Nikon’s bombshell (of interest only to photographers!)

As some of you keen photographers will already be aware, this week Nikon announced their new D800 camera – (see for full details).

Now, normally, I don’t get over-excited about things like this. After all, new camera announcements are a bit like London buses, there’s one arriving every few minutes. However, I see the D800 as a very significant introduction, certainly for photographers like me.

To explain why, let me first give you a bit of background (and, users of cameras other than Nikon, please bear with me; this is relevant to you too, I promise) :

  1. When I went ‘100% digital’, just after the turn of the millenium, I was shooting with large, heavy DSLRs – the Nikon D1, D1x and D2x, for example, each weighed 1200g
  2. I am prone to neck, shoulder and back problems.

Therefore, when Nikon’s D200 was announced back in 2005, with an overall specification and performance pretty much on a par with the D2x, but with a weight of only 920g, it was a no-brainer for me to change my camera.

The D200 served me very well until the D300 arrived two years later. The latter offered me better low-light performance and less noise, together with a number of new and useful features, and it weighed the same as its predecessor. So I bought one.

As Nikon users will know, all the above cameras use the APS-C size sensor common to the vast majority of DSLRs. By now then, I owned a few excellent lenses specific to that format, in addition to my older, 135 format lenses.

Therefore, when the next camera of interest (to me) came along, I had some serious thinking to do. (And, no, I’m not talking of the D3, that was much too heavy for me and much too expensive for my photographic needs). The camera in question was the D700, Nikon’s first affordable full frame DSLR (affordable for my purposes, that is!). With this camera, for the first time, I would have the opportunity to shoot with a sensor which was the same size as the negatives I’d been using for the majority of my working life. Plus, in addition to the higher quality images and better low light performance this would offer, changing to the D700 would also give me back the shallower depth of field I was used to back in those ‘old’ days of film. HOWEVER,  I knew that if I used my DX (Nikon parlance for APS-C) lenses on it, I’d suffer a drop in effective pixels to 5 megapixels, which meant that I would have to sell those lenses and buy new full-frame equivalents. Plus, the D700 weighed 1100g. So, not wanting to go back to a heavier camera body, and not wanting to suffer a loss on changing over my DX lenses (especially the fabulous 12-24), I gave the D700 a miss. It was a difficult decision but, on balance, it was the right decision for me.

On to February 2012, and enter the D800. And, wow, a whole new scenario!

Like the D700, the D800 is full frame, but amazingly, it has a 36 megapixel sensor. This means that using a DX lens on it would still give an effective sensor size of 15 mp –  even greater than my current 12 mp on the D300!  And, equally amazingly, it weighs only 900 grams, 25 grams less than my D300!.

So it seems that, with the D800, we have a remarkable ‘transitional’ or ‘best of both worlds’ camera, an ultra-modern, relatively lightweight camera, which offers not only all the advantages of shooting full frame with standard ‘135’ lenses – i.e. low-noise even at higher ISOs, very high image quality (which is useful in landscapes destined for large prints), and portraits – but also the ability to successfully retain the continued use of lenses specifically designed for an APS-C sensor. And all this with no downside that I can see other than a slower continuous shooting rate of 4 fps (which anyone but sports/action photographers should be able to live with).

I shall watch out for the D800 test reviews with extreme interest.

I shall also watch out for the inevitable competitive offerings we shall see from the likes of Canon, Sony etc. in the not too distant future, which I’m hopeful will offer users of those marques similar dual advantages.



5 thoughts on “Nikon’s bombshell (of interest only to photographers!)

  1. Ahhhh….I see a Nikon D800 in your future Pete. I don’t think you’ll be able to resist all those pixels with a lighter weight camera. I’m looking forward to seeing the images you create with it.

  2. Hi Pete, the improved pixels for APS-C lenses is a point I hadn’t considered it does make it an easier step to make to FX format. I moved to D700 last year and have found it amazing. Some peoples initial concerns over the low light performance of the D800 seem to have evaporated. My only minor concern would be the computing power and storage to manipulate and store the 75MB RAW files and of course the extra memory card storage requirement. I better start saving again! Bad neck and back? Perhaps sell the Strat and buy an acoustic? Nice to see Julio is still in touch. Keep up the Blog
    Bonne chance, Andrew

  3. I haven’t tried either of these cameras as yet, Vivienne, so I can’t comment on these ‘findings’. I do know that Ken Rockwell likes to be contentious and that, as a result, he often talks a lot of twaddle. Personally the only ‘quick access’ controls I need on a camera to cater for different shooting circumstances are the shutter speed and aperture dials! 😉

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