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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Year Of Full-Frame DSLRs

The landscape for nature photographers who are in the market for a full-frame DSLR has never been richer

Labels: CamerasD-SLRsGear
This Article Features Photo Zoom
Nikon D800
Anticipated as the replacement for Nikon's D700 "economy" full-frame DSLR, the D800 instead fits in the lineup above it, with not only three times the pixel count of the D700, but better high-ISO performance as well—and costing about the same as the D700 when it came out more than four years ago.

36.3 MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
Of course, the big feature of the D800 is its 36.3-megapixel FX-format (full-frame) CMOS sensor—50% more pixels than any other DSLR (as of this writing), and more than some medium-format digital cameras. The full-frame images measure 7360x4912 pixels for greatly detailed landscapes and close-ups, and you still get 3600x2400 pixels in DX crop mode (automatically activated when a DX lens is attached, but also can be activated with full-frame lenses)—15.4 megapixels with a 1.5X focal-length "boost" when you want it, handy for wildlife portraits.

D4 Metering Technology
Sharing with the D4 Nikon's latest 3D Color Matrix Meter III system, the D800 features a newly designed 91,000-pixel RGB sensor that analyzes each scene and takes into consideration such things as color, brightness and subject position in the scene to optimize exposure. The meter works in conjunction with the AF system to provide face detection AF in both Live View and optical viewfinder modes.

The Bayer-filtered sensors used in most DSLRs can produce moiré (false colors) when photographing fine patterns, so most have an anti-aliasing low-pass filter on the sensor to combat that. The low-pass filter slightly blurs the image, however. When the pixel count is high enough and the pixels are small enough, the low-pass filter really isn't needed, and sharper images can be obtained without one. So Nikon offers the D800 in two versions: standard D800, with the low-pass filter; and D800E, with a special filter that cancels the anti-aliasing properties. The latter produces even sharper images and costs $300 more.
Quick AF
Like the D4, the D800 features a quick 51-point AF system (15 cross-type points) that works in light levels as low as EV -2, and it handled birds in flight very well with our AF-S 300mm ƒ/4 tele lens. And like the D4, the D800's AF system can function with lens/teleconverter combinations as slow as ƒ/8—great news for wildlife photographers.

Excellent Low-Light Capability
While conventional thinking says that high pixel counts/small pixels result in poor high-ISO performance, the D800E and D800 scored second and fourth in Low-Light/High-ISO performance in DxOMark.com's RAW sensor ratings—nicely bracketing the third-place 16-megapixel Nikon D4. (The D800E and D800 scored first and second overall in DxO's sensor rankings.)

Durable Construction
The D800 is ruggedly constructed of magnesium alloy, and sealed against dust and moisture. The shutter has been tested to 200,000 cycles. A built-in sensor cleaner helps keep the sensor dust-free, handy when changing lenses frequently in the field.

Image Sensor: 36.3-megapixel (effective) CMOS
Sensor Size: 35.9x24.0mm (full-frame)
Lens Mount: Nikon F Image Stabilization: In VR lenses
LCD Monitor: 3.2-inch, 921,000-dot LCD
Viewfinder: 100% SLR
Video: 1920x1080 at 30p/25p/24p, 1280x720 at 60p/50p/25p
AF System: 51-point phase-detection
Shutter Speeds: 1⁄8000 to 30 sec., B; X-sync up to 1⁄250
Flash: Built-in TTL unit, plus hot-shoe and PC connector
ISO Settings: 100-6400 in 1/3-step increments, expandable to 50-25,600
Continuous Firing Mode: 4 fps
Recording Format: JPEG, 12- or 14-bit RAW, RAW + JPEG
Metering: 91,000-pixel, CW and spot
Storage Medium: CompactFlash and SD/SDHC/SDXC
Power Source: Rechargeable EN-EL15 Li-ion battery
Dimensions: 5.7x4.8x3.2 inches
Weight: 31.7 ounces
Estimated Street Price: $2,999 (D800 body); $3,299 (D800E body)
Contact: Nikon, www.nikonusa.com

Pro Video Capability
With its big full-frame sensor, the D800 provides cinematic selective-focus control, and much better low-light capability than conventional pro camcorders, and even can record uncompressed files to an external device via HDMI. You can shoot videos with the same wide range of Nikkor lenses available for still photography, with full-time contrast-based AF. The D800 can do 1920x1080 full HD video at 30p and 24p (25p PAL), and 1280x720 HD video at 60p and 30p (50p PAL), in H.264/MPEG-4 AVC (MOV) format. B-frame compression provides clip lengths up to 29 minutes, 59 seconds. A built-in mono microphone provides Linear PCM sound, and there are jacks for headphones and an external stereo mic.

Multiple Media
The D800 has slots for CompactFlash (UDMA 7-compatible) and SD/SDHC/SDXC media (UHS-I-compatible).
Lens Capability
The D800 can use virtually all Nikkor lenses, providing best performance with AF-S G and D lenses. The current line-up ranges from a 14mm superwide-angle to a 600mm supertelephoto, plus 1.4X, 1.7X and 2X teleconverters. (DX lenses designed for APS-C sensors can be used, but the camera automatically will crop to DX format when a DX lens is mounted.)


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