The D800E’s spec sheet left the photographers in our office dreaming, so when we actually got our hands on one, the question was, does it perform as good as the specs state? We find out.
Nikon’s launch of its latest product in the full-frame professional camera segment, meant that many mouths in our office were left drooling just looking at the spec sheet of the new model. Not only did the D800E offer a mega sensor size of 36.3 megapixels, the highest in Nikon’s range and a third more than Nikon’s previous flagship – the D3x, but also the EXSPEED3 image-processing engine and capability to shoot pictures from ISO sensitivities of 50 to 25600. Add to this video capability of 1080p at 30fps and 720p at 60fps along with slots for an external mic, headphone and uncompressed HDMI output and it was beginning to look like the D800 could be a serious contender for the best all-round camera available today.
The first thing that strikes you is the build-quality of the D800 which like most other top-end Nikon cameras feels absolutely solid and the ergonomics too are spot on. Nikon claims that like D700 predecessor, the 800’s body too is moisture and dust resistant but since during our usage the weather remained dry, we really couldn’t test the claim any further. The controls on the D800 will also feel familiar to Nikon users with the on-off switch placed around the shutter release and more importantly for those interested in video, a button to toggle between video & still and a dedicated video record button both located on the back. The five buttons on the left side of the screen too remains but with the zoom in & zoom out button locations now interchanged. From a data transfer perspective, the D800 also offers a USB 3.0 port so depending on your PC, it can also transfer data at blistering speeds, which is very useful given that its file sizes – courtesy of that 36.3 megapixel sensor – are quite huge and can take a while to transfer otherwise.
The D800 also comes fitted with Nikon’s excellent 51-point AF system, which offers four different AF modes to choose from – Single Point, Dynamic Area, Auto Area and 3D Tracking – each offering their use depending on the shooting conditions. In our actual shooting test – using the supplied 16-35 f4 – we found the D800 to be an excellent all-round camera with excellent image quality (no surprise given its sensor), ease of use via its well-placed controls and great colours. If used with a tripod and with some sharp lenses, the D800’s pictures are some of the best around with incredible amounts of fine detail and great results straight out of the camera. However, if used for action photography, the D800 falls short as the low burst rate (4fps), combined with the large sensor mean that not only is there a loss in the number of frames that it captures, but the buffer times required for the camera to flush the images to the card also increases substantially.
However, given it’s picture and build quality, the D800 is a tremendous camera and is highly recommended. But if you’re into action photography we would suggest looking somewhere else.
Camera Type: Digital SLR
Max resolution: 7360 x 4912
Effective pixels: 36.3 megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm full-frame
Frame Rate(s): 30p, 24p, 25p, 60p, 50p
Minimum ISO: 50
Maximum ISO: 25600
Number of focus points: 51
Screen size: 3.2”
Weight: 898 g
Memory Card Format: CompactFlash, Eye-Fi card, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card