The Nikon D800 has so much resolution, its real competition might be medium-format digital cameras designed for studio photography.
Nikon challenges the medium-format market with its
budget-friendly, full-frame, 36.3-megapixel D800.
Necessary or overkill?
During our month of testing, we explored every nook and
cranny of this unique DSLR and here’s what we found.
“How’d they do it?” That’s the first thing the two photographers who helped me test the Nikon D800 asked after they
were done shooting with this 36.3-megapixel, full-frame digital SLR, which replaces the four-year-old D700.
And honestly, I had a similar question after using the D800,
a relatively inexpensive DSLR, which can capture images with
such excessive amounts of detail, you wonder what you can
possibly do with it all.
While the D800 doesn’t offer nearly the same kind of speed
or ruggedness as Nikon’s flagship D4, which we reviewed last
month, it is designed to challenge other medium-format digital cameras with their massive resolutions and single-minded
intent. And at only $3,000, it’s a fraction of a fraction of the
price of those impressive but extremely expensive medium-format models.
Yes, the D800, like most DSLRs these days, can also shoot
1080p HD video but it’s really aimed at the still photography
market, particularly wedding, beauty and studio photographers seeking to get the most out of every pixel of the camera’s 35mm CMOS sensor.
But there has to be a trade-off, right? There has to be some
sacrifice in quality for producing a DSLR with this resolution
and feature-set, and pricing it so that even advanced amateurs, semi-pros and “weekend warriors” can afford it, right?
And what about those vaunted 36+ megapixels of resolution.
LIGHT AND LEAN
Though the 36.3-megapixel D800 has three times the resolution of the 12.1-megapixel D700 from 2008, along with many
of the latest features including 1080p HD video shooting at
24/30p, it has a similar look to the older camera and actually
weighs less: 32 ounces for the D800 compared to 39 ounces
for the D700 (with the battery loaded).
As with the D4, Nikon has made the D800 slightly more
rounded and sloping overall. The previous top-tier DSLRs—the
D700 and D3s—had squared-off edges and broader shoulders, and prominent, steeple-like pentaprisms on top.
With its lower, angled viewfinder and tighter dimensions,
some might find the D800’s look to be more consumer-y than
the previous model, while others might think Nikon’s latest
DSLRs are starting to resemble Canon’s. Once you get it in
your hand though, the D800 is distinctly Nikon and feels more
robust than the D700.
“The build feels better than the D700,” reports photog-
rapher Jeremy Saladyga ( www.jeremysaladyga.com), one of
our Nikon D800 testers. “Very solid and comfortable.”
Adding to that comfort is the shutter button, which is tilted
down slightly to the right instead of straight down as on the
previous model, making it easier to fire it with your forefinger.
Shooting with the D800 felt about as natural as any DSLR out
there right now and while, on paper, it’s small ( 5. 7 x 4. 8 x 3. 2