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Nikon D800 review and testing

I can’t believe I have had my new D800 for a week now and I haven’t been able to get a decent model test done with it, free test anyone from a guy who think he knows what he’s doing?? Anyways, I know what many of you are thinking, why did I move over from my iPhone to Nikon? Two reasons, it has way more buttons and my iPhone was in fact just a card board cutout pasted onto a piece of rubber I cut out from my Welcome mat at home the at is now missing the e at the end…

[Before we move further I must add that I do not work for any of the companies listed in my post nor did I have any real surgery done. I am not a scientists or other person with a science degree in testing gear in a scientific method with scientific equipment.]

My initial testing was to compare the D700 with the D800, since I’m selling my D700, my left kidney and an old pristine pack of Super Trumps collectors edition playing cards and my collection of vintage Star Wars figures to pay for my camera, my D700 is packed nicely in it’s original packaging patiently awaiting a new owner. *hint hint. So for my test I have been using my D3 which has the same sensor as the D700, excuse my, I have just been informed it’s the other way around, the D700 has the same sensor as the D3, apologies, I did not intend to offend any D3’s out there. I bought my D800 at Orms in Cape Town. They are great by the way especially Andrew. I still find it strange that Nikon does not support it’s local professionals in a more respected manner, and by that I mean that I do believe that we as professionals are responsible for a great number of camera sales, as enthusiast always want to now what the pros are using. That is a post for another time.

As you can see from the above sample, the actual image size is significantly bigger. Both images were shot on the same 70-200 Vr2 lens, ISO 200 at f5.6. D800 file size is 4897 x 7360 and the D3 is 2832 x 4256 in precise pixel dimensions. What I did with the files are the following, shot in RAW and converted to DNG with Adobe DNG converter 7. The edited the images in Lightroom 3.6 (I am still reluctant to work with LR 4 although I bought it, it’s been kinda gathering some proverbial dust, I just find it too slow and I can’t spare another kidney to pay for a new computer seeing as photography is not a way to make money from nowadays)
SO out of all my lenses that I have and tested so far the venerable and trustworthy 24 – 70 f2.8 has disappointed the most. It does not meet my or the camera’s standards for lens resolution and I saw today that it is softer towards the edges of the frame. It is sharp in the centre but not the edges. Also I have not noticed the focusing issues that some people have experienced with their D800’s. I know of a local “unfortunate” photographer who went through 6 cameras and still wasn’t happy and ended up returning his D800, he experienced back focus, front focus, side focus and all sorts of focus issues. I have not had any problems besides the 24 – 70 not being able to handle the resolution. Why Nikon chose to use a sensor that outperforms their top selling pro lens is above my security rating. I hope this issue will be sorted out in some way, maybe involving a penguin sent to outer space to contact alien life forms who might be able to solve the riddle. I suspect an update to the lens is probably long over due. I have yet to do more tests on my 45mm tilt shift lens as it used to be one of my sharpest lenses but I am very impressed with the older generation 85mm f1.4 and the new 85mm f1.8 G lenses, both are very sharp from corner to corner. This I however anticipated long before I gave any notion to even owning a camera such as this. I have no idea what I just said, anticipated? what? Let’s move on.

36.5MP are they mad?? In a 35mm full frame sensor?? Are they mad?? I wasn’t convinced at first. Nikon once proclaimed that it has superior image handling and dynamic range due to keeping the MP size down on it’s camera sensors, why then have they gone completely bonkers and broke their own mold? The answer is as simple as my sensei used to say whenever he demonstrated a technique that works really well: “Why did I do this? Because I can”.

The image above was shot at ISO 3200 with the 24-70mm f2.8 lens at 1/50 at focal range 70mm. One image is noticeably more noisy than the other so which one is which? I’m guessing your guessed wrong. The top image which has superb color rendition and much much less noise is from the D800 and the bottom image with a whole lot more noise was shot on the D3. Oh and there is one more thing, it was actually shot in near darkness, almost 3 stops under exposed in RAW. The originally shot image pre editing is almost not recognizable and I did have to do a lot more noise reduction in LR than with the D800. The D800 was easy to edit while the D3 file took longer with more tweaking and still came out more noisy so for anyone shooting events in low light this might be a plus point. Also the RAW files on the D800 after being converted to DNG are anything between 20mb and 31mb and handle quite well on my computer, I have not experienced any sluggish performance yet.

Get ready for some more mind blowing stuff.

Back to the Future

Ok not quite this, showing off here a bit, also shot on the D800 at ISO250, f14 with a 20/s exposure. The mind blowing bit has to do with the image below. The first image has the correct exposure for the scene shot with the respected camera as indicated. The top right hand frame has the original exposure at over 3 stops under. Now this is the amazing bit, just look at how well the D800 handles the under exposed image shot directly to JPEG in camera. That is right, I shot the image set to shoot RAW + Jpeg at the same time, so both exposures were horribly under exposed. I was very astonished to see this sort of exposure latitude from a JPEG file! (It is an animated gif so it might take a bit longer to load as it is 1mb in size, it switches every 5 seconds)

The noise and the color accuracy is amazing, the Jpeg file had even less noise than the RAW file! Compared to the D3’s almost B&W looking jpeg file you cant tell the difference with the D800 files, I almost got confused myself when making the animation file! I must just add as well, the focusing speed of the D800, inhereted from the D4 is just astounding! Very fast and so far very accurate, me like. So should everyone go out and buy a D800 this instant?? (Absolutely not! Do not buy this camera, I would like to have it and it’s secrets all to myself and the less people have this camera, the better for me) oh crap did I say that out loud?

Will follow up soon enough I hope with human comparisons, once I find a willing model to help me out! Ending with a night time shot of Cape Town.

Have a look at my lens review with the D800

  • June 23, 2013 - 00:55

    Eric - Only reason I went with the non E version is that I wanted to use the D800 for video work and the non E version is way better for that use 🙂

  • June 21, 2013 - 16:54

    David Joseph - This was very informative ….. I plan on purchasing the Nikon D800 in the near future! For your body of work, and more specifically Wedding would you see any need for the D800E?

  • October 20, 2012 - 15:15

    @photomeisaiah - Good stuff.

  • June 14, 2012 - 11:34

    Nicole - verrrrry nice!

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