Nikon today announced its second new full-frame DSLR of the year, the Nikon D800, which offers the same-size sensor as the Nikon D4 announced at CES 2012. The Nikon D800 will sit below the D4 at the high end of Nikon's DSLR line, offering more than twice the pixel density of the top-of-the-line D4. Nikon says that the D800 will eventually replace the Nikon D700 in the company's prosumer DSLR lineup, and that the new camera offers the highest-resolution Nikon sensor yet.
The D800's FX-format full-frame sensor captures 7360-by-4912-resolution images (36.15 megapixels), and its size, in-camera features, and target buyer all differ slightly from those of the 16-megapixel Nikon D4. Whereas the D4 is geared more toward high-speed shooting and low-light performance, the Nikon D800 puts image resolution front and center with its 36.3-megpixel sensor. Nikon says the D800 is built with wedding photography, portraits, and fashion spreads in mind. The combination of pixel density and sensor size should make the D800's output about as crop- and billboard-friendly as it gets outside a medium-format camera.
The D800's image resolution translates into a slower burst-shooting speed at full resolution when compared to the D4 (the D800 snaps 4 frames per second versus the D4's continuous shooting speed of 10 fps) and an ISO range that isn't quite as expandable as the one found in the D4 (the D800 caps out at ISO 25,600, while the D4 is expandable to a whopping ISO 204,800). Both new DSLRs offer a hot shoe for external flashes; but unlike the D4, the Nikon D800 also has a built-in pop-up flash, which can serve as a commander flash to control external Speedlight flashes. The D800 is also significantly smaller than the D4, at 5.7 inches wide, 4.8 inches tall, and 3.2 inches deep, as compared to the D4's 6.3-by-6.2-by-3.6-inch frame.
In addition to the similar sensor sizes, the D800 and the D4 share a few notable similarities, as well: Both are built around Nikon's latest Expeed 3 image processor; both offer 91,000-dot color-matrix metering; both employ a 51-point autofocus system; and both feature a "Dual Live View" mode that retains manual exposure settings while toggling between still- and video-capture modes.
The Nikon D800 looks as though it will be a popular DSLR for videographers, thanks to manual exposure controls in video mode; 1080p recording at 30, 25, and 24 fps (as well as 720p video at 60 fps); and the ability to feed uncompressed video to a monitor or recording device via HDMI as it's being captured. A 3.5mm stereo mic jack supports recording audio with an external microphone, and the D800 offers the same in-camera audio monitoring and headphone jack as the D4.
In addition to the expected RAW mode, manual exposure controls, aperture-priority, and shutter-priority modes for a camera of its class, the D800 will have an automated HDR (high dynamic range) mode, automatic scene-recognition features, and an Active D-Lighting feature to bring out highlights in shadowy areas.
To speed up transfers of bulky 36-megapixel image files and 1080p videos, the D800 has a high-speed USB 3.0 connector (which will also work with USB 2.0 cables at a slower transfer rate). Storage is handled by two separate card slots--one for SDHC/SDXC cards, and one for CompactFlash cards--and shooters can define target cards for photos and videos separately, set one of the cards as a backup drive, and automatically jump between storage cards without interrupting video recording if one of them fills up.
The Nikon D800 is due in March at $3000 for the body only--about half the price of the higher-end Nikon D4. A second version of the D800, called the Nikon D800E, will also arrive in April. The D800E will eliminate the D800's integrated low-pass filter; Nikon says the filter-less D800E will provide a further boost to detail and image resolution at the expense of a visible moire effect in some images. The Nikon D800E will be priced at $3300 for the body only.