Nikon D810 Review


When Nikon announced the D800, the camera’s 36MP was a big surprise and quite opposite to Nikon’s low resolution, big pixel trend back then. But it became a big success and the D800 quickly became the camera everyone go for when you want the best picture quality, no matter you are a enthusiast or professional photographer.

At the same time Nikon also announced the D800E, a twin brother to the D800. The only difference was that the filter in front of the image sensor was modified to remove the effect of the antialisiing, and that gave us sharper image. While I’m not too sure what D800E’s E officially really stand for, to me it means “Experimental”. It’s an experiemental product to test the results of removing the anti-alising filter.

So 2 years have passed and it’s time for Nikon’s engineer to show us what they can do to improve the D800, and the new camera is called the D810.


D800 and D810 (right),  similar but different.

“Most of these are actually quite small changes, but when combined together they make the camera feel better and more refined.”

The D810 is largely based on the D800 (and of course D800E). It has the similar weather sealed metal body. In fact, when I first saw the camera, I thought the D810′s body is exactly the same as the D800. But once I picked it up and had a closer look, i realised that’s not the case. The camera feels quite a bit lighter and fits better in my hands. I noticed there is a new “i” button at the back of the camera. The bracketing button that was at the top of the D800 has been replaced by the metering button. The focus mode selector button now has some texture pattern on it. On the left of the camera, the big rubber cover for the connection ports have now being divided into three smaller one so they can be open/close separately. The memory card door is covered by rubber and provides better grip. Most of these are actually quite small changes, but when combined together they make the camera feel better and more refined.

The rubber cover for the connection ports is now seperated into three smaller one. Also notice the new Qc mode

As mentioned earlier, when the D800 was released, Nikon also released a D800E, which outputs sharper photos than the normal D800 (but downside is you have a higher chance of visible moire effect). This was achieved by having a special filter in front of the traditional low pass anti-alising filter which cancels the effect.

Now this time with the D810, there is only one version of the camera and Nikon have completely removed the low pass filter.

In theory, the complete removal of low pass filter should give us even sharper images and I’ve seen some photos on other websites showing the D810 output sharper photos than the D800 and the D800E. But my quick comparison with D800′s RAW files didn’t reveal any difference in terms of image sharpness. So whatever the improvement is, it is quite small and probably not noticeable in most daily photos. On the flip side, I didn’t notice any increase in moire effect caused by the absence of the low pass filter neither.


 The 36MP D810 captures insane details.
Top: Full Photo
Below: Small Center Crop (click on photo to see it at 100%)



“I’m mostly excited about the fact that the minimum ISO that has been decreased to ISO 64 “

While the images from the D810 may not look any sharper than the D800(E), the camera can capture insane amount of details, as long as you have the right lens and settings. But what really excited me is the wider ISO range.
D810′s maximum ISO is increased one stop to ISO 12800 (expands to 51200). Comparing the results with a D800, if you shoot in RAW, D810′s high ISO performance is actually very similar to the D800. But if you shoot in JPEG, thanks to D810′s improved noise reduction algorithm, the high ISO output is noticeably cleaner. But to me, I’m actually most excited about the minimum ISO that is now reduced to ISO 64 (expands to ISO 32). That is around ⅔ stop lower than the previous ISO 100 limit.  I’m excited because finally this allows me to shoot wide open with my f/1.4 lenses under bright sunlight without the need of any external help. Previously I have to either use a ND filter (that means I have to carry multiple ND filters for my different lenses!) or stop down to f/2 to avoid blowing the highlight. Also, when shooting landscape photos, I can nearly double my exposure time for smoother waterfall or sea effect. In the last few years, camera manufacturers have been battling on who can do high ISO the best. As a result, even the entry level APS-C DSLR today have very decent high ISO performance. So while it’s always good to have better and better high ISO performance, I’m even happier to see Nikon shift it’s focus on improving low ISO and other areas that is just as important to us photographers.

The camera’s autofocus system remains the same 51 point system.  Nikon has finetune and improved the autofocus performance. I found AF tracking more reliable than D800 when shooting moving target and performs very similar to the D4s. There is also a new “Group-Area” AF mode that has less chance of missing a smaller target.

The D810 has no problem handling high dynamic scenes

While I do wish the 51 autofocus point can spread out a bit more and not all of the cross type AF point are placed at the center, the autofocus performance is very good and there isn’t really much I can complain about. So let’s see if we will see a new autofocus system when Nikon release the D5 in a few years time?

“I found that I can indeed shoot at slower shutter speed with the D810 and still manage to get a similar percentage of sharp photos.”

When shooting photo with a D800/D800E handheld, most user would use higher than normal shutter speed to avoid image blur caused by camera shake. With the D810, Nikon has redesign the shutter/mirror module and also added an electronic 1st curtain to reduce the internal vibration. I found that I can indeed shoot at slower shutter speed with the D810 and still manage to get a similar percentage of sharp photos. This means I could use lower ISO and get better quality picture.
And because of the new shutter/mirror design, the shutter sound is much quieter and better dampened. It’s almost as quiet as a D7100. While some users may prefer D800’s more crisp and louder shutter sound, the quieter D810 is definitely great if you want to shoot without attracting attention.
The Q (Q for quiet) mode is still available if you want even quieter shutter sound, and there is also a new Qc (Quiet Continuous) mode as well.


The D810 ‘s shutter sound is much more quiet. than all the previous FX cameras. I shot this photo with a 58mm lens and the shutter sound didn’t wake up my newborn baby from his sweet dream.  I wouldn’t dare to do this with my D800.

The camera uses the same metering system as the D800 which is as good as you can get from any camera.  There is a new ‘highlight-weighted’ metering mode, which is designed to preserve highlight detail in contrasty scenes. If you have shot stage/concert photos before where your main subject is always under strong spotlights, you would have found it very hard to get the correct exposure using the normal metering modes. Matrix metering would overexpose your main subject easily. Spot metering and lock the exposure wouldn’t work as well as normally the stage lighting is changing constantly and quickly. This new highlight-weighted metering mode would be perfect for shooting this kind of photos. I also found this new metering mode useful for shooting sunset/sunrise landscape photos so you don’t get completely blown out sun and highlight area.  Now Nikon, how about share some love to us D800 users and release a new D800 firmware with the highlight-weighted metering mode? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t require any additional processing power compare to the existing metering mode.

d810review_09Top: Matrix Metering
Bottom: Highlight-weighted Metering

Live view mode always feel like a last minute added feature on most Nikon DSLRs. While Nikon has improved their cameras’ live view mode quite a bit in the last few years, it is still slow and clunky. I’m glad to tell you that D810’s live view mode is a lot more usable when compare to the D800. Turn on the live view mode is quick and everything in live view mode just works a little bit smoother. Most importantly, taking a photo in live view is a lot faster and doesn’t lock up the camera for 2-3 seconds like other previous cameras. There is also a new ‘Split screen zoom’ display in live view which allows horizons/lines to be leveled precisely. Overall, te whole live view interface is just a lot more refined.  Because of that, I found that I actually used the live view mode a lot more when reviewing the D810.
Now if Nikon can improve the autofocus performance in live view mode and make it as fast as some of the best mirrorless cameras, then the live view mode would be perfect


The new split screen zoom mode is quite handy when shooting landscape

The D810 has a sRAW output option which outputs 9MP raw files. To be honest I’m still not too sure why people want to buy a high resolution camera and shoot in small size as memory cards, storage space and fast computer are so cheap these days. But anyway for those who wants to use sRAW,  thanks to D810′s high resolution sensor, it’s 9MP sRAW is a lot more useful than the D4s’s tiny 4MP sRAW. With a good 9MP image,  a decent size and quality print is possible even after some minor cropping.
I’ve also compared the sRAW and full size RAW file taken at high ISO, and I didn’t see any advantage in picture quality with the sRAW files.

D800’s maximum burst rate is 4fps, this is largely because of the high resolution output. While 4fps is not painfully slow, sometimes I do wish it could go slightly faster. So I’m quite happy when I heard that the D810’s maximum burst rate is increased by 25% to 5fps. Or 7fps if you shoot in DX mode with supported batteries (which requires the optional battery grip). It’s still not a 11fps D4s, but it makes shooting fast actions a lot easier.

Nikon D810 + Nikon 58mm f/1.4 – f/1.4 1/8000s ISO64
This is not a wedding photo, (not wedding season at the moment) but wedding photographers shooting with prime lenses would love the new ISO64 setting!

For people who want to upgrade from a D800, you are lucky because the D810 uses the same battery and same optional battery grip as the D800.  Not only that, Nikon tells us the rated battery life has been improved from 900 shots per charge to 1200 shots per charge. This is probably due to the more efficient EXPEED4 processor and it’s great for wedding or event photographers who need to take thousands of photos per day.

Just like the D800, the camera has dual card slot, 1 SD and 1 CF. I completely understand why Nikon choose this setup.  But after using the D800 for 2 years, I would really prefer a single card format for both slots. Either make it both CF or both SD.  It’s just a lot easier when you don’t have to carry 2 type of cards.

The D810’s 100% viewfinder is pretty much the same as the one on D800. It’s large and bright. But it now has a OLED display panel which has higher contrast and easier to read.

“After using so many cameras and smart devices with touchscreen, I do really want a touchscreen on the D810. “

The camera’s main LCD screen has been upgraded from a 3.2” 921k screen to a 1229k RGBW screen. The increase in dot count doesn’t actually increase the resolution, instead the new screen has better brightness and that makes screen easier to see at outdoor. After using so many cameras and smart devices with touchscreen, I do really want a touchscreen on the D810. Imagine you can just pinch to zoom when reviewing photos, or touch on the screen to select AF position in live view mode. It would make reviewing photos and liveview operation a lot quicker and easier.

D800 (Left) vs D810 (Right)

Just like the D800, the D810 doesn’t have built-in WIFI support. Instead, it requires you to buy the optional Wifi adaptor.  Not only the Wifi adaptor is expensive and more importantly it’s another piece of accessory you have to carry and add externally to the camera. A few years ago when D800 was released this was not too bad but it’s now already mid 2014. Having the ablility to wirelessly transfer photos to other computer or smart devices and to the internet is very useful for both professional and consumer users. Even a lot of compact cameras comes with built-in WIFI these days  so come on Nikon, make the Wifi built-in and make it standard feature for your future DSLRs please.  Similar but maybe slightly less important is the  GPS  receiver for geo-tagging photos.

” if you are a videographer, you will definitely find the D810 a lot more attractive than the previous Nikon DSLRs.”

For the videographers, there are tonnes of improvements for you You can now shoot 1080p video at 60fps, there is zebra display, a new flat picture control for maximum post-processing flexibility, auto ISO is now supported in manual mode, the built-in mic is now a stereo one. You can also record to memory card while simultaneously outputting video over HDMI. While I haven’t really done too much testing on the camera’s video features, but if you are a videographer, you will definitely find the D810 a lot more attractive than the previous Nikon DSLRs.

The camera has many more little touches and improvements here and there that you may not notice straight away. For example, the top LCD displays a looping animation when you are doing a long time exposure. While some are quite minor, they all add up to a more refined shooting experience.



As a D800 user, when the D810 was announced and I read about the press release, to be honest I was not that excited. I thought it’s just a D800s, a small update to the D800 and there are only a few things I really want that my D800 can’t give me.

Now, after using the camera for two weeks, in some way that’s still true. There are a few things I really want, for example the ISO 64, the highlight weighted metering mode, the faster FPS. But there are so many other improvements that individually may not be too important, but when you add them up, the sum equals to a much better camera than the orignal D800.

I’ve used the word “refine” a few times in this review, and this is exactly what the D810 is.   It’s not a revolutionary new camera, it’s not a camera that would WOW us (unless you never heard about the D800), instead the camera is all about refinement.

The D810 has a better image sensor, handles better, autofocus better, responses faster, is more quiet, battery last longer. The camera is just does everything a bit better.

A lot of these improvements are not really noticeable if you just read the spec sheet, but after you spend some time shooting with a D810, you’ll then see the efforts and improvements Nikon has put into the D810.

If you have been thinking of upgrading to a D800 for a while but still haven’t done it, do yourself a favour and go order a D810 now.  It’s not a flawless camera, but it’s pretty damn close.



  • that insane 36MP output!
  • native ISO 64 
  • excellent image quality
  • More quiet and better dampened shutter
  • Much more refined than the D800
  • The new Highlight-weighted metering mode
  • Long list of improvements for video recording
  • Better battery life
  • Refinement!



  • Liveview autofocus speed is still nowhere as fast as the mirrorless cameras
  • A touch screen LCD would be nice
  • No built-in Wifi/GPS
  • The SD/CF dual slot configuration



Sample Photos
All photos RAW ->Converted to DNG and edited using Adobe Lightroom 5.5, to taste. (click on the photo to see a larger version)



 Nikon D810 + Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G - f/2 1/40s ISO12800


d810review_12Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 85mm f/1.4G – f/1.4 1/8000s ISO100



 Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 58mm f/1.4G – f/1.4 1/8000s ISO64


Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 85mm f/1.4G – f/5 1/400s ISO100



 Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS24mm f/1.4G – f/6.3 1/500s ISO64



Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 85mm f/1.4G – f/1.4 1/2000s ISO100


Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 58mm f/1.4G – f/2.5 1/4000s ISO64


 Nikon D810 + AFS 85mm f/1.4G – f/1.6 1/8000s ISO100



Nikon D810 + Nikon AFS 58mm f/1.4G – f/6.3 5s ISO64



Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  

Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo and ProPhotographer magazine.

All photos and text Copyright© 2014 All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Autumn at Cornwall Park

I did a photoshoot for little Lucas recently at the Cornwall Park here in Auckland. It was the middle of Autumn and the Cornwall Park was covered by golden colour leaves everywhere. But here is Auckland so we always have beautiful green grasses and together they created some beautiful background.

This is the second time I took photos for little Lucas, the first time was when he was a chubby little baby. And now he’s already a little boy riding his scooter running around the park. One thing didn’t change is his always happy and smiling face. Lucas was pretty much happy,  smiling and laughing the whole 2 hours we were there. And that makes it so much easier for me :)   So here you go, here are some photos of the happy boy Lucas.


lucas1 lucas2 lucas3 lucas4 lucas5 lucas6 lucas7 lucas8

Panasonic GH4 Review

gh4review1 As a wedding photographer, I’ve worked with a lot of videographers. One of the most popular camera my videographer friends use is the Panasonic GH3. The small size, excellent video quality and affordable price make the GH3 an excellent choice for anyone who wants to capture high quality video and does not want to break his back or bank. Now the Panasonic GH4 has just arrived. It follows the exact same formula as the GH3. A DSLR style camera and heavily video oriented design. And comes with many improvements over it’s predecessor.

I’m not really a videographer, so I would like to review this camera mainly from a photographer’s point of view and also look at the general design of the camera. gh4review7

Flying Turtle? Dog? Popeye?

Panasonic GH4 + Olympus 75mm f/1.8 – ISO 200 1/3200s f/4.5

If you put a GH4 and a GH3 next to each other, apart from the obvious GH3/GH4 logo difference, the two cameras look very very similar. The buttons layout, the menu system, the position of various controls are almost identical to the GH3. This is probably a good thing for GH3 users wanting to upgrade to the latest and greatest. Like the GH3, all the buttons and controls are positioned logically.  Using only one hand to operate the camera is not a problem as most of the controls are located on the right side of the camera. There are always many customisable buttons on the camera. And while I do feel some of the menus could be rearranged a bit better, the user interface works quite well. Compare to most other DSLR/Mirrorless cameras, there are more video settings and Panasonic sees the video settings are just important as the photo settings. gh4review2 gh4review3 As one of the largest micro four thirds camera, the GH4 is still significantly smaller and lighter than any DSLR. The camera’s full size grip makes holding the camera very comfortable and secure. The build quality is very good and definitely doesn’t feel plasticky at all! GH4 is a mirrorless camera and therefore doesn’t have an optical viewfinder. Instead it has a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), and I can tell you the EVF is fantastic!

“This is the first time I somehow feel looking through the EVF is almost like looking through an optical viewfinder”

Not only the EVF is large and  high resolution, colours are accurate and there is virtually no lag. This is the first time I somehow feel looking through the EVF is almost like looking through an optical viewfinder. I don’t feel like I’m looking at a computer display anymore. Normally one of the biggest problem with EVF is that the refresh rate drops significantly and become very noisy when the scene is dark. But I’m glad to say that the GH4 doesn’t seem to suffer too much in this area. The EVF is very usable under most lighting condition.

gh4review6The GH4 handles high dynamic range scenes pretty well  

Panasonic GH4 + Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 – ISO 200 1/200s f/6.3

The OLED LCD screen is pretty big, high resolution and bright. It’s also a touchscreen and is very responsive. Just like the GX7 or GH3, the LCD touchscreen can also be used as a track pad to control the autofocus point when you shooting using the EVF. this is turned off by default but everyone really should turn it on

The GH4’s image sensor is a new 16MP LiveMOS sensor. The processor has also been upgraded to the quad CPU Venus (IX) Engine. It was not too long ago when we were all  impressed how the Nikon D3 can do ISO25600, now the GH4 with a sensor that is only 25% as large as a full frame D3 can go up to same ISO too.

When I was reviewing the Panasonic GX7, I was really quite impressed by it’s image quality and thought there isn’t too much difference between the photos from the GX7 and most APS-C cameras.. The pictures from the GH4 didn’t disappoint me as well. Good dynamic range, nice colours and decent high ISO performance.  Comparing JPGs straight out of camera, GH4’s high ISO performance is roughly half a stop better than the GH3. Adobe still hasn’t support GH4’s RAW when writing this review, and i’m really not a big fan of the included Silkpix software. So all the GH4 sample photos are just unedited JPGs straight out of the camera.

gh4review9ISO3200 is not a problem

Panasonic GH4 + Olympus 75mm f/1.8 – ISO 3200 1/100s f/2.8


” The autofocus is really really fast and accurate. “

Just like the GX7, GH4’s autofocus system is really good as well. The autofocus is really really fast and accurate. There are many AF settings and options for you to play with so there should be something that suit you the most. I especially like how the camera tells you which eye the AF is tracking when you turn on the face detection. Occasionally the camera couldn’t lock your target, this happens mostly when the target has very low contrast or is something that changes shape quickly (like water) but normally if you try again it will be able to lock successfully.  Since it’s a contrast detection system you won’t have the front/back focus problem that most DSLR systems have.


Beautiful Auckland

Panasonic GH4 + Olympus 75mm f/1.8 – ISO 200 1/2000s f/4.5

Low light autofocus performance is very good too. I tried taking some photos at pretty dark places and the camera have no problem locking my target. It just takes a bit longer than normal but it does work very well.. So you can probably tell I’m very happy with GH4’s autofocus system, well, at least when I am shooting static scenes. Unfortunately, using the AFC mode (continuous autofocus) to shoot moving objects is a different story. The tracking speed is a lot slower and does hunt quite a bit. Because of that, the GH4 probably is not the best camera choice for sports photographers even it can do 12fps burst rate. gh4review8

Red Autumn

Panasonic GH4 + Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 - ISO 200 1/1250s f/1.4

At the GX7 launch party last year, I asked the Panasonic representatives about in body image stabiliser (GX7 was the first Panasonic micro four thirds camera that has it). And I was told that from now on, more Panasonic micro four thirds cameras will have in body stabiliser. So I was a bit disappointed that gh4 is not one of them. I have quite a few micro four thirds lenses but none of them have optical stabiliser, so I have to bump up my ISO a lot as soon as the sun goes down the hill. The GH4’s sensor can handle high ISO pretty well but it’s always good if there is a image stabiliser to help me lower my ISO by a stop or two. gh4review4

Which is GH4? Which is GH3?

GH4 uses the same 1860mah BLF19E battery and battery grip as GH3. The battery life is pretty good. For most photo users, I imagine a single battery should be able to last a full day of shooting. Of course it is a different story if you are shooting videos. At the beginning I said this review will be mainly from a photographer’s point of view.  But most people who buys the GH4 will primarily use it for taking videos, so I will also have a look at some of the video improvements as well. gh4review5

“Does the 4k recording really mean anything to us? My short answer is, YES! HELL YES!”

The key new feature of the GH4 is of course 4k recording. But 99% of us don’t have any 4K display at home, so does the 4k recording really mean anything to us? My short answer is, YES! HELL YES! One of the first thing I did with the GH4 was shooting video at 4k. I took some short video clips, at Cinema 4K and 1080p (all-intra) mode. And I played the videos on a Macbook Pro. My Macbook only has a 15” non-retina screen, not even full HD, but playing the two videos side by side there is already a very noticeable difference. The 1080p video looks pretty good by itself, afterall the GH cameras are famous for the video quality, but the 4k video completely smokes it.  The 4k video is just so sharp! Even some of the busiest scenes look amazingly sharp and detailed! And that was just playing the 4k video resized real time using VLC player. If you properly re-render your 4K files to 1080P then play it back on a big 1080p TV, you’ll be amazed how sharp your 1080p TV suddenly becomes! And since the 4k file size isn’t really any larger than the 1080p (the data rate isnt really higher at GH4′s best quality setting), so if you want best quality output, I do really recommend you just shoot at 4k, then you can resize them to super sharp 1080p.  Another benefit shooting at 4K is that you have more flexibility during post processing, with all those extra pixels, you can easily zoom in/crop/apply stabilsation and still maintain high video quality. gh4-gh3-video

The GH4 4k converted to 1080p file is super sharp. Click to see the full size crop comparison  (Note: GH3 was set to a different WB setting)

The GH4 can also do 1080p at 96fps, that’s 4 times the normal 24fps speed. This allows you to create some nice slow motion videos But 4k and 96fps are not the only changes in the video department, there are a lot other changes and improvements as well. For example, focus peaking and zebra (with user selectable colour) are now possible and the autofocus in video mode seems to perform better too. I was using a class 10 SD card during the review and I had no problem with recording videos at all the different settings I’ve tried including 4k. So while it’s always good to get a faster card, it’s not a must if you plan to record 4k videos. For the very serious videographers, Panasonic has also made a YAGHE base unit which gives you 4:2:2/10bit four SDI output and 2 XLR audio sockets. I didn’t have a chance to play with one so can’t comment on it. What if you want to save the trouble and shoot at full HD instead? I have compared the 1080p video from GH4 and GH3, and while I won’t say there is a huge difference between the two, the GH4 video is sharper overall and resolve a bit more fine details. It also handles high ISO slightly better than the GH3 (approx half stop improvement). But really just shoot at 4k then resample to 1080p if you buy a GH4!


As the 4th generation GH camera, the GH4 has evolved to a very mature camera for both video and photo shooters. The body and user controls are well designed. The videos (which we haven’t talk too much in this review) are fantastic and now with the option to record 4k video straight out to the internal SD card, it’ll definitely become videographer’s favourite camera. While the camera is quite often viewed as a “video” rather than “photo” camera, it is actually also a very decent photo camera with good autofocus system and image sensor to support it. What might be missing is the camera looks just a bit too much like the boring DSLRs and doesn’t have the more attractive body like the GX7. But if you are someone who mainly interested in capturing good quality videos and photos rather than how your camera looks, the GH4 is an excellent choice .


  • Amazing 4k video, even if you don’t have a 4k display
  • Good build quality
  • Very fast autofocus speed (single AF mode)
  • Decent image quality
  • The EVF is awesome


  • AFC (Continuous autofocus) is not too suitable for sports/fast actions
  • No in-body stabiliser
  • The body doesn’t look as attractive as other mirrorless cameras

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is and his facebook page is

Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (

All photos and text Copyright© 2014 All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Nikon D4s review

Nikon has recently announced the Nikon D4s, an update to it’s 2 year old flagship professional DSLR Nikon D4. We have borrowed one from our friends at Nikon NZ and have been shooting day and night with it for the past week. So do we like it? Is it better than the original D4? Here are our thoughts and comments about this latest flagship camera from Nikon.


If you are reading this review,  chances are, you probably know quite a bit about the Nikon D4. But in case you were living in a cave for the last 2 years and know nothing about the D4, the Nikon D4 was released in Jan 2012, replacing the highly successful D3s. The D4 basically followed the same formula as it’s predecessor, a full size, high speed professional DSLR with tank like build quality. It has a full frame (FX) 16MP sensor and has amazing high ISO performance. It was also the first Nikon flagship camera to have full HD video recording capability (D3s can only do 720p). Now two years later, here comes the D4s, an updated version with improvements in many areas. Here is a summary of some of the changes:

- New image sensor, maximum ISO increased to 409600
- EXPEED 4 processor with more processing power
- Improved autofocus and new group AF mode
- Maximum burst speed of 11fps with continuous autofocus
- 1080p 60 video recording
- Spot white balance
- Small RAW image output option
- Bigger battery

There are many other changes as well, for example, the ethernet port speed is now increased to 1000Mbps and there are some improvements to the time lapse feature but to be honest we didn’t have enough time to go through every single improvement during our review period. So, we’ll focus on some of the main changes and also the general performance and feel of the D4s in this review.

“The whole camera feel very solid, very tough and build quality is simply excellent.”

Just like its predecessor, the new Nikon D4s is a full size professional DSLR. This flagship camera has a magnesium alloy frame and everything else is made of heavy duty material. The whole camera feel very solid, very tough and build quality is simply excellent.

Overall the body design is mostly the same as the D4 but there are a few minor improvements in the ergonomic design. For example, the 2 joystick at the back feel slightly better. The main grip has been redesigned and should fit and feel better when you held it in your hands. Because of that, your hands just wouldn’t feel tired easily when holding the D4s for long period, even with a heavy lens attached. In comparison, the secondary/portrait grip is a bit smaller. It still not bad but just not as good as the fantastic primary grip. All the controls and buttons are logically placed and you should be able to adjust pretty much all the common settings easily and very quickly. Overall D4s’s ergonomics is just fantastic and there isn’t much you can complain. This is very important as thousands of reporters, photojournalists, sports photographers around the world will be using their D4s as their main work camera everyday and a friction of second delay could be enough to cost them a priceless photo opportunity.

d4s_2D4s’s ergonomics is just fantastic


“I found myself keep wanting to take a few more photos so i can listen to that wonderful shutter sound”

The D4s has a very crisp and beautiful shutter sound. It may sound like a trivial thing but just like how a sports car’s engine sound can make or break the ultimate driving experience, the shutter sound is big enough to affect how I feel about a camera. When reviewing this camera, I found myself keep wanting to take a few more photos so i can listen to that wonderful shutter sound. Oh the camera sounds like a machine gun too when firing at the maximum frame rate.

As a professional camera, the D4s has full weather seal to protect it from bad weather conditions. While I have not really tested the D4s under heavy rain, I’ve previously used my D700, D800 when it was pouring under many occasions with absolutely no problem at all. So I can only imagine D4s can handle bad weather even better. Just remember to use it with a weather sealed lens as well.

Following the Nikon tradition, this updated “s” model’s image sensor output resolution remains identical to the original D4 at 16MP. But it is of a new design, and combined with the new and more powerful EXPEED4 processor, it allows the camera is output cleaner images and have better high ISO performance. As a result, the maximum ISO has been increased one stop to astounding 409600! Yes it’s almost half a million ISO. At low ISO, the image quality is very similar to the D4 as it was just very clean, with nice colors and dynamic range already. But as we increase the ISO, then we notice how good the D4s’s high ISO performance really is, especially the JPGs straight out of camera.

d4s_sample_13When shooting with a D4s, you very rarely need to worry about if the scene is too dark. Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2 1/160s ISO 2200


“ISO25600 is the new ISO800!”

It was not too long ago when I was shooting with a D200, I’ve to limit the ISO to 800 or below to get decent image quality. With the D4s, anything shot in four digit ISO range are just great. And ISO25600 is the new ISO800! Yes ISO25600 maybe a bit noisy, but the colour, contrast all both remain at very acceptable level! In fact, photos taken at pretty much any 5 digit ISO range still look alright after a bit of noise reduction. Once you entered the six digit ISO range (i.e. ISO102400+) then the image quality start to drop very quickly. Having said that, I have a few photos shot at six digit ISO that is still usable. Not great, but still usable.
So while you may not need to take photo at ultra high ISO all the time, with a base ISO at ISO100, the D4s has over 10 stops of usable ISO range (ISO100 – ISO51200+). This extreme wide ISO range opens up a lot of possibility and flexibility. It also allows photographers to take photos at place/time that was simply impossible before. For example, you can now shoot with a smallish aperture (so the DOF isn’t too shallow) under light low without any camera flash.

d4s_4So, you tell me, who is the Dark Lord?

The 51 point Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus system is based on D3’s 51 point autofocus system and many other high end Nikon DSLRs. Nikon has improved it when they release the D4 and now with the D4s and the more powerful EXPEED4 processor, Nikon has refined the AF system again to improve the accuracy and speed. This autofocus system has being well tried, tested and proven to be very reliable and the latest version works great on the D4s. When shooting in AF-S mode, it is more snappy and gives you a higher accuracy especially when shoot with fast prime lenses at maximum aperture. It works very well under low light too just like the D4. But what seems to be most improved is when I was shooting In AF-C mode, the continuous focus just reacts faster, has less chance of tracking the wrong target and the overall successful rate is just noticeably better. I’ve spent quite a lot of time testing the AF-C performance and I was more than impressed when I review the photos on my computer. As long as you can tell the camera what exactly you want to focus when you start, the camera would do a pretty good job in following your target. There is also a new group AF mode, which basically uses your selected AF point plus four surrounds it. This new mode is quite useful when you want to track some small or unpredictable objects.


The autofocus tracking works very well even under challenging conditions. Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – AF-C 3D Tracking – f/2.0 1/1600s ISO 100

The 91k pixel RGB metering system is basically the same as the D4. I noticed there is a new option in the settings menu that allows user to specify whether he wants to prioritise the exposure using the detected face or not.

Another pretty handy new feature is spot white balance. Unlike the normal custom white balance feature which tries to measure white balance from the whole frame , the new spot white balance allows users to manually measure white balance from a very small white or gray portion of the frame in liveview mode. It makes manual white balance measurement a lot easier as you don’t need a large white/grey object anymore.

“…following object when shooting at 11fps is actually pretty easy.”

D4s’s burst speed has been increased to 11fps with continuous autofocus. When shooting in burst mode, there is usually quite a long blackout time (i.e. time when the viewfinder is completely black) between shots and that makes it really hard to pan your camera correctly. But with the D4s,  I was quite impressed that the blackout time seems to be minimal and following object when shooting at 11fps is actually pretty easy. And yes continuous focus works very well even when shooting at maximum speed.
The camera’s 200 full size JPG image buffer means there is enough buffer to capture a 100M sprint race from start to end and a few more seconds to spare.

The original D4 has two memory slots, one is a XQD and one is a CF. XQD is the new card format and it is supposed to be the new format for professional users replacing the CF cards. The D4s uses the same XQD + CF dual slots configuration so its a good news for existing D4 users and also photographers upgrading from the older cameras such as D3s. My only concern is that it’s already 2 years since the D4 release and there still isn’t another DSLR that uses XQD cards. (the only other device that uses XQD is the Sony PXW-Z100 video camera) Hopefully there will be more cameras with XQD support soon.

You can now save a small RAW file with the D4s. While all Nikon DSLR allows you to output to small JPGs, the D4s is the first Nikon to have a small RAW feature. The small RAW file is half the width and half the height of the full size image is the size is approximately 4MP (in 3:2 FX mode anyway). While I am not too sure what kind of user would benefit most from this new small RAW format, it’s always good to have more options and it appears the small RAW also improves the high ISO output file as well (compare to downsizing the full size image yourself). Hopefully the rumoured D800s will have a 9MP small RAW output option as well?

d4s_3I AM D4s

Battery life is never a problem with any DSLRs especially Nikon professional DSLRs. Having said that, Nikon paired the D4s with a new bigger EN-EL18a battery. This new battery has 25% more capacity than D4s EN-EL18. During the whole review period I’ve only recharged the battery and I’ve took a lot of photos, a few videos and spent a lot of time going through the menu, trying out different settings and reviewing a lot of photos.  And before someone says not another new battery again, the EN-EL18a is compatible with the original EN-EL18.

Nikon has also made a few improvements to D4s’s video features. The camera can now capture 1080p video at 60/50fps. You can get the camera to record to internal card and output to external uncompressed HDMI output simultaneously. You can also select the audio range and level for your video recording. However there is still no zebra/focus peaking display on the LCD screen.  Unfortunately due to time constraint, we’ve only briefly use the video feature.



The original D4 is an amazing camera, it’s image quality, autofocus system,  metering, handling, build quality..etc are  all pretty flawless even when judged by today’s standard.  And now the D4s brings a lot of improvements over the original model.  Better image quality, faster, better autofocus, better ergonomics, better video, a lot of better.  While none of them are really revolutionary, together they make the D4s a much better and even more mature camera.  It raise the bar of what a flagship camera should be like.

So should you upgrade to D4s? This is always a tricky question to answer. If you are a D3/D3s user, I guess my answer would be yes. The improvement in the autofocus system and the better overall image quality are two reasons big enough for you to upgrade. If you are a D4 user, now this becomes harder, the D4s is a better camera, there is no doubt about it. But fundamentally they are still the same camera, just one does pretty much everything better. So if you need or want absolutely the best camera, upgrade it. If not, you really need to see how many improvements would benefit you and work out the cost vs benefit yourself.

In our Df review (, we said if Df was a car, it would be a classic sports car re-released with a modern engine. So what about the D4s?
If D4s was a car, even though it has virtually the same engine (image sensor) as the Df, it would be a completely different kind of car. The D4s would be a latest 4WD turbo racing car that comes with every latest technology you can think of. It’s super fast, it’s super reliable and it’ll help you release all your potential!

Nobody would be disappointed by it’s performance as it’s really the ultimate choice.



  • Amazing high ISO performance
  • Excellent autofocus system
  • Tough as tank build quality
  • 11fps burst rate baby!!
  • Excellent Ergonomics
  • That shutter sound!



  • Weight and size (but it’s a nature of full size professional camera)
  • I have to return it after the review


Sample Photos
All photos RAW -> JPG using Adobe Lightroom 5.2, edited to taste.

d4s_sample_01Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2.0 1/800s ISO 100


d4s_sample_08Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G – f/4 1/50s ISO 2000


d4s_sample_05Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR – f/2.8 1/2500s ISO 400


d4s_sample_07Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/5 1/320s ISO 91228


d4s_sample_09Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR – f/2.8 1/8000s ISO 400


d4s_sample_10Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR – f/5 1/5000s ISO 800


d4s_sample_03Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2.0 1/5000s ISO 100


d4s_sample_04Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2.2 1/640s ISO 100


d4s_sample_06Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2 1/320s ISO 2200


d4s_sample_12Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2 1/200s ISO 720

d4s_sample_11Nikon D4s + Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G – f/2 1/250s ISO 100



Nikon D4s + Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC – f/2 1/250s ISO 2000

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is and his facebook page is

Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (

All photos and text Copyright© 2014 All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Making of the welder Lego photo

If you follow my facebook page, you probably know one of the little project I work on is photos of various Lego minifigures.

I posted up a welder Lego photo about a week ago, and asked if anyone would be interested to see how I created the photo. Some of you said yes, so here is the article to show you how that photo was created.

Just like taking almost any picture, first thing I need is always an idea, a story, a picture in my head, and this is especially true for my Lego pictures. The idea could come from anywhere. Sometime I got an idea from a movie, a book, or someone else’s photo. This time, I found this interesting looking computer parts from a pile of old computer equipment. I don’t really know what it is but guessing it’s from an old Mac server as the memory modules on it have some big heatsink attached. A picture of a robot Lego inside a factory suddenly appeared on my head. That evening I got a bit of free time so I decided to try create the photo that was in my head since the morning.


Don’t really know what exactly it is, but it doesn’t really matter anyway

My original idea was to use a robot Lego but I quickly changed my mind when I saw this welder Lego in my minifigure collection. I just felt the welder would suit the photo more. Now I got an idea, a Lego and the prop, the hardest part of creating this photo is solved.

lego_welder_01Okay Mr Robot, I promise you’ll have your turn next time!


The next step is to figure out what’s the best way to put everything together to create a visually interesting photo. Normally I would already have a photo in my head and I’ll start with it. Sometimes it would work and I can move to the next step straightaway.

lego_welder_03This is the photo I had in my head, but  once I took a test photo I found that it doesn’t really work

But this time, the photo that was in my head (the Lego standing on the motherboard, in front of the RAM slot) doesn’t really work, so I tried a few other composition, about 15 minutes later and tried a dozen of different camera angle and setup, I finally got something I’m happy with.


A bit better, but nah, still doesn’t really like it

lego_welder_05After trying a number of different setup, I was finally happy with this composition.

 Now I found the composition I want, I put the camera on a tripod and fixed the camera angle. The next step is to figure out how to light the scene.

Lighting is very important in my Lego photos and usually I want complete control of how the scene is lit. I turn the camera into full manual mode, and adjust the settings shutter speed/ISO/aperture to kill all the ambient light.

lego_welder_06With the photo virtually black, I can then decide how to light up the scene myself.

I want the background to have some kind of mystery red glow, maybe it’s a military factory that makes secret weapons? Or maybe it’s a submarine’s engine room? Anyway I put a speedlight with a red colour gel to the camra right pointing towards the scene. I did a few test shots and then decided to add a little softbox to soften up the red light a little bit. This is what I got.

lego_welder_07 Next I added another speedlight directly above my scene. I want it to look like there are some overhead spotlights so I use no colour gel or any modifier this time.

lego_welder_08This is how the picture looked like with with the 2nd light added.

With two speedlights added, the picture was starting to take shape. But I thought it was still missing something. I wanted to add a bit more mystery atmosphere to the photo therefore I added a 3rd speedlight to the camera left with a blue colour gel.


With the three speedlights lighting up the scene from different angle. I got roughly what I want, but there were still lots of thing can be improved. For example, when I first started, I’ve removed the RAM from the 2nd RAM slot as I thought it would make the RAM the Lego welder standing on look like a deck or something. but I found the missing RAM at the bottom of the picture made the composition slightly unbalance so I added the RAM back to the 2nd slot



Oh yeah the circuit board is sitting on my Tamron macro lens’s lens hood

I also felt the lighting could be better so I spent another 15 minutes adjusting the speedlights and the photo below shows you how the final setup looked like.


I also played with various aperture setting, in the end I picked f/5 so the computer circuit board is slightly out of focus and you can’t tell easily that the background is just a normal electronic circuit board.  This is the photo I got in the end.


Nikon D800 + Tamron 90mm Macro Lens – ISO100 1/250s f/5

3 remote speedlights: 2 X Nikon SB900 + 1 x Nikon SB600  controlled by Phottix Odin triggers.

I then loaded the photo into Adobe Lightroom and this is the final photo I got after post-processing.


While every photo is different and may require different techniques or tools, the process of creating the photo is fundamentally the same. You started with an idea,  then build up your scene one step at a time until you get exactly what you want. Sometimes things didn’t work out straightaway and I might have to go back to the drawing board and re-think from the start. But as long as you keep trying and try to understand what is missing and what is not working, you’ll get the photo you want eventually. I hope this article can give you a bit of inspiration on how to create some interesting photos. And If you have any questions re this, feel free to contact me on my facebook page:

Kodak Professional Gold Award 2013 – 2 Gold Awards

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve recently received 2 Gold Awards from the 2013 Kodak Professional Gold Award. Kodak Professional Gold Award is a competition open to all professional wedding and portrait photographers and I am extremely honored to receive 2 gold awards this year.

Below are my two award winning images. Both of them are from Lilly and Steve’s wedding. You can find more photos from their wedding at the Riverhead here.



Nikon Df Review


“Taking photos with the latest cameras is a bit like driving a modern sports car with semi-automatic gearbox, launch control, traction control and all those computer assisted technology.”

We are now living in the insta-photography age. People want to take photos instantly and with minimal efforts and modern cameras heavily depend on electronic automation. Taking photos with the latest cameras is a bit like driving a modern sports car with semi-automatic gearbox, launch control, traction control and all those computer assisted technology. It’s fast and it’s very easy, but it does not necessarily give you the most rewarding experience. If you are a driver who enjoy driving rather than just getting to the finish line in shortest time, you may feel like you lost a lot of fun with all those modern technology and design, compare to the oldies where everything is very simple and manual .

If you feel the same, you will probably be interested in the Nikon Df.


The Df kit comes with a special edition 50mm f/1.8G lens

The Df is Nikon’s latest full frame DSLR. It’s quite an usual camera and Nikon uses “Pure Photography” as the slogan for the camera. This is the company’s first DSLR that doesn’t follow the usual D then some number naming convention (e.g. D90, D800, D4) as it’s doesn’t belong to any of the normal Nikon  DSLR lines.

The Df is a fusion of modern technology and old style and control. The retro styled body resembles the F2 and F3 series SLR cameras from 1970s and 1980s.  Internally it shares some of the latest technology from the latest Nikon DSLRs. Nikon told us the Df is their smallest full frame DSLR. However, it’s more angular design makes it look bigger than it’s actual size. When I first saw the camera. I put a D800 next to it immediately to compare the size as I thought the Df looks slightly bigger than a D800. Of course Nikon didn’t lie and the Df is the smaller camera.

The camera comes in two colours,  silver or black. Silver one pays homage to Nikon ‘s traditional film SLR camera and is probably the signature colour for the Df  But personally I prefer the black one’s understated look and the black finish seems to have a slightly better feel than the silver Df.

Choosing the right setting and rotating the dials between each shot give you that wonderful feeling that is long lost in this DSLR age”

At the top of the camera, there are separate metal mechanical dials for setting the shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO. The design and nature of the dials mean you will never be able to change the settings as fast as a normal DSLR. You have to slow down and think. Choosing the right setting by rotating those beautiful dials give you that wonderful feeling that is long lost in this modern DSLR age. You feel like you are the one that is controlling the camera.



The mechanical dials are beautiful

If you really really want, you can configure the camera so it can be used like a normal DSLR and shoot without using those dials at the top. But why would anyone buy a Df and not use those attractive dials?

“when Nikon was designing the DF, they have to sacrifice ergonomic for that retro style look and control”

Camera manufacturers have spent a lot of time and effort on body design and all modern cameras have excellent ergonomic design. Pretty much any DSLR would fit into your hands nicely and all those multi-purpose controls are designed to allow you to change settings as quick as possible. Unfortunately what it means is, Nikon have to sacrifice ergonomic for that retro style look and control when they were designing the Df. For example, Df’s main grip, like the old film SLR, is quite small. This makes holding the Df not as comfortable as holding a modern design DSLR with full sized grip.  My hand would be really sore if I have to shoot a full day wedding using a Df. But for more causal use (which is what Df is designed for), it’s not too bad.

The top LCD screen is pretty small and simple. It only display the most important information such as the remaining photos and battery life.  There is no AF point, no output format, no WB info. To illuminate the LCD top screen, you have to press that little button next to it, just like a lot of the SLR cameras back in 1990s. Just one of those little nostalgic touch by Nikon.

While the front and top of the Df have the retro design, the back of the camera looks just like a D610 with it’s large LCD screen, directional pad and array of buttons. It means any existing Nikon DSLR users would feel right at home, but personally I would love to see a more retro and simplified design at the back, to give the whole camera a more consistent look and feel.

Apart from the silver colour, the back of the Df looks very similar to the “normal” Nikon DSLRs 

Df’s retro theme doesn’t stop at it’s body style and controls, Nikon has included a retractable AI coupling tab which means the camera can accept the old pre-Ai Nikkor lenses (pre-1977) as well as the modern age Nikkor lenses. The older Nikkor lenses is perfect match to Df’s retro body style!


 The Df looks the best when paired with an older Nikkor lens


“it make perfect sense the Df uses D4′s 16MP sensor”

The Df shares the same full frame sensor and EXPEED 3 processor as the flagship camera D4.  As mentioned earlier, Df supports all the older Nikkor lenses even the pre-Ai one. I imagine a lot of users will be using the camera with those old lenses which has lower optical quality, no VR and maybe  manual focus.  So it make perfect sense the Df uses D4′s 16MP sensor as it would not reveal every single tiny artifact in your photo as clearly as a high resolution sensor would do .

D4 is famous for it’s high ISO performance, and Nikon might have made some more improvement to the sensor/processing when they were designing the Df as DxOMark reports Df’s high ISO performance is even better than D4. The Df is the best high ISO performance camera they have ever tested. During the review, I spent a lot of time trying out the camera’s high ISO performance, anything under ISO 6400 is not even testing the camera’s high ISO capability. When we go into 5 digits ISO region, then we start to see some noticeable image degradation. At ISO 12800 the picture quality is still pretty good and ISO 25600 (Hi 1) is what I would normally go up to to maintain reasonably good picture quality. Having said that, I would not hesitate to push to ISO 51200 (Hi 2) or even 102400 (Hi 3) if I really want to get a photo in a dark place. Photos took at those crazy ultra high ISO are noisy with poor colour and contrast, but with a bit of post processing, they are still perfectly usable for web or even small prints.


Photo of my daughter taken at Hi3 ISO setting, yes that is ISO 102400!

One controversial feature, or missing feature with the Df is the lack of video recording. You cannot take any video at all with the Df. Why take away a big feature that won’t cost much to implement? Maybe it’s to match Nikon’s pure photography theme? Maybe it’s to help clean up the camera design a bit? Or maybe Nikon knows whoever buying a Df should at least have one or two camera that can take video?

The camera has the same 39 point AF system as the D600/610. While I would love to have the same 51 point AF system from D4 (who wouldn’t?), in real life I found the 39 point AF system more than enough for the type of photos people would take with the Df. I mean, no one would buy a Df to shoot a basketball game or formula 1 racing right? So apart from the fact that all the 39 AF points are located quite close to the center of the frame, there isn’t much to complain about this AF system. It’s pretty fast and reliable.


The 39 point AF point is pretty fast and accurate

“With great power, comes great responsibility”.

Although the camera doesn’t have any AF assist lamp, the AF works reasonably well under low light without any external assistant. But  “With great power, comes great responsibility”. With the camera’s amazing low light performance, there were quite a few times when I was in almost pitch black places, I knew I can still get some decent shots by crank the ISO to six digit region, unfortunately the AF system just can’t see it’s target and failed to focus. To be fair, I can’t really blame the AF system as it was really really dark and no human made DSLR can autofocus when it’s so dark. But it just highlights the fact that the latest full frame sensor’s low light performance is so good that the autofocus system just can’t keep up. Camera manufacturers really need to improve autofocus system’s low light performance significantly to fully utilise the sensor’s amazing low light performance. Maybe Nikon’s R&D is already working on some new hybrid active/passive AF technology that works in absolute darkness?


Df shooting dance under low light – ISO 51200 f/2.5 1/500s

Yes Df’s autofocus has it’s weakness and limitations, but as long as you understand what they are and work around with it, you can get pretty good results from it. What actually disappointed me is the absence of split prism focusing screen for manual focus lens user. While there are still the usual green dot/arrows in the viewfinder can guide you to get the focus correct, they are not the most accurate nor fastest manual focusing tool. One of the biggest selling point of the Df is that it accepts the pre-AI manual focus lenses. So a lack of dedicated manual focus aid really surprised me and is my biggest disappointment about this camera. 

I was a bit annoyed that the Df comes with the EN-EL14 battery that is normally used in the small DX DSLRs, not the larger EN-EL15 that comes with the D610 or D800. But when I opened Df’s battery door,  I can see why the reason. Df’s small grip design means there simply isn’t any space for a larger battery. Fortunately Df’s battery life isn’t too bad at all. With a single charge, I can easily take a few hundred photos including reviewing the photos, playing with liveview quite a bit, and also play with different settings in between the shots, that is very similar to what I can get with the D800 and the EN-EL15 under similar usage pattern.


Behind the battery door is the EN-EL14 battery

Some critics complain about Df’s price and say it is an overpriced camera.  Is it really an overpriced camera?

Df is an expensive camera, it is a premium consumer DSLR camera, there’s no doubt about it. But is it overpriced?

Internally, the camera shares the same sensor and processor as the flagship camera D4 and both camera can output identical quality photos. While Df is missing some of the features such as video recording, D4′s tank-like build quality, dual card slot (but you get the more common SD card slot on the Df)  and super fast frame rate, in return you get that special retro style design and controls, pre-AI lenses support and also a 50% discount compare to the D4.  So is the Df really an overpriced camera? I wish the camera could be a bit cheaper so it would be a bit easier for me to convince my wife that this is the last camera I need in my camera cabinet. But no I don’t really think it’s an overpriced camera, just the ability to capture usable photos at five to six digit ISO range alone pretty much worth the Df price tag in my opinion.

“If the Df was a car, it would be a classic sports car re-released with the latest engine upgrade”

After using the camera pretty much everyday for 2 weeks, it becomes really clear what the Df really is.

If you are a amateur who want a good, easy to use  full frame camera, or if you are a professional photographer wanting a camera you can use whole day non stop, the D610 or D800 (or the D4) would be the safer choice.  And they would most likely be disappointed if they buy a Df, because the Df  simply is not targeting  most ordnary users. The Df is designed for a very niche market, the DF is designed for a very special group of photographers.

The Df is for photographer who doesn’t just love taking beautiful photos, but also enjoy the whole process of capturing a photo. Photographer who would take his time when taking photo. Photographer who would pause, think, then click the shutter button and enjoy every second of it.

If the Df was a car, it would be a classic sports car re-released with the latest engine upgrade. It still has all those old quirky design that you either love or hate. For most people, driving a modern sports car would be be faster, easier and probably make more sense.  But if you love that classic look, feel and raw control, this reborned classic is definitely one of the most exciting camera release this year.

While Df is designed for a niche market, it is a very important product for Nikon. If Df becomes successful (which I think it will be, judging by the number of people I know that have ordered one already), then we will probably see a Df2 or similar products in the future. It will also be  a green light for Nikon to create more cameras outside their normal product lines.

Dear Nikon, if you are really designing the Df2, please consider take this pure photography concept one step further and create us a pure manual camera.  I don’t mind if the FPS is lower, the camera doesn’t have live-view, HDMI output, postprocessing filters, face detection, weather seal, wifi connection..etc.  Remove the optional modern control completely and give us a camera for a small group of photographers who wants that basic manual mechanical control and feel, something like a FM2 with an electronic sensor would be pretty amazing. :)



  • Amazing picture quality
  • Unbelievable ultra high ISO performance
  • Retro style design and control
  • Good battery life despite the small battery



  • No proper manual focusing aids
  • Design of the rear of the camera is not consistent with the rest of the camera


Sample Photos  

 (All photos RAW -> JPG using Lightroom edited to taste)

NikonDfSample-1Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G   f/1.8 1/320s ISO 50


NikonDfSample-5Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G  f/3.2 1/100s ISO2500


 Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G    f/1.8 1/250s ISO100

NikonDfSample-8Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G  f/2.8 1/125s ISO 6400

Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G   f/1.8 1/250s ISO100

Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G  f/2 1/125s ISO100

NikonDfSample-9 Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G  f/1.8 1/320s ISO 2500

NikonDfSample-4 Nikon Df + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.8G  f/2.8 1/4000s ISO 100



Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is and his facebook page is

Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (


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Lilly and Steve at the Riverhead – 2013 Kodak Professioal Gold Award winning photos

I’ve known Steve for many many years so when he told me he’s getting married and asked me to be his wedding photographer, I was so happy and was really excited about it!
Only minutes later when I checked my calender, then I noticed I already got another wedding booked on that exact same date. I felt really quite bad when I told Steve I won’t be available that day.
A few days later, Steve and Lilly came back and said they are considering to move their wedding date so I could be their wedding photographer. I felt very honoured but at the same time quite guilty but anyway that’s how I still end up being their wedding photographer.
Steve and Lilly picked the Riverhead as their wedding venue. For those of you not familar with the place, the 153 years old tavern is New Zealand’s oldest riverside tavern at west Auckland. A beautiful place with lots of history. The weather wasn’t the best in the morning when we arrived Steve’s place, it was raining and the sky was grey. Luckily the weather god seems to have noticed that and the weather changed from bad to good within an hour or so. By the time we arrived the Riverhead there was a beautiful blue sky waiting for us. Both the ceremony and reception took place at the Boat House there and we headed out for a few photos nearby in between. With the families and friends there celebrating this great day together, there were so much laugh and happy tears! I’ve selected some of my favourite photos from that day and hope you like them as much as I do.
Oh, two of the photos from this wedding have won me Gold Awards from the 2013 Kodak Professional Gold Award. Do you know which photos are they? (I’ll announce it in my next blog post) lillysteve-01 lillysteve-02 lillysteve-03 lillysteve-04 lillysteve-05 lillysteve-06 lillysteve-07 lillysteve-08 lillysteve-09 lillysteve-10 lillysteve-11 lillysteve-12 lillysteve-13 lillysteve-14 lillysteve-15 lillysteve-16 lillysteve-17 lillysteve-18 lillysteve-19 lillysteve-20 lillysteve-21 lillysteve-22

Panasonic GX7 Review


Panasonic released the Lumix GF-1 back in 2009, it was their first compact style micro four thirds camera, which soon became a very popular camera among enthusiast and even I bought one myself. With the 20mm f/1.7 it is only slightly bigger than some of the compact cameras but with much better picture quality! Since then Panasonic has released probably a dozen or so micro four thirds cameras, with better sensor, better technology, but in many people’s heart, none of them really can really replace the GF-1′s status.
Panasonic has just released the Lumix GX7,the second camera is the newer GX series, so is it finally a camera a lot of GF-1 owners would probably want to upgrade to?

(Photos taken at the New Zealand GX7 launch event)

The GX7 is a little bit bigger and heavier than it’s predecessor GX1. When I first saw the GX7, it reminds me a lot of the Panasonic L1, their first Four Thirds camera. It has a very nice looking and classic body shape. I really like the two tone silver and black colour scheme. Picking up the camera, GX7’s solid build quality (metal body inside) and decent rubber grip gives you a very nice feel.


The image quality from it’s new 16MP sensor is very good. The colours, dynamic range are both impressive. The high ISO image quality is equally as good. I shot a lot of photos at ISO1600+ and they are more than useable. I did not do any direct comparison with the Olympus OMD EM-5 or the EP-5 but I expect them to be very similar, especially for RAW shooters. The latest micro four third camera sensors are really so good if you look at the photos, it’s hard to tell if they are from a micro four thirds or a APS-C sized sensor camera!

The JPG image straight out of the camera looks quite pleasant too, an improvement over Panasonic’s previous efforts for sure.

The review unit I got came with the Panasonic 14-42mm zoom lens. While it’s a pretty decent kit lens, you definitely need a high quality lens to unlock the full potential of the camera. I’m talking about lenses like the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 or the Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Olympus 75mm f/1.8. You can definitely capture some stunning photos with one of those high quality lenses attached to the GX7.


One feature a lot of GF1 or GX1 users wanted is a built-in EVF. Finally Panasonic has added a high resolution (2,760k dots) EVF to the GX7. The EVF is big and covers 100% Adobe RGB range. The EVF extend slightly so there is less chance your nose touching the camera when you are shooting with the EVF. Another good thing with this EVF is that you can tilt it up by 90 degrees and this makes it a lot easier when you are shooting in some tricky camera angle. I’ve read some reviews report seeing colour tearing, personally I never notice that when I was using the GX7.

Gone are the days when the micro four-thirds camera has slow and sub-par autofocus system. The GX7’s autofocus system is just fantastic. It almost never hunt and just snap to the correct focus pretty much instantly. When you are shooting with the EVF, you can use the LCD screen as a AF track pad. i.e. just move the thumb that is naturally placed on the LCD screen and the autofocus area will follow the thumb movement. This may not sound very special but once you tried it, you’ll love it and wonder why no one else is doing it already! At the New Zealand GX7 launch party, Panasonic representatives emphasis the camera’s low light autofocus performance. I can’t really confirm if the camera can autofocus down to -4EV as claimed by Panasonic, but I can tell you the GX7’s low light autofocus ability is definitely very good. I’ve tried shooting inside a very dim room with the GX7 and another APS-C mirrorless camera side by side. The GX7 has absolutely no problem locking the autofocus while the other mirrorless camera gave up completely.


For people who use manual focus lenses, there is focus peaking display and also picture in picture and with the high resolution EVF, it’s quite easy to manual focus with the GX7.

The maximum shutter speed is now 1/8000s, same as the new Olympus EP5 which makes it great for shooting wide open on a bright day. The maximum burst rate is 5fps which is not the fastest but isn’t too bad neither. But if you switch on the electronic shutter, the burst rate can now be increased to an amazing 40fps. The electronic shutter also allow you to shoot completely silent, which is great when you don’t want to attract too much attention. But electronic shutter is not good if you are doing a panning shot as you can get some bad results like this one below. So beware of that when you are using the electronic shutter.

The electronic shutter allows you to take photos quietly and at high frame rate but don’t use it when you are taking a panning shot unless you want a photo like this

The camera is very responsive. Both the traditional physical buttons and touchscreen LCD response quickly. The touchscreen interface is very intuitive and easy to use no matter you use it to take pictures, play back pictures or adjust camera settings.

Among the micro four thirds alliance, Olympus has always use IBIS (in body image stabilisation) while Panasonic opted for lens based stabilisation. But with the GX7, Panasonic has made a big decision and it is their first micro four third camera that has IBIS instead of lens based stabilisation. While the stabiliser on the GX7 does not seem to be as advance or effective as the 5-axis image stabiliser on the Olympus EM5 or EP5, it is still a good news as a large percentage of micro four third lenses are not stabilised. It sounds like Panasonic will be slowing switching to IBIS in the future and I’m hoping Panasonic will have a more effective IBIS when they release their next generation micro four thirds camera.

The camera has both Wifi and NFC built-in. With the free iOS/Android app installed on your smartphone, you can use your phone to remote control the GX7 to take photos and transfer the photos to your smartphone. I’ve tried similar apps from various brands, the Panasonic implementation is easily the best. It’s very easy to use and setup, has a nice user interface and has lot of features. While I did experienced a few unexpected wifi disconnection every now and then, the wifi connection works pretty well most of the time. There is almost no lag between the remote liveview and the camera. The whole app is just very well polished and a pleasure to use!

The camera also has a built-in flash which I haven’t have much chance to use during the review period. I’m a big fan of built-in flash, even a tiny one like the one in the GX-7 which is not too powerful but it is still very handy when you want a bit of fill flash, either when it’s too dark or your subject is strongly back-lighted . If you want more flash power, you can always attach a bigger flash to it’s hot shoe mount.

Compare to Panasonic’s video-centric GH series, the lack of external mic input tells you that GX7 is primarily designed for photographers rather than videographers. Having said that, the full HD video from the GX7 is still very decent and have a lot of features to suit most casual videographers.

The GX7 is really a beautiful camera and feels great in your hands. The autofocus system is simply superb, the tilt-able high resolution EVF and the long list of innovative features make it a very versatile camera. But most importantly, it takes great photos as well.  While the camera’s internal stabiliser can be a bit better, there really isn’t much I can complain about this camera.

It’s good to finally see a camera that is better than the GF1 in pretty much every single area.


Corina & Cameron’s Wedding at Gracehill Vineyard Estate


If you are a long time reader of my blog, you might remember the engagement photos I took for Corina and Cameron back a while ago. I was so excited when the lovely couple asked me to be their wedding photographer! A few weeks ago, I captured their wedding at the beautiful Gracehill Vineyard Estate.



It was a lovely Autumn day. There was a little bit of cloud in the sky but also heaps of sunshine! The wedding ceremony took place at Gracehill Vineyard Estate’s lovely courtyard in the late afternoon, the warm golden hour sunlight light up the Gracehill Vineyard beautifully.









After the ceremony and the big group photo, we quickly moved on to do the location photos with the  bridal party. Since the ceremony finished just before sunset, we knew we wouldn’t really have a lot of time for the location shots. But having shot the engagement photos with Corina and Cameron before was definitely a good thing as it allowed us to do the location shots a lot quicker than usual. So even with very limited time, we still managed to create some beautiful photos.





So finally we had to stop when it got too dark.  If you are wondering how dark it was? For the photo below, my assistant had to hold his iPhone next to the couple so i can see their face through the camera’s viewfinder.  Without that, I can only see roughly the couple’s silhouette.


The reception started pretty much straight after that. With so many family members and good friends together, there were lots of laughs, lots of old stories shared throughout the night.

Oh Gracehill Vineyard Estate must have a very good chef as their food is just fantastic!

I hope you can also feel the happiness and the love through my photos.