Nikon D800 First Impressions With Test Shot / It Was Worth the Wait

Nikon D800 front

Images Copyright Nikon c/o Vistek

I’m sure everyone’s heard by now that the Nikon D800’s and D4’s were shipped last week (click here to read my post about the Nikon D4).  Only a few trickled into some stores here in Calgary and I was one of the fortunate few to get one.  I have to admit that I did jump through hoops to be one of the first ones to own this 36MP monster.

I woke up at 7am to go to Vistek the day it was announced.  I recently got my Nikon Professional Services (NPS) membership as well and that brought me to the top of the list.  I think it’s safe to say I was the first one in Calgary to get a Nikon D800.

Also, thanks to Dave at Vistek for fending off all the vultures to let me have the first one.  Go see him (Calgary downtown) if you need anything, he knows his stuff.  Let’s get down to business:

First Impressions

The Look

They’ve totally redesigned the body and the front of the camera is a bit more angular than it’s predecessor, the D700.  I like it.  Then again, I’m biased because I like how all Nikon cameras look.  They’ve also enlarged the red detail in the grip.  It definitely screams, “I am Nikon, hear me roar!”

Nikon D800 top angle

Images Copyright Nikon c/o Vistek

The Feel

It feels strange in my hand.  I’ve been using D300’s for the past five years now so I’m used to the heavy feeling.  At just under a kilogram (900g) this camera is lighter than the D300 and the D700.  I believe they were able to shed some weight by going to the new EN-EL15 battery.  On long day shoots I’m going to welcome this.

The Fit

The optional MB-D12 battery grip feels good and solid.  I’m not a fan of the contacts the battery grip and camera have.  I liked in the D300 and D700 that the battery grip plugged in by just screwing into the tripod mount.  The plugs now are similar to the D7000 were you have to push one side in first and then slowly screw the grip in, then push again.  I guess friction fit isn’t the smoothest on a blind mate connector.  I can however see why they changed ways since they want to keep it fluid with the D7000 system.

The shooting speed dial is fantastic!  I think they hit the nail on the head with this one.  As long as it stands up to fine dirt and sand abuse I believe it might be the best fit/form change yet as it’s very smooth and the notches are pronounced.  The battery door rubber stopper came apart after a few opens.  It looks like the factory missed the glue on my unit.  It’s an easy fix and nothing to get all fussy about.

Nikon D800 back

Images Copyright Nikon c/o Vistek

The Form

Some of the dials like the on-off switch is a bit more on a slant, a little too much for my liking but I know I’ll get used to it.  The mode button is a bit further away now so my index finger needs to work out more.  I believe they moved the mode button to make room for the video record button which is right beside it (which is a good thing).  The LCD screen is larger and nicer.

The centre of gravity changed and because of this I can’t hold my camera quite the same way with light lenses (like my 50mm).  I used to be able to balance the camera on its side, carrying it using my four fingers (without thumb).   I can no longer do this unless I use a heavier lens.  This is not a big deal as my lightest lens is only the 50mm.

Nikon D800 front angle

The Function

So far I like how it performs.  I put it to a small test the other day shooting a headshot session for my lovely girlfriend, Aiofe.  During the test it performed well.  It did however freeze on me midway through the session.  Turning it off wouldn’t reset it so I had to remove the battery to reset it.

The shutter does sound different and upon closer inspection there is either a line of dirt or a hairline scratch on my mirror.  I have to investigate this more before confirming.  (Update: I emailed Nikon tech/repair service on April 9th and am still waiting to hear back.)

I was using my Nikon 50mm f1.4D which is my go-to lens for these sorts of things.  I did pick up a Nikon 24-70 f2.8 but I still wanted to shoot her at f1.4 for some shallow DOF goodness (ok enough geeking out).  It’s time for the  D800 test shot.

Here are some samples:


Aiofe Freeman Headshot

Nikon D800, Nikon 50mm @ f1.4, 1/200, ISO 100, Original File: RAW. One 60" shoot through umbrella to right SB-910 @ 1/32 power (main light), one 28" softbox to left with SB-800 @ 1/32 power.

Aiofe's Eye Zoomed in to 100percent

Aiofe's going to hate me for this but here's the same picture zoomed into 100 percent. You can see each individual eyelash and the reflection of her glasses on her eyeball thanks to 36MP. (Sorry hun!)



What I love about the D800

  • Huge 36MP sensor dipping into medium format territory
  • Great in low light, ISO 1600 was quite usable.
  • New video features are great: power aperture, sound monitoring, broadcast quality.
  • Lighter
  • Smaller
  • Improved shooting dial
  • Dual card slots
  • Great price at $2999.95 (at most Canadian retailers)
  • Nikon service is top notch

What I’m not a fan of

  • Battery grip contacts
  • Button spacing and layout is going to take some getting used to
  • Shutter sounds a bit different
  • Centre of gravity is different
  • The camera froze during my first portrait shoot (we’ll see if it keeps doing that)
  • Questionable quality?  The battery door rubber stopper came off  and a possible scratch on my mirror (need to confirm this).

Always End on a Good Note

The first time I shot with a full frame SLR was late last year when my friend Dave lent me his D700 for a Christmas party.  The hotel reception hall was very dark (as most are).  I decided to use my 50mm f1.4D and thought it would be best to use flash.  I didn’t use the flash once.  That was the day I realized my next camera had to be a full frame.

It’s been a long wait as I decided not to go with a D700 and opt to wait for the D800.  It was worth the wait.

Click here for more Nikon D800 and D800E test shot samples

Nikon D800 for $2999.95 at Vistek

What people think about the D800 on Chase Jarvis’ blog


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7 Responses to “Nikon D800 First Impressions With Test Shot / It Was Worth the Wait”

  1. John says:

    I noticed this too

  2. Kofi darko says:

    I preordered my d800 end of April so I’m anxiously waiting. I heard the waiting list is about 30 people deep. I’m still deciding which lenses to get, any recommendations? I will be using the camera for my blog. Thx kofi

    • Jeff Cruz says:

      Hi Kofi, I’d definitely stick with Nikon glass and the ED glass for sure. Lenses are all a personal choice depending on what type of photography you shoot. For my portraits I use the 24-70 f2.8, for landscapes I went with the 16-35 f4. The 14-24 is of course the mecca of all wide FX lenses but it’s quite costly to use filters on it. The 16-35mm is good because it takes standard 77mm filters.


  3. I just placed my order. I cant wait. The D800 was tested against a medium format Hassleblad, and it performed better on the shadow recovery. The Hazzleblad is still better on the highlights.

    At 36MP not all lenses will give this camera the resolution it needs. Make sure when you buy your glass to get quality that will match the potential of the D800.

    Great article

    • Jeff Cruz says:

      Thanks.. I think you’re right. I had to upgrade all my glass when I placed an order for my D800. Did you happen to get yours yet?


  4. […] seems just like yesterday to me when the Nikon D800/D800E was first released.  I wrote about it back in March 2012.  Today, Nikon has announced a new replacement that has consolidated the two versions into one, […]

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