Nikon D800 First Impressions Review$2,999.95
- Modes Overview
- Auto Mode
- Movie Mode
- Drive/Burst Mode
- Playback Mode
- Picture Quality & Size Options
All the usual program auto, aperture/shutter priority, and manual exposure modes are offered on the Nikon D800, with the current mode indicated primarily on the secondary LCD on the top plate of the camera. The control over the mode is the same as on the D700 (and other similar models), with a dedicated mode button right by this top LCD. Users switch between modes by holding down this button and then rotating the control dial to change between shooting modes.
The Nikon D800 meters automatically utilizing the same 91k-pixel RGB sensor as found on the Nikon D4. This sensor is greatly improved over the one found in the Nikon D700 and, massive sensor resolution aside, might be the best improvement between the D800 and its predecessor. The user can adjust the camera's auto exposure on a +/- 5 stop scale or 2-9 frame exposure bracketing, with either option in whole, 1/3-, or 1/2- stop increments. The D800 also includes Nikon's "active d-lighting" to enhance tonal range, with ADL bracketing of two frames or three to five frames using a preset value.
Comparing the video mode between the D800 and D700 shows just how far DSLR video has come in just a little over three years. The D700 does not have any kind of video recording functionality—DSLRs simply didn't record video when it came out—while the D800 includes the kind of high-end video functionality that will certainly appeal to professional videographers.
The D800 can shoot up to 1080/30p full HD video utilizing B-frame compression, contrast detection autofocus, and the ability to output an unmarked, uncompressed full HD signal to an external monitor or recording device. The D800 also includes a 3.5mm mic jack with full manual audio level control available, and the ability to adjust exposure while recording (including aperture) using the uncompressed HD output signal.
The D800's video compares well with the D4, with almost all of the same functionality and feature set at about half the price. The camera records 1080p video at 30, 25, or 24 fps, with options for 720p video at 60 (59.94), 50, 30 (29.97), 25, and 24 (23.976) fps. Video is recorded with B-frame compression with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, with audio recorded in Linear PCM and the video stored in a .MOV container.
With 36.3-megapixels of data to capture with each image, the D800 was never going to be a speed demon. When you put it up against similar competition, however, its four frames-per-second burst rate is actually very fast. The 40-megapixel medium format Pentax 645D, for example, manages just 1.1fps when continuously shooting. The 645D's sensor is much larger (1452mm2 against just 861.6mm2), but that's a considerable speed gap.
Drive mode is selected with a dedicated dial on the top plate of the camera, just beneath the white balance/iso/bracket hub. The camera has the option for single shooting, continuous low, continuous high, quiet shutter, self-timer, and mirror up modes. The self-timer can be adjusted to the user's desire, with custom settings allowing up to nine frames taken with a user-defined delay between each.
The playback mode on the D800 is rather sparse, with options only for reviewing images, playing them back in a slideshow, deleting, and ordering prints. Playback is accessed by pressing the dedicated button on the back of the camera, just to the left of the optical viewfinder. There's also a dedicated delete key here, along with zoom in and zoom out buttons aligned to the left side of the rear LCD. Users can zoom in on a single image or pull back to view an index of four, nine, or 72 images, with the option to add a comment of up to 32 characters to an image.
Picture Quality & Size Options
The D800's 36.3-megapixel maximum resolution leaves a lot of options for cropping down in order to better manage file size or decrease field of view. The camera records still images in 14- or 12-bit lossless compressed .NEF files, or in compressed JPEGs with normal (1:4) or basic (1:16) options along with RGB TIFF files. The camera can record images at a maximum resolution of 7360x4912, along with the following options: FX-format: (M) 5520x3680, (S) 3680x2456; 1:2 format (30 x 20): (L) 6144x4080, (M) 4608x3056, (S) 3072x2040; 5:4 format (30 x 24): (L) 6144x4912, (M) 4608x3680, (S) 3072x2456; DX-format (L) 4800x3200, (M) 3600x2400, (S) 2400x1600.