Nikon D800 first look – hands-on with the 36.3Mp DSLR [Video]

What is the Nikon D800?

The Nikon D800 is new a ‘prosumer’-level, full frame digital SLR boasting an incredibly high resolution sensor – it’s designed for keen photographers with an eye for detail.

The 36.3Mp FX CMOS sensor found within the D800 is said, by Nikon, to take photos with a level of detail not seen before on digital SLRs. The high-end digital SLR can also film video to ‘broadcast quality’, and in our brief time using these claims seemed to hold water, and the test clips and photos we took were very impressive.

Nikon D800 – is it the camera for me?

With the body alone costing around £2,400 at launch (March 22nd), the Nikon D800 won’t appeal to all classes of photographers. With its excellent detail and full-frame sensor, Nikon is hoping to convert a few medium format photographers to the Nikon system of cameras.

As well as the regular D800 model, Nikon will also sell a Nikon D800E version of the camera that’s had its anti-aliasing filter removed to give an even better level of detail. The downside of this, however, is that it becomes a harder camera to manage, and can introduce false colours and moire (a blurred effect where repeat patterns are found in the image) unless you really understand the camera and take time to adjust the settings to counter this.

Nikon D800 – what’s so special about the video mode?

The Nikon D800 can shoot Full HD video at 1080p resolution, while still providing full exposure control. The audio levels can be monitored and adjusted through the 3.2-inch LCD and the frame rate can be increased to 50 or 60fps to enable graceful slow-motion video, however this is at a slightly reduced resolution.

Nikon D800 – how does it compare to the Nikon D4?

The Nikon D800 has a few similarities with the recently announced, top-end Nikon D4. The D800 uses the same Expeed III processing engine that the D4 uses, which should help keep graininess to an absolute minimum – even when shooting in low light.

The processor also lets the D800 to be ready for operation in 0.12 seconds, and rattle off full resolution images at a rate of four per second, according to Nikon.

Nikon also claims that even though the battery of the D800 has a smaller capacity than those found on previous SLRs, that thanks to improved efficiency it should outlast previous models, and provide around 900 shots per charge.

Like the Nikon D4, the Nikon D800 has two memory card slots, however unlike the Compact Flash and the new XQD slots on the D4, the D800 can house a Compact Flash and an SD memory card.

Digital SLR reviews

These are just our first impressions of the Nikon D800 and not a full review. Our full reviews of digital SLR cameras are carried out under real-life reflecting lab conditions that we are able to replicate for each camera that we test. Only through such controlled testing are we confident that our reviews of digital SLRs are completely comparable.

In our full lab-based reviews you’ll get the definitive verdict on…

Picture quality – In our lab-based reviews we look at a number of aspects of picture quality, and put each camera through a series of challenging tests that reflect everyday use – such as photographing on sunny days or indoors.

Speed – Shutter delay is measured precisely using a sophisticated timing method so we can see how long the delay is between pressing the shutter and capturing the image. We also measure start up time, time between shots and the speed of the camera’s burst mode.

See our how we test digital SLRs page for more on our testing, or try Which? today for just £1 to see the Best Buys in our digital SLR reviews section.

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