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Camera Reviews

Nikon D800 - Hands-On Review

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell)

Keywords: d800, nikon, camera, bodies

In the olden days of pre-2002 I loved medium format cameras. You would often find me in Great Smoky Mountains National Park lugging around a heavy Mamiya RB-67 medium format camera that gave me a large 6x7 cm Provia F transparency. As film started fading away and digital photography rose supreme in most people’s eyes, true medium format went away for the everyday photographer. Sure, one could buy a nice Hasselblad digital medium format for US$20K, but few could afford that level of camera.

Now, with the release of the exciting Nikon D800 and D800E cameras, Nikon has returned medium-format resolution to the everyday photographer who wants it. No more will we have to find a lab to process our 120 film, be forced to lug around huge MF film bodies, and have to settle for standard-size digital images.

I don’t know about you but I’m very excited about these two cameras! With your being a Nikonian, like me, and having Nikon Acquisition Syndrome (NAS), I’m sure you are fully aware of my feelings. Have you ordered your D800 or D800E yet? From this point forward in the article, I will refer to both cameras by the name D800, except where specifically discussing the D800E.

For those who are not sure yet, let’s examine a few of the features found in this amazing new camera.


At 36.3 megapixel resolution the D800 moves soundly into medium-format territory. What’s the difference between the D800 and a much more expensive true medium-format camera? Although the D800 provides similar resolution, the imaging sensor on some medium format cameras can be twice the size of the D800’s at 36.7 x 46.1 mm, compared to the D800’s 24.0 x 35.9 mm CMOS (FX) sensor (figure 2).

Obviously, the larger medium-format cameras will have larger pixels, providing better light gathering capability and less noise. However, the cost entry point for most true medium-format digital cameras is around US$10K and goes up very quickly. For only about US$3K for the D800, I’m inclined to tolerate a little more noise in higher ISO shots.

With the new D800, you can make an image with 36 megapixels (7360 x 4912 pixels). Do you realize the camera creates a 16 x 24 inch (40 x 60 cm) native print at 300 dpi? At 200 dpi that explodes to a 24 x 36 inch (60 x 91 cm) That’s poster sized!


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robert Beeson (rbeeson) on April 10, 2013

Great Review Again!!! I still shoot a lot of portraits, however I am moving toward landscape & birding? Which model do you think would be best? Thanks, Bob

User on April 8, 2013

I so wish I could afford this beast...!

Jeffrey R Klug (kpw1255) on March 12, 2013

I love mine, now I can make 24 x 36 prints with out any troubles. Works great at the races. Thanks for a great in depth article on the camera.

Ernesto Santos (esantos) on March 12, 2013

Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian. Winner of the Best of Nikonians Images 2018 Annual Photo Contest

Hi Darrell, I really enjoyed your review of the D800(E). You did a great job of pointing out the many wonderful benefits of this ground breaking camera in such a short space. Having had this camera for a good six months now I have to agree with all your points. The D800 is a real game changer and since I like to print big I am loving the image resolution. One thing that I have discovered, and which you mention, that should not be understated is the unbelievable dynamic range of this camera. I am seeing at least a full stop of increase based on my testing using ND Grad filters. Where I used to need three stops of filtration with my old D300 and D700 I now only need 2 stops with the D800. With good shooting technique and the right raw processing skills this is big!

Michael D. Miller (MichaelDMiller) on March 12, 2013

Hello Darrell, Sorry I missed you this winter. We were in Knoxville (Wife born and raised in Fountain City and a brother in Halls and sister in West Knoxville) in January and then again the end of February. Visiting and shooting (pistols AND D300) plus visiting friends and family was extremely busy. We even went to Ohio and Kentucky to visit the Neices and their kids. Will make better effort to contact you next winter or if we do go to Knox sooner. Would love to meet up with you. We do manage to go to the Smokies every time we do go to Knoxville, and stay in a hotel in Gatlinburg for a night or two. Fantastic work on your books, as usual, and a really nice review of the 800, which is beyond my scope of investment right now. But, there's always the lottery...

William Madden (Dazzle) on March 12, 2013

Thanks Darrell. A great article which I'd like to have on my iPad - Is there a PDF version?

Carlos Niño (carlosnino) on March 11, 2013

I have mine since last december and I simply LOVE IT!!!

User on March 10, 2013

I've got my D800 last Sept. WOW! I had a D300 which I thought was a great camera. NO COMPARISON. And talk about the bug. Just traded in my older lenses for a sweet of prime lenses. Nikkor 24-70mm and 70-200mm to go with my 28-300mm and Sigma 150-500mm. I'm just an excited amateur but the pictures are fabulous. Just went to Disney Worlds Flower and Garden show. Can't wait for more chances to snap some more. I am a sponge for anything about the D800. Can't wait to read more.

User on March 10, 2013

Thanks for the review Darrell and for writing the book. As an owner of the camera I am continuously amazed at the images this camera produces. Mark

Gary Pate (MongoG) on March 9, 2013

Darrell, Thanks so much for these great review. It really helps to understand the advantages of the D800. My NAS has kicked in and I was looking for a replacement for my D300 (another great body), but was second guessing the move to FX. I'll be ordering the D800 soon. Gary

Ray Valdovinos (rayvaldovinos) on March 9, 2013

Wonderful review Darrell. Very thorough as always.

Robert O. Swanson (roswanson) on March 9, 2013

Excellent article, I love my D800, thanks for all the info you give us Nikon users.

Dennis Owens (DennisOwens) on March 8, 2013

Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his extraordinary generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Sports and Time-lapse Photography

Excellent article Darrell! I have enjoyed my D800 from Hawaii to Afghanistan. I will be taking it back to the USA for a California to Florida and back tour this summer. I own the D2x, D3, D3s and this D800, but the D800 is my primary "Go To" camera. All the best and Good Light, Dennis

KENNETH JACKSON (f5titan) on March 8, 2013

Very well written! My D700 is my digital F5 and my D800 is my digital Bronica SQa.


Thanks Darrel. Now I am seriously thinking to change over from D-300 to D-800/E because its price and your Very Good review.

Jon Kirshner (jbk224) on March 7, 2013

Great report and easy to read. Forwarded to a bunch of friends interested in the camera. Thanks.

Richard Luse (DaddySS) on March 6, 2013

Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for  his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his generous contribution to the 2019 Fundraising campaign

Thoroughly enjoyed and appreciate the write up - thanks Darrel!

User on March 6, 2013

Nice one Darrell, a thoroughly thoughtful review which sums up everything about this great camera. Yes, low fps, but still a superb wildlife camera too. Richard

Zita Kemeny (zkemeny) on March 5, 2013

Thanks. Very good article.

Tom Ferguson (tekneektom) on March 5, 2013

Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Winner in the Annual Nikonians Best Images Contest 2015

Darrell, Thanks! My D800 arrived today and while the battery is charging I've read your D800 Hands-On Review and it has reconfirmed my decision to go to FX and to go to the D800. Tom