Nikon D800E review

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LCD, VIEWFINDER

LCD screen has 3.2 inch diagonal and 921,000 dots. It is clear and bright even in sunlight. Sadly, there is no tilt option… I’ve already stated my opinion on this matter in Canon 5D Mark III review; it is kind of irritating buying a camera this expensive and sophisticated and still had to lie in mud to get low angle shot.

Viewfinder offers first class experience. It is huge, bright, covers 100% of the frame and able to display a comprehensive set of various information. You can select grid to help you with framing and virtual horizon indicator which are easier to use than the one in Canon 5D Mark III; Canon uses its focus point indicators for virtual horizon whereas Nikon D800 has dedicated semi-transparent indicators at the bottom and on the right side of the frame.

The viewfinder has a switch for eyepiece shutter cover – used during long exposures to be sure no light enters the viewfinder and interferes light metering or appears in photographs. A fairly better solution than the one used on Canon 5D Mark III where you get a rubber cover which can be attached only if eyepiece cover is removed; but where to store the removed cover then? On Nikon, even the diopter adjustment wheel has a mechanism that prevents it from being turned accidentally; first you must lift it just like the adjustment wheel on analog wristwatches. How do you like that for attention to details?

SENSOR

As I stated in introduction, Nikon D800 and D800E are currently cameras with highest pixel count on the market (excluding medium and large formats and some Nokia smartphones). Maximum resolution is a massive 36 megapixels (that’s 7360 x 4912 pixels). There were huge debates in photography forums on that issue; who really needs such resolution? Well, landscape and fashion photographers will definitely be able to use it up, and photojournalists will appreciate ability to crop images and still be left with enough resolution for use in magazines and newspapers.

For everyone else, 36 MP is probably overkill. Sadly, Nikon doesn’t offer smaller resolution with RAW file system like Canon does, so if shooting RAW, you are always stuck with huge 40MB files (up to 75 MB in uncompressed RAW format). Luckily, Nikon released D600 a month ago. It lacks some of the D800′s features, but at 24 megapixel and even lower price is probably more suited for average users.

D800E differs itself from regular D800 by lack of anti-aliasing filter. In practice, images will appear slightly sharper but with more chance to get moire effect. The thing is, I have never seen moire in any of my images taken with the camera (took around 700 of them).

If you wonder whether to buy D800 or D800E, I would recommend regular D800 for general use and D800E for landscape and studio-oriented applications only. Although I haven’t used regular D800, according to all other reviews, difference between the two can  only be seen at lens’s sharpest aperture settings (usually between F/4 and F/8). By closing the aperture further (shooting landscape on full-frame often requires F/11 to F/16 or even F/22) diffraction starts to reduce sharpness and therefore narrows down the gap between D800 and D800E. Also, keep in mind the slightly lower price of regular D800 – just enough to get you a bunch of extra batteries, vertical grip or a 50/1.4G lens.

Nikon D800 and D800E can also shoot in DX mode – with lenses made for APS-C sensor. In that case you get 15MP of resolution. I think it a waste not to utilize full resolution of this sensor, but it’s nice to have such option; some users might be jumping to D800 from D7000 or D300 and have DX lenses at hand. Canon users do not have such option; it’s impossible to attach an EF-S lens to Canon full-frame lens mount.

CAMERA SHAKE

Massive resolution available in D800 and D800E sadly has one major downside. There’s a well known rule to shoot at shutter speed proportional to your lens focal lenght for  images not to be affected with camera shake. Forget about it with D800 and D800E. In my experience, shooting with 50mm lens at 1/50 of a second, more images turned blurry than not. I needed almost twice faster shutter speed to get sharp images. Keep that in mind if you want perfectly sharp photographs.

 MEMORY AND BATTERY

Memory compartment has space for two memory cards; first Compact Flash, and second SDHC card. Cards can be used in several ways: overflow (once first card full, camera switches to second one), backup (same files written to both cards) or you can designate each file type to different card. No complaints here.

Nikon D800E DSLR uses EN-EL15 Li-Ion battery. It is supposed to last for around 900 shots (CIPA measurement), but I couldn’t squeeze more than 600 out of it. I got similar results with the Canon 5D Mark III and am not sure what’s the problem; maybe I am using live view and reviewing images a bit too much. Battery takes several hours to recharge.

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