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An Hour to Kill - Musing on the Nikon D850 while shooting with the Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm f/2.8 ZA

An Hour to Kill - Musing on the Nikon D850 while shooting with the Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm f/2.8 ZA

Sometimes, a person just doesn't want to think. And sometimes, a person just doesn't want eyestrain looking through a viewfinder. Thing is, sometimes a person might just want to go on a photowalk, and not be overly concerned with getting results. It's possible that maybe sometimes, a person just wants to relax and have some fun with a camera.

That's how I've been feeling as of late... wanting to unwind. If only the weather weren't so bad, I'd be out wandering about. But with the temperature hovering around the high eighty's (roughly 30°C), and the torrential downpour brought by back to back typhoons, I've been shut in for most the past two weeks. With the way it's been properly coming down, it felt like the gloom would never end. Then late one afternoon, the rain just kind of stopped, as the clouds parted way. The sky cleared up, and the sun reappeared, bringing a brief reprieve from the ongoing tempest expected from yet another approaching typhoon.

Sigh, I should be outside with my camera. Who knows how long the break in the storm would last. Unfortunately, I was still stuck at a meeting with my mind off elsewhere. Still, I knew if I wanted to go on a photowalk, I had better make time for it. The only problem is, I had a dinner meeting early that evening. So, what is a person to do?

Looking at my calendar, I noticed I still had an hour to spare in between. The timing was tight, but I knew I could make it work. If only Anna weren't AWOL somewhere in the thick of a Thai jungle finding her way to a beach... but then again, I've learned to adapt when my partner in crime is too far out of reach. An understudy would have to substitute during my hour of need. Admittedly, it would be short notice. But has that ever stopped me from asking? Besides, I had an hour to kill in between.

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2000s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1600s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1600s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1250s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1000s

For the photowalk, the camera I brought along was the Sony A7r Mark II, which may seem odd to some of you. However, I have my reasons. Mainly it's because I had it with me, which may seem rather anticlimactic. Although, it should also be noted I also brought along a Leica M10... and yet I still picked the Sony. As I said earlier, sometimes a person just doesn't want to think, and today was just such an occasion. I just wanted to go full on auto with face detection and frame live view on an tilting screen.

A little specific am I with my wants?

The thing is, I wanted to do all that on a 40+ megapixel sensor. With the release of the Nikon D850, it made me question the relevance of conventional shooting mechanics practiced on traditional DSLRs - that is to say, at eye level through an optical viewfinder with your camera arm locked-in and close to your body. You see, for the first time, a high resolution full frame sensor has been packed into a professional level DSLR with an tilting LCD screen. 

For me, what Nikon did was a significant development. In doing so, Nikon has effectively affirmed the relevance of contemporary shooting techniques practiced by more mainstream mirrorless cameras with tilting screens - that is to say, shooting beyond eye level on live view. Admittedly, this development may not appear to be anything new. It's not as if Nikon hasn't done that already with the D750, nor Canon with the updated 6D Mark II. But those cameras in my opinion were half hearted attempts. The live view experience of the D750 was lackluster, while the 6D Mark II wasn't exactly a demonstration of confidence. It's not as if Canon included an tilting screen in last year's update of the Canon 5D Mark IV. And by comparisons, Nikon has with the updated D850.

Moreover, the D850 is the first Nikon full frame prosumer DSLR without a pop-up flash. This may sound silly, but in my humble opinion, this omission demonstrates Nikon's intent for the D850 to be a more serious purpose-built camera than it's predecessors.

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1250s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1250s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/800s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/800s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/640s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/640s

Of course, the jury is still out. I don't know what the live view experience will be like. The shutter and frame advance lag might still prevent continuous burst in capture, thus adversely affecting the shooting experience. Even so, the D850 will be able to do something no other professional level DSLR can do. It will be able to simplify the image capture process almost like a Sony A7/A9 - albeit minus in-body image stabilization.

So with the D850 in mind on this photowalk, I paired the A7r with a Sony AF lens and framed each shot outside of eye level with the autofocus set on face detection. In other words, I simplified my shooting technique and had some fun - which strangely is something I never did before with the A7r Mark II.

So, I shot from all angles on this photowalk without having to contort my body to frame at eye level from different perspectives. I shot low onto the grass, and I shot high above my head. And I did all that without shooting blindly. I was also able to shoot walking backwards, all the while on autofocus tracking. But most importantly, I was able to shoot relaxed without having to think or strain my eyes. It was just plain old fun, without placing any concern over getting results.

The question now is whether the same could be done with the Nikon D850? Especially with an hour to kill, before the approaching storm.

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/125s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/6400s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/1250s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/1000s

Sony A7r Mark II + 35mm FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/1600s

One thing I haven't mentioned is why I'm so excited. It's really quite simple. If the live view experience of the D850 is as rewarding as the Sony A7/A9 in simplifying image capture, then it's a strong indication that Nikon has acknowledged the relevance of electronic viewing, and is likely to pursue the development of a full frame mirrorless camera. To Nikon's credit, they have demonstrated greater willingness to go against convention in offering niche product releases. So I am hopeful that the D850 is a stepping stone towards the development of a full frame mirrorless camera.

Special thanks to Yana for filling in such short notice. 

All images shot on a Sony A7r Mark II + FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA. All images have been optimized slightly in Lightroom. Some images have been cropped.

It should be noted I'm not dismissing Sony. Personally, I love the Sony A9. It's just I haven't updated my Nikon system since the Nikon D800E, which was over five years ago. So it's understandable that I'm a little more excited than usual. But to be fair, I was equally excited when the A9 was released.

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