Here are three photographs shot one evening last month. The moon was bright and the wind was relatively still except for the slight movement of clouds - which, to me, adds a great dynamic to the photographs. These photos are completely experimental, as I have not shot long exposures since my film days.
Exposures were completely by guestimate varying ISO and aperture just to see what works and what doesn't. ISO 400 maintains excellent quality with little noise (see 100% crop). ISO 100 was even better but demands larger apertures that would not be optimal for the lens. When I go out the next time, I would use ISO 100 at ƒ8 in the 10-minute range and am eager to try longer exposures.
The raw file quality is excellent with fantastic dynamic range. The amount of detail that can be pulled out of the shadows is phenomenal with no increase in "grain" or noise. In fact, the first time I processed these, I over-processed and ended up making them look like daylight with blue skies and bright details in the shadows.
My only complaint is the number of hot pixels which, after a quick internet search, seems to be the Achilles heal of the D800's small pixel-pitch 36MP sensor. That being said, I made some exposures with and without Long Exposure Noise Reduction (LENR) and it definitely works. Sadly, it means sitting around watching the light and landscape waiting and waiting for the processing to finish before making the next photograph. That being said, once I've done more testing, I should have a much better feel for what works, so will be able to use the LENR with the confidence of knowing that the wait will be worth it.
I've included a 100% crop of the ISO 400 image (1455) to show not only the noise level (with "0" NR in Lightroom and Sharpening of 50) but also the interesting additional detail of a jet making its way across the night sky.
Here is the data for each photograph:
- 1455: 24mm ƒ2.8, ƒ5.6 @ 458sec, ISO 400
- 1461: 20mm ƒ2.8, ƒ8 @ 146sec, ISO 100
- 1463: 24mm ƒ2.8, ƒ @ 126sec., ISO 100