D800- my experience

Started Mar 24, 2014 | Discussions thread
T O Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 7,991
Re: D800- my experience

ZinMe wrote:

I've been trying to decide between a D7100 and D800e as an upgrade for my D300. This weekend, I rented a D800 with grip and shot a baseball game and lacrosse game. I want a general purpose camera- while I shoot 50% sports, I want something that I can use for people and landscapes. (I have a Fuji XE-1 for travel.)

I shot it with my 300mm f2.8 VR1, and switched mostly between 1.2x and 1.5x crop. Used a monopod. I AF fine-tuned before I shot. Used apertures between f2.8 and f4 (mostly at f3.2 however.) Shutter speeds were between 1/3200 and 1/8000th. I switched between AF-C d9 and d21. AF lock on "3." Both games were on turf and it was 11am - 2pm, so I was fighting the heat reflection which made sharpness challenging. Here are my observations:

  • Shadow areas on white uniforms were very blue (I reduced blue saturation to -18 in LR5 to minimize it.)
  • Focus was inconsistent. In come cases, resolution/sharpness was fantastic, in other cases it just missed focus, even using center for stationary objects that were relatively close (ex. 40ft) where I could frame, shoot and stabilize methodically. I would say ~35-40% of my shots were focused well enough. My D300 probably gets > 66% but I have more experience with it.
  • In a series of shots, the first shot was seldom focused, but it improved over 2-4 shots, where the later shots were focused better.
  • When shooting within 60ft, sharpness was better, past 60ft not as good. Could be related to the mirage effect from the heat or sub-optimized AF Fine Tune
  • Frame rate was acceptable-- even though 5fps at 1.2 and 6fps at 1.5 crop isn't great, its a "good" 6fps, very consistent, and buffer was fine. I measured slightly better than 6fps using the grip with alkalines.
  • I liked the format flexibility- I shot mostly 1.2 and 1.5x crop depending on the situation. 1.2x is a great combination with the 300mm f2.8, although in PP I found that after cropping I was generally closer to a 1.5x format
  • For those shots where the D800 nailed focus, the sharpness / resolution was definitely better than D300. Compared to the D7100, it was about the same maybe a little below, although I have a few shots with the D7100 where it is a cut above the D800-- perhaps the D800e will close that gap a bit. (I have to say, that D7100 sensor is terrific, but the buffer is pathetic, the AF is very tricky, and the frame rate is inconsistent.)
  • Dynamic range is very good-- in a very challenging / contrasty environment I had no issues pulling up shadows or pulling back highlights.
  • I have the original collar for my 300mm f2.8, and decent monopod- the experience made me wonder if I need to upgrade both.

If any experienced D800 users can comment as to whether the above limitations are manageable through better technique (or perhaps the rental needs some AF adjustments??) I would appreciate it. I may rent a D3s + 200-400 for comparison (I think I would need min of 400mm to shoot effectively with a D3s)


"Focus was inconsistent" in my experience, is a part of the D800 experience.  I assume you've returned the body but it would be good to know if it had the latest firmware.  That knocked the edge off the inconsistency.  I bought a D4 to cure the problem.  Far better AF. Sold the 800 after a year and a half, but not sure my 800e is much better.

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