Nikon D800 Initial Impressions from the Studio and Outdoors

The Nikon D800 has arrived and it is a beauty! I’ve been shooting with the camera today and thought I’d put together a quick video and some sample images showing some of today’s first pictures from the studio and the outdoors. Here’s a direct link to the video if it isn’t showing up in your browser: Mike Hagen’s Nikon D800 Initial Impressions

Nikon D800 Initial Impressions from Mike Hagen on Vimeo.

The 36MP sensor is truly incredible and the files are massive. Working with these D800 photos will require little bit of patience as well as some more RAM!

My initial impression of the images from the D800 is that they are rich and full of life. They are filled with more detail than I’ve ever seen from a Nikon camera and I am thoroughly impressed with everything I’ve seen. Below are some sample images with a few links to full-size jpgs for you to download and work with yourself. I processed each of the images for this blog post in Nikon Capture NX2 on a MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM.

The first set of images below were taken with the Nikon D800 at ISO 200. Check out the 100% crop to assess the quality for yourself. At ISO 200, the Nikon D800 produces beautiful detail and amazing colors. As you would expect, the camera is flawless at this ISO setting. Click here for a full-resolution jpg.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, ISO 200.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, ISO 200.

100% crop of image at ISO 200 and f/16.

100% crop of image at ISO 200 and f/16.

Next, I increased the Nikon D800 ISO to 6400 in an attempt to see how well the camera performed at this sensitivity value. For this image, I turned off in-camera noise reduction to set the camera up for a worst-case scenario. As you can see in the cropped image, the colors are still saturated while still maintaining usable detail in the tulips. I’m exceedingly impressed with the camera at ISO 6400. Click here to download a full resolution ISO 6400 image to your computer.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, ISO 6400.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, ISO 6400.

100% crop of image at ISO 6400.

100% crop of image at ISO 6400.

As the next series of images below show, I cranked up the ISO to 12,800 and 25,600 to see how the D800 would perform at its highest ISO settings. Obviously, the image quality breaks down rapidly, but these files are imminently useable with some noise reduction in post processing. I wouldn’t be afraid to use these ISO values if I had to get photos in near darkness.

Click here to download the high resolution ISO 12,800 image.

Click here to download the high resolution ISO 25,600 image.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 12,800.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 12,800.

100% crop Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 12,800

100% crop Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 12,800

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 25,600

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 25,600

100% crop Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 25,600

100% crop Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, F/16, ISO 25,600

My next tests were to take the camera outdoors to see how it would do in the bright sunlight. One of my goals was to see how the camera would perform in a very high contrast situation on white cherry blossom flowers. I also wanted to see how well images might look after significant cropping. You can see the uncropped and cropped version directly below. The D800 does a great job of holding detail on the flower petals while also preserving detail in the shadows. With the D800’s 36 megapixel files, I was able to crop the image fairly tightly and still come away with a photo I could easily print at 8″x10″ or larger. Verdict? I’m impressed.

Cherry blossom in direct sun. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f5.6, ISO 100.

Cherry blossom in direct sun. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f5.6, ISO 100.

Here's a cropped version of the same cherry blossom photo. Cherry blossom in direct sun. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f5.6, ISO 100.

Here's a cropped version of the same cherry blossom photo. Cherry blossom in direct sun. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f5.6, ISO 100.

The next test was to work with my red barn to see how the camera would do with shadow and highlight detail on a physical building. The first image here was taken with no changes to the file. In other words, you see exactly what the camera recorded. The second image I added a bit of shadow/highlight recovery in Nikon Capture NX2. Again, the D800 does a wonderful job of preserving information in both the highlights and shadows.

Red barn in high contrast lighting. No post-processing. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/18, 1/50s, ISO 200.

Red barn in high contrast lighting. No post-processing. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/18, 1/50s, ISO 200.

Red barn in high contrast lighting with shadow/highlight fix in Capture NX2. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/18, 1/50s, ISO 200.

Red barn in high contrast lighting with shadow/highlight fix in Capture NX2. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/18, 1/50s, ISO 200.

My final shot of this initial is of some green leafs with morning dew. I could see some fine detail on the stems of the leaves and wanted to see how the D800 would render these small hairs. The first image here is the uncropped image and the second is a 100% crop. Looking at the cropped image, it is truly amazing to see how much information the D800 collects. We’ve entered a new world of photography with the Nikon D800 and I can’t wait to see what other fantastic images I’ll create with this camera. In fact, I can’t wait to do some black and white landscape work as well as some studio portraiture to really see what this camera has to offer.

Leaves and water drops. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, 1s, ISO 200.

Leaves and water drops. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, 1s, ISO 200.

100% crop of leaves and water drops. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, 1s, ISO 200.

100% crop of leaves and water drops. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, f/16, 1s, ISO 200.

One final note: DxOMark just published the results from the Nikon D800 and they gave it the the best rating for any camera they’ve ever tested. How’s that for image quality! Click this for a direct link the DxOMark stats. Quoting from DxOMark’s website:

Friday March 23 2012

The Nikon D4 spent only a few days in the top spot for DxOMark sensor results before being dethroned by the Nikon D800, which is a complete success in every sensor-related respect:

  • Overall score: 1st (95)
    With its 4-point lead, the Nikon D800 has become the new sensor of reference — and with an unmatched quality-to-price ratio to boot: among the 8 top cameras, it is by far the least expensive (with an announced price of less than 3000 $).
  • Studio: tied for 3rd (25.3 bits)
    These results are living up to our expectations. Certain people openly wondered if the D800’s results would be comparable to those for medium-format cameras, and this certainly doesn’t contradict this idea.
  • Landscape: 1st (14.4 EV)
    Here also we expected the D800 to do well, and once again we were not disappointed. (This really wasn’t a surprise, given the results for the Nikon D7000.)
  • Sport (Low-Light ISO): 3rd (2853)
    Despite its smaller pixels, the D800 comes up with the same score as the D4, whereas the D3x lost several precious points with respect to the D3s.

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