The Nikon D800 features the world’s largest resolution full-frame sensor. Just how good is it? Find out in the What Digital Camera Nikon D800 review

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Nikon D800

Overall score:92%
Image Quality:95%


Nikon D800 Review


Price as reviewed:


Image Quality

Nikon D800 review – Image Quality

Here are a small selection of sample images taken with the Nikon D800, for a full selection please visit our Nikon D800 Sample Imge Gallery.

Tone and Exposure

The Nikon D800 uses the new 91,000 pixel RGB sensor and offers the choice of three metering modes: 3D Color Matrix Metering III (Nikon’s latest multi-zone metering system), Centre-weighted and Spot. You can alter the bias of the Centre-weighted metering area to 8, 12, 15, 20 or an average area.

The new metering system worked very well – exposure was consistently accurate, even in tricky lighting conditions. The claim that the system will detect faces and give priority to that area of the image when assessing exposure is accurate – our test shots showed that against a backlit scene, a subject that would normally be left in shadow was perfectly exposed.

Nikon D800 sample image 1

White Balance and Colour

Set the Nikon D800 in Auto White Balance mode and the camera delivers nice, neutral looking results. Just like we saw on the D4, there’s also a secondary Auto White Balance that aims to retain warm lighting in shots. Along with the two AWB modes, the Nikon D800 has a selection of preset white balances to choose from: incandescent, fluorescent (7 types), direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, preset manual (up to 4 values can be stored).

If you’re shooting JPEG, then there’s a choice of Picture Controls as well: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape, while each preset can be adjusted to personal taste. Sharpening, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation and Hue can all be altered.

Nikon D800 sample image 2

Sharpness and Detail

The jump from 12.1MP to 36.3MP is massive. Files has a native resolution of 7360 x 4912 pixels, it’s easily possible to produce A2 prints at 240ppi, while A1 prints are a realistic proposition.

As you’d expect, file sizes are very large – a 16-bit D800 file opened directly in Photoshop is 206.9MB in size, so you’ll need a pretty high-spec’d and up-to-date computer to deal with those sizes, while storage and transfer speeds are another consideration.

That said though – the detail is phenomenal. If you’re looking to produce high-quality images, then you won’t be disappointed. The resolving power of the sensor matched with good glass will deliver first-class results.

Nikon D800 sample image 3


The Nikon D800 is bundled with Nikon’s all-in-one ViewNX2 software to read and convert Raw files, though D800 Raw files are supported in Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6 beta.

As you’d expect with in-camera processing, JPEG files display more saturation and a boost in contrast. At higher ISOs image noise control is evident, with JPEG images seeing less noticeable noise than an unadjusted Raw file, though this comes at the expense of detail.

ISO Quality

The D700 built-up a reputation as a strong ISO performer, so how does the D800 stack up? With an extra 24.2 photosites on the sensor over the D700, there’s a greater risk of image noise encroaching on the image at higher sensitivities due to the increased signal to noise ratio.

The good news is that the Nikon D800 performs very well. Low ISOs deliver smooth results up to ISO 1600. At ISO 3200, colour noise begins to subtly creep into the image and becomes more pronounced as the sensitivity is increased.

Ultimately, the Nikon D800 is out performed at the higher sensitivities by some rivals, but only just. Interestingly, if you compare a downscaled D800 file with one from a D700 and there’s not much to choose between the two. So while it might not deliver the best ISO image noise results for a full-frame DSLR, the D800 is still very good, especially when you take into account the benefit of the huge resolution on offer.

Nikon D800 sample image 4

Movie Mode

One of the key areas where the D700 was lacking was video, but the video capture on the Nikon D800 should put it firmly on the map for videographers. Capable of shooting at 1080p at either 30/25/24fps at up to 24Mbps, the D800 can also shoot at 720p at 60/50fps. Videos are output as MOV files with H.264/MPEG-4 compression, while there’s also the opportunity to capture uncompressed video footage via the HDMI socket to an external drive. As well as an input for a microphone, headphones can be connected to monitor audio as well.

  1. 1. Nikon D800 review - Features
  2. 2. Design
  3. 3. Performance
  4. 4. Image Quality
  5. 5. Inteview with Jim Brandenburg
  6. 6. Value & Verdict
  7. 7. Preview and Key Features Videos
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