This is the third and final installment of the Pro-Spective series on the new Nikon D800 DSLR. (Read the first, with Sam Bié, and the second, with Tim Kemple.) The series sprouted out of personal curiosity. I wanted a replacement for the D700 I sold in late 2011. But when the D800 was, at long last, announced, I didn’t jump to place my pre-order. There were some hang-ups; it wasn’t what I’d expected. So I went about exploring the question of who the D800 is really great for… or not so great for. The result is this series. It’s by no means comprehensive. It’s just an attempt to add the perspectives of three great, professional action/adventure photographers to the mix. I picked them because I know them and I know that they have a good handle on tech like this. Talking to these guys and writing these blogs has certainly helped me get a better grip on the pros and cons of the D800. Below, I’ll post Corey Rich’s thoughts, and then I’ll tell you what I’ve decided and why.
In a previous post, I mentioned the lukewarm response to the new D800 some Nikon fans have been expressing since its February sixth announcement. (I’d link to evidence of this, but it’s scattered across the Twitterverse, the comments pages of camera blogs, and photodork forums. If you look for it, you’ll find it.) In many cases, these responses are just the typical web junk, where bored or angry people can’t resist the urge to gripe about everything that catches their attention via the unedited broadcast medium known as the Internet. In other cases, there’s a fundamental misunderstanding about what the D800 is and who it’s for (“You mean this might be better than my Coolpix? Oh noes! Why didn’t the guy in Best Buy tell me to wait?!” or “$3,000?! Who would pay that much for a stupid camera?! My iPhone takes pictures just as good and I can make calls with it, too!”).
But there is a third, and I think larger, class of user who actually has a valid complaint, or at least question, about the D800: Why did it go the direction it did, if it’s ostensibly to replace the D700? The D700 was an affordable, full-frame rig that enthusiasts and pros alike could use to shoot action and low-light scenes. Photo journalists and sports photogs on a budget were stoked. The D800, as most interested people have already read a hundred times elsewhere, generates immense 36mp images at a rate of about four per second, fast considering the 70m raw file size, but still slow compared to the D700′s 8fps with battery grip or the D4′s 9fps without. The D800 seems to target a different market: studio, landscape, and even wedding shooters. A big segment of D700 lovers doesn’t seem to have a viable upgrade option for less than six thousand dollars.