Digital SLR Photography

Nikon D800 Review


We review the Nikon D800, a full-frame all rounder in the DSLR market

It seemed like the megapixel battle was over and camera manufacturers were instead devoting efforts to other areas of camera development. Then Nikon fired a fresh salvo with the launch of the 36.3-megapixel D800 and not long after, the 24.3-million pixel entry-level D3200.

It's the D800 that we're interested in this month - its FX-format (full-frame) sensor promises to offer enthusiasts and professionals a resolution previously only available from medium-format digital backs. It's certainly causing a stir in the photographic community, not least because its price tag isn't much different from the 12.1-megapixel D700 it usurps or the £2,300 Canon EOS 5D Mk II, while it's considerably less than the Canon EOS 5D Mk III, listed at £3,000. 

The potential of this resolution in a 35mm-based body will be of particular interest to professional fashion and portrait photographers, but, of course, will also tempt those who shoot other subjects, including landscapes and wildlife.

In this month's test, we'll evaluate if the Nikon D800 has forsaken a little in the areas of build quality, features and general performance, or whether it actually manages to deliver in all the key areas.

Handling & ease of use: 23/25

Nikon has always scored highly for the build quality of its DSLRs and the D800 is no exception. The body is solid and robust, with a reassuring weight and a thick rubberised hand grip that it affords for an assured hold. The shell is made from magnesium alloy to protect the electronics from shock impact and boasts a 10% weight reduction compared to the D700. The exterior has been given extensive protection, too, with dust and moisture seals allowing the camera to be used in severe climatic conditions. 

As with other pro models, the buttons are larger than average, clearly labelled and have a pronounced position so they're easy to press. The control layout follows the same set-up as other top-end D-series models, 
so any Nikon users migrating from older models won't need too long to get accustomed to the D800. 

The left of the top-plate offers fast access to several key facilities, with a raised round platform housing buttons for White Balance, image quality, ISO rating and bracketing. Beneath it is a locked dial that is used to select the drive mode and the mirror lock-up facility. On the right side of the top-plate, the shutter button is located at the centre of the on/off switch, while behind it are buttons for setting the exposure mode, movie recording and exposure compensation. 

The rear of the camera houses the menu and review buttons, as well as various controls for autofocus, metering and LiveView. The 3.2in LCD monitor is slightly larger than most and boasts a very sharp and clear screen that features an ambient light sensor alongside it to adjust brightness according to the light levels. The viewfinder is superb, offering a very bright and clear screen that makes it a real joy to use and gives 100% frame coverage for accurate image composition. 

It's worth noting that the D800 has a number of controls on the front, too. Below the lens-release button is the AF selector, which has a dial to choose AF or manual focus, as well as a button that is used along with the input dial to change AF modes and focus point selection. On the opposite side of the lens mount is a depth-of-field preview button and a user-selectable Function button offering fast access to a variety of options.

All this serves to make the Nikon D800 a delight to use. The reassuring build quality and the relative ease and speed of use makes it a great camera to handle, regardless of whether you're a hobbyist or a professional using it as a working tool.

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