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D800 – First impressions


After a week with my new Nikon D800, I thought I might share some of the things I have noticed and some thoughts on this fantastic piece of equipment. But all is not only positive, even if I really like to have modern technology in my hands again.

I have been using my D700 almost every day for a couple of years now, so getting used to something new is not done overnight. When I upgraded my camera last time, it was from a D2X with DX-sensor to the FX-sensor in the D700.

A big step for me, not to mention the bigger display and everything else that felt so much more modern at that time. This time, it feels more like very much more of the same, but in a good way, mostly.

Big, really really big files


Going from 12MP to 36MP is quite a leap, I love the detail that a photo can contain, but I’m not really in love what the large files do with my work flow. My computers might not be the most modern right now, but they have enough RAM and both have SSD disks for programs and system.

But, a NEF file with so many pixels takes a lot of time to render in 100% for Lightroom 4, and that has now become a very narrow bottle neck in my production. I am used to import all the files into LR, quickly sort out the bad photos (to check focus proprely, I need full size previews) and then get to work on the ones that are left. It used to be done quite quickly, but not now.

And the disk space will fill up more than three times faster, and my strategy to use a lot of 4GB Compact Flash cards does not feel so smart anymore.

Less margin for sharpness

With my D700, I used to check the photos at 100%, just to be sure that focus were exactly where I wanted it. And it usually did, but the number of almost-sharp-shots with the D800 is a bit annoying. There are so much more detail that can show that focus it exactly right on. At 50%, it is more acceptable. And I guess I must get used to zoom in less than before.

I have only used the D800 on a couple of jobs last week, with a 50mm, a 85mm, a 24-70 and the 14-24. It might be luck, but my D700 has always been sharp with all my lenses, but with the D800 I think I need to calibrate the AF so it works better. Almost in focus is not so fun.

Much better, a little different, and more

You might think that I am not happy with this new camera, but that is not the case. I think a bit of my frustration comes from having to learn to use this camera. When I took it from the box, it felt very familiar, but getting used to the differences will take some time. But overall everything feels mostly good.

After all, it is a modern camera, and the files it produces are really great. The dynamic range and all that makes it very easy to manipulate the photos without breaking them. So far, it has been hard to blow out details or loose them in dark shadows.

The few changes of the controls feels very good, getting a Bracketing button is really great and the menu feels easy to learn and navigate. The talk about the different colours that the display shows might just be something to get used to.

Another good thing, I think, will be that my D700 can be used as backup with the same usability, and it will probably not feel old the same way my D2X did after using the D700 with its bigger display and FX-sensor.

To sum it up, this will be great, as soon as I have learned to use it properly.

But I wish they could have given me some focus points closer to the edges of the frame, I would really have liked that. I think I had it in my D2X before.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • David Beta July 27, 2012, 17:28

    Hi Stefan,
    I’m writing from Colombia.
    Thanks for all your post.
    You have more about d800? I’m looking for change my body, i got d700 and it’s difficult to take a decision.
    Have a nice day.

  • Stefan Tell August 6, 2012, 10:49

    Hello David,

    and thanks. Upgrading from the D700 was a natural decision, but it creates some problems as well. The files are a lot better, but at the same time, a lot bigger (almost three times as large). And the camera itself requires the best lenses, I delete a lot more files from the D800 just because they look a little bit out of focus, something I might not have noticed with files from the D700.

    So, I can warmly recommend buying the D800, it is a fantastic camera, but you should also think about if you really need all those pixels, and if your lenses are good enough. The D700 is still a great camera, and maybe easier to produce good results with.

  • Randle P. McMurphy January 12, 2016, 14:28

    Dear Stefan,
    I just digg out this old comments because I turned the other way around.
    Means I first bought a Nikon D800 for the benefit of better resolution
    and……..was speachless, impressed !
    The Nikon D800 and now the Nikon D810 is a amazing camera but also
    needs the best lenses and carefull workflow to show what is possible.
    So after a while for street, people and travel I found a used Nikon D700
    on Ebay which also still is a great camera for work and 70% the tasks
    I used the D800 before. Nikon is my first choice for my personal photography
    and I like it a lot more (maybe to subjective) than the Canon DSLR´s we use
    in our studios !

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