Nikon D810 and a Taste of Moiré

Much has been said and speculated about sensor moiré in high-resolution cameras like the Nikon D800E and D810. It's an unavoidable artifact of the digital capture world, due to the interaction between finely-detailed repeating patterns in subject matter and the raster rows of modern camera sensors. It's typically an issue in architectural and fashion photography, where fabric and fine details trigger the effect.

In the endless quest for maximum resolution, Nikon has removed the anti-aliasing filter in these cameras, which helped control moiré at some loss of sharpness. Sensor moiré can't be accurately seen in preview, as the display will create its own moiré that may not actually be in the image file. And this type of moiré is different from that occurring with 4Color process images, in either scanning or prepress. So: how big a problem is it?

Here's an example of just how extreme moiré can be, in the 36 Megapixel Nikon D810. These screen grabs are a section of an image of the outdoor display panels at the beautiful new American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, in Washington, D.C. The site features strong horizontal black bands of varying width embedded in glass, to create tonality in the very large panels. Look what resulted once I opened up my photos on the computer:

Nikon D810 moire sample 1

Large glass panels with embedded horizontal lines create
both color and luminance moiré.

Here's a closer view from the original file. You can see the bands of color. How bad are they?

Nikon D810 moire sample 2 Nikon D810 moire sample 3

Yikes! They're that bad, and a powerful creator of eyestrain to even work with such an image!

You see the the beginning of efforts to isolate and remove the effect in Photoshop, by building paths and tight selections. Moiré is even present in the very sharp type layer. What a nightmare!

Nikon D810 moire sample 4

Low-res preview is even more horrifying!

Can such an extreme case be fixed, or even prevented? Some suggest twisting the camera at a slight angle to minimize such moiré, but that's not always practical in tight compositions and the pressure of photo assignments--especially when the effect is not visible in camera.

To repair, there's many helpful tips available online, but in the end, it's a lot of work, and a compromise between maintaining detail and residual moiré. On this set of images, many such techniques were necessary; too extensive for this blog post. I'll post some useful resources in a followup.

Here's a small piece of the near-final result. Bands of color are completely eliminated, and residual moiré (slight diagonal banding in the fabric) is not objectionable across the entire image. Note the sharp text with no moiré or signs of blurring.

Nikon D810 moire sample 5

In the days of film, there would have been no such problem, at the price of considerably less image sharpness, ease of color enhancement, and with greater detail-robbing grain. But in this case, film would have saved a huge amount of post-production time and effort.

Indeed, all that terrific sharpness and resolution we are now capable of capturing can be both a blessing and a curse....


Experience report: The oil spot issue - sending in a D600 to Nikon Service for shutter replacement

Thanks to a widely reported problem with oil spots repeatedly making their way onto the sensors of many D600 cameras, Nikon finally relented to pressure and has been offering a free replacement of faulty shutter mechanisms to all D600 owners (click here to read the official service advisory).

I've been a D600 user for a couple years now and have been wanting to send my camera in to get serviced, but unfortunately being my only camera body, I couldn't afford to pull it of of service for a week or more in order to get it fixed. I did observe the problem with oil spots as many have, even if they only showed up when I shot at tight apertures above F9. Despite repeated cleanings, the spots always came back and managed to be a continued annoyance (see below).

Nikon D600 sensor oil spots

Sensor oil spots often show up in landscapes, especially in areas of light colored sky

Since I recently added a new D750 to my kit for the holidays, it was finally time to send in the D600 to Nikon and get the problem fixed once and for all. Here's my report:

Nikon offers free shipping for your problem D600 to and from the service center and you can just print out a label at the above advisory link with the correct info and address. Since I live in Los Angeles and there's a Nikon Service center in town, I decided to take the camera there in person rather than dealing with shipping delays.

Nikon service center in Los Angeles

Nikon Service Center near Wilshire and Fairfax in Los Angeles

I dropped the camera off on December 23rd just before Christmas. The Nikon service center in LA is not big but the guy at the desk was super helpful and friendly, taking all the info needed and sending me off with a receipt and a promise to call when it was ready. Note that no warranty card is needed, Nikon is offering the free service regardless of warranty status.

Nikon service center in Los Angeles

Inside the Nikon Service Center

Even though I brought the camera in just before Christmas, it only took 10 days to complete the work

Since it was the Christmas/New Year holidays I didn't expect a rapid turnaround but nonetheless the camera was ready to pickup on January 2rd, only 10 days later.

D600 shutter replacement

Getting the camera back

D600 shutter replacement

The camera was neatly packed in plastic wrap along with a list of work performed:

  • replace shutter assembly
  • checked auto focus operation
  • checked bayonet mount
  • checked mirror box
  • checked shutter release
  • clean image sensor
  • firmware upgrade
  • general check and clean

Note that even though they install a new shutter assembly, they don't reset the number of camera actuations back to zero, so your camera will still list the same number of shutter clicks as before, even though the shutter assembly is completely new and effectively has zero clicks.

Total time to complete repair: 10 days. Total cost $0.0. Thanks Nikon!


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D750 "Banding" problem explained

Even though it's only been on the market for a few months now, some users are reporting an issue with their D750 cameras that causes a dark band across the top of the image when shooting directly into a light source. The shadow seems to be caused by an autofocus sensor that protrudes too far into the mirror box, and appears to be a production flaw that only affects a limited number of cameras. Here's a good explanation of the problem over at Petapixel.com - Nikon D750 banding issue explained. Nikon has yet to make an official statement regarding this issue other than to say it is investigating.


Nikon D750 and D810 firmware updates available

December 17, 2014: Nikon Europe has released new firmware updates for the Nikon D810 and Nikon D750 cameras.

Nikon D810 Firmware C 1.02 modifications:

  • When playback zoom was applied to an image displayed in the camera monitor (image display enlarged) while the memory card access lamp was still lit immediately after capture, the image was not correctly displayed. This issue has been resolved.
  • When menus were displayed with the camera connected to a 4K-compatible TV via HDMI, display in both the camera monitor and on the TV was not correct. This issue has been resolved.
  • Noise that could sometimes be heard when Custom Setting d1: Beep was set to any option other than Off has been reduced.

Nikon D750 Firmware C 1.01 modifications:

  • When shooting with an optional Speedlight and auto FP high-speed sync enabled with On selected for ISO sensitivity settings > Auto ISO sensitivity control in the photo shooting menu, images were sometimes over-exposed. This issue has been resolved. (Enabling auto FP high-speed sync: Select 1/200 s (Auto FP) or 1/250 s (Auto FP) for Custom Setting e1: Flash sync speed).
  • When menus were displayed with the camera connected to a 4K-compatible TV via HDMI, display in both the camera monitor and on the TV was not correct. This issue has been resolved.
  • Noise that could sometimes be heard when Custom Setting d1: Beep was set to any option other than Off has been reduced.

Downloads: Nikon D810 Firmware C 1.02 | Nikon D750 Firmware C 1.01