Wetpixel D800 camera review

2. The Nikon D800 body, controls and overview.

The D800 is a pro body, constructed of a magnesium alloy material with pro level weather proofing (although not as good as that on the D4). It is powered by the Nikon EN-EL15 Li-on battery pack as used on the D7000, with a quoted battery life of 900 shots. I find this to be tad optimistic, with a battery typically lasting one day of underwater shooting and I would suggest that at least one spare battery needs to be added to the shopping list. Fortunately, they are relatively inexpensive.

The battery is kept in a compartment accessed via the bottom of the camera. Also on the bottom is a standard threaded tripod bolt hole.

The right hand side of the camera features dual slots for an SD and Compact Flash card. The cards that are suitable include SD (Secure Digital) and UHS-I compliant SDHC and SDXC memory cards and Type I CompactFlash memory cards (UDMA compliant). I will return to this later, but think big in terms of card capacity, and fast in performance. Roger Galbraith has published a definitive review of cards and speeds when used with the D800 on his site.

On the front and at the right hand of the lens bayonet are the preview and function buttons. These can be assigned a number of functions, including the “power aperture” mentioned in the introduction. Traditionally, housing manufacturers have tended to ignore these buttons on their housings, and, to my knowledge, this is true with those that are coming out for the D800. On the top of the handgrip is the sub-command dial, usually used for selecting the camera’s aperture. This can have other functions assigned to it, as well as its direction reversed, via the cameras custom settings menu.

On the top rear right hand side are the command dial, typically used to control shutter speed, AF On and AE/AF Lock buttons and the metering mode selector. Below this is the camera’s multi-selector, used for focus point selection and navigating through image review. A new control for the D4/D800 sits below this, which enables still or video mode, and a button within the selector activates the cameras live view. The last control on this side is the info button. Many housings do not feature a window for viewing the control panel LCD, and this button is crucial as it allows focus area selection etc. to be viewed on the main LCD.

This LCD is an 8-cm (3.2-in.), approx. 921k-dot (VGA) TFT screen with an 170° viewing angle, approx. 100% frame coverage, and has automatic monitor control which adjusts the monitor for brightness, saturation, contrast and gamma using an ambient brightness sensor. It is protected by an RM12 perspex protector, which may need to be removed when the camera is inserted into a housing.

Above the LCD is the viewfinder, which has a diopter adjustment and eyepiece shutter lever. The viewfinder now features 100% coverage, allowing for more accurate composition.

To the left of the LCD are a series of five buttons: OK, thumbnail/zoom out (in review), zoom in, lock/picture control and menu. The only significant change here is the addition of the picture control button function, allowing the user to switch between picture control presets without entering the menu.

Just above these are the review and delete buttons. On the left hand side of the camera body are the sockets for microphone, USB 3, audio out and HDMI out. The D800 is the first camera to offer high-speed USB 3 connectivity which is also backward compatible with USB if required. All the connections are covered with a rubber sealing “door” that actually hinges out-of-the-way when not in use, a significant improvement over that of previous models, which simply bent back on themselves and were hence prone to catching in housing closures.

The front left side features the flash activation button as well as the flash mode/compensation button. Below these is the “new” focus control. Actually, this control debuted with the D7000, and is, according to Nikon, meant to be simpler to use. It has a two position lever for switching between AF and manual focusing, and a center button that controls everything else, in conjunction with command and sub command dials. Unless custom setting f10 “Release Button to Use Dial” setting is activated, I find it is impossible to adjust these settings without three hands!

Focus and AF mode selectors.

Between the focus selectors and flash activation buttons is the lens release button.

Moving on to the top of the D800, from right, there is the Control panel LCD with a grouping of buttons just in front of it.

These are the Mode button, EV compensation button and a new button that controls video record start/stop. This function is also assignable to the shutter release when in video mode via the custom settings menu. The shutter release itself is just forward of these, with the camera’s on/off collar-type switch. This has a third function, if moved past the on position, it activates the info function on the camera’s LCD.

Moving leftward, over the camera’s pop-up flash and hot shoe, is the release mode dial. This is accessed by depressing the release mode dial lock button just in front of the dial itself. On top of the dial, in a clover leaf pattern, are four buttons which allow the selection of image quality, white balance mode, bracketing functions and ISO.

The D800’s form factor is immediately recognizable as a successor to the D700. The form factor, ergonomics, and by and large, the control positioning is very similar. There would seem to be little on the camera that represents a significant challenge to housing manufacturers.

  1. Introduction.
  2. The Nikon D800 body, controls and overview.
  3. Resolution, ISO and tonal range.
  4. Image size and “shooting to crop”.
  5. Autofocus, teleconverters and built-in processing.
  6. Conclusion.