So I’ve been shooting with the D800 for about a year now. At first I was borrowing/renting one for selective shoots, but I pulled the trigger a while back and bought my own. Most of the reviews I read about the D800 were all written within a month of having the camera, so I thought it’d be cool to write one a year later.
NOTE: I wrote a post here a while back about my choice of the D800 over the D800E
Things I Like
Overall, I’m really happy with the D800. The settings are simple to operate and having been a Nikon shooter for many years I don’t have many issues with the menu system, button placement and getting around.
For starters, one of my favorite improvements (over the D3 that I was shooting before) is the auto timer mode. See, the D800 is primarily a nature and landscape camera for me. It’s almost always on a tripod and I’m almost always bracketing with 5 photos (I don’t do HDR with them though, but more on that in another post). With my D3, I had to press the shutter 5 times or always have my cable release with me so I didn’t have to continually touch the camera between photos. But the way the timer works on the D800, I can set it to take 5 photos, two seconds after pressing the shutter. So I just press the shutter once, wait 2 seconds and the camera will fire off the 5 shot bracket automatically. It’s great because I don’t have to worry about having the cable release with me all the time (I usually just carry it for long exposures beyond 30 seconds).
I also love the way the camera feels. I actually like the smaller form factor (compared to the D3 and D4). I do have a battery grip for it, but I usually only use it when I’m shooting portraits since it has the vertical shutter release.
What About File Size?
Another thing I love is also one of the things I hate too – the file size. The 36 megapixel sensor is awesome. The files look amazing on my display. Aside from the obvious advantages of being able to print large, I think there’s more to it. I mean, it’s just plain cool to have that kind of file size and detail available to zoom in to. Let’s face it, if you’re a photographer then you’re a visual person. Aesthetics and visual experiences matter. Even if you’re not printing the photo that large, editing a photo with that kind of detail is just fun and visually stimulating. I may not always print the photo as large as I can, but it’s sure nice knowing that I can.
Another advantage of the large images is that it let’s me shoot a little more “loose” than I normally would, because I know I can crop the photo and still have plenty of resolution to work with. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to get my crop right in camera, but I’m also shooting a lot of wide angle stuff (landscapes, cityscapes, etc…). Images that will need some lens correction in Lightroom/Photoshop. Because the perspective fixes we do to our photos typically means you’re going to lose a lot of the area around the edges of the photo, it’s nice to know I can still use the lens corrections without giving up important parts of the composition.
However, it has wreaked havoc on my storage. If you go out and shoot 200 photos you’re talking about taking up around 10 gigs of space. So I’ve had to buy hard drives a little sooner than I normally would have. It’s also been good at forcing me to delete photos too though. I find myself going through older photo shoots more often and deleting the rejects a little more thoroughly than I normally would have.
Things I Don’t Like
As I just mentioned above, the file size is a little hard to get used to. Not just from a storage space perspective, but they also take longer to edit since you’re waiting on the progress bar more. I find myself doing a “quick” edit where I reduce the image size from 7000 pixels wide to 3000 px and running my filters and plug-ins just to see what I like. It only takes a couple extra minutes and then I’ll go back and edit the full size photo from scratch once I know the direction I want to go. If I had to get through hundreds of photos a day, this would definitely be a slow down in my workflow. But I don’t. I typically walk away with only a few keepers from a landscape shoot, so it doesn’t take me too long to experiment.
Another thing that ticks me off is that the D800 doesn’t have the ability to separate my bracketed photos by two stops. So my only choice is to shoot 5 frames (all separated by 1 stop) and later delete the +1 and -1 photos so I only have the +2 photo, the metered shot, and -2 photo. Other Nikon cameras have this feature, and Canon has had it for years now, so I’m a little annoyed that the D800 doesn’t have it. It seems like it would be such a simple firmware update right? 🙂
Would I Buy It Again?
There’s the magic question right? Knowing what I know 1 year later, would I buy the D800 again? The answer: most likely. My hesitation lies with knowing that there’s the D600 out there. The D600 is an awesome camera. It’s still got a huge 24 megapixel sensor so you could still print really big. It’s cheaper than the D800 and I think it’s just about every bit as good.
If I were given the choice today though, I’m pretty sure I’d still go with the D800. The only reason is that from time to time, I may need the extra resolution. For starters, I teach and am constantly zooming in to photos to show people certain areas that I’m teaching about. It’s nice to have that extra resolution, so people can see whatever I’m talking about large on a projector screen. I also sell prints now and then, and it’s nice to be able to deliver a very large print should some one need one. But if you’re not teaching and showing large photos on screen and you’re not selling prints, the D600 is a REALLY attractive alternative.
So there ya have it. A 1 year review of the D800. It really is an extraordinary camera. Shooting with it has made me want to go reshoot some of my favorite photos so I can print them even larger. It’s great to edit, and when you see the photos you’ve taken in all of their 36 megapixel glory on your display, it makes you glad you own it.
Thanks for stopping by today. Have a good one!