D800 First Impressions Follow-up 2

(This post is from an email conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  Jonathan — how are you liking the D800? Everything it’s cracked up to be?

A:  Really love it.  Up ’til now I didn’t think anything could outdo my D700.  But in most ways the D800 is substantially better.  There are four things I can think of that are negatives:

  • 36MP / 50MB file sizes (RAW) put a strain on every aspect of shooting.  Most lenses aren’t up for it.  1/3 the number of pics per CF card.  Three times the storage required.  And wow, Aperture takes forever to render the D800 frames, and doesn’t seem to have the right cache setup or something for such large images because going from frame to frame and then back again requires re-rendering every time.  And it can’t even have three frames viewed side-by-side and keep them all rendered.  It’s a real pain.
  • Battery life is lower.  Substantially fewer shots per charge than the D700 and D300.
  • Slower frame rate.  I really have gotten used to the faster frame rates of the D300 and D700 with the D3 battery in the grip.  The D800 feels very slow compared to them.  But on the other hand, the first issue above has caused me to take FAR fewer pictures.  A little like shooting film again…
  • Accessory cost.  For some reason Nikon is charging double for all the D800 accessories compared to all the previous models.  E.g., setting up a grip for the D800 with the premium battery / charger setup is over $1K!  D700 was half that.  Ridiculous.

My original thought was that it will easily replace both my D300 (birding, taking advantage of the crop factor for telephoto) and the D700 (everything else).  And it clearly does everything they do (with the above exceptions) and then some.  So pretty quickly I decided I should get a second body and ditch the others.  But  after living with it for a few more weeks, I’ve decided that 36MP makes it harder than expected to be an every day camera.  The sensor makes it unlikely that you could find a one lens kit that would make sense.  You end up having to carry multiple  larger, heavier lenses.  I’m going to Nepal in a few months and have a 7.5Kg limit for my entire pack, and I have yet to figure out a D800-based kit that will allow me to also take clothes.

Other than that, it’s a great, great camera.  The noise is great, the dynamic range is INCREDIBLE, AF seems very good, 2-axis level is much more useful, and the controls are much better.  I especially like the Liveview button and function on the D800.  As far as video goes, I have no idea.  Haven’t tried it yet.
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