(This post is from an email conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)
Q: Since I have not been shooting anything for months, a buddy of mine who still shoots sports has offered to trade D800 (used to be mine) and Nikon 105 2.8 and $3,000 for my D3, 24-70, and 70-200 VR II. Value seems close but these lenses of mine are like new. I probably would use D800 more, but wanted to get your thoughts if you have time.
A: Not sure about the dollars – that’s your deal – but I think the D800 is a more flexible camera for someone not needing scary FPS. You’ve had / used a D800, so you’ll know how it fits your shooting style. Honestly most of what I shoot these days is with my D700, which is the same sensor as the D3. I have gotten along very well, though, with the “enthusiast” bodies versus the pro bodies because I’ve never needed more than the 6 or 7 FPS they can give me (D700 / D300) and I can pull the battery pack off and have a more reasonable size / weight.
I do love the fact that I can I can easily switch the D800 to DX mode and have a 15+MP 1.5x crop factor body for birding, and still be able to see the view around the cropped frame in the viewfinder. Sometimes I wish it were more than 4FPS, though, when shooting birds.
The video capabilities are good on the D800, though I have only shot maybe two clips since I’ve had it, and only then so I wouldn’t feel bad about never using a major feature.
I only have two issues with the D800. One is the 4FPS I mentioned earlier. The other is that for 95% of what I shoot these days, 36MP is way too much. I’ve tried shooting it at the lowest JPG setting, but at that point I might as well use the D700, since it’s faster and a little better in low light noise-wise. That’s why I usually end up shooting the D700 for most family stuff. I constantly fight with the amount of space all of my pictures take, and also how slow Aperture is when messing with 36MP RAW = 42MB files, especially when I might do a 3 or 5 frame exposure bracket for HDR and then may use a plug-in or Photoshop, which will end up taking up around 220MB per frame as a TIFF file. A single shot can end up 1.5GB. That’s completely out of hand.
If I had time to actually shoot fun stuff like landscapes / travel / etc., then I would use the D800 every time regardless of the file size. It’s just too awesome to have that kind of file size / quality / flexibility. But most of what I shoot these days is perfectly fine in a 12MP JPG. You may be in the same situation.
My bigger thought about your decision would be about the lenses. Since lenses are much more enduring than bodies, and more important for the overall image, I’d pay much more attention there. If I were to list the most important really good lenses someone should have for Nikon full frame, the 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 II would definitely be on the list. If I already had those, then I wouldn’t get rid of them. And unless you’re a macro shooter or shoot stills or portraits of people with very good skin, the 105/2.8 isn’t that useful a lens, regardless of how good a lens it is.
If I were me, I would hang onto the 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 II, regardless of what I did with other lenses and the bodies.
Currently my list of best mainstream lenses for the ultimate kit is: 14-24/2.8, 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8 II. I add the 16-35/4 since you can use filters with it. If you’re into primes, then you add the 24/1.4, 35/1.4, 50/1.4, and 85/1.4 AFS lenses. And I add the 300/2.8VR with the TC-14EII and TC-20EIII for birding. The only question is for the 35/1.4, since the Sigma lens (amazingly) is purported to be even better.
So, I have worked toward getting all of those lenses, and once I’ve added them to the kit, I’ll keep them. Regardless of the body I have at the time.
I know this is far more than you were looking for, but it was a chance to jot down my thoughts about body and lens choices.
Let me know what you decide to do!