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Nikon D800 First Impressions Review$2,999.95
The D800 inherits the new 51-point autofocus system that was seen in the Nikon D4, using their Multi-CAM 3500FX sensor module. The system includes 15 cross-point sensors, with the option to fine tune focus performance. The center cross-type sensor and 10 other central senors are even functional down to f/8, which will be a huge boon to those who work with teleconverters that naturally limit the aperture diameter of any lens they're attached to.
Users can select from single-servo, continuous-servo, and manual focus modes by the use of a dedicated switch on the front of the camera where the left hand sits. The D800 can also use contrast-detection autofocus when the mirror is up for video or live view shooting. Focus lock available through pressing the shutter or using the dedicated AF/AE-lock button.
Exposure & Metering
When using the D800, users can let the 91k-pixel RGB metering sensor do its thing or adjust manually if they so desire. Users can meter using spot, center-weighted, or matrix metering. Matrix metering meters across the frame, with spot metering picking out a specific user-specified spot to pull brightness values from. Center-weighted pulls brightness from around the center of the frame, with the user able to select how far afield that data is pulled from. In center-weighted and matrix metering the camera can effectively meter between 0 and 20 EV, though in spot metering this rises to 2-20 EV.
When outside of manual mode the user can adjust the camera's auto exposure on a +/- 5 stop scale or 2-9 frame exposure bracketing, with either option in whole, 1/3-, or 1/2- stop increments. The D800 also includes Nikon's "active d-lighting" to enhance tonal range, with ADL bracketing of two frames or three to five frames using a preset value.
The native ISO range on the D800 is limited compared to the recently-announced Nikon D4, with a native range of just 100-6400. The camera is mostly designed to appeal to those looking to do low ISO, high-resolution work (such as landscape and studio work, where lighting conditions aren't as variable or demanding as in sports or news photography), so this isn't a huge issue to the camera's target base. The camera's ISO can be pushed all the way up to 25,600 if needed with the use of the Hi-2 setting. The camera's pixel size is smaller than the 16-megapixel Nikon D4, but with vastly more resolution, dynamic range and noise performance shouldn't be much different when downsampling to similar resolutions.
The D800 offers two types of automatic white balance, with presets for incandescent, seven types of fluorescent light, direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, preset manual (up to four values savable) and direct kelvin entry between 2500K and 10,000K. Fine-tuning is available with every option, on a four-way color balance scale.
As with all Nikon DSLRs on the market, the Nikon D800 does not include stabilization built into the body. The camera instead relies on stabilization that Nikon builds into their lenses, called vibration reduction. Nikon's reasons for using in-lens VR instead of in-body stabilization is that they can tune VR to function better with individual lenses, and by applying the correction before the light strikes the sensor, the image is stabilized through the optical viewfinder as well.
The D800 includes Nikon's usual measure of picture presets, called "picture control" settings. These include the usual suspects: standard, neutral, vivid, monochrome, portrait, and landscape. Each setting can be fine-tuned to the user's liking, with options for adjusting saturation, tone, contrast, and sharpness.