Nikon D800E review

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SHUTTER LIFE AND SOUND

Shutter sound is loud; maybe not the loudest out there but you will definitely not be a stealthy shooter with D800. There is a “quiet” mode but in my opinion it’s worthless. Quiet mode should hush the camera by slowing the mirror movement (like it does in Canon 5D Mark III and late 6D), but D800 seems just to split mirror movement in two stages: when you press the shutter button mirror closes and camera takes exposure but returns in open position only after you release the shutter button. Therefore loud mirror slap sound is just split in two stages, and you are stuck with darkened viewfinder until you release the shutter button.

Shutter is tested to 200,000 actuations; unless shooting insane amount of time-lapse photos, Nikon D800E will operate for a long long time.

LIVE VIEW

The D800 comes with two live view options – one for video and the other for still photography. They are easily accessed by manual switch on the back of the camera. The camera uses contrast detect focus system in live view, and focus point can be set anywhere in the frame, even absolute corners, which is great.

AUTOFOCUS

Auto focus accuracy was excellent in daylight, fast and correct, but D800E struggled in dark(ish) environments. After becoming aware of it, I did a simple test with results seen below. I used my wristwatch as a focusing target with light source in form of 60W bulb at around 2 meters distance. Focus was reset to infinity manually between each focus attempt, so the camera had to focus every time from scratch. Here are the results:

Below left: center phase AF point (focus missed); Center image: Contrast detect during live-view (a perfect hit); Right: Left phase AF point (a miss)

Below left: right phase AF point (another miss); Center image: Contrast detect (perfectly focused again); Right image: just to try it, I’ve set the contrast AF point in absolute corner, and it nailed it perfectly.

Here’s a “street” example: I focused on the people sitting on the grass, but maximum sharpness is in front of them, as seen in examples below:

This can’t be the problem of misaligned lens or AF sensor. In such case all images with phase AF system used would be out of focus, but the focus worked almost flawlessly in better light conditions. This is simply a case of technical limitations; phase detect AF systems performe worse in lower light. With high resolution of this camera, effect is even more pronounced. Also, keep in mind I’ve done this test with the lens aperture of F/1.4 which has a very shallow DOF. When used on zoom lenses at F/2.8 or F/4, such focus misses will not be that obvious. But if you plan to shoot regularly with fast primes in really low light (like weddings in dark church envoirements) keep this in mind.

Contrast detect did the job perfectly though, but camera is quite slow in that case. After acquiring focus, it takes a second or two to shut down the live view, take picture and again return to live view.

SHOOTING SPEED

Nikon D800 can shoot up to 4 frames per second which is slower than its predecessor D700 (5 fps). Also, D700 could deliver very fast 8 fps with battery grip attached, but D800 offers just 6 fps. I don’t see it as a problem, since D800 is clearly made for entirely different purposes (mainly high resolution landscape and studio work).

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