The D800/D800E is the second generation of the moderately-sized, high-end Nikon FX DSLR. Inside it’s full magnesium alloy frame sits the new Nikon-developed 36,8MP sensor, with an ISO range of 100 - 6400, expandable to ISO 50 and 25 600. Notably, the Mulit-CAM 3500 FX, the Expeed 3 processor and the new 91 000 pixel RGB Colour Matrix Meter III sensor, all contribute to a much faster and more accurate focusing system than before.

The D800E variation features an optical low pass filter with the anti-aliasing properties removed. The anti-aliasing effect of a normal low-pass filter is achieved by the filtering of light through a stack of birefringent materials. One of these layers polarises the light horizontally, while another filter in the stack polarises the light vertically. This causes light to hit the sensor in a slightly more blurred form, one which doesn’t exceed the Nyquist frequency of the sensor, and therby largely avoiding the risk colour aliasing and moiré. With the D800E, Nikon chose to circumvent the anti-aliasing properties of the low-pass filter by having the second filter directly counteract the effect of the first filter. This then doesn’t cause any blurring. The actual removal of the filter stack would cause shift in the optical path, which is probably the reason why Nikon chose to eliminate the anti-aliasing properties in the manner described above.

Delayed by about 6 months due to various natural disasters in Japan and Thailand the year before, the highly anticipated Nikon D800/D800E was finally released to the world in February 2012. With it’s 36,3mp FX sensor and a range of improved features, the D800 is definitely hard to resist.


Unfortunately, the launch of the camera was, what some say, a colossal failure. The roll-out was incredibly slow due to world wide shortages, which, three months down the line, haven’t improved much. To make matters worse, the UK and EU saw a considerable price hike, which was disguised as an “error” on Nikon’s initial price calculations... Another sour point was that many owners reported faulty and inaccurate AF units for both the D800 and D4 cameras. Reports of this were wide spread, claiming bad back focus for all AF points left and right of the centre, with the left AF points showing the greatest error. While some arrogantly claim that this is a fairly unique and widespread issue, I have to say that out of the six D800 units I’ve tried, two showed this issue. (These two were early serial number bodies)

As always, a new generation of Nikon camera comes with a slightly refined design. While not vastly different from the D3 series, the looks have evolved to be more in line with current trends, featuring softer looks and smoother lines. While the italian car designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, may have designed the camera’s look and ergonomics, I’m probably too unsophisticated to appreciate all the nuances. Personally, I don’t find the D800 to be a particularly pretty camera, and the ergonomics don’t suit my hands all too well.

Nevertheless, many praises were sung over the D800, especially with regards to it’s imaging characteristics. It is, after all, the highest resolution DSLR Nikon has to offer. Finally, Nikon places itself ahead of it’s competitors, such as the Canon’s 5DIII.

The D800 is, in all honesty, an amazing camera, and I hope my review can do it justice!

While I’m speculating over the Nikon product road map, the Nikon 800 is not here to compete with the D4 like the D700 did with the D3. In order to avoid product cannibalisation, the D800 was aimed to compete in the high res market, and for now cutting out the D3x. The D3x was never a good seller, and the D800 provides a much cheaper entrance into the high resolution world, and for now, there is not much overlap between the current line-up of new DSLR’s from Nikon. What Nikon will decide regarding a D3x replacement is yet to be seen, but the D800 has an incredible price for the image quality it delivers.

As I’ve already mentioned, the D800 is not competing with the D4 camera, since their applications are fairly different. Built for resolution and not speed, the D800 is the ideal landscape 35mm DSLR. It’s strengths lie in it’s resolution and capacity to record low noise, high dynamic range images at lower ISO values. Ideal for the landscape or studio photographers.

While some may presume this is an outright replacement of the D700, I’m hesitant to agree. I think Nikon will still introduce a proper replacement for the D700, and speculations point in the direction of a cheaper FX DSLR in the making. The jump from the D700‘s 12mp to the D800‘s 36mp, is quite a considerable difference to get used to. Speculations of decreased high ISO performance, as a result of such high pixel density, were soon knocked out the court when the first real world samples started appearing on the web. As time progressed, and while more reports and sample images were released, the camera continued appearing better and better in the eyes of prospective buyers; A versatile camera, offering not only amazing detail, colour fidelity and great dynamic range, but when comparing down-sampled images to that of the D3s or D4 alike, it’s high ISO performance is impressively good!

Click the images to download the appropriate PDF file. From the left: Brochure, User Manual, Technical guide