Nikon D800 Digital SLR Full Review - Nikon's D800 is the highest resolution full frame Digital SLR available and features an impressive 36.3 megapixel sensor. Find out how it performs in our full review.
The new Nikon D800 is Nikon's high resolution 36.3 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor Digital SLR with Full HD video recording, ISO50 to ISO25,600, 4fps continuous shooting, CF and SD card support, 3.2 inch screen and a professional magnesium alloy body with environmental sealing.
Nikon D800 Features
Nikon D800 Front Angle
The Nikon D800, along with the Nikon D4, offers the best video output of Nikon Digital SLRs to date, with Full HD recording, 20 level adjustments for the microphone in port, a headphone out port with 30 level adjustments, visual sound level monitoring and professional level sound recording with the ME-1 microphone.
It's possible to take a live frame grab whilst recording video at 2 megapixels. Video is recorded as H.264 with B frame compression and the camera provides a clean HDMI out at 1080/720 with no compression allowing video to be recorded to an external device beyond the 29 minute limitation recording internally. Index marking is available to assist with editing. Multiple frame sizes are available FX, DX and a pixel matched 1920x1080.
36.3 megapixel FX Full Frame Sensor (New)
4fps Shooting, 6fps available in DX-format with optional battery pack
ISO100-6400, expandable to ISO50-25,600
3.2inch 921k dot screen, improved colour range
Full HD Video, 30/25/24fps
Slow motion 60/50fps in 720p
New AF system, 51 AF points, focus and take picture in moonlight (-2EV)
AF with teleconvertor up to f/8
Illuminated top LCD
Shutter unit rated to 200,000 shots
Active D-Lighting, HDR, Picture Control, variety of retouch menus
Uncompressed HDMI output
Dual-axis electronic virtual horizon, also visible in the viewfinder
SDHC/SDXC (UHS-1) and CompactFlash (UDMA 7) Slots
Create time-lapse videos in camera
Built in flash
Nikon D800 Top
Nikon D800 Handling
Nikon D800 Rear Card
Handling - The Nikon D800 has a solid body with a magnesium alloy core and is weather sealed. It certainly feels solid in the hand and extremely ergonomic and comfortable in use - the grip is deep and gives a reassuringly positive handle on the camera.
The majority of controls are on the outside of the camera giving quick access to a number of useful controls and in addition to this, the quick guide in the box gets you quickly familiarised with the controls and options. The shutter is quite loud, although there is a quiet shutter mode that helps make it slightly quieter.
Nikon D800 With Lens
The camera has a wealth of ports on the side, including: flash sync terminal, 10 pin remote terminal (both on the front), USB 3.0, headphone, microphone and HDMI.
Buttons on the camera have been redesigned, with a new AF switch and button that allows you to change the AF mode without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. There is a dedicated movie record button, and a re-designed shutter button position with a "more comfortable" 35 degree angle compared to 28 degrees which is designed to be more comfortable for extended periods of shooting.
Menus - Menus are clearly laid out and the screen is extremely clear with excellent viewing angles. The screen has an improved colour range which is said to be very close to sRGB. It features a built in illumination sensor to automatically adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and gamma depending on the environment. Although using live view in bright outdoor conditions it was occasionally difficult to see the screen.
Nikon D800 Bottom Battery
Battery Life - The camera is rated as providing 900 shots according to CIPA standards, and 2400 shots according to Nikon testing. We took over 950 shots with a mixture of continuous, time-lapse, and single frame shots with the battery showing plenty of life left. This is excellent performance and should see the battery lasting a decent length of time before you need to charge it again.
Nikon D800 Front Sensor
Speed - We tested the camera with SDHC and CompactFlash to see what difference it made to how the camera performed with the various continuous shooting options. We also tested focus speeds, switch on time, shot-to-shot time, etc. and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average, so that consistent results were produced.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot (without flash)
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting (JPEG)
45 shots before slow down
99 shots (max)
Continuous Shooting (JPEG+Flash)
Continuous Shooting (JPEG+RAW)
15 shots before slow down
17 shots before slow down
Continuous Shooting (RAW)
17 shots before slow down
19 shots before slow down
* Test with 32GB Lexar Professional SDHC 600x card, ** Tested with Lexar Professional 1000x 32GB CompactFlash UDMA 7 (the fastest available CF card)
Shutter response, focus, switch on time and shot to shot time are all excellent. This is a really fast camera. Continuous shooting is quite quick although not as quick as the Nikon D4, although it's possible to shoot up to 99 shots at 4fps in JPEG Fine mode without slowdown. There was some benefit shooting with the CompactFlash card, allowing more shots to be taken without slowdown.
Nikon D800 Performance
Here are a number of photos taken in a variety of situations, both in our studios and outdoors. Further sample photos are available in the Equipment Database, where you can also add your own reviews. Additional sample photos and opinion on the Nikon D800 is available in our Nikon D800 user review.
Nikon D800 Sample Photos
Sample Photos - The built in flash performs well with no noticeable red-eye in any of the portrait photos we took. Photos have excellent exposure, colour and detail with accurate focus.
Nikon D800 Lens test images
Lens Test Images - The camera produces bright, saturated colourful images, with excellent detail as you would expect from a 36.3 megapixel sensor.
Nikon D800 Scene modes
The camera has excellent dynamic range and there are a number of built in options to expand what is recorded, including D-Lighting and in camera HDR creation. Using the +3EV option, the camera takes two photos and produces a HDR JPEG image. There is also exposure bracketing up to 9EV in case you want to process your own HDR images.
Nikon D800 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - ISO100 and 200 show low levels of noise, excellent detail and colour reproduction. ISO400 sees a very slight increase in noise in blues and greens. At ISO800 there is a more noticeable increase in noise and again at ISO1600. At ISO3200 noise starts eating away at detail in the image. At ISO6400 noise becomes more dominant with detail suffering, although images still look usable. It's at ISO12800 that noise becomes quite dominant with detail being noticeably lost although images could still be useful resized, cropped or converted to black and white depending on your needs. As expected ISO25600 shows the worst noise levels and there is a loss of colour, although the images may still be usable with good noise reduction or resized. Despite the 36.3 megapixel sensor, noise performance is good with the camera providing usable images up to ISO6400 straight from the camera. Noise reduction options are: Off, Low, Medium (default), High. We tested the camera on the default setting of medium.
Nikon D800 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Under tungsten lighting the camera gives warm results using auto white balance, or using the tungsten preset, with a slight green tint to the images. This was tested using the "Normal" auto white balance, the alternative option is to "keep warm colour". Under fluorescent lighting the auto white balance performs reasonably well, with a warm result and a slight green tint. Using the fluorescent preset (Cool-white fluorescent) gives a slight magenta cast with none of the green tint visible. There are 7 different fluorescent presets to choose from and each can be customised.
Nikon D800 Digital filters
Colour Modes - The camera has six different colour modes as shown above, these can be customised individually with the camera letting you set the sharpening, brightness, contrast, saturation and hue.
Video - Video options include: Full HD at 30/25/24p, 720p at 60/50/30/25p FX format, DX, Full HD crop format, auto flicker reduction, microphone socket (20 levels of adjustment), headphone socket, uncompressed video output from HDMI, time-lapse photography auto video creation, live frame grab, power aperture, and time-line marking. Another video can be viewed on the ePHOTOzine Youtube channel.
Value For Money
The Nikon D800 is available for £2599 body only, and is up against the 22.3 megapixel Canon EOS 5D Mark III available for £2999, or perhaps the 24.3 megapixel Sony Alpha A77 available from around £990. Other than these cameras you would have to spend a lot more to get resolution higher than the D800, for example you'd be looking at a Leica S2 (37.5 megapixel, £17k body only), Hasselblad H4D-31 (31 megapixel, £9.4k with lens, or £13.7k for the H4D-40 and lens with 40 megapixels), or Pentax 645D (40 megapixel, £8.5k body only). You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.
Nikon D800 Verdict
The Nikon D800 offers unprecedented resolution at an unthought of price point, packed full of features, many from the Nikon D4 that is almost twice the price. Build quality is very good, and the camera gives excellent handling with a solid metal body and weather sealing the camera should be suitable for almost any landscape or outdoors project. Value for money is a strong point, with cameras with a similar resolution costing significantly more (at least 3 times more).
Image quality is stunning in every way and the high resolution would suit fashion, still-life and any other area where extremely high resolution images are desired. To make the most of it you'll need to have high quality lenses, for example the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G lens used in this review is available for around £1200. It will be interesting seeing how Nikon's lens range is put under additional scrutiny by this camera.
The Nikon D800 performs extremely well and is deserving of our Editor's Choice award. Nikon have another winning camera on their hands and I expect demand will be extremely high for a long time to come. The D800 is extremely desirable, so much so that I can see people selling an arm and a leg to get it.
The Nikon D800 is the highest scoring camera reviewed by ePHOTOzine in recent years and deservedly so.
Nikon D800 Pros
Excellent image quality
Extremely high resolution 36.3 megapixel sensor
Auto shutter speed control for auto ISO (based on lens)
Excellent 3.2 inch screen
Excellent weather sealed build
2 year warranty
Good noise performance up to ISO3200/6400
Greatly enhanced video recording
Full printed manual
Great value for money
Nikon D800 Cons
Capture NX2 not included
4fps max speed shooting (6fps with battery grip)
Green tint in our white balance test photos
EN-EL15 rechargeable Li-ion battery with terminal cover, MH-25 battery charger (AC wall adapter supplied only in countries or regions where required), Strap (AN-DC6 for D800, AN-DC6E for D800E), UC-E14 USB cable, USB cable clip, BF-1B body cap, BS-1 Captu