Sofus Comer

Photojournalism, Music and Life

My Review of the Nikon D800

Unfortunately Nikon has not been able to produce and deliver all the D800 and D800e DLSR cameras the world is craving for.
This camera is worth craving for in many aspects. But not all.
Have a read of my small review of this camera. Totally unbiased and in nobodies pockets.

Stills:
The D800 performs way beyond my expectations in regards to still photography. The dynamic range was/is always good on the D3, but here its amazing. Much more than any computer display or printer (at this date) will ever show.
The resolution is astonishing. Go look for artifacts on 14bit raw. Good look. I am printing native A2 prints in 360dpi that would blow your mind.

ISO performance:
I will shoot any assignment at any time in full size raw up to 6400 ISO. The little noise (or pleasant grain) on 6400 is just beautiful and astonishing on 36MP. I have no clients who ever once would say. "Uh those small grains in your picture are ugly". They are not. They just add some lowlight feel to it, that we have seen so many times in movies, old black and whites etc.. All my clients recognize this as a treasure. Why all the no noise hype?

Display:
The display on the D800 is not what I would call revolutionary. The whole idea of making it "smart" is not smart. The Hue, Saturation and auto light just doesn’t do it for me. I am thrown more off the actual image than on. But all I personally need the display for is; Is it sharp. Does the histogram show any warnings? I find the Display on the D3 at least just as good and much more trustworthy. So no upgrade here.

Autofocus and Lightmetering:
Well. The autofocus on this is good. Basically all I ask, is that its trustworthy. It has at times been off on faces and eyes, which the D3 was excellent at.
I never normally use anything but the center focus point. But have started to use the 3D continuous mode which is truly excellent. Actually better than center focus single mode. Its seems to me like the 91.000k sensor truly kicks in once in 3D mode, but doesn’t do the job on single center point mode?
Light metering is good. But so was the D3. So I see no improvement here and none was needed if you ask me.

Handling and weather protection:
At first its a bit cramped getting your hands around the grip. Especially being used to the D3. But all thats forgotten. The quality of the house and feel lives totally up to my expectations. Mine has been in rain and sandstorms already and the sealing is impressive.
The only thing I dislike about the handling is that ISO button. Its just not the best place to put it. I keep finding my self fumbling to locate and then hold down the ISO select button and dial to find the ISO i want.

Video:
I also bought the D800 for video. Not the main reason, but to get the DSLR video look and to lesson all the video gear I owned.
I am very impressed on the handling, the contrast autofocus which I never thought I would use anyway. But I have started on using it cause its reliable.
I will not blame the camera for the hard to see when its in focus. Cause there are third party tools to help here. Like the LCDVF from http://www.kinotehnik.com or another one from http://www.zacuto.com. The MOV files are really easy to work with. Nikon has really prepared themselves for a good video launch in this camera. And praise to them for that.
There is Moiré. And more than most would like. YES its true. This will for some be a downside and for others like me. Doesn’t matter. Not that I am not professionally proud. But for the cost of this thing I do not expect the top. The picture quality of the video is already mind-blowing.
Audio handling is important and like any DSLR for video its also a drag to work with here. BUT. I am truly amazed on the quality of the Nikon ME-1 stereo mic. Its a great little mic and if you set the max gain on the D800 to manual 11/20 you get good enough sound that you in some cases can use as reportage on track two, and for later reference its more than good.

Computer hardware and how much do I need to spend:
Well it takes time to load these .NEF (raw) on to a disk. three times as long as the D3.
Likewise for Lightroom to generate a 1:1 preview of the .NEF. Also you will find your filling up your disks faster than usual.
But at the same time I take less but better pictures when on assignment. This camera can reward you with some technically brilliant shots if you take your time to learn it. How often are any of us in a situation, where we only have 1 second to take a shot? Very rare. So since the D800 has landed in my backpack I have changed the way I take pictures. Less shots but more thought of.
So if your a news photographer or work in speedy deadlines, consider another camera with less pixels

Thoughts:
I respect those who do not see what they need 36MP for. But I cannot understand why so many are talking about buying the D800 and then using it in DX mode. I hope not to tread anybody on the toes here. But if your trying to convince your self to get the D800 and then only shoot 20MP in DX mode, that would be a shame! I would never dream of shooting in anything but its maximum at all times. I do still believe that a picture should be cropped when initial framing takes place. Not later. Some of the magic of an image is lost each time we crop from the full size. Of course their are a few exceptions here in regards to nature photography and sports, if you do not own a large tele (400mm, 500mm, 600mm).

The best thing about this camera is its resolution and ISO performance on this resolution.
So if your specifically interested in the D800 ask your self.

Do I want a slow (FPS) camera that takes amazing 36MP raw images even at 6400 ISO? And would that fill in my needs?
Or could my photography perhaps take a new path with this new camera? More time on less shots. High scale prints and exhibitions.
Stockphotography websites pay more for 36mp than 12mp.

Cause these are the true unique things about the D800 that no other camera has to offer at the moment for this price.

Atb of good photography
Sofus Comer.

PS, there are some D800 images on my website. http://www.sofuscomer.com
Open post on Sofus Comers site

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