A new 91,000-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II system has a newly designed RGB sensor that analyzes each scene and takes into consideration such factors 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 D800 features essentially the same new AF system as the recently introduced flagship D4 pro camera, based on Nikon's Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX AF module. It has 51 AF points like previous high-end Nikon DSLRs, but now the central 15 points are cross-types. The AF system works in light levels as dim as EV -2 and with lens/teleconverter combos as slow as ƒ/8.
The D800 is built on a magnesium body, and it's sealed against dust and moisture. A built-in sensor cleaner helps keep the sensor dust-free, which is especially convenient for changing lenses frequently in the field. The shutter has been tested to 200,000 cycles.
Other Important Features For Landscape Shooters
A new 3.2-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor with a 170° viewing angle is helpful for live-view and video shooting and playback. Brightness is automatically adjusted per ambient light level. The live image can be zoomed for precise manual focusing or autofocusing anywhere in the frame via contrast AF. If using the eye-level SLR finder, you can focus manually or use the phase-detection AF system.
A built-in, pop-up flash unit (ISO 100, guide number 39, in feet) can provide fill light for nearby foreground objects. There's also a hot-shoe for dedicated external flash units and a PC connector for studio flash. The camera supports Nikon's Creative Advanced Wireless Lighting System with compatible flash units so you can light ground objects in starscapes as desired.
The RGB-filtered image sensors used in most DSLRs—and the de-mosaicing processing required to turn their output into images—can produce moiré (false colors) and other artifacts. So these sensors are fitted with anti-aliasing low-pass filters to slightly blur the image at the pixel level and thus eliminate such problems. As this process also slightly reduces image sharpness, Nikon offers the D800 in a D800E model (for an additional $300) with an optical filter with the anti-aliasing properties removed to produce sharper images. This could be a very interesting feature for landscape shooters, but you may have to deal with any aliasing/moiré in postprocessing. The D800E comes with a version of Nikon Capture NX 2 software that includes a color moiré correction tool.
Our recommended three-lens landscape kit for the D800 or D800E would start with the highly regarded AF-S 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G or, for those who want a lighter, more compact and lower-priced option, the AF-S 16-35mm ƒ/4G. The logical normal zoom is the AF-S 24-70mm ƒ/2.8G; the lighter and lower-cost option would be the AF-S 24-85mm ƒ/2.8-4.0D. For the telezoom, the obvious choice is the AF-S 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G VR II, with the AF 80-200mm ƒ/2.8D as the lighter and lower-cost option.
Sensor, Processor & ISO Range
The new Nikon D800 ($2,999 estimated street price) features a 36.3-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor delivering images measuring 7360x4912 pixels, which is tailor-made for finely detailed landscapes and huge prints. Nikon's latest EXPEED 3 processing improves image quality and provides a normal ISO range of 100-6400, expandable to 50-25,600, despite the huge pixel count. Like previous full-frame Nikon DSLRs, the D800 also has a DX (APS-C) crop mode, and with the new camera's high pixel count, DX crop mode becomes much more usable. The D800's DX-format images are 15.4 megapixels—close to the D7000 and more than the D300S.
he 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's a jack for an external stereo mic. The big full-frame sensor produces cinematic selective-focus control and much better low-light capability than conventional pro camcorders. You can shoot videos with virtually all Nikkor lenses (DX lenses only in DX crop mode, others in FX or DX mode), providing plenty of focal-length versatility.