Nikon D800 First Impressions Review$2,999.95
Lens Mount & Sensor
The D800 uses Nikon's usual F-mount for interchangeable lenses, the same mount they've used for over 50 years (with slight modifications, of course). The camera's sensor is really the star of the show, though, as it has an astounding 36.3 megapixels of resolution on its full-frame image sensor. To compare: the Nikon D3x, considered the flagship of their entire line and a popular landscape and studio portrait camera, has just 24.5 megapixels of resolution. For the D800 to outpoint its flagship by such a large degree, and to do it at half the cost, is a marvel. We'll have to get the camera into our labs to test its capabilities, but it's a bold move by Nikon, leaving the D800 in a very unique position in both the market and their own camera lineup.
LCD & Viewfinder
The D800 gets a big upgrade in the form of a 3.2-inch 921k-pixel TFT-LCD rear screen. The screen is built directly into the body, with no articulation for tripod users—though the camera's ability to use its uncompressed HD output on an external monitor will help there. The LCD is nice and bright, with an ambience lighting sensor adjusting the brightness of the screen automatically depending on what conditions you are currently standing in. The camera also includes a secondary screen on the top plate of the camera, which offers a quick readout of all the current shooting settings.
The viewfinder in the D800 is the same as in the D4 and other high-end cameras from the company. It's a 100% coverage eye-level pentaprism (when shooting with an FX lens), with a 0.7x subject magnification, 17mm eyepoint, and a diopter adjustment range of -3 to +1m-1. The focus screen is a clear matte Mark VIII with AF area brackets and a framing grid. The viewfinder is bright and clear, as we've come to expect. With users likely to crop down from the 36.3-megapixel resolution it's important to mention that when shooting at the 1.2x crop or when using a DX lens that viewfinder coverage drops to approximately 97% horizontally and vertically.
The D800 includes a built-in flash, which manually flips up from the top of the body just above the optical viewfinder. The flash has a guide number of approximately 39 feet/12 meters at ISO 100. The camera can use a Nikon Speedlight SB-910, -900, -800, -700, or its own built-in flash as a wireless master commander for a creative lighting setup. The camera also has a hot shoe and the ability to use the 91k-pixel RGB metering sensor to newer attached Speedlights. The camera has flash exposure compensation of -3 to +1 EV in whole, 1/3-, and 1/2-stop increments.
Jacks, Ports & Plugs
On the left side of the camera there's a rubber flap that pops out of the body to reveal the camera's USB, HDMI, mic, and headphone jacks. On the front of the camera the ten-pin remote commander and flash sync terminals are housed behind a separate rubber flap that wraps around the side of the body. The D800 is the first camera to support SuperSpeed USB 3.0, which has the ability to be much faster than USB 2.0 for faster transfer of images.
The Nikon D800 includes an EN-EL15 removable, rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, with a dedicated external charging cradle. The battery slots into a compartment on the bottom of the camera, similar to the location on other DSLRs. The battery is rated to 900 shots by CIPA standards, according to Nikon reps here at CP+ 2012 in Japan. This is slightly less than the 1,000 shot rating that the D700 had, but CIPA ratings are very out of whack compared to what most people would consider normal usage, so the new battery actually performs better, especially in colder temperatures.
The camera can also be used with the optional MB-D12 multi-power battery pack, which can use an EN-EL15, EN-EL18, or eight AA-size batteries to power the camera. With an EN-EL15 in the battery pack, the camera can fire up to 6fps with a DX-format lens (with resolution restricted to around 15.1 megapixels) as opposed to the four fps available when shooting with the battery alone.
Images are stored on memory located behind a plastic compartment on the right side of the camera. Behind this flap the D800 houses dual card slots, with one slot for SD/SDHC/SDXC and Compact Flash each. The camera supports newer UHS-1 compliant SDHC cards, which again should aid in speedy transfer of images and enhance workflows. The D800 lets the user select to which card (SD or CF) images and video are stored, depending on their workflow.