Nikon D800 First Impressions Review$2,999.95
The menu on the Nikon D800 is almost identical to the Nikon D4 and other similar models. The camera menu is organized into groups, with symbols on the left-hand side of the screen for playback, shooting settings, custom settings, retouch menu, and recently used settings. Within each group all the options are displayed in a vertical list, usually multiple pages long.
Nikon continues to design their menus this way, and it will feel instantly familiar to those who have used Nikons in the past. Unfortunately, it's not great from a usability perspective and a long list design means that getting from the first page to the last option in shooting settings requires scrolling through around 20 other options first—assuming you know exactly where it is and don't dive into the custom menu first.
This is a real headache when you're trying to get to two options in the custom menu, because that single list covers such a vast collection of important (if obscure) functions. There's nothing wrong with tabbed menus, but even a simple page up, page down function would be much better than leaving options hidden off-screen within a tab.
Ease of Use
While the Nikon D800 can match the D4 for sophistication, the D800 has a much simpler button layout than its more expensive full-frame cousin. The D800 is also—rather obviously, given the nearly four year difference in release date—much more sophisticated than the D700, adding more modern features such as live view and video recording.
Where the highest-end cameras in Nikon's lineup seem to court professionals almost exclusively, the D800 is priced and designed to be available to amateurs looking for specific high-end features and performance. The D800 is relatively simple to operate, with several keys that can be customized to the user's preference. We would've liked to have seen the joystick from the Nikon D4 on the D800, with the camera instead using the same flat directional pad that was used on the D700.
Size & Handling
The D800 rises slightly above the D700 physically, with a design that incorporated more ergonomic slopes and curves that aid handling. The differences are small, but together the result is a camera that handles profoundly better than the D700 in most situations. Altogether, the D800 is also slightly lighter than the D700, with a body-only weight of just a hair under two pounds (2lb, 3.3oz with battery and card). It's heavy, to be sure, but for a full-frame professional tool it's downright svelte compared to cameras that have an included battery grip.
The highlights from a handling perspective are the orientation of the shutter release and power button, the indentation and shape of the grip, and the addition of a focus mode switch to just below the lens where the left hand falls. All three improve the ergonomics of the camera, and are reminiscent of the kinds of body styling that have typified Nikons over the past few years.