First Impressions: Using the Nikon D800
1 First Impressions: Using the Nikon D800
As updates go, the Nikon D800 is a pretty major one. Compared to its predecessor the D700, Nikon's newest DSLR features an impressive set of key specifications, and subtly refined ergonomics, too. After more than three years we expected the D800 to outclass its predecessor, but products don't exist in a vacuum, and it wasn't long after the 12MP D700's announcement that Canon brought out the movie-shooting EOS 5D Mark II.
Not only was the 5D II Canon's first video-equipped DSLR, but at 21MP it offered a class-leading pixel count, effectively equal in resolution to Canon's professional EOS-1 Ds Mark III. The D700 won plaudits for its versatility, low light image quality and 51-point autofocus system, but it couldn't compete with the 5D II on resolution, or of course, video.
The D800 changes all that. Compared to the D700, the D800 is a thoroughly modern camera, boasting a highly advanced feature set for both still and video shooting. At 36.3MP the $3000 D800 comfortably eclipses its competitors in terms of pixel count and makes the $8000 Nikon D3X look distinctly irrelevant, too.
Compared to D700: Specification highlights
- 36.3MP CMOS sensor (compared to 12.1MP)
- 15.3MP DX-format capture mode (compared to 5MP)
- 25MP 1.2x Crop mode
- 51-point AF system with 15 cross-type sensors, rated to -2EV* (compared to -1EV)
- ISO 100-6400 extendable to ISO 25,600 equiv (same as D700)
- 1080p video at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second, up to 24Mbps, with uncompressed HDMI output and audio monitoring options*
- 3.2", 921,000 dot LCD with anti-fog layer* (compared to 3in, 921k-dot)
- Maximum 4fps continuous shooting in FX mode, 6fps in DX mode** (compared to 8fps in FX mode)
- Advanced Scene Recognition System with 91,000 pixel metering sensor* (compared to 1005-pixel)
- 'Expeed 3' Image Processing*
- Dual-axis Virtual Horizon (on LCD screen/viewfinder)* (compared to single-axis)
* Same or almost identical to Nikon D4
** Maximum frame rate in DX mode is dependant on power source
We've had a D800 in the office for a few days, and we've spent that time shooting with the camera not only in our studio but also out in the big, bad 'real world'. We're some way off being able to publish a full review, but I wanted to share with you some first impressions. You've already read our in-depth preview, and you know what the professionals think, but now that we've got a production sample to play with, I want to give you an idea of what the D800 is actually like to use.
The D700 was a generally pleasant camera to hold and use, and so is the D800. Nikon hasn't made many drastic changes to the handling experience, and those that it has made are broadly in line with Nikon's design philosophy for 2011/12. Gone is the 'traditional' MF/AF-S/AF-C focus mode switch on the lens throat, to be replaced by the same combined MF/AF switch and AF mode button control that we've seen on the D7000 and D4. This updated approach to focus mode selection is nice and neat, because it associates all of the many options with a single physical control point, but as I pointed out in my recent article about the D4, it does make switching between AF-S and AF-C less rapid than it used to be.
Of more signficance to the average D7000 user will be the D800's updated drive mode dial and dedicated live view switch. Live view mode on the D700 was very much a 'first generation' implementation and although effective and useful, setting it via the drive mode dial was a pain, especially if you needed to grab a quick high or low-angle shot.
Improved Automatic ISO Sensitivity Mode
The D800's automatic ISO mode is inherited from the D4 and is improved over the same mode in earlier Nikon DSLRs. Previously, auto ISO customization was minimal, and consisted simply of an option to set the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed when the camera was used in auto ISO mode. The currently-set ISO counted as the minimum ISO sensitivity (and in fact still does). This system was fine for shooting with a fixed focal length lens, but less useful with zoom lenses, where a 'safe' minimum shutter speed at either end of the focal range might be several stops apart.
In the D4 and D800, Nikon has (at long last) added an 'Auto' option to the minimum shutter speed options, which allows the camera to automatically set the minimum shutter speed based on its knowledge of the focal length that you're working at. This response can be biased in 5 steps, from 'slow' to 'fast' depending on whether you'd like the camera to err on the side of slower or faster shutter speeds. A small change but one that takes Auto ISO a little closer to being the 'set and forget' function that it should have been long ago.
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.
A huge copyright lawsuit between photography firm VHT and Zillow Group is heating up again, as both sides appeal a court ruling that granted VHT $4 million in damages.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent 6 months on board the International Space Station where he worked with Google capturing spheric panorama images that are now available in Street View.
It's official. PDN has confirmed with parent company Aurelius that 94-year-old lighting company Bowens is indeed going out of business.
The newly launched firmware version 1.06 fixes AF-issues that can occur with some lenses that are not officially compatible with the MC-11 converter.
Voyager is a waterproof smart light stick you can control entirely from your phone. The light has already blown past its $300K funding goal on Indiegogo.
2018 is the last year Photokina will take place during the traditional end-of-September dates. In 2019, Photokina will take place from the 8th to the 11th of May.
The Canon IXUS 50 (known as the SD400 Digital ELPH in North America) was one of a string of high-performing, pocketable PowerShots of the mid-2000s. In this week's throwback Thursday, Barney casts his mind back to 2005.
A close look at the EOS 6D II's Raw files suggest its dynamic range has taken a significant step backwards compared with the company's recent DSLRs. We look at how much difference this might make for your photos.
With a full-production review unit in our hands, we've got over 100 production samples from the new Canon EOS 6D Mark II to share.
Need a break from your day? Kick back and watch the making of a somewhat unconventional mojito filmed on Canon's new EOS 6D Mark II.
The Bonfoton Camera Obscura Room Lens can turn any room into a camera obscura, projecting the view from your window onto the walls of your room.
Adobe just released version 2015.12 of Lightroom CC, adding support for several new cameras and lenses, and baking in several important bug fixes while they were at it.
In this interview, Chiara Marinai, photo editor for VanityFair.com, explains exactly what she looks for in new photographers and photo submissions. Take notes.
Massive corporation P&G is being sued by a Cincinnati photographer for serious copyright violations. If the courts rules against P&G, the company could pay as much as $75 million in damages.
Snapchat's camera-equipped 'Spectacles' aren't so difficult to get anymore. You can now pick up a pair through Amazon for $130.
A group of thieves has made away with tens of thousands in camera gear through a carefully orchestrated scam through Venmo and Facebook Marketplace.
A portrait lens from 1910 might be coming back to life if two photographers from Germany succeed in a new Kickstarter project—the latest development in the craze to remake vintage optics.
The updated version of Google Glass is called the Enterprise Edition and, as the name suggests, it's not meant for personal use.
Charles Ommanney was once a photographer for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, now he's working for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Image compression software JPEGmini Pro was just updated to handle files up to 128MB. They're calling it "The 1 Feature Hasselblad Owners
Apple was just granted a patent for a camera system that prods, coaxes and manipulates users into taking better group and solo selfies.
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a better camera than its predecessor, but how much better? Should you buy one?
The winners of the 2017 Magnum and LensCulture Photography Awards have been announced. Here are the six photographers who took home the top prize in their respective categories.
A NASA study has confirmed what your ears have been telling you: people HATE drone noise. In fact, it was ranked more annoying than that of "any ground vehicle."
This floating bird video isn't edited in post-production. It's the result of the birds wing flap matching the camera's 20fps frame rate.
Adobe released a major update to Lightroom Mobile for both iOS and Android users today.
Could the future of photo and video storage be... alive? Scientists at Harvard have managed to encode a GIF of a galloping horse into a live sample of E. coli.