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Movie mode

In the years since the arrival of the D700, the demand for professional quality video control among working photographers has increased significantly. Accordingly, Nikon has outfitted the D800 with a number of advances over the D700 in regard to video specifications.

Video quality options

Sizes • Frame size/frame rate
1920 × 1080; 30 fps
1920 × 1080; 25 fps
1920 × 1080; 24 fps
1280 x 720; 60 fps
1280 x 720; 50 fps
1280 x 720; 30 fps
1280 x 720; 25 fps
Audio Monoaural internal mic, Linear PCM
Format MOV
File compression H.264/MPEG-4 (Advanced Video Coding)
Recordable time 29 min. 59 sec.

The D800 can shoot 1080p movies at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second and at up to 24Mbps. Video footage is compressed using B-frame data compression of the H.264/MPEG-4 video codec, which tries to optimize the capture of motion with an eye towards maintaining manageable file sizes.

The D800 also has manually configurable audio control. And in what may prove to be the camera's biggest feature from the videographer's point of view, you can bypass video compression altogether by exporting uncompressed video footage from the camera's HDMI port. While admittedly not a feature that will be taken advantage of by most users, we suspect that this feature may help endear the camera to the broadcast and movie crowd, a market in which Canon made significant inroads with the release of the EOS 5D Mark II back in 2008. Whether using HDMI-enabled output to record the highest possible quality footage or to simply use an external monitor as viewfinder, this is a feature we expect to become increasingly common.

Like the D4, the D800 features a headphone port for audio monitoring of video capture during filming. There are 20 adjustment levels for audio recording (plus auto) and monitoring volume can be adjusted in 30 levels.

Uncompressed HD video footage can be sent out of the camera, straight to an external drive via the built-in HDMI port.

Handling in Video mode

The D800 inherits much of its video handling from the D5100. A dedicated movie record button sits within easy reach just behind the shutter button. Switching between stills and video capture is not always a single button affair, however, as you must switch the camera to live view and set the selector lever to movie mode. The movie record button is disabled when live view is turned off and/or the selector lever is set to still images.

With the camera set to manual mode you can enjoy full exposure control for movie capture. In program and shutter-priority shooting modes, however, your adjustments are limited to setting exposure compensation. Contrast-detect AF is the only option available when shooting videos. It is not only slower than the camera's 'normal' phase-detection mode but lags significantly behind the contrast-detect AF performance of most mirrorless models we've seen.

While we expect a performance dip as a result of having to use a contrast-detect AF system in movie mode, the lens' AF hunting is so prominent both visually and audibly in movie mode that we only recommend using AF when filming static subjects. Even then, you're much better served by acquiring focus before pressing the movie record button

The D800 inherits the D4's improved aperture control in movie mode, with the addition of 'Power aperture'. This simply means that the user can adjust the aperture while recording video in the A and M exposure modes. It's also possible to set the aperture much more precisely, in 1/8 stop increments using the Pv and Fn buttons on the front of the camera. With a card in the camera you can only do this prior to commencing video capture, but with uncompressed video sent through the D800's HDMI port you can control aperture during recording, too. In principle this level of control should allow more exact matching of recording brightness across multiple camera / lens combinations.

Movies can be shot at two different crops from the sensor, FX and DX. This makes it easy to vary the field-of-view for grabbing footage, even if you’ve got a prime lens mounted. However, the ‘FX’ size is a significantly cropped version of the full sensor (it’s 91% of the sensor’s width), so the field-of-view will be a little narrower than you’d expect for any given focal length.

Video quality

The image quality of the D800's video output is very good. Colors are rendered in a natural-looking manner with auto exposure and white balance settings producing pleasing output overall. Those who will be doing even simple edits or want to easily share files will appreciate that the D800 delivers .MOV format files. Of course video professionals will be interested in what uncompressed video looks like, and we expect to have equipment in the dpreview Seattle office shortly to allow us to capture it. We'll post our findings as an update to this review.

The sensitivity of the built-in monoaural microphone is quite impressive. We were consistently able to record faraway sounds with clarity. At its auto settings the microphone does a nice job of giving prominence to sounds originating in front of, rather than behind, the camera. Wind noise and ambient sounds emanating from behind the camera, while audible, rarely became distracting.

As soon as we got a D800E into our Seattle office we set about getting image quality samples in both still and video modes, and while there are differences in resolution in still capture, video files from the two cameras look practically identical. Both cameras deliver extremely detailed video footage but color moire can be a real problem in both. Where moire is visible from footage in the D800E, it is equally apparent from the stock D800.

Video Samples (D800 and D800E)

Dpreview is partnering with Vimeo to bring you high-quality embedded video in our test pages, but as always, the original files are available for download from the links beneath the thumbnails. We've turned HD playback on by default for our embedded videos, but depending on the speed of your internet connection, you may get better performance by turning it off.

Video 1

This video sample demonstrates the audio capability of the D800's monoaural microphone. The sound quality is very impressive, with sounds emanating from in front of the camera having good presence. Ambient sounds are there to be sure, but do not become distracting.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 32 sec, 90 MB Click here to download original file

Video 2

This video clip shows a brief point in a collegiate tennis double match. Even at distance from the court, with the hum of an engine in the background, the sounds of the tennis ball being struck come through clearly in the audio.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 8 sec, 23 MB Click here to download original file

Video 3 (D800E)

In this static video clip, you can see color moiré patterning in the roof shingles of the boat house. Use the download link below to view the video at full resolution.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 13 sec, 35 MB Click here to download original file

Video 4 (D800E)

In this static video clip you can see how the D800E performs in a high contrast nature scene. The video was shot with the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens towards its telephoto end. The dynamic range is impressive. Upon close inspection you can see small color artifacts in the brightly lit foliage along the edge of the river.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 9 sec, 25 MB Click here to download original file

Video 5

In this video clip, the camera pans across a field, moving towards a brightly lit view over the water. You can see the effects of the camera's metering system as it makes slight exposure adjusting by opening and closing the aperture as the camera pans.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 46 sec, 131.4 MB Click here to download original file

Video 6

In this video clip you can see and hear an example of the AF focus hunt that becomes all too prevalent in video mode. The camera was set to continuous AF in single area AF mode. The selected AF point is very near to the middle of the frame.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 23 sec, 66.4 MB Click here to download original file

Uncompressed Video

Alongside their big brother the D4, the D800 and D800E offer the ability to record uncompressed video direct to an external hard drive connected via the cameras' HDMI ports. The benefits of shooting uncompressed video are analogous to the benefits of shooting in high bit-depth Raw mode for stills - greater latitude at the video editing stage, particularly with regard to color grading.

If you're a videographer who is used to editing video in a professional software suite, you might enjoy the editing flexibility of working with uncompressed video rather than the camera-processed footage that is recorded to the SD/CF cards. We've made an uncompressed clip available at the bottom of this page. Be warned though - this nine second clip is 1.9GB in size! Please consider the speed of your connection, and any data caps that might apply to your Internet service before attempting to download them.

Video 1 (Compressed, D800E)

This short video clip was shot at the camera's highest video quality settings and recorded - as are all of the above videos - to the storage card in the camera. This exists to serve as a comparison to the clip we've made available for download below, in which the same scene was captured as uncompressed video.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 9 sec, 26 MB Click here to download original file

Video 2 (Uncompressed, D800E)

We shot this same scene again recording uncompressed video that was output via the camera's HDMI port to Blackmagic's HyperDeck Shuttle 2 recorder. Use the link below to download the uncompressed video file. Please note that while we allow you to download the original file from our servers, the file itself is almost 2GB in size!

Click here to download uncompressed D800E video file (1.9 GB MOV file)

Unfortunately, shooting uncompressed video really isn't as simple as it should be. You can only record in uncompressed mode with an external hard drive attached via HDMI, which makes perfect sense (the footage really is enormous). Unfortunately though, you cannot record 1080p video to both the card and the external HDMI device simultaneously. Whenever video is recorded to the card, the HDMI output drops to 720p. The ability to record full HD uncompressed over HDMI and at least have compressed 1080p recorded as a 'safety' backup to the card would be a useful feature for many independent video shooters. But this is not an option. We also frequently found ourselves having to repeatedly go through cycles of powering on the camera and HDMI device in varying order to get a connection before shooting.

Another annoyance is the fact that by default, the D800/E's HDMI output includes exposure and focus information overlaid on the video output. This makes perfect sense if you're sending the video feed to a monitor and recording to a memory card. If however, you're connecting an external drive to the camera with the intention of recording uncompressed video, it's less sensible. Unless you want footage recorded with the exposure information overlaid, you'll need to go to the HDMI line in the camera's custom menu, then into 'advanced' and turn the 'Live View on-screen display' option off. Our preference would be for this option to be turned off by default when there is no card in the camera. Likewise the image area option in the same menu - by default it is set to 95% but when recording uncompressed video over HDMI you'll need to select '100% unless you want a slim black frame around your footage.

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I own it
I want it
I had it
Discuss in the forums
I own it
I want it
I had it
Discuss in the forums


Total comments: 18

This is a great camera. However, one concern that many reviewers voice is the 4fps continuous shooting rate. Is there any way to improve this in FX mode? For example, can the user shoot at a lower resolution (i.e. ~24MP) in FX mode to achieve a greater continuous shooting rate?

1 upvote

Maybe subject expressed before, has anyone tested older legacy glass, 70's manual prime nikkor glass on D800E for overall performance? The resolving power on film was extremely high, the only artifacts in hi res scans was film grain, not flaws in optics, seemingly capable of resolving limits of 36mp sensor. Have never found true test without bias for "new", "best" nikkor glass.


Legacy glasses will do just fine! I only have one, which is a 50mm F2 AI. I own the D800E and the resolving power on that little lens is still amazing. It keeps up with my modern Nikkor 35 1.8G, which, according to Dxo is sharper than it's big brother the 35 1.4G. It's definitely not as sharp as, say my 58mm 1.4G, but for an old lens, it really does bring out its best.


After using this camera for a while, I tried the Canon 5D Mark III and recently made the switch. Auto focus needs improvement, as does the weather proofing. After 30 plus years of being a Nikon fanatic and after the issues with this camera causing countless shipping for maintenance and water seepage I became frustrated and ended not using it as much. Resale value was fair but not what I had thought a camera such as this would bring.


VMO9 you have the same issue of mine, focusing problem and slight salty water leaked inside and spreads like a cancer in the camera component, it is not a weather nor water sealed and it cant be fixed, now since i have all the top of the lenses and accessories i cant think of switching, so I'm in delma, should i wait for the upgrade or to by the d800e, I'm very loyal to this brand for very long time, i cant think of abandons nikon but i guess as someone said Nikon who is trying to.

1 upvote

It was not easy to switch from Nikon to Canon, especially since I owned every "fast" professional lens Nikon produces. From the fisheye to the 800mm and two 400mm f2.8 lenses, it was a very difficult choice financially and also to end my loyalty to Nikon after 30 years. Selling all of my used gear and basically starting over was an adventure in itself. What I can offer is that since I made the switch the customer service that I've received from Canon has been impressive, as I'm hard on my gear and push the limits. The recent firmware update for my 5D Mark III pushed the standards even higher. It's difficult after purchasing an expensive piece of hardware to give it a thumbs down, as know one wants to admit making a bad decision.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting

I just got my D800 2 days ago, coming from D7000.
I do not own the very expensive lenses everyone say to be the "MUST" on the D800/E. And that was my very big concern about getting this camera.
I tested it with my 70-300VR and even with my 24-85 AFD. It works just GREAT !
Maybe I unconsciously take a bit more care in holding the camera when shooting. But that is the point also for every amateur... improving the technique.
Still, IMHO... I am very happy I didn't go for the smaller D610. Worth every penny I spent for it. I am VERY happy I did it.
I did my homework of course, and checked the left AF points. All is fine for me.
I found the shutter noise to be a bit kinky compared to D7000... not as "smooth" but it seems normal for FX.
If you are Amateur, go for it and be happy if your budget allows it. You will certainly be with the D800, no matter you need or don't the extra mpx. It is a monster.

Comment edited 51 seconds after posting
1 upvote

I agree that to take full advantage of the D800E quality, it demands extra care when shooting and using the best lenses. I'm looking at the Sony A7R for a possible future purchase, maybe easier when backpacking. I also don't care for the very curvy, roundish look of the Nikon and Canon offerings.


the ON/OFF switch on D800E is less ergonomically pleasing than D300


The review states that best results are obtained from D800/E if best (most expensive) lenses are used, which sounds a bit like a drawback. My experience shows the opposite. Nikon D800E shines the brightest over any other camera I have used when I use just simple plastic zooms like Nikon 28-80/3.3-5.6G
I was not able to get ever sharper immages with any Canon using superior prime lenses than the images I get from nikon D800E with the nikon 28-80/3.3-5.6G lens.
Perhaps the best D800E results will be with the best lenses there are. I also have Nikon 85/1.4G, no questions there. This lens is so sharp that manages to exite some moire and aliasing even when shooting grass.
However D800E produces superior image quality over anything else even with cheap lenses.

I could post some examples.


sound interesting -> i will test that too :)

munro harrap

There seems to be a kind of failure to realize that the D800 responds very much faster to use than does the 5D MkIII, and that it does not degrade images as do the 5D MkII and 5D MkIII series.
There's no point having the resolution if the 5D Mk II and III smooth away all low contrast detail as they do- certainly in Raw files as well as Jpeg in the 5D MkII.

I would not advise anyone to buy such a camera whose shutter lag is also much greater than its peers. An Old 1Ds is a much better bet if you are a Canon fan, much. No degradation to fine detail (which happens at ALL isos and much much faster response-same as D800 in custom function mode.

I bought a 5D MkII. I was appalled at what it did to the images and the Jpegs are a disgrace-worse than the Basic level off a Nikon with all detail mushed. Well, if you want that, and the finest detail turned to mush in 5dMkII and MkIII RAW files too , as now Dpreview admit(years too late), go ahead, but the D800 is just SO much better -it just is.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting

In the 'Final Word' subsection of the 'Overall Conclusions' section it states:-

"Yet, I'd caution anyone who considers buying the D800 or D800E solely, or even primarily because of their ultra-high resolution. Pushing these cameras to achieve their maximum level of detail requires an investment of both time (methodical preparation) and money (the very best lenses Nikon makes)."

The part about which I would like clarification is "...requires an investment of both time...". Is the author referring to additional tasks over and above what one would 'normally' do in taking a picture? If so what are these tasks?
Or does it refer to care in the conduct of normal tasks: use of tripod, select correct depth of field/aperture, exposure delay and remote control to reduce vibration, switch off image stabilisation??

1 upvote

The only reason you want this camera is because you plan to present your photos or make BIG prints. Of course, shooting RAW at all time. You probably want to invest in prime lenses or good zoom like 24-70mm f2.8 or 80-200mm f2.8; 50mm f1.8g... Also, purchasing a photo processing program is a must, like CS6 or similar. If you are a causal shooter who doesn't care about post processing, you are better off getting the D610 for full frame or D7100, D5300...and shoot jpegs.

Also, you really don't need a tripod in many situations. I think Nikon was trying to emphasize the pixel power of this camera by telling people to shoot at a higher shutter speed...

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting

When digital cameras reached 14 MP, with the first being the Pentax K20D, criticism was raised, that lenses won't cope. It's now crept up to 24MP for APS-C and the sensors are praised for their detailed pictures. Makes me wonder how great all these new kit lenses must be??? Or it was all just a media hype?
Using a DX lens on a D800 brings the resolution down to about 15MP which is roughly the same pixel pitch as a Nikon D7000 or Pentax K5 - it is also considered the best compromise between pixel size and resolution. So a D800 is basically a full frame version of a 16MP APS-C sensor as far as I understand it.
I think you do need much better glass for a D7100 or D5300 (than a D800) to get the best out of the sensor and a much steadier hand (or fast shutter speeds) for really sharp pictures. Such a high amount of photo sites will pick up any lens movement ....
I reckon if Nikon also produced a "D800" with a 24MP sensor, it'd be more appealing to a wider audience.

Mike Davis

Regarding the excellent demo of diffraction's impact at various f-stops, on page 25 of this review, where is the photo showing what could have been accomplished using Photoshop ACR sharpening against an f/4 RAW file?

I would very much like to compare sharpening of the f/4 RAW file to sharpening of the f/22 RAW file. Surely, a silk purse made from silk would be more attractive than a silk purse made from a pig's ear.

Link to page 25 of this review:



Maybe it's just me, but I see this camesas looking more and more like a melted soap bar. I miss the days when bodies had straight, clean lines. They were also much smaller, for the same full frame film...

sebastian huvenaars

Funny, soap bars tend to follow the shape of your hands over time... Aesthetics vs ergonomics.

(i do like the look of straight lines better by the way)

Total comments: 18