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When Nikon announced its new flagship D4 pro DSLR a few months ago, some were startled that it had “only” 16.1 megapixels. For that camera, Nikon went with fewer, larger pixels to enable high shooting speed and enhanced high-ISO capability. Now comes the replacement for the 12.1-megapixel, full-frame D700, which was one of the most popular nature cameras of all time. Nikon took a different approach with the new D800. It features a full-frame sensor with a whopping 36.3 effective megapixels, 50% more than any other DSLR as of this writing. It also has Nikon’s most advanced HD video capability to date, making the D800 possibly the perfect DSLR for nature photography.
Like the D4, the D800 features Nikon’s latest 91,000-pixel 3D Color Matrix Meter III system, with a newly designed 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.
Despite the huge image files, the D800 can shoot them at 4 fps (6 fps in DX format with the optional MB-D12 battery pack). It’s ready to shoot in 0.12 seconds and features the new USB 3.0 for quick transfer speeds.
A pop-up flash unit (ISO 100, guide number 39, in feet) means you’ll always have a light source. 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.
The biggest news in the D800 is its Nikon-developed, FX-format (full-frame) CMOS sensor with 36.3 effective megapixels. That means images measuring 7360×4912 pixels. The DX crop mode is automatically set when a DX lens is attached, and also manually selectable with any lens. In this mode, images measure 4800×3200 pixels, and you get the 1.5x focal-length boost. The high pixel count in the D800 makes DX crop mode quite usable. DX-format images are 15.4 megapixels, which is on par with the D7000 and more than the D300S.
Nikon will offer the D800 in two versions: the D800, with a low-pass filter; and the D800E, with a means of canceling the anti-aliasing properties of the filter. The D800E costs $300 more and comes with a version of Nikon Capture NX 2 that includes a color moiré correction tool.
Image Sensor: 36.3-megapixel (effective) CMOS
Sensor Size: 35.9×24.0mm (full-frame)
Lens Mount: Nikon F
Image Stabilization: In VR lenses
LCD Monitor: 3.2-inch, 921,000-dot LCD
Viewfinder: 100% SLR
Video: 1920×1080 at 30p/25p/24p; 1280×720 at 60p/50p/25p
AF System: 51-point phase-detection
Shutter Speeds: 1⁄8000 to 30 sec., B; X-sync up to 1⁄250 sec.
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: CompactFlash and SD/SDHC/SDXC
Power Source: Rechargeable EN-EL15 Li-ion battery
Dimensions: 5.7×4.8×3.2 inches
Weight: 31.7 ounces
Estimated Street Price: $2,999 (D800); $3,299 (D800E)
Contact: Nikon, www.nikonusa.com
The D800 can shoot 1920×1080 full HD video at 30p and 24p (25p PAL), and 1280×720 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 low-light capability that’s reportedly better 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).
The D800 is ruggedly constructed with 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.
The D800 adopts the new AF and metering systems introduced in the flagship D4 pro model. Featuring Nikon’s Advanced Multi-Cam 3500FX AF sensor module and new algorithms to enhance low-light performance, the D800 can autofocus in levels down to EV -2, and with lens/teleconverter combinations as slow as ƒ/8. There are 51 AF points, 15 of them cross-types for enhanced accuracy.
Like the Nikon D4 pro DSLR, the D800 features Nikon’s EXPEED 3 processing, which optimizes image quality and video performance. Despite the relatively small pixels necessitated by the huge pixel count, the D800 provides a normal ISO range of 100-6400, expandable to Lo-1 (50) and Hi-1 (12,800) and Hi-2 (25,600).
Dual Memory Card Slots
The D800 can save files on CompactFlash (including UDMA 7-compatible) and SD/SDHC/SDXC (including UHS-I) media, thanks to dual card slots.
The Manfrotto MH055M8-Q5 Photo-Movie Tripod Head gives you a fluid head for video and a ballhead for still work. It’s one of the most innovative accessories we’ve seen. www.manfrotto.us
Adding the Nikon ME-1 to the D800 complements the camera’s impressive HD video capability with vastly improved sound. www.nikonusa.com
High-Capacity CF Card
The Lexar Professional 600x CF card is fast for HD video use, and in capacities up to 32 GB, it’s a good choice for the huge files generated by the D800’s image sensor. www.lexar.com