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A few musings on the D800.. it's not "perfect"

PerroneFord

Tallahassee, US
2817 posts

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PerroneFord Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Apr 2011
Sun 15-Apr-12 02:01 PM

So, I thought I would offer a few comments on where I feel the D800 is weak. At least from my perspective as primarily a sports shooter. Clearly, this camera is not aimed at sports shooters though I have strong suspicions some will try it in that genre. Here are some caveats that I've found.

1. Frame rate is slow. I know.. big shocker there. But what that translates to, is carrying a second body. While I nearly always have a second body, this is different. I am not carrying a second body JUST to have different glass on it. I am now carrying it for different capability. In that regard, the D800 is probably a better choice as a THIRD body, or with some very specific uses in mind. This is somewhat hampering as I find I want to shoot with the D800 all the time, but cannot because of it's limits. I swapped lenses more this weekend than I ever have previously. That was FAR less than ideal.

2. The AF performance is not as good as a D3s. This one surprised me somewhat. I had quite a lot of A/B testing against my D3s this weekend. And what I found was that the D3s locked on faster and stayed locked on better on nearly anything I pointed it at. Now most people who use a D800 aren't going to need to lock as fast as I needed to, but those who are shooting BIF, wildlife, or other difficult targets should digest that information carefully. This is NOT a pro body.

3. Auto-area works REALLY well. One of the events I was shooting was pole vaulting. Because of the highly erratic movement of the vaulters once the pole was planted, I was having some trouble keeping them both framed, and the focus square on them with the 300/2.8. So I started trying different focus modes. The 3D was pretty good, but the auto-area really surprised me. For shooting single targets, I think I will use that mode more. For multiple targets and different distances, it would probably be useless. But for things like gymnastics, diving, tennis, etc., it may be just the ticket.

4. It feels fragile. Now let me say right up front, I am not saying this is a bad camera or badly built. It's certainly not. But after working with my D2H and D3s this weekend, I was struck again by home much more in common the Dxxx have in common with the Dxxxx bodies than the Dx bodies. It certainly has the guts of a pro camera in most cases, but it won't feel like a pro camera to someone used to a pro body. I do not yet have the grip, and I know that will help, but I felt like I was going to drop the thing all weekend as I was working quickly shooting multiple events that were happening concurrently.

5. When the focus is on, it's GREAT. But the focus isn't on all that often on fast moving things. This is related to my comment about the D3s focusing faster, but not quite the same. What I found was that the D800 had a HARD time tracking sprinters. Either it's predicting ability is lackluster, or something else is going on. But when presented with a singular target in the frame, it REALLY struggled to lock it. Curiously, when presented with two targets in the frame, it more often than not locked on the furthest target. I am going to have to play with that one more because it surprised me. That may have been user error, but I will need more practice to say.


All in all, I had a lot of fun using the camera this weekend to capture a number of athletes tuning up for London 2012. The camera performed admirably, but I'd be lying if I said it performed well enough for me to leave my D3s home. I absolutely HATED the idea that when I KNEW I had to get the shot, the D3s got the call. I was hoping to shoot tennis today, but I'm wiped out and have a lot of track pictures to get through.

Hopefully, these comments shed some light on the camera for others.

-P

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Webpage: http://www.ptfphoto.com

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