Excellent camera for studio work, but requiring more careful manual control
As a film photographer for 30 years, I had been waiting for a Nikon digital studio camera that could replace my 6x6 square format film gear that I typically use with my studio strobes. In the past, I had been using the 12MP Nikon D300 for studio work and reached its limits of resolution where it reaches an acceptable level of detail only at ISO 100. Also, the 36MP EXPEED3 FX sensor would allow me much improved low light performance lacking in my D300 above ISO 1600. I also wanted to occasionally use my Nikkor lenses for natural light video capture without having to purchase a dedicated video camera and lenses. Lastly, I have been looking for a FX camera so that my AF-D and manual AIS prime lenses can be used at their natural focal lengths, rather than cropped to 1.5x. Most other features of the camera are nice-to-haves, duplicating or improving upon the features of the D300, but not critical for what I plan to use the D800 for. Since I shoot manual and incident meter my strobes, I have not tested the AE features nor the metering modes. I also have not tested the video functions except to see that they work easily enough in Live View mode.
Generally, the D800 feels very similar to the D300 menu systems and grip. I have always thought that the complexity of the menu system is unnecessary, except to confuse neophytes and the D800 is no better than the D700 or D300 in that sense. The video features seem to be nicely integrated and Live View modes simplified, compared with the D300, which I have long given up trying to use. Like a medium format film body, the extremely high resolution combined with shallow depth of field makes for amazing clarity in the large RAW files but also requires careful focus control, and requires some taming of the automated features to help slow it down. For example in single-shot mode necessary for strobe work, I find that the shutter trips a second or third image very easily. I also find that the spot focus mode only allows me to use the sweet spot of the viewfinder and lenses for focus determination and requires that I check focus and reposition frequently. In this case, the D300's 51 AF points are better laid out across the entire viewfinder than the D800, where they are all clustered in the center of the frame.
When reviewing some test images in Adobe Lightroom, I was able to zoom into 3:1 before I started to see digitization of the image details without sharpening and noise, making it more than adequate for studio work. However, it is clear that at this magnification that chromatic aberration and flare are more obvious, for example, when trees are backlit by sky.Read full review