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Nikon D800, First Impressions, Good & Bad

Allan Jamieson , Apr 29, 2012; 09:44 a.m.

Well, finally received it last week, played around with it a few evenings using different lenses and settings. Managed to get out with it early yesterday morning, trying a few landscapes and macro shots locally.
The resolution is stunning, if you get your focus right that is. I haven't adjusted the camera yet for any of my lenses to fine tune the focus. Most images were pin sharp with small tweaks from Live View to check the camera was focusing where I wanted it to. Some shots were a bit soft using a Nikon 24-85mm AFS, which was very sharp on DX. But same lens was extremely sharp after checking the focus manually with Live View. Macro shots with my Sigma 105mm were pin sharp focused manually, virtually pictures within pictures as you zoom into the image on the camera screen.
Probably taken only around 200 images since getting the camera, was surprised to have the battery fail whilst looking through some of the images on it last night. Okay, I've used Live View quite a lot yesterday but really, I would have expected a lot longer than that from one battery charge. Luckily I have a spare battery already but anyone taking this camera out on a long trip is going to need quite a few spare batteries to make sure they don't run out somewhere remote. I reckon I'll need at least one extra spare battery, maybe two to be on the safe side. The battery is not up to the demands on it in this camera and is going to annoy people using it professionally.
I read a few reports online mentioning people noticing that D800 mirrors were scratched, sure enough so is mine, roughly in the lower middle of it looking straight in. I didn't notice that when I got it, not very impressive for such a new camera. The sensor also seems to have a few marks on it, after zooming into a shot of blue sky, not sure if that is dust, oil or bits of mirror rubbing off! I'm a bit reluctant to try cleaning the sensor already, I hardly ever needed to clean the sensor on my D90. I even took the precaution of cleaning all of my lenses very carefully before using them on the D800 to cut down the chance of any dust or dirt getting in there.
Overall it is a very good camera, but not happy about the scratched mirror...


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Matt Laur , Apr 29, 2012; 11:33 a.m.

Before you jump to any conclusions, Allan, partially discharge and recharge that battery a few times. Every lithium-ion battery I've used as improved dramatically after a few cycles. Regardless, buy a spare $40 battery for that $3,000 camera. If you're going to do a lot of live view shooting and chimping, especially in colder weather, you'll be glad to have one in your bag.

As for a hairline scratch on your mirror, are you sure you're not seeing an aspect of its actual design? I'm able to find but one report of a scratch, followed by a comment that one one talking to Nikon about it was told that it's part of the design, and o ignore it. Are you seeing it in the viewfinder?

And about sensor cleaning .... It's perfectly safe if you take anything like reasonable care while doing it. If a puff from a rocket blower and/or the built-in dust removal process don't take care of it, just clean it. You'll be using the thing for years, so you might as well get comfortable doing that basic chore which only takes a minute.

200 images in ... Keep shooting!

Allan Jamieson , Apr 29, 2012; 12:02 p.m.

Hi Matt, you could be right about the battery, but I've barely noticed the battery draining with previous cameras. Even if the battery improves a bit after a few charges, using the screen a lot to check images and/or using Live View is going to drain the battery fairly quickly. I already have one spare, prudence would suggest at least one extra spare battery if not more. It would be more than a little upsetting to be out somewhere with great scenery and a dead battery...
As for the mirror, the "mark" doesn't look like a design feature, it does look like something rubbed across the mirror. I don't recall any mention from Nikon about having a mark or scratch on the mirror. I've used many, many cameras and never seen anything like it on any other camera. I've got a rocket blower somewhere about, must try to find it, just haven't had to use it in a while!

Shun Cheung , Apr 29, 2012; 12:36 p.m.

Under normal uages, you should be able to capture close to 1000 images on the D800 with a fully charges EN-EL15. I tend to review my images a lot and therefore drain the battery faster. The other day I attached the GP-1 GPS unit and also left the back LCD on for a long time for video capture, and the battery drained quickly.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some recently sold D800 come with EN-EL15 batteries that are being recalled. You want to double check that.

Concerning the mirror, since Nikon's (phase detect) AF system is at the bottom of the camera, there is a secondary mirror behind the main mirror to reflect light down to the bottom AF module. Therefore, the center part of the main mirror is semi transparent and if you look carefully, you can see the outline of the semi transparent area, which is a rectangle inside the main mirror, and that area is smaller than the DX frame. That could be the "scratch" some people are referring to. See the attached image below. Of course, I have no idea exactly what the OP is observing.

I just went back to check the mirror on my D800 test unit, and it is fine.

D800 Mirror

Mike Halliwell , Apr 29, 2012; 12:39 p.m.

Matt, make that a £40 battery for a £2600 camera.....$60 and nearly $4000! However, I think it might still be worth it! :-)

I assume the D800 has the normal ultrasonic sensor cleaning thingy? I've set my D700 for clean on start up and shut down and have never had to mechanically clean it. My colleague's D4 is forever spotty! We shoot the same muddy horse events.

Brooks Gelfand , Apr 29, 2012; 02:40 p.m.

Is your battery one of those covered by the recall:


Jamie Robertson , Apr 29, 2012; 05:01 p.m.

I hardly ever needed to clean the sensor on my D90

The larger the sensor the more dust it will gather, that's just common sense. You'll always need to watch for dust more on a full frame camera.

Mike Halliwell , Apr 29, 2012; 06:08 p.m.

.....Or maybe, assuming the same amount of dust coming through the body-lens mount, it's the standard Nikon F mount 'hole' on both, is attracted to the static of the CCD, the amount settling on the sensor will be higher per unit area on the smaller sensor...... maybe..:-)

John Williamson , Apr 29, 2012; 08:14 p.m.

I can see how that line on the mirror would be taken for a scratch ! If I didn't just read Shun's post, I would have thought so, as well.

Jose Angel , Apr 30, 2012; 03:52 a.m.

Yes, I have checked the slot outline shown by Shun. It is not a straigh, perfectly rounded and finished line, but a bit "rough" one. It it works, who cares? Is it really an issue? (???)
I`d not mind so much about the "finish" of the inner parts of the camera... actually.
The battery I`m using is a "D"; it works perfectly.
My first impression is that the D800 is a -wonder- of camera, way more refined than the D700; all is better (I was so skeptical about this). Looks like all has been improved; ergonomics, function, metering, colors, lightness, controls`feel, shutter, etc., etc., etc. (I want it with a D3s sensor... !)

To be sincere, the only thing I find a bit "awkward" is the sensor. Actually, too much resolution for other than proffessional use.

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