Nikon D800 review

26 Oct 2012

A class act across the board, but the massive resolution brings drawbacks as well as benefits

Price when reviewed: 
2,498(£2,499 inc VAT)
5

This is Nikon’s second full-frame DSLR that’s priced within reach of semi-pro and enthusiast photographers. The D700 had a tough time competing with the best Canon had to offer, but the contest between the D800 and its rivals looks set to be much closer.

The D800’s trump card is its 36.3-megapixel sensor. This is by far the highest resolution outside of medium-format cameras, and images shot on this camera at full resolution will give you A2 prints at 300dpi. We wonder how many people need such a high resolution, but the option to crop photos and still have plenty of pixels to play around with is one compelling argument.

That’s an awful lot of data to shift around, though, so it’s little surprise that the D800 is slower than the Canon EOS 5D Mark III in continuous mode. To its credit, 36 photos at 4fps equates to more pixels per second than the Canon’s 6fps mode and 22.3-megapixel resolution. However, the D800 doesn’t have the processing power to keep up this speed indefinitely, slowing after 17 frames to 1.3fps for JPEGs and 1fps for raw in our tests.

Nikon D800

Still, 4fps for 17 frames isn’t too debilitating, and in most other respects, the D800 is extremely quick to use. There are dedicated dials for drive and metering modes, and the crop of buttons to the left of the viewfinder gives quick access to various other key settings via the dual command dials. This layout lends itself to two-handed operation, which we found particularly easy to do while using the viewfinder. It’s great to see that Auto ISO can be switched on and off using these controls – it’s an annoying omission in other Nikon DSLRs.

The D800’s autofocus is a 51-point system with 15 cross-type sensors. That’s a little behind the best we've seen, but the D800 regains ground on Canon's EOS 5D Mark III with its 3D focus tracking technology. This works in conjunction with the metering sensor to track subjects by colour and move the autofocus point accordingly.

Details

Price ex VAT £2,082
Price inc VAT £2,498
Overall rating 5
Performance 3
Features & Design 6
Image quality 6
Value for Money 5

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 36.6mp
Camera screen size 3.2in
Camera maximum resolution 7360 x 4912

Weight and dimensions

Weight 1.000kg
Dimensions 146 x 82 x 123mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 850 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range fUnknown - fUnknown
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/8,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 30s
Bulb exposure mode? yes
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 3EV
ISO range 100 - 6400
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? yes
Aperture priority mode? yes
Fully auto mode? yes
Burst frame rate 4.0fps
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? yes
Memory-card type Compact Flash, SDXC
Viewfinder coverage 100%
LCD resolution 921k
Secondary LCD display? yes
Video/TV output? yes
Body construction Magnesium Alloy
Tripod mounting thread? yes
Data connector type USB

Manual, software and accessories

Software supplied ViewNX2
Accessories supplied LCD cover, hot shoe cover