I finally got my hands on a Nikon D800 this week, and my business partner was kind enough to also send along a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens. I haven’t done any sort of careful scientific review yet, but I did ask a model to come by my studio so I could snap off a few shots.
Until I got this camera in the studio I was very underwhelmed and wondered what the fuss was about, but I must say in good light this thing is impressive. If you click on the shot above you’ll see the unedited in-camera JPEG (13.3 MB and 72.9 MB for the RAW). The thumbnail above has two moles removed, but its otherwise a downsized version of the 100% unedited in-camera JPEG (which you can click to see).
Here’s some screen grabs from 100% of this image:
Pretty freakin impressive!
Now I’m a Canon shooter so I wasn’t crazy with the out of camera color or exposure with the camera default settings, but those things are easily addressed when editing the RAW file in Capture NX2 or Photoshop. What I do have though is an impressive image that should print quite well even if I didn’t do another damn thing to it.
Compared to the Canon 5D Mark III
Doing the same exact kind of shot (handheld) using my 5D Mark III and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, I got an equally impressive shot with better in-camera color in my opinion. If you click on the shot above you’ll see the unedited in-camera JPEG (6.2MB and 25.7MB for the RAW).
The thumbnail above has a minor crop from the left side and two moles removed, but its otherwise a downsized version of the 100% unedited in-camera JPEG (which you can click to see).
Here’s some screen grabs from 100% of this image:
Canon’s in-camera JPEG is certainly more satisfying to my eyes, and in this case gives me an image I could technically call done and do nothing else. With that said, it does add more in-camera sharpening and seems to expose better so it gives this image an unrealistic advantage over what is possible with the D800 image with similar processing (I’ll do that later in another review).
What this does tell me is that Canon 5D Mark III owners shouldn’t be crying in their milk or feeling buyers remorse – it does a fantastic job – especially with its 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (which to me focus significantly faster, has much better vibration control, and better usable minimal focus distance).
If you are shooting in the studio, both are fantastic products so if you think you need more megapixels the D800 has got you covered, but if you aren’t printing billboard then 5D Mark III won’t let you down either.
D800 in the Field
I didn’t have much time to shoot today, but I did take 5 minutes to go outside – in the rain – and shoot a few raindrop shots. The shot above turned out nice, but what’s funny is that when you view that drop at 100% it’s like a freakin macro shot:
Holy cow, who needs a macro lens eh? Again, this is an in-camera JPEG (16.4MB and 73.3MB RAW) with camera defaults so some detail is lost over what is possible with the RAW. I think the D800E is going to be just sick for this stuff!
This did show me that the LCD on the back of the D800 is woefully inadequate and not up to the task of inspecting images at 100%. When you view them on the camera they look soft and highly unimpressive, but when you get them on the computer the wow factor comes back!
Again in the rain I did another shot and once again if you look at the detail of this shot at 100% you have what would be a pretty darn good macro shot – straight out of the camera JPEG (12.9MB and 71.4MB RAW) with a mega crop!
While I don’t feel that the ISO performance is worth a hoot after ISO 3200 (more on that in my next article), there’s a ton of goodness at lower ISO’s with this camera. The detail that can be resolved out of images is just sick, but it’s huge files mean you’ll need a big ass Drobo. Disks are cheap so maybe it’s worth it, but the question you really need to ask yourself what’s the output size you’ll be using these images for? If it’s for the web then it’s a lot of wasted pixels unless you frequently do major crops to makeup for a shortcoming in telephoto lenses.
The dynamic range is impressive and the bokeh you get is pretty sweet. However, I have noticed that with this many megapixels the camera is very unforgiving to motion shake, so I found myself needing to shoot a minimum of 1/200 sec when I was at 200mm otherwise I got blurry shots (and yes VR was on in the correct mode). It’s clear this camera wants to be on a tripod and longer exposures will be its answer to lack of high ISO noise performance (where it’s sibling the D7000 thrives).
My early advice is for Canon 5D Mark III shooters to stay put as I don’t think this warrants jumping ship (as I once thought the D3s was versus the 1D Mark III). For D700 owners who need burst mode performance or > ISO 3200 then I think you are better off not making the jump.
However, if you are a Nikon studio photographer or compulsive tripod shooter, then I think this camera might be a perfect fit as the image detail is just awesome. Those who give it the right light are rewarded handsomely and it’s no slouch up to ISO 3200.
Click here to get on the massive waiting list to get one of these awesome cameras.
Click here to see my full review and comparison to the 5D Mark III.
Here’s a few 5D Mark III articles for those considering both camps:
- Parents Rejoice – No More Dark, Blurry and Out of Focus Pictures! (Canon 5D Mark III Real World Shots)
- Canon 5D Mark III Real World Shots–In-Camera HDR, High ISO, Flowers, Nature, People & Cars
- Canon 5D Mark III First Thoughts–WOW, Canon is BACK!!!! (REAL WORLD SHOTS)
A business partner provided me with their one and only loaner unit which is being sent around the country to reviewers. I will be returning this camera and lens, and I get no compensation for doing this article. If you make a purchase using select links in this article, I might get a commission.