Nikon D800E Review

5.0
June 11, 2012 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 36 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 15Mb.

At full resolution, the Nikon D800E produces images of 7360x4912 pixels, which yield sharp 24”x16” prints at 300ppi with no interpolation. The level of detail captured is stunning and comparable to many medium-format digital cameras and backs. It's also crucially slightly more detailed and slightly sharper than the regular D800. However, there is more to the Nikon D800E's image quality than pure resolution. The photos, especially those shot in NEF format, also have great dynamic range and generally low levels of noise.

When scrutinised up close at 1:1 view, they may seem noisier than most other full-frame DSLRs, especially at ISO 6400 and beyond, but given the insanely high levels of detail captured you can apply quite a bit of noise reduction to them and still walk away with a sharper and more detailed final image than if you had used a cleaner but lower-resolution photograph to begin with. Thus noise really only becomes a problem when shooting at high ISO settings in in DX crop mode, and even then it's comparable to what you've been used to seeing from top-of-the line 16-megapixel APS-C dSLRs.

Nikon's Active D-lighting and HDR technologies work well in contrasty light, the built-in flash produces even exposures with no detectable red-eye, and the camera is also very well suited to night photography and long exposures in general.

Noise

The base sensitivity of the Nikon D800E is ISO 100 but you can go down to ISO 50 (L1.0) if you wish. At the other end of the scale, the highest native sensitivity of the Nikon D800E is ISO 6400 but two boosted settings, ISO 12,800 and ISO 25,600, are also available.

JPEG RAW

LO 1EV (ISO 50) (100% Crop)

LO 1EV (ISO 50) (100% Crop)

   

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

   

HI 1EV (ISO 12800) (100% Crop)

HI 1EV (ISO 12800) (100% Crop)

   

HI 2EV (ISO 25600) (100% Crop)

HI 2EV (ISO 25600) (100% Crop)

Sharpening

The out-of-camera JPEGs often benefit from some sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Alternatively you can change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes. Here are two pairs of 100% crops - the right-hand images have had some extra sharpening applied.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

File Quality

The file quality settings available on the Nikon D800E include Basic, Normal and Fine for JPEGs, and the camera can also shoot 12- or 14-bit NEFs (Nikon's proprietary raw file format) and 8-bit TIFFs.

Fine (100% Crop)

Normal (100% Crop)

   
Basic (100% Crop)

Raw (100% Crop)

   
Tiff (100% Crop)

 

 

Flash

Unlike its main competitor the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, the Nikon D800E features a pop-up flash, with a guide number of 12 in metres at ISO 100. This little on-board Speedlight has a number of functions including front- and rear-curtain sync, red-eye reduction, i-TTL, Manual and Repeating Flash. Additionally, it can act as a trigger for up to two groups of wirelessly slaved system flashes, alleviating the need to buy an SU-800 commander unit or use a more expensive flashgun as the master.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (70mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (70mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

As the shots below demonstrate, red-eye isn't a common problem with the built-in flash even if you don't use red-eye reduction.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Flash - Red-Eye Reduction

Flash - Red-Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Night Shot

The Nikon D800E lets you dial in shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds and has a Bulb mode as well for exposure times of practically any length, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. There is an optional long-exposure noise reduction function that can be activated to filter out any hot pixels that may appear when extremely slow shutter speeds are used, though I found no need for this when taking the photograph below at a shutter speed of 30 seconds, aperture of f/11 at ISO 100. We've included a 100% crop for you to see what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Active D-lighting (ADL)

D-lighting is Nikon's dynamic range optimisation tool that attempts to squeeze  the full dynamic range of the sensor into JPEGs. Active D-lighting works “on the fly”, before the in-camera processing engine converts the raw image data into JPEGs. The available settings are Off, Low, Normal, High and Extra High.

Off

Low
   

Normal

High
   

Extra High

 
 

 

HDR Capture

New to the Nikon D800E is the ability to shoot two differently exposed images in rapid succession, which are then blended in-camera to form a single, high-dynamic-range image. The exposure differential can be 1, 2 or 3EV, and you can choose from three different levels of smoothing (low, normal and high; with normal and high producing  more realistic results than the low setting). Note that this feature is only available when shooting JPEG.

Off

Low
   

Normal

High

Picture Controls

Nikon's Picture Controls are akin to Canon's Picture Styles in being preset combinations of sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue. The Nikon D800E offers all four Picture Controls that were present in the D700, namely Standard, Neutral, Monochrome and Vivid, and adds Portrait and Landscape to the list of available options. All Picture Controls can be tweaked to your liking, then saved and transferred to other cameras. New to the Nikon D800E is a dedicated quick-access button that takes you directly to the picture controls menu - if you use these profiles often, you will appreciate this improvement over the D700.

Standard

Neutral
   

Portrait

Vivid
   

Landscape

Monochrome

Crop Modes

The Nikon D800E is an FX camera but it can also shoot in one of three crop modes, including a 25-megapixel “1.2x crop mode”, a 15-megapixel “DX crop mode” and a special, 30-megapixel “5:4 mode” that uses the full height of the sensor but trims the sides. The boundaries of the cropped areas are denoted with thin black lines in the viewfinder, which otherwise continues to show the full FX view, allowing you to see what's happening outside the cropped frame - perfect for sports and action shooting. Using one of the crop modes carries the added benefit of a slightly faster maximum frame rate of 5fps, which can even be raised to 6fps when using the optional MB-D12 battery grip and shooting in DX mode.

FX

5:4

   
1.2x

DX

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