It's been two years with the Nikon D800– REVIEW - Mohamed Hakem's Photography

This review will be valid if you are interested in D800/D800E/D810 It’s been two years now since I purchased Nikon’s top Full frame non-sports camera; the D800..I’ll be reviewing the D800/D800E since I used them both so much that I can well imagine the tweaked D800 called D810. This is not just another technical review; It’s a photographer’s point of view after actual usage.

The D800 is a beast in every aspect, Massive resolution more than any other full-frame DSLR by a large margin.It really competes with the medium formats; Epic image quality, massive image size (RAW file is 84MB!) excellent autofocus, massive weight and everything you think of will be to the maximum. No DSLR can make better images today than the Nikon D8XX family.

so the question now is it “the” camera to get?

The answer is yes and no.

these extreme specs come with extreme measures.

So let me first tell you the bad things about owning a D800:

1-The weight. The D800 wieghs nearly 1kg. Couple it with a piece of nice glass wether 24-27 or a 14-24 and it will minimum be a 2kg, add a grip and an extra battery and you will be well near 2.5kg – camera only! More than a D4S or a Canon 1DX. Weight may not seem an issue to a lot of people but trust me moving around a lot with such a camera is a pain in the ass! Imagine traveling with a bag of 2-3 lenses and a D800 then you’ve already exceeded your flight weight.

2-The Massive file sizes. 16GB card would be able to hold 157 pictures(RAW +JPEG) or 200 RAW only, and yes you will always shoot RAW because I assume that the person who buys a D800 is a quality seeker and he would sacrifice anything for quality. You’ll think now that data is cheap nowadays and we can manage multiple cards and external harddrives, But just try the workflow of importing 100GB of photos of a 2 day trip, then you’ll handle each photo in lightroom: a RAW file of 80+MB in the develop module. My computer is a macbook pro, 16GBRAM core i7 and the fan doesn’t stop to prevent excess heating whenever Im editing!, not to mention the lag in every move and the overloaded processor becomes extremely slow.

3-Slow frame rate. D800 works at 4fps, that means 80MB x4 = 320MB/second of data to be written on the memory card! imagine if the frame rate is higher say 10 frames per second that means a 16GB card will last for 25 seconds! That’s insane. 5 fps incase of D810 may still seem slow for sports and fast photography users compared to 10 and 11 in the D4S and the 1DX, even much cheaper APS-C sensors can achieve much higher frame rate.

4-You won’t be able to use normal glass with this camera, it will be a shame to use a plastic lens on such massive specs, like using 90-grade gasoline in a Ferrari. You have to use the highest and top grade lenses to get the advantage of this mega pixel count or else you are wasting everything. You’ll have to spend a lot!. I used a sigma70-200 on a d700 and it was ok but the d800 was crap.

Enough of the bad, let me tell you why the D800 is the camera to get

1-Extreme mega pixel count, some say that mega pixel is just a number to appeal to customers and doesn’t mean a better camera. That is true, an iphone 6MP camera is much better than a 18MP nokia X but thats not the case with the D800. This huge megapixel helps retaining details in extremely high ISOs. Secondly you can crop up to 6 different fully usable pictures from the original one!,thirdly you can use the camera in DX format and still have a great 18MP picture. One day I was out with just a 24-70 and I’ve seen seagulls, I shot at 70mm and kept on cropping that I coudnt imagine how come such a photo is attained by 70mm.

here is the original shot:

this is the cropped version:

2- Massive amounts of data resulting very wide dynamic range. The RAW file of the D800 is like a tons of different exposures and detailed pictures combined! exposure becomes the least of problems. you can get fine details from blown areas or can extract a complete picture from complete darkness. this picture is shot in a desert at ISO200 f/8 for 1 sec

yes this is what I got, only a fire behind the car.

and this is what can be extracted by just raising the exposure:

insane isn’t it? not just that this is what can be cropped from the RAW file:

3. Auto Focus, no matter what you say but the autofocus is fast and accurate, there maybe better options but for me I have no complains, extremely fine, fast , accurate and in low light all works great! the D810 promises even better focus. I photographed animals and sports and people dancing with absolutely no complains.

Final Word

if you are seeking extremely high quality photos, then this is the camera you get.If you are Landscape, wild life, studio ,architect or a cityscape photographer then this is your camera and don’t think twice. If printing is your target then you can comfortably print large billboards. if gallery exhibition is your end product, no DSLR can make better images today than the Nikon D810/D800/D800E. this is the kind of camera that you can extract a photo from a dark corner of the original one, and still have no complaints about noise or mega pixels And you should be the kind of photographer who goes out with his lovely tripod and knows what he’ll shoot. This is not a fast camera and its big and heavy with massive file sizes. so if you want a camera for sports and action then go seek other options. if you’re target are fast paced weddings or parties or events then a Canon mkIII will be faster with smaller file sizes and better skin tones. if you are a traveller or a hiker then definitely the weight will bring you to your knees. if you are a street photographer,its not your camera, Fuji’s and other mirrorless options can serve you better.

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