The Nikon D800 is the long awaited followup to Nikon’s ultra successful D700. It’s a camera that many felt they would instantly buy… fantasizing that it would have the abilities of the D3s in the compact form of the D700. Well, Nikon took a totally different route and it’s up to you to determine whether it’s the camera for you.

All of my images have been processed. You can find all sorts of ISO, pixel-peeping, and comparison reviews other places on the internet. All that matters to me is the end result so that’s exactly what I show.


I’ve found the image quality of the Nikon D800 to be unlike anything I’ve ever used before. It’s literally jaw dropping she first time you look at your images on your giant computer screen. The dynamic range and detailed captured is astonishing. The downside? 77MB RAW files. I only shoot in uncompressed 14bit RAW files at full resolution. Why buy a camera capable of such amazing image quality and shoot cropped or in a lossy format of some sort? Don’t. If you can’t handle the giant file sizes then don’t buy the camera. I’m planning to use the D800 in very specific circumstances… mainly studio lit portraits, landscapes, and scenes with high dynamic range. It’s simply not a camera meant to be used for day-to-day high volume shooting.

This is the first image that stopped me in my tracks. The tonal range, detail, and overall feel is just amazing to me.

Here is a link to the full res straight out of camera jpeg

Click on image to view larger


The build of the D800 is very similar to the D700. Rugged, weather sealed, and professional. It is, however, slimmed a bit. The D800 is definitely more compact and a little bit lighter. It’s corners are a bit more round and the contours make it very comfortable to hold for long periods of time.


Let me just say this up front… the image quality of the D800 is unlike anythign I’ve ever used before. It creates stunning images that even the newly released D4 can’t touch. No, it won’t be able to crank out incredible High ISO images with the same cleanliness as the D4, but it captures an astonishing amount of dynamic range, and at base ISO you can essentially pull up shadows or bring down highlights with no issues what. so. ever.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

With this image I’m (in lightroom) able to take down the exposure a tremendous amount and recover absolutely all of the highlight detail.

I can then boost the exposure fully (in lightroom) and see any and all shadow detail with little to no noise. The dynamic range that’s captured from this camera is shocking. Same image.

So, there’s no doubt the dynamic range just kills any other camera on the market today. At 36 mega pixels it’s pretty crazy to think that nikon was able to pull this off.

The other aspects of this camera are very similar to the D700. Controls have been modified a bit similarly to the DR (read my review of that here). The live view works well and I’m sure video people will appreciate it, but it is massively slow and not very usable for shooting burst images… it just takes too long to respond and though it’s better than the D700 live view… it’s nowhere near as awesome as the D4′s.

Click on image to view larger


  • don’t be a afraid to underexpose a good bit to retain highlights in a high contrast scene… you’ll be able to recover plenty of shadow detail in post
  • get the fastest memory cards you’re able to find so you aren’t frustrated with loading times
  • live view is very slow to respond when shooting in fully uncompressed 14-bit raw – so i don’t recommend it
  • don’t be afraid to push the high ISO when needed, but 6400 is as far as I’d go

Here are some images at 6400 ISO. Yes, the one of the right is free lensed:


The Nikon D800 puts camera buyers in a difficult situation. Any photographers that work in high volume environments (sports, weddings, photojournalism) I would actually recommend sticking with the D700 unless you can fork over for the D4. They’re really different cameras intended for different purposes. Yes, the image quality of the D800 is astounding, but the noise performance is about the same as D700, but at 77MB per image (14 bit uncompressed) it’s a bit of a ridiculous resource hog. You can shoot as 12-bit or compressed RAW formats to improve the speed performance, but I don’t.

For portrait, landscape, commercial work this camera is where it’s at. Look nowhere else. This is it.

For wedding photographers that can swallow the pain of culling and editing thousands of RAW 36 megapixel images… then I guess this camera is for you too.

I prefer a combination use…. engagement photo/landscape all in one (the second image is a crop from the first one):

Sam Hurd

Sam Hurd


Starting as a political news and celebrity portrait photographer in DC, Sam was instantly drawn to wedding photography as a space to promote more inventive ideas. Sam’s focus is on photographic techniques that are deceptively simple but have the potential to transform difficult or uninspiring shooting environments into one-of-a-kind opportunities for every photo made.

Most reviews, technical write-ups, and other photo nerd content is posted first, and exclusively, over on his patreon.