Resolution, pixel density and lenses: D800 vs. D610

Started Apr 9, 2014 | Discussions thread
anotherMike Veteran Member • Posts: 8,999
I'm late to answer this thread, but my thoughts are..

First things first: I currently shoot with a D800E as my primary body, and a D610 as my backup/second body. Previously I shot with a D7100 taking the backup/second body, and before the D800E I shot with the D700/D300 combination. I am quite familiar with all of these bodies.

First off, you have a nice lens collection - the only "outlier" of the group is the 105/2.8 VR - it's pretty good, but I can't categorize it as excellent - I used to own one, and frankly the 105mm length on my 70-200/2.8G VR-II zoom is a little better. Not a lot better, but on a D800E, I could tell. Everything else will be a good fit for any of the high rez bodies, so I don't think you have to sweat lenses too much with your decision.

If you're looking at the bodies, the first things I think you have to analyze/evaluate are:

a) How much do you shoot (frame wise) per year?

b) and thus, how long do you see yourself keeping/using the body you choose?

For example, I tend to get about 3 - 4 years out of a pro grade body given I shoot at between 30,000 and 40,000 frames a year. This tends to match up to the upgrade cycle. The reason I ask this question is that  you have to consider the cost difference between bodies also in view of how much extra the body will cost per month over the expected lifetime. Obviously if you are financially challenged where even a D610 is a stretch, I'd suggest sticking with the D7100, but for the sake of my post, let's say you can afford either the 610 or the 800/800E somewhat equally. If you intend to only get 2 years of use (a pretty drasticly low use case), with a 1200 dollar difference, that's 50 bucks a month cost difference. Not that huge in that way of thinking about it.

The big things we need to get "real" about are evaluating our actual, real needs, not just having the latest/coolest camera in the forums so you can be the BMIF (big man in forum)

And in doing this, it comes down to two things:

a) Usability and functions of the body

b) Image quality potential and how much YOU (not me, not other posters, but you) will use this potential.

Let's take item "a" first.

The D610 and D800 (or D800E, which is my preference) are built to different standards. As an owner of both, my "issues" with the D610 are namely three:

1) I simply don't like the AF of the D610 anywhere as much as the D7100 or the D800E. Both of the bodies using the 51pt system simply AF better and I'm not talking about number of focus points, I'm talking about the camera *repeatedly* and *accurately* achieving AF in a wide variety of conditions. Yes, to make that clear, I prefer the AF of the D7100 over the D610 and that is a firm opinion borne from lots of use of both bodies.

2) The mechanical structure of the lens mount on the D610 isn't as well reinforced as that of the D800. Thus, if you're intending to use larger lenses regularly (70-200/2.8G and so forth), I'm less comfortable with them on the D610 than the D800. Lens mount misalignment from the lens mount getting bent or knocked out of alignment matters with these high rez bodies.

3) I prefer having a separate AF-On button.

Other than those three items, the D610 is a nice body. It has very nice image quality, and it's a smaller body, so it fits well in a crowded backpack as a "backup" for landscape use for me. However, if I could only pick one, for *usability reasons only* (meaning the next paragraph isn't even taken into account where I talk image quality), I'd pick the D800 every time.

Okay, item "b": Image quality potential and how much of this potential you'll use.

You'll note I used the phrase "image quality potential". Both cameras are quite good image quality wise. If, 4 years ago, instead of paying 8 grand for a D3X we could have had a 2 grand D610, that camera would have sold like proverbial lemonade to death valley dwellers. Modern cameras, including the D7100, are capable of image quality quite a bit beyond what we had 5 years ago. Currently, the D800E is at the top of the heap. But there is a difference between image quality potential and how MUCH of that potential (how far up the curve of quality, essentially) you'll be using, and that again is where you need to be real about it. If it were discovered tomorrow that Enzo Ferrari, before his passing, designed a one-of secret Ferrari that you could own, a car so good it would wipe the floor with the Bugattis and other exotics, the question might be "are you, as a driver, skilled enough to *extract* every last thing the car can deliver". And that is the question (and answer) that is different for every user. If you print large (16x20" and up) regularly, have excellent technique, own good tripod/ballhead, etc, and have an eye for quality, then you might be further up the curve of image quality potential that a D800E allows. If you are mostly living at 13x19" and shooting handheld, you may never reach the potential of the D800E. Sure, pixel peeping on screen you probably could tell a bit more detail between the two, but on the output medium and size of your choice, could you then?

So that's what you got to think about. Don't get too distracted into the technical. Don't get scared about the file size horror stories. 24mp files aren't wimpy files either. If  you don't mind the usability tradeoffs of the D610 and don't see yourself reaching as far deeply into the image quality potential of the 800E, the D610 is an amazing camera for reasonable cash. However, the usability issues - or - the image quality potential issues - may sway you to the D800E. What's right for you may not be what's right for me.

Hope this helps some.


Edit: If, knowing what I know now, had the choice to move to a D610 from a D7100 as my second camera, currently owning a D800E, I would NOT have done so. Not that the D610 isn't nice, but in terms of *getting the shot* (due to better AF), I preferred the D7100, and while it's files weren't as clean as the D610, matching the D7100 with something like the Sigma 18-35/1.8 Art zoom was something else and I'm not so sure I made the right decision for a backup body. In all honesty, I should have gotten a second D800E.

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