"This camera is in another league!"4.5 starson by O-JCole
Pros: Check in summary
Cons: Check in summary
Summary: I have been shooting with Canon 5D Mark II since it came out. Prior to that I was using Canon 5D. So I have a long history of using full-frame cameras in the opposite camp. Sure the 5D series had limitations, but so what, the images they took rivaled medium format film (not digital). Then came Nikon D800 and D800e, with specs out of this world. Nikon packed everything that they had; their best sensor, their best meter, and their best AF in this package, and that for a very reasonable $3k.
1. Image Quality.
While Canon 5D series rivaled medium format film, images from D800/e rival that of from medium format digital. So much has been written about the shadow details on this sensor. In addition to that I can pull down highlights much better than anything I used before. I can increase contrast, reduce contrast, increase saturation, increase sharpness to crazy levels and the raw files just take all of it in strides without breaking a sweat. I want to specially mention the color response. On my previous cameras, I could play with contrast and color only so much before getting noise or color shifts. I have not seen any such thing happening on D800. The sensor is truly next generation.
On my canon I am used to adjusting exposure compensation all the time. As I am moving around and changing subjects, I am always adjusting exposure. Nikon's newest color metering is so good that I have actually reprogrammed the camera so that the Main command wheel sets ISO instead of exposure compensation. This is because I haven't had to adjust exposure often. Canon supposedly has similar metering in 1Dx but not in 5D Mark III which inherits the meter from 7D.
Due to color metering feeding into AF tracking, the AF tracking is much better than what I have seen elsewhere. Single point AF, at least with the lenses that I have, is a bit slower then I am used to on Canon.
4. High ISO;
In my opinion, this camera has 1-stop better ISo performance than my Mark II. The ISO 3200 on 5D Mark II is about the same as ISO 6400 on D800. I have taken pictures from this camera at 25600 ISO. Some thing I have never done before. At normal print or display sizes, the pictures look exceptional. Of course, if you enlarge to 100% you will see high ISO artifacts, but remember that 100% images seen on 96 DPI monitor are equivalent to huge mural sized prints. So it is unfair to compare the 100% output of 36MP sensor to 100% output of 12MP or 22 MP sensor. I have uploaded an ISO 25,600 picture in images
This camera breaks new ground in 35mm picture taking and therefore has garnered significant criticism from people who either wanted this to be perfect or are trying to defend other brands. I will address some of these below.
LCD Color Cast: I did notice this on the first D800 that I received but on the most recent ones it seems OK. On the first one that I saw this, it was not a big deal. I had Canon 5D for two years which also had a color cast on LCD but I had not problem living with it, partly because I shoot Raw.
The reason for color cast is mostly related to Auto WB. It is easy to change the Auto WB to have a magenta bias, which should take care of green tint.
Left AF Point: Depending on ow you test it, you can find some fault with extreme AF points in single AF mode. In my testing this issue was only visible when testing on wide-angle lens, I could not see it on 50mm or longer lenses. Nevertheless the left most point, on some cameras, seems to be off, sometimes. On a whim I tested the left-most point on my 5D Mark II also. It was way off! I had never noticed it and no one ever complained about this specific point. FWIW, the camera has 51 AF points. Even excluding the left-most point, you get 50. In real life, what will happen is that you will use either on of the center points, or if you are shooting in portrait mode, then rightmost point. The use of left point is rare and will mostly be in continuous AF mode in which case no single point determines AF accuracy. Anyway, I hope that down the road Nikon will be able to adjust this point. If you do have to use that location, switch to Live View and use contrast detect AF, which is very good (better than Canon), which brings us to the next point
Live View: Here most of what others have said is true. Live view has many problems. It skips lines, so 100% or higher view is very annoying, the screen blacks out after every pictures for 1-4 seconds while image is written to card, using manual focus in dark settings is difficult because the camera always stops down the lens. These are quite annoying things and all I can say to Nikon engineers is, what were you thinking? Unfortunately the first two problems I mentioned are bad hardware design and I doubt that these can be fixed in the firmware. The last problem however is relatively easy to fix. In fact the camera already does that. If you put camera in AF mode, and press AF_ON button, you will notice the LV screen light up for a moment as camera opens the aperture to full to do autofocus. Then it goes back to darkness. I think it will be fairly easy for Nikon to add a mode where the aperture stays open until the actual picture is taken.
I must say though that AutoFocus in Live View works extremely well in normal and low light. It is only Manual focusing which is the issue.
Custom Settings: Canon 5D Mark II (and III) has three custom settings mode. You can register all camera settings (including exposure, and ISO) and just switch to the appropriate setting when you need to. All your settings will be brought back exactly no matter what you were doing. Now for me personally, this is not very useful, because I have at least half a dozen use cases and Canon only provides three. Nikon provides zero. It is however, important for some people and so they have been complaining. My own main beef with Nikon is that no matter what you have your custom shooting modes saved to, when you do green button reset, the camera resets not to the settings I saved, but to some stupid factory defaults. This is contrary to what an experienced photographer (for whom this camera is intended) would like to do. I set my camera to the settings that I want (e.g. Full Raw, ISO 100, Aperture Priority). Then I may change settings as I shoot (increase ISO, change WB, etc). What I would like to come back to is the settings that I painstakingly selected, not the factory default. If Nikon would fix this flaw through firmware update, my productivity will receive a noticeable jump.
Compared to the positives that this camera has, these are minor nitpicks. Yes, these impact usability of camera in that the operation becomes slower, but none of the above prohibit user from doing anything that they want to. This camera is above all about Image Quality which it provides in buckets full. The images that I print from D800, even at 8x10, are noticeably different from other cameras I have used before. The edge acuity on details is phenomenal,and the tone curve is very different. One can always get high contrast pleasing images from most digital cameras, including D800. However where I see the difference is where more artistic and/or realistic representation of tone curve is needed. This is where D800 really shines and leaves all competition in dust.
As good as the camera is with its superior IQ (resolution is just one aspect of it), metering, and AF, this is not a be-all, end-all camera. This camera is not for:
1) Sports Shooter
This camera is not a speed demon. Although it is rated at 4 fps, you can get 5 fps (6 fps with grip) if you choose to 1.2x crop. That is right, Nikon only advertises high fps for 1.5x crop, but choosing 1.2X crop, you get a 25MP camera that can shoot at 6 fps (same as the 22MP Canon 5D Mark III). Still, dedicated sports shooter expect 8+ fps, which this camera is not capable of simply because it has so much more data to move.
2) Event Photographers
People who shoot lots of pictures in a session (e.g. photo journalists, wedding photographers shooting thousands of images per wedding), probably don't need the super high IQ, and burden of processing 36Mp images maybe too high.
3) JPEG Shooters
Although you can get good Jpegs out of D800 with correct settings, I believe that those who shoot jpegs most of the time, won't see much (if any) benefit of this camera.
I will end this review with comments for all nay Sayers:
For Nikon shooters, D800 represents 300% jump in resolution. Do not compare it to D700/D3/D4 AF, sharpness, ISO, etc. Learn to shoot with the high resolution and the demand it makes. If you can't, downsize the files to 12 or 16Mp before comparing.
For Canon shooters, chill out. Canon has essentially recycled the same FF sensor that they first released in 2007 in 1Ds III. Class leading at that time, and even until this February 2012, it is no match for the new technology in D800. Sadly, in past few years, Canon has been relying on their DIGIC processor to provide image quality gains in jpeg output. That is fine, and works for certain type of photographers, but not for many others who shoot Raw. The RAW output of 5D Mark III is no different from 5D Mark II (or 1Ds III). Sure the 5D Mark III has better (much better) AF and handling. However the purists photographer, lusting after IQ, have lived with 5D and 5D Mark II even with their poor handling. So improvements in handling and performance are meaningless unless they are accompanied by corresponding gains in the raw Image Quality.
P.S. I suggest you have to check for best price at: camerakits.wordpress.com/nikon-d800/
I hope this review is helpful.
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