Saturday, May 5, 2012

Nikon D800E Initial Impressions

The camera is better than I expected. I ordered a LensAlign Mark II to test the focus, but it appears from my preliminary tests that the focus is correct. I'll know more in the next week or so.

The dynamic range is really superb, as you can see from my earlier test.

I just wish the saved memory banks were better, like on the D7000 or on the 5D2 and 5D3. That is the worst part about it, it feels so primitive in that regard. It prevents a fast switch over to different types of shooting.

I got the grip for it too. Expensive little thing, and it makes the whole package so much heavier. But it's needed for a lot of vertical shooting.

I got a USB 3.0 tether cable on the way. Also waiting for the Really Right Stuff L-bracket with grip to come out. And the batteries are sold out everywhere, so waiting on that too. I can't believe Nikon charges $180 for camera control pro! And $180 for Capture NX2!!!  What is up with that.

This camera really pushes the lenses to the limit.  If you have a crappy lens, the photos are pretty disappointing. With a lens that's not superb, you may as well just shoot JPG, otherwise all those AA filter-less megapixels just go to waste. Also previous reviews of lenses on the web have to be taken with more of a grain of salt because they were tested on the older, lower megapixel cameras. A lens that resolved great on 12 MPs may be just OK with the D800.

The on-board flash is way better than I expected. It's almost a diffused light.

The face recognition is pretty awesome. If you set the focus mode to Auto, it will always focus on the nearest face. You can test it pretty easily by yourself by having it focus on a photo of a face on your computer. I've been reading that the face recognition only works in AF-C mode, but it appears to work in AF-S mode just fine on my camera.

It's also supposed to set the exposure for the face.  In a quick test of a backlit subject, it worked but the face was still a bit dark. I'll test it again with a better lens, maybe the flare I experienced caused it to not work as well.

The battery door is a flimsy disappointment.  Mine hasn't fallen off yet, but I figure I'll keep the grip on it just in case.

The finder is not as bright as what I'm used to on the 5D2 and 5D3. That's kind of disappointing.

The shutter is loud, and the quiet mode doesn't work that well.  I got so used to the quiet mode on the 5D3. Now that shutter is amazingly quiet! Sometimes you can't even hear it over the background noise.  That's a great feature for wedding and other event photographers.

The mirror return is super fast, much faster than what I'm used to. The short blackout period is a nice thing that probably most people won't notice. But it was immediately noticeable to me, and quite welcome.

I put my old Nikon DK-2 eyecup from my F4s on the new camera and it works great.

The contrast detect focusing in live view mode is very fast. Much faster than anything else I've used.  Still slower than phase detect, but a step up from what I'm used to.

The exposure is great, and a welcome change from the Canon's primitive and dark exposure bias.  I always set the 5D2 and 5D3 to overexpose by 2/3 to 1 stop because even at base ISO the dark tones were shitty. So I got better results by capturing hot and adjusting in post. But the Nikon (like my D7000) exposes hot just the way I like it. I'll just have to watch my highlights more carefully, but so far I like it. We'll see if the highlights can be recovered as well as the shadows can be pushed. It not, maybe I'll tune the exposure down a bit.

5:4 crop (to get a perfect 8x10) is a dream. Much closer to square format, which I love. Also I have the camera setup where if you press the AE-L button and spin the front dial it will change the crop mode, which makes it easy to change the crop on the fly. I like to shoot action in 1.2x crop at the dog park to get a bit deeper field of view and 5fps.

The auto ISO implementation is excellent. I have it set the minimum shutter speed one bump down from fastest, and it works well for me for handheld shooting. Occasionally I get some motion blur, but I'm a pretty steady handheld shooter, so my hit rate is probably over 90%. If I bump it up to the fastest setting, I'm sure it will eliminate 100% of all motion blur caused by camera shake. I haven't tested it with any VR lenses yet, but I'm sure you could bump it down a notch or two with VR.

I tested it a little bit with camera control pro shooting tethered, and it works ok. I'll have to keep testing it once my long tether cable arrives.  I'm a bit concerned that USB 2.0 on my laptop will be too slow for those big files. I may have to experiment with an ExpressCard USB 3.0 adapter when shooting quickly.  Not too many options for the Macbook Pro, it appears you should avoid the Lacie card and maybe go with the Caldigit card.

I've been trying to get some moire by shooting people with clothes, and a fine mesh net I found on the street, the Manhattan Bridge, etc. but nothing so far. I don't think it will be an issue. And the moire brush in Lr4 is superb.

That's basically it for now.  I love the camera so far - can't wait to see how it works with CLS, tethered shooting, EyeFi, video, etc.


  1. Congratulations on great camera, where did you get it from if you don't mind asking. I'm anxiously waiting for my D800E here in NZ

  2. I got it from Milford Photo in Connecticut, USA. I originally placed my order from Amazon, but it appears that ordering from a small shop is the way to go with these high demand items. Good luck on getting yours soon!