ISO 125, f/5.6, 1/160 sec. Handheld.

Autofocus isn't always perfect with a dSLR either!

Both my Sigma lenses had to be focus adjustet because they misfocus on my D810 body. So, yes I got focus confirmation very fast, but the pictures were all slightly out of focus. And adjusting autofocus is a tedious thing to do. It's better now, but I end up with a few out of focus pictures still. Actually it was easier for me to get things in focus on my Fuji X-T1. And adjusting focus for each lens is something that one never would have to do on the Fuji system since the phase and contrast focus detection system is on the sensor itself.

Somewhere in Jotunheimen, Norway.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART, ISO 64, f/8, 1/125 sec. Handheld.

Am I happy now?

So, switching from the mirrorless Fuji X and its old style camera body and lens system, and its fantastic EVF, to a modern dSLR like the Nikon D810 isn't without its challenges. But the result I get from the D810 when everything is set up right is fantastic! It all comes down to practise, and to getting to know my new gear. I know that. I know one thing for sure, most of my street shots will still be taken with a Fuji X camera, my "doing things with family and friends" camera will be one of my Fuji X cameras. But - my landscape shots and my planned photosessions will be with my Nikon D810. But, man, I would love a Fujifilm full frame, or even medium format, camera!

Nikon D810 + Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART. ISO 200, f/8, 1/60 sec.

Should YOU change from mirrorless APS-C Fuji to 36+ megapixel fullformat dSLR?

Only you can tell. But you must know what you are getting into. It's way more expensive. It's heavier. You will miss features you took for granted on the Fuji X. Like the Wifi, like the in-camera raw conversion. Like the EVF, like knowing your camera settings even before you picked it up and turned it on. Like focus peaking. The tiltable LCD. 

If you can live without these things, and you want the best image quality in terms of dynamic range and sharpness, then... well - if you feel like spending money  - then why not... But you will be challenged... And get a tripod. But if you are into landscape photography I guess you have taht already.

 Still, the files, when I look at them, make me drool. You have so much to work with! So sharp, and so much dynamic range. You can recover A LOT from the shadows - if needed. Or from the hightlights. And if you like using long shutter times for silky smooth water or waterfalls, the native ISO 64 come in handy. 

Hvitsten brygge, Oslofjord, Norway.

Nikon D810 + Zeiss Distagon f/2.8 ZF.2. ISO 64, f/16, 10 sec. Benro tripod.

Another - and better solution?

In many countries now, the mirrorless Sony A7r II is out. The shutter vibration problems from Mark I is gone, or so they claim. It has 42 megapixels, and maybe just as good as - if not better, dynamic range as the Nikon D810. It is lightweight, compared to D810. You can see your exposure in the EVF like on the Fuji X cameras. It has Wifi. Better implemented than in the Fuji X. It has a tiltable LCD sceen, just like the Fuji X-T1. The autofocus is probably way better than the X-T1.

Oh, and it as execellent 4K video recording! (which I don't need). 

But reports on the forums and in some reviews say that it has problems with hot pixels on long exposures - which is something that I do quite often. And it doens't have the lens selection like Nikon and Canon - yet. And Sony still use lossy compression. These three things, hot pixels on long exposures, lack of native lenses and lossy compression made me chose the Nikon D810 and not wait for the Sony A7r II.  Maybe I was wrong in my descision to go for the Nikon, but I will wait a firmware or two and see what Sony does with the hot pixel issue - and raw files, before I get any regrets :)