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Nikon D800 D800E Digital SLR Hands-On Review

We go hands on with the new Nikon D800 and D800E Digital SLRs - the new 36.3 megapixel Full Frame Digital SLRs from Nikon.

|  Nikon D800 in Digital SLRs
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1/30 sec | f/2.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 100

The new Nikon D800 is a new full frame Digital SLR from Nikon (the second this year) and features a whopping 36.3 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor. The camera is designed to sit along-side the Nikon D700 and has an RRP of £2399 with a release date of the 22nd of March.

Read our full review of the Nikon D800 Digital SLR.
Read our full Nikon D800 vs Nikon D800E comparison review.

It comes in two flavours, the Nikon D800 "standard" DSLR, or the Nikon D800E with AA / Anti-Aliasing filter removed for even higher quality images. With the D800E* camera there is more risk of moire (coloured patterns appearing incorrently in images) however Nikon will have an updated version of Nikon Capture NX2 with a moire filter to resolve this problem. The D800E is designed to get the maximum resolution from the sensor and would be suited to landscape or fashion photography and will be available from select retailers. The Nikon D800E has an RRP of £2689 with a release date of the 12th of April.

Nikon D800 D800E Features

1/30 sec | f/2.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 125
In hand, the Nikon D800 and Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8 lens.

In addition to the headline feature of the 36.3 megapixel full frame FX CMOS sensor, the camera also features Full HD video 30/25/24fps, Clean HDMI output, ISO50 - ISO25600, 4fps full frame shooting, 6fps at DX size, 200,000 shots shutter rating, weather sealed body, 3.2inch screen and a number of other impressive features including USB 3.0 tethering.

Key Features

  • 36.3 megapixel full frame FX CMOS sensor
  • ISO100-6400 (expandable to ISO50, ISO25600)
  • 4fps continuous shooting
  • 6fps continuous shooting in DX format at 15.4mp (with MB-D12)
  • 51 focus points
  • FX/5:4/1.2x/DX Image Formats
  • EXPEED 3 processor
  • AF at -2EV (Moonlight)
  • Full HD 30/25/24fps Video
  • Clean HDMI output, Mic/Headphone sockets
  • ISO100-25600 available in video
  • High-speed CF (UDMA 7) and SD (SDXC and UHS-1) dual card slots. 
  • 3.2inch screen, 921k dots (near sRGB colour)
  • Optical viewfinder (same as D700)
  • USB 3.0 - high speed for tethering
  • Optional MB-D12 Battery pack

Nikon D800 D800E Handling

1/40 sec | f/4.9 | 22.5 mm | ISO 800
Top LCD screen and controls

Handling - The D800 includes a two axis virtual horizon that can be displayed on the back LCD screen or view the optical viewfinder. The optical viewfinder will be familiar to anyone who has used the Nikon D700 and offers 100% coverage. The camera has a new lightweight magnesium alloy body that is dust and water resistant to an equivalent level as the D700. The top LCD is illuminated and the camera has a redesigned hand-grip with a more comfortable shutter release button.

1/30 sec | f/2.5 | 6.0 mm | ISO 80
Back of camera in live-view mode.

Menus - The Nikon D800 features a clearly laid out menu system with colour coded sections and a wealth of options. The shooting menu spans four pages and includes HDR shooting options and there are seven pages of custom menu items, which are also colour coded which should help you familiarise yourself with the cameras many options.

Battery - The camera features a new battery and power saving designed to drain minimal power during live view and movie operation and is rated at 900 shots in still shooting mode, based on CIPA standards, or 60 minutes of live view video mode.

1/30 sec | f/2.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 100
Top of Nikon D800

- While we were unable unable to run through our full speed tests, our time with the camera led us to believe that the camera is as fast as Nikon are claiming, with the camera responding quickly in use whether in live view or not. The camera has a newly developed shutter mechanism tested to 200,000 cycles with a release time lag of 0.042seconds. The camera's startup time is rated at 0.12 seconds tested to CIPA standards and the camera has the same high-speed AF module as the Nikon D4.

Nikon D800 Hands-On Photos of Equipment

Nikon D800 D800E Performance

Nikon has said that the noise performance equals that of the 12.1 megapixel full-frame D700 despite the sensor including exactly 3x as many pixels. This seems like quite a bold claim, however this is explained by the camera sensor being several years newer, than the D700 sensor, which was originally announced with the Nikon D700 in 2008. Until we've been able to test a full production camera we will not be able to give our full verdict, but look forward to seeing if these bold claims are warranted. From the example images we saw images looked very good despite being from a pre-production camera.

Nikon gave an example of the difference between the Nikon D800 and the Nikon D800E with AA / Anti-aliasing filter removed, which is shown in the presentation and below:

Nikon D800 D800E sample
Nikon D800 D800E Sample

With the following image showing the highlighted area close up:

Nikon D800 D800E Crops
Nikon D800 D800E Crops

Value For Money

The Nikon D800 is the highest resolution Nikon Digital SLR and in fact the highest resolution Digital SLR currently available (excluding those with a medium format sensor, such as the 40 megapixel, £9,000 Pentax 645D) and as such it gives a groundbreaking price point of £2399. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the previous highest resolution full frame camera from Nikon was the 24.6 megapixel Nikon D3x with an RRP of around £5499.

Nikon D800 D800E Verdict

The Nikon D800 and D800E look particularly impressive on paper with an impressive specification reaching beyond entry-level medium format in terms of resolution alone thanks to the 36.3 megapixel full frame sensor. In hand the camera feels good with a reassuringly solid weather sealed body and a number of external controls and displays ensuring it's easy and quick to change settings as desired. The camera's speed in use appears to be very good and the high quality 3.2inch screen makes it pleasing to view with the live-view updating smoothly. On top of all of this Nikon has priced the D800 at a very competitive price making extremely high resolution image capture available at a price that is one quarter the price of medium format!

Read our full review of the Nikon D800 Digital SLR.
Read our full Nikon D800 vs Nikon D800E comparison review.
View the Nikon D800 Digital SLR Press Release.

Nikon D800 Specifications

Effective Magnification1x
Image Sensor
Pixels36.3Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)7360
Pixels (H)4912
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeFull Frame
Sensor Size (width)36.5mm
Sensor Size (height)24mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3.2in
Screen resolution910,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Manual
  • AF Fine Tuning (Micro Adjustment)
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Multi Pattern
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity50 - 25600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Bracket
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-5
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting4fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
Video FPS50,30,24
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Wi-FiNo Data
Card Type
  • CF1
  • CF2
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • CF
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • TIFF
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeAA, EN-EL15, EN-EL18 and EP-B5
Battery Life (CIPA rating)900shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsEN-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

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Photographs taken using the Nikon D800

Limbs Lurking....Rainy Day Colors#3Late Summer MorningIciclebutterflyAltar#22 gulls (0061) at Foxton BeachRainy Day Colors#2....Spoonbills in flight (0663-1)I Deny MyselfPlease,Take My HandView to West from Foxton Beach (0676-1)

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cameracat 18 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
7 Feb 2012 11:12AM
Grin That should put the rumours to rest for a while....Smile

On the face of it, To good to be true if you need all that resolution, The price is interesting though.

Alongside the D700...! For how much longer one wonders, That said personally I'm still more than happy with my D700, So will wait for the D900 to appear.....Grin

The only odd thing, Why have a D800 model, Then a D800E model, If one produces better images than the other, MMMmmm very strange....Wink
NikLG 16 1.7k England
7 Feb 2012 1:13PM

Quote:The only odd thing, Why have a D800 model, Then a D800E model, If one produces better images than the other, MMMmmm very strange...

..and then charge more for not having something....seems like paying extra to get a new car with 3 wheels....
StuartAt 17 1.1k 8 United Kingdom
7 Feb 2012 1:41PM

Quote:..and then charge more for not having something....seems like paying extra to get a new car with 3 wheels....

My thoughts exactly - I still want one though!
lemmy 15 2.9k United Kingdom
7 Feb 2012 2:31PM

Quote:..and then charge more for not having something....seems like paying extra to get a new car with 3 wheels....

It's not really a matter of better images or not. Without the AA filter it will produce better definition at the expense of possible coloured patterning and jaggies.

If you were a fashion/ advertising photographer dealing in general with frame filling bold images often blown up to poster size for adverts, say, you might find that moiré patterns rarely occurred so were not much of a problem but the extra sharpness looked good.

On the other hand, if you did architectural photography, such matters as jaggies and moiré would detract from ultra fine detail in your images and you would prefer they were eliminated by the AA filter.

I doubt that such matters would be of much importance to most amateurs. After all, 36Mp will give you a print of 24 inches across at top quality - how many need that? And how many people have a monitor over 7000px wide? If you don't you are simply giving your computer more calculation to do of which pixels to discard.

The usual argument is that you can crop more, though that has less force in these days of capable zoom lenses.

It's an amazing price for what it is - I imagine a few makers will have to rethink their next camera in the light of this one. Just when you thought the megapixel race had calmed down to some sort of sanity....suddenly it's back.
Davy793 10 4 United Kingdom
7 Feb 2012 7:24PM
No big deal, but I would have liked to have a flexi screen and what about the new "XQD" cards?
Look forward to seeing the noise comparisons with the D700 and if these are comparable this is a great camera and at a great price but which one to buy?????
realspeed 16 64 United Kingdom
7 Feb 2012 10:11PM
Why on earth didn't Nikon use the EN-EL4A battery? its beyond me. Its good enough for the D300 and the D700. Just another ploy by a large manufacturer to sell more of their products without any thought for their customers. I did read somewhere about new regulations which is a complete load of rubbish. If the existing batteries were good enough and met regulations then why mess about changing them

A12PHOTO 12 17 United Kingdom
7 Feb 2012 10:24PM
Will be nice to see the sales figures this time next year to see which model sells best,the price is cheaper than i thought and would of been nice to see the U1 & U2 settings like on my D7000.
8 Feb 2012 8:17AM
36 megapixels is nice to hear about..but in practice no one needs such a high resolution..16-18 megas will suffice for 95% of the there are nice software around for upsizing/rescaling images with minimum loss of quality..
on the other hand this camera is 4fps only, has no tilt/swivel screen, no GPS and cannot go beyond 30fps in HD video mode..hey nikon it is 2012, forget about excessive megapixels and give us something more made in Thailand, for our 3000 bucks...
Coleslaw 16 13.4k 28 Wales
8 Feb 2012 9:15AM
Not wishing to dis Nikon for their latest product aren't we missing something here? The image receptor is full-frame - ie: 35mm - and is somewhat larger than the standard digital frame. Therefor the number of pixels is somewhat diluted - probably would work out at somewhere under 24Mpx.
Come on, reviewers; either compare like for like or explain the apparent anomaly. Otherwise looks like a handy camera for serious photographers.
Coleslaw 16 13.4k 28 Wales
8 Feb 2012 1:07PM
Sorry, that wasn't my comment. I didn't log out and my mate used my account without noticing....Sad LOL
JohnAR 12
8 Feb 2012 3:15PM
Sensor technology is improving with every release, and this is a Nikon full-frame model, not a GE compact, credit where it's due, this will have ISO quality suitable for what it is intended for, this will not be a sports or concerts camera after all. There is a real hang up over high ISO quality, but we do not need every camera to offer perfect images at all ISOs all the time. Race horses did not go down the pits and ponies do not run at Aintree.
Happy snapping every-one, I hope you have all been able to make the best out of the cold weather.
Railcam 15 944 2 Scotland
8 Feb 2012 3:27PM

Quote:Why on earth didn't Nikon use the EN-EL4A battery? its beyond me. Its good enough for the D300 and the D700. Just another ploy by a large manufacturer to sell more of their products without any thought for their customers. I did read somewhere about new regulations which is a complete load of rubbish. If the existing batteries were good enough and met regulations then why mess about changing them

The D300/D300s/D700 use the EN-EL3e battery, not the EN-EL4. The EN-EL4 will not fit into those bodies. The EN-EL4 is an option in the MB10 battery pack for those cameras.

I understand that new battery regulations were introduced in Japan towards the end of 2011, which the existing batteries did not meet. Hence Nikon have developed a new battery to meet the regulations and this is used in the D4 and D800/D800e.

In summary, the story of new regulations is not "a complete load of rubbish" and the existing batteries no longer meet the new Japanese regulations. I think Nikon sell a few of their cameras in Japan hence the need to comply with the new regulations.

Worth doing some research before you rant.
waynejohns 12 1 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2012 5:08PM
What's it going to give you that your D700 doesn't? Not a lot really...nothing most people will notice in what they shoot.

Funny, though it was only 2 years ago Nikon stated that the optimum megapixels for a full frame DSLR sensor was between 12-16 they bring out this!!

You can only fit so many pixels onto the same sized sensor, it doesnt make it any better, it's the size of the pixel that matter and the quality and details that pixel/s hold.

Will it make you shoot better images - No Way!

No purchase for me thanks.

2012 Nikon, move forward please.....
8 Feb 2012 5:15PM
With a 36 mega pixel sensor the image file sizes will be extremely large and so I would need to buy a new computer to handle them . I think I will stick with my D700 .
8 Feb 2012 5:33PM
I believe Canon--especially the 5D--with its full size sensor, was eating Nikon's lunch. This is the response. Personally, I am waiting for a Lumix with a full size sensor; as I am tired of lugging around SLRs.
edsephiroth 15 169 9 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2012 8:48PM
And where is the hands-on review???
This is some photos of the camera in someone's hands, admittedly, but I don't think that's what "hands-on review" is really supposed to mean, is it?

This is a regurgitation of tech specs, not a hands-on review. I will think twice before clicking on an EPZ link in future.
lemmy 15 2.9k United Kingdom
8 Feb 2012 9:02PM

Quote: is a regurgitation of tech specs, not a hands-on review. I will think twice before clicking on an EPZ link in future.

Oh come on! The thing has just been announced. There's plenty of interest there as far as I'm concerned. Maybe not 'hands on' but 'eyes on'.

Still worth the massive loss of time and the vast cost of clicking on a link in my opinion Wink
edsephiroth 15 169 9 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2012 10:21PM
Yeah, I totally agree its worth noting!!Smile
But I don't like being deceived and I don't believe for a minute that the experienced folk at EPZ don't know the differenceTongue
iconik 15 1 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2012 10:54PM
The wait is finally over for the much predicted and anticipated D800 and D4 - I'm not getting greedy, but is the equally predicted and anticipated D400 waiting in the wings to fill the gap left by the recently retired D300s? Smile
DouglasMorley 12 30 1 Canada
8 Feb 2012 11:10PM
I was really of the belief that the pixel war was largely over. Now I predict that this new camera will be out of date within a very short space of time with Canon bringing out at least 40MP camera to supersede the EOS 5 II.

You won't find me needing or wanting any such nonsense resolutions. They are absolutely ridiculous.
9 Feb 2012 9:55AM
Will there be a D4X or S. with a 36M sensor let loose they must be building a top of the range pro camera
fstopshere 12 43
9 Feb 2012 2:40PM
I understand that the chips in Nikon slrs are actually manufactured by Sony, is this the case with these. Also see Sony are to announce a new full frame camera.
ianrobinson 12 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
9 Feb 2012 3:01PM
More mega pixels to cram on to a full frame woopy dooo...
Give me less mega pixels and better light capabilities please and less file sizes for my poor little computer to cope with that to be fare is not little, with 3 graphics cards and 16 gig memory with 4 terabites of hardrive and a quad core and power supply of 1000watts to run it, but i bet that will soon get choked up with file sizes that come with 36.3 mega pixels.
dudler Plus
18 1.9k 1936 England
9 Feb 2012 3:50PM
Given that the D3x sensor was made by Sony, can an Alpha 99 (or a more conventional 9000, perhaps) be far behind, I wonder?

As soon as Sony announced the small-sensor, 24megapixel Alpha 77, the big brother cameras from both Sony and Nikon seemed a pretty likely follow-on.

Having also scanend other comments above, I think that it is true that 24 mp is enough for almost everything: and that shows up the shortcomings of "consumer level" zooms, particularly.

My experience is that an Alpha 900 "resolved my issues" with digital - it gives excellent quality, and does things right. It approaches film quality, at least (though not the lovely tonal tendencies of a good film). But a little more may be even better...

If you don't want or need the quality, you don't have to buy!
pjburns 10
9 Feb 2012 11:59PM
How much can I get for my D700 with 20,000 activations ... works great and looks great ... ?
Pete 21 18.8k 97 England
10 Feb 2012 7:27AM

Quote:How much can I get for my D700 with 20,000 activations ... works great and looks great ... ?
Around £1450 currently
theorderingone 18 2.4k
13 Feb 2012 10:16AM
The daft thing is, at 36MP, I'd have to resize all my images smaller before sending them anywhere.
15 Feb 2012 11:24AM
Well, the new Sigma has a new sensor architecture to provide a 46Mp 'equivalent'. Having seen test shots from it you won't be happy with them sooc. Sometimes less is more, sometimes more is more and sometimes more is too much. The D800 is a new camera with some benefits and some limitations, nothing more. Who really cares? Ooh, SHINY.
3dog 10 New Zealand
15 Feb 2012 1:14PM
I use a couple of a900 Sony's and one of the things that seems to be overlooked with the new Nikon is the ability to use some of the best lenses and get all the resolution from them, the current great lenses are better than the sensors (or at least they were up untill this point perhaps)
The Leica techs have said that the day is coming soon when they will have to design better lenses because the sensors will get beyond them in the detail they can resolve. I am certainly finding this with my lenses. I have some cheap ($10) Minolta zooms (35-70mm) that seem to be only slightly less (if at all) sharp than my 16-35mm Zeiss for instance, and I just put a Summicron 50mm on it that seems only to be (very) slightly better than the $50 minolta 50mm 1.7 that I use. Sure the build quality is miles better but it is ten times the use price so I was a bit shocked that I could only tell the difference in them wide open, and only because of higher contrast in the 'cron. I beleive this is because they are at or near the limits of the sensor so if the Nikon can let others resolve more detail then good luck to them. Sure I needed to build a couple of new computers...still, .. For my type of work, low light, high iso cleanliness would be fabulous, horses for courses folks
22 Feb 2012 5:19AM
There are issues with the Alpine image used in to compare the Nikon D800 with the D800E. See the info on this link:
10 Mar 2012 8:01PM
Bottom line, no matter what anyone say's this is a Landscapers dream machine,if you are a semi pro or full time pro selling large prints ie 20x30 and upwards this is the holy grail in a compact dslr.
joshwa Plus
11 927 1 United Kingdom
30 Mar 2012 3:53PM
14 May 2012 9:36PM
A few points:

The images above are of the old 28-70 lens from 12yrs ago.
Has anyone done a comparison on the D800 with the 24-70 zoom compared to the lens above?
Is there a difference and if so, what?

Is the talk of LR 4.1 (still on 3.6) and their moire filter and the Nikon NX (?) software providing a solution to any issues with the e over the non-e?
On one reputable site it stated that once moire was in the image, that was a done deal and no 3rd party software would do a good enough job.

Ergo: is the D800e going to worth the extra £££ if : 1) the 3rd party software is in deed effective and 2) the extra resolution is good as talked about and 3) do the new lenses show a marked improvement over the lens in the above images?

Three different questions but all inter-linked. My issue: like the look of the e, but don't have the new lenses (I own the older: 17-35, 28-70, 80-200 - all as above - all the f2.8 from circa 1999) but I can manage the LR 4.1 upgrade!


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