After much anticipation, my new Nikon D800 arrived yesterday and I wanted to share some initial observations from the very limited amount of shooting I was able to fit in last night. After work I went straight from my client’s offices down to the West Village to shoot a live show of Adam Larson‘s trio at the wonderful but extremely dark (sorry, “atmospheric”) Bar Next Door. I’m hoping to post a small piece with some of that footage later this evening, and a larger film in a week or two after Adam and I find the time to squeeze in a couple more shoots.
On first impression, I really like the D800. I can’t really speak to the stills aspects just yet since I only shot video last night, but the improvements in that area were great. I was on the fence about the dedicated Stills/Video LiveView switch, but I really like the contextual differences in controls you get from being in Video Mode. It’s less like working with a still camera with video functionality and more like a video camera proper.
The fact that the LiveView will now overlay histograms, audio levels and all sorts of other data I didn’t even get into last night is a huge plus. Also, having the option to keep the rear LCD on while monitoring through the HDMI out turned out to be more useful that I expected as well. I didn’t monitor through the headphone jack since I was recording separately, but I know that’s going to be a godsend. And I love that we’re finally able to adjust the aperture while the LiveView is active (though not while recording); it’s such a pain in the ass with the D7000 having to switch LV off and on constantly to dial that in and this entirely removes that.
One of my favorite changes overall though is something I didn’t even consider until doing some last-minute reading up on the camera before it arrived. Obviously the full frame sensor is a beautiful thing, and I love having the extra field of view with my FX lenses, but the fact that I have the ability to change my image area on the fly from FX (1.0x crop) to DX (1.5x crop) and in between (1.2x crop) is really awesome! So awesome that “Image Area” became the first item in my custom menu within a half hour. Being able to throw a 50mm f1.4 on the body, shoot away, and then with a couple button presses effectively switch it to a 75mm f1.4 is truly awesome. I shot three lenses yesterday, a 24mm f1.4, the 50, and an 85mm 1.8, but with that one capability I effectively had a much more thorough kit with me. That came in handy since I was in a small club with limited ability to move around. This is a killer feature.
There are a few things I’ve noticed that will take some getting used to, mostly body-layout choices that I find frustrating. For one, something I don’t understand at all, the zoom in/zoom out buttons on the rear have been flipped. Zoom in, which was on the bottom of every Nikon I’ve ever shot with, is now on the top. Why? Seriously, why? The only thing it manages to do is throw off my ability to review without looking at what buttons I’m pressing. The other thing that seems to have changed is the exposure compensation scheme; previously, spinning the rear dial counter-clockwise for exposure compensation would send you in the “-” negative direction (ie. “-0.3,” “-0.7″) whereas now it puts you in the “+” positives. This is equally frustrating. I searched through the menus for a way to change this back but had no success. If you know how to do this, please let me know, this is going to drive me absolutely crazy. So there it is. Two hours of shooting and I’m already slandering my new baby in public. Internet, you’re a bad influence.
Seriously though, this is a very exciting camera and I want to emphasize that my experience yesterday was overwhelmingly positive. I’m really looking forward to putting this camera through its paces, I suspect it’s going to continue to over-perform.
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