Expert Review of Nikon D800 SLR Body
Nikon, the multinational camera giant is simply the Numero Uno, when it comes to the detailing aspects of a photograph, and owes this enviable position to the DSLRs like the one that has been reviewed here. Nikon D800 SLR is a mid range DSLR with a humongous sensor mounted on it, along with the 36 megapixels DSLR that comes with full HD capability. This device was announced much later after its predecessor Nikon D700 - tagged as the company's first “affordable” full-frame DSLR came into prominence. Now, three and a half years seem to be a long time if you are working in an industry that manufactures cameras, and only describing the launch of this camera as an anticipated move would really be a huge injustice to the manufacturers.
Nikon D800 SLR is the proud owner of the highest resolution sensor outside the medium format with its 36MP full-frame FX format sensor. This makes our camera three times stronger than the previous flagship from Nikon, and is significantly higher than its arch rival Canon EOS 5D Mark III. And, a jaw dropping three times higher than its predecessor as far as sensors are concerned. With such a high sensor count, obviously, there are concerns over noise, and the fact that Nikon D800 has the same pixel density as Nikon D700 should reassure the user to some extent. Nikon D700 was the bearer of a few revolutions that were brought into the video quality of DSLRs, and hence, it is obviously not surprising at all that Nikon D800 too has made some big upgrades this time. In fact, it shares almost the same specifications in video quality as the high-end Nikon D4, which means for everyone's absolute delight, you get 1080p Full HD and 720p HD quality at the maximum frame rates of 30 and 60fps respectively. You get all of these alongside a microphone input, a dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack, and an HDMI output.
Talking about numbers, Nikon brings in a huge 51-point AF system of Nikon D4, which is bundled along with the 91k metering system of the camera with a 3.2 inches (measured along the diagonal) screen. There is an alternative version to the device available in the market by the name of Nikon D800E, which has a modified low pass filter attached to it. This is for the users who want to measure the details according to their own convenience and exploit the sensor to its optimum level. In the following review, at times, comparisons have been drawn with its arch rival Canon EOS 5D Mark III for better understanding.
Design and Build Quality
Talking about the build quality of the device, Nikon D800 SLR measures 145mm x 122mm x 81mm and more or less shares the same dimensions of Nikon D700, but the positive drawn out of this section is that it is 95 grams lighter with no lens attached. When compared to Canon EOS 5D Mark III, the device is 7mm narrower from the front, but is 5mm taller and 5mm thicker, which provides for a better grip and if nothing else, is 50 grams heavier than Canon. That is on paper though, in reality, if you hold both the gadgets together, you can barely notice the differences in size and weight of the devices. The major difference in size and weight only comes into play once the lens is mounted on the device.
Once in your grasp, Nikon D800 feels absolutely astonishing like a typical high-end Nikon body. According to the claims made by Nikon, years of Research & Development have led to a body that despite its size and weight, feels genuinely comfortable and highly secure at the time of use, with all the controls falling automatically where your fingers and thumb are placed. As expected, there is a separate made area to enhance the grip of your fingers so as to increase your hold on the device, though a point to be noted is that the rear thumb isn't nearly as good as it is on Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
Focus and Face Detection
Nikon D800 has a tremendous AF system that is filled with numbers. It shares the same system which was earlier sported on Nikon D4 - the advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX AF sensor, which fancies 51 AF point out of which, 15 are of cross types as the Multi-CAM 3500FX AF in Nikon D700, so what has advanced this time is the fact that the camera can now, autofocus at slower apertures too. AF can be done between apertures from f/5.6 to f/8, and although, this certainly reduces the number of AF points to 11, it still is an achievement worth consideration - a massive positive with respect to Canon EOS 5D Mark III which cannot possibly autofocus beyond the range of f/5.6.
Lens and Image Stabilization
The lens mount on Nikon D800 is an F-mount which is able to accommodate all sorts of Nikon lenses, and like all the DSLRs from Nikon, you will need to upgrade your set of lenses to the more recent ones so that you are able to support all the focusing and metering modes of the system. Nikon D800 houses many highly detailed compatibility charts within the manual or specification sheets, but for a very brief instance, a type G or D is involved that brings up the Autofocus of AF-S and AF-I.
Screen and Menus
Round the back of Nikon D800, almost the entire rear of the device is covered with a 3.2 inches highly detailed 920,000-dot pixel screen wherein, the screen is the same that was earlier spotted on Nikon D4. Although, the screen size has improved from the earlier 3 inches, the default aspect ratio of 4:3 remains the same as was in Nikon D700. This means, the popular 3:2 aspect ratio - should you use it to capture images, will shift to the top of the screen and leaves behind black bars at the top and bottom of the screen that displays information regarding the shooting.
On the one hand, it is actually nice to have a distinctive background for information, but if you notice, Canon has starting making its screens with a 3:2 aspect ratio as default on all of its new launches; the launches that include Canon EOS 5D Mark III, thus matching the native shape of the images. This means, the images with aspect ratio of 3:2 are highly detailed and maximize all the available 1040k pixel counts on the screen. Though, the laptop default aspect ratio of 16:9 will appear more detailed. The screen on Nikon D800 is effective but isn't as good as on its rival Canon EOS 5D's, for the detailing on this screen has a pixel count of 640 x 426 pixels as opposed to 720 x 480 pixels offered by Canon Mark III.
Moving towards what powers Nikon D800, Nikon has made a change from the EN-EL3e battery of Nikon D700 to the EN-EL15 battery of Nikon D800. The quoted battery life for Nikon D700 was 1000 shots per charge, whereas the battery life in our reviewed device has reduced, but not by a real significant amount, to 900 shots per charge. It is however note worthy that this battery is costlier than the one used earlier, but then, the same battery is used in Nikon D700 and Nikon V1, so you may already have a spare in place. And obviously, the charger is common in all the three devices and anyone looking for a different battery may find some help with the MB-D12 battery with which, you also have an option of portrait control. If you make an upgrade to EN-EL18 batteries, or a set of AA batteries, you will observe a boost in the DX crop mode continuous shooting from 5 to 6 frames per second.
Nikon may have been the one that brought video capturing in DSLRs with Nikon D90, but in reality, it was Canon that took the ball from Nikon and just ran with it. Not only did it come out shortly after this with a far more compelling feature set with Canon EOS Mark II, but also gave a step-by-step increase to its arsenal with each release. Nikon just seemed to be recovering from that blow, and with Nikon D4, it had launched the most equipped video capturing DSLR. The moot point is what happens should you opt for Nikon D800? The device shares the same movie options and that too, at almost half the price. Now, this means that Nikon D800 is capable of capturing movies at 1080p at the frames rates of 24, 25 or 30fps, at 720p at 25, 30, 50 and 60fps, and certainly offers full user control over exposure.
Moreover, it has an external microphone feature, a universal 3.5mm headphone socket and supports HDMI output at 8 bit, and hence, by that you can connect it to a larger and highly detailed monitor, or capture this feed with a much higher quality external recorder. The screen on the rear of this device also remains active when you connect it to an HDMI accessory.
If there is one thing that you have to explain about Nikon D800, it will quite certainly be its jaw dropping 36MP resolution. Nikon sports Nikon D800 with a very new full-frame sensor of FX-format, which definitely represents a tremendous upgrade over the tiny 12MP sensor of Nikon D700.
Unrivalled quality from a DSLR with incredible detail and low noise
Good ergonomics, build quality and twin card slots
Large viewfinder with 100% coverage and detailed 3:2 screen
Built-in flash which can be used as a wireless controller
Built-in interval timer, timelapse facilities and deep bracketing
Great movie features including clean HDMI output and 1.5x crop
Available without anti-aliasing filter
Excrutiatingly slow buffer flush times even with the fastest cards
Modest continuous shooting speed and burst depth
No built-in Wi-Fi or GPS. Both are expensive accessories.
Movies and magnified Live View can suffer from the Moire effect
No articulated screen