I Should Have Kept my Nikon D800

D800_rearThe Nikon D800 I owned turned out to be a perfect lesson about learning to be happy with what you have. The D800 is the camera I should have kept.

I decided to make the leap to full-frame DSLRs with the Nikon D800. I’d been shooting with the Nikon D7000, an APS-C sensor body (Nikon calls them “DX format”) which I used extensively, but never really warmed up to much. The D800 offered amazing specs for the day: a 36mpixel sensor in a professional body resembling the Nikon D300 I’d owned and loved. I bought my D800 in February, 2012.

I used a range of lenses on the D800, including the venerable 24-70 f/2.8, 24-120 f/4, the 85mm f/1.4, and the 70-200 f/2.8 VR. The 24-120mm f/4 came later, when I wanted a walking around lens; the 24-70 f/2.8 plus D800 combination weighed nearly four pounds. The 24-120 f/4 shaved nearly a half-pound off the weight, and gave me a little more reach. I D800 proved to be an outstanding, all-around camera. I had great fun experimenting with the massive sensor, as well as nifty depth-of-field effects.

For example, 36 megapixels lets you take an piece of an image that seems to small to be useful. When you crop it, though, you find out you still have a pretty usable photo, such as this pelican shot at a 62mm focal length on the fly.


This shot was original about 1730 pixels wide.

The image shown here has been reduced, but the original size was a bit over 1700 pixels wide, out of a total 7360 x 4912 pixels. I’ve included a screengrab from Photoshop of the original image, so you can get a sense of the scale.


This is a screengrab of the original pelican image for scale.

The D800 also turned out to be a moderately decent camera for shooting indoor action. Overall performance in low light proved to be a little better than the D7000 I’d been using, with an adequate, if not great, 5fps frame rate. I shot several Winter Guard performances, all of which took place indoors under pretty terrible high school gym lighting.

2012-03-31 CCGC 008

The D800 was fine for indoor action, if you took a little care.

I had a lot of fun with D800 just wandering around and shooting stuff, as one is wont to do with a high performance tool. With the right lens, it’s a phenomenal portrait tool, though my portrait shooting skills are definitely not my strong suit.


Emily Case, after her post-high-school haircut.

Of course, not all portraits need be about people. Here’s an off-the-cuff shot of our miniature Dachshund, Jania. All those pixels come in useful when you want to resolve a ton of detail, like Jania’s double-dapple coloring.

2012-03-27 Jania 01

Achtung, Dachshund!

I also fooled around with Photoshop, playing around with HDR. I shot the following photo using the D800’s built-in bracketing, then combined them for an HDR image. This is at Sea-Tac International Airport, using a Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 wide angle zoom.


HDR gives this image an almost painterly quality.

I wanted a full-frame DSLR so I could play around a bit with depth-of-field. As it turned out, I rarely took advantage of DoF effects, but sometimes managed to pull one off almost accidentally, as with this orchid shot.


Depth-of-field and bokeh, oh, my!

In the end, I owned the D800 for less than a year. The weight and bulk of the camera seemed a bit much, particularly with big glass, such as the Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8. I sold it and bought what proved to be my worst camera purchase in recent history, in the end making me wonder if I should have hung onto the D800.

But that’s a story for another time. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this nice, if slightly faded, yellow rose.




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    • Wongly on November 30, 2016 at 11:00 am
    • Reply

    Im betting it was the D500?

    1. No, the D500 is an awesome camera. I’m liking my D500 quite a bit, except I try to destroy it :-/). The “awful” camera I alluded to was the D600 I owned for about a year. It suffered from the shutter mech throwing oils onto the sensor. Nikon eventually fixed it, but the whole affair left a sour taste in my mouth.

    • John DeMarco on April 23, 2016 at 9:38 pm
    • Reply

    So, what’s the awful camera you purchased? (Please don’t say the D750 – completely enamored with it!)

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying your D750.

      And no, the camera I alluded to isn’t the D750, but another. 😉

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