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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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06/16/12 Popular Photography May have Missed the Key Point in their D800 Review

I have always enjoyed reading Popular Photography’s lab reviews on new cameras.  Over the years I have always found their reviews to be very accurate and straight to the point.  In fact many purchasing decisions I have made have been influenced by reading a review of the product in Popular Photography, so I was surprised after reading the reviews of both the Canon 5D MKIII and Nikon D800 in the July 2012 magazine.   I should also preface this by stating that I have been a 100% satisfied Canon shooter since 1999, and have used their Digital solutions since 2003.  However with the release of the Nikon D800, I have begun a long process of moving back to Nikon.

In the review of the Nikon D800, I felt that Popular Photography missed one key point, and this is very key, the Dynamic Range of the sensor.  The D800 scored 95 in the Dxomark tests, which is the highest score of any Digital Camera ever produced, including the highly placed Phase One IQ180.  The fact that you can underexposed the D800 by as much as 4 stops and still pull up the shadows is an amazing feat.  Where as if you try this with a Canon %D MKIII, you will just get an extreme amount of noise in those same shadows.  To me this capability means that you have so much more leeway when shooting,  You can go ahead and expose for your highlights, (which if you blowout will be always gone) and then pull up your shadows for amazing details.   Again try this with the Canon 5D MKIII, I have and the results are terrible.   The Dxomark score of the Canon 5D MKIII is 81, basically the same as the 5D MKII.  This is very telling in regards to the dynamic range you can expect from the 5D MKIII

Popular Photography seems to be more focused on two aspects of the Canon 5D MKIII which are:

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