Before I begin, I should say that equipment is great, but it doesn’t make a photographer or a great photograph. Cameras and lenses are but tools limited by the skills of the person who wields them, and to a lesser extent the technology used to forge them. In some cases, it was clear that the limitations of my skill set hurt the photos, and not the equipment. I’ll make note of those instances.
I was delighted that LensRentals included the D810 as I was looking at it as a potential replacement or second body to augment my Df.I was doubtful, though, having shot with its predecessor, the D800 before.
Photography is not my primary business, but I get paid more and more frequently, and expect to gross five figures this year from the effort. My Df is getting battle worn after nine months of the 365 Full Frame Project. Getting the right body matters.
The coming D5 is interesting, but way out of my price range given the relatively low amount of income photography garners for me. I like the Nikon D810 a little better than the D750, as I take a ton of landscapes and architectural shots as well as periodic portraits. Plus I already own a D7100 so I am not overly impressed with the 24 Mp sensor. So in my mind, it was a second Df body or a D810.
I found the D810 to be a fantastic camera. The refinements over its predecessor, the D800, were significant enough that I enjoyed using the camera. It was fast with processing speed kicking the daylights out of the Df. The camera worked extremely well in low light situations, including night shots.
When I focused well, the resolution was fantastic. The 36 mp allowed me to capture shots from afar and crop them significantly.
All of these are improvements over the Df. My one real knock on the D800 is that the sensor lacks some of the ability to pick up some light colors, particularly reds, magentas and purples. This was particularly true during the golden and early blue hours, when these colors tend to be subtle.
Don’t get me wrong, I was able to pull some of this color out in Lightroom and when something was obviously red (see snail pic) it came out well. But in comparison to the Df sensor (which is the same as the D4), the colors just did not render as well. This was clear to me as soon as I got home and started taking pics with the Df again, too. Of course, that’s what the D4S (and eventually the D5) offer — the best of both worlds, plus some additional speed and capability.
In the end, I decided to buy the D810 for professional situations. I’ll use the Df still for sunset and sunrise pics as well as for macro pics of flowers. Poor me, two great cameras to rock pics with.
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 ED
This is a fantastic lens that empowered me to get some great pics. Just really flexible and adaptive to situations, and the pics were rendered in a superior fashion. I have rented the 14mm Nikon and the 15mm Zeiss Distagon before, but I really enjoyed the ability to zoom with this lens.
I decided to buy this as wide angle shots are a forte, and I am not so happy with my 20 mm 2.8 AF-D lens from Nikon. My current lens creates symmetrical imperfections in tight situations, which is bad for architecture shots.
Zeiss ZF.2 50mm f/1.4
I can’t rave enough about this lens. I loved it. It was just a beast, great for both portraits and landscapes in some select situations, as you can see from both of these shots. The only issue was my lack of experience focusing manually which produced some blurred lemons (none of which will see the light of Internet day). I soon overcame this as you can see.
I currently use the Nikon 50 mm 1.8, and it does a decent job, but I expect to upgrade at some point, and when I do it will be the Zeiss lens. A big huge thumbs up.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S
Another fantastic lens that yielded a great result. I was thoroughly happy with this lens. I do own the 1.8G version, and found that while a little faster this rental lens did not offer enough of an improvement to warrant an upgrade. I think anyone with the 1.8G will be as happy with that lens as they would with the 1.4G. They’re both great pieces of glass.
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED
I requested this lens for some very specific purposes. I wanted a long telescopic lens to shoot volcanoes from a helicopter and to go whale watching.
In practice, I found the lens to be so big that it was hard to wield without a tripod. And it is a slower lens, so that didn’t help me in the mobile situations produce more shake.
For example this whale was 300-400 yards off the bow of my boat. Focus/sharpness here is my issue, in large part because I was unused to handling the 80-400 mm lens. This is the type of lens real pros use for sports photography and to take pictures of wildlife. Frankly, using it well requires practice, and in my opinion stabilization in the form of tripods.
I already have a 28-300 mm lens, which is much smaller. Given how little I shoot in these scenarios, I feel like my existing lens is sufficient for telescopic use.
What’s Next for My Photography
A big heartfelt thank you to LensRentals for letting me try out this equipment. I really appreciated it.
I have another three months left in the 365 Full Frame project with spring ahead. I’m looking forward to making the most of it. After that, I have signed up for a Santa Fe Photographic Workshop on lighting and portraiture. There is much to learn, and this is the area where I am least happy with my skills. Onward.
P.S. LensRentals provided the equipment to me at no charge. I was not paid by the company, and my reviews are direct and forthright. I have used LensRentals and some of its competitors before. I found the LensRentals experience to be excellent, and intend to use them for my future rental experiences.