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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.

Information display

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)

Changing settings

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.

Virtual horizon

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.

Image review

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.
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I own it
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I had it
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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