When Nikon first announced its 36Mp D800, a lot of people, expecting an evolutionary upgrade from the D700 (much the way the D4 was to the D3), were left scratching their heads as the D800 was a completely new class of camera: a high-resolution beast rather than a D4 lite (will the D400 be the D4 lite?). Immediately, the D700’s top selling point, its high ISO performance, seemed to have been thrown under the bus in favor of medium format-type resolution as there is simply no denying the laws of physics..
It doesn’t take a college degree to figure out that, if two camera sensors are the same size but with different pixel counts, the one with more pixels must also have smaller pixels, too. Technically speaking, this is known as pixel density. The problem: all sensors have background noise and small pixels capture less signal than big ones and are thus less capable of drowning out the noise. Result: cameras with small pixels produce noisier images than cameras with large pixels. Go here for a detailed explanation of pixel density and here for photographic tests that prove the same point.
Simply put: the D800/D800E won’t be able to touch the D4 for high ISO image quality, just like the D3x couldn’t match the D3, either. Interestingly, Nikon capped the ISO of the D800 at a mere 25,600, which is the same ceiling imposed on the D700 nearly 4 years ago. Generally speaking, the top 2 ISO settings can be considered emergency use only, which means that the D800 will probably have a maximum usable top ISO of 6400, which is tops on what I like to shoot on my dinosaur D700.
Or will it?
Recently, Nikonrumors posted an interesting photographic test comparing the D700 and D800and their high ISO performances. An important item of note: the original source of the images has been removed from the web, which means that one has to rely on small (100% crop?) thumbnails for the comparison. Another point to consider (and one that makes me wary of the whole post: the images from the D700 look very, very soft while those from the D800 are crisp and clear, which makes it very hard to put an approximate ‘x stops better’ value on the D800.
Still, if these images are real, the D800, despite having triple the pixels of the D700, absolutely smokes its predecessor at high ISOs, making the D800, at $3000, a true miracle camera.
Want to buy a D800 in the Cleveland area? Well, there’s Cleveland-based Dodd Camera, with its downtown superstore. In addition, there are many smaller Cleveland metro area chain stores in the Cuyahoga County area, too. Live West of Cleveland? Loomis Camera, located in downtown Elyria, Lorain County, is another place to go for all your photographic needs. Both are authorized Nikon dealers. As for pricing and availability, the D800 will hit stores for $2999 in March while the D800E will arrive in April for $3299.
For full D800 coverage:
Could the D800 kill the super-tele lens?
D800 high ISO samples
D800 full-res samples
D800 vs. D3x
D800 vs. D700, 5DII, A900
Buy a D800 or wait for 16Mp FF D400?
D800: 36Mp of stupidity
For more info:
The future lineups for Canon, Nikon
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