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Nikon D800/D800E Review

Nikon D800/D800E Review
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Review / 07/24/2014
Author: Photoleet avatarPhotoleet
recommendations 1, rating 4


 

 

 

TIMELINE

 

“The King is dead! Long live the King!“

The well-known saying from the Middle Ages might not have too much to do with the situation in photo industry, but we might say that it is an ideal representation of the change on the resolution throne we are witnessing these weeks. Is this the herald of some new occasions, is yet to be seen. For the time being, spotlights are directed to the new sovereign of small format DSLRs, and the first impressions tell us that it might bring about a complete change in the understanding of the growth of resolution as the aggravating factor in relation to the quality of the photos provided by Bayer’s sensors. And no... it is not a Canon!

Not once did we timidly mention the theory that states that the two biggest rivals, the titans of photo-industry, build their rivalry on mutual agreements behind the scenes. Canon’s EOS 7D was one of the few arguments against such a theory, being the direct opponent of the Nikon’s D300. However, doubts were soon restored, because the true successor of the D300 has not arrived, despite the years that have passed since. And just when we forget the story, the Japanese duo gives us room to rehabilitate it again. So, the legend lives on, and recent events on both sides of the rivals’ gunpoint, represent a justification of the idea that the external façade is only a part of the story, and that the timing of certain, very serious changes in the business policies of both companies, are simply too synchronized in order for us to call it a mere coincidence.

And really – how else to explain the conceptual castling we are watching these days? The king of high resolution – Canon, decided overnight to give its users their own, long awaited version of the Nikon's D700 under the name of EOS 5D Mark III, while Nikon did the completely opposite by establishing a new class under the name of D800(E), sacrificing the years of mantra about low-light performance for the sake of a very big improvement of resolution. Although its name suggests that the D800 is a successor of the highly popular D700, it is not even close to it, which was confirmed by the manufacturer itself.

For the first time, Nikon offered a 35mm camera with extremely high resolution for a price less than the one for which you could buy a new car from a lower category. The mere resolution of monstrous 36 MP is great even in absolute terms, let alone in comparison to that which is already on the market! What is particularly interesting is the fact that this is the first time that Nikon enters the class that was for years ruled by a rival EOS 5D Mark II. To make things even more interesting, Canon does not provide any indications that it will announce the successor of its best selling Full-frame camera in flavor expected by the users of the 5D Mark II. Instead of that, they got the 5D Mark III that has little to do with what the 5D represented for years as a class. That led us to the situation where Canon finally has its version of D700 while Nikon for the first time offered its own stock photographers’ dream – the D800(E).

For several years, loyal Nikon users have been hoping for a D700x model that would see off the concept of what we got just now in the D800 model, only with a 24 MP flavor, taken from the top model D3x. It is obvious that, by deciding not to offer what the market demands, Nikon gave its best to avoid the scenario that Canon experienced after the presentation of its 5D Mark II that placed the flagship model EOS Mark III in jeopardy. Time will tell how wise that decision was. But, if one is to judge after the sale analyses, or the market success of the 5D Mark II, the last thing that Canon should grieve over is the sales of the most expensive model, because the aforementioned "five" broke all possible and impossible sales records of a full frame DSLR.

Can Nikon hope for similar success? It is hard to say. As it is usually the case with major steps, the D800 is not a camera for anyone. Even the target customers will have certain difficulties to choose the right version, because this is one of the few mass production models that are being shipped in two variants. One conventional, tagged as D800, while the other has a suffix “E”, and it represents (according to specifications) a completely identical camera, but “sans” Low-pass (AA; Anti-aliasing) filter. What are the real implications of this action that is customary in the world of Medium Format (MF) professional bodies, is yet to be seen, and the fact that the D800 (E) is the first classic DSLR that (according to what you will see below) tends to thwart the rather sovereign MF players. Is this the turning point in the future of photo industry or just too big a bite, is yet to be seen...

 

 

SPECIFICATIONS

 

It is not quite usual that we do not have anything to compare the new body with. That is exactly the case with the D800(E). As it is not a direct successor of D700 (although the name implies that it is), a comparison with the already famous “athlete” would not be appropriate. That is why we are going to present only specifications of the D800, i.e. its “E” subversion, the one that we will test here (though, all that is said for one model, applies to the other, too):

 

 Nikon D800Nikon D800E
Announced February 6, 2012 February 6, 2012
Sensor 36.3 MP Nikon CMOS, 3:2 aspect ratio;
Full-frame 35.9 x 24mm (8.62 cm²)
Pixel density 4.21 MP/cm²
36.3 MP Nikon CMOS, 3:2 aspect ratio;
Full-frame 35.9 x 24mm (8.62 cm²)
Pixel density 4.21 MP/cm² without the effect of the Low-pass (Anti-aliasing) filter
Formats RAW (NEF), TIFF and JPEG
Resolution RAW

7360 x 4912

Resolution JPEG

FX (3:2): 7360 x 4912; 5520 x 3680; 3680 x 2456;

FX (5:4): 6144 x 4912; 4608 x 3680; 2072 x 2456;

1.2x (3:2): 6144 x 4080; 4608 x 3056; 2072 x 2040;

1.5x (3:2): 4800 x 3200; 3600 x 2400; 2400 x 1600

FOV (crop factor) 1.0x
Mount

Nikon F

Kit Lens

N/A

ISO range 100 - 6400 in 1/3 EV increments,
extended - L1.0 (50), L.07 (64), L0.3 (80), H0.3 (8000), H0.7 (10000), H1.0 (12800) and H2.0 (25600)
Processor Nikon Expeed 3
A/D Convertor 14-bit
Color Space Adobe RGB, sRGB
In-body Stabilization N/A
Dust Reduction Image Sensor Cleaning;
Software Image Dust Off reference
AF System

Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX Phase Detection;

51 AF points, 15 cross-type, 11 central sensitive to f/8

AF Modes

Single-servo AF (AF-S);

Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C)

AF Methods

Auto; Single; Dynamic Area AF (9; 21; 51);

3D-Tracking

AF-Assist Internal AF flash strobe, external flashgun
AF Micro Adjustment For 12 lenses in ±20 increments
Internal flash Yes; GN12 at ISO 100
Wireless Flash Control Yes, for i-TTL compatible flashes
Flashgun

i-TTL Hot-Shoe & sync, synchronization 1/250

Light Metering

91k-pixel TTL RGB sensor

Light Metering Modes 3D color matrix metering III;
Center-weighted (75% at the center of the frame);
Spot (~1.5% at the center)
Min Shutter Speed 30 seconds, bulb
Max Shutter Speed 1/8000 s
Drive Modes Single; Continuous Low-Speed; Continuous High-Speed; Quiet; Self-Timer 2, 5, 10 i 20s; Mirror-Up; Remote; Delayed Remote
Burst 4 fps (FX), 5 fps (1.2x and DX), 6 fps (with additional charge in the DX mode)
Shutter 200,000 actuations
Buffer

16-25 RAW, 16 TIFF or 56 JPEG images in 36MP;

25-54 RAW, 21 TIFF or 100 JPEG images in DX

Exposure Compensation -5 to +5 EV in 1/3 EV, 1/2 or 1 EV increments
Viewfinder Optical, pentaprism, 100% frame coverage; 0.7x magnification factor; eyepoint 17mm
Display Fixed, 3.2“ TFT-LCD, 3:2 aspect ratio, 921,000 pixel resolution, with a light sensor
Live View

Yes, 100% coverage;

Image sensor metering

Live View AF

Contrast Detection (CDAF);

Single-Servo AF (AF-S); Fulltime-Servo AF (AF-F)

Video

Yes, 1920 x 1080 @24/25/30 fps;
1280 x 720 @25/30/50/60 fps;

640 x 424 @24 fps

Remote Control Yes, 10-pin remote connector; IC port
Storage

Compact Flash (Type I or II);

Secure Digital (SD)

Interface USB 3.0 (micro-B); HDMI Type-C; Stereo 3.5mm microphone input; Stereo 3.5mm audio output; 10-pin GPS/Remote; PC-Sync
Weather and Dust Sealing Yes
Battery Nikon EN-EL15 Li-Ion, 1900mAh
Battery Endurance (CIPA) ~900
Grip MB-D12 for two batteries EN-EL15 or 8 AA Ni-Mh batteries
Other Electronic level in two axes
Body Body made of magnesium alloy;
146 x 123 x 82 mm; 900 g
Body made of magnesium alloy and plastic;
135 x 105 x 77 mm; 780 g

Technical Characteristics: Twins – Nikon D800 and D800E

 

A look at the chart definitely refutes the theory that it is about a successor of the famous D700. Although the two models have more than one subsystem in common, or at least very alike, the key difference is in the sensor, and not any kind of sensor! As we mentioned in the introduction, what we have here is an absolute resolution record keeper of the 35mm format, with a tendency to stay there for at least a couple of years. Almost completely unexpected from Nikon, but, in any case welcome! The first rumors were followed by a kind of euphoria, but the official announcement soon after that, divided the public into two dominant groups – those who are, mildly said, thrilled with the new camera and others who look upon the whole conception with disbelief and sour smile.

Let us begin...

 

PACKAGE

 

The package that accompanies the D800(E) is similar to that shipped with other Nikon's DSLRs. The basic package, which is the same for both subversions, aside from the body and lid of the bayonet lens mount, includes: an EN-EL15 Li-Ion battery and the accompanying charger MH-25, wide belt for shoulders, BM-12 protective lid of the display, a USB cable for connection with PC, BS-1 flash mount lid, compartment for a USB cable, short and detailed printed user manual, user manual on a CD, a CD with accompanying software and a warranty. The accompanying software contains Nikon’s ViewNX application, which allows you basic photo manipulation, organization, and basic conversion of RAW shots. Software is available in versions for both Windows and Mac OS.