After many months of speculations, rumors and leaks, Nikon has finally introduced its long-awaited D800. There have been discussions of how this camera will be the younger sister of D4, or otherwise will become a machine that’s more focused on another sector of photography, being less journalistic and more suitable for advertising, to be a competitor to the Canon 5D MarkII.
Many of us were hoping that Nikon would not make the mistake of excessive increase of the resolution with its new models. It seems that this mistake was made by Canon for years and they finally realized it, the 1DX might be a good example. A lot of professionals preferred a camera with more contained resolution to better response in high ISOs. Many of us have used the Canon 5D MarkII at intermediate resolution since we did not need its 21mpx all the time, but we loved the good response at 1600 ISO. Moreover, the great success of Canon is definitely related to video recording, a task for which the resolution of the sensors, play against, having to rescale down to 1920×1080 resolution to get FullHD, with consequent moire and aliasing problems.
Returning to the Nikon D800, with a resolution of 36mpx, recording FullHD with 24 and 25p (good news) and as is common with the DSLR`s 720p at 50p. Again, a big brand that gives a bad impression, and is not able to offer full HD at 50p. Really, it is very hard to understand how a machine that is capable of processing up to 6fps – 36mpx – RAW, is not able to handle full HD video at 50fps in a H264 codec. Especially when the tiny Sony NEX5n has shown that it is possible.
But it’s not all bad news. Like its big brother, the Nikon D4, the D800 has HDMI out clean, not uncompressed, as it was said in some publications and heard from representatives of Nikon. Clean means that we can extract a resolution of 1920×1080 and also delete all information that appears on the screen, such as exposure, frame rate, histogram, etc. This means that we can send the video signal to an external recorder via an HDMI cable, so we skip the compression of the camera, which delivers lower quality. Why this output is not uncompressed? It would take many paragraphs to explain what is the sampling of the signal, for this I recommend you to read this link . But let’s say an uncompressed output would be 4:4:4 10bits. While both the Nikon D4 and D800 provide 8bits at 4:2:2. Is it compressed? Yes, but less than when we record it on the memory card, which is 8-bit 4:2:0 in H264 codec.
Another good thing related to the Nikon D800 is the audio output that has the shape of a minijack, perfect for monitoring audio recording. This is something that many users were in need of, because until now there was no way of knowing whether the signal that was coming into the camera was good or not. This together with manual control and the already existing microphone input, makes it a very versatile tool when it comes to recording any media events.
As for the construction and design of the camera, Nikon continues its traditional line of sturdy bodies, well built and designed for a professional. Those who spend long hours in harsh environments, value above many other things, that the body is sealed, preventing moisture problems and accidents, which might become fatal to the machine. This is something that many of us experienced with the Canon 5D MarkII, a camera costing over € 2,000 did not have a proper seal. During a year in Iceland I have seen the death of up to 4 cameras of this model – humidity, salt, splashes of unexpected waves, and poof! your camera is dead. I’m sure that this won’t happen with the Nikon D800, like it didn`t to the Olympus E-1, a first generation reflex that already back then was sealed with top quality. Sealing is something that the brands seem to have forgotten today. Perhaps that’s because more and more amateurs buy professional cameras, without ever using them for what they were designed for.
While talking about ergonomics, perhaps we should highlight that the Nikon D800, like the rest of the professional SLRs that have been and are launched in the near future, has no folding screen, a quality that advanced users are in need of since long time, but for now it seems restricted to the consumer range. Some of us don`t understand why amateurs have this feature in their cheap cameras, while professionals must continue to pay high rates for machines that do not have it.
I’m convinced that the Nikon D800 will deliver a fantastic image quality in both photo and video, and thanks to it’s “clean” HDMI output, we can get that extra quality that many are seeking. I hope that it’s 36mpx, won`t tarnish the high ISO response and it’s new, powerful processing, knows how to control moire and aliasing. This, together with good color images from Nikon and its tradition of robust bodies, will make this a great camera that we will enjoy for years.