Thoughts on the Nikon D800 – A review without seeing the camera

Nikon D800 - 36mp

Nikon D800 - 36mp

With the news that Nikon has come out with the D800 and D800E, many of us (Nikon users) are wondering whether it might be time to upgrade to a new, state of the art camera. The Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E boast a whopping 36.3 megapixels. This puts these cameras firmly in medium format digital territory. Certainly tempting but are all these megapixels really required?

I purchased my first high magapixel camera in late 2004 or early 2005. The Nikon D2X at the time was what we were all dreaming for with 12.4 megapixels and finally a sensor producing good color. Later in 2008 I purchased a Nikon D300, ,better quality high ISO being the reason but still only 12.3 megapixels. These are the two cameras I use today.

Now comes the Nikon D800! A number of thoughts are going through my mind.


  • The D800 will have better high ISO quality (less noise) like most of the modern DSLR’s and with so much of my work being shot at high ISO I think this would be good: +1 for a new camera.
  • I’m thinking I would like to make some “very large” prints as well, likely of nature subjects and the D800 should shine here: +2 for the D800.
  • I already have a super duty modern high speed tricked out totally rad graphics computer so at least I won’t need to upgrade that end of the equation (raw files from the Nikon D800 are about 75mb, enough to bog down many computers!). I’ll give this a plus also: +3.
  • The cost is actually very reasonable for what you get at $3,000 or so: +4.


  • I’ve been shooting with cameras in the 12.3 magapixel range for 7 or 8 years now, have shot likely 200,000 photographs, published a number of books, numerous magazine articles and made many prints in the 16×20 inch range and no one has ever said to me…. these images aren’t sharp enough, have too much noise, look bad…you get the idea. The reality is that a good quality 12mp camera will provide results that are far better than most of us require, even from a professional perspective. I guess this makes -1 for purchasing a new camera.
  • Storage space! Presently I have something like 12 terabytes of hard drives clogging up my office and while storage is cheap these days, large files still have their issues. If opening up a folder in PhotoMechanic or Windows Explorer has always felt a little slow to you, what happens when the images are 3 times as large. Cataloguing also will likely take longer: -2.
  • I would likely have to upgrade my lenses. At 36mp, the sensor is collecting more data than my lenses can provide and to be honest, most of my lenses are old, inexpensive and in general not the best quality but this has never mattered (see negative comment #1). Perhaps it will when I can see how bad they really are! -3.
  • Many of my lenses are DX format, you know, the smaller sensor size that all of the older digital cameras had. The full format lenses that I own are very old, non digital lenses and likely will not look very good: -4

Where does this leave me? I’m not sure. I know if I do purchase this camera it will likely become my main camera with the D300 being used as a backup. Even with my DX lenses I still get a very respectable 15.5 megapixels and of course the higher ISO possibilities. From looking at the specs, the D2X will still be the camera of choice for high speed action like sports. The Nikon D800 just isn’t designed for this type of work. Then of course, there’s the decision about whether to buy the Nikon D800 or Nikon D800E.

My D300 has about 125,000 exposures on it at present and while Nikon claims a shutter life of 150,000 I have seen a few reports of shutter failures around the 90,000 mark. Does this mean my main camera is on borrowed time? I’ll let you know what I decide. In the meantime I would love to hear what your thoughts are.

Andrew Goodall sums it up well in this article Digital Photography: Do Megapixels Really Matter?


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