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Nikon D800 / D800 E

Field test

We have just finished the test of Nikon D4 and now here comes another novelty, Nikon D800, moreover, not just one but two versions of it. Unfortunately I could not test the two bodies at the same time but only in two different environments. However, I still had plenty of opportunities to try them out. I had the Nikon D800 for four days in the famous Ramsoms meadow of Somogy county where I could check out the strengths of the 36-megapixel resolution. I received a Nikkor 12-24 mm lens for the test. And I could take the Nikon D800 E camera with me to the fantastic land of Tuscany, in Italy in the company of a Nikkor f/2,8 400 mm VR. For one or two city photos my travel mate lent me a 8 mm DX fisheye lens.
Photo: © Tamás Imre

Technological novelties

The soul of Nikon D800 is a 36,3-megapixel FX format (full-frame) CMOS-sensor. Presently this is the highest resolution DSLR on the market. So far such mobility at so high resolution has not been available. Moreover, the CMOS-sensor applies a technology through which we can achieve better details and saturation. I do not describe the AF system now as I did it in the previous issue at the Nikon D4 camera body test and the two cameras are basically equal in this field. Nikon secures a shutter life-cycle of 200,000 exposures but of course it can be even more. The HDR function is also available here, and it made me especially happy as high resolution can be fully exploited primarily in landscape photography.

The test

The Nikon D800 arrived in our editorial first and I immediately took it with me to the famous ramsons woods in Somogy. I went there because Ramsons (or wild garlic) flowers blooms usually in early May when all the forests is full of these flowers. The best way to photograph millions of Ramsons flourishing in the nice and clearer woodlands is to compose them into a landscape. I was curious of many things but first I checked up the resolution. The details of pictures speak for themselves, and that is exactly what a nature photographer interested in. For that reason we have to consider carefully what to shoot as any tiny flaw can easily be seen.
Photo: © Tamás Imre

Photography in the woods has always been a difficult task but HDR function helps a lot and can be set as follows. First we have to set the format of the image file to TIFF or JPG. This is necessary for using this function as it is not available in RA W format. First I found it strange, although it is logical as to make HDR, i.e. high dynamic range pictures can only possible in a final image file formats. After setting we can select the difference of light values which can be 1 LV, 2 LV or 3 LV. In this case the camera does several exposures one after the other, then it summarizes the differences of light intensity and puts the shady and highlighted fields in one photo. Many landscape photographers dream about a higher dynamic range which still produce photo realistic pictures. It cannot be seen at first glance that it is a HDR photo, it rather looks like a picture taken with an exact exposure by a landscape photographer. Of course, HDR pictures always must be taken from a tripod, since the frame moves it will result in a blurred picture. During the analysis of the ready pictures the forests and the plants appeared with fantastic richness of details. My other test subject, Nikon D800 E travelled with me to Tuscany. I do not have to mention that it was an excellent test opportunity as in that region we often need long focal-length telephoto lens to cover hundreds of metres and in such cases even the atmospheric flaws can be seen in the high-resolution pictures. This is a real challenge, but before analysing the result it is worth learning the difference between the two camera bodies. The optical filter of Nikon D800 E does not include anti-aliasing, so the low-pass filter works differently than at the D800 model. The point of that is that because of the very high resolution D800 was equipped with - to reduce colour distortion and moiré effect - a low-pass filter which corresponds to normal resolution. The D800 E does not include it, so it can produce the sharpest image possible but we have to be very careful at those themes in which colour distortion can occur. The solution is to use only the best quality Nikon lenses, which are able to eliminate colour distortion by built-in glass lenses. The result speaks for itself: we receive such line sharpness in the ready pictures which is suitable for any purpose. Except for the optical filter, every other function equals to those of D800.
The ISO sensivity was intensely debated among photographers, namely, how would so many pixels in such a sensor work in higher ISO range. The ISO-range of D800 can be set between 100 and 6400. During the test at ISO 100 to 400 there was no noise at all, at ISO 800 to 1600 noise was negligible but at ISO 3200 noise appears. At ISO 6400 it only gave proper result by compression. Compared to Nikon D4 this camera provides one or two light value less at 100 % resolution. But now comes the point: if we compress a higher range, say ISO 3200, image to half of its pixels than noise will be reduced exponentially. But where do you have to photograph with such sensitivity? Higher ISO sensitivity is primarily used by theatre, wedding and report photographers who do not publish their pictures on euro posters.

It is OK in DX size too

I had the chance to photograph with one of my friend’s DX-sized 8 mm fisheye in a little and intimate Tuscan town. If we set the menu to recognise the lens, it will automatically switch to DX-format. It was interesting to see a smaller square within the full frame which shows the DX-format. We could use this on Nikon FX cameras too, but now it really makes sense as the resolution of the pictures at this function is 18-megapixel which is sufficient for a general picture. At first it was a bit strange but I got used to it in about ten minutes. I processed the pictures with Nikon Capture NX and Adobe Lightroom softwares and I only adjusted contrast, sharpness and saturation, nothing else.
Photo: © Tamás Imre

Overall, both Nikon D800 and D800E DSLR camera bodies come with FX sensors and an incredible resolution. Those who only want to do landscape photography can feel free to choose D800E. We recommend it for everybody who wants to fulfill his or her dreams.
We would like to thank Nikon Ltd for the long test opportunity.
Tester: Tamás Imre
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