Guest post: Nikon D800 criticisms refuted

This guest post was sent to me by reader and addresses some of the D800 criticisms from various websites:

Since the D800 has been introduced I have heard many individuals on podcasts and read where many blog writers were critical of Nikon for packing so many pixels on such a small sensor. The criticisms just seemed not to hold water when logically thinking about things. Also, I have heard numerous comments that lenses cannot do justice to this new sensor and that the sensor will out-resolve the lenses, therefore degrading the photograph. Again, logically it didn’t sound right. One other comment heard frequently is that focus, with this new sensor with 36mp will be so sensitive that the photographer will have to have impeccable technique or suffer out of focus photographs. Again, didn’t seem logical.

Here are some facts. I did some research and some calculations and confirmed my logic in thinking about this new chip.

Nikon D800

  • 24 X 35.9mm sensor hosting 36.3 mega pixels
  • Sensor is 861.6mm squared
  • Pixel Pitch is 4.88 microns

Nikon D800 in DX shooting mode

  • 16 X 24 sensor hosting 15.4 mega pixels
  • Sensor used is 384mm squared
  • Pixel Pitch is 4.88 microns

Nikon D7000

  • 23.6 X 15.6mm sensor hosting 16.2 mega pixels
  • Sensor is 368.16mm squared
  • Pixel Pitch is 4.78 microns

Canon 7D

  • 22.3 X 14.9mm sensor hosting 18 mega pixels
  • Sensor is 332.27mm squared
  • Pixel Pitch is 4.3 microns

Olympus EP-3 (the very popular micro 4/3rds camera which gets raves from all the pros and others who own it)

  • 13.0 X 17.3mm sensor hosting 12.3 mega pixels
  • Sensor is 224.9mm squared
  • Pixel Pitch is 4.24 microns

Olympus OM-D E-M5 (the new Micro 4/3rds camera they just introduced at the same time as the D800 and everyone is raving about)

  • 13.0 X 17.3mm sensor hosting 16.1 mega pixels
  • Sensor is 224.9mm squared
  • Pixel Pitch is (estimated) 3.22 microns (I couldn’t find a figure for this but the # of pixels/sensor size is .76X that of the EP-3 above)

After looking at the figures, the D800 has the largest pixels of the bunch. Now, people rave about how good the Canon 7D is and how great the Nikon D7000 is, and don’t complain that there is too much noise or their lenses won’t give them good results or extra care has to be taken in order for a photograph to be in sharp focus, but the D800 has larger pixels! And—we know that larger pixels are better in light gathering as well as quality in reproduction, unless my calculations and assumptions are wrong, of course. Also, there seems to be are a large number of pros/bloggers/podcasters who use the Olympus EP-3 Micro 4/3rds camera and lenses and rave about how great that camera is. Its pixels are only 86.5% of the size of the D800’s pixels. So why would anyone think the D800 wouldn’t a) have fantastic image quality and b) be any different in how the Nikon lenses reproduce the photographed scene?

If my calculations are off or my logic is flawed, you have my apologies and please correct them but it should be easy to calculate and the results should be essentially the same. I just get tired of individuals who have a voice and can influence other through the media speak with authority without maybe considering the facts.

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  • robert cook

    NIKON ROCKS,, I just switched from can not to NIKON and I AM SO HAPPY I DID ! ! ! NIKON is at least 5 years ahead of can not, in focus ,, speed ,, lack of seeking ,, and accuracy. NIKON’s exposures are on the money,, the Hi – I S O blows can not away,, And NIKON’s Flash system NUKES can not !! Too many mega pixels?? are you kidding me ,, NEVER ENOUGH !! The tiny chip used on Nokia’s 808 phone is 41 !!!! If I remember the a Kodak video I saw correctly ,, it claimed we are using only around 30 per cent of the surface of the chips right now for pixel sites,, the rest of the area ,, blank space or covered with electronics. So as chips evolve ,, like with backlite sensors or,, we get more mega pixels ,, with out smaller pixel sites.. ALL GREAT !! This new NIKON is AMAZING !!! NIKON is the BEST CAMERA IN THE WORLD,, SONY IS SECOND and can not ,, can not !!

    • Calibrator

      I saw your vid but didn’t think you’d make the switch so quickly!

    • Frisco

      I prefer Nikon too, but always thought Canon made good cameras as well. I’ve never used a Canon DSLR, but the few times I’ve held one I felt there was too much plastic. To me they feel flimsy and cheap —- that’s not to say that they can’t produce great images. There are other ergonomic issues I have with Canon. For example, I hate the Tv setting (in CanonSpeak that stands for the shutter speed setting). I always think “A” for aperture, “S” for shutter. If you use Canon’s logic it would be “Tv” for shutter and should be “O” for opening. Again, Canon’s are good cameras from what I can tell — I just don’t care for them. So Robert, I like Nikons too and I hope the D800 lives up to our highest expectations.

      • John

        I always thought TV stood for Time Value and AV for Aperture Value.

        • Frisco

          Yeah, Time Value (how long the “Shutter” stays open) — Shutter.

      • Comical Alien

        Your comments about Nikon being better than Canon reminds me of the electronic keyboards battle between Casio (AKA like Canon with a lot more models) and Yamaha (AKA like Nikon with refined quality models).

        Nearly every Yamaha keyboard model is good while Casio’s keyboards are usually cheaper in price and cheaply made. Few of Casio’s keyboards can offer the quality of sound compared to comparative keyboards by Yamaha.

        I know this is a digression in analysis of electronic gadgetry, but it is a very similar scenario! Canon quality versus Nikon quality!

        I am a Nikon user and am selling my D7000 to provide some of the funding for the D800.

        Long live Nikon and their greatness in making cameras!


    • jack yell

      Well congratulations for your switching from Powershoot to Coolpix system.

      • Douglas Adams

        Man, you made me laugh this morning…thanks!

      • Alan Liu

        Brilliant, made me laugh as well. And As a Canon and a Nikon User, I never even paid any thoughts to the letters on my dial till now. I just set and go.

    • silmasan

      what is this thing you keep telling us about… “can not”, Mr. Cook? 😀

      • robert cook

        can not cameras are NOT PRO TOOLS, They are very expensive cameras that have A LOT of PROBLEMS ! 8 GRAND cameras that are really good DOOR STOPS ,, I do not want to have to pay for. I shot with can nots for 8 years,, I do not trust can not cameras . NIKON full frame cameras are the best cameras in the world !

        • Ken R

          Cook stopp whining around and blaming Canon cameras for being bad when the problem is noit the camera but the fool behind the camera: you!!!

    • You are wrong

      If you use only the DX size of the sensor you are right – but then it would be cheaper for you to buy a D7000.
      Using the full format of the sensor makes things much different – and you are wrong therefore – because the lens has to deal with a lot more pixels (double) when it comes to resolution and the light of the lens is now spread on a plane double the DX-size -> means aprox. 1 stop more noise.

      • GrumpyDiver

        Nope – please get your physics right. A DX lens is designed to illuminate a DX sized sensor; an FX lens is designed to illuminate an FX sized sensor. Use an FX lens on a DX camera and you are only using the centre portion of the lens. Use an DX format lens on an FX (assuming the the camera does not automatically compensate) and there will be parts of the sensor that do not get any exposure at all and the areas outside of the DX image circle that do get exposure will be of very poor quality. The image circle of the two designs will be different.

        Noise; all things being equal (i.e. same performance parameters for the FX and DX sensors, other than size), there would be no difference in sensor noise. Noise, by the way, is not measured in “stops”.

        • Michael

          You’re right. I’ll help you to explain it clearly in a scientific way to help them understand. I’ve went into this discussion before and barely anyone believed me but my idea got through.

          A DX and FX lens with the same entrance pupil diameter will provide the same amount of luminous flux (total amount of light), but different amount of illuminance (density of light), hence the different f/stop. Therefore, a DX and FX lens has the same noise performance and depth of field given that they have the same entrance pupil diameter. An easier way to word this is – the FX sensor is larger, therefore the light that illuminates it spreads out more.

          There’s a theoretical limit set by optics and thermodynamics: f/0.5. My observation shows that there are very few photographic lenses for any format that are faster than f/0.9. The closer you reach f/0.5, the worse the image quality from the lens will be.

        • Michael

          This guy explains it better than me.

    • sigh

      What a lousy sense of humour, no matter Canon or Nikon you are right out damn silly, and don’t forget to visit your local PC store and have them fix (remove) the caps lock on your keyboard, son.

  • The idea that lenses are unable to resolve enough clarity is a huge issue in the camera world. Such claims are far from unfounded and I am not surprised at all to hear so about a Nikon with 36mp. If I wasn’t so amazed by my experience with Nikkor lenses and their clarity I would have probably balked at this announcement.

    For a while I was shooting a 5D II and L glass. With my 24-70 I noticed every image was soft at 50mm and got worse at 70mm no matter what aperture I was using. I was not alone in thinking it was a bad lens however once I realized that the second one had the exact same issue I began to worry. I tested a friends copy and the same issue. I was worried it was the body then so I tested the two copies of the 24-70 with her 5D II and same thing. That was when I began calling it the “dirty windshield” syndrome. It just flat out couldn’t resolve enough.

    Luckily for me my 5D II had a latent manufacturer defect that hadnt reared its ugly head yet and later when it did I received the whole value of the body back. I immediately bought a D700 and despite having to measure how long I have had it in years, I still consider myself in the honeymoon phase.

    Nikon being first and foremost a lens company is in my opinion the only way they can get away with 36mp. If I was still a Canon shooter I would have cringed at such an announcement. I doubt even the 300 f/2.8 which was my favorite Canon lens could resolve that much. However I have never had any of my Nikkor lenses ever fall short of being able to resolve the sensor.

    Further as you pointed out the D7000 has a similar pixel pitch. The quality isn’t lacking. Now that the D4 seems to have an edge over the 1D X for low light, and the D800 has an edge over the 5D III for resolution it really seems to me like a wonderful day to be a working Nikon user.

    • fred


      The EF 24-70mm is a disastrous optic, along with the EF 17-40mm and some others.

      • Landscape Photo

        I once used a friend’s 5D II + 16-35mm. Corners had a lot of coma even stopped down to f/11, let alone anything wide open. The worse, it was not equal. Right lower corner was more mushy than left on a distant exposure.

        • nebus

          the 16-35mm is not a great lens from Canon and most photographers using Canon should know that – the MKII however is very good and quite similar to the Nikkor 17-35mm. Owning both I still don’t feel either are good enough either but YMMV.
          To say that Canon lenses aren’t as good as Nikon is a stupid statement. Both brands have their strong lenses and their weak lenses – their best lenses are on par with each other and neither are going to be as good as the best on LF & MF systems.

          • jo1

            well said!

            Only some minor corrections here – there are maybe two or three lenses (to my experience) where Nikon beats Canon and some 8 lenses where Canon beats Nikon either because there is not such Nikon lens or because of their better optical and mechanical quality.

            Nikon is great with the 14-24 and the 85 f/1.4 G and it had the best 24-70 f/2.8 and 200-400 f/4.0 to date – Last both to be reviewed against the Canon pendant as soon as these lenses are available – I’d expect both Nikon lenses to be beaten by the Canon ones.

            On the other hand there is the stellar TS-E 17 / 24 II and 90, the MP-E 65, the 24 f/1.4, 70-200 f/2.8 and 4.0 L IS USM at 200 mm and of course the 300 & 400 f/2.8 II and the 500 & 600 f/4.0 which are the finest yet lightest lenses in this focal length. The 1.4x and 2x III converters are unsurpassed and the 135 f/2.0 is still after all these years unbeaten by Nikon.

            The rest of the lenses is at Nikon and at Canon just mediocre – I would not even consider any other lens as the above stated as worth paying money for except the 10X mm macros.

            A very big disadvantage of the Nikon system its he small F mount and thus the limitations in shifting or maximum aperture and of course the limitations to put a Canon lens on a Nikon body (which works the other way round) – all these facts brought me to the decision that the Canon System is superior for my way of using the gear.

            I am not interested in AF performance neither in ISO nor in flash technology. If I need fast AF I rent a fast Body and if I need Flash I rent the studio or on location flash system that suits best. and If I need high Iso I simply go to higher ISO values knowing that it will take some efforts in post processing to get perfect results.

            just my 2 ct

            • nebus

              you’re right – I dislike posting on this site as it’s mostly filled with ill-informed trolls so i didn’t really want to get to detailed on it.

            • Thomas

              The Nikon 85mm F/1.8 is actually 12%-16% higher resolution than the F/1.4

              Just sayin’

              More expensive isn’t always better.

            • Don

              I’m a Nikon Shooter, but when I hear you say the 85 1.4G Nikkor is a great lens, it pretty much discounts everyrthing you say.

            • Sergio45

              The rest are mediocre?? OMG, maybe for canon, but in nikon line… you must see what my 135mm f:2 DC can do. I have a lot of nikkor lens better than the 24-70mm.

            • GrumpyDiver

              Comparing a medium zoom to a medium telephoto prime like the 135 DC is not really fair. These are two totally different lenses with totally different audiences in mind. I own both the f2.8 24-70 and the f/2 105DC.

              The 105 DC is the sharpest Nikon lens that I own, but of course a prime telephoto would be sharper than a zoom, as the lens designer only has one focal length to design to. Of course the two different lenses tend not to be used for the same purpose.

            • Levi H

              It sounds to me like you’ve used more Canon lenses than Nikon. I can’t tell you whether there is truth to your statement as I have only used a few Canon lenses, but I am impressed by both companies, not displeased. As for what I can speak about, I used Nikon’s 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm 1.4G lenses and they are all SPECTACULAR. I’m amazed every time I use them. The quality and sharpness continues with lenses like the 70-200mm 2.8 VR and the 105MM 2.8 VR macro. Seriously sharp stuff. Wish I could compare to Canon’s versions but I’ve only shot it a few times!

      • Michael

        Two of Canon trinity zoom lens is worse than Nikon (let’s not compare the 24-70 ii by both Nikon and Canon, they are not tested yet), and the 70-200mm being way behind of Nikon even though Nikon’s 70-200mm is always a decade old. I think Canon used the white paint as a tactic to hide the bads of the 70-200mm. lol

        Try comparing two Sigma and Tamron lenses on both 1DsMiii and D3x, they have very similar resolution, so no need to worry about different sensors.

    • Robert Ash

      Agreed. One critical fact I have never seen pointed out here yet is that Nikon made exquisite quality large format lenses for many years for 4×5 and 8×10 film cameras. That is the most technically demanding still photography standard that is possible for a lens. On the other hand I don’t remember ever hearing about Canon making large format lenses. Nikon really, really knows lenses and they leverage that large format expertise and experience into every flagship lens Nikon makes, we can bet real money on that being the case. So I have no doubt Nikkor lenses can resolve 36MP sensors with plenty of resolution left over for even more megapixels in the future.

      • fred

        Canon is simply not an optics company at its core. They rely on third-party suppliers for their glass blanks, and they never really figured out coatings. The Nikon LF lenses are so sharp that a lot of portrait photographers hate them. Their enlarger lenses were amazing too. I made many a 30×40″ print from 35mm using their 50mm EL-Nikkor.

        For anyone who hasn’t seen it, this page is a treasure:

        • GrumpyDiver

          How about:


          I also believe you are wrong on the Canon glass angle; I believe they are the only company that has a level of glass manufacturing in house. I suspect most of Nikon’s glass comes from Hoya or possibly some from Schott. I’m pretty sure that Canon would buy from these companies too.

          • You suspect wrongly. Nikon has manufactured all of their own glass since 1918.

            A quote from their careers page, “Nikon is the only major optical company in the world that still controls and manufactures every aspect of its glass-making business, allowing it to finely tune Nikon lens specifications, quality and performance.”

            They are actually less of a camera company than they are an optics company, always have been. They have large market-shares in medical imaging, as well as sports and hunting optics.

            • GrumpyDiver

              As well as making the machines are used in the fabrication of microelectronic and LCDs.

              Cosina also has a glass lab and Zeiss owns Schott.

              And of course all of this is irrelevent to the quality of the cameras and lenses.

            • AS

              Who do you think makes a better lens? A team working from a catalog of commercial lens blanks, or a team that can go to its glassworks for the exact quality they need?

              At the Schott factory, clay pots for melting glass are used only once. Armed guards surround their coveted single source of sand.

              Glassmaking has plenty to do with the quality of lenses, and Canon doesn’t do it.

            • GrumpyDiver

              It really doesn’t matter where you get the glass, so long as it meets the required specs and the supplier can deliver the required quantities to meet the production schedule, at the right price. You can be quite sure that Schott and Hoya glass can be found in lenses by any of the major lens makers.

              Using crucibles only once does not surprise me; this would not be the only production process using disposible tooling. It could be to prevent contamination between batches, but more likely they are so fragile the risk of reusing them is too great and they wear out after one use.

              So why would you make your own glass? There really are only a few reasons; the most important is that the in-house supply is cheaper and / or more reliable than using an external supplier, the external supplier cannot meet your demand, the external supplier is not interested in making the formulation you are after (the quantities you want are too small. And of course, there is the “secret sauce” part. Zeiss owns Schott and until recently Hoya owned Pentax; you don’t necessarily want to share your secret recipe with your competitor.

            • AS

              You list a bunch fo good reasons while working from third-party lens blanks would limit lens design. I don’t know who are the “major lens makers” you speak of, but neither Canon nor Nikon buy glass from Schott or Hoya.

            • GrumpyDiver

              It’s always possible that some of these companies are so vertically integrated that what you write is true, but it would really surprise me, especially for the commodity lenses. Unfortuantely, unless you have access to the bill of materials for the lenses, you and I can only speculate on this.

        • R. Jackson

          Actually, Canon makes their own glass, at least for their L lenses. If you poke around the Canon site there’s a video showing an L telephoto lens (I think it’s a 300mm f/2.8) starting out as a pile of white powder that heat and pressure eventually form into high quality glass. It’s really kind of amazing how time-consuming the process of making their high-end optics seems to be. Very hands-on stuff performed by skilled craftsmen.

          • PHB

            I would not count it one way or the other.

            The consumer glass is made to a budget, I don’t much care if Nikon decides that buying in glass made to spec is better or not. There are going to be compromises and that is not one that worries me much.

            The professional glass is made in ridiculously small quantities compared to other glassmaking. A professional lens might have a pound of glass in it of which at most a quarter is going to be of one particular formula. So a ton of glass is going to be four thousand lenses. A ten ton kiln load is going to be over a years supply. Anything less than that and the impurities from batch to batch are going to be significant.

            Making the glass in house is going to make sense for the pure convenience and economics of short runs.

            But you can get glass made to pretty much any spec you like from a specialist provider with amazingly tight control over impurities.

            Its like the old Canon canard about Nikon using recycled glass (no, they don’t even used recycled glass to make clear soda bottles, just one colored bottle in ten thousand spoils it). The economics of the business mean that everyone doing stuff in volume is going to do it the same way.

        • Robert Falconer

          Each of these two fine companies produces, overall, stellar optics. Canon have been producing their own optics since 1946, when Nikon stopped providing them with lenses.

          Each company has had its champions…and its dogs. Nikon’s old 43-86 was an optically awful lens, for example. As entire lines, they are comparable. One has to make one-to-one comparisons on an optic-to-optic basis to garner meaningful results.

          I say this as someone who has shot both systems over the past 30 years, and currently uses Nikon.

    • Greg

      Here’s something I would expect people to start noticing though: how different the performance of a lens is from center to corner.

      Right now we complain about a lens being “soft in the corners”, so we know that at certain settings our glass is out resolved by our sensor in the corners. And we know the higher density DX sensors are doing just fine in the lens center. When that density gets spread from center to edge, I think we’ll see the lens getting three times softer in the corner and three times sharper in the center.

      I suspect that the difference is going to become much more obvious.

      • silmasan

        I have a theory regarding this matter:

        It’s about time we should start framing everything in… CIRCLES!

        I mean, it’s obvious–the shape of our irises, the optics you see everywhere… 😀

        • Dr. Rectangle

          It’s because of people like you that I’ve devoted my life to designing rectangular lenses.

      • Landscape Photo

        Some extent of the sharp-to-soft-gradation from center to corners is caused by lens focal plane curvature.

        Therefore, some of the corner & border softness may be recovered by focusing on the corner area at the expense of the center sharpness! AF fine tune does the same thing too. A sweet-spot can be found.

        Yet, some zoom lenses’ corner performance is so poor that, even if you force live-view 100% focus, its fuzziness won’t improve.

        I bet with the new quality Nikkor zooms, they designed the image circle larger than before, to combat corner aberrations.

      • Sahaja

        You’re right – very few camera lenses, except those designed for copy work, have a flat field of focus.

        On a flat object, you are probably best focusing at a spot about 2/3 from center to edge as you get less dof in front of the point of focus than behind.

    • Banksie

      If you really want high resolution and a three dimensional look with superb color rendition, then start buying some used Leica R lenses. You can get them “Leitaxed” to use with the Nikon F mount. Of course you’ll be giving up auto focusing but you’ll definitely gain in the IQ department. They’ll make the D800 really sing.

      • Anonee

        Leica is an overrated brand. Surely get one if you are too rich to throw away your money. By the way, good Nikkors are not short of Leica!

        • GrumpyDiver

          As the owner of two Leica and two Nikon bodies, I will have to disagree with your comment.

          • fred

            Leica, Zeiss, and Schneider lenses have an amazing “soft and sharp” quality that Nikkors do not. That said, the Nikkors and Rodenstocks tend to have more pure sharpness. I would not think to put a Leica lens on my D800, but who knows!

            • Les

              Voigtlander should be included on the list with Zeiss and Leica. I exclusively use all three (though I no longer use Leica), and the Voigtlanders are right in there IQ-wise.

        • Banksie

          Anonee, I own four Leica M lenses and six Nikkor AF lenses. The Nikkors include the latest AF-S 24 1.4 G, 35 1.4 G, 85 1.4 G, and also the highly respected AF DC 135mm. (I have no Nikkor zooms.) These lenses are supposedly some of the best current Nikkor lenses.

          The Leica lenses are outstanding in their color palette and resolution. There are intentional aberrations designed into the lenses that result in a unique look (and are less ‘flat’ looking.) I was seriously thinking of selling some of the Leica lenses (there’s a high resale market these days.) So I recently did numerous comparisons of the same subject matter at the same time, same settings, and with identical large prints. I decided to keep the lenses. The Nikkors are very good but they are not the same.

          I don’t really care about the Leica camera bodies (although I like the M because I like the ergonomics and also the rangefinder.) I’m talking about their optics. Which is why I said it will be nice to have the Leica R lenses mounted on the new D800/E.

          Sorry, but it’s not throwing money away and it’s not about being rich. Do you simply dismiss everything that happens to be expensive? I can’t own a Ferrari and I know they are ‘overrated’ in the sense of their marketing and mythology, but I will never deny that they are pretty amazing sports cars. And I wouldn’t dismiss anybody who buys one. I’d buy one if I could afford it, trust me. And I’m guessing that you would, too.

          Quality costs money in both R+D and in production. And not all companies have the same economy of scale. Some companies can build 30,000 lenses and cameras a month. And at that scale, the product will always cost less.

    • Patrik

      I’ve had a few Nikkor duds as well (i.e. original 70-200VR). You have to pick your glass… The one thing I am happy about with the D800 (specs at least…) is that image quality will no longer be limited by the sensor. Yes, focus will be more challenging, difraction will rear it’s ugly head, etc. BUT all of this is not that the image will be more blured, just that you will be able to resolve it if it is there! It is now in the hands of the photographer to obtain the detail he requires, it is not limited by the coarse imaging sensor.
      Even things like moire will not be a huge issue with the D800E, because it will be difficult to obtain. You need a good lens, good technique to resolve the fine detail that can lead to moire. I am still on the fence for which I should get as I am not sure I would have the required skills to obtain moire that often, even if I wanted to.
      I do look forward to the challenge though! I am sure some of my glass isn’t…

  • One of the things you have to be most careful about with nikon lenses is making sure each lens profile is custom tweaked for auto focus and/or manual focus in the lens menu. Back focusing and auto focus adjustments often vary widely from one Nikon body to another and from one Nikkor lens to another especially FX lenses. Live view is often the only way to accurately and reliably focus on almost any lens, especially if both the focusing on the subject is extremely critical and the rez is high.

    • GrumpyDiver

      That’s right, your eyes and external screen are so much more accurate than the very expensive lens test equipment Nikon (or the other manufacturers) use to set the electronics in the lens.

      • ghyz

        Thanks 🙂

  • doug

    You should pop up on the CR forums, their top Thread is:

    Author Topic: Hugely Disappointed In 5D III Price (Read 16194 times)

  • Bokeh

    It’s the same(ish) pixel density as the D7000.

    What’s the problem?

    • Anonymous Maximus


      • Carsten

        is it? – true, sharpness decreases towards the borders, but when was the last time you had to complain about sharpness in the corners (other than shooting a test chart?

        Full sharpness across the frame is usually required only for landscape work where you stop down to the diffraction limit and there almost all lenses perform well across the frame.

        Anyway, either lens or the body are the limiting factor, now we are getting into the region where the sensor out-resolves the optics.

        In film days we used very fine grained film to push to this limit. Welcome back to the future

        • “when was the last time you had to complain about sharpness in the corners (other than shooting a test chart?”

          When I’m shooting architecture, landscapes, tabletop, or pretty much ANYthing other than portraits…

          • Well, I’m an interiour photographer also doing landscapes and architecture (check my apartments/villas section on my portfolio – those are as good interiour shots as they get) and I agree with Carsten completely. You ignored this part of his post:

            “Full sharpness across the frame is usually required only for landscape work where you stop down to the diffraction limit and there almost all lenses perform well across the frame.”

            How far you have to stop down depends on the lens, of course, but usually between f/8-11 corner sharpness is NOT an issue. There is, of course, a small difference, but completely negligible in real work. This, of course, means using a tripod – but for most professional (commissioned) work, this is not an issue. In fact, interiour work is slow and methodical, and setting up a tripod, properly aligning the lens to keep lines parallel is must. You simply can’t do it handheld, even if shutter speed wasn’t an issue. Even if you could shoot at F/1.8 at 1/500+ shutter speeds, you’ll still need a tripod for proper lens alignment, unless you want to end up with V-shaped lines.

            So in other words, Carsten is completely right. Keep in mind that the d800 is primarily a studio (controlled light conditions, corner sharpness doesn’t matter all), landscape, interiour and architecture photographer’s dream camera – and for the last three subjects you almost always use a tripod. There are edge cases, of course, like museums (but if you are commissioned by the museum to provide pics for a brochure or something, again, you will be able to use a tripod of course).

      • Bokeh


        That’s a Full Frame “problem” though isn’t it? I don’t see where pixel density, specifically, comes into it.

  • JC

    Wait, so you compared the D800’s pixel pitch to that of several other mostly non-comparable cameras? Not a single other full frame camera in fact.
    Compare the D800 to a competitive camera with a different pixel pitch (most likely larger than that of the D800s) and I would assume you will see the difference that people are trying to find.

    I don’t see the point of the exercise as you did it….

    • YPhotography


      I think people were expecting LARGER pixels from a D800, not SIMILAR to those of enthusiast/semi-pro models.

      • David Kasman

        You can’t make the pixels larger without making a larger format camera or making the camera less than 12MP.

        • David Kasman

          By 12MP, I’m assuming that you are comparing the D800 to the D700. Perhaps you are thinking of other full frame DSLRs.

    • I agree that comparisons would have ideally been made with other full frame cameras. My understanding is that the D700 has a pixel pitch of 8.45 microns vs the D800’s 4.88 microns. In terms area, pi*r(squared). That means the D700 pixels are about 3 times the size of the D800. This makes sense, since the overall sensor is the same size and there are 3 times as many pixels in the D800. What nobody knows is whether the sensor sensitivity, per unit area, has been improved (I suspect it has) or how the new processor in the D800 compares to the older D700’s. We know that processor speed has increased, but lower steady-state electronic noise and dynamic range of the processor and power supplies in the D800 could all make the D800 produce better photos than the D700 regardless of the smaller pixel size. We will have to see, but so far, every generation of prosumer Nikon camera has been better than the prior version, so I suspect the D800 will be better overall than the D700. Maybe the D700 will still be better for low light and fast moving subjects. We will see.

    • Greg

      Yeah, that’s pretty much the problem here– I don’t think people are having a hard time doing the math, I think they had different expectations. The only reason there’s anything resembling an argument about it is because different people value different things.

      Personally I think Nikon made a smart call here– they made huge improvements in ISO when the D700 came out. They could have improved it incrementally with this next camera. Instead they chose to make a big splash in resolution. Time (rather than envelope calculations) will tell what gets sacrificed with that decision, but it certainly made for an exciting change in direction!

      • David Kasman

        Good point Greg. Nikon has also managed to clearly differentiate the D800 from the D4, something that could not be said for the D700 and standard D3.

  • Well done and well say !
    there is always people to say things on every subject they no nothing about !

  • Michael

    How do people actually create guest posts?

  • Bill Wandersleben

    Pixel count and lens sharpness! Funny that no one that I can see has a way to rate a lens anymore other than the term “Sharp”. How sharp is sharp? One lens is sharper than another that is fine but by what standard?
    Back in the film days lenses were rated by “Lines per Millimeter”. So why not rate lenses the same way today? Well there is a simple explanation to this. The sensor was not capable of resolving what the lens could. In the film days black and white films far exceeded what the lenses could pass so it was easy to make comparisons by simply shooting a test chart with lines. As I recall the lens tests would show a good lens to resolve about 100 lines per millimeter. An excellent lens would resolve 120 lines per millimeter in the center at f8.
    Now if we have a technical look at the sensor of say the D700 from a pixel count then you will see that pixels per millimeter is 117 in the horizontal and vertical. So you may say why isn’t this good enough if the lens can only see at best 120 lines per millimeter. Well unlike film pixels across the diagonal form a “stair step. That is where the resolution falls down.
    Now I have to laugh at some of the terms that people post about pixel density. If you look at the D700 with 12mp and the D800 with 36mp people have posted that the pixel density is three times difference between the two. Not true. Density is a measure of something per area so if we go back to the square mm and compare the two you will see that the difference is not triple! Now getting lens and what it can see let’s look at lines per mm. As I stated above the D700 has 117 lines per mm. The D800 has 205 lines per mm so the D800 is about double the density as the D700. This the “Stair Step” along the diagonal is far less.
    The point of all this is look at the physics of the sensor and lens in some reasonable way. Now would will be interesting with the 36mp count exceeding the lens if someone will go back to the true why to rate lenses.
    Just the thoughts from an old film photographer moved the digital age!

    • Michael

      Lines per millimeter normally means lines pair per millimeter, so it’s two times of what you think is.

      • GrumpyDiver

        Line pairs is not the best way to describe this; what you are measuring is a minimum of a line pair (line-gap-line). What one refers to here is a the number of lines with gaps between them. 100 lines/mm means 100 lines and 99 gaps (that are the same width as the line).

  • Dig

    A guest post done splendidly.
    Thank you.

  • justintime66

    I have D800 on order so I am voting in favour with my feet (hard earned cash!).
    Fatest pixels: do we really know the size of the D800 pixels? Pixel pitch is not the size of the pixels.

    Will D800 make lenses soft.
    No, but if your current setup has a sensor resolution about equal to the lens resolution, then the D800 will show up weaknesses. One problem we may see is that the D800 shows the excellent centre sharpness of the lenses, but by comparison the corners look weak. The corners may be no worse than with D700, they may even be better, but the centre will look so much sharper that the corners become noticeable.

    Will D800 require better technique.
    Nikon seem to think so. Having used D7000 (previously D700 and D300) I did find I had to improve my technique (or was it just rumoured D7000 mirror slap). Initially I thought if my technique was good enough for a D7000 then as the pixel pitch of the D800 is bigger (D7000 16mp compared to D800 DX 15mp) I would be OK. But Thom Hogan ( had an interesting calculation:
    “Consider this: a 16mm lens on D7000 puts ~5000 pixels across 74 degrees, while a 24mm lens on a D800 puts ~7000 pixels across the same angle. Put another way, 1° of motion is 68 pixels on the D7000, 94 pixels on the D800. …… You’ve got to handle a D800 cleaner than a D7000 folks. …..”

    That said my view is that for the same OUTPUT size the D800 will give the same/better quality than D700 (and D7000). But if my lenses and technique are upto it the 36mp will allow larger prints (or crops) when needed.

    • Landscape Photo


      Most of the time in the field, D800 will likely render an average of 24mp-equivalent images due to combination of losses from AF, motion blur, lens aberrations & diffraction. This is still an advantage over D700.

      I’ll show extra effort to hone my technique, maybe discarding some lenses, but I’m ready to accept this fact. Some images may excell in image information, but some may be only D700-equivalent. It’s in the nature of photography, they are not factory-made…

      It’s nice to have the flexibility of 36mp, yet there are more important aspects in photography then sharpness or contrast.

    • Landscape Photo

      It depends on the center-to-corner resolution gradient.

      * Best lenses show little difference from center to corner (normal & tele primes, quality zooms) – to go 🙂

      * Some lenses maintain a fairly equal image accross the sensor area, but drops suddenly on the corners (usually seen on zooms) – can be easily avoided by 1.2x crop mode

      * Some show excellent resolution at the centermost area but start to decline gradually even starting at 1/4 way from center (usually seen on zooms or some wide angle primes even stopped down) – the last group is to be avoided with D800 at most imo.

      • GrumpyDiver

        A nice way of saying you get what you pay for. The downside of course is the darn things weigh a lot, and sometimes I will just take my super cheap kit lenses or fixed focal length lenses because they don’t weight as much.

        • Anonee

          “A nice way of saying you get what you pay for.”

          Not always… A $100 50mm f/1.8 D will better any of the 24-120mm zooms @ 50mm. Or a 24mm f/2.8 will better the 4x expensive 16-35mm @ 24mm at any aperture.

          If the goal is absolute image quality, but not speed or practicality, there is usually an affordable way to go.

        • Anonee

          But I agree with you about the bulkiness issue.

          • GrumpyDiver

            A 50mm prime will certainly get you a sharper shot than a zoom, and chances are that a 50mm f/1.8 wide open will get you a sharper image than the 50mm f.1.2 and cost you a whole lot less. But none of them will let you shoot at 24mm or 120mm or anywhere in between other than at 50mm, so you aren’t really comparing the same thing.

            By the way, I do shot primes a lot; I use a 35mm, 50mm and 105mm often. They are extremely sharp and you have to work a lot harder to get a picture. I personally think everyone should spend some time only shooting primes; it makes you a far better photographer.

    • bingo… this is pretty much the first post here to get the basics of the situation right.

      it amazes me how bad people in general seem to be at thinking through this stuff.

      the good news is: you really don’t need to think at all. if you have a d700 now, take photos exactly the way you usually do and use the new d800, there is no way that your final output can get *worse*. worst case scenario, your final output doesn’t improve. best case scenario, depending on technique, your output can get significantly higher resolution (and probably some other bumps, depending on how it turns out the sensor performs in the shadows and for color).

      nikon’s pdf white paper on d800 technique was pretty much a pre-emptive strike to counter the inevitable wave of postings once the camera ships from people who snap a shot of their computer desk, upload it, jump zoom to 100% and screech ‘noooooooooo…’ when they see mushy pixels.

      at which point 5d3 owners will be saying ‘hmmm, what happened to all the chromatic aberrations and shadow noise from my 5d2?’ and being amazed that they are seeing ‘sharper’ output from the same resolution sensor….

      i like a lot of things about the nikon better, and i like a number of things about the canon better, and boy do i feel lucky to have such choices.

  • snorri

    Thank you for your calculations, very interesting comparison!

    Yet, in the context of this discussion, I think it misses the point somewhat. The problem many people see with the D800’s 36 megapixels isn’t:

    “The pixels are too small.”

    … but rather:

    “The pixels should be fewer and bigger, because getting more light sensibility is more important than more resolution.”

    Basically, this is a conflict of interest between the people who want a D3x in a D700 body and those who want a D3s in a D700 body. The former will be thrilled by the D800, the latter not so much.

    It boils down to the same old whining we hear each time a new camera comes out: “Nikon made a camera that isn’t for me, waaah!” 😉


  • Interesting comparison, however, the D7000 has indeed brought up a lot of disappointment because of that low pitch.
    In my opinion it is more difficult to handle than other DX cameras and I expect the D800 to suffer the same.

    Also we sav the poll showing photographer would have loved an D800 body with 16mp…

    • d7000 ???

      I’m not sure it is the pixel pitch that is the issue here. D7000 is a finicky camera both in the autofocus and in the exposure department. I’ve always felt that if one sets expectation appropriately, both D300 and D700 deliver exactly what one expects, so I have full confidence in both. D7000 — not so much, and I wouldn’t use it if I don’t have enough time to fiddle with it when the shot can’t be missed. If I have enough light and need the crop factor, I’ll go for D300, if I shoot in the dark and don’t need the crop factor, D700 is the choice (as in many other cases when crop factor isn’t desired). I see only two circumstances when D7000 is preferable: either when size/weight is an issue, or when I shoot in relatively low light and still would prefer to have the crop factor.

  • R!

    The only reason why there is so much Canon fanboy on this forum is because they want to troll Nikon rumors and because Canon rumors is not as good and free as Nikon rumors.
    The only reasonwhy there is so much Canon users that are using Nikon lenses is because Nikons lenses are better than Canons.
    The only reasons Canons fanboys are trying to disturb Nikon rumors chatters is because they know that the D800 is better and cheaper than the 5DIII .

    • R!

      Nikon rumors is getting a lot of views,good job ADMIN!!!!!!

  • Some guy

    So the only fair comparison for the D800 sensor is to compare it to APS-C sensors.


  • Mr Orchard

    I don’t see the benefit of arguing one over the other. I work professionally in photography and I can say that I’ve used Nikon, Canon, Hasselbald and Phase One for shoots depending on what was needed and what was available at the time.

    In all honesty, if you can’t get the shot you’re looking for with the current technology – d700, d3s, d4, 5Dmii, 5DMiii, 1DX, etc… then you’re probably doing something wrong.

  • about 20.3 megapixels are used for the medium size, or maybe if you’re taking snapshots you’ll find you can get by with the small size, which is about 9 megapixels. Both the medium and small settings use data from the full extent of the 36.3-megapixel sensor optimally processed to a smaller size using EXPEED 3. Therefore, we suggest selecting medium or small for normal use and choosing large only for, say, group portraits or very high resolution landscape shots.

    An excerpt from the designers of the D800

    • stan

      But once you go to medium or small size you lose RAW ?
      Is that true?


    I don.t know what the fuss is all about. I can’t wait to get an D-800e. I cut my photographic teeth on a 4 x5 Speed graphic. We did not have a 46 or even 4 FPS, AND WE HAD TO
    SHOOT CANDIDS, SPORTS, ETC. I was a dye transfer technician for over 20 years, and I
    learned how to use film and work with it. I have found digital cameras facinating, and I am able to do in 4 hours what once took me 4 days. Stop complaining and start learning and
    using the cameras.

    Bill Renard

    • Luis

      Well said Bill…

  • EvilTed

    I actually had a D800 0n order until I downloaded the technical guide from this site.
    This guide has some really worrying statements in it.
    It’s not even reviewed yet, but Nikon are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of going to 36MP.

    Issue 1 – Blur. Page 2.
    At the high resolutions off ered by the D800/D800E, even the
    slightest camera motion can result in blur. The technique revealed
    in this section minimizes blur through a combination
    of live view photography and a tripod.

    Blur continued – page 3
    Why Use Live View?
    1. The mirror is raised prior to shooting, reducing blur.
    At the high resolutions off ered by the D800/D800E, even the
    slap of the mirror can sometimes be enough to blur photographs.
    In live view, the mirror is raised well before the shutter
    is released, helping keep blur to a minimum.

    Blur continued – Page 9
    The superior resolution of the D800/D800E makes small
    amounts of focus blur more obvious. Select a shutter speed
    slightly faster than you would choose when photographing
    the same subject with other cameras.

    Issue 2 – Diffraction. Page 5.
    Stop aperture
    down too far, however, and diff raction will cause the image to
    actually lose definition.

    Diffraction continued. Page 13.
    with the D800/D800E’s high resolution the effects generally
    become noticeable around f/11.

    Issue 3. Focusing Page 10.
    With the D800/D800E, you will notice that photos seem to have
    less depth of field than pictures shot with other cameras under
    the same conditions, and that focus consequently requires more
    attention. As can be seen from the examples below, changing
    the focus point even slightly can blur important details.

    Issue 4. Expensive glass required.
    With cameras like the D800E, which are suited to visually
    complex subjects, it is important to get as much sharpness
    from the lens as possible.
    They go on to list the best lenses to use.
    Only 2 of the list are currently available anywhere.

    So, I thought about it.
    Thought about it some more and decided this camera is not for me.
    I want something like the D700 with higher ISO and double MP.
    I think Nikon totally dropped the ball with the D800 (and as others have mentioned), it feels like Nikon tried to improve on the 5D MK2, while Canon tried to improve on the D700.

    Now, I’m sure the D800 will produce stunning images, but the fact that it is so sensitive to blur makes we wonder if it going to be any use hand held out in the field or whether this is a tripod camera for the studio?

    I cancelled my order and ordered a Canon 5D MK3 instead…


    • STE

      Thanks EvilTed for posting your concerns.

      Your post got me excited to order the D800 because everything you listed tells me that this is a wonderful high resolution camera and actually requires good camera technique and glass to get the most out of.

      #1 Camera Movement? I have done Mirror lock-up on all my medium format and of course large format works for years. I know this might come as a surprise to most, but the slightest camera motion can actually result in blur on your image in any camera, you just tend to noticed more on higher end cameras where as the lower end cameras just equally lack resolution and look mushy all over, I guess on those lower end cameras there must not be a lot of difference between hand holding and a tripod. I personally do notice the difference even on my D700, which I tripod and lock-up the mirror for a lot of my shots 1/30th and slower.

      #2 Focus? I know this also comes as a surprise to most photographers but an image actually needs critical focus on your subject. I guess that on lower resolution cameras you can miss the focus and still have a very acceptable image quality because the difference between in focus and slightly out is not that great, but if I were to miss the focus on my medium and large format the difference is huge and results in culls. Even my D700 needs critical “Live View” focus at times for some silly reason for the shot to really “pop”.

      #3 Diffraction? Stop aperture down too far will cause the image to actually lose definition. Again, I guess this is only really noticed on higher resolution images, it seems that most of the cameras today when you stop down the image just becomes equally “bad” across the entire frame. Yep, depending on the lens and the type of image I can see loss of definition even on my D700 when I stop down too far so that is not new either.

      #4 Expensive glass required. Really? I would have never guessed that. If I can see a difference between my hand selected high end glass and the less expensive glass on my D700 I am curious to find out how my good glass will looked when it is max out on the D800, or maybe it is already maxed out on my D700 and then I am in trouble. I have a wonderful mix of Nikon zooms, Zeiss, Voigtlander and Leica primes. Oh well, thank goodness for Ebay, it is a great dumping ground if some of my lenses don’t measure up.

      Can’t wait to get my D800 so I can now say the limiting factor are my lenses and not the camera, and hopefully I can park my Medium and Large format gear.

      • RealityCheck

        So for you the D800 will boost your ego – got it.

        As a professed MF and LF shooter you know the image quality is due to the size of the sensor, not the number of MP. Detail, if that is what you are after, can be resolved by a 1-pixel sensor allowing enough exposure time. Though it is true hardly anyone would buy a camera today that could only shoot stationary subjects.

        The concern is the stationary requirements of the D800 itself, in conjunction to it being the replacement for the D700. Make no mistake about it, Nikon threw out there that the D700 will hang around for a while and that the D800 should not be considered a “direct’ replacement for the D700, but that will be entirely dependent on the success of the D800. Nikon knows they pissed a lot of people off in their attempt to take the mp crown. If the D800 is successful enough (satisfying that enough people are happy with it) the D700/s/x just died.

        • Really

          I think that the previous poster was just merely stating in an entertaining way that you need good camera technical skills to get the most out of any camera and that EvilTed was just posting just a standard disclaimer for Nikon.

      • Evil Ted

        Thanks for the comments, you’ve just reinforced my point, thank you 🙂

        For someone such as yourself coming form MF and using tripod and mirror lockup all the time, I’m sure the D800/D800E is very appealing.

        For someone like me who loves to travel for months at a time to India and other exotic locations, my needs are very different.
        I want a camera that is a good generalist, that is fast enough when I need action, that is good in low light like inside temples when I need it, that is high enough detail but doesn’t require a tripod or locking the mirror to shoot.

        I’m not taking sides, I’m merely pointing out information I found in the technical guide that made me realize the D800 is in no shape or form a replacement for the D700.
        I don’t even think it is remotely close.

        The D800/800E are really pointing well into the MF market.
        For those photographers, it’s a no brainer.
        For those of us thinking we can get “at least D700 capabilities” and a bit more detail, I’m convinced this isn’t going to be the case.

        I ordered the 5D MK3 because it is everything technically that a successor to a D700 should be.
        Perhaps Nikon haven’t released this yet and they will come out with a D700X, D4X, D400 or whatever they eventually call it that can.

        If you go to, it’s kinda amusing how they feel the D800/D800E is the successor to the 5D MK2 they wanted?

        It’s almost as if the two companies flipped and tried to better the competitors product, while ignoring their own.

        Regardless, I’m neither a Nikon or Canon fanboy and people should buy the camera that is best suited to their needs and style of photography.
        If this camera suddenly is made by the other side, you need to get over that and vote with your feet.



        • Ok, I’ll bite
          So you want a high result ion full frame camera that will do whatever you want but you don’t want to improve your technique to get the most out of it. You obviously have no high-end glass currently otherwise you wouldn’t be considering either cameras. Now, you are willing to drop 3 grand on a camera body and obviously expensive glass because on EITHER cameras you are looking at ALL of the points you so nicely pointed out. Otherwise you might just be the average joe who buys the most expensive gear in order to get “awesome shots ” … hey, here is a news flash: The 5d mark 3 doesn’t have an AUTO function!

      • +1

        I have yet to see ANY negative comment about the D800 that is not going to be resolved by either solid technique or decent glass.

        Of course a higher resolution/definition camera is going to show more mistakes, so learn to improve your technique! So some of the lenses may not allow the D800 to capture it’s best images … well if your spending $3k – $3.5K on the body and then don’t put optimum class in front of it then you will get what you deserve!

        It really seems to me that people who gripe about the D800 are really expecting Nikon to create a magical camera that you just point and fire to capture the best images known to man … wake up people! Photography will ALWAYS take solid technique and equipment.

        If you want point and shoot magic then go buy a point and shoot camera! However if you want a camera that with solid technique and good glass will enable you to capture truly amazing results then get a D800.

        I have placed an order for a D800E as I photograph landscape, nature and macro nature so the chances of moire happening are very slim and I wished to capture maximum detail. I know I will have to almost relearn my technique and hone it until I get the results which this camera is capable of. Also I know that not all my glass is going to be perfect, this will be part of the learning process and some may need to be upgraded.

        There is one thing I know for sure … Nikon have produced a camera that with patience and learning will produce some incredible results! THAT is why my order will stay in place!

        Well done Nikon for having the bravado to release equipment that id breaking the boundaries and will push photographers to new levels 🙂

    • Frisco

      The samples posted by Nikon showing fashion, wedding, and scenic don’t mention if they were all shot on a tripod. I suspect the wedding and many of the fashion shots were hand held —- they look great. The things mentioned in the technical guide apply to all cameras, but since most other cameras have smaller files and show less detail you’ll probably not notice the problems much. If you’re making smaller prints from the 36+MP file, I suspect you won’t notice the problems there either. The bigger you blow up the images (or the closer to 100% you zoom on a computer screen), the more you’ll notice any blur. However, if you blow up a 16MP image from another camera to the size possible with the D800, the image will be pretty awful. I’m guessing what the technical guide is trying to tell people is that if you exploit the camera’s large file size by making big prints, you’d better be very careful with your technique. That’s just my take on the tech guide, but I may be wrong — we’ll see.

    • Michael

      You won’t get more diffraction or blur if you display both at the same size. It’s only when you display them at 100% the 5DMiii will win, but then 5DMiii has less resolution you can utilise with.

    • Correction

      You stated:
      “Issue 4. Expensive glass required.
      They go on to list the best lenses to use.
      Only 2 of the list are currently available anywhere”.

      Umm no, just looked at the list and it shows like 16 lenses and they are all available.

    • You made the right decisions. The d800 is for professionals who know exactly what they want and don’t skimp on shooting discipline. With proper shooting discipline and support the d800 will sing, but very few people actually bother to 1) hone their shooting skills 2) invest in a good tripod/ballhead combo.

      A lot of people think that they are limited by the camera and buying a more expensive/newer camera will improve their photography. Wrong! I’m shooting a d7000 now, and I can say with confidence that I’m shooting at it’s limits. Do I need the d800? Yes, eventually, but not right now, or rather, I have other priorities (some lenses, software investment, etc.) and limited resources. However, if I had a shitload of money I would buy it right now because 1) I’m pretty close to what is possible with the d7000 2) I’m willing to invest time and energy in improving my techniques (there is always room to grow).

      Seeing how you got scared of the spec sheet, I think you made the right decision. You are probably not camera-limited at this point, and the time and energy required to learn proper shooting techniques scares you. Therefore, the d800 is not for you.

    • Thanks very much for letting the rest of us move up one spot on the waiting lists!!!

  • Anonymous Maximus

    Can someone please answer the question below:

    If we compare two images @ f/11 (in visible diffraction zone but still usable), first with D800 & second with D800E. Will they look,

    a) IDENDICAL, since already softened by diffraction, lack of AA filter won’t help

    b) DIFFERENT, as image sharpness is the function of aerial resolution plus sensor resolution, therefore if we can improve any, the resulting image will improve too by a margin

    • Anonymous Maximus

      Typo: Idendical -> Identical

    • Greg

      Different. Once you’ve introduced enough diffraction to eliminate aliasing (I’m not sure f/11 is that cutoff) both will be free of digital artifacts, but the D800E will be less blurred by the AA filter.

      • GrumpyDiver

        I think that the AA filter will effectively give you up to an extra stop before you hit the diffraction limit. For all intents, what the AA filter does is blends four photosensors (one red,two green and one blue) into a single capture point. Your D800E will see 36MP of unique capture points, but the D800 will resolve to somewhat less than that (one would have to see the design of the AA filter to figure things out exactly).

        • Greg

          I’m not entirely sure I understood what you meant, but it sounds like you’re agreeing with me except you have the purpose of the AA filter reversed?

          The AA filter takes an incoming light ray and splits it into 4 to try to ensure it contacts the 4 sensors evenly. Then the Bayer filter blocks everything but luminance in one color band per sensor, and the sensor measures that. That’s the information in the RAW file. Software blends (demosaics) the 4 photosensors (and typically more than just those four) into a captured point.

          • GrumpyDiver

            My understanding of the AA filter is that what it does is to work in two steps. The front of the filter shifts half of the light the image one pixel horizontally (light covers two horizontal pixels) and the rear part of the filter shifts half of the light the image one pixel vertically (light covers two horizontal and two vertical pixels). One of the Bayer “quads” – 1 red, two green and one blue gets the same light. Think of it this way; your 800 is effectively resolves to a maximum of 9 MP (36/4=9) while the 800E resolves down to 36 MP.

            This means that the diffraction limit of the 800E will be different from the 800. The 800 will be limited out at two photodetectors wide due to the impact of the AA filters whereas the 800E will resolve to one photodetector wide. This is why is suspect that the diffraction limit of the 800E will be one stop higher than for the 800.

            • Greg

              Got ya. Didn’t understand what you meant by “blend to a capture point”.

              I think the 36/4 calculation is a little misleading though— you’re not getting anywhere close to 4 times the resolution in the final image with the D800E. Both cameras will demosaic the Bayer pattern in the same way, so both cameras are combining 4+ photosites into one output pixel. The anti-alias filter just ensures this happens correctly by making sure that the 4 photosensors being combined into one pixel all came from the same light ray on the input. The D800E is getting 4 times the resolution at the sensor, however, which isn’t necessarily a good thing because it gives you false detail. Without that filter, there’s the risk that the information being combined into one pixel in the final image actually came from different points in space.

              Regardless, I think you’re right about having an extra stop or so before reaching the diffraction limit on the D800E.

              I guess the way I’d characterize it is this: up to within a stop or so of the diffraction limit, the D800 will produce more accurate images because the D800E will be aliasing fine detail— but unless you’re using this for medical imaging or something this will probably only be noticeable when the aliasing manifests as moire. From a stop above the diffraction limit to the diffraction limit there’s a tradeoff where the D800E has less aliasing and the D800 has less sharpness. From the diffraction limit on, the D800E will have more accurate images because the D800 is inducing an extra half pixel of blur on top of the diffraction from the aperture (and the lens and everything else).

            • GrumpyDiver

              I realize I am oversimplifying a bit, but am trying to explain how an AA filter affects image quality. I don’t know the details of the sensor design, so there are some educated guesses.

              I guess what I am trying to say is that with an AA filter each ‘quad” of the Bayer filter will get exactly the same light input, as this is what the AA filter is designed to do. This means that even though you have a 36MP sensor, you are in fact getting 36/4 = 9MP worth of distinct light readings.

              Remove the AA filter, and as long as you are above the diffraction limit on the lens (and it can resolve to that level), you are in fact getting a full 36MP of distinct light readings.

  • Great article. You are right. I made the same calculations and agree with you.

  • RealityCheck

    This did not refute anything. There are no other FF sensors being used at such high mp. The issue with the sensor and the number of photosites will be enough exposure and enough light to feed the sensor. Any camera will capture great images under strobes or sunshine.
    The one thing we do have so far to suggest the performance of the D800 is Nikon explaining that it will be more difficult to shoot with the D800.

    • GrumpyDiver

      Think about what you have just written in a film analogy. You are essentially saying that a medium format film of the same ISO rating will require more exposure than the 35mm equivilent of the same film. I don’t think so.

      Semsor sensitivity is not dependent on the size of the sensor,but rather the sensitivity of the sensor (which for the D800 is rated at ISO 6400). It will take the camera longer to process that much data, but we already know that given the maximum rate of 4 fps in FX mode.

  • robert cook

    can not is a very pricy non pro tool. You pay a pro price,, 8 grand ,, and you do not know your critical focus point is off,, till you see your prints sized 20 x 24 or larger !! oooopps . Just the facts . I was a can not shooter for 8 years. Focus errors ,, Exposure errors ALLLLL WAYS !!! Buffer always full. And BEYOND BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE !!!!!! Why else did they loose last year 20 per cent of the pro shooters!!?? Was it because you could have only one lens adjusted to be in focus with that body?? Put your ear to the ground and hear the night mare stories !! It is also sad on the review sites,, NO ONE IS SAYING can not has real problems! There toast is being buttered by can not so they can not say much. No I do not use can not point and shoots!! Sony make some good ones,, Nikon Makes some good ones , Fuji and others do too. Be honest with your work— really look at your captures,, how many images do you except,,,,out of focus ,,, before you have make the can not camera your DEDICATED DOOR STOP !!! I AM NOT DISSING can not I want them to make a wonderful product!! They DO NOT HAVE A PRO BODY YET!! Thank you NIKON YOUR PRO CAMERAS ARE PRO TOOLS !

    • GrumpyDiver

      I know a lot of pros that would disagree with you. Of the pros that I know, the split is about 50-50 between Nikon and Canon.

      Would you like to provide some backup to this statement, instead of fanboy hyperbole.

  • Thorkil

    When taking pictures in Venice with my Hasselblad SWC, on a Velvia, tripod, scanned pro with a Imacon Flextight and enlarged pro on photopaper 100×100 cm everything wass knife-sharp and totally wonderfull. But I can’t afford it.
    Taking pictures with the M6, moving while taking, made wonderfull grainy blurred pictures in a blurred-sharp sort of way, dreaming.
    Taking pictures with the D3 and the 14-24/2.8 couldn’t make pictures that were sharp enough. But used it as a workinghorse, but AA-filter made it that bit of unsharp I didn’t like. But used it also to make some moving hipshop pictures in Copenhagen, with preset focus, at 5.6, and 8.0, wonderfull pics, opened and done in C1(better results I think), great colours. Sharpnes wasn’t an issue here.
    But I now sold the D3 and one of the Hassy’s (not the lovely SWC) and ordered the 800E. And I DO think it will be the combination at a affordable price (can’t afford the coming M10) of what the SWC with that Biogon was able to(or at least a bit close) and THEN I’m sure it will manage preset(/zonefocused) hipshots too, and they will be blurred in the dreamy grainy way if you want it to do so (or at least I certainly do hope so). So I wil get the 2 worlds together I’ve been waiting for. I feel confident. And Iam sure that that fearfull blurring Ted suppose from reading what might be Nikons way just to tell to hold that camera still if you want the knife-sharp picture,(and as mentioned by Bsemple and STE it shouln’t hit us with surprise) isn’t that fearfull issue when we will be playing around with it. Lee Freidländer also used the SWC handheld with good results, and blowed up you might also see blurring here.
    Looking forward to the 800E

  • Landscape Photo

    As inspecting the D800E images on Nikon website, I’ve noticed with the 2nd example ( ), his 24-70mm must be quite defective. Left side of the image is much softer than the right. That fuzziness is still apparent even downsampled to a 1mp image !

    All others like this one, ( ), the 100% views are not as detailed as what I’m used to see from D700. It has been relatively easy to get a sharp image out of D700 even with so-so lenses. Stop down to f/11, use a tripod & self timer, carefully focus, msot of the frame the sensor will be outresolved. Voila! But it may not be the case with D800 due to physical constraints.

    Look at Photozone’s lens tests; even the best optics have a hard time to outresolve 24mp D3X (only possible at the center area around f/4), let alone D800.

    This proves even with Nikon’s best optics, it will be almost impossible to fully exploit 36mp resolution in practice. You may only see a small truly sharp small region with best lenses like 85mm f/1.4 G or 50mm f/1.4 G stopped down to f/4. This may be what a portait photographer needs though. Inevitably for landscapes, it may be badly effected by either,

    * Softness in corners if not stopped down enough,
    * General softness due to diffraction if stopped down even moderately to combat lens aberrations & improve DoF
    * Softness due to perceived shallow DoF, only a portion will appear sharp in most cases (see the samples)

    I start to think 36mp is quite a stretch in resolution, it’s good for letting a usable DX crop, but the rest is an overkill on FX scale. I’d rather downscale the image to 24mp to iron out the imperfections mentioned above & to get a more balanced look in terms of sharpness & acuity.

    • Thorkil

      Yes, the samples of the 800E are not that good, those here from the 800 with the 14-24mm are better:
      and by nature the 14-24 has a greater DOF
      where the 24-70mm might have that more shallow DOF on the tree-root sample:
      but this is even though a better picture than those you mentioned
      Yet I’m a bit concerned about DOF where you all claime that stopping down more than f.8.0 might turn out bad. Hhmm, could one set it for 24Mp in FX mode?

      • Thorkil

        Well, it also got 30, 25, 20, 15…Mp it seems. So one just might be stepping down in solution according to situation I presume…

    • Landscape Photo

      PS: Surely some part of the softness of D800/E samples @ 100% comes from optical limitations; but some may be software related, since they are converted by NX2 which is inferior to Adobe Capture Raw when it comes to minute detail (there are areas that NX2 is stronger though, like CA removal & color fidelity). ACR can make the D700 behave as if it were a 16mp camera; lost details in demosaicing interpretation of NX2 may be restored at the expense of some jagginess.

      I’ve made a comparison on my D700 at ISO 200. Here is the link (pls. look @ 100%):

      • Thorkil

        Have you got Capture One also? Could be interesting. Is said to be even sharper and more 3-dimensionel?

        • GrumpyDiver

          In theory NX2 will do more accurate conversions, as only Nikon has access to the proprietary information about the data and hence, in theory on the best way to convert the RAW file into a jpg. Adobe and others have had to reverse engineer this data, plus run it through a generic converter that works for pretty well every camera manufacturer out there.

          The issue I have with any jpg is that there has been processing on it. Just because the image is sharper, does not mean it is more accurate, because the conversion software might have oversharpened it. The other issue is the colour accuracy in the conversion process, again are the colours from Adobe, etc. as true as from NX2.

          I don’t know the answer but have heard this arguement from a couple of pros, and it certainly makes sense from a technical standpoint.

  • Victor

    I don’t really understand those that keep on complaining about the D800… if you don’t like it – don’t buy it… it’s that simple. There is a long waiting list and deficit with the D800 as it is… Or if you do not need so many MP (not sure why), go for the D700… it’s still a good camera and for $2100 new it’s a steal… or better, go with Canon and let the rest of us have the best mid-FX on market without waiting time 🙂 Oh wait.. You will have to pay $3500 for a Canon and still know that there is one better and cheaper camera out there… The D800..

  • Zen-Tao

    Ok, Ok
    All Chritics are regreted about speak bad of Nikon excelences. But, keep yielding and listen. There are some more things to consideer when we speak about sharpness and quality. pixel pitch is important, I know. But if you add DOF deep of focus, even though deep of back focus to the formula focus dificulties are increased again. I explain myself. Normal focus for DX lens is … mmmh.. 25 -30mm. that’s a wide angle for Fx camera which means more DOF an back DOF which is more important by the time to achieve better focus.
    I remember when I had to meke focus on my 4×5” Technicardan Linhoff camera that was a struggle.
    Ok guy the lesson is free

  • rbert cook

    NIKON FULL FRAME Cameras are Pro Tools!! Thank you Nikon!!

  • Obviously

    Obviously, this article is completely wrong. First of all, the whole noise debate is due to the low noise in the D700 that everyone keeps comparing the D800 to. It has a full frame sensor, yet is only 12 megapixels. Do the math on that pixel pitch. People ARE complaining about the D7000. Specifically, they are assuming correctly (and since verified regarding the D4 by a Nikon engineer) that any iso performance boost in the D7000 is solely due to in camera noise reduction, which has since, and posted on this site, been seen to be blurrier than the D700 because of it. I can do noise reduction all day long on my computer, what I want is real definition and low noise.

    Unless they increase the sensor size up to like medium format size, you wont get the D700 iso performance ever. Ever.

    • Obviously2

      Not only that, but Nikon actually even says that the D800 is not a replacement for the D700. And look at the 5DM3, it has great ISO performance, they even advertise that its great for weddings on their micro site. So basically for Wedding photographers looking to upgrade from a D700, it’s either a D4 or a 5DM3. Basically the D700 has no direct replacement, yet the D800 has come out. So basically, Nikon is saying to us that if you want to do weddings, you are supposed to upgrade to a D4, and were never meant to be using a D700, you were supposed to buy the D3s to begin with.

  • FanBoy

    Pick up one D800 and shoot for a week first. That’s my TWO cents.

  • gary ray

    As an enthusiastic D7k owner — and four decade Nikon shooter — as well as m4/3 user, i am more-or-less sympathetic to your point. But . . .

    One thing about m4/3 is that the flange distance permits virtually any SLR lens to be used, and i have tried a fairly wide assortment of AIS Nikkors. I can tell you that this issue of lens performance for sub-5 micron pitch sensors is real. In the film era, 7 to 10 micron resolution was fine, particularly for color film.

    Bad news: Some of my favorite lenses from that era — e.g., 24mm f2.8 and 35mm f2 — are really incapable of handling this pitch at anything below f5.6; at that point, you may as well use the kit lens!

    The D700 is 8.4 micron, so i would say that there a plenty of lenses that current FF shooters are happy with that cannot comfortably handle an almost doubling of linear resolution. Not ALL such lenses, mind you, but many will be out there (particularly screw drive AF-Ds). More to the point, if my testing is any indication, many, many “heritage” lenses that worked fine on the D700 are going to be a problem on the D800.

    If you shoot modern Nikon pro glass, there is no problem. But many of us do not. And for us, “yes”, this is an issue worth considering. Sorry. I wish it were not true too.

    — gary ray

    • burgerman

      It will be no problem, and no different, if you still print the same size as before. It WILL be a real problem if you look at it 70 inches wide on your monitor at 100 percent or PRINT 70 inches wide. But you dont.

      If you did, then you need better glass, even if you did so with a d700!

    • mshi

      That’s why Nikon decided on price D800 at $3000 because they expect you to upgrade your lenses to newer Pro-grade G lenses as they tell you in the D800 Tech Guide.

  • It’s going to be nice in a few years when these debates die off.

    I’m a Canon, Hasselblad and Mamiya user. I’ve been tempted to try the D800 but I have to wonder why I would need to when every single professional level camera out there today has enough resolution, speed and ISO performance to suit my needs?

    For portraits I use a Leaf Aptus 22mp back from 2004 with a 9 micron pixel size. It smokes anything Canon and Nikon has made in terms of IQ due to size of the sensor, 16 bit files and absent AA filter…and it smokes them with a cheap 150mm lens which you can get on ebay for about $400.

    It’s frustrating to see people wasting their energy debating about vapourware that 95% of them don’t need or will be utilised fully.

  • In reply to the actual article.
    Thank you. Good reading and I can only agree to your very well put statement, that this camera will perform sweeter, than many of the ones out there.

  • josef

    I am with nikon d700 and my partner is with canon 5d mark II.
    I like nikon, but for shootings I always had to take the canon because of it’s resolution. 12mpx are not enough for pro-shootings and I don’t like the big bodies (d3x). the d800 is what I want and I was waiting for a long time – but not with 36 mpx. too much, shooting is not everything, you also have to handle this data. so I think that canon with the new 5d mark III is clother to the needs of pros as nikon with its 36 mpx. bad for me.

  • Val Vech

    I had D7000 and got rid of as quickly as I could after seeing what it did with skintones, fine details like hair, etc. All at relatively low ISO like 800 and 1000. All while using top Nikon glass. Resolution went down the drain and dynamic range was similar to a point-n-shoot. It was absolutely no match to D700, D3 or D3s in image quality at the very same ISO800 with the same lens. I own all of these cameras and compared them side by side in real life shooting not charts.
    If D800 detail rendering will be anything similar to D7000 it would be a huge disapointment regardless of the megapixel count.

    • Zen-Tao

      I can’t believe you. May be we have bought diferent D7000s. Mine doesn’t have such ghastly things that yours has.

  • Nate Messarra

    In the spirit of wanting to keep my file sizes from being excessive, I’m wondering if I want to shoot in RAW format on the D800, will I be forced to shoot in 36mp? Or will I still be able to shoot in raw at a lower mp? such as 12 or 16mp?

    • Anonymous

      There is no full-scale sraw type in Nikon. It will be 36mp only. However there are 1.2x & 1.5x crop modes that yields smaller files.

  • Cliff

    If I use the Nikon D800 in DX shooting mode, will the output dynamic range be as good as D700? Will the standard 4 fps burst rate increase? Will the AF responding time decrease?
    Thanks so much.

  • Sol

    First of all, I like Nikon for its speedy auto focus (and its 51 points) , metering, ISO performance (due to pixel pitch / sensor size with 12 Mp), CLS lighting (including the built in flash as commander).
    But to be open minded, Canon 5D mkIII on paper seems to have the right recipe in term of Image quality (i,e., the sensor ability to capture fine detail resolution as well and combined with a good SNR and Dynamic Range).

    According to this paper by some Stanford’s researchers. There is an optimum pixel pitch that can achieve a high MTF vs Spatial Resolution while maintaining a good SNR and Dynamic Range (DR). The size is around 6.5 micron.

    In a nutshell, MTF (in %) is an indicator of how well the sensor can reproduce or resolve detail of an image when a certain density of line pair applies to it. Usually, as the resolution of input is higher, then the ability of the sensor (with its pixel size and thus the pixel resolution) to resolve the details decreases.

    Canon 5D MkIII with its 22.3 Mpx with it’s full sensor gives a close measure to that size of pixel. Knowing that the full sensor size is 36 x 24 mm and the ratio is 3:2, accodfing to this:,
    then my calculation gives a pixel pitch approx 6.22 micron.

    Also, 5D mk III is giving you 60 AF points (more than Nikon’s) and all different kind of cross-type points. So sort to speak, the Auto focus speed will be awesome on paper.

    Furthermote, the ISO performance on paper is better than Nikon D800 due to the size of pixel.

    Additionally, the burst rate that 5D mk III has, on paper, is much better than Nikon D800.

    In the end, what we care about is the quality of images and the speed to produce them. Canon 5D mk III seems to come up with the right recipe for that.

    However, the true measure will be when both cameras are out in the market and get tested.

    • Sol is right, the true measure will come out, once we have them in our hands and go out and make awesome photography and video with them.

      Until then its strange so many people trying to hack on each other for what is best, Canon or Nikon. And those of you who actually are rude to others for asking simple (maybe for some naive) questions. Take a brake. No need to do anything but be outside and take great pictures with your current cameras.

      I have had canon and nikon on and off for 15 years due to different jobs as staff photographer and as a freelancer, and they are both extremely good cameras. Its absolutely fantastic the pictures and video they allow me to take.

      At the moment I own Nikon gear and as so many am very thrilled to see what the D800 will do for my photography and multimedia. And its unique in its way, cause its offering so many pixels. So unique, that I expect it will change my way of thinking camera handling and approach to my subject and way of income. I am so thrilled that I might be shoot less images per assignment, yet spend more time on choosing the right moments for high resolution landscaping, portraits, and industrial photography.
      Why would I take less shots, and why is that good?
      Well, 15 shots, and I have almost taken 1GB of space on my Flashcard. I expect never once to lower the resolution of this camera. Its going to give me all its got for every single shot. Fantastic. It does not harm to spend more time on waiting, for the right moment, stressing less.

      If I was waiting for the Canon Mark 5F Mark III, it would likewise thrilled for the ISO performance and possible internal 422 videooutput, that this potentially awesome camera will give the eager canon folks.

      Basically, the thing that makes me choose is of course a good camera, but more important, a good service, when (not if) something is broke, or there is an error in the firmware, that makes things go bad.

      Currently for me, that is Nikon providing an awesome service on all regards, so a very good reason to stick with them.

      What ever camera your buying next. Best of joy and make some good of it!!!

  • Laurence Ransom MD

    I enjoy reading this string and would like to ask a question about the D800/D800e. First assume I have been using the D200 UW with an aquatica housing for 3-4 years and like the quality of my shots mostly. I am not a professional like most of you guys/gals so here goes:

    Using this higher megapixel camera UW, am I out of my league if I could achieve good product using my D200. My DX lenses have VR and I would probably invest in at least 1-2 FX lenses if I purchased the D800 – it sounds like the D800e would be preferable UW. SEcond question: I know that most lenses have a sweet spot but if I were to purchase the Nikon 28-300 mm lens, could I expect to achieve good quality using it in the range of 50-60 mm and 105 mm UW? I would only be changing what port I used on the AQuatica before the dive as to what type of photography I was planning to do, e.g. macro or not? Thanks for anyone bothering to give me some feedback. /JLR

  • 2ManyPixels

    “I just get tired of individuals who have a voice and can influence other[s.]” You mean those who disagree with you, right? I’m sure you’re not referring to those who agree. I’m one of the individuals making this charge, not with the D800 per se, but with the trend in general. With today’s APS-C sensors, you have to use FX glass on a DX body in order to get good IQ. That is ridiculous. When DX bodies had 14 MP sensors, DX glass could deliver good IQ. And answer this: Why is the flagship D4 only 16 MP? Do you know why? Because 16 MP on a FF sensor delivers through-the-roof IQ. Do your pixel density math on that.


  • with all the fuss of so called experts. we know better now and canon bring the 50mp and even without. the most laughable thing was about the lens of some of this experts.

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