As I mentioned the other day on the impromptu portraits post, I picked up a Nikon D4.
I actually ordered it the day it was announced, but ended up canceling the order for lack of excitement about what I'd get over the Nikon D700 I've been happy with for years. But despite having canceled the order, the shop shipped one to me a couple of months later when they finally got stock, and well, not ordering is one thing, but returning is another, so here I am with a D4.
I've used Nikon bodies for years, so many of the basics felt familiar, and with that insufficient head start, I took it with me on a late-night outing with Paul Barr, who had just arrived in Kyoto. I slapped on an f/1.4 lens and set the Auto ISO to go as high as 12k, so I hoped that combination would compensate in the dark evening for my lack of experience with the camera.
(I'd done something similar years ago when I got the D700, as seen in “Impossible Photography: No Light, No Tripod, No Hope. D700 and a 50mm f/1.2”.)
I was to meet Paul on the Sanjo Street bridge (the one featured a few days later in “Kyoto’s Quasi-Annual Flash Flood”), so I just hung around in the pleasant warm evening and snapped whatever went by...
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 7200 — map & image data — nearby photos
though it gives us a peek at the heron that couldn't be seen in real life
Dark scenes kept overexposing, so to maintain a realistic sense of the scene, I had to dial in quite a bit of negative exposure...
This was annoying, and mimicked my experience with the Nikon D700, until I suddenly had an epiphany about exposure that made me feel like a total idiot... something one should learn as the first stop beyond “camera noob”... something that I realized I knew the moment I actually thought about it: the camera attempts to set exposure to create an “average” result, and that works fine in most average situations, but when the scene is particularly bright (e.g. a sunny day over a blanket of snow) or particularly dark (these evening scenes), an overall “average” brightness will be unnaturally dark (resulting in gray snow) or bright (an evening scene that looks almost like day). So, you must dial in some compensation to tell the camera to shoot for an overall brighter or darker result.
I knew this as a textbook fact, and practically speaking I knew to compensate in bright situations, but in my formative years with the D200, it was simply out of the question to take these kinds of evening pictures, so I didn't internalize the textbook knowledge on that side of the scale. When the ability for these night shots arrived with my D700, I remained ignorant, which was simply stupid. Glad to have finally fixed that.
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 12800 — map & image data — nearby photos
The D4 has a bunch of different autofocus modes that I didn't know anything about, but I thought I'd play with them before actually reading the manual. The focus miss in the shot above is actually interesting, I think, when you look at the big version... the lawn and path in the background are rendered with such a nice mood.
The next shot (with even more questionable focus) is much darker, perhaps because of the car headlight that had just entered the scene...
As people walked by while I waited on the bridge, I tried what seemed to be an appropriate autofocus mode for tracking people as they moved nearer. I had mixed results, but this next shot impresses me for the overall feel and exposure in such a dark, complex scene...
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 3600 — map & image data — nearby photos
(actually, straight out of Lightroom, with only a bit of added noise reduction)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/60 sec, f/1.4, ISO 12800 — map & image data — nearby photos
with lots of “negative highlights” in Lightroom to tame the LEDs
There were some other autofocus modes that I tried and it was a total disaster. I got a local tough-guy-poser kid to, well, pose for me, but managed to get only the writing on his sleeve in focus...
After milling around for a while with the camera, Paul and I developed a hearty thirst that required quenching...
We sat at a counter overlooking a little river, with the windows in front of us hinged at the top and opened halfway, leaving the windows as half mirrors in front of the leaves of a tree...
I shot a few more “Kyoto Night Scenes” on the walk home...
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 12800 — map & image data — nearby photos
just past midnight
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image data — nearby photos
in front of their flower shop, which was still open at midnight
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/4 sec, f/4.5, ISO 12800 — map & image data — nearby photos
long exposure while propping the camera on a short light post
I've since sat with the camera's manual and tried the various autofocus modes, and have not been able to make heads or tails about most of them, so I'll have to study more.
My biggest impression with the D4 so far is extreme disappointment. The one feature that I was really really really looking forward to, focal-length-aware Auto ISO, is implemented so poorly as to be essentially useless to me, but I'll rant about that another day.