on April 10, 2012
I know that the D800 is not really the replacement model over the D700. Nevertheless, it did replace my old D700 and the D800 is, I believe, better suited for my photographic needs than the D700, i.e., studio, portraits, and landscape.
The D700 was and still is an outstanding DSLR. The D800 is of course better, but in a very perceptible way, which was quite a surprise to me.
I have done over 5000 shots since my purchase on 24 March. So far, no issues to report: no green cast from the LCD and no problems with the CLS system.
Nikon has really outperformed with this new DSLR and the clear improvements are:
- Much improved Dynamic Range, which was my main problem since my first DSLR
- Better colors straight off the camera: deeper and richer
- Better AF in low light ***UPDATE*** After comparing with older Nikon DSLRs, this improvement is minor and only perceptible on cross-type AF points.
- Highly detailed photographs at full res, 100% magnification and also when down-scaling the photos.
Let's not forget a proper and useable HD video feature at broadcasting quality. ***UPDATE*** Perhaps not broadcasting quality, but close enough.
On the negative side (there has to be some):
- The zoom in and zoom out buttons are reversed from the old models, which is now more logical, but I am used to the old wrong way! it's a minor problem of course.
- D4 has backlit buttons, why not on the D800? This can't be that expensive to include.
- Very expensive Battery pack, this is a major drawback for me. But yes, the D800 is well priced at $3000. I just hate ridiculously priced accessories.
- still wonder the point of having 1 CF slot and 1 SD slot. 2 CF slots would have been superb. But I guess if you come from a SD card DSLR, that would be practical for you.
- Left AF points can suffer from front/back focusing issues on wide angle lenses, but this can be fixed at a Nikon repair center under warranty ***UPDATE***
One crucial point that has to be considered when acquiring a 36MP DSLR: storage will be an issue. I just purchased a 4TB ext hard drive. A 14-bit RAW file (uncompressed) coming from the D800 will average 75MB.
I just shot a wedding, and I consider the D800 to be an excellent choice for the job. All the complains about shots being more blurry at 100% magnification are irrelevant. One has to be precise with his/her settings, at the right exposure and optimal shutter speed, results can be absolutely mind-blowing. And since most won't need 36MP for wedding photographs, down-scaling images will certainly eliminate slight camera-shake or noise.
One particular aspect that I appreciate is that my Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G is now tack-sharp at f/1.4. I had a front focusing issue with my old D700 even with the fine-tune option set to max. Since I'm no techie geek, I still don't understand why the D700 gave me problems with the 85mm.
Anyway, I used to be one of those people saying that digital photography will never replace film photography. The D800 has changed all that.
on April 26, 2012
* Update 04/15/2013: This update is for event shooters/photojournalists.
* Enthusiasts, hobbyists, still life and landscape professionals can skip down to my original review below and call it a 5-star camera.
After a year of ownership with three bodies, these are my final thoughts. This is the best landscape or studio DSLR in the market. Other than not having a mode dial with Custom User Settings (U1, U2) like the D7000, this camera has near perfect ergonomics.
However, I do not recommend the D800 for paid work that have once in a lifetime moments, such as capturing the first kiss at a wedding or truly spontaneous moments, because there is a high probability of missing focus. When situations have no do-overs, equipment inadequacies are not an option. This is the reason why I stopped searching for a "good copy" of the optically superior Sigma 35mm 1.4 and settled for the more reliable Canon.
I have had both bodies and a replacement body (serial 3041XXX) "fixed" by Nikon and they felt the last fixes were good enough. Good enough, I did not invest $18,000 into a system for good enough! Without getting into the whole left side autofocus (AF) saga, which is readily available on other reviews and websites, the AF is horribly inconsistent even with the latest firmware (A: 1.01/B:1.02) using the center AF sensor.
My percentage of focused photos took a massive dive with this camera; I tried compensating by closing down the aperture a few stops, but the increase in depth-of-field area was not always enough. With the D3/D700, I would wait for moments and capture it with one shot. The D800 missed focus often enough that I began shooting in spray n' pray style, however, often the focused photo was not what I wanted. Creating the dilemma, do I give the client a great moment that is out of focus by meters or a ho-hum moment in focus? When I owned the D3 and D700, I used to shoot 500-1000 photos per event, I was taking 3,000-5,000 photos with the D800. This MASSIVE increase of photos created a workflow nightmare and my quality of work suffered (subjects centered, ISO's in the 12,800-25,600 range to allow for smaller apertures).
Autofocus problems only get worse when in AF-C, if shooting a person walking towards the camera at a slow to medium pace in the F/1.4-2.0 range, expect 1 out of 10 perfectly focused, 1-2 acceptable, and the rest throwaways. Stop down to F/5.6 and at best it's 50/50. I took a huge financial hit switching to Canon (selling used, buying new), however, my two Canon 5D MkIII's get 7 perfectly focused, 2 acceptable, and about 1 throwaway running the same test of a person walking towards the camera. Stop down one or two stops for near perfect results.
Nikon does many things better than Canon. In body AF Assist Light, intervalometer, spot metering based on AF point, intelligent Auto ISO, better AF position selector, better access to flash options, and many more. Overall, less menu digging, and obviously Nikon's megapixel advantage is nice for cropping.
The ten plus (I actually lost count) trips to Nikon service centers can attest just how much I wanted this camera to work. Nikon customer service is beyond atrocious and their technicians are incompetent. Maybe a few years into production, new D800s will be adequate, but I will never know because I do not see myself buying Nikon again.
The Canon 5D MkIII's sensor has less dynamic range, 1.3 bits less color space, but those 24 bits it does have are beautiful colors that require less post-processing for nice skin tones. Because I am confident that the AF will not miss, I am now shooting 300-600 photos per event, that plus less time in post. My turnaround went from 4-6 weeks (culling missed focus photos and fixing color) to only 2-7 days with the inferior Canon. My clients are happier because they are getting their photos fast. In the end, I prefer focused images taken by an average sensor, than a blurred images taken with a sensor with all the dynamic range and megapixels in the world.
The D800 is perfect for photographers that shoot landscapes with Zeiss lenses, people that like having subjects perfectly centered, or autofocus then recompose photos in the F/5.6-11 range. However, if you shoot wide open with fast primes and not getting the "shot" puts yourself or company at risk, look into another camera. If my livelihood did not depend on camera equipment, I would have stayed with Nikon. However, in my line of work there are no do-overs, thus the Nikon advantages gave way to its faults, and after struggling with Nikon's abysmal QC and CS in recent years (SB-900, D7000, D300s, three D800's, 28mm AFS 1.8, 35mm AFS 1.4) and reading about D600 issues. I will not be buying a Nikon for work anytime soon.
* Original Review
Below are my observations after one month of ownership.
+ Resolution: Amazing detail when shot with the right glass and settings.
+ Dynamic Range: Incredible, when shooting in lower ISO's it is near impossible to ruin a photo. Search the internet for "fred miranda d800 review Yosemite" to see real life comparisons.
+ Color: I recommend creating custom profiles using a X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Software or Adobe DNG profiler for better than Adobe LR colors.
+ AutoWB: Works well in about 70% of lighting scenarios, somewhat better than the D3/D700. *** See Tip Below ***
+ Low ISO: Having a true 100 ISO is godsend for on-location lighting setups or shooting wide open in daylight.
+ High ISO: The D800 and LR4 do an excellent job in controlling noise. Using PS plug-ins a properly exposed image can print acceptable 8x10's at ISO 12800 (max for D3/D700's is 6400).
+ Tonality: With a good camera profile in LR4, the tonal range rivals Fujifilm 400H Film. This is incredibly useful on portraits with 4-1 or greater lighting ratios. Posterization in the shadows (DSLRs Achilles' heel) is only noticeable on highly manipulated images.
+ Handling: The Auto ISO is easier to engage and the new position of the ISO button is more intuitive.
+ Exposure: Better than D3/D700, but far from perfect. Contrary to Nikon's literature, it struggles with backlit scenes.
+ Battery Performance: It can get me through a full day's shoot if I avoid extensive LiveView or WiFi use, otherwise I need to use a backup battery.
- Software: Nikon software can produce excellent results, but it is clunky and slow.
- Handling: Awkward placement of the mode selector button (to make room for movie record), lacking the D7000 U1/U2 style custom banks, switching of AF modes is not as effortless as the D700.
- Autofocus: All 51 points are still too centrally located, no increase in cross-type sensors over the D3/D700, all the cross-type AF sensors are in the middle, like the D3/700, the outer sensors are near useless in low lit, low contrast situations. * For more details on AF performance, see update above and comments
Using proper technique, the images this camera produces are superior to any camera I ever shot. Would I jump systems for this camera? If I owned a large collection of top-tier gear, NO! Otherwise, I would consider it if I was not too invested. Does it equal or better Medium Format? There are differences in perspective, defraction limits, DOF, FOV, and CANNOT BE COMPARED. Having shot Canon (AE-1, 630, A2, Elan II, 20D, 40D, 5D mkI & mkII, 1D's), Nikon (FM, F4, F100, D200, D300s, D7000, D700, D800, D3), Fuji (S3, S5), Mamiya (645, RB67), and Hasselblad (H4D-40), I know that they are excellent tools that are capable of creating amazing images. Pick the one that best fits your needs and have fun shooting.
*** TIP *** To improve WB (green cast), use the WB Fine-Tune (pg. 149) and shift Magenta 1 or 2 points or use a X-Rite Passport for every scene change.
on April 4, 2012
I'm a Sony shooter with only a few lenses. I use to shoot Canon during the film days. I tested both the Canon 5D mkIII and the Nikon D800 and here are my results. I tested a 5DmkIII with a 24-70 f2.8 lens and a Nikon D800 (not D800e) with a 24-70 f2.8 lens.
About the same, except D800 has a lot more detail to work with. In Lightroom, I can save a higher percentage of ISO 6400 shots because the D800 has more detail. Canon seems cleaner initially in Lightroom but when the picture fits into a 24" 1920x1080 monitor or a 64" Samsung plasma TV, the Nikon looks a tad cleaner, noise less noticeable. I think the Canon looks cleaner in Lightroom because it is just a smaller picture. But displaying ISO 6400 shots on a monitor or TV, Nikon looks nicer in general. Both cameras at ISO 12,800 look awful and not recoverable in Lightroom. It might look acceptable as a really small pic but why the heck would you buy an expensive camera to display crappy looking pictures?
Frames per second:
Easy winner. Canon can shoot 6 FPS, Nikon 4 FPS. However, in practice I think 4 FPS is pretty good. None of these cameras are really Olympic style sports cameras.
Easy winner. Nikon's RAW files are more detailed, almost 3D like. I can't really explain it other than the pictures look more real. I can crop a photo to 1/3 it's size (12 megapixels) and it still looks stunning. I wonder how much better the D800e version is. I'll have to wait until my friend receives his to find out.
Easy winner. Out of the camera, the Canon JPEGs are phenomenal. The processing done is quite remarkable.
Easy winner. If you shoot RAW, Nikon is it. Also there is an issue with the Canon with the color red. I think the color is overblown at times because all the details are loss and not recoverable in Lightroom. Not always but it has happened at least twice. The same photo on the Nikon kept all the details.
About the same. Canon and Nikon have awesomely quick autofocus and I couldn't determine a difference. The only caveat is that Nikon focuses better in lowlight (without the autofocus assist lamp) and also the Nikon focuses when there is almost no light (with the autofocus assist lamp). Why the heck doesn't Canon include an autofocus assist lamp is beyond me. Also, Nikon's face detection is extremely useful because it focuses right on the eyeballs.
Easy winner. Canon doesn't have built in flash. Nikon flash worked surprisingly well.
Easy winner. Nikon knocked it out of the park. I got a lot less blown highlights with shots with white clothing and more realistic blue skys. Also, there is a lot more headroom on both the highlights and shadows on the Nikon when editing in Lightroom. How did Nikon have better shadows and highlights! They have to share some of that technology!
Suprisingly about the same. I would have thought that Canon's lead in video would maintain. Surprisingly, the Nikon's video was just as awesome as the Canon. Nikon's video has a bit more detail and is definitely a little sharper than the Canon. I didn't test Nikon's uncompressed HDMI out, although it seems to be a useful feature (this is like RAW HDMI output for video). Canon should adopt uncompressed HDMI out also.
Easy winner. Why anyone (who doesn't already have Nikon or Canon lenses) would buy this Canon for $500 more than the Nikon would need to think twice. I can see why the Nikon is selling so much better than the Canon, at least on Amazon.
Both about the same weight. Both feel nice in the hand. Canon possibly slightly more comfortable if you have bigger hands. Nikon maybe more comfortable with smaller hands. Both are fine though.
Nikon wins with USB 3.0. Skipping the card reader altogether by just plugging in the camera to the computer is convenient. Also the transfer speed is much much faster than Canon's older USB 2.0. This saves a lot of time.
Canon has slightly better screen in direct sunlight (LCD facing up towards the sun). Nikon is better when the LCD is not directly facing the sun. Nikon's screen is crisper and more 3D like.
My last day of shooting was in a light mist/drizzle. I was shooting both cameras again for about 20 minutes when the Canon 5D mkIII developed some fogging inside the viewfinder screen. I could not wipe it away as it seemed to be inside the camera. I could no longer take pictures normally without live view. Nikon didn't have this problem and I continued to shoot the rest of the day with the Nikon in the same wet conditions without issue. I had planned to shoot at least 2 weeks with both cameras so this was definitely a bummer.
Both Canon and Nikon's 24-70 2.8 lenses are great. I would say the Canon 24-70 2.8 is just a tad faster on focus. Nikon is slightly sharper in the corners. Both Nikon and Canon seem to have a very comparable lens assortment (although my wallet won't be happy buying so many new lenses!)
Well, after using both cameras for about a week, I kept the Nikon D800 and returned my (possibly water damaged) Canon 5D mkIII. Both are phenomenal cameras but D800 has definitely outclassed the 5D mkIII in this round. Maybe Canon will come back strong with its next version. It definitely has some catching up to do.
Thanks for reading my review and I'll also post this on the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D mkIII review page. Best of luck to all you photogs and enjoy these phenomenal cameras!
on May 3, 2012
(There are already many reviews on how this camera compare to the older Nikon D700, it's competitor: Canon 5D Mark III, so I won't reiterate)
About me: Been using SLR for over 20 years... first 10 on film, recent 10 on digital SLR's. I've used Leica, Nikon, Canon SLR's... and I've longed to get the next full-frame (FX) camera after Nikon D700 (without referring it to "D700 replacement"). When the camera was finally announced, it came out like a pair of twins were born. The D800 and D800E are almost identical, and I wasn't sure which baby to choose. If you have the same dilemma, read on...
Many people (myself included) doesn't seemed overly concerned that D800 is $300 cheaper, because many photographers are perfectionists and the hope that D800E offers sharper images makes it really tempting. But after after much research and comparisons, I finally chose D800 (no E). Why??? Here's my rationale:
Eventually, the choice to get D800E instead of D800 hinges on trade-off between
* benefits of greater sharpness, against
* cost or risk of Moire (or unexpected patterns in the pics/video)
Depending on what you shoot:
* portraits, fashion, weddings, architectures, wide range of stuff => Go for D800
* macro, landscape, tripod-mounted shots or those with time to position light/camera/subject => Go for D800E
Moire MAY occur when you shoot repeated patterns, such as:
* fabrics (on clothes)
* glass or windows of buildings
* straight hair of people
Once it happens, it's not easy to remove in photos (despite claims that a few clicks on Adobe Lightroom 4, or Photoshop). It's also more problematic in video, which I'm not sure how it can be corrected.
As such, one camp of people would say they rather have sharper images ALL the time, and risk a small x% of time that they get Moire. That seems fine reason except that to get the sharper images distinguishable between the 800E and the 800, it's ALMOST ALWAYS due to other factors such as:
1. lens (do you have the high quality glass)
2. filter (high quality filter in front of lens?)
3. ISO (if you shoot at high ISO, the noise will eliminate such clarity)
4. f/stop or aperture (depth of field)
5. camera shake (tripod?)
6. how close you examine the photo
To detect the clarity difference between D800 and D800E, according to Nikon, you need to be shooting at 3 stops above max aperture of a great lens (usually f8-f11). Above this range, it negates the benefits of D800E. Furthermore, in order to see the difference, you need to pixel peep, and at the plane of focus.
- I typically shoot with wide aperture for the bokeh and rarely are my subjects in the same flat plane
- I usually don't look so closely at my photos, so that clarity is good to have but not critical
To detect Moire, you can likely see it with your naked eye if the area is large. It can occur on a person's cloths, or a building or just railing beside your subject.
- You can prevent this before you shoot by repositioning the lights, subject or camera. But it's a chore!
- You can fix it after you shoot with software. But it requires the shot be on RAW format to be more effective! Also a chore!.
If like me, you don't want to deal with these pre-production and post-production work and just want to enjoy taking great shots of what you see, then I believe D800 is yours to buy. Precious moments are limited and I'd rather spend extra time capturing them than figuring out how to avoid or fix Moire. There are people with patience and care to fix all these, but I'm not one of them... and perhaps by then, another new camera would have been born - hopefully not a triplet this time. :)
I've been toying with this new camera and will post additional comments soon...
If this helps you better decide which camera is better for you, let me (and others know) by clicking the "Is this review helpful" below. I'm sure there are other reviewers out there who would give various viewpoint and hopefully this will add a valuable perspective as well.
on May 9, 2012
I have used the D700 bodies extensively over the past two years and I've grown accustomed to them like my own hands. The D700 has been hands down the best DSLR I've used during its time. I shoot weddings professionally and I almost always carry two D700 bodies on me - and thus weight quickly adds up when you carry the 2 bodies along with lenses and flashes, which makes it nearly impossible for me to use the D3/D4 series. The D700 has been a blessing with the right balance of nearly everything.
How quickly has time gone by and now the D700 is giving way to the D800. Some say that the D800 isn't exactly the successor to the D700 - and after the initial tests of my own, I tend to agree.
By now I'm sure you have seen countless reviews of this camera so I'm not going to bother telling you what's so good about it.
Instead, I'll focus on the main differences comparing to the D700.
My initial reactions holding the camera:
- The body feels lighter, not by much, but definitely lighter
- The grip feels different. Initially I think I still prefer the D700 grip better since the D800 grip feels fatter where your right index finger lies, not exactly a good thing for people with small/medium hands.
- There is now an additional video record button near the shutter release button up top which is awesome,
- but then that also moved the Mode Button which I often use, and they made the button smaller to make way for the video record button. This will take a little to get used to.
My initial reactions looking through the viewfinder:
- The +/- indicators are inverted by default (inverted by the usual Nikon standard: + / 0 / - )
- After a little digging it can be reversed in the Menu
- There is now TWO virtual horizon indicators helping you level the camera rotating left/right, and tilting up/down - this is absolutely awesome and extremely useful.
My initial handing the camera:
- The 8-direction cursor button is more recessed, making it harder to accidentally hit the center button but I feel like the directional arrows are a tad harder to press
- They reversed the positions of the (+) and (-) buttons on the left side making it more like the newer DSLRs. I'll be pressing the wrong button for a couple months before I adapt to this.
- The focus mode button on the back is now gone, I accidentally pressed that old button on the D700 many times,
- In place of it there's now a dedicated Live View button and there's an ambient light sensor next to it,
- that sensor allows the camera to control the LCD monitor brightness automatically. It's an excellent implementation and seemingly work very well during my initial testings.
- The D700 mode dial on the left had ISO, Qual, and WB; while the D800 now has an addition of BKT (bracketing) button there also. However they put BKT in place of ISO, and now ISO moved towards the back of the camera where there was nothing on the D700. This again, is something that will take time to get used to.
- The AF mode toggle is changed to more like the D7000. The D700 has S (static), C (continuous), and M (manual), and this new one is either AF or M. There's a small button on top of the toggle that you hold down to change focus mode - you use the command dial and sub command dial to change between AF-S and AF-C; 3D tracking, 9-point, 21-point, 51-point, single point. I'll just have to say it's different. The good: you can see what you're changing through the viewfinder - I like especially the "3D" indication when you change into AF-C 3D tracking they used the 51 on the focusing screen to draw out "3D" which makes it very easy to see without having to look at the top LCD panel or digging into the Menu. This is a huge thing 'cause now you can easily change focus mode without taking your eye off the viewfinder and actually see what you're doing as you change focus modes.
- I feel like my eye has to aim a little lower as I look through the viewfinder, again something to get used to.
- The lock button when not reviewing picture is now dedicated to Picture Control - making it much easier to access
- The autofocus assist light is very very bright!
My initial findings using the camera:
- image quality is amazing
- the RAW files are huge... I find myself handing 40-50MB RAW images and my 16GB CF cards are no longer sufficient
- LiveView is very easy to use and going into LiveView mode is very responsive.
- For some reasons shooting pictures in LiveView keeps the shutter open for 3 seconds even when I'm shooting even 1/50 sec, making it hard to recognize when exactly the camera is shooting. I'm rather confused about whether this is by design or is it actually a bug.
- Dual card slot is a nice addition, but I'm not sure if I'll be heavily relying on this or not given the file size is already so big. I may end up getting huge SD cards to have it capture JPG as a form of backup instead of having the SD also store RAW.
- 16GB cards store roughly 200 RAW pictures from what the camera estimates, ouch. This is based on 14-bit RAW files and lossless compression.
- If you're wondering, there isn't a smaller file size for RAW images.
- Battery is new, same as the D7000's. Say goodbye to your old EN-EL3e and say hello to EN-EL15.
- There's now a Quiet shutter mode, but I find it only slowing down the shutter open/close motion a bit but not exactly very quiet.
Quick notes after using it on the field:
- focus speed is on par with D700. I think the AF-C 3D tracking works even more accurately.
- viewfinder 100% coverage is very nice, but I noticed the 51 points are closer to the center comparing to the D700. It's a minor annoyance.
- The camera estimates 400 shots left on a 32GB card shooting 14-bit compressed RAW, but in reality after shooting 392 and it still estimates another 170 left. My RAW files range from 38MB to 50MB average around 43 to 44 range. I have a feeling they'll tweak the estimation a lil better on the next firmware update.
- ISO800 images are very clean, I shot a few at ISO1600 where I normally would have busted out my flash. This is definitely a big step up from the D700.
- The dedicated LiveView button is very very nice - using LiveView video mode is quick and easy too and it saves a different set of iso/aperture/shutter speed so if you're switching from photo to video and back you wouldn't have to readjust all your settings.
- The EN-EL15 batteries lasted me the whole event without a problem just like the EN-EL3e did on my D700 bodies.
- LiveView shooting does lag in an annoying as shown in the initial testings. It takes a while for the camera to respond after shooting a LiveView picture.
- 36MP is HUGE. It may not be for everyone, but then again the D800 along with that kind of resolution at $3,000 definitely has its impact on the DSLR market. Despite the difficulty handling large RAW files, it is generally a welcome additional along with its amazing image quality. Image quality is absolutely stunning - DxO Mark rates it at 95 and calls it "A full-frame sensor with no weak points" for a good reason.
- if you're wondering if there's different size for RAW, the answer is NO. There is no small medium large RAW - RAW is RAW and it's always 36MP.
- I hear some complaints about the placement for the video record button. It's a little off from the shutter button so it's not the easiest to reach, but you can also set up the shutter button to record video in LiveView video mode. Nikon definitely have it very well thought out implementing the video feature in the D800.
- D700 users will have to take some time to get used to the changes in button placements, but nothing too drastic that might make it a deal killer.
- The D800 takes a giant leap into the cinematography world with features that will bring tears to enthusiasts holding out for Nikon. It is overall an amazing camera to use and simply another legendary Nikon in the making. It has taken giant leaps from the D700 but in my opinion a lot of it seems to be towards a slightly different approach. It does feel a little different from what I would call a natural progression from the D700, and thus it does make sense to call it a whole new different product. Until Nikon decides to release a whole new full frame DSLR below the D3/D4 line in direct succession to the D700, the D800 will be the choice of many working professionals including myself for years to come.
on September 10, 2012
By now many people have reported on the internet problems with Nikon D800 and D800E autofocus. It is frequently reported that autofocus points on the left side do not work well. On four cameras (two D800s and two D800Es), I can confirm the problem!
I have extensively tested four of these cameras (see testing notes below) and all four did not focus well when using the left most center focus point. Because those problems were so pronounced, I decided to return the cameras and did not test the other left side focus points. Internet reports discuss problems with those as well.
It has been reported that the D800Es perform better than the D800s. That is somewhat consistent with my experience. The left autofocus points were worse on the D800s; however, I had one D800E with poor autofocus overall. That same D800E also had a broken electronic release connector when I received it. The other D800E performed better overall than the three other samples, but still not good enough. All four have been returned.
What happens? Using standard autofocus, the camera will not focus well on the left most (center) autofocus point. In Live View mode you can get good focus (either manually focusing at maximum magnification or by using Live View autofocus). In side by side comparisons, Live View produces better results than standard autofocus. In many cases the differences were substantial with standard autofocus not producing results that were acceptable.
Internet reports suggest many of the left side focus points have problems, not just the left center one. While that may be true, as I mentioned above, I did not test those on my four cameras because the left/center focus point off was enough to justify returning the cameras.
For some people, not having the left autofocus working well won't matter. For me, I regularly shoot vertical landscapes and other vertical compositions where the left side selective focus points are very useful. I've been using the selective focus points on my D300 for years and find them quite valuable. Taking advantage of them has become very quick and simple for me and it is a feature that makes me more productive. So, I want them to work on the D800/E!
There may be another serious impact of this problem even if you don't have that same needs as I do. Internet reports suggest that the 3D focusing function of the camera will also be degraded by left focus points not working correctly.
For those interested this is how I tested the cameras, here's the process:
- Put three focus targets on a wall corresponding to the center focus point, the left most center point, and the right most center point
- Take shots where the selective focus points are on the center target, the left target, and the right target. Take four shots each with autofocus and four shots each with Live View (in other words, 8 shots per target, 24 shots per sequence. Another way of thinking of it is 4 comparison sets per target and 12 comparison sets per sequence)
- Repeat sequence at different focal length and camera distance
- Repeat all of the above with a different lens
- Compare results in Adobe Lightroom side by side with the Library view X/Y comparison tool
- On my first two cameras I used manual focus for Live View and on the second two cameras I used Live View's autofocus (by the way, the latter is very good!)
- I also experimented with using autofocus fine tune on individual lenses. On the second two cameras (i.e. the replacements), I did all of the above and then repeated after setting the appropriate AF Fine Tune per lens. AF Fine Tune, in some cases, seemed to reduce the problem. However, I did not reduce it enough to make either camera's performance acceptable
- So, this is literally hundreds of side by side comparisons across four cameras.
Given the amount of reports on this problem on the internet, I suggest anyone wanting one of these cameras consider waiting until internet reports show purchasers regularly getting good cameras.
Alternatively, if Nikon acknowledges the problem and guarantees new cameras don't have it or guarantees that they can fix it if one camera does have it, then I will try again and purchase another. In the mean time, I'm waiting. On the point of Nikon repairing the cameras, most of the online posts I have read indicate that Nikon service centers are not able to fix the problem at this time.
For me personally, I was really looking forward to the upgrade from a D300. I really do want the D800/E to work! Instead, I've been really disappointed!
Finally, a note on customer service...I purchased the D800s from Amazon and the D800Es through B&H. Both companies facilitated the camera returns and replacements. They were both supportive and helpful and did everything a purchaser could want when dealing with such a bad situation.
Nikon seems to have been silent on this left autofocus issue, and that has NOT been to their credit. The good customer service provided by Amazon and B&H, in dealing with Nikon's problem, does both companies credit!
on May 17, 2012
I just received my pre-order Nikon D800 last week from Amazon. The camera serial number is 3004XXX so it is not from one of the earlier production runs but also not from some of the latest being reported (3008XXX+). Either way, the main reason I wanted this camera was to step up to an FX sensor with three fast prime lenses for optimal bokeh. The lenses I have include the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM, and the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM.
Unfortunately the D800 I received has the notorious left side AF problem that has been widely reported on in dpreview and other photograpohy forums. Basically the issue is this... if AF-S focusing is used and any lens is set to f/1.4 the leftmost AF point in the viewfinder backfocuses significantly on the target. Using the rightmost AF point also yeilds a noticeably soft focus compared to the center AF point (which is uniformly sharp). I haven't tested focus accuracy in AF-C mode at f/1.4 but if it also uses the phase detection focus system of the viewfinder I suspect it will be unable to track subjects sharply once they leave the center of the frame. If you search for Nikon D800 AF problems online you can see numerous example images posted.
Many other users have reported AF problems but certainly not every D800 user has. If there is a widespread manufacturing QC problem I suspect that many of those that haven't reported a problem either don't own any fast lenses, stay above f/2.8, or only use the center AF point to focus and as such don't know yet that their camera has a defect. I would definitely recommend that everyone at least test their AF point accuracy to check this. For me it is a potential show stopper. If a $3000 camera can't focus accurately with all AF points with an f/1.4 lens it is useless for me and must be either fixed by Nikon or returned. I currently have an open support ticket with Nikon US complete with sample images of the focus problem but have not heard back from them yet.
on July 7, 2012
It makes me very sad to write this review as I am a confirmed Nikon user. I had waited several months, like most people for my D800. I have read a lot of reviews that have praised the camera for its outstanding images and resolution and many that express frustration over the "green tint" and the "left focus" issue. I have not experienced the green tint but my camera does suffer from very pronounced issues with the left focus point. I will try to cover some new ground in this review that has not been covered in other reviews that I have read, mainly that when I say the left focus point, what I really mean, and I don't think that others have articulated this, is that it is the column of all three left focus points that are affected. At least that is true in my case. The center is razor sharp. I tested with a 24-70 at 2.8 and flash to remove camera shake issues. Nikon has asked me to submit samples and they were very nice about it. I am torn as to whether to submit the camera for repair or to return it.
On the positive side the camera does pretty much everything else superbly. Great handling. Beautiful color. Responsive. It really does put medium format performance in a dslr form factor. Truly incredible.
I know a lot of people have trashed the D800 with 1 star over this issue and I personally disagree with that. I think 3 stars is fair because this is not such a minor issue that a one star deduction would be appropriate, nor should it overshadow all the amazing things this camera does. I will own one at some point. It's just a matter of whether it is this one or one that is produced after a fix is in place. That all being said, the D800 is a complex piece of technology and the reality is that just about everything that relies on technology today requires adjustments. This includes everything from computer software to a Mercedes. I hope this review comes across as fair and balanced as I want it to be.
Nikon looked at my images on Wednesday after I submitted them on Saturday which I think is pretty darn good turn around for a big company. The rep that I spoke with readily acknowledged the issue and immediately sent me an email with instructions on how to send the camera in for repair. I can't really ask for more than that. Yes, I would have liked for it to be perfect out of the box but Nikon is being very responsive and courteous. My only word of advice is to call them early or at off hours. In the afternoon the hold times can be long. I will update this review as things unfold.
I now have the D800 back from Nikon. I tested it today and while there is about a 65% improvement in the left focus point performance it does not match the focus of the center points. This is apparent to non-technical viewers who were asked to look at images on screen without being told which was the "good" one in advance. Each time the viewer picked the left focus point images as less well focused. They also felt that a left focus point image from the original batch prior to Nikon servicing the camera was less well focused than the new, post repair, left focus point images. On some images quite honestly I felt like I was pixel peeping and that the difference between the center and the left was quite small, while on others it was glaring. My concern is that for some portraits that it would be an annoyance. Just out of curiosity I mounted the same 24-70 on my old D200 and shot the same series of test images. What I found is that even on the D200 there is a perceptible difference in focus quality between the left and center. Again this was confirmed by a "blinded" subject. I have always been thrilled with the pictures from my D200. I have carried it on five continents and taken some of the best pictures of my life with it. I never noticed the "left focus issue". I think that there is a difference with the D800. Part of the appeal is the amount of detail in the image and the slightest imperfections in focus are more apparent than with a camera like the D200. Considering all of this and the fact that I really can't afford to upgrade my DSLR's less than every 7 or so years, I have decided to return the camera tomorrow and try another copy in the near future. As I said at the beginning of my review I am a dyed in the wool Nikon fan and my experience with the D800 has not been a great one. My D4 on the other hand is fantastic. I will be posting that review soon.
Returned original D800 today. Happened to check online to see if by some miracle a local Best Buy in the city had one. The one closest to me did not but one on the East Side did. I went and purchased it and brought it home for testing. Sadly it has the same problem. I ran basically the same set of tests on the camera and it had the same left focus issue. I not only showed the problem at f2.8, it exhibited the problem all the way to f5.6. This is why I have lowered my rating to two stars. If the camera worked as it should it would be wonderful, however in my limited experience it doesn't. I think I have given it every chance but to no avail. I am happy that there are people out there that have cameras without the issue. Just out of curiosity if you read this and don't have the left focus issue and feel like leaving a quick comment I would like to hear about your experience.
I am not sure where I go from here. I really want a full frame Nikon that is lighter than my D4. I guess we'll see what happens at Photokina.
The D800 is much more widely available now and so I tried a third body. It was initially out of focus in both the center and left focus points with my 24-70 wide open. This actually gave me hope that I would be able to correct the problem with the focus fine tune adjustment setting. I spent about two hours of trial and error attempting to find a set up that would bring the focus into razor sharpness. I even shot some test with my D4 and compared them side by side just to be sure that I wasn't looking for too much out of the lens. I finally had to give up. It just wouldn't work. No harm done because of good return policies. Just wish that I could luck into one of the D800's that don't have this issue.
Well I finally got a good D800. I checked the left focus on this unit with a 306 series serial number and it seems fine with focus. I am so happy. I again had a neutral party try and pick the photo that looked different and he could not identify any differences this time. I did have to apply a very mild focus fine tune to the 24-70 2.8 to achieve optimal results at both the center and the left but that is to be expected. +2 adjustment. I am going to add one star at this point to reflect that I now have a working camera. It was also nice to get the unit at 2799 instead of the previous price. If anything changes or is worth noting I will update this review again.
on April 7, 2012
I've had my D800 for less than 2 weeks and so far I am happy. here is my background
I've owned D700 (several samples), D7000 (several samples), D300 (several samples), D90, D80, D40, D40s, D60 in Nikon
I've owned 20D, 30D, 40D, 7D, XSI, T1i, T2i in Canon.
D700 is a brilliant camera, incredible AF, incredible low light shots, fast fps with grip (8), scene recognition in auto mode, built like a tank
D800 takes spectacular photographs in either JPEG or RAW. the AF is at least as good as D700. Scene recognition in auto mode is even better, it essentially focuses on the face.
The worst camera from the top tier consumer and prosumers in terms of AF is D7000.. I have gone through several of them. The AF Module on D7000 is inferior to D300/D700/D800. D7000 was the only latest Nikon where I experienced AF problems in low light. Never with D300 or D700. D7000 - yes. Problems with continuous AF when shooting White Birds on Contrasty Background - D7000 - YES, D300/D700/D800 - no.
The only things I am kind of not loving on D800 - the AF switching was changed from D3/D300/D700 way to D7000 way , where you have to now press the button and scroll one of the two wheels and you have to think which wheel does what. I liked the levers of D700, simple two levers controlled everything. But I guess I will have to get used to it. The second thing I am not happy about is 4FPS. And the third is of course - the battery life went down significantly from D300/D700.
Everything else, including the new Auto-ISO feature is brilliant. it basically now accounts for VR in lenses, where you can control how aggresive auto ISO is depending on the lens you use. If you don't have VR you may want it to select faster shutter speeds, if you do have VR, you can set it to select slower shutter speeds. You can turn off Auto-ISO via the wheel without having to go into menu.
5DM3 is a great camera too. I think the AF is pretty similar. AF has to do with not only the Camera but lenses. The truth is that Canon's USM on their top lenses is just brilliant and they focus incredibly fast. Just try the old 24-70 on any of their bodies. Nikons' AF-S SWF is pretty fast but not as fast as Canon's USM. On balance though, both 5DM3 and D800 will do brilliant job for you.
This review is obviously only based on less than 2 weeks of use. I will update it later as I get more experience with D800.
Another couple of weeks went by and I used D800 more. Loving the results. I am starting to get used to new way of changing AF and it is working pretty good. I took the camera to a very dark restaurant with 50mm 1.4G lens which everyone seems to be hating these days on D800, and got many great pictures in very dark conditions. The only problem I see is that poor battery life. I took about 500 pictures with very little live view and one or two short videos and my D800 shows only 33% of battery left. That projects to me under 700 photos per battery life. I was able to routinely shoot way over 1000 shots with D300, D700, and even D7000. So I don't know what is going there, but I am going to have to purchase another battery.
on July 30, 2013
I bought the D800 for my upscale wedding photography packages. Now, after using it for a year it rarely comes to weddings. One of the weddings I shot had a 12"x16" album. When I opened it up, the spread was 16x24 inches. Yes it looked lovely, but even that size was too small to see all the resolution of the camera. I sat there with a 5 power magnifying glass and looked at each grass blade clearly, but for the most part it was lost on the client. What was not lost was the each 64 gig SD card only took 800 shots. I shoot around 2000 images at a wedding.
When you put on good, clean glass and mount this body to a tripod you'll get images that are every bit as good as a medium format negative. With a high quality, large ISP monitor you'll see things with this camera you've never seen before. I'm sure I could find even faster memory cards and learn to adapt my shooting style to use this at weddings. But to me, it's too special. When a dear family friend needed 28 faces photographed in one family portrait, a first and last time for many years to come this is what I used. The blow up was nearly 40" wide and 16" tall, I could make out people's eye colors.
If you do a lot of portraits and a lot of retouching this is a great camera to own. If you do landscapes and commercial it's also a great camera to own. IF you shoot weddings and work on speed and volume of images, it's a bit too much. I used to think that no camera was too good for a wedding. I'm a guy who dragged around a Mamiya RB67 to a wedding at one point. For larger, more elaborate weddings I have used this for portraits and slide back to my D300 for everything else. Unless you like buying 2 terabyte hard drives every few months for storage you may want to keep this as a portrait camera and leave it at home for weddings. The money dance doesn't need 36 megapixels. Yes, you can turn down the resolution but you're wearing out the shutter just the same.
This is like the pair of shoes you're supposed to wear to work but they are so nice that you save them for special occasions. The D400 whenever it comes out will be my new go-to camera. The D800 is the camera I use when I want to take my time and make art.
For reasons still unknown to me my commercial business continues to grow. The D800 is the camera of choice for my commercial jobs. It's a bit interesting to say but I can very much see differences between lenses with this body. I've been using a 135mm AIs lens (yes, old school) and at F11 there is nothing sharper. Portraits where you can see every pore of the skin as clear as day. Simply amazing. If you can get your hands on a 105 f2.5 AI or AIs shoot it close to wide open with available light. This lens design is based off of the the Zeiss Sonar lens that you'll find on Hasselblads.
When you hold the D800 it feels substantial in your hands. It's just very nice to hold and to use. It's the one camera that reminds me of my film days. It faintly reminds me of my F3 but gives results much like medium format.
I still stand by initial review, the D800 isn't really a wedding camera. It's also not a first camera I would buy. If this is your first DSLR get something like a D7100. The D800 is a great second body that you take out on special occasions. My D300 is beaten down and it's just nice to have a nice, large clean camera like the D800 available for special shoots.
I haven't had focusing issues per say like others have experienced. So far I feel it focuses faster and better than any other Nikon I've worked with except for the F5. The thing that turns me off a bit to the D800 is the old 65nm image processor. Canon has moved onto ARM image processors and Nikon has only introduced them in the new Nikon One line.
Perhaps the question that most people will wonder about is that they are thinking of buying a D7100, but for about $800 they can get into an FX body (Nikon 610). And for $1000 more they can have the D800. I shoot with by DX and FX cameras and lenses. Day in and day out the DX line is my bread and butter. I'd say buy the D7100 and wait to see if Nikon updates the D800 in the next year or so. The $1800 you save not buying the D800 can buy you one impressive zoom lens or a few great quality prime lenses. The 35mm F1.8G lens from Nikon is around $200 and it will be a lens that will make you a DX believer. But then again it comes down to what you shoot. If you are retired and take nice vacations and you want to pack as many megapixels than by all means jump into the D800. If you're younger and the D800 is going to stretch out your finances start smaller with a DX body. I don't think I would appreciate the D800 as much if I had only shot FX. There's a difference, not as big as you would imagine but you need experience with both DX and FX to see it.