Could the Nikon D800E be the answer for Gigapixel Panoramic Photography?
When it comes to panoramic photography, it’s hard to argue with the concept that bigger is better.
Bigger prints have more of a wow factor and for bigger prints you need bigger images which have the added advantage of having better detail.
Thanks to a new breed of panoramic heads like the Gigapan Epic series, panoramic images are now measuring in the gigapixel range but there is a problem….
Ever wondered why so many of the ultra large images are shot in bright sunlight or flat lighting conditions? This question becomes more pertinent when you consider that sunrise and sunset is often the best time to shoot panoramas with mood and ambience…
The answer is very simple; Gigapixel images need to be shot in lots of segments. Lots of segments take a lot of time to shoot. Lots of time is something you don’t have at sunrise and sunset with fast changing lighting conditions.
The solution, use higher resolutions cameras…
By using a higher resolution camera, you increase the pixel count of each frame meaning that you need to shoot less frames.
That was an easy solution to the problem or did the solution possibly just create a new problem.
Often the best panoramic images are shot in places that are the hardest to get to, like from the top of mountains or along hiking trails. Adding a robotic head to the equation has already upped the weight of your panoramic kit considerable and adding a high res medium format camera to the equation may just literally tip the scales and leave you with kit that is too heavy to carry.
And just in time a very unlikely saviour enters the equation in the form of the Nikon D800E.
With an extreme 36mp low noise sensor, sensor capable of producing ultra-sharp images and a body that weighs less than a D700, the D800E could just be the large format panoramic photographer’s saviour.
Ok so the images it produces are not quite double the D700’s size being 7,360 x 4,912 opposed to 4,256 x 2,832 in fact it’s 1.7 times bigger but that’s quite a bit when you consider the following.
Let’s say that we are shoot a panorama that’s 12 images wide and 4 deep using a 50mm lens and a 12mp camera. Ok that’s 48 segments and if we are shooting 7 frame HDR at sunset and each bracket set takes 1 minutes that’s 48 minutes to complete the image. That’s a little bit too long for that time of day and you are most probably going to hit some serious issues with changing light.
Now if we were using the D800E with 36mp we would be able to use a 30mm lens and only need to shoot 28 segments meaning that the image would take 28 minutes to shoot and the final panorama would still have the same size in pixels. That’s a huge improvement time wise even though it’s still probably a little bit too long. We would probably be aiming for something like 16 minutes but the D800 handles noise so well, we might as well just crank it up to 400 iso (wouldn’t take any camera higher unless I really had to) and we will come down to something that is manageable.
Also at 28 images and a 30mm lens we could still get away with a manual head so once again we have lightened the load.
I shoot with both a 360prescision Giga manual head and a Gigapan Epic Pro Robotic head and watch this space because the D800E is on my wish list for the very reasons I have mentioned above.
In case you are wondering why the D800E and not the straight D800 well the answer is simple, the lack of AA filter in the E makes it significantly sharper than the normal model. Yes you run the risk of moiré but photographers have been removing the AA filters from their D700’s and D3’s for a while now and the cases where moiré becomes a serious, irreparable problem are so few that it’s well worth going this route for panoramic photography.