Nikon D800 - Implications?

NIKON D800 50mm f/1.8D lens

Though its only been around for a few days, I'm already thinking about the implications that the D800 has for me. It is just so good, with absolutely wonderful image quality and great high ISO performance in a body, that while it isn't absolutely the fastest whizz-bang DSLR you can get, certainly deserves its "pro" tag in terms of features, specification, build quality and handling. Its also not prohibitively bulky or expensive. And then there is the D800E with no AA to arrive shortly.

I'm sure I'm not the only photographer who has started questioning all sorts of things after the arrival of this camera. Yes its really nice to have these wonderful looking, retro designed CSC's with the chrome bits and the leather cases but ultimately as a photographer who earns his living from this, its going to be really difficult, if not impossible to go out of the door without taking the D800 with me. The reason for that is on my computer monitor. The resolution, the sharpness, the colour, the lack of noise and artefacts are there for me to see. Now I've worked out the raw processing parameters that work best for me, there just isn't anything that I'm currently using or have used in the past that gets even close to what this remarkable camera can produce.

Imagine the output of a Leica M9 at base ISO, then double it in size and reduce the luminance noise to nothing. Then imagine that these clean sharp high resolution results are acievable up to ISO 400 and you get some idea of what the D800 is capable of. Then imagine that its got the same kind of high ISO performance that the Fuji X-Pro 1 has and imagine that it produces a useable jpg. at ISO 25,600. I'll repeat that, it produces a useable jpg. at ISO 25,600.

Add in all the other things like AF speed, raw files that actually work with Photoshop, the fact that you can use a £99 lens on it (My Nikon 50mm f/1.8) that produces stunning results and the question I have to ask myself is "Why would I bother with anything else?" And at this precise moment in time I have no answer to that question.

Sure, I walk a long way to get my pictures and yes, I've got a dodgy back. But, with care, and those exercises I've always promised myself I'd start but never got round to, I'm going to work really hard to make sure that I can use the D800 with no ill effects. It is of course no good having a wonderful camera that I can't get out of the door to use.

And of course, though its a Nikon and nicely designed, its nowhere near as sexy as an OM-D or a Leica. The lenses are, well.... Nikon lenses. They are black and have Nikon written on them. Thats about it. I always felt that these Nikkors I've been using on and off for years were pretty good. I've even stuck a couple of them on my Leica M9 and been stunned by what they can produce. Well now finally I can see exactly just how good they are. And they aren't hand made in Germany and they don't cost as much as a S/H (or new) car, but they are seriously good just the same.

Having written all this, with my tendency to act on impulse, I cannot say with certainty that I will still have the D800 in 6 months time. The furthest I will go is to say that I would be very surprised if I didn't have it. I've been uploading files from it for the past couple of days and the libraries are gobbling these up. Not a single rejection as yet. And, indeed, why would they reject something of this quality and of this size?

On Sunday my entire Fuji X-Pro 1 outfit left the building with its new owner. While we were talking he came up with the comment that Nikon have been working on this camera for a long time. And I think he was right. When the D3X first came out there were all sorts of expectations that there would be some kind of equivalent of what the D700 was to the D3. However as is now apparent, Nikon didn't do that. They also didn't pump up the MP's on the D4, leaving it instead to be the high-speed, high ISO machine that it is. Sony have also moved to the top of the tree in terms of sensor manufacture. First there was the remarkable 16MP APS-C sensor, followed by the 24MP NEX-7, A77, D3200 offering and now finally this 35mm film size masterpiece in the D800. Now how much this is down to Nikon and how much down to Sony, they are never going to tell us. However when the Sony version comes out later this year, I'm not expecting to see a huge difference. However, since its almost certainly going to be a DSLT with a fixed mirror, there is the small matter of the loss of 1/2 stop of light gathering potential.

So Nikon (with Sonys input) haven't just come up with a D700 successor, they have come up with another beast entirely. Now I haven't used a Pentax 645D or a Digital Hassleblad or a Leica S2, but I've had a look at some raw files those cameras produce, and there is nothing there to suggest to me that the D800 can't compete with them and with regard to high ISO performance and speed of operation, leave them trailing in its wake. For studio photographers, wedding and social photographers, landscape and travel photographers this camera isn't far off perfection. I'd personally like about 400g shaved off. I'm not bothered about weather sealing since I don't work in bad weather, so they could save a bit there!! However this isn't going to happen is it!!

For just about everybody bar professional sports photographers (and how many of them are there?) it seems to me that the D800 is just about the best picture creating tool we can currently buy. Of course not everybody wants what it can offer and have other priorities. However just knowing it was out there was enough for me, and whether or not it stays around (Note how I'm still hedging my bets here!) its a pleasure to be able to use it.

Now where can get some pictures printed A2?

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.
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