Nikon D800e - an experiment

Photo of a jungle trekker in Thailand

Every so often one has to undertake an experiment. One has to try something that goes against normal logic just to see if one is wrong. Or more correctly, if there is a better way to achieve something that you have not yet figured out.

I have done quite a lot of experimenting these past couple of years, especially with building DSLR camera traps. Experimenting is expensive! But you learn things, and you get to refine your experiments based on your results and hopefully that will lead, eventually, to getting a shot you are pleased with. A shot that took planning and perseverance but at the end of the day you get to think- that was worth it. It cost me an arm and a leg but it was worth it.

I am about to undertake just such an experiment. Standard macro photography logic states that if you shoot Nikon (note: Canon has the MP-E 65 lens which defeats all Nikon macro logic) then you need to use a cropped sensor (AP-C) camera to get that additional reach of approx 1.5x the full frame equivalent. I am a great believer in this logic. I use "cropped frame" cameras (currently the d7000) to get this additional "reach" in macro photography because I like to see macro shots at more than a 1:1 ratio. Macro shots above this ratio can be truely beautiful but I like to see shots that show me the micro detail in macro subjects (mainly insects for me). At the end of the day I am a nature lover rather than a photographer and seeing macro subjects in full "resolution" is my aim. Viewing sights that I cannot see with mine own eyes is what I aim to capture.

But I have suffered! Nikon's d7000 is a fantastic little camera and it came into my hands after the excesses of much more expensive machines such as the D2x and D3. The d7000 was a revelation as it offered great image quality, a very usable 400 ISO to aid exposure, leeway to crop with its 16 megapixel files and fantastic lightness for yomping around the forest with (try a 20 km yomp with a D3!). It was not without issues as I was attempting to use it in conditions, i.e. wet sub-tropical forests, that it was not designed to operate in. I lost two d7000 cameras in a year to those conditions but still purchased a third! I yearn for a "d7000/D300" replacement with a 24 MP AP-C sensor and a pro-semi pro body - but it has not come to pass. Yet? I still live in hope as I have so much invested in Nikon lens' that a change of camera manufacturer is not something I would consider. Even though the Canon MP-E 65 is a serious pull. 

So what has this to do with an experiment you ask? What have the ramblings of a frustrated aging macro photographer got to do with the title of the post? Well, Khun Suthida at Sunny Camera Silom (whom I buy all of my cameras and lens from because of their fantastic after sales service and support) has been able to get me one the new D800e units a few days early which is going to enable me to do my proposed experiment as I have a couple of days in the forest this week.

I am going to go against everything logic tells me as an insect macro photographer. I am going to ignore that the D800's 36 MP full frame pixel count gives me less, yes that is not a typo - LESS, effective MP than the d7000 for macro. A d800 will give me a tad less usable MP than the d7000 image, taking into account the crop sensor calculation (1.5 x 1.5 / 36 = 16 MP versus 16.2 MP). Against all macro logic I have bought the d800e body and a Nikon TC-20E III teleconvertor to see if I can use the D800e' superior ISO performance and 36 MP sensor to produce macro images of small subjects "better" than my preferred cropped sensor camera, with my existing lens selection (Nikon 105 Macro, Nikon 70-180 Macro, Nikon 200 Macro) 

It will, be a very expensive experiment. But its an experiment I need to make to see if I can improve my macro pictures on a technical level. What will I discover? Will I have made a very expensive error or will I have found a new avenue forward for my own macro photography? Check out the forum to find out my rambling thoughts. 


Photo of an insect nymph in Thailand

 Can the d800e match the macro photographic capabilities of the d7000?


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"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

"An understanding of the Natural World and whats in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment." > Sir David Attenborough

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