The rear LCD of the D800 is identical to that found on the Nikon D4. At 3.2 inches it offers slightly more real estate than that of its predecessor, the Nikon D700 but at virtually the same resolution. The screen offers good visibility when shooting outdoors, though glare can be an issue in direct sunlight. Of course, with a large, bright optical viewfinder that offers 100% coverage, we suspect that in the field, most stills shooters will rely on the LCD primarily for reviewing images.
Press the info button in shooting mode (except in live view) to show a full screen 'information display'. Introduced by Nikon as far back as the Nikon D40, having a single screen with comprehensive shooting information logically arranged can be very useful. By default, the information screen automatically switches between the two contrast modes shown below, based on ambient light levels; though you can manually configure it to use one or the other. The monitor will turn off with a half-press of the shutter button or after a user-specified period of inactivity (the default is 10 seconds).
'Dark on light' setting (bright ambient light)
'Light on dark' setting (low ambient light)
With the information display active, press the info button a second time to adjust the parameters represented in the two rows of icons along the bottom of the screen. Using the multi controller, you can cycle through 10 available items and press the center button (or the OK button) to access and change a setting. You can switch the shooting and custom banks, adjust high ISO and long exposure noise reduction and enable Active D-Lighting. You can also define the behavior of the Preview and Fn buttons.
Navigate the two rows of icons using the multi controller. Pressing its center button...
...takes you to a menu screen where you can adjust the chosen parameter either with the multi selector or the front and rear camera dials if they've been so configured in the custom menu.
The D800, like its predecessor features a 'Virtual horizon' with distinct iterations in the viewfinder and rear LCD. An aircraft-cockpit type virtual horizon on the rear LCD (shown below) updates in real time indicating the current orientation of the camera. A level horizontal or vertical camera position results in green - versus yellow - reference lines. By default, the Virtual horizon is displayed with a press of the Info button while in live view. It can also be shown on the rear LCD via an option in the Setup menu.
When activated via the Setup menu, a dual axis Virtual horizon appears onscreen over a black background. It measures both roll (left/right) and pitch (up/down) of the camera.
When the camera is perfectly level along an axis, the reference line turns green. The Virtual horizon disappears with a half-press of the shutter button.
The Virtual horizon can also be displayed inside the viewfinder if it is assigned to the Fn button. Unlike in the D700, which offered a single axis tilt indicator, you can confirm both horizontal and vertical axes in the D800's viewfinder. The downside of this change is that the tilt indicators are now superimposed over the image area (shown below) as opposed to residing in the status bar, making them nearly impossible to see in low light. We also miss the ability to view at least a single axis tilt indicator in the top LCD panel, as was the case in the D700.
The Viewfinder Virtual horizon offers dual axis indicators (highlighted in red) superimposed over the image area.
With the camera perfectly level, the tilt indicators disappear, leaving a single horizon indicator on each axis.
In live view, a Virtual horizon viewing mode can be accessed by pressing the Info button in either still image or movie record mode. The Virtual horizon is superimposed over the image area, as shown below.
The live view Virtual horizon offers the same dual axis icon as seen in non-live view mode. This view is also available with the camera set to movie record mode.
Press the playback button to review images stored on the SD and/or CF card(s). You can cycle through several different photo information screens (shown below) by pressing the up or down arrows on the multi selector. In the playback menu you can enable/disable several bits of photo information, pruning the number of information screens down to two, if you wish. By default, you browse images using the multi selector's left/right arrows. The command dials can also be configured to perform this function, however, via custom menu f9.
The default screen in image playback is a 'file information' view which displays frame number, folder name, filename, date & time, image quality and size. Optionally, you can also choose to display the AF frame and selected focus point (shown above) as well.
A 'highlights' view overlays blinkies where data is clipped. You can cycle between a composite RGB or single channel clipping views.
The 'RGB histogram' view provides highlight blinkies for composite and single channel histogram data. You can cycle through each channel in turn.
There are a minimum of three 'shooting data' screens in which you can review exposure settings and image adjustments.
An 'overview' screen provides a comprehensive amount of image and shooting information along with a small image thumbnail.
An image-only view omits all shooting data.
In addition to the examples shown above, additional screens are available if you add copyright data or shoot with an optional GPS device attached to the camera.
Playback magnification and thumbnails
In playback mode you can press the zoom in button to move step-wise through the D800's magnification levels and then use the arrows on the multi selector to move around the magnified image. There are 12 zoom levels. The last two of which show pixelization, presumably exceeding a 1:1 pixel view, making them of questionable use in evaluating focus. The most efficient way to get to a usable screen view is to first configure the multi selector's center button to zoom in to what is labeled 'medium magnification'. You do this via the camera's custom setting menu f2.
By pressing the zoom in button you can cycle through 11 additional levels of magnification (shown above). The last two views show pixelated results, which would suggest a greater than 1:1 magnification.
You can also configure the multi selector button to jump instantly to a preset magnification. Here you see the 'medium magnification' view.
The D800 has three levels of thumbnail view. Press the thumbnail button to switch to the initial 2x2 (4 image) view, press again for the 3x3 (9 image) view, and once more for a 9x8 (72 image) view. A fourth press will give you the option to switch between storage cards and image folders. Use the multi selector to move around the index. Note that if you have the 'Rotate Tall' option enabled, images taken in the portrait orientation are displayed vertically. Rather curiously, the thumbnail views are sticky, meaning that even after powering off the camera, pressing the playback button will return to the last selected thumbnail grid.
Pressing the thumbnail button lets you cycle through three different thumbnail views.
You can also choose to display images from the second storage card or another image folder.