All that has ended with its official announcement.
Nikon says the HD-SLR has been engineered to provide extreme resolution, astounding image quality and valuable video features optimized for professional still and multimedia photographers and videographers.
The company goes on to call it “the preeminent device for the most demanding photo and video applications.”
That’s sayin’ somethin’. Let’s see what it’s got.
The D800 features Nikon’s highest resolution sensor to date, a new 36.3-megapixel (7360 x 4912) FX-format CMOS sensor.
The camera incorporates the latest 91,000-pixel 3D Colour Matrix Metering III, Advanced Scene Recognition System, and an enhanced 51-point AF system for images with “amazing sharpness, colour and clarity.”
Professional videographers, says Nikon, will appreciate the practical features built into this camera that go beyond Nikkor lens compatibility and Full HD (1080p) video. This includes full manual control, uncompressed HDMI output and “incredible” low-light video capability.
All of this is driven by Nikon’s latest Expeed 3 image processing engine.
For shooting with minimal noise in a variety of lighting conditions, the D800 features a wide native ISO range of 100-6400, expandable from 50 (Lo-1) to 25,600 (Hi-2).
Nikon says its engineers have created innovative ways to manipulate light transmission to the sensor’s photodiodes, giving users the ability to shoot with confidence in challenging light conditions.
An internal sensor design, enhanced optical low pass filter (OLPF) and 14 bit A/D conversion with a high signal to noise ratio all contribute to a sensor capable of excellent low-light performance despite the extreme resolution.
The company says every aspect of this new FX-format sensor is engineered to deliver “amazing” low noise images through the ISO range and help create “astounding” tonal gradation and true colours whether shooting JPEG or RAW.
Images are also routed through a 16-bit image processing pipeline for maximum performance.
To further enhance versatility, users are able to shoot in additional modes and aspect ratios such as 5:4 to easily frame for printed portraits or a 1.2X crop for a slight telephoto edge.
Nikon DX-format lenses can be used (1.5X) while still retaining sharpness and details at a high 15.4 megapixel (4800×3200) resolution.
The Expeed 3 image processing engine helps create images with outstanding resolution, colour and dynamic range in both still images and video. From image processing to transfer, the new engine is capable of processing massive amounts of data, exacting optimal colour, rich tonality and minimized noise throughout the frame, says Nikon.
Despite the quantity of data, the new processor also contributes to energy efficiency, affording the ability to shoot longer.
The Advanced Scene Recognition system, at the system’s core, has a newly designed RGB sensor that meticulously analyzes each scene, recognizes factors such as colour and brightness with unprecedented precision and then compares all the data using Nikon’s 30,000 image database.
Additionally, this new sensor has the ability to detect human faces with startling accuracy, Nikon says, even when shooting through the optical viewfinder. This unique feature is coupled with detailed scene analysis for more accurate autofocus (AF), auto exposure (AE), i-TTL flash control and even enhanced subject tracking.
The Colour Matrix metering also emphasizes priority on exposure of the detected faces, allowing for correct exposure even when the subject is backlit.
The D800 features a newly enhanced auto white balance system that accurately recognizes both natural and artificial light sources, and also gives the user the option to retain the warmth of ambient lighting.
Users can expand dynamic range with in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) image capture and enjoy the benefits of Nikon’s Active D-lighting for balanced exposure.
Another new feature is direct access to Nikon’s Picture Control presets via a dedicated button on the back of the body to tweak photo and video parameters such as sharpness, hue and saturation, on the fly.
Filmmakers can choose from various resolutions and frame rates, including Full HD 1080 at 30/24p and HD 720 at 60/30p.
By utilizing the B-Frame data compression method, users can record H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC format video with “unmatched integrity” for up to 29:59 minutes per clip (normal quality). This format produces high quality video data without increasing file size for an efficient workflow.
The optimized CMOS sensor reads image data at astoundingly fast rates, which results in fewer instances of rolling shutter distortion, Nikon claims.
The sensor also enables incredible low-light video capability with minimal noise.
Users are able to have full manual control of exposure, and can also adjust the camera’s power aperture setting in live view for an accurate representation of the depth of field in a scene.
Users are able to easily compose and check critical HD focus through the 3.2-inch LCD monitor with reinforced glass, automatic monitor brightness control and wide-viewing angle.
For professional and broadcast applications calling for outboard digital recorders or external monitors, users can stream an uncompressed Full HD signal directly out of the camera via the HDMI port (8 bit, 4:2:2). This output signal can be ported into a display or digital recording device or routed through a monitor and then to the recording device, eliminating the need for multiple connections.
Images can be simultaneously viewed on both the camera’s LCD and an external monitor, while eliminating on-screen camera status data for streaming purposes.
The D800 also includes features concentrated on audio quality such as a dedicated headphone jack for accurate monitoring of audio levels while recording. Audio output levels can be adjusted with 30 steps for precise audio adjustment and monitoring.
The D800 offers high-fidelity audio recording control with audio levels that can be set and monitored on the camera’s LCD screen.
A microphone connected via the stereo mic jack can be adjusted with up to 20 steps of sensitivity for accurate sound reproduction. Recording can also be set for activation through the shutter button, with remote applications through the 10-pin accessory terminal.
The focus system utilizes 15 cross-type AF sensors for enhanced accuracy, and the system also places emphasis on the human face, working in conjunction with the Advanced Scene Recognition System to provide accurate face detection, even through the optical viewfinder.
The camera utilizes nine cross-type sensors that are fully functional when using compatible Nikkor lenses and teleconverters with an aperture value up to f/8 (single cross type sensor active with TC20E III).
Users are able to select multiple AF modes including Normal, Wide Area, Face Tracking and Subject Tracking.
Nikon says the camera is ready to shoot in 0.12 seconds.
The camera shoots up to 4 fps in FX mode at full resolution or up to 6 fps in DX mode using the optional MB-D12 battery pack and compatible battery.
The D800 utilizes the USB 3.0 standard for ultra-fast transfer speeds.
The chassis is constructed of magnesium alloy and sealed with gaskets for resistance to dirt and moisture.
The optical viewfinder offers 100 per cent frame coverage.
For storage, the D800 has dual card slots for CF and SD cards, and offers users the ability to record backup, overflow, RAW/JPEG separation, and the additional option of shooting stills to one and video to the other.
For high-speed recording and transfer, data can be recorded to the latest UDMA-7 and SDXC / UHS-1 cards.
The shutter has been tested to withstand approximately 200,000 cycles, and the camera also employs sensor cleaning.
The D800 features a built-in flash and is compatible with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System including a built-in Commander mode for controlling wireless Speedlights.
The Nikon D800 is scheduled to be available on March 22, at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $3,149.95.
Nikon will also be releasing a variant of the D800, the D800E.
As has been rumoured, this model will effectively enhance the resolution characteristics of the 36.3-megapixel CMOS sensor by cancelling the anti-aliasing properties of the OLPF inside the camera.
By doing this, light is delivered directly to the photodiodes to yield an image resulting from the raw light-gathering properties of the camera.
A colour moiré correction tool will be available within Capture NX2 to enhance the D800E photographer’s workflow.
The Nikon D800E is scheduled to be available in limited distribution on April 12, at an MSRP of $3,449.95.