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10/25/12 An interesting facet of Long Noise Reduction on the Nikon D800/e Cameras

Nikon D800 menu screen showing the Long noise reduction settings

Nikon D800 menu screen showing the Long noise reduction settings

While working in the woods over the past week, I was finally able to work with the long noise reduction settings on the Nikon D800e.  Long noise reduction can be a very important feature on any digital camera, since most sensors will generate more noise the longer they are left on in an exposure.  You can also pick up  “stuck” pixels when you leave the sensor on for periods longer than 5 seconds.  Stuck pixels will appear as solid red, blue green or pure white when you view the image.  Depending on the age of the camera and the overall time of exposure, stuck pixels can potentially ruin an shot.  Noise tends to be more a factor of overall heat, so again the longer a sensor is running taking a single exposure, the more heat can be generated creating noise, also the ambient can play a role in noise.  If you are working in outdoor temperatures  great than 60 degrees F and high humidity, then noise will then to be a bigger issue.

The best way to reduce stuck pixels is to shoot a “dark frame exposure” for the exact same time as the previous exposure.  You shoot this by leaving the lens cap on the lens and then recording a totally dark frame.  All the pixel information should be black so any stuck pixels can be mapped out since they will show up with either color or pure white.

Most modern digital cameras will do this process automatically by writing a dark frame after the exposure.  The camera will do the actual comparison and then map out the stuck pixel data.  As you can see in the picture at the top of the post, there will be a specific menu setting for this, allowing you to toggle it on or off.  Now here is the rub with the D800 series.

If you set long noise reduction to “on”, then the camera takes the dark frame but you are in essence locked out doing anything else for the duration of the dark frame.  So if you take a 20 second exposure, then after the first exposure you will have to wait for another 20 seconds while the dark frame is written.  You will see a message on the LCD blinking while the dark frame process is working.  While this process is running your camera is disabled from shooting anything else.  This doubles your wait time and that can be a huge disadvantage when you are shooting in waning light.  Most cameras allow for a dark frame exposure from exposures ranging from 1 second  or longer.

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10/20/12 NikonUSA no longer listing D800e on main DSLR product page

Nikon D800e not visible on Nikon USA product page

Nikon D800e not visible on Nikon USA product page

After reading a few posts on various photography forums over the past few days, it seems that Nikon has taken the D800e off of the main NikonUSA product page.  I was surprised to hear this, and thought that it might just be a reader error, however after looking at the page for myself, I found out that yes the D800e has been removed.  Also if you do a search for the D800e on NikonUSA’s main site, you will not find very many references to the camera.

Considering that the D800e has taken top place in the  “products that were announced but were very hard to purchase” category, Nikon may be reacting to some of the bad press that they have gotten for not being able to deliver the D800e.  The camera is still listed on all of the websites that sell Nkon that I checked and you can find it in stock on Amazon.  But it is very interesting that Nikon took the time to remove any references to the D800e on their main marketing website for both the USA and Canada.  

Here is a link to the main Nikon USA site showing the DSLR cameras.

 

10/26/12 Update:

From further information from readers and my own studying, it seems that Nikon has only taken the “focus” off the D800E by taking it off the main NikonUSA product page.  If you dig down deep enough you can find references to the D800E where Nikon Compares it to the D800, showing their tests of image quality.

If you search the Nikon site, you will find few references to the D800E, but in the Nikon Store you can still add it to the cart.  I feel that since Nikon is looking for sales in the 4th quarter, this was more of a business management move.  “Sell what’s on the truck mentality”.  The D800 and D600 on now shipping in normal quantities, but you still can’t get a D800E with any scheduled availability.

 

 

 

 

10/09/12 Further information on the D600 and MC-DC2 & MC-36

MC-30 to MC-DC2 converter

MC-30 to MC-DC2 converter

I have done a bit more research on the D600 and the remote timer issues.  Both the D800 and D600 come with a built in set of timers called:

  • Time lapse photography
  • Interval timer

One of my main goals was to use the D600 in my night photography pursuits.  Over a year ago, I stopped taking just single long exposures on the blub setting, and started to shoot stacks.  An example of a stack, is to shoot over a period of 40 minutes, with a series of 45 second exposures.  For my night photography, I prefer to work with the illumination of the moon, so you really can’t leave the camera open for long periods of time or the sky will just wash out and or you will only pick up the brightest stars.  Stacking allows you to have much more control of your environment also.

In the past with Canon or Nikon, I would use the remotes that had the built in interval timer.  You need to use the timer for two settings, length of exposure and interval.  The interval is always 1 and the exposure varies depending on the amount of moonlight.   Using the Nikon MC-36 remote, this is easy to do.  Using the built in interval timer on the camera is not.  You can set the interval timer to do 1 interval and a certain number of frames, but the time relies on the cameras set shutter speed for the length of the exposure.  Thus the longest exposure will be 30 seconds and most times at night with stacks that is not long enough.  So the built in timer is not an option.  The time lapse timer has the same shutter speed limitation, requiring the camera to not be in blub mode.  However I have found a new solution from the folks over in China that should work.  A converter that allows the MC-36 to plug in to the port where you plug in the MC-DC2.

MC-30 to MC-DC2 converter

MC-30 to MC-DC2 converter

If this works as advertised a photographer should be able to use all of the functions of the MC-36 on the D600.  I have ordered one and will test it soon to make sure.  If it won’t work or all the functions don’t work, then for me all bets are off for the D600.  I will report back as soon as this converter arrives.

10/07/12 Updates to my 10/02/12 Post on the D600 and bracketing issues

10/07/1230—–Thanks to some comments from readers, I have added some more comments to my 10/02/12 post.

I was concerned about the remotes since I wanted to use my MC-36 on the D600.  It has the the inter-voltmeter and interval timer, both critical for night work since I stack exposures.  I realize that the D600 has these features built in, but I had tried them on the D800 and just did not find them to be very reliable.  The few times I tried the built in interval timer and inter-voltmeter the camera with locked up after a short time or just shut off after about 30 minutes (on a 1 hour exposure using 30 second stacks).  I also feel that the D800 is too much camera for night work in that I just don’t need that much resolution and had wanted to move over to the D600 (but use the MC-36 since it give more control).  It’s possible to use the Nikon MC-DC2 through the accessory port and several other wi-fi solutions to fire the camera.  I will reconsider the D600 with the MC-DC2 after I test it for a few evening stacks. 

Many other readers have assured me that in using the Scan Disk Extreme SD cards they are not seeing any slow downs.  I still would prefer to be able to use one of the many Scan Disk extreme compact flash cards.  I don’t like having to carry two separate types of media in the field.

I may even up reversing my concerns on bracketing once I shoot a D600 some more.  I have used the D800 and D800E enough now to realize that the vastly increase Dynamic Range of these camera can totally eliminate the need for traditional need for exposure bracketing.  I quickly realized that for most of my work, I can get great images by just shooting 3 brackets at around +-1.5ev.  Occasionally certain shooting situations may require 4 but that is an exception.  So now I think that Nikon may have given the D600 a better bracketing solution than the +-1.5 on D800 since you can take +-2ev exposure brackets.  I would hope that a firmware upgrade to the D800 might allow for an increase to at least +- 1.5 in the future.   Without a doubt, these new Nikon sensors are revolutionary designs.

10/02/12 Nikon creates bracketing differences between the D800 and D600

I have now taken out a D600 for a quick test spin.  I had hoped that Nikon would not disable too many of the “pro” features that they have with the D800.  Right from the start, I found that Nikon drastically changed the exposure bracketing between the D800 and D600.

Nikon-D600 view from the front

Nikon-D600 view from the front

With the D600, a photographer now only has the option of 3 brackets.  However you can use a larger exposure range between brackets, as much as +2ev.  It may be even a bit more, but I was in a hurry and when I noticed that you can only get 3 brackets per series, I was immediately turned away.  The main issue I have had since January 2009 when I first started shooting with a Canon 5D MKII was the fact that Canon only allowed for 3 brackets and to get 5 or more you had to have a “pro” body like the 1ds MKIII or 1d MKIiv, both of which I have briefly owned.  I figured out that the best solution for the 5D MKII was to just move the exposure manually, but you had to be very careful not to move the body of the camera since then you would get misaligned frames.

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