First Impressions: Using the Nikon D800
The D800, like all currrent high-end Nikon DSLRs, is compatible with both DX and FX (full-frame) AF lenses, and be programmed to accept up to nine manual 'Non-CPU' Ai-standard lenses. Once programmed in, it is possible to mount and use an older lens exactly as you would on an older camera, focussing manually, and adjusting the aperture using the mechanical aperture ring. The viewfinder focus confirmation indicator and the left/right focus 'arrows' work too, which is handy.
My oldest Nikon lens is a Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4 from 1962 (ish) but because it lacks an Ai coupling I can't mount it on the D800. My mid-60s Nikkor 105mm f/2.5, however, which at some point in its life was 'updated' somewhat messily to the Ai standard, will fit just fine.
I shoot a lot with my 'converted' 105mm - not because it is the sharpest lens I own (it isn't) but because it's small, light, and I like the way it renders detail, particularly in portraits. I've always been happy with its performance on the 12MP sensors of the D700 and D3S, and I was curious about how it would perform when bolted onto the front of a 36.3MP sensor.
In principle, a 36MP sensor will always deliver more detail than a 12MP sensor paired with the same lens, just not necessarily in proportion with the pixel count. Even if the results don't look as sharp at a pixel level, prints made from the 36MP file should, in theory, look more detailed.
|For this scene, I set the D800 on a tripod, in natural light and shot my 105mm at f/2.5 through f/8 in one stop increments. I shot in raw mode and processed 'to taste' in ACR 6.7.
At f/2.5 there's plenty of detail but things are a little hazy and fringing is very obvious around high-contrast edges. Critical image quality improves on stopping down, until by f/8 sharpness is high, there's a lot of detail and only a little residual fringing.
In coldly critical terms, my 50 year-old 105mm isn't a fantastic lens on the D800, but neither is it outstanding (by modern standards) when paired with a D700 or D3S. Reassuringly though, it remains the same pleasant, pocketable portrait lens that it always has been. In demanding, high-contrast scenes like the one of the cameras, above, fringing is obvious, and more noticeable when viewed alongside equivalent images taken on the 12MP D3S, at 100%. But that's just because the D800's files are larger. When the D800's output is downsized to 12MP, results from the two cameras are virtually indistinguishable.
The same is true of a couple of other lenses that I've experimented with - a late 1960s Ai converted 50mm f/1.4 and a slightly more modern Ai-S 35mm f/1.4. Optically, they're just as useable on the D800 as they are on the D700/D3s, and when stopped down they're capable of transmitting plenty of detail to the sensor. Newer primes like the excellent AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 are better, but if you're thinking of investing in a D800 there's no need to sell your old lens collection yet.
Watch out for one thing though - focussing. If, like me, you like to shoot 'wide open' you'll find that the D800's 36.3 million pixels are very unforgiving of even minor focussing errors, something that habitual 12MP shooters will just have to get used to. The D800's high-resolution sensor really does demand a medium-format level of attention to focus accuracy, and for critical work, I'd strongly recommend use live view mode and focussing manually.
DX Crop Mode
I've mentioned that the D800 is compatible with DX lenses, designed for the APS-C format, and while this isn't a new feature, it is far more useful than it has been in previous FX format Nikon DSLRS. The D700 could accept DX format lenses, but resolution dropped to 5MP. The D800, by comparison, can capture 15MP images in the 1.5 X crop DX format - a far more useable resolution (and not far off the native resolution of the DX format D7000).
Besides a respectable output resolution, the other benefit of the DX format is that in this mode the D800's AF array covers almost the entire image area. This has obvious appeal for certain types of photography, perhaps most obviously sports and wildlife.
|The D800's DX format shooting mode can be selected manually, but it is activated automatically when a DX lens is mounted. As it was in the D700, the bounds of the DX frame are indicated in the D800's viewfinder with a black rectangle.As you can see, in DX mode, the D800's 51-point AF array covers a very large proportion of the image area.|
|D800, AF-S Nikkor 17-55mm /f2.8 DX
ISO 200, 640sec, f/8
|D800, AF-S Nikkor 17-55mm /f2.8 DX
ISO 250, 200sec, f/9
Using Movie Mode
The D700 didn't have a movie mode (amazing how much has changed in 3, 1/2 years) but the D800 offers one of the most advanced video-shooting specifications around - a clear sign that Nikon has its eye on the semi-pro and enthusiast videographers that Canon captured with the 5D Mark II. I haven't done much video shooting on the D800 yet (but our friend Dan Chung has a nice overview of his early experience here) but my first impressions of both the functionality and quality are very good.
Because the D800 replaces the video-less D700, there will inevitably be some users who come to the new camera having not shot video using a DSLR before. If it sounds like I'm describing you, you'll be pleased to know that despite its advanced video specification, the D800 is pretty easy to get to grips with.
|Before shooting movie footage you first have to activate live view, in movie mode. The first thing that you'll notice is that the framing switches to a 16:9 preview, and the second thing you'll (hopefully) spot is that your exposure settings might have changed. Exposure is set independantly in still and video modes, so you need to get into the habit of setting up for video shooting once you've switched into movie live view mode, not before.
|Once you're in movie live view mode, pressing the red button to the left of the shutter release initiates movie recording.|
|The D800 includes a microphone port for recording audio, and a headphone jack for 'live' sound monitoring during recording. Uncompressed video can also be saved to an external recorder via the HDMI port.|
The D800 features a red button on its top-plate but in normal shooting mode, pressing it won't do anything. To initiate video recording you must first be in live view mode, with the live view switch set to 'movie' (denoted by an icon of a video camera).
Full shutter control from 1/30 - 1/8000 is possible during movie shooting, and full aperture control as well. Autofocus is contrast-detection, obviously, and very accurate if not as fast as we'd expect from a high-end Micro Four Thirds camera. For casual videos, the D800's AF-F mode - where focus is continually adjusted - is useful, but in my limited experience of using the feature, the frequent focus acquisition and reacquisition can be distracting.
Photographers who fly frequently in the US may want to finally invest in that TSA Pre-check status: in standard security lines, cameras and all other electronics larger than a smartphone will need to be placed in a separate bin for screening.
Images have appeared which claim to show Nikon's forthcoming D850 DSLR, the development of which was announced this week. If genuine, the pictures indicate that the D850 will offer illuminated controls and a tilting LCD screen, but no built-in flash.
To celebrate the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 lens' successful Kickstarter campaign, Lomography has announced a chrome-plated version of the lens in Nikon and Canon DSLR mounts.
Nikon just released four new firmware updates, adding features and fixing bugs in the D600, D610, D750 and the KeyMission 80.
It probably hasn't made your landscape photography bucket list just yet, but there's a good reason to visit Idaho. Here are 9 must-visit locations in this beautiful state.
Oops... Adobe accidentally leaked their unfinished Lightroom-powered cloud-based photo editor 'Project Nimbus' to some Creative Cloud users yesterday.
Storm chaser and award-winning photographer Mike Oblinski just released his latest time-lapse, and it is absolutely stunning.
Looking to level up your video capture capabilities without buying a whole new camera? Blackmagic's Video Assist 4K is well worth considering, despite a few flaws and its lack of 4K/60p support.
We're big fans of Fujifilm's fast-growing GFX system, and the GF 110mm F2 lens is no exception. Positioned as the system's classic portrait lens, its optics are just as impressive with non-human subjects as well.
Nikon turns 100 years old today, and the company is celebrating with a wacky music video, some tributes to its history, and a new vision presented by president Kazuo Ushida.
Phottix just released the Premio Parabolic Umbrellas series, replacing their Para-Pro line with a stronger, deeper and better made set of parabolic umbrellas.
The Moto Z2 is Motorola's first dual-camera smartphone and, compared to its predecessor, comes with a number of improvements and new camera features.
Researchers at Stanford have revealed a new '4D camera system' built for robots. The system is based on the same light field tech that allowed Lytro cameras to refocus images after they were taken.
If you want 'beautiful rendition' from your lenses, follow this simple rule: only buy classic low-element prime lenses with lead glass elements—everything else is junk.
In an interview with CNBC, Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann said he dreams of a 'true Leica phone,' and hinted at what's next for the Leica and Huawei partnership.
Wildlife and nature photographer Peter Mather tells the story behind this exceptional shot of a mama grizzly and her cub searching for salmon in Yukon, Canada.
Popular YouTube channel TastyTuts has put together this 33-video Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop—a godsend for anybody who wants to learn Photoshop from scratch.
The long anticipated replacement for the popular Rode VideoMic Pro is almost ready for shipping. The price of the upgraded VideoMic Pro+ will be £290/$300 when it goes on sale in mid-August.
A new iOS app called Explorest wants to help you find new locations to shoot. It's limited to Singapore for now, but the app is packed full of useful location scouting features.
Nikon's D850 development announcement is extremely light on details, so we assembled a wish list of upgrades and features we'd love to see.
Nikon has announced the development of the long-awaited replacement to its full-frame D810: the D850. Nikon says that the D850 will build on the strengths of its predecessor and offer 'new technologies, features and performance enhancements.'
Lens manufacturer Voigtlander has introduced a 65mm F2 macro lens for Sony E-mount that it says "rates as one of the finest in the history of Voigtländer."
The UK released a preview of their upcoming drone safety regulations, and it looks like drone pilots will have to both register their device and pass safety awareness tests.
National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes talks about light, and why you need to learn how to 'see' and not just 'look' at your subject.
Photographer Alessandro Barteletti shares the story behind his National Geographic Italia cover, shot with a 10-year-old DSLR and an iPhone flashlight.
Fashion catalog photographers in China have some next-level models to work with. In this video, you see one model hitting 30 poses in 15 seconds as the photographer snaps away.
Photographer Paul Adshead breaks down 11 photography-related smartphone apps he couldn't live without—from a pocket light meter to a lighting diagram app.
Fast-growing Chinese flash brand Godox is teasing a brand new flash trigger... for smartphones. The Godox A1 is a 'phone flash system' that can act as both flash and 2.4GHz trigger.
On July 12, Canon opened its newest Technology and Support Center, designed to serve the motion picture industry, in Burbank, CA. DPReview got a sneak peak and takes you behind the scenes.
The Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art is truly one-of-a-kind. It offers the fastest aperture of any lens that shares its focal length, produces beautiful sunstars and is incredibly sharp to boot. If you're in the market for a fast ultrawide prime, this looks to be the one to get.