I hope I’m not the only one shaking their head at all the hype and hysteria surrounding the Nikon D4 since it was announced a few weeks ago.
I’ve never taken a good ride on the superficial bandwagon and I refuse to jump back on it now. I thought now might be a good time to write an article about what features to look for in a good night-photography camera.
I’ll go through the features that a night photographer should look for and how the D4 stacks up. The list a features a night photographer needs is very long, but fortunately, all pro and nearly all advanced-amateur cameras have most of the features. Most photographers don’t give this any thought, but the ability to focus in low light is a HUGE benefit for night photography. Live view is a feature that most of the advanced-amateur and pro cameras currently have and I suspect all of them will have it after another generation. Nikon is touting the D4 as the new high-ISO king, but until I make my own tests, I’m hesitant to make even a casual statement.
If you shoot mainly during the day, you just can’t appreciate how helpful this feature can be. Anyone who calls this feature a marketing gimmick has not explored its usefulness fully, especially for night photography. As night photographers, we’re using more power to operate long shutter speeds, live view, backlit buttons, virtual horizon, and the fact that it’s colder at night, which drains the batteries faster.
If the Nikon D4 exhibits the low-noise characteristics that many expect it to, it will be the best camera available for night photography, eclipsing the current front-runner, the Nikon D3S. And what about the highly anticipated Nikon D800 that’s expected to be formally announced in a couple weeks?
This entry was postedon Friday, January 27th, 2012 at 11:12 amand is filed under All Posts, Cameras, Photo Gear, Soapbox.
Magpix IR-101 MidnightShot Infrared Night Vision Digital Camera is the compact digital camera that takes pictures in complete darkness as easily as it shoots full-color shots in daylight. I told you I’d learn as much as I could about it as a night-photography camera, but I have to tell you, seems like the main thing I’ve learned is that photographers are like sharks.
I see no point in rehashing the same comments for and against a camera that isn’t even on the market yet, or in posting yet another list of the camera’s specifications. If taking pictures after dark is your primary interest, you can narrow the field right out of the gate. Things like the ability to accept a remote shutter release, bulb setting, depth of field preview, and many others should be standard on any camera that a serious photographer is likely to consider, so I’m not going to spend time talking about them. For all you young guns out there, you might be wondering why we need autofocus at all, but trust me, you’re going to need it eventually.

The arguments against it usually mention grid lines in the viewfinder, hotshoe bubble levels, and post-processing image straightening as all you need. Sorry, but I’m going to at least wait until Nikon formally announces it before I jump in with the sharks! The 5 MP image sensor captures images at 2,560 x 1,920 pixel resolution and video at 640 x 480, assisted by its 8X digital zoom. What makes this camera special though, is its ability to take photographs in total darkness.
That said, I’m no different from anyone else in wanting to know about new equipment that might be helpful in my photography, and, as a night photographer, the D4 certainly has my attention.
You can forget buying that antique Nikon D2X or D200 your friend is trying dump on you for a song. I want to talk about special features that not all cameras have, but ones that make a night photographer’s night go a lot more smoothly.
So much so that I’m going to write a separate post about the different types of noise, including how to minimize it, and what camera traits contribute to it.
Hey, I know my camera better than I know my wine glass, and trust me, that’s a lot of knowledge. Try composing a shot in the dark with the camera set up at ground level and see how well those grid lines work for you.
Unfortunately, battery life is hard to ascertain from reading specs because there are so many variables. It contains an infra red sensor that lets you take monochromatic images when ita€™s pitch black outdoors or indoors. I know, it has always been this way, but I swear I think it has gotten worse in in the last few years. Those were (still are) great cameras for some things, but night photography isn’t one of them. We can read all the specs we want, but until we get this bad boy in our hands and expose some real-world frames, we’re just making guesses.
ALL of my night photos are focused by either autofocus, live view (see next entry), or very rarely, manually setting the focus without looking through the viewfinder. One benefit is that it helps you fine-tune the composition when the camera is mounted on the tripod in an awkward position. For now, suffice it to say that you obviously want the least amount of noise possible, both when shooting at high ISOs and with long exposures. But I can’t tell you how much I could use a little light on those buttons when I’m setting up a night photo sequence. It stores pictures and videos onto an SD card (supports up to 8GB – 4GB SD card holds up to 2,500 images or 75 minutes of video) and has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 500 shots.

Seems like only about 5 percent of what you read on the online forums and blog posts is good meaty info; the rest is just a lot of fluff. Also, point and shoot cameras simply can’t compete favorably with DSLRs for night photography. The problem when considering the noise characteristics of a camera is that there are so many different variables and it’s impossible to make an assessment based solely on the camera’s specifications.
My D700 will shoot continuous 4-minute exposures (as when shooting star trails) for about 90 minutes, a little more in warm weather. Yes, you can get good shots in some situations with a P&S, but they aren’t suitable for serious night work.
Often, there isn’t anything in the scene for autofocus to latch on to, but if there are any lights at all, live view will enable you to get the focus precise by magnifying the view and rotating the focus ring until the point of light is the smallest dot it can be.
Conventional viewpoints suggest that FX format sensors with lower resolution and therefore larger pixel size have the lowest noise, but there is more to consider than just that.
At only a half-inch or so wide, it only takes a fraction of an inch in error to throw you way off level, not to mention the fact that few hotshoes are perfectly parallel with the image sensor plane to begin with.
That’s pretty good, and considering that I have a half-dozen spares, it will get through a night’s shooting. They don’t allow you to shoot at the high ISOs and long exposures without producing huge amounts of noise. If you want to know the noise characteristics of any camera, you need to take pictures with it and look at them. In all honesty, battery life isn’t really that critical for night photographers, as we can carry plenty of spares and for very long exposure sequences such as when shooting long star trail steaks, we can use other power sources.
The D4, on the other hand, appears to have the potential for being a GREAT night photography tool.
Yep, it’s a great thing, but if you aren’t reasonably close to begin with you end up sacrificing a sizable portion of the image to make the correction. The ability to utilize other power sources, such as auxiliary battery packs, is a huge benefit and most pro cameras have at least a couple of options.
Unfortunately, among the best options, the ability to operate a camera on 12-volts through an adapter is not an option on any current pro camera that I am aware of.

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