Nikon D700 to D800E First Impressions

Nikon D700 to D800E First Impressions

While I was brainstorming on what to title this post, numerous titles came to mind like:

What’s the difference between the Nikon D800 and D800E?
Is 36.3MP overkill on the Nikon D800 and D800E?
What’s the difference between the Nikon D800 and D700?
Hows the image quality of the Nikon D800 and D800E?
What’s the difference between the Nikon D800 and D700?
Should I choose the Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark III?
Is the Nikon D800E worth it?

Nikon D800E First Impressions

I think the simple answer to all of these questions is that the Nikon D800E and maybe the D800 is more of a specialty camera. I haven’t tried and tested the D800 against the D800E, but judging by the sample photos I’ve seen, the only difference between them is the anti-aliasing filter, I will say that both DSLRs are in my opinion, supposed to be used as a specialty camera. By specialty, I mean if you are a photographer that understands and demands the full capability of your DSLR, then this is the camera for you. I will explain this further as you read along. Just for your reference, I recently upgraded from my Nikon D700 to a Nikon D800E.

Nikon D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 100 , 1/160 , f/5.6 , 0 EV , handheld

Nikon D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 100 , 1/160 , f/7.1 , 0 EV , handheld

What’s the difference between the Nikon D800 and D800E?
There are two things that are different between the Nikon D800 and D800E. The first being the most obvious, price, which is the result of Nikon removing the anti-aliasing filter on the D800 thereby making the D800E more expensive. Now how does that make sense right? But think about it this way, a lot of super cars have parts and options removed and yet the price seems increase every time a piece is removed from the car. It’s the same situation here. The anti-aliasing filter in the Nikon D800 is removed and as a result, you get “sharper” images, and similarly, pieces of a super car are removed to gain speed and performance. Essentially the anti-aliasing filter, which is in most cameras, blur the photographs taken to get rid of the Moiré pattern. I won’t get into the whole Moiré bits, but I can confidently say, that if you do not know about Moiré and what it does, then stick with the D800 or D700.

Nikon D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 100 , 1/125 , f/6.3 , 0 EV , handheld

Nikon D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 200 , 1/60 , f/4.5 , 0 EV , handheld

Is 36.3MP overkill on the Nikon D800 and D800E?
The short answer is yes. It just really depends on what type of photographer you are. If you’re shooting print ads, billboards, or any other enlarged printed media then this is the perfect camera for you. It’s tack sharp and the details that can be recovered from the photos are just purely amazing. For everyone else who doesn’t shoot for larger print media then this is not the right camera for you. You can easily get a gently used Nikon D700 for around half the price of a new D800 and that will be sufficient enough. I’ve been using my D700 for a little over 3 years now and have been very pleased with the results. In fact, I even had a print that was enlarged to 10 x 8 feet or so for last year’s SEMA show. A few things to take note of when working with 36 megapixels is hard drive size and expansion, ram, and it will take photos forever to upload onto Facebook in full resolution. Your whole workflow will change physically and digitally just to accommodate. I upgraded to a 27″ NEC monitor from my 23.1″ just so I can edit these massive 7360 x 4912 pixel resolution photos that the Nikon D800E produces.

Nikon D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 100 , 1/100 , f/3.2 , 0 EV , handheld

Nikon D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 100 , 1/100 , f/6.3 , 0 EV , handheld

In all honesty, I was disappointed when Nikon announced that the D800 would be 36.3MP instead of closer to 24MP. The Canon 5D Mark II was already a beast from the last generation and was already producing high quality billboard prints at 21.1MP so I though 24MP would have been enough. This is why I opted for the Nikon D4 at 16.2MP, however, upon further review and an actual hands-on, I decided that it wasn’t the right camera for me since a 4MP jump just wouldn’t be enough. I also looked at the Nikon D3X at 24.5MP, but at $7000 and on last generation technology, I just couldn’t justify the price. So that left me with the Nikon D800 or D800E and the Canon 5D Mark III which I will explain later in this post.

Nikon D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 100 , 1/160 , f/1.4 , 0 EV , handheld

Nikon D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 200 , 1/60 , f/1.4 , 0 EV , handheld

What’s the difference between the Nikon D800 and D700?
There are many things that are different between the Nikon D800 and D700 both positive and negative. The most obvious being the three time jump in megapixel count. From 12.1MP to 36.MP makes the D800 a completely new camera in the Nikon full-frame family. Ergonomically, the D800 feels beefier and surprisingly lighter somehow even though its weighted to be heavier than the D700. The buttons are arranged a little different than previously and will take some time to get used too. I’m not quite sure why they switched the playback zoom in and out buttons, which is by far the biggest adjustment for me. Being able to view 100% of the viewfinder is a godsend, I can now see ALL of what I am shooting and I don’t have to compensate for the 5% I lost with the D700. The fact that the D800 takes 2 cards now is great and I will never have to miss a beat. Losing 1FPS was a slight disappointment because I still do car to car rolling shots and the occasional motorsports events, however, it was not a deal breaker for me. I bought the D800E knowing that it was a specialty camera and not a DSLR made to be a walk-around camera. The two main negatives of this camera, that I want to test further is that the auto-focusing is slower and the af-point selecting is finicky and slower. I will update once I experiment on an actual photo shoot and report back.

Nikon D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 100 , 1/40 , f/5.0 , 0 EV , handheld

Nikon D800E First Impressions
32mm , ISO 100 , 1/125 , f/10.0 , 0 EV , handheld

Hows the image quality of the Nikon D800 and D800E?
Amazing. You finally get to see pixels and details that you could never see from a last generation camera. You need to shoot it to believe it. The Nikon D800 demands the very best of lenses to produce the perfect shots. It demands a lot, just like a gold digging girlfriend. If you are unsure of yourself, don’t get this camera. You would want to shoot with the top of line, latest and greatest Nikon lenses with this camera or else I will show the flaws of lesser lenses. Working with the D800E and my Nikon 135mm F/2 DC lens was a bit tricky since the D800E did not always want to play well with the older lens. Also remember to invest in a good tripod like a Gitzo or Manfrotto/Bogen. This is a no mercy type of camera. It will either work with you if you know what you’re doing or work against you otherwise.

Nikon D800E First Impressions
34mm , ISO 100 , 1/250 , f/10.0 , 0 EV , handheld

I ultimately chose the D800E over the standard D800 because I need the maximum amount of image quality I can get out of a DSLR. There are a handful of cameras out there that do not have an anti-aliasing filter like most medium format cameras, some Lecias and Fujifilm compacts. This is why I believe that the D800E is a specialty camera aimed at the professional.

Nikon D800E First Impressions
24mm , ISO 100 , 1/100 , f/6.3 , 0 EV , handheld

Nikon D800E First Impressions
32mm , ISO 100 , 1/100 , f/22.0 , 0 EV , handheld

Should I choose the Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark III?
Well it depends on many factors. What are you and your clients demanding? Are they demanding high quality large prints or just online media? How do you shoot and edit? My clients want to print my photos and I personally prefer Nikon’s dynamic range. I rarely use strobes so recovering details from shadows is very much part of my usual workflow. From my experience, Nikon is far superior in this sense. Read this article that compares Canon to Nikon dynamic range and see. From a video standpoint, the Canon 5D Mark III is king and Nikon is just barely making a stab into the video segment of the market. From my hands-on experience, the Canon is easy to use even for a seasoned Nikon shooter and the ISO from the canon is controlled very well. Get the new D600 if you want almost everything the Canon 5D Mark III provides other than the number of af-points and video.

Nikon D800E First Impressions
25mm , ISO 100 , 1/125 , f/4.5 , 0 EV , handheld

Is the Nikon D800E worth it?
The answer to this question really depends on what type of photographer you are. For me, I absolutely think so. I shoot sets for my clients to print and need to provide them with the highest quality possible. It’s not a camera I will walk around casually with, I will be buying a Fujifilm X-E1 and 35mm F1.4 for that. In the end of the day you must question yourself whether the D800 is the camera for you and your needs.

Nikon D800E First Impressions
70mm , ISO 1000 , 1/125 , f/2.8 , 0 EV , handheld

Nikon D800E First Impressions
25mm , ISO 3200 , 1/160 , f/2.8 , 0 EV , handheld

But what about the Nikon D600?
To be honest, at the time of my purchasing decision, the Nikon D600 wasn’t announced yet so I had no clue it was coming. Just by looking at the specs, it’s very similar to the Canon 5D Mark III with some dumbed down settings. It would be a nice full frame DSLR for a D300 or D300s user to upgrade to. The 24.3MP would have been perfect for me, however, I think in my case, the higher number of af-points was one of the biggest deciding factors for me. The Nikon D600 is more of a “beginner’s” full frame camera that should have been produced by Nikon earlier.

Nikon D700 to D800E First Impressions
50mm , ISO 100 , 1/80 , f/6.3 , 0 EV , handheld

Nikon D800E First Impressions
35mm , ISO 4000 , 1/125 , f/2.8 , 0 EV , handheld

Click here to see more sample photos from my Nikon D800E using various Nikon lenses. Stay tuned for my second impressions of my D800E.