on 9 November 2012
I discovered early on in life that I am not the greatest at capturing the decisive moment, so Henri Cartier-Bresson can rest in peace knowing my work does not compete with his! He could pre-visualise the shot and secure that critical instant in time with no need for any cropping and produce a masterpiece. All of this without the benefit of instant review aka a digital or Polaroid proof. You might ask yourself what does this have to do with a review of the Nikon D800. Well readers, the less talented amongst us do have the luxury of instant review, the ability to crop and do all manner of manipulations on the computer. Now this could easily apply to all digital cameras, but a well advertised feature of the Nikon D800 is the massive number of pixels. A by product of this feature means you can crop the hell out of the captured shot to get what you want without any discernible loss of quality.
For some reason I find it difficult to frame exactly what I want in camera but given the luxury of my studio (garage) I can see the end result much more clearly. I can hear the purists tittering "it's because you're a crap photographer and it isn't cricket", but if I get what I want onto print, who cares how I achieved it.
Many reviewers have commented on the slow capture rate, possible high ISO noise or difficulty getting pin sharp shots while hand holding, but so far I haven't found any of these a problem. I previously used a Nikon D300 and I thought it was and still think it is a wonderful camera, but I always wanted full frame. So when it was time to finally buy one I managed to get a second hand D700 which fairly blew me away, with its handling and quality of shots. I convinced myself I did the right thing saving myself about £1000 instead of going for the D800 and then Amazon did the dirty on me and reduced the price of the D800 by another £100. In a fit of teenage irresponsibility I bought it and now I have the luxury of two full frame cameras. Time will tell which one I'll sell, but I suspect I'll keep both provided my wee wifey doesn't notice.
I won't bore you with all the technical stuff as it's been covered eloquently elsewhere, but the features I like best about the D800 are, well just about everything really. Huge pixel count is the most obvious and for me it is a godsend and not a liability. Images when captured properly are simply stunning in clarity and allow aggressive cropping without loss of sharpness. ISO performance as far as I can determine is perfectly adequate as images taken at up to 6400 are still useable, but not in the same class as the documented professional D4. Shooting rate is not a problem for me either as I take mostly landscape pictures and that in a nutshell is what this camera is all about, unless you are a studio photographer. I also find the LCD display is clearer and easier to view in bright light than both the D300 and D700.
I always hankered after medium format quality when I used 35mm film many years ago and now at the age of 55 I can achieve that quality digitally with the Nikon D800. As an important side note I must be one of the lucky people who don't appear to suffer from the dreaded LF problem or green tinted LCD. This did deter me from buying for a while not knowing how widespread this problem was, but I'm sure glad I waited as the camera cost me £700 less than the launch price.
It's hard to give a camera a wholehearted 5 star rating after such a short review period of 1 week, but I haven't found anything negative to say about it. If pushed, it annoys me that the zoom in and out buttons are reversed from the D300 and they removed the focus area switch but that's just nitpicking. I'm not the slightest bit interested in video so I can't comment but I do wish Nikon had replaced it with built in GPS. The £350 list price for the vertical grip is just shocking but I've seen them selling new for £230.
So 5 stars it is then and hopefully I don't have cause to amend this rating after more rigorous use.
on 23 April 2012
I have had the D800 for a couple of weeks now which was pre-ordered back in Feb 2012 as an upgrade to my beloved D700 that has been a real workhorse for me over the years. I am a very keen amateur with my main uses for this piece of kit being for nature, wildlife, birds and landscapes. Like everybody else over the past couple of months whilst on pre order I have read all the relevant reviews, pros cons etc and found it hard to find a real hands on simple non vested interest review for the D800, so I can report my experience to date without going into any technicalities as follows;
1. Auto focus is much improved over the D700, much more accurate and very fast, especially with teleconverter attached, no searching for focus so far.
2. Lighter than the D700 and much more ergonomic to use in the hand.
3. Menu system much the same and easy to pick up the small differences.
4. DX and other crop modes fantastic for wildlife and getting that little bit of extra reach with the same amount of pixels available as the D7000 provides.
5. Low light performance spectacular given the mega pixels, you won't need to worry about low light capabilities, easily on PAR if not better than the D700 which was perfectly acceptable.
6. Rendition, colour and detail produced simply blows you away.
7. 4 Frames per second are not an issue even with my bird photography, you will need a large fast CF card to cope with the writing speed and camera storage. (My CF 16gb 90mb/s Sandisk holds about 220 shots before it buffers to the SD card as an overflow and writes fast enough for the frame rate not to be a problem).
8. Time lapse is a ball.
9. Video not yet fully explored.
10. Live view very easy to use, virtual horizon useful.
11. Shutter speed compensation for Auto ISO set up very impressive.
12. Full FX Raw lossless compressed files huge at 40-47 mb. DX crop Raw lossless compressed more manageable at 17-19 Mb, you will eventually need more storage.
13. You will need good lenses to get the most out of this camera, but everybody looking at this piece of kit will have already invested in these. PS (my all round walkabout 28-300 vr fx lens never impressed or gave good results with the d700, on the d800 it produces fantastic results not sure why?)
14 You will need good VR lenses, tripod, monopod or an incredibly steady hand when shooting with this camera given the detail it produces.
Finally all I can say is that this camera is an absolute joy and produces pictures to throw away that would have taken pride of place previously. It is a massive step up for me from the D700 in terms of the quality and detail as you would expect with the 36 mp and I can't at this point see why an amateur would need anything else in their camera bag. Some of the wildlife and nature shots recently taken with my 300mm f2.8 and 200mm f2 nikon lenses are gob smacking and I really can't see how they could ever be improved upon and believe me I am pickie.
TWO WORDS FANTASTIC CAMERA If you upgrade you won't regret it.
on 26 June 2012
i thought long and hard about spending this amount of money on this camera i checked all the reviews they were all mostly postive some said that shooting handheld requires good handling skills and better with lenses with vr as most of my photos are of my grand children who dont stand still for a second this did put me off as my lenses dont have vr and i have never used a tripod. any way i purchased the camera it arrived on sat i read the users manuel went out on sunday took some photos in bad light of my grandson when i opened up my photos i was stunned they are totally amazing can not believe i shot them since then i have taken more in good light again amazing dynamic range is fantastic sharpness fantastic detail gobsmacking i zoomed into my grandaughters eye and you can see me taken the photo [a bit creepy that]the fps is only 4 have taken some action shots of my grandkids jumping and running and i still can catch the shots.i have a nikon d7000 which is also a very good camera but i am glad i have taken the plunge and bought this as this is on a different world i would agree with the experts about good quality lenses being required i have a 50mm prime 1.8 no vr and 24-70 2.8 no vr the 50mm cost about £180 this is one of the rare times i have spent so much money and feel happy and thats coming from a scotsman
on 9 May 2014
The word Professional is booted around on a lot of consumer products these days. It is the same with Photography. With the big brand names there are distinct boundaries as to how they are marketed. With Nikon it is fair to say that most of their DSLR output is consumer, rather than professional. As of this review Nikon have 6 cameras that Nikon sell as "Professional"quality. These are the D4s, D4, D3s, D3x, D800, D800e. So if you have used any Nikon camera in the past, the step up at first doesn't seem that apparent. It is only when you start to use them, do you realise the difference. The D800 was launched in 2012 and has the highest Megapixel Sensor of any Nikon camera, 36.3 Megapixels to be precise. What this means is that the rendering of an image can be close to a medium format camera. With all this rendering though comes a price, each file can be in excess of 200 MB by the time you have finished working with it. These are huge, so it is really worth while checking that your computer can handle all this extra information. It can also deliver video that is considered "Broadcast Quality",offering uncompressed output via HDMI. This is very true. The video is exceptional.
I have had my D800 for a while now and can really say there is a light year in difference in the quality from my old camera. But the D800 does have a hidden problem that can really annoy you if you don't know about it. Smaller sensors, generally speaking are quite forgiving when it comes to rendering an image. You see a shot, you lift your camera up, half press the shutter to focus then press fully down and click, the image is captured. Now do the same with a D800, you may find that the image is slightly out of focus or it shows signs of camera shake. Yes the bigger sensor means that if you only move a tiny bit, the result can mean disaster. It is very important to really think about how you stand and really set yourself very steady in order not to get camera shake. It is a reinvention of everything you know about how to take an image. The D800 is a very unforgiving camera, but the results are spectacular when used. Sadly the same is true with lenses. The D800 is a Full Frame Camera, so unlike other Nikon cameras that have a cropped sensors(DX), you will need to use full frame lenses as opposed to Nikon's Nikkor DX range of lenses. It is very true to say if you put bad glass in front of any camera, then the results will be poor. DX lenses will work with this camera but it will only use a tiny portion of your sensor essentially halving the final image quality. Although it is fair to suggest that most of you who are considering buying this camera, will already know the fundamentals of photography and may be stepping up from another Nikon camera. The menu system looks for the most part, the same as other recent Nikon Models. Even the basic D3100 right the way through and including the D4s have a very similar menu system. Very familiar and really easy to use. You can customise buttons even set your camera to the style of how you shoot. It still is a steep learning curve but one I am sure you will enjoy. I am not sponsored by Nikon, nor do I work for Amazon. I am a genuine user of this camera and will be happy to answer any question you may have with regards to deciding on whether this camera is for you.
Thanks for reading.
on 14 May 2012
I've been using Nikon cameras for over 30 years, and after a week of using the D800 my impression is that it slots in nicely as the most evolved of their prosumer DSLRs yet.
- benchmark-setting pixel count and dynamic range (yes, those images look superb)
- feels comfy to my medium-sized hands
- big bright viewfinder
- takes rubber eye cup from my old F4
- snappy autofocus; face detection in AF-C mode mostly seems good at locking-on to an eye
- 'set and forget' auto ISO when you want it, adjustable to be a dynamic function of focal length
- dynamic range; better even than my Fuji S5 Pro (is this the end of bracketted HDR?)
- after a moment of disorientation, I prefer the AF control ergonomics to those of the D300/700 (I think Ken Rockwell has his knickers in a twist over this)
- carefree ISO up to 6400 - and the character of the noise is such that it's easily de-noised
- great colour quality ... much more akin to the rich D700 than the (to me) troublesome D300 ... as the light subsides colours seem to glow rather than going drab
- the shutter makes less of a thunderclap than with D300/D700
But it's not perfect:
- a greenish colur cast on the rear LCD (I always use colour-calibrated screens and am quite sensitive to this being 'off')
- the battery drains faster than last-generation Nikon DSLRs
- the menus are typical Nikon (so okay, long-time Nikon users will feel at home ... but no awards for usability are pending)
- the quiet mode isn't really quiet; the mirror actions are decoupled, so if you hold the release button you get just a single 'click' until you let go and get the 'clack' (which latter, in this mode, is a little muffled and squelch-ified)
A side note on using DX lenses: the Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f1.8G Lens makes an interesting partner to the camera. In 1.2 crop mode this gives a handy and sharp 42mm-equivalent lens.
My guess is that there will be three main groups of people with their eye on the D800 - those shooting with a D700, those with a D7000 and probably also a few Canon 5D MK2 owners. Given that the majory of upgraders will be moving from the D700, and that the D700 was my primary camera before upgrading, I'll focus on that particular comparison.
Things which are improved over the D700:
1. 100% Viewfinder - this will effectively give you 10% more usable (rather than guessable) pixel space over the D700, even before you consider that the D800 has 3x more pixels in the same size of sensor.
2. High ISO performance. Shots at ISO 6400 are noticeably cleaner and more detailed than with the D700. I was amazed, and still am. This was my main concern about the upgrade. However, Nikon have exceeded expectations with this sensor, and ISO performance falls somewhere between that of the D700 and the D3S.
3. Low ISO performance. By rendering ISO 100 native, it is possible to extract extremely fine grained and detailed images from the D800. Perfect for studio shooting.
4. 3x resolution. Once you start shooting with the D800 and zoom in to 1:1, you begin to realise just how much additional detail is captured. This is perfect for landscape shooting and allows much more latitude in cropping, which can sometimes be a lifesaver.
5. Video. Love it or hate it, the D800 now gives you very capable large sensor video shooting capabilities at full HD resolution. And yes, unlike the poor old 5D MK 2 and 3, it's possible to record this uncompressed from the sensor via HDMI without capturing the focus points in shot. To do so, you're going to either need to shoot tethered to a PC with a fast hard drive and specialist HDMI capture card, or buy an expensive dedicated portable HDMI recorder like the Atomos Ninja - both methods allow you to capture in 10-bit as opposed to 8-bit as it's written to the internal card. This gives much more latitude for level adjustment and grading in post. it's just a shame that the otherwise superb Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 doesn't have VR, to make walkabout filming a more attractive proposition. There's always the Tamron equivalent with VR if this appeals to you. For me personally, tripod mounted shooting is the only thing I'd consider shoting from any DSLR.
6. Dual Card Formats. So you get two slots now - just like the D7000. For pro shooters, this is a major benefit. If one card goes bang and corrupts all your shots, you can have a real-time backup in card B. That both are different formats gives more flexibility too. I don't necessarily see having 2 CF shots as a must-have. When you're travelling, often the only cards you can find are SDs.
7. Dedicated bracketing button. For landscape photographers, this will be another benefit in addition to the resolution, I essentially frees-up one of the programmable buttons. I tend to dedicate mine to spot metering and DoF preview.
8. Face recognition. The much more detailed (91,000 pixels as opposed to 1,000 pixels on the D700) metering system makes automatic metering and scene recognition for focus much improved over the D700. In a fast and furious shooting situation, of if you need to hand the camera over to an inexperienced photographer, this is a real benefit.
9. Low light focusing. Especially when manually selecting a single cross-type focus point, the D800 has an uncanny ability to nail focus in very dark situations without needing the focus assist light turned on. I've used it, and it works.
Things which got worse:
The D800 loses frames per second (FPS) over the D700. Down from 5FPS (8FPS with the battery grip) to 4FPS. If this really matters to you, you won't move. If like me, you primarily shoot in single frame mode, you won't care less. Believe me, at 36MP, spray & pray is hard drive suicide anyway. This is a camera for considered shooters.
Things which might put you off but shouldn't:
Worried about a 'green' cast on the rear viewfinder? Don't be. If it ever was a problem, it doesn't seem to be now. Mine doesn't have it, anyway. There is a rumour that it fades over time anyway, even for those who had it.
Inaccurate AF using the outer AF points with wide angle lenses? I'm not seeing that with my 14-24 f/2.8.
Huge RAW files. Yes, they went up by 3x from 15MB on the D700 to around 45MB with the D800. However, computers are 3x more powerful now than they were when the D700 was released, and storage is 3x cheaper, so I don't see that this is a step backwards in relative terms. Personally I'd rather have the extra image detail.
You will need good glass. Yes, you will need the best lenses to make the extra IQ that the D800 can record worthwhile. Factor that into your affordability criteria.
So, is it worth the upgrade? For me personally - hell, yea!
on 22 March 2012
Update since owning camera longer:
I think the camera is a magnificant piece of engineering, the feel of it is great - to me it feels as comfortable as the 700 which I've not held for a few months now. The buttons and dials all feel good and comfortable. The only annoying thing is the MODE button is totally too far to reach easily unless you have a witches index finger! I'll work around it, to be honest I shoot in either aperture priority or manual all the time and i'm either in one or the other for a long period so should be able to get over this.
I've been testing autofocus and doing alot of portraits, will see how landscape shooting goes in a few days. Glad to note that testing at 24mm @ f/2.8 both lateral AF points look bang on to me, along with centre. Autofocus is a bit of a learning curve due to the sensor resolution. I'm finding with long lenses and f/1.4 I'm sometimes needing to use AF-C (usually I stick to AF-S most of the time and did with the 700). But if you breathe at the wrong time or the subject moves even a litter your done for. So I am using the AF-ON button much more regularly, and AF-C, focus point on the eye. It feels right.
I've had on lockups, no AF problems (that aren't my own doing) and the screen doensn't look green to me and I am a WB stickler to be honest. It looks all very accurate to my eyes.
Metering is even better than the 700, that's all I'll say (and the 700 was excellent). I am noticing the extra 2.5 stops dynamic range too. I'll use filters less when I am in "landscape" mode which is great. Colour performance from this sensor is just amazing. I have the camera picture controls set to Neutral (only affects the JPGS but means the previews on the back of the camera are nice and plain for edit in raw later).
Regarding shutter speed you need to be a little careful. Let's take a 50mm prime lens and say we are using the full FX area. I'm finding to handhold I can get sharp shots at 1/60 if I breathe carefully and I am really steady and the subject is still but it's more hit or miss than the 700. I'm around 2-3 times the focal length in terms of shutter now (high ISO is great anyway). 1/160 definately looks good when you nail it on a 50mm prime. Infact i'm noticing for hand holding 2-3 times the focal length is a ball park figure and obviously will change depending on the speed of your subject and there distance from your camera.
Crop modes are excellent. As someone who sticks to (mainly) primes, having this option is great, it's like having a zoom that has a f/1.4 aperture. I have assigned the FN button + dial to scroll through the modes. So I have an 85mm prime on the lens, I can quickly go 1.2x zoomed in, - 1.5 x zoomed in and even select 5:4 mode which is just great (just loving that 5:4 mode to nail the composition for portraiture). And still having almost 16MP in DX mode is just brilliant as you can compose your picture better than just shooting FX initially and cropping in post.
Movie mode is surprizingly good for me, as it's a function I didn't think I'd use much. Granted I have not tested out a long prime yet but a 24mm is easy to focus with manually, I'm betting the 85mm f/1.4 ain't gonna be that easy but still - if I where making the next blockbuster I'd buy all the rig and focus pulling systems. However, I'm finding with a basic focus puller around the focus ring you can get some beautiful movies and some great subject isolation. It really looks cinematic and again there is the choice to select 1.2x or DX mode to do this in which is an advantage. Power aperture works when recording to a card which is nice.
100% viewfinder is a great welcome compared to the 700, especially when shooting wide angle landscapes. It's more accurate, it feels brighter somehow.
Camera is 10% lighter than the 700 but to be honest I don't notice it, feels the same to me. It's definately taller too, the ergonomics are great apart from the mode button which I will get used to. Quiet shutter mode doesn't sound much quieter to me, but doesn't bother me anyway. Don't take my word for it, I tested this quickly. Believe it or not, I've not even fired off the 4-5FPS motor yet (don't tend to shoot this way - I don't even care about the FPS stuff that's discussed on here ad-nauseum).
High ISO is incredible. Even at 100% the detail is just amazing, there is so much more than the 700 and the 800's files clean up even better with lightroom. Infact, as with the 700 I have NR (for high iso) turned off completely (I urge you to do this to retain detail and you can decide later if you want to clean up). This means it will only activiate above 1600 (camera does not allow this to be turned off). Even at 6400 files are beautiful and when grain does appear it's such a beautiful textured display like the 700 - I loved this about the 700 as it just looked like shooting film again.
WB is good despite some of the stuff I have been reading. I think people forget that white balance might not be consistant in some of their shots because stuff like TV's will cast different light into a room / subject that will mean it will look blue, then red etc. Shooting in raw it's all a non-issue. I think it handles difficult lighting really well, but I like the option to move to a warmer or colder setting later via RAW and lightroom 4.1.
Files are big. Alot of JPG's I have here after processing are 20-30MB sometimes more depending on the complexity of the scene. RAW file sizes are massive. I have a 16GB extreme pro sandisk card in here and full RAW with lossless compressed it reads 200 shots remaining. However, likely will get 250-300. I have not put an SD card in yet but certainly will. Beauty of that is SD cards are cheap for a slow one and if you want to shoot in "slow mode" you can simply fire the shots into the slower card. (I say slow, will still be a class 10 card!) Files are big and handle differently on a pc, but to give you a laugh I ran lightroom 4.1 on a samsung NC 10 netbook today - I kid you not it ran slowly, I couldn't do it all day but it worked (has 2GB ram and a slow single core ATOM processor). Don't worry too much about the PC upgrade misinformation, you can simply buy another big 2TB HD which is cheap if you want down the line.
Electronic rangefinder is great, as with D700 manual focus is easy if required.
Biggest thing I am noticing is the upped detail even when you are further from your subjects. If I compare to the 700, if I was say 2 metres away and took a shot with a 50mm prime textures and eyelashes aren't really seen. With the 800, there is so much extra resolution overlaying these areas they just pop so much more. I'm noticing it, and I'm very happy with it. Even my wife pointed it out!
It's a bit of a learning curve all in all. It reminds me of when I started using the 135mm f/2 DC lens on the 700, it takes awhile before it "sings". I feel focusing is a little harder than before but when you get it right your jaw literally drops. On summary, this is definately not a camera for the faint of heart and it's not for people who like to pray and spray. I do believe it's much better suited to the guy that keeps his camera out of drive mode for the most part and considers each photograph individually. You know what I mean? The kind of "Jeff Ascough" approach.
I recommend if you do buy to spend 15 minutes going through every menu and configure are to how you want / need. Some of the defaults aren't what I'd expect (e.g. I do not really shoot jpg but when I checked this menu it was set to optimal compression to optimal quality). High ISO NR was on, etc etc. I also like to take the AF recompose time to off so when I am using AF-C the camera gets a quicker, more live focus feed and the hit rate of in focus photos duely increases. Set the camera to clean the sensor on start or shutdown. You'll notice your sensor won't need cleaning half as much as usual to. All in all I am very pleased and would recommend.
The best 35mm format camera I have ever used. My jaw literally dropped when I checked and printed these images. Huge base ISO 100 dynamic range. ISO sensitivity to 6400 and from looking at the images less noise than the D700 even at 6400 and 12800 ISO! I have shot with a 700 for over 2 years now and I have always loved the small amount of 'film' like grain you get around 1600-3200. The 800's ISO performance is a little better to my eyes (especially consider that when you look at 100% on your monitor your really looking at an image several feet wide!) The only small area of note is there is a little more colour noise around 3200 than on the 700, but consider with photoshop and lightroom, this is the easiest area to clean up. Add into this your extra resolution: you are starting with more detail so in the end a better result is had. Also remember that downsizing separates these cameras even further. I am a landscape and portrait photographer and I have been blown away by how creamy ISO 100 is. The tones are beautiful, the colour separation incredible and the dynamic range improved over the D700 and D3s/D3. I often use high ISO, with the 700 I went right up to 6400 for events and to be honest I'll go the same or further with the 800. Heck even 12800 is useable downsized for the web, especially in B/w!.
This camera has improved AF over the D700 and D3s which where are already incredible IMO. It has the same AF system as the D4! Just incredible that Nikon give you this in a camera of this cost.
It has a full HD video function which many will use either professionally or for fun; either way you cannot deny it is nice to have this all in one multimedia device.
Full dust and weather sealing.
Built in AF motor so AF-D primes will autofocus as with the 700.
100% view finder! This is big. We can compose exactly how we see without this 95% guessing.
Large bright image review screen that adjusts depending on ambient light for better viewing conditions.
A resolution of 7360 x 4912 = 36 Megapixels! Great for huge prints or cropping. Now I can hear many about to scoff when I say the word 'crop'. But its ridiculous when people make comments like you should never crop. Like every image you have ever taken should fit perfectly and be composed perfectly in the standard 35mm box? That is madness! The rules of composition withstanding, set yourself free! Sometimes images work as squares, widescreen or other cropped shapes. Strong compositions sometimes do not always lend themselves to a 35mm fx box. That aside 36mp is welcome, very welcome.
Expeed 3 image processor and improved colour matrix metering. This is huge. The camera has face detection also and can meter backlit scenes more accurately with no or less exposure compensation.
Variety of output modes = full fx, 5:4, 3:2, 1.2 crop mode.
900 grams body only. Nearly 100 grams lighter than the D700.
I am lucky to be one of the first to get this camera and cannot wait to test it fully over the summer.
Oh, just for reference, all lenses show gains with a larger MP sensor. But you should try and shoot with good glass. My favs are an 85mm f/1.4 and a 135mm f/2.
The D800 is the first 35mm format camera capable of 36 megapixel images, and was rated by DxO on its appearance as one of the five most optically perfect cameras ever made, beating out many medium format systems. It is packed with Nikon's latest electronics offering excellent in-camera processing of difficult images, and shares the D3 and D700's low noise characteristics up to ISO 6400, with 25,600 equivalent as a maximum. Under studio lights, the D800 offers incomparable quality for this format. Outside of the studio any camera or subject movement will blur the image at the pixel level, but careful shooting technique means that location images of extraordinary depth can still be captured.
I bought the D800 for advertising shots under studio lighting, or portable studio lighting (Profoto B2-1200, etc). I've been using the D3 for years for the same purpose (among its many other uses). At 12MP the D3 is capable of shooting a billboard or an A3 spread, but you have to frame up the image carefully before you do it. 12MP is _just_ enough for that size. By comparison, the D800's 36MP is enough to shoot the whole scene and then repurpose it afterwards, changing an image from a landscape 24 sheet billboard to a portrait 9 sheet. It's also enough to shoot a 96 sheet billboard.
My D800 had its first advertising outing last Monday, for a model shoot on Worcester High Street. I was astonished by the quality of the images it produced, right down to the pixel level. With a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens and subsequent processing in DXO to overcome residual softness, there was absolute clarity, beautifully nuanced colour, and enough depth for extensive post-processing afterwards.
The D800 also excels in video. Pictures are still-photograph quality. Using a Beachtek DXA-SLR (DXASLR) Active XLR Audio adaptor, the audio quality is crisp, and the on-screen audio meter a significant advance on most DSLRs. This is easily good enough for news-quality. Going beyond that necessitates separate audio recording, as it generally does in video production.
Nikon sent me the D4 to try out when it was first released. I had it a week before I had to return it to Germany. I loved it, but didn't think it was _enough_ better than the D3 for me to really buy one. I had a chat with Nikon's PR team afterwards, and they suggested that the D800 might be what I wanted. Sadly, they didn't offer me one to try. It took me more than a year to finally take the plunge and get the D800. I can now say that they were exactly right. Although it can't match the D4's gravity-defying 200,000+ ISO performance, the D800's low noise is easily adequate for all kinds of walk-around news and general photographic tasks. In DX mode it still produces advertising size images, and at a potential 6 frames per second. When required, it also produces the clinically crisp 36 MP images, as long as careful work has been done to prevent movement blur.
There is only one downside to this camera, and that is the cost of the battery pack and D4 type battery. The pack is £250+, the battery is £120+, and the charger for the battery is £300+. Only with this combination do you get the 6fps in DX mode. You don't actually require any of these to use the camera, but if you want D4 type battery life and fast-ish performance, then you have to reckon on another £600-£700 cost, which brings this a lot closer to the D4's price.
on 23 October 2012
This is a complex camera with hidden depths, and bearing in mind that I've been producing work with it for only a little over a month this review is inevitably going to be pretty cursory.
There are plenty of products out there in photo-land which claim to make a difference to your work. Most of them don't. I believe however that in the longer-term the D800 really will allow me to produce work which is visibly better than anything I've previously shot.
For me, the big pluses are in three areas: dynamic range; colour rendition; and definition. These three are fundamentals: they are I suppose reliant on the big, expensive stuff like imaging chip quality, and processors, and are not the kind of things a manufacturer can change by adding a few whistles and bells. Hence, perhaps, the price of this camera.
There's a lot of learning to do in terms of adjustments which will give the desired results with JPEGs, though I'm confident that getting this right is simply a case of hard work and experience. In terms of RAW files, the initial product can look remarkably flat - I suspect because the camera's impressive dynamic range leaves data from images of average contrast compressed into the middle of the histogram, something which at first puzzled me. But a couple of minutes' work post-production will very rapidly yield punchy results as images suddenly come alive.
A number of people have worried about the size of image files from the D800. In my experience this hasn't been much of an issue however - even on my old Power PC Mac. Granted, using Nikon's own supplied View NX software can be an exercise in clock-watching. But when using a grown-up RAW editor and converter like Capture NX, or RAW Developer, I find things move at a more acceptable pace. In passing, I think it would have shown good grace by Nikon to provide free copies of Capture to people who are laying down a couple of thousand quid for one of their cameras.
So is there any significant downside to the D800? At the moment the only one I can think of is that if in future my work is lacking in quality, I can realistically no longer blame the camera!
*** Update 18 April 2012 ***
I've had change to take quite a few real photos with the D800 rather than some test shots in the garden.
My impressions vs my D700 are:
1. Below ISO 400 noise is about the same on both cameras ( using Nikon Capture NX 2 with noise reduction applied ) - even when viewing images at 100% on screen
2. ISO 400 - 800 its a close call but the D700 has smoother images when looking at noise in shadows. But downsizing the D800 image to 12megapixels and the D800 is smoother and sharper.
3. Above ISO800 and up to and including ISO6,400 the D700 definitely looks smoother and less noise - in shadows especially - when viewed at 100%. Downsized D800 images at 12megapixels look virtually as good as the D700 in terms of shadow noise. As you get towards 3,200 I'd say the D700 is still looking a little less noisy in the shadows but its a very small difference.
4. No problems taken sharp shots hand held - but good idea to up the shutter speed slightly. I have taken photos at 1/5 second at 19mm plus VR enabled and got acceptably sharp results even at 100% viewing on screen.
5. Quiet mode doesn't seem that quiet!
6. Liveview is more useful and accessible on the D800 than the D700. It still struggles to focus in very low light.
7. Downside of the new liveview button is they got rid of the focus area switch - which I do miss. Now you have to hold one button while accessing a dial - which while it doesn't sound difficult its is more fiddly to do than the old switch.
8. Dynamic range definitely seems better on the D800. I've a few shots on a very bright day of a white building but with a shaded wall and its not blown out the white building and still kept a good level of detail in the shadows - when shooting RAW anyway.
9. I've not found the video mode as useful as I'd hoped. But I'm not a film maker - so mostly I've been using video mode hand held and just shooting "snapshot" type short movies. The main issue is even with a VR lens videos don't as far as I can tell - appear to use the stabilising - unlike say a "proper" camcorder. So noticeable camera shake unless you mount on a tripod. But even so its nice to have the option of shooting short movies.
10. File size. I shoot raw and read about the size of files but it only hits you when you come to download on to a PC and find 400 images taking up about 15gigabytes! While my powerful PC copes ok things are definitely a little slower in Lightroom 4. Perfectly usable but whereas before the D800 my PC felt super speedy editing photos - now I'm thinking I need an upgrade next year!
11. Freezing issues. Very occasionally I get a freeze - usually after taking a photo. I've mine set to auto preview and I guess 1 in a 100 times I get an approx 10 - 15 second delay between image shot and preview appearing. Normally its less than a second to display a preview image. I'd definitely say there's a minor bug in the firmware. Its never stopped me taking a shot - the camera remains response and will continue to shoot even if there's been a freeze in a preview. With one exception when I turned off the camera and there was I guess a 10 - 15 second delay before it turned off and during which time the camera ignored any button presses. I've an Sandisk 32GB Extreme Professional Compact Flash Card 90MBS in one slot and an SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro 95MB/Sec SDXC Card in the other. I believe both are approved cards by Nikon.
By and large it feels like a D700 ( with the odd button missing ). There's been no "this is great but I miss xyz feature" or "its a great camera but high ISO images are worse".
Image sizes are a consideration - but that high level details comes at a cost!
So apart from the issue of cost and availability I'd highly recommend it as a landscape camera.
************** Original review ********
Mine arrived today - not from Amazon but a local camera shop. It'll replace my Nikon D700 I've had for a few years.
The first concern - having splashed out quite significant amounts of money - is was it worth it?
There have been times when having bought a new and supposedly "amazing" lens I find in reality the difference is too small to be worth mentioning!
I'm pleased to say so far the new D800 excels over the D700. I've taken a number of test shots with both and converted the RAW image to JPG using Nikon Capture NX2.
I've made sure ALL settings are identical - not just aperture, shutter and ISO but also amount of noise reduction applied, white balance, etc.
Comparing the D700 vs D800 at low ISOs the D800 is a clear winner. Increased detail and resolution are obvious. I also downsided the D800 images to the same size of the D700 and they look even better - slightly more details but sharper. The D700 looks very slightly soft in comparison - even when I applied sharpening in Photoshop. Its like a lens upgrade - and not one of those upgrades you really have to stare hard at 100% on screen to notice a difference ( which is often only in extreme corners! ). This difference will be obvious even in 10 inch * 8 inch prints.
I'm not sure why other reviewers are not seeing a difference. Maybe I had a duff D700 and I just never noticed! But either way the D800 is superb.
The other worry was of course high ISO images. The highest I generally used on the D700 was 6,400. So I did test shots indoors in a darkened room at ISO 6,400.
Now at 100% there is no doubt the D700 is a little smoother. Less detail captured by the D700 and colours not as accurate but definitely marginally smoother. I should mention I had Nikon Capture's noise reduction applied equally to both ( 32% intensity setting with sharpness set to 5).
The difference is small enough to really not be an issue.
However I then downsized the D800 image to the same size as the D700 - this smoothed things out as well as sharpened things. At the same image size the D800 beats the D700 hands down. Images are just as smooth but more detailed on the D800. Colour reproduction is also more accurate in particularly dark areas on the D800. On the D700 dark blues came out black - on the D800 its come out a very dark blue.
One very strange thing is the D800 appeared to have fixed issues with corner distortion. I'll try and upload an image to Amazon to demonstrate.
Although I've only had the new camera a few hours I've noticed the D800 images seems to be lighter at the same settings ( aperture, shutter, ISO ). I suspect in normal use perhaps 1/3 of a stop less exposure might be good.
The sun is starting to go down - as it does where I live it hits the neighbours house's slate roof and on sunny days like today the roof is blindingly bright even to the naked eye! A good test of dynamic range as the neighbours house is heavily shaded in some areas. I did 2 shots - one with the D700 on ISO 200 and the other with the D800 on ISO 100 ( its "native" bottom end ). I'm pleased to say the blindingly bright roof was a little less blown out on the D800 vs the D700. And the shaded parts of the house were visibly brighter on the D800 vs the D700. Its perhaps not a massive difference but its clearly visible.
Auto HDR: A new feature of the D800. I'd expected it to work similar to the Auto HDR on say the Sony NEX-5N - in that it works whilst hand holding the camera. However after a few test shots outdoors I found even on a very bright sunny day with shutter speeds of 1/250 second its still blurry - and that was with me resting my arms on a wall. Perhaps its me but I sense the Auto HDR requires use of a very sturdy tripod. Given the Sony NEX 5N does not need a tripod for Auto HDR this is a little disappointing if you are not keen on tripods like myself!
Video: I'm mostly a still shooter but there are times when its nice to take a video. Carrying the hefty D700 AND my camcorder was often too much like hard work - so I'm pleased to take just the one device. Carry two devices in my bag - not me I want to snap and go!
Video quality is amazing - at least as good if not better than my £1,500 Sony camcorder. Sound from the inbuilt mic was surprisingly good too.
The downside is focussing. There is an option for continual focus while videoing but focussing can be clearly heard on the sound track. Also the D800 movie mode focussing is something of a perfectionist - never happy with the focus and forever making micro adjustments - adjustments which are clearly heard and spoil the sound. I did a test filming a lamb and mum walking slowly across a field about 50m from me - and the focus just kept on re-adjusting.
The only answer is to use non-continuous focus mode and focus first before shooting the video. This works fine - so long as whatever you are filming doesn't move out of range of the initial focus. Or you use a lens/f-stop combination with very large depth of field. I'd planned to use the video mode for shooting dolphins on a sea Safari trip in May. But past experience tells me dolphins move fast and rarely stay still for a second - I'm not sure how well the video mode will work for this if continuous AF is not used.
My Sony NEX 5N's video mode may not produce the same quality but continuous focusing is much better and quieter.
Its still early days but so far I'm not at all disappointed in the D800 vs D700. There's nothing I can find that the D700 does significantly better than the D800. But I can find lots that he D800 does better. However my wallet sure feels less happy about the purchase!