From D700 to D800
I transitioned from the D700 to the D800 relatively late compared to most people here. The D800 in this review was a Canadian version bought in mid April 2013, roughly a year after it was announced and was widely available. In the past, my D700 has been used primarily for event photography. And it is a phenomenal tool for such a purpose. But I have given up that side of photography, and have been experimenting more with landscape photography and video. I still do event photography occasionally, but that isn’t the primary use for the D800.
Upon purchasing the D800 I put it through a few tests to make sure I didn’t have the dreaded left focus issue. The body I got has a Canadian serial no. 50089xx. Although I haven’t tested it extensively to make sure it doesn’t have the problem, my preliminary tests indicate that the leftmost and rightmost focus points work about the same. I am not exactly sure when Nikon corrected things in their factories, but some forum posts seem to indicate that earlier batches in 5008xxx did have a problem. In reality even if I had the left focus issue, I am not sure it would actually impact my shooting style as I tend not to use the outer points. The only reason I tested for it is that it may impact the resale value of the body for those people who tend to have shooting styles that maybe impacted by subpar left focus point performance.
Coming from the D700 there are a few things that are immediately apparent. Nikon keeps moving the buttons around from camera to camera! Is there a reason why every generation of pro/consumer bodies need to have different button layouts? It is a bit of a nitpick, but it is a little annoying to have to retrain yourself every time you pick up a new Nikon body. The 100% viewfinder is nice. Missed having the last 5% in the D700. Though not critical, there have been times when I have taken a shot and found that some unwanted thing has crept into the borders of my shot. My hand position on the D800 feels a little nicer than on the D700. I like the angled shutter button as opposed to the more horizontal position on the D700. The is a bit a weight drop with D800 body that is noticeable, but once you mount one of the heavier lenses such as the 24-70 or the 70-200, any weight difference you noticed when you picked up the body initially goes away.
The new implementation of the Auto ISO is phenomenal. Apart from when I use flash or maybe mount the camera on a tripod, I can safely leave the camera in Auto ISO most of the time. The variation of auto ISO with focal length is especially useful with zooms. The only thing I would like beyond the current setup is a quick way of switching between auto ISO and a specific ISO value without having to go to the menu. I do find myself going between auto iso and specific iso when I use the flash intermittently for shots. This is where I think the U1/U2 setup of a D600/D7100 would be handy over the “pro” style setup in D800/D4.
I have had the body now for 3 days, and haven’t shot a whole lot. But the limited testing I have done so far suggests that this is about 1 stop better than the D700 for low light assuming you don’t need the full 36MP. And in good light this thing blows everything else I have seen out of the water.
The 36mp files are quite taxing on my processing setup. I am using lightroom and am using an external drive to store all the images. The load times and processing times are a LOT slower than my D700 files. I haven’t actually timed the difference between the D700 and D800 raw, but I have to figure out a way to speed this process up. It is still a bit puzzling to me why Nikon doesn’t offer a scaled/downbinned RAW file. I would be more than happy to have the option to use a 2x2 downbinned 9mp file. Of course it is nice to have all that 36MP goodness, but in many cases when you are simply shooting just something for the web or don’t intend to blow it up really large, the 9MP is more than adequate.
I haven’t shot any serious videos with the D800 to comment on that aspect as yet, but I intend to use it for a lot of video making in the coming months.
The D800 produces extremely high quality images, but there are a few things that keep it from getting a perfect 5/5 in my books. The construction and controls are really well thought out, but I do feel that Nikon is missing a trick by not figuring out how to get their awesome u1/u2 idea from their “consumer” line into their “pro” line. An option to generate downbinned 9MP images would be a good addition, but given Nikon’s reluctance to introduce new features with firmware upgrades, I am sure this will never happen.
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= community average