Nikon D800: Initial Thoughts

The new D800

*Click for full resolution, but the image is a bit soft due to shooting wide open into a mirror.

My Nikon D800 came in about two days ago. To say I was giddy as a school girl on prom night might be putting it mildly. This camera really is a dream come true in a lot of respects. The only two things that ever really irked me about the D700 was that sometimes I just wanted a bit more resolution to work with for large prints, and it didn’t have a video mode. My D5100 filled the video gap, but only just barely. Its manual controls for video were shoddy at best, and I ran into a lot of issues, especially trying to get a specific shutter speed in fluorescent lighting to minimize rolling shutter or banding.

The D800 fills this gap nicely, giving me 36 megapixels to work with and a video mode that rivals the best Canon cameras. No longer do I need to bring two cameras with me if I want to shoot stills and video.

Still, fanboy-ness aside, there are a few quirks I’m starting to notice that are annoying, although in most cases, the problems should resolve themselves with time.

Issue #1 – That damn mode button. I mentioned this in my CP+ review, but I’ll repeat here. The mode button is not where I expect it to be based on every other Nikon I’ve used. Instead, there is the record button, which doesn’t even really need to be there. The mode button is just out of reach and I have to physically move my whole hand to reach it. Annoying…

Issue #2 – Flipped directions for exposure and zooming. The exposure meter is reversed from previous Nikons, and the + and – buttons for zooming on image playback are switched. This will just take getting used to, but it’s so automatic now that I really have to think about it. I’ve usually zoomed out three times on an image before I’ve realized I’ve hit the wrong button.

Issue #3 – I’ve seen the LCD green tint issue some people refer to with the D800. It’s not all that bad, but it is noticeable.

Issue #4 – Clarification on another item from that CP+ review, the viewfinder DOES completely  mask out the cropped section when using crop modes, but only if AF point illumination is turned off. This is annoying, but it was the same as with the D700. For $3,000, one might hope to have the same viewfinder as the D3/D4.

Issue #5 – This is minor, but why did they include a flash? For a camera with this kind of resolution, tilt/shift lenses are perfect. Why they would inhibit tilt/shift use with a built-in flash protruding from the front that most serious photographers will never use is beyond me.

Issue #6 – It is a little slow. Not by much, but it’s a bit slower than my D700 all around. Then again, this is to be expected when it’s crunching 40+ MB files every few seconds.

Other than that, the AF is fantastic, the viewfinder is bright and clear, the resolution is mind-numbing, and the video is gorgeous.

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