D610 and D800 Build Quality vs D300

Started Mar 7, 2014 | Discussions thread
Daniel Bliss Senior Member • Posts: 1,880
There is a significant problem, but it can be worked around with care

Go around the Internet and Google [name of camera body] magnesium and select images.

What you'll see is that the D300 and D700 have a more solid chassis than the D800.

The key difference is in the front of the camera.  Both the D300 and D700 have a solid plate of magnesium across the front, while the D800 has substantial gaps in the magnesium immediately to the right and left of the throat around the lens mount, meaning that quite a bit of pressure can build up immediately above the lens mount to the right and above to the left in the event of a front impact with a big lens attached.  One such impact, a 2.5 foot fall on carpet with a 70-200 lens, totalled my first D800.  If you do the same Googling for the Canon 5DIII or the 7D, you'll see a basic build similar to the D300 and D700.  Smart -- and something I hope Nikon will emulate on the upcoming D800 upgrade.

I've also heard that the rear of the camera can be somewhat vulnerable to impact.  It definitely stands to reason that a sharp knock to the bottom left corner could be a problem simply because of a) how large the rear display is and b) the holes for the buttons on the camera aren't just little pinpricks for the stalks the buttons stand on, they're the diameter of the buttons themselves which are supported on a membrane.  Good for moisture resistance, but it means you have a skeletal piece of magnesium there.  I typically use an L-bracket on my primary body which I am sure provides a healthy extra dose of protection.

The top plate of the D800, on the other hand, is extremely solid -- very thick metal indeed.

Fit and finish on the D800 is very good, with two minor exceptions -- I've not yet seen a popup flash on a D800 body that fits perfectly symmetrically, and the screenprinting on the buttons starts to wear after a while (I use my zoom playback buttons too much).  It seems very well weather sealed and dust-resistant.  The body has a taut and rigid feel to it when shooting that noticeably helps with handling, and it seems as though Nikon has at least discovered better surface rubber adhesive, though not yet perfect.

After mine was totalled, I went ahead and bought another.  There isn't really a good alternative in Nikon, but I do know this -- I am reviewing my approach to camera straps, because that's how the impact happened; the strap got caught around an open drawer as I was lifting up the camera and the rig tugged out of my hand.  I plan to add a BlackRapid system well before summer.

If I were you, go ahead and buy it, get an L-bracket, make sure you have a strap set-up that's ergonomically "right" for you, attach your strap directly to the lens on a 70-200/2.8 or bigger, and just take sensible precautions in situations where you're distracted by something else (e.g. footing on a slippery service, loading and unloading a camera bag and so on).

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