A Castle and a Tale of Two Cameras

A completely unscientific experiment follows.   I wanted to share my results / thoughts.    

I don't get to travel that frequently. I rarely travel for business.  Heck, I work from home so I don't even commute to an office that frequently.   Lets face it, I milk the locales available to be locally for all I can, photographically.  Suffice-it-to say, getting to travel on vacation with the family once-a-year is a big/big deal to my photography aspirations.

Vacations are tough photo-outings, though.  The kids, the wife, the crowds.  It's important for me to keep in my mind that my family isn't on the same photo expedition that I'm on.  They are on vacation.  My wife graciously tolerates my f-stop bag full o' big camera goodies and rolls her eyes infrequently as I stop a million times from here-to-there and snap photos of random things.  I have to keep myself in check.  

I'm not a travel-photo-blogger (wouldn't that be cool), the amex in my pocket doesn't get turned in on an expense report.  I have chocolate milk to get, a diaper bag to often hold.   Kids that sometimes argue and bicker and a wife that would rightly like some assistance refereeing their matches.

However, I see these vacations as my only opportunity to snap photos of something different than my day-to-day surroundings.   As such, I come geared up and ready for battle, so to speak.   It is usually the D800, a 14-24mm (rented until recently), a tripod and a SB-700 speedlight.   The body to get me mega-resolution, the lens to get me super-crisp landscapes, the tripod b/c the lens doesn't tolerate movement and the speedlight b/c the red-light, light-meter keeps me out of trouble in churches and public places that frown on white-light metering that looks like a flash.

It has always been the trusty Nikon.   My D90, the D7000, now this D800.  Until this time.   This trip, I tried something radical (for me).   I left the big camera in the room (most days) and the tripod in the car.

I gave the Sony NEX-7 a shot to prove its metal.

(and it did) 

I thought it would be interesting to shoot one of my favorite spots of The Magic Kingdom with the NEX-7 one day and the D800 on another day.  The results are interesting.   

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Cinderella's Castle Shot Handheld in a Bracket of RAW at +2, m, -2 with a Sony Alpha NEX-7, Sony 10-18 E-Mount Lens. HDR'd, Filtered with a "ColorChrome" Filter.  Some noise redux in Lightroom

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Cinderella's Castle, a different day - a bigger camera Shot Handheld in a Bracket of RAW at +2, +1, m, -1, -2 with a Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm Lens. HDR'd with the +2, m, -2 frames only with a preset created while processing the other image. Same "ColorChrome" filter.  Some noise redux in Lightroom, some "cool" temperature adjustments

So, in the Red Corner, weighing in at the weight of a newborn baby, we have the D800.   Its 36 Megapixel sensor paired with the 14-24 Nikkor comprise what is agreed by most to be the Landscape Photography Dream Team.   Almost-medium format.  The Thrilla in the Manilla!!

In the Blue Corner, weighing in at the weight of a half-empty margarita, we have the Sony Alpha NEX-7.  Its 24 megapixel sensor paired with a rather-new and unproven Sony E-Mount 10-18 mm lens aren't a fully-proven platform for "serious" (ish) landscape photography.  But it has potential.

The results are interesting.  Was it an upset?  I think so.  Even though the d800 should have the NEX-7 beat in this, I actually like the NEX-7 image better.

To be fair they aren't the same image.    I shot at different times of day (and on different days) and didn't stand in exactly the same spot.   I used the 14mm zoom level on the Nikkor and the wider 10mm zoom level on the Sony.    

All sorts of full-frame vs cropped sensor math that would put you and me both asleep could go here.

But at the end of the day, here's what I ended up with.     I spent my vacation with a smaller camera.   It was lighter, wasn't as intrusive.  I took about 5,000 shots with the Sony and around 2,500 with the Nikon.    Both performed beautifully but the Sony edged up the Nikon in that, it was with me on a wrist strap, at places I dared not tread with the huge Nikon body / lens.

..and the results are very usable.  

The decision I've been weighing for awhile lately, is: Should I even still own a D800?   I love the camera and the lens, don't get me wrong.  But, if I could get (practically) the same results out of a camera that costs 1/3 the price and is 1/5 the size, Why wouldn't I?   Especially, being someone who generally doesn't profit from photography output.

This little experiment put me one step closer to not owning a big DSLR anymore.  Go ahead, talk some sense into me.

PS, My favorite compositional flavor of this shot is still last year's:

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Which was the D800 and a 28-300 zoom lens, multiple shots - stitched together as a panorama.