The Nikon D800E will surely make a big wave, not only because of its massive image capture figure of 36.3 megapixels, making it Nikon’s highest res camera and possibly the industry’s highest figure for a full frame DSLR. It also should rival many higher priced medium format cameras and see deployment by fashion and ad photographers.
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Wannabe D4 owners can calm their heartbeats: this one has enormous appeal, especially to the bank balance and squashes most of the appeal that Canon’s 5D Mark III may display with its smaller 22.3 megapixel sensor.
Nikon D800E Features
The camera shares many features with its stablemate the D4, but at around half the price.
Here’s some more basic features:
- Maximum image size of 7360×4912 pixels, enough to make an enormous 62x42cm print.
- Saving video files in Full HD 1920×1080 and uncompressed H.264/MPEG4 format.
- Ability to shoot in 15.3 megapixel DX-format capture mode.
- 25MP 1.2x crop mode.
- 51-point AF system with 15 cross-type sensors, rated to -2EV.
- Standard ISO 100-6400 range, with an extension to ISO 25,600 equiv.
- Formats include NEF (RAW), JPEG and TIFF.
- Dual card slots: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I compliant cards and CompactFlash Type 1.
- 1080p video at 24/25/30 fps, up to 24Mbps, with uncompressed HDMI output.
- 8.1 cm LCD with 921,000 pixels.
- Maximum 4fps continuous shooting in FX mode.
- Dual-axis virtual horizon LCD display.
The camera is, in appearance and layout, very similar to the earlier D700. Both have onboard flash which many pros say indicates it’s a non-pro device! A major difference between the D800 and the D700 is that the latter does not shoot video while the D800 shoots uncompressed Full HD video, either in full frame or in DX format, allowing you to record video directly to an external HDMI recorder.
A feature which was all the rage a few years ago and delighted many happy owners of even low level digi compacts was the time lapse capture ability. Coupled with video capture the D800 now offers a time lapse function that captures images at selectable intervals, then combines these images to make a time-lapse video. Quite a feature!
But what’s the E all about?
So what’s with the ‘E’ appended to the 800 model number? Here’s the official Nikon screed:
“The D800E possesses the same characteristics as the D800 with just one difference.
“In-camera disabling of the aliasing and moiré pattern reduction operation performed by the optical low-pass filter allows light passing through a Nikkor lens to strike photodiodes directly for even greater resolution.
“This model is optimal for landscape, advertising and artistic photography, which demand higher resolution and clear definition. With the exception of the above modification, the D800E and the D800 are identical.
“Aliasing and moiré patterns may be more noticeable in images captured with the D800E with some subjects, scenes or shooting conditions.
“Optical low-pass filter IR coating and anti-reflection coating performance are the same in both the D800 and the D800E.” Got it?
The magnesium alloy body is claimed to be water and dust resistant.
Holdability: the gear is well configured, not especially large for a full frame camera and well-balanced in the hand.
The camera was supplied for review with two lenses: AF-S f2.8/Nikkor G ED 24-70mm and AF-S f2.8/14-24mm G ED. With the former loaded, the total weight was 1.9kg.
You need to adopt a fresh approach to operating it as there is some fairly radical redesign of the external control setup.
There’s no mode dial as such: the shutter button is surrounded by the power switch; to select PASM you tap the MODE button just above the status LCD screen and wind the main command dial, then fine tune the aperture or shutter speed with the same dial; the status screen can be illuminated by a twirl of the on/off lever to a third position, marked by a light globe.
To the left side of the camera body’s top can be found the release mode dial, with four press buttons: quality, white balance, ISO and exposure bracketting. Set into a collar beneath the release mode dial are six positions: single frame, two continuous shooting options, a shutter quietening option, self timer and mirror lockup.
Overall, the cluster of external controls is not overwhelming: I counted 19. But their arrangement means you can very quickly access any combination without need to dig into the LCD menu which is, as expected, quite comprehensive.
The LCD screen itself is a generous size at 8.1cm but surprisingly, is not a vari-angle job. This removes the option of shooting video with the camera held waist level, LCD screen viewable from above. A pity, but at least there is a virtual horizon display which not only advises on lateral tilt but forward/backward pitch as well.
Some notes on the controls:
I particularly liked the Live View button, placed very close to the bottom RH corner of the LCD screen and close to the operator’s right thumb. It’s also switchable: stills or video.
Placed close to right side of the lens barrel, the depth of field button is flanked by the Function button, squeezed between lens and the speed grip but relatively accessible.
The microphone inset is positioned at the left of the camera front, safely away from the right fingers’ operating clamour.
Overall, once familiar with the camera the total layout I found to be quite good and rapid in use.
Batteries are well handled: there is capacity to handle a variety of battery types with the optional Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D12 which supports the Lithium Ion batteries, AA alkalines, and the AC Adapter. With this power setup you can shoot at approximately 6 fps using the DX format image area.
The D800E can shoot a burst of up to 100 frames at rates varying from
The 51-point AF system handles a variety of subjects extremely well, especially in low light.
The now familiar button on the top deck is used to record in movie mode. Shooting a still image mid-movie will cause the movie to stop. Auto focus and exposure work very well in movie recording.
I found the camera and the 14-24m lens to be a super combo fro shooting video; the stabiliser I thought to be possibly the best I have encountered in a DSLR.
Nikon D800E ISO Tests
As I found the f2.8/24-70mm lens to be slightly unsharp in closeup (possibly damaged) I resorted to the f2.8/14-24mm optic to shoot the demanding ISO tests … hence the small amount of barrel distortion arising from using a ‘widey’ at a short distance.
Up to ISO 6400 the only noise coming from the image was the sound of my beating heart! No seriously, there was some slight evidence of noise but the image would still be useable.
Only at ISO 25,600 equivalent was the noise becoming more visible. Still, with the right subject, you would be in business.
Nikon D800E Review Verdict
Quality: Spectacular. You’ll find the enormous image size a great benefit in cropping in post editing.
Why you would buy it: you want large images, top quality and (surprisingly!) an easy to use layout; deleting images and reformatting a card is a little circuitous, with much finger and button work.
Why you wouldn’t: it’s a big baby!
I may have skimped on my relating the details of this camera, due to the relatively short length of this review and the brief period in which I actually was able to use the D800E. The final message is that this is a phenomenal piece of kit!
Nikon D800E Specifications
Image Sensor: 36.3 million effective pixels.
Metering: Matrix, centre-weighted, averaging and spot.
Effective Sensor Size: full frame 35.9x24mm CMOS.
A/D processing: 12- or 14-bit.
Lens Mount: Nikon F.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: Bulb, 30 to 1/8000 second, Bulb. Flash X-sync: up to 1/250 sec.
Continuous Speed: 4fps in FX full frame mode; 6 fps in FX mode.
Memory: CompactFlash Type 1, SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I compliant cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 7360×4912 to 2400×1352. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 640×480 at 24/25/30fps.
Viewfinders: Eye level pentaprism 8.1cm LCD (921,000 pixels).
File Formats: NEF (RAW), JPEG, NEF (RAW)+JPEG, TIFF, MPEG4.
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 25,600.
Interface: USB 3.0, AV, HDMI mini, DC input, external stereo mic, audio output, remote.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AA alkaline/NiMh/lithium batteries, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 146x123x82 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 1000 g (with battery and SD card).
Price: get a price on the Nikon D800E (Body Only) at Amazon.