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My take on the D800

First post: September 21, 2012

Introduction

The relationship with DX has finally ended. Welcome FX!

I've been waiting for an opportunity to change from DX format to FX, as my tenure with DX bodies have come a long way- from the D40, to the D90, and finally the D7000. My investment in lenses took an advance, as I have ditched DX lenses early on in anticipation of ultimately going FX in the future. A few weeks ago, it was realized with the D800.

Prior to the availability of the D800, I was able to test, albeit very brief, a D3 of my friend. That gave me a feel on how my AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8 would work on an FX body. I just note the vignetting, which did not bother me. In one occasion, I rented a D700 and used it to shoot games at Shakey's V-League. The experience was mixed, and I feel more confident with my then D7000. The colors were also different, even if the white balance was set to be the same as the D7000. The experience made me forget about the FX format for the meantine.

One day, I woke up wanting a full-frame DSLR and I texted my friend at CDSC and he replied with "a unit is reserved for you." I don't even know the price, and I replied "will get it tomorrow."

Specifications

I am not going to repeat the specifications that Nikon provides for the public.

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt

The D800 is one Nikon product I did not even bothered to know about before the purchase. I was not aware that early releases have several issues, mostly revolving around AF points on the left.

I also saw a post at dpreview that a banding issue taken at long exposure manifests in the D800.

I shoot mostly volleyball, and while I rarely use burst mode, it was not comforting to know (again, after purchase) that the D800 only has 4 fps as maximum, without using the optional battery grip.

Another unverified concern was the size of the files, being a 36MP-capable DLSR. I've heard stories that even a current Mac had some difficulty in processing the NEF files.

Finally, I came to love the D7000's U1/U2 user settings, and the D800 does not offer such. It does offer four shooting menu banks, just like the D300s that I borrowed years ago.

General features that I like

  • While I have mixed feelings about the 36MP resolution, I would like to think of this as a positive feature.
  • Better AF module, same as that of the D4.
  • Shooting menu banks: With four storage banks, A, B, C, and D, I can now store different shooting menu settings and have the capability to recall any one of them. This should do in the absense of the U1/U2. They're not a direct replacement, but a different feature I found on a previous experience with the D300s.
  • Custom settings banks: Similar to the Shooting menu banks, I can store four different custom settings and have them recalled.
  • Dual card support: It allows full control over the use of the CF and SD card slots, including a copy function. This is useful for moving files from the CF to the SD card when I don't want to use the supplied USB cable.

AF Module

The D800 uses the same Multi-CAM3500FX auto focus engine that the D4. To me, this is one of the biggest reason why I should be happy with the D800.

It offers 51 AF points, and 15 of those are cross-type sensors. There is an option to set it to 11 points should one need a simpler configuration. The dynamic-area AF is configurable to 9, 21, and 51 points. At 3D-tracking more, you have all 51 AF points working for you.

AF features that I like:

  • AF-C and AF-S priority selection (a1 and a2): Allows one to release the shutter even if not in focus (Release), release the shutter but give priority to focus than frame rate (Release + Focus, AF-C only), and release shutter only when in focus (Focus).
  • Focus tracking with lock-on (a4): This will allow me to specify how long will the camera wait before adjusting focus when distance to the subject changes. I have a feeling this will work well for shooting sports.