Nikon D800 review

April 28, 2012

Overall Rating:


Nikon D800

  • Build/Handling:
  • Autofocus:
  • Noise/resolution:
  • Metering:
  • Features:
  • AWB Colour:
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  • LCD viewfinder:



Price as Reviewed:


With a high-resolution, 36.3-million-pixel sensor that virtually matches those of medium-format models, the Nikon D800 may just have raised the bar for full-frame cameras. Read our Nikon D800 review...

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Build and handling

Nikon D800 top

In size and build quality, the D800 is very similar to the D700, yet it is 10% lighter.

The camera features a dust- and water-droplet-resistant magnesium-alloy body, although the inclusion of a built-in flash (GN 12m @ ISO 100, plus wireless control) means that the weatherproofing cannot be of the same standard as found on professional models like the D4 or the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. That said, the D800 suffered no ill effects when it got a little wet while shooting landscapes in the Lake District.

The redesign of the D800 (based on the D700) includes new controls to accommodate video capture, with a direct movie-record button near the shutter release and a live-view switch to the right of the LCD screen. Like the D4, the refined body of the D800 has an improved textured grip that rests comfortably in the hand, and a greater incline for the shutter-release button and flat design for the power switch. These factors make pressing the shutter release that little bit more comfortable.

Nikon has tested the shutter to 200,000 cycles, and measured a lag of 0.042secs. Start-up time is claimed to be 0.12secs, and I found the D800 almost immediately ready to go after powering up.

As a camera not primarily intended for action, the D800’s continuous drive mode high-speed burst of 4fps for up to 15 frames (raw) or 60 frames (JPEG) cannot match the 11fps for a 60-frame (raw) or 144-frame (JPEG) burst of the D4. When the 1.2x or DX (1.5x) crop factors are selected, the D800 can shoot at 5fps, which in the DX crop is for a 22-frame (raw) or 97-frame (JPEG) burst.

Those capturing high-speed sequences will find the D800’s buffer not as quick to clear once full as that of the D4, during which time the camera freezes. Those who don’t record action sequences will find 4fps sufficient for everyday use.

The D800 uses an EN-EL15 battery to give approximately 900 still shots. Battery life can be doubled via the use of the optional MB-D12 battery grip (priced around £380). Further benefits of the battery grip are that it mirrors the control layout, so it is the same whether in portrait or landscape format, and it boosts the high-speed burst rate to 6fps in DX format. The grip is not compatible with Nikon’s D700 or D300S models.

Still images and videos can be recorded onto a choice of CompactFlash (CF) or SD cards, including the latest high-speed versions, such as UDMA 7, SDXC and UHS-1. Fast file transfer is possible via USB 3.0 connectivity, which is a first for a camera, although it is also backwards compatible to USB 2.0 devices.

With such high-resolution files, any errors in the image are quite noticeable. It is therefore very important to spend a little more time on each photograph. For critically sharp results, I found that shooting landscapes with shutter speeds slower than 1/125sec not only requires the camera to be fixed to a tripod, but it also has to be also set to mirror lock-up and fired with a cable release.

Unfortunately, the camera does not offer both mirror lock-up and self-timer simultaneously.

There are lots of nice touches to aid the handling of the camera. The dual-axis virtual horizon is available in both live view and through the viewfinder. The AF switch to the left of the lens has a button to access the different AF modes, so the user need not remove his or her eye from the viewfinder.

A rubber seal over the connection ports on the left of the camera is hinged so it can remain out of the way while in use. I would, however, like to see the rubber seal split into sections so that any unused ports could stay covered. As it is, these unused ports are exposed to dust and dirt.

  • Built-in Flash: Yes
  • Dioptre Adjustment: -3 to +1 dioptre
  • White Balance: 2 auto, 6 presets (with fine-tuning), plus 3 custom and Kelvin adjustment settings
  • Shutter Type: Electronically controlled focal-plane shutter
  • Memory Card: 1x CompactFlash slot compatible with UDMA 7, 1x SD slot
  • Viewfinder Type: Pentaprism single-lens reflex viewfinder
  • LCD: 3.2in TFT with 921,000 dots
  • Output Size: 7360 x 4912 pixels
  • Field of View: Approx 100%
  • White Balance Bracket: 2-9 exposures in increments of 1, 2 or 3
  • AF Points: 51 points, selectable manually or automatically
  • Sensor: FX-format (full-frame 35.9 x 24 mm) CMOS device with 36.3 million effective pixels
  • Focal Length Mag: 1x (1.5x in DX-format crop mode)
  • Max Flash Sync: 1/250sec
  • Exposure Modes: PASM
  • Weight: 1,000g (with battery and card/s)
  • Shutter Speeds: 30-1/8000sec in 1⁄3 steps, plus B
  • File Format: NEF (raw), JPEG, raw+JPEG simultaneously
  • Power: Rechargeable EN-EL15 Li-Ion battery (supplied)
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • Drive Mode: Single, continuous (Hi/Lo selectable, up to 4fps with AF), self-timer, quiet, mirror-up
  • Exposure Comp: ±5EV in 1⁄3, 1/2 or 1EV steps
  • ISO: 100-6400 in 1/3EV steps and Lo1, Hi1, Hi2 (ISO 50-25,600)
  • Lens Mount: Nikon F
  • RRP: £2,599.99 (body only)
  • DoF Preview: Yes
  • Focusing Modes: Manual, single-shot AF, continuous AF with AF fine-tuning
  • Dimensions: 146 x 123 x 81.5mm
  • Metering System: 91,000-pixel RGB 3D matrix metering, centreweighted (adjustable), spot (1.5%)
  • Connectivity / Interface: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, HDMI
  • Compression: 3-stage JPEG, 3-stage NEF
  • Tested as: Enthusiast DSLR

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