My new gear – Nikon D800E and Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

Inspiration, Nikon D800E, Q&A, Teaching point, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon (ZF.2 Nikon mount)

Nikon D800E - Photographs by Peter

Zeiss Otus 55mm f_1.4 APO-Distagon - Photographs by Peter

I am amazed at how many of you correctly deduced either the lens or camera, based on the two “test images” I posted over the last 24 hours.  A few of you even employed a psychological analysis of me to come up with your answer.

The first person to correctly guess both camera and lens, even before the first test shot, was Johannes.  Impressive predictive prowess, my friend.

Honourable mention goes to Andrew, who correctly guessed the lens and steadfastly held on to his prediction.

So here I go…  on to a new adventure.

Please be patient with the images.  The M9 + 50 Summilux ASPH pairing produces a different look, there is no doubt.  In many ways I prefer its rendering to my new gear (the M9 has a CCD sensor that is superior — at base ISO — to any of the current CMOS offerings, and Leica lenses are of course legendary).

Yet, I’m back to Nikon, where my digital experience was first forged.

In a sense, I’m home again.


37 thoughts on “My new gear – Nikon D800E and Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

  1. You’ve surprised me Peter. Even though you say you’re back to Nikon I just don’t see this camera in your hands long. Well for me anyway, I can’t see myself using such a large camera/lens combo ever again. I know from the tech sheets and user reports that this camera and lens paired together make a great system I just don’t see you in this way Peter. Maybe I’m wrong but I could feel your connection between you and your Leica.

    I hope this best for you and look forward to your work with this new tool.

    1. Totally agree with Duane. Can’t see myself using such large system (I should work out first). 🙂

      Hope your new tool work nicely for you Peter.

  2. It’s been a lot of fun reading the guesses, in my case I’m happy to be 50% correct, the Otus made sense to me as a lens choice for you.

    In terms of D800E body, the performance is unquestionable. With regards to ergonomics, usability and that “feel good” creativity factor that my Leica contributes (to me at least) it will be interesting to see how you feel after a fair period of adjustment.

    As always I’ll enjoy the journey with you.

    All the best.

    1. Thanks Jason. The “feel good” creativity factor, as you put it, is better with the Leica, hence my retention of the M3. However, with Leica’s digital offerings, I had to say “enough is enough”… for many reasons.

    1. Ditto on what Draco says. That’s a lot of weight to haul around. I tried carrying my Vario-Elmar 35-70mm with the M 240 a few days ago and it just about did me in, as the 35-70 is heavier than all my other lenses combined.

      However, I am looking forward to seeing what magic you can produce with that combo!

  3. Peter,unless you desire of need the file size of a D800, I’m surprised you didn’t opt for the Df, as both the drawing and accuracy of its output is close to the best I’ve seen from Nikon and I owned and used the D800 for quite a time before switching over to the 645D. The other wonderful attribute of the Df is of course it’s exceptional performance as an existing light camera.

    No doubt the D800 is a wonderful performer in its own right but I see you as more of a Df person as opposed to a D800. All very interesting though. The Otis though is a natural. Best of luck with the new equipment and it will be interesting to hear of your thoughts along the way.


  4. Good on you Peter. Life’s too short not to explore!

    I’ve got a feeling you’ll “love” the lens, “like” the camera and “dislike” the form factor. Not only size but ergonomic changes like focusing the Otus on the D800e. However that will depend on just how much you are using it and what you are shooting. Given you are mixing this in with an M3 and Mamiya you’ll get a feel or your subconscious will tell you what you prefer fairly quickly.

    IF you don’t pick it up enough then there may be an “adios”…. though I hope you do pick it up enough as I’m keen to see the images you create :-).

    The rendering on that lens and how sharp it is very special.

  5. D800E, seriously Peter, tell me its a joke!. Complete change of direction (180 Degree) shift.

    In my opinion its Sony A7R, thats the only camera it would make sense for you to change too.

  6. Hi Peter, your images have always amazed me. I am just wondering, if leica didn’t release the M240 would you still be sticking to the M9 now? Hope your new system works wonder for you.

  7. I can understand you well, Peter. The lens is probably an optical masterpiece and the Nikon is so much more reactive and up to date. When the lens came out, I had also difficulty to not make this jump and sometimes when the M9 stalls again or the rangefinder is not spot on, the Leica service takes ages, than it iches too to get it.
    In the beginning I missed a lot of pictures because of manual focus but then, after seeing your pictures with it, I said I should be able to master it by practice. Also the I did not like the Nikon viewfinder for manual focus so I keep convincing me manual focussing the zeisslenses was not easy either (I had D700 + zeisslenses before).

    However the M9 + summilux 50 gives a different look (lens + CCD) and th form factor stays too attractive for me for now.
    For you I guess your PP capabilities will make up for this difference.

    1. Thanks Peter. No amount of post-processing will create microcontrast and “bite” to an image, where there are none. So, the gear I’ve chosen had to be reasonably close in image quality to what I’m accustomed, for me to find it acceptable. In some ways, the image quality with the new gear is better (dynamic range, resolution, etc.)… in other ways, it’s inferior (loss of CCD look).

  8. prosophos congrats on ur new gear. I am looking forward to see even more amazing photos from u. With that blazing autofocus of nikon and one of the best lens in town, all that is left is you freedom of creativity. I have left my m9 for various other cameras, no regrets so far, less suffering is good 😉

  9. I still have the feeling that once April 1st is over you will laugh at us and continue with your trusty M9. All this will be remembered just as a funny April’s fool story.

    Anyway, better d800 then a7r!

  10. Would be interested to hear why you prferred the Nikon/Otus over the Olympus EM1/Nocticron combo.

  11. The camera and lens are 4.7 pounds total weight. Not that much. I’m 64 and could easily carry that around all day. Don’t understand this talk about how HEAVY this combo is. Not for street shooting but perfect for portraiture which is Peter’s forte.

  12. Congratulations on your new equipment, I look forward to seeing the images you will make with it. Will you be changing the focusing screen to make manual focus easier?

      1. I read on Ming Thein’s website that he changed his screen, also using the same camera and lens combo. He did tell me it’s a bit tricky and requires some shimming but he did it himself. The company he used was I’ve been thinking of doing it as I am also a D800E user that loves Zeiss lenses, no Otus yet though but it’s only a matter of time, trying to resist the temptation and reading your website is not helping! 😉

        1. Thanks again. Do-it-yourself “shimming” on a brand new camera is not in the cards for me. I just wish Nikon did the right thing and made proper screens for manual focusing. Alas, most “pros” no longer manually focus, so I guess there’s no incentive for Nikon to put the effort into it. Too bad…

          1. Hi Peter,
            Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
            I am considering in replacing my D800E with and D810 and a Otus 55mm.
            However, I have found that manual focussing with my D800E and my Voightlander lenses is nearly impossible without using
            live-view. (and I shoot handheld, slow moving object. No LV) The focus is alway off because the mirror is not propperly alligned for manual focus and also the focussing screen is not usable for manual focus.
            If you use a D800 with Otus, how did you tackle this huge problem? Did you send it back to Nikon for allignment and did you install a new focussing screen?
            Thanks again.

  13. Once again, I have arrived late. But as the saying goes, better late than never.

    Congratulations on your new Nikon camera and Zeiss lens, Peter. I cannot fault your choice of both. I love Zeiss lenses and wish I could afford to buy more.

    Like you say, camera manufacturers no longer cater for those of us who wish to use manual focus lenses. Shame on them!

    How are you coping? Is the electronic focus indicator on the D800E accurate? People using Zeiss lenses with the Canon 5D MkIII reckon its focus indicator works well.

    I tend to focus bracket. I turn the focus ring to what I think is in focus and then fire off repeated shots after slightly adjusting the focus ring. I usually fire off anything between four and eight shots of any given subject and use Adobe Bridge to find out which one has nailed the focus. Surprisingly, many times it is the first shot taken but not always. And I have to confess that in some shots I completely miss the focus when focus shift rears its head.

    The only downside to this method is having to view all of those shots but it is worth it when a Zeiss lens hits the precise focus.

    I have looked at third party split screen focusing screens but, like you, I am wary of going down that road. I did opt for Canon’s Super Precision Matte Ef-S focusing screen. I fitted it myself and picked up some specks of dirt in the process. The camera later went into Canon Service for another issue and they cleaned it for me. I understand you not wanting to mess around with the innards of a brand new camera, although you would probably do a better job than me.

    I will be interested to hear your method of nailing the focus and eagerly await more photographs captured with your new camera/lens combination. Bottom line, Peter, even if you were using an old biscuit tin to make a pinhole camera, the results would be better than most of us can aspire to with our DSLRs, compact system cameras or whatever.

  14. The D800/810 + Otii and Apo-Sonnar are the ONLY choices for one that doesn’t want to make any compromises in the way they shoot. Congratulations Peter on seeing and knowing the difference and making the commitment to follow through with the best tools in the world. For those that don’t know, critical focus is possible through the D810 view finder with lenses 55mm and up. In less that 50 practice shots on static and semi-static objects I had the same kind of hit rates I had with the A7r and live view through the EVF at 14x.
    For kids and pets, the 70-200 2.8 VRII makes images that are commercially viable but sadly without the Zeiss magic.

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