Picture Controls

The Nikon D800 offers six Picture Control color response presets, shown in the table below. These presets can be applied prior to image capture when shooting in JPEG-only mode. If you're shooting in a Raw-enabled mode, they can also be applied post-capture via the camera's Retouch menu.

Standard Neutral Vivid Monochrome Portrait Landscape

Within each of the six Picture Control options you can make adjustments to sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue settings.

For each Picture Control you can make adjustments to the image settings shown at right. The 'quick adjust' option (unavailable in Neutral and Monochrome modes) triggers preset grouped adjustments for the five sliders below it.

Auto ISO sensitivity

The D800 features an improved set of auto ISO sensitivity parameters compared to the D700. You can now enable ISO Auto Control directly by pressing the ISO button while rotating the camera's front dial, rather than having to delve into the menu. As on the D700, you can define the maximum sensitivity the camera will select in the shooting menu. In addition, you can specify a fixed, minimum shutter speed value to ensure sharp pictures - this is generally most useful when you need a high shutter speed to freeze motion.

The D800's new trick is an Auto option for minimum shutter speed. In this mode - provided you are using a modern 'CPU' lens which transmits data to the camera - the D800 automatically sets a minimum shutter speed value based on the focal length of the attached lens. This comes in particularly handy when shooting with zoom lenses. In the examples below, the camera was set to aperture-priority mode with maximum ISO sensitivity set to 6400. As you can see, at four different focal lengths the ISO was adjusted to allow roughly a '1 over focal length' shutter speed.

24mm, 1/25s at f/8, ISO 640 35mm, 1/40s at f/8, ISO 1400
50mm, 1/50s at f/8, ISO 2500 70mm, 1/80s at f/8, ISO 5000

You can even fine-tune the automatic shutter speed selection. There is an adjustment slider in the sub-menu for 'Auto minimum shutter speed' that ranges from 'slower' to 'faster' in 5 steps. This lets you bias the camera towards higher shutter speeds of approximately 2x and 4x the current focal length, or to lower shutter speed values of roughly 0.5x and 0.25x the current focal length. This former is useful for freezing action with high shutter speeds (or simply minimizing any chance of camera shake with non-VR lenses), the latter for taking maximum advantage of image stabilization to keep ISOs as low as possible.

In the ISO sensitivity menus you can specify the range of ISO values from which the camera can select. With the minimum shutter speed set to 'Auto' the camera will use the focal length of the currently mounted lens to determine a hand-holdable shutter speed. An 'Auto' sub-menu (highlighted here in yellow) allows you to bias the camera towards choosing slower or faster shutter speeds for any given focal length.

Crop modes

In addition to its native full frame FX mode, the D800 gives you the option of shooting in DX format (1.5x crop) and 1.2x crops as well as a 5:4 aspect ratio. In the examples below, you can see the differences in angle of view these crops provide with the camera in a fixed position.

FX (full frame) mode 1.2x crop mode DX (1.5x) crop mode 5:4 crop mode

By default, the camera also enables an Auto DX crop option which means the viewfinder will automatically include DX formatted framelines when a DX lens is attached. In live view, the preview is adjusted so that the selected format fills the screen, although choosing a 5:4 format on the 3:2 ratio LCD necessarily leads to vertical black borders on the sides of the display.

DX Crop Mode

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 1.5x crop DX format - a far more usable resolution (and not far off the native resolution of the DX format D7000). 

By default, the D800's DX-format mode is activated automatically when a DX lens is mounted. It can also be manually selected when an FX lens is mounted. As on the D700, the boundary of the DX frame is indicated in the viewfinder by a black rectangle. In DX mode, the D800's 51-point AF array (shown here) covers a majority of the DX format image area.

Besides a respectable output resolution, another benefit of the DX format is that in this mode the D800's AF array covers almost the entire image area. The continuous shooting rate is also faster, 5 fps rather than 4 fps. This has obvious appeal for certain types of photography, perhaps most obviously sports and wildlife. 

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