Camera summary by Wildlife Photographer Richard Costin

The Nikon D800

Well, well, well…

In as many weeks we have another flagship release from Nikon, the long awaited D800. A couple of weeks back I posted some initial thoughts on the D4 camera. It was stongly rumoured that the D800 was to be announced… and it was!

So what does this machine offer, how is it different from what has come before and the D4?

Camera summary by Wildlife Photographer Richard Costin

Again, I will leave the spec junkies to battle it out in the forums as usual (we already have the usual “what were Nikon thinking”, “Canon are out of business, I’m switching” crowd shouting in the usual haunts as always), I will simply overview what is initially relevant to me and my style of shooting.

So, what do we have?

NEW GUBBINS – THE HIGHLIGHTS

  • An all new, 36 megapixel sensor has been thrown in here. Yes, that is 36 megapixels, the highest of any DSLR to date I believe.
  • An “E” option that removed the anti aliasing filter (called the D800E)
  • A host of goodies from the D4 more on these below
  • Smaller body (just) than the d700

Well the headline feature certainly is the sensor. Weighing in at 36 megapixels this certainly is a significant difference than the D3(s) 12 megapixels and even the D4’s 16. In true Nikon style (unlike another brand I won’t mention) they have put full resolution samples up right from the announcement, they are proud of this camera and want to show off what it can do. You can view them on the official Nikon site here. The amount of detail is staggering, truly in medium format territory. So what does this mean for me, a field-craft wildlife photographer?

Well of course if I can have more resolution I will take it, but the question is at what cost? Now I have not had my hands on the camera yet (I am attending a Nikon NPS event later this month where I will have my grubby mits on the camera) and will report back. Firstly this camera is significantly slower in some areas than the speed cameras (D3 and D4). We are limited to 4 frames per second (6 with the optional grip I believe). I say limited, even as a Wildlife Photographer, 8/10 situations I find myself  in don’t call for machine gun action. Blasting away means filling buffers, more computer time sifting through them and more noise to alert the subject to my presence. What does interest me is the built in teleconvertor this (effectively) gives you. Cropping from the centre down to 12 megapixels will give me a good (effective, not actual) zoom boost, albeit at the expense of pixels. But I am delivering 12 megapixels to my clients at the moment anyway so the 15 megapixels you get in DX mode is actually a step up and more than acceptable.

As for low light performance, the D4 is (or should be, as I have yet to play with one) the king for this, but downsizing images does in essence remove noise, and downsampling a 36 megapixel image to match a 16 megapixel size may give just as good a low light, noise free image as the D4. This will need some testing which I intend to do so as soon as possible. Dynamic range performance is all subject to guess work at the moment so I will leave any comment on that until I have seen both with my own eyes.

The body is mostly the same as the excellent one from the D700, albeit very slightly smaller. The D700 had great ergonomics (I personally prefer the larger D3 type bodies myself though). Weather sealed, tough (two very important factors for outdoor photographers), typical Nikon quality which is great!

So, will I be getting one?

Well, I had been seriously considering a d7000 for my upcoming Africa trips. As a lot of you may know I currently shoot with two D3 bodies and they have served me VERY well over the last 4-5 years. Yes they are full frame and therefore have less reach than a DX camera, but my field-craft usually allows me to get in a close as I need with a little extra time and effort.

I had great luck with the Migration crossings last year (pics coming soon after some rights issues expire!), but I really missed not being able to get some super tight shots of the action, I refuse to encroach on the crossing to get a closer view like some less ethical photographers/tourists sometimes do as this can have a negative impact on the crossings. I have a few remote plans this year, but wanted the d7000 for its DX format sensor which would allow for a longer (effectively) zoom from my lenses. Now the d800 would allow practically the same number of pixels on the centre lens area that the d7000 does, with the added benefit of the 36 megapixel options as well as all the new gubbins inside.

Another twist on this though is that I have the option of using a Nikon V1 with the accompanying FT-1 adapter (letting me use my large Nikon lenses on this compact camera). This would turn my 200-400 (a great lens!) into a monster 540-1080mm! I will be reviewing this combo shortly and weighing up its pros and cons. On paper the V1 is the choice for now, but I need to test this entirely new set-up in the field before committing to it. That said if a few commercial enquiries come off that are in the pipeline I will get both. Freelance photography is far from a certain business and I need to roll with the high and low times.

The D800’s price is very, very competitive ( £2399 over on Amazon ) and you get a whole of camera for your money. This makes it a much easier buy for most users than the D4, which clocking in over £4k is a real stretch, even more so if, like me, you are very happy with the D3.

Later this month I am testing out all of these options and will be doing a full write up here, sharing the results and my thoughts. Until then the D3 stays with me, after some quality time with the new cameras, who knows!!

Please check out my facebook page and sign up to my newsletter to keep up to date with it all! I have also been posting a lot of images to 500px of late so check that out too.

 

Cheers as always!!

Richard.

 

European Rabbit.(oryctolagus cuniculus).silhouette on hillside at sunset.uk (Richard Costin)

Comments 2

    1. Hi Mike!

      I’ll know for sure after testing, but I think the D800E is not for me. Feathers and fur (in almost all my shots) will probably cause moire mayhem! Also from the test shots I have seen (so far) the improvement seems to be marginal at best.

      Thanks,
      Richard.

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