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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  • rhlpetrus


    “close much better than D3s at high ISO at same print sizes”should have been “close but better than D3s at high ISO at same print sizes”.

    • Been there guy

      Why border with such a time waste?!

      1. You cannot convince any naysayer, they are just too pin-headed!

      2. These same naysayers are telling you the sour grape story, they simply can’t afford the camera!

      Period! End of story!

      We don’t need their thought and we are better off if the pin-heads don’t buy them!

      • I think people are scared it’s only going to be the quality of the cameras listed above. While I don’t think the D7000 is that grainy at high ISO, it sure isn’t a D3/D700, and people wanted better high ISO peformance, which they most likely won’t get. Also, you need much better technique to get a sharp picture with the D7000 than the D700. I think people are overblowing that though. It won’t be any harder to get sharp pictures with the D800 than any modern high megapixel APS-C camera.

    • David Bones

      why stop at D800….what about D4 7.3 microns….former flagship D3 8.3 microns….1DX 6.8 microns……..people need to know before they invest

      • Not Surprised

        How many angels can dance on a square 8.3 micron surface?

  • Stop crying about too many MP – here’s the real deal there are different modes to shoot with the D800:

    “Along with the 1.5x DX crop, the D800 also offers two additional cropped modes: a 1.2x format which captures 6144×4080 pixels (25 Megapixel / 30x20mm) and a 5:4 format which captures 6144×4912 pixels (30.2 Megapixel / 30x24mm). In both cases, along with the DX crop mode, a portion of the viewfinder is greyed-out to indicate the actual coverage, while in Live View, the image is scaled-up to fit the screen.” – Camera Labs

    • Frisco


      Image size adjusts to photographers’ needs:

      While many people have high expectations of the kind of image quality possible with 36.3 megapixels, I think some may worry that it’ll be tough taking full advantage of that potential. What have you done to make the camera accessible to a wide range of users?
      Hara: “The D800 has an effective pixel count of 36.3 megapixels, but that doesn’t mean it can take pictures only at that size. There are three image sizes – large, medium, and small – and you can choose the one that suits your needs. In FX format, the large size enables shooting with about 36.2 megapixels, while 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. And just like our high-end D4 model, the D800 offers a choice of four image area settings: FX format, DX format, a nearly square 5:4 format that studio photographers will find easy to use, and a 1.2x format that is slightly narrower than the FX format. Each of these formats is available in the large, medium, and small sizes I mentioned earlier, giving the photographer considerable freedom in choosing a size.”

      • Except you can’t do that if you shoot in RAW.

        • Not Surprised

          That is why they call it RAW — you get whatever the sensor picks up. Its RAW. Do you expect your RAW to be cooked first? RAW is raw.

          Now — the increasing number of megapixels and the uselessness of such large files (print sizes) for most (at least many) users does indicate that a “Baked RAW” file might be useful. But in order to bake your raw files, camera makers would necessarily need to throw out sensor data — that would defeat the purpose of having a raw file.

          Does a standard baked RAW file exist for extra large images?
          It might be time to make one.

          • Not really. RAW files do have some processing done to them. That’s not really my point though. My point was, if you want to shoot in RAW so you have more flexibility in editing, you have to use all 36 mp, something the article I was responding to failed to mention. Unlike Canon, who allows you shoot the full sensor, but downsample the megapixels in sRAW mode.

            • ninpou_kobanashi

              Can’t you down sample your RAW? Process and toss?

            • Frisco

              David, YOU MAY INDEED BE CORRECT, but until we have more information on the camera or have the actual camera, I don’t think we can make any reliable assumptions. The article does say, “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.”

            • Frisco

              These (SEE BELOW) are the options the D800 provides for Image Area (pixels) and for File Format. If it’s possible in the menu to make those two settings independent of one another, then we may be able to set RAW for the file format and (M) medium for the Image Area. Again, we just don’t know enough about the camera yet to know if that’s possible. But it is interesting that the article states, “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.” That would seem to suggest that EXPEED 3 uses the whole 36.3MP info and processes that into the smaller (M) or (S) size.

              Image Area (pixels) FX-format
              (L) 7,360 x 4,912
              (M) 5,520 x 3,680
              (S) 3,680 x 2,456
              1:2 format (30 x 20)
              (L) 6,144 x 4,080
              (M) 4,608 x 3,056
              (S) 3,072 x 2,040
              5:4 format (30 x 24)
              (L) 6,144 x 4,912
              (M) 4,608 x 3,680
              (S) 3,072 x 2,456
              (L) 4,800 x 3,200
              (M) 3,600 x 2,400
              (S) 2,400 x 1,600

              File Format Still Images JPEG: JPEG-Baseline Compliant with fine (approx 1:4), Normal (approx 1:8) or Basic (approx 1:16) Compression
              NEF (RAW): lossless compressed 12 or 14 bit, lossless compressed, compressed or uncompressed
              TIFF (RGB)
              JPEG: JPEG-Baseline-Compliant; can be selected from Size Priority and Optimal Quality

            • PHB

              DX RAW would make sense, that is simply cropping to the center of the photograph as if it was DX – provided of course the viewfinder is appropriately masked.

              But if you are going to downsample a 9MP JPEG will almost certainly beat a 9MP ‘take four’ shot. And because the bottleneck is usually the write-to-card interface, it is possible you can shoot 36MP JPEGs at the same rate as the take four scheme would allow.

              Only use for a take four type scheme is typically in video.

          • Frisco

            Here’s the link to the entire interview —- it’s interesting and worth reading.


            The article does say, “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.” I hope that applies to the RAW data, but we just don’t know enough about the camera at this point to make any reliable assumptions. Let’s hope that it can NOW be done in RAW and not be limited to JPEG or TIFF files.

      • Anonee

        Indeed, size matters 😉

  • Kevin

    Its funny how people are complaining pixel pitch.

    1 camera are aiming for studio and commercial photographer, which most likely hardly use ISO 800 +

    2 people have been raving and telling us how good the d7k iso compare to the d700 some even claim that it’s better.
    So why couldn’t the d800 be better than both the d700 and the 7k?
    Since the d700 have bigger pixel pitch than the 7k.

    3 the Nikon people have millions of dollar to spend on scientist and physicians and all the smart nerdy people to make this camera awesome!

    4 stop bitching and go to CANON, cus all my canon friend are complaining about the MK III.

    5 lastly if u can buy a $3k camera I’m sure ur not that broke where ur computer is to slow to process the 36mp, and u ALWAYS HAVE THE RESIZE BUTTON!!!! Try uploading 36mp to FB, they will compress your image for you for free!

    • Sarcastica

      I’m just glad that physicians are working on my new camera. It should last for years!

      • giggle

      • Ray

        The problem with having physicians working on cameras is they tend to doctor the photos.

        • Rex

          LOL Clever

    • Ralph

      I never thought of that!!! If you cant afford a new PC as well as the camera just upload photos to FB and dowload them again, what a ingenius solution.

      • Art

        The problem is that it will take forever to upload a photo like that on my brand spanking new Motorola 14.4kbs dial up modem. Heck, each image file will use twice as much memory as what is onboard my 386!

        • That’s lightning compared with my first modem, 300 baud (that’s 300 bits/sec), plus I had to save my files to a tape cassette. To create graphics in software I had to first draw them on graph paper then convert colors to hex numbers which I poked directly into screen memory addresses. How I love Photoshop!

      • Art

        The problem is that it will take forever to upload a 36MB photo to Facebook to resize it.

        At file sizes like what Nikon is proposing, it will take forever for my Motorola 14.4kbs modem to upload the image file. Heck, its twice the size as the memory used by my 386 and it will take only six pictures to fill up my 200mb hard drive…

  • Acutia

    The conclusion I would draw from all of this is that there are many critics out there, but they are not necessarily good critics.

  • GrumpyDiver

    Your math is right on, and your conclusions are the same as mine. There is definitely a correlation between photodiode size and their light sensitivity. The principle is really not all that different from the film analogy; high speed film has coarse grain, whereas low speed film had a much finer grain. The underlying reason is very much the same; a photon interacts with either the sensor or the silver halide, and the larger the target, the higher the level of interaction = higher sensitivity.

    As for the arguments the sensor out resolving the lens; those are bogus as well. In a system, the quality of the image will be limited by the weakest element. If your lens is your weakest element, increasing sensor resolution is not going to buy you anything. However, if your image quality is limited by your current sensor resolution, increasing the resolution is going to improve your overall image quality as you can get more out of your high quality lens. There could be one caveat, however, and that deals with diffraction. I’m guessing that with a higher resolution sensor (i.e. smaller pitch) may mean that we will see softening from lens diffraction at a larger aperture.

    Focus is another red herring. Again, using an example out of the film days, this is like saying focus was more important in a slow speed (small grain) film than in a high speed (large grain) film. Things are either in focus or not, and if you are someone like me who tends to shoot wide open will have large parts of the image out of focus anyways. If you are worried; stop down a bit and in / out of focus are not going to be an issue. Focus accuracy will be the same as today; sensor size, not pixel pitch is the determining factor here.

    Now to throw out a few caveats; we are not going to see any real differences in “normal” levels of enlargements anyways. If I look at a full-sized image from my D90 (4288 x 2848) on my 1920 x 1080 – 27 inch / 690mm screen, the image gets down-sampled anyways. I get stunningly sharp 19 in x 22 in (483mm x 559mm) prints, and I have to stand a good 2ft / 60cm away from them to see them. Camera motion, vibration from mirror slap and other issues are more likely going to affect my overall image versus the issues that have been raised here. So far the discussions have been around theory; but frankly in real life, I doubt anyone will notice 99% of the time.

    • Cbrown

      Thanks for writing all of that! I appreciate your efforts and your thoughts!

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself…

      Your setup is as good as the weakest link, and I’m willing to bet that the weakest link for most is the user itself, not the camera system.

  • Thomas Cznarty

    Sony already has an orgainic sensor which will allow them to go beyond 100mp. They will be released in 2013-14. They already announced thatb they will display their 100mp sensor this year. In the mid 19th century, the experts said it was impossible to travel faster that 35mph

    • Anything that large (100mp and up) is futile because their is simply no consumer level need or practical reason for it. (However, this would be highly useful in high-altitude imaging systems and such.)

      Having used the 80mp Phase One IQ-180 before, the system is incredible but the files are so large that it made doing full size edits amazingly slow and difficult, even on a very capable dual processor (8-core) machine. Going even larger than that would require some sort of algorithm for compression and image manipulation that could help make the files useable.

  • That is funny. Compare the D800 to the D7000? If the D800 and the D7000 have the similar image quality and the similar ISO performance, why should people spend more $1800 to buy the D800? Just for the more pixels? The D7000 is a very nice camera, but for the people who want to spend $3000 for a camera body, they want to have a camera that the image quality is much better than the D7000. Maybe the Canon 5D mark III is a better choice for the people who want to upgrade their APS-C cameras.

    • Cha

      Why would you spend $3500 for 5D mark III when you can get D800 for only $3000 with a lot of goodie.

    • Ray


      Hear that? It’s the point of the letter whooshing straight over your head. Some people just don’t want to understand.

  • Frank

    I think that with the D4 and D800 that Nikon have once again got it spot on.

    I sold my D3X when the D4 was announced and ordered straight away – Why?

    Because I no longer need Hi Res for prints. I no longer need to shoot for a very large print. I still need to the capability for a fairly large print, for low light and for video. The D4 gives me all that.

    Now if I want to go back in to the studio and produce finely detailed images – then I’ll hire a D800 and enjoy the experience. It will be cheaper than hiring Blad and the images will have a greater depth, but most of all it’ll be a Nikon and I’m very happy with that.

    Of course the highlight of this month for me is that on the 15th I’ll be picking up my D4 and will spend a week playing with it. It will be there, It’s guaranteed. A little birdie tells me that the Dynamic range is awsome – if you learn how to use it.

    If it works for you then thats fine – Nikon lenses are the very best if you buy the right ones.

    If you are happy with the results of your work then you are using the tools properly!!!
    (I still have an OM2N and some lenses – love it, also love the Nikon V1 (lives in the door pocket) – these cameras are a joy to use – yet there are many of you who would differ)

    I like making pictures and also driving – Sometimes I overcook it and ruin a picture, the same as sometimes I overcook it when driving – either way I pay the price, so it’s up to me to define my limits.

    Enjoy them – they’ll be superceeded in a few years.


    • nikon step it up

      im buying another D700. Id love a 36MP camera, but who need to shoot in DX to keep the file sizes down. If im shooting 16 gigs at a wedding now, I have to triple that.
      And how the hell is my CS5 going to keep up with me editing. Lets see…oh give me 10 more hours a week to wait for upload, downloading and processing. Ill keep my fingers crossed we see an actual D700 replacement this year

      • EvilTed

        They just announced it last night.
        It’s the 5D MK 3 – I’m moving to Canon.
        You can keep the 36MP, atrocious low light capabilities and 75MB RAW file size.
        I don’t need that.
        The specs of the 5D MK3 are what Nikon should have released as the D700x.

      • If you shoot the D800 as FX in 14-bit compressed raw the files are only 36 MB.

        • … or as FX in 14-bit lossless compressed they are still only 41 MB.

      • jodjac

        When I was still scanning film, I routinely generated 90 mega byte or larger files and had no problems manipulating them in photoshop 7 on a window 32 bit machine. Except when I tried to use Smart Sharpen. That would slow things down a bit. That was eleven years ago, an eon in the technological time scale.

  • Ralph

    “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.”

    …and there are people out there who rave about how good 128Kb MP3 files sound on their ipod, but that just makes them poorly informed and lacking in experience.

    • PHB

      If you are blogging then a micro 4/3rds camera that is small probably trumps any DSLR.

      The resolution of most blogs is limited to 2MP photos or less. Video is much more important than stills and the micro 4/3rds are much more practical for blogger type use.

      Or have you found blogs that look like hollywood movie shoots?

  • Bryan

    Most of the criticism comes from the unknown of how will the D800 compare to the D700 with 3x less resolution. There is lots of comparison of both of those cameras to the D7000 of a different sensor size. What people forget is that there is already an apples to apples comparison we can do: The D40 (6MP) to the D7000 (16MP). There is a 2.66x jump in resolution, yet the D7000 outperforms the D40 in both image quality and high ISO noise. Why would we think the D800 would be any different?

    • unpluggged

      D40’s sensor was released back in 2002 (along with the D100), and it’s a CCD sensor. So it’s incorrect to compare sensors of different technology and times of release.

      On the other hand, the D800’s sensor was released some 1½ years after that of the D7000, and the technology is very similar, so I don’t expect a big leap in performance.

  • Tiger1050Rider

    Over at Canon Rumors, there is a post about the launch Video of the D800.
    Apparently, the vid was not shot with a D800 but with a 5DII.


    The 5DIII seems expensive btw.

    • Jason

      Just to clarify, that site says that parts of the video is shot on a 5D, and also the photog that is claiming Nikon used his stuff, does not say he shot the clips Nikon is using with a 5D, just that he uses a 5D. He may have used the D800 as well, and just be surprised that Nikon is using is footage since he is a canon sponsored shooter.
      Mostly though, I think that the whole thing is a little ridiculous and unimportant. Though I am a bit surprised that Nikon apparently didn’t learn from past mistakes.

  • Jason

    One could just buy a 5DIII if they are so upset at what Nikon did.
    I also think that it is important to note that pixel size is not the only important factor. If that was the case then you should just stick with the D700. Obviously, there is something to be said for 4 years of R&D. People seem to forget that things change. With the pixels designs and layering, is it really all about pixel size now? Obviously Nikon and Canon and Sony don’t seem to think so. But if maybe someone else knows better that the scientist that develop these things.

    • MikeV

      I wish it was that easy to go and buy a 5dM3 but what about those that have so much invested into Nikon gear. I agree that things progress and change, however I think it is pretty clear that Canon listened to the forums and blogs to see what they needed to improve with their camera. Nikon unfortunately took a completed different route and decided to compete against medium format with the D800. I think many of us out there were hoping to get the D800 body with a D4 sensor inside at the a good price. I know many photographers that expressed the specs they would have liked to see which Nikon got most of them…except the MP size is too large and the iso range is so so. IMO Nikon needs to cut the sensor down to 18 mp that way it can increase the iso range to at least 100-12,800 which can compete better against the 5DM3

      • xophaser

        then take your pictures at medium resolution, which is half the file size, until you can afford to upgrade to a new computer. You don’t have to take picture at the highest pixel size, that why there are options. A medium resolution is somewhere teh 22mp range and the lower resolution is like the 12mp range.

        • MikeV

          I shoot raw, so won’t that take the image at the max resolution?

          • jorg

            no. only the pixels active in the chosen sensor-mode are recorded and processed to raw,tiff, jpg – there is a button up left for this.
            you choose DX-mode + raw = 15.4 MP raw-file

          • xophaser

            yeah you are right for raw. I was thinking jpeg for some odd reason. I shoot raw too or go dx mode like jorg said.

      • Michael

        You don’t need to waste your computer space. If you shoot RAW, convert them to a smaller DNG. That way, the only thing you’ll pay for more is the SD cards, which doesn’t cost much.

      • jodjac

        Yeah, that’s why you buy Nikon, cause they listen to engineers, not fools that think they know what they want. Speculation vs. science Hmmmm

  • Chris P

    If my local camera shop is anything to go by, the idea that the majority of D800 sales will be to people upgrading their D700’s is incorrect. Likewise the impression given in some quarters that it won’t be that commercially successful . Earlier this week I was told by the manager that he had ordered 6 when it was announced, however he already has pre-orders for 7 so has increased his Nikon order to 10, however only 2 of the pre-orders are from existing D700 owners, the remainder are from people upgrading from a DX camera or changing from Canon.

    • Jason

      I didn’t work today, but I work for a local retailer, and we have 75 or so backordered D800’s and 15-20 D800E’s
      I am not sure as to what people are uprgrading from, but it seems that most that I have talked to are from crop framed cameras.
      It will be interesting to to see which one we backorder more of. I will have to try to remember to look at the number of back orders in place the day we start getting both camera’s to see how many have accumulated for each.
      Though from the sounds of it the Canon will launch in a shorter amount of time, so if it is a close tie it may not be a fair comparison.

    • PHB

      I thought the specs were pretty much tailor made for a D300 owner to upgrade to FX.

      The real value of 36MP is that you can still use all your DX lenses and get good resolution.

      I have seen more than one professional photographer using a D3x with a DX lens, it makes more sense than it might appear.

      Regardless of what the 12MP crowd say, the D800 will be in short supply for most of this year. And I would suggest that a D710 (or the like) with a D4 sensor is highly likely because it seems that the way Nikon managed to squeeze an extra stop out of the D3s was not to change the sensor but to pick the best performing ones out of the batch with the rest going into D700. So that would mean that a D710 would be necessary to make a D4s possible.

  • Andreas

    Interesting comparison.

    Not that it likely changes the conclusion, but I think it’s important not to confuse pixel pitch (distance between pixels) with pixel size (area of each pixel). The reason for this is that a higher MP sensor needs more of it’s real estate for read-out electronics, buses etc. Because of this, a higher MP sensor has SMALLER pixels for the SAME pitch. I’d even assume (don’t know for sure) that the D800 FX sensor has smaller pixels than the D7000 DX sensor even though the “DX MP” are about the same, again due to the read-out electronics taking more space for a larger amount of pixels.

    Anyways, looking forward to seeing comparisons online, but mostly to finally retire my trusted D100 when I receive my pre-ordered D800 in just a few weeks 🙂 And for those who wonder: Yes, the D100 can still create some pretty nice pics (even though it’s about to fall apart…).

    • R!


      • R!

        I WISH MY DAD HAS ONE SO I CAN GET THE D800 & D800E !!!!

        • Marlene

          You wish your Dad would have a heart attack? 🙂

          • GrumpyDiver

            “a higher MP sensor needs more of it’s real estate for read-out electronics, buses etc. Because of this, a higher MP sensor has SMALLER pixels for the SAME pitch.”

            That of course makes absolutely no sense. The sensor size is determined by the area it covers; for a full frame it’s approximately 24mm x 36mm. That’s all it needs (max or min). Yes, there are peripheral parts, but size is not the issue here.

    • Michael

      The microlens are already minimizing the loss of light from the gaps, and the the back-lit sensor makes things even better.

  • Mark

    The calculations use Nikon data and seem accurate. All the talk and critics about a NIKON camera, one that the company has worked on and tested a long time, are just “talk show” to me until a few peple get the camera in hand and give it a workout. When Thom Hogan and the other gurus give their learned views after their workouts with the D800, then I will listen. Until then, and probably for a long time, I will live with my D700.

  • Oscar C.K.

    This absolutely correct, and let’s not forget one simple think, we had to worry about these numbers years ago, technology has evolved much since then, noise reduction algorithms have become better, processing chips have become faster, ( about 600 megapixels per second to be precise), new technologies of CMOS manufacturing have been developed since then!!! Face it people it’s 36MP and it shoots amazing, you won’t even be able to see the noise there could be at that resolution even at your 30′ inch high-res monitor.

  • Dan

    The problem is not that the camera is bad or that the low light will be worse than the D700, it’s that Nikon could have made a 1-2 stop better D800 had they chosen to keep the MP closer to the D4 or even up to Canon 5D & Sony around the 22-24MP count. They also would have benefited from better speed. This camera should have been called the D4x, put in a full size pro body with the full Ethernet tethering the D4 offers, and everyone would have been happy. The D800 would be an AWESOME D3x upgrade had it been in a pro body. The problem is with the D700 &D7000 users that were hoping for the same thing just way better. Instead they got a fraction of a stop better noise performance, slower speeds, 2x more megapixels then they require, and now they have to deal with large file sizes. Awesome camera, wrong camera line.

    • MikeV

      I totally agree. I am so upset because I can’t upgrade my D700 because the D800 doesn’t appeal to me for wedding work due to the huge space the 36mp pictures will eat up and for processing the images, that will destroy my computer. Imagine taking 1500 wedding photos that are all shot in raw then trying to edit them at 36mp (its stupid big). The next issue is I don’t have the funds to purchase a $6000 for a D4 and then $150 per memory card that you would need to go with it. They created a big hole in the DSLR FX lineup now. Myself and others needed a 100-25,600iso range with either 16-18 megapixels for around $3k … The canon 5dM3 meets my needs, but the problem is I don’t like their button layout and I have way too much money invested into Nikon gear that it would be a huge loss to sell it all. huge disappointment

      • Jim

        You realize that the D700 stole sales away from the D3 right? That’s why the D3s sensor never made its way into the D700. The D800 and the D4 fit two different markets to prevent competition amongst each other. Nikon does not need the sales of one camera cannibalizing the sales of another. Hopefully for canon, the differences between their 5D3 and their 1Dx will be big enough that this wont be the scenario for them.

      • Larry R

        I think you are operating under the misconception that the D800 is a replacement or upgrade for the D700. Nikon itself says that is not the case and plan to continue the D700. Perhaps Nikon should have named it something different (NikonBPC for Big Pixel Count).

        I do love all the complainers who say the D800 doesn’t meet their needs in some aspect. OK, don’t buy it. But until the “perfect” camera for all people is invented, we have choices as to what our preferences are.

        • gt

          the point is that nikon has nothing in its lineup that fills the needs he wants filled! The 5D3 is perfect for wedding photographers and once again Nikon has nothing similar. I dunno wtf Nikon was thinking, but a camera like that would have easily been its top seller.

          • MikeV

            Thats exactly my point “gt”, thanks for clarifying that to larry r. The D800 will be great for landscape, stock photography, commercial photography, and videography (im assuming video will be on par with 5dm3). However those huge files are over kill for wedding, photojournalist, and honestly the everyday photographer. I feel the D800 is group specific vs being a 16-21 mp/high iso well rounded camera that would appeal to all (wedding, PJ, amateurs, stock, sports, ect.) Granted the D4 meets those expectations but at a huge price tag.

          • umeshrw

            since when does nikon been listening to us? If it had we would have had a D300s replacement years ago. still we use nikon gear AND scold nikon

      • Royster

        If you shoot in DX mode it is only 15mp and still RAW.The 1.2 crop is 25mp and is still Raw so you have options

      • Anonymous Maximus

        You may think of buying a 2nd hand D3s as it price will slope down with D4.

        The consensus among people is that successor of D700 won’t come soon. You may use the D3s for about a couple of years until your (as many others’) dream camera (D800s, D850 or D900) comes true.

      • Anonymous

        Instead of just rattling off the shutter why don’t you stop, think and compose your shots? You will then make for a much better wedding photographer who will not be worried about processing 500 GB of files per wedding. You sound like an amateur just knowing how to press the shutter and hoping that you are getting a few good ones there.

        • AC

          that’s a ridiculous thing to say. you have no idea who that guy is or how he shoots. what if he’s shooting a 3 day destination wedding with 2 second shooters? that’s three photographers cranking out big ass files for multiple days, and they probably all look way better than anything you might produce because the way you’re talking obviously shows that you’re not a working pro and have no clue how working pros operate.

          • Anonymous

            If getting paid to take snapshots make one a pro, then he is definitely a pro. However, why does one have to shoot so many images? How many rolls of film did a wedding pro photographer shoot?

            I think I hit a raw nerve there. You must be one of those just shoot and pray type pros.

    • Ray

      Don’t assume you speak for everyone…

      • DJL

        These discussions of high ISO performance and file size are a tad ridiculous., especially in reference to wedding work. In my career I have shot hundreds of weddings on film and digital (Film: Canon 1N, Nikon N70, Nikon N80, Nikon N90s, Nikon F5 and Digital:Olympus E-10/20, Fuji S2, Nikon D200, and Nikon D300s). Regarding ISO performance, instead of depending on this mythical ISO speed that does night vision or needing 10fps shooting speed why not refine your techniques and invest some money into speedlights and radio slaves?

        I cannot recall any situation at a wedding where I needed 8+ fps and those that do strike me as the type who are cannibalizing the industry now with their ‘run-gun’, here’s a disc with 1500+ pictures for $300.

        Knowing when to press the shutter release and when to stay your hand is far more valuable then high frames per second. This will reduce the amount of hard drive space you’ll require in the long run and if doesn’t, drives are very cheap as are modern computers.

        For a newspaper photojournalist the D4 makes more sense for the rest of us the D800 is an outstanding, high resolution tool that rivals medium format.

        At the end of the day, as a mentor of mine remarked, it is the Indian not the arrow that makes the shot.

        • Astrophotographer

          touché! I’ll add what’s with pros complaining about file size. those 1500 75mb files will cost $10 to store. Add double backup and is $30. How did wedding photographers survive the costs in the days of film?

          • DJL

            @Astro… very good point about the cost of drive space. Spray-n-pray “pros” tend to be shortsighted (as evidenced by their shooting style)… Film was cheap, the processing was the killer so it behooved one to be discretionary about pushing that button and you had to KNOW the craft! No such thing as checking a histogram or evaluating composition after the shutter was depressed… you either got it or you didn’t. Digital has spoiled at least 2 generations of photographers. Amusing anecedote… was at a workshop recently where better than half of the attending “pros” did not know how to use/own a light/flash meter instead relying on the appearance on LCD and shooting RAW to compensate.

    • umeshrw

      funny talk. when nikon was stuck on 10mp and 12mp for years on end we were bitching about it and switching to canon because canon was making higher and higher mp cameras . Now its exactly reversed. there is no satisfying people.

  • fred

    Absolute pixel pitch by itself has nothing to do with whether you need impeccable technique to get information out of all 36 photo sites.

    Think about the number of pixels for each arc-second of your field of view.

    Using a lens with a 43° angle of view on a 36mm wide 36Mp D800 sensor (focal length ~50mm) you expose ~3.46 pixels per arc-minute.

    Using a lens with a 43° angle of view on a 24mm wide 18Mp EOS7D sensor (focal length ~35mm) you expose ~2.43 pixels per arc-second.

    More pixels per arc-second = more blurring across pixels when the camera moves.

    So to get 36Mp of real image information (not just data) out of the D800 will require some combination of mirror lock-up, remote release, camera support, and fast shutter speed. Wider lenses will also be less prone to produce images with shake, because you’re laying a wider angle of view (more arc-minutes) over the same number of pixels.

    Even with good technique, many lenses will be outresolved by the sensor. I’m not even going to do the math here, because anyone who’s shot 35mm Plus-X with a crappy lens will tell you it doesn’t work, and 35mm Plus-X does not yield 36Mp even on an Imacon.

    Nothing in this article exposes why “logically” these things can’t be true. Author should look up the word “logic” in the dictionary.

    As for the impact of all this, whether a failure of technique or lens resolution will actually show up in a print depends on its size. A 12Mp image and 36Mp image printed at 11×14 will probably look exactly the same until your nose is touching the paper. But if you want every pixel to convey real independent information about the subject, and print 50″ wide landscapes at 150ppi, you will need impeccable technique and optics.

    Anyone who’s shot high-resolution cameras will tell you the same. There’s a reason 4×5 shooters wait for a pause in the breeze to press the shutter release. There’s nothing illogical about it.

    • fred

      Sorry, where I say “arc-second” I mean “arc-minute.”

    • Fishnose

      Interesting that back in the day, a really good camera with really good film in it and a really good lens out front gave incredible resolution. Exceptional resolution in fact. Canon and Nikon and the like. Remember?

      So what’s changed? Same high quality lens out front (or better these days, since lens technology has come a long way since say the 80’s when I ran around with a Canon EOS600), same incredible camera quality (or better) and a massively high resolution sensor (36MP) instead of massively high resolution film.

      So why shouldn’t it be exactly like it was then – except better now, since we have intelligent cameras with nanocoated lenses, all manner of aids – I don’t geddit.

      30 years ago I used the principle of 1/60th or so shutter for decent sharpness on really good film on a normal lens, why shouldn’t it be the same now?
      Tell me, do.

      • fred

        No 35mm film frame yielded the equivalent of 36 megapixels of real information, except perhaps at the hands of some major darkroom wizards. More typical was the neighborhood of 20Mp. Scanning at higher resolutions always looked nicer because you would render the grain nicely instead of aliasing it, but that’s a different story. Film shooters trying to produce images akin to Nikon’s D800 samples are using medium format.

        As for your 1/60 shutter rule, that would work for moderate print sizes with 50mm lenses (and shorter) on typical film. Shutter speed calculations need to take into account the angle of view, camera shake, film/sensor resolution, and final print size. Then as now.

        • Landscape Photo

          I used to photograph MF (6×7) landscapes. D800 with optimum aperture and shutter speed will likely match MF (practical) information from drum scans.

    • Landscape Photo


  • Fishnose

    I’ll tell you what the D800 is going to be. It’s going to be one of those cameras that changes the game. It’s going to be a MASSIVE step up. Everyone will be playing catch-up. Especially Canon got caught with their pants down. Whoops!

    Every now and then a camera comes along that makes everyone go ‘Good grief….’ and off we go in a new directon. And at a decent price even. When I heard that the D800 was coming out I went ‘Wish I could get one, but I’ll never be able to afford it’ – and then I saw it was going to be $3K!!!! I put in my order the next day, I remember getting goosepimples when I thought, I’ll have a 36MP camera soon…..

    The 5D boys are hurting, I tell ya. That future MkIII with 22MP suddenly feels almost embarrassing…. for MORE MONEY than the D800. And no autofocus in video mode, no uncompressed HDMI out. Ouch.. I’m going to watch them wriggle and squirm!

    I’ll never forget the twit behind the counter of a Stockholm photo shop (Rajala Photo) saying to the lady standing next to me (who bought a Canon 600D from him the previous week) that it’s a good thing she didn’t buy ‘that other brand – you wouldn’t be able to sell it at a flea market.’
    And there I was buying a Nikon lens from his colleague. You won’t catch me in that stupid shop again.

    • gt

      Just curious: why is 36MP so great?

      • Boing Wronkwell

        Megapixels… Above about 14 or 16, the number itself means very little unless you want to either crop heavily or enlarge very big.

        A large MP number means you can crop down in post-processing and still end up with a decent size of image file for printing big pictures or be able to hide poor quality composition because you did a crop and still ended up with a decent image. MP = size. More MP = more flexibility if cropping is what you are doing.

        Web use only needs about 5 or 6MP jpg files to deliver reasonably good results, but if you are producing 4 foot wide prints for exhibition use then the larger numbers become important.

        • PHB

          Or you shoot for glossy fashion magazines.

          There are still publications that demand 50MP images. 12MP is quite definitely bellow what Vogue would accept.

          The D800 completely eats the ‘blad’s lunch. Only none of the shooters who have shelled out $14K for the entry model would ever admit that. And before you start bleating ‘bigger sensor better’, try plugging the numbers in for their actual lenses. Hint: you can’t get f/1.4 lenses for a ‘blad because even though its the same focal length as the Nikon lens, it needs twice the coverage.

          Even if the Hassleblads came close to Nikon ISO performance, the smaller apertures would kill them. But even with much bigger pixels, they only manage ISO 1600.

  • Adam Ebihara

    Nice article.

    I was just down at B & H, NYC
    asking the same questions particularly about
    pixel depth & the potential for heightened blur.
    Especially for photojournalism shoots with
    a lot of movement, low-light & camera handling
    that at best can be described as a bit rough & quick.

    Anecdotal, a sales rep thought there could easily be 1000’s of
    backorders for the D800 at this store alone. Again, not
    verified by the rep or me :).

  • R!

    Seriously,Nikon did a great job in going the maximum they could in mpxl without sacrificing image quality,and I think they probably ahead of Canon in video now ,even If people will take time to admit it,plus they got continuous AF!
    The rest is BS.
    It’s a revolution ,off course It’s disturbing some.

    • Ray

      From a casual video user, and looking just at specs, it does look like Nikon leapfrogged Canon on video.

      However, that’s on stock firmware. Magic Lantern custom firmware adds a LOT to the 5DII… will this be the case with the 5DIII? If so, Nikon might well find themselves still behind in the real world.

      • R!

        In the real world the GH2 already beat the 5DII.

  • F5 Forever

    It cracks me up that people look at all the crazy technical details instead of just taking a picture. If someone looks at a picture that I show them, and asks about the pixel pitch, I consider it to be a failed shot.

  • I am sure you are correct that we will not see all those speculative horror stories come true.

    However, you appear to ignore Nikon’s own warning that pro-quality lenses are highly desirable and at times even necessary with the D800E, which does not have anti-aliasing.

    • Anonymous Maximus

      I agree with the fact that D800 needs best resolving lenses. Though most lenses will be ok in the center if stopped down, corners will remain the most vulnerable.

      But isn’t the fact that D800E does not have an anti-aliasing filter something which helps a mediocre lens performing a tad better, otherwise to be washed out by the softening effect from filter?

      In other words, D800E will allow any lens performing sharper & more contrasty compared to D800 (moire problem is out of the box here).

      • PHB

        In other words, it works fine when using DX lenses…

        Since when did we have lenses that worked perfectly across the screen?

        Since when did we stick the details right in the corners.

    • Ray

      Shocking news developoment! The higher the resolution of the sensor, the greater the effect of lens quality!

      In further shocking news, Nikon suggests that you buy their high price high margin lenses, implies that kit lenses aren’t the pinnacle of lens technology!

      • Boing Wronkwell



        Improve one aspect of a system and you expose shortcomings elsewhere.

        Ultimately, if you want good quality pics, use best quality glass.

  • Shy

    Very easy:
    1. Wait until D800/E is available.
    2. Try it with different lenses.
    3. Decide if you like it or not.

    • Anonymous Maximus

      But which dealer will let you try a D800 & D800E with your lenses and CF? Maybe a colleague or a friend (if you can find anyone having both) will be ok…

      The wiser way is to wait review sites to make reliable comparisons. My personal tendency is towards D800E, since it may combat diffraction & noise to a certain extent.

      • Michael

        It doesn’t combat diffraction. Diffraction is still there.

        • Anonymous Maximus

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

          a) identical since already softened by diffraction, no-AA 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

  • Knips

    I just pre-ordered my D800 last night. This camera fascinates me. Interesting that I did the same pixel pitch calculation that you did a week ago and then read the D7000 reviews. This helped me get over the shock that Nikon, of all companies, just reignited the pixel war (more like nuclear annilation).

    I think that we all need to wait until we have the cameras in our hands and the images on our screens although I believe that Nikon can pull this off. They haven’t disapointed me yet and lets face it, the last thing that either Canon or Nikon could afford to do at this point is throw a white elephant into the market.

    Interestingly enough, I have seen far less “too many pixels” bashing on the net than I thought I would see. I expected a nonstop onslaught. I do think that there is a good deal of fascination and curiousity out there with this camera.

    I don’t for a moment think that I just bought the Holy Grail of all Cameras with this or with any camera. It will have it’s strengths based upon what it was designed and intended to do and it will have its shortcomings in areas that were sacrificed to get to its intended purpose.

    We will know the good, bad and indifferent shortly. Until that time, everything else is only speculation and opinion with little basis in fact.

    • Doug


  • John

    I made the same calculation and had the anti-aliasing filter removed from my D7000 (Thanks LDP! It is a dream and 1/2 the price of a D800E. 18Mpix DX is okay for me. I’m a super-happy camper! But some are going to be amazed that the sensor outresolves the lens and I can SEE (pixel peeking) when diffraction kicks in for my 105mm macro. No more expose everything at f/22 – f/44!

  • David

    Whining that your computer “can’t handle” 36mp files is ridiculous

    It’s a $3000 camera, and you’ll be using several $1000 lenses and other accessories with it

    A $1000 computer can EASILY handle those files.

    Not to mention that the d800 will be Nikon’s main camera for the next 3-4 years. In 3-4 years the processing of even the cheapest computers will progress massively.

  • Landscape Photo

    D800 will offer such a dimension of versatility that has never seen before.

    I decided to work mainly with 3 primes in the field involving hiking & serious slow work with D800 on 36mp FX mode & a carbon-fiber tripod.

    But for time & weight restrained travels, I may revert to DX just with a single wonder-18-200mm VR from D300 era when photography was a breeze (with a little compromise in IQ). There isn’t yet any compact-enough FX VR lens from Nikon. 15mp is more than good for travel photography.

    My beloved 10-24mm will again come back to life with D800. The image circle is actually wider than DX @ 10mm & pretty sharp at the corners if stopped down to f/8. Plus, it covers the FX frame after 15mm mark to 24mm, but corners are poor even stopped down. Btw, 1.2x crop can make usable 25mp images from this range out of this lens on occasion. It only has 1/3 size & weight of the venerable 14-24mm ! Only if Nikon may provide a compact 16mm f/4 prime that accepts filter…

    * I wonder if the viewfinder of D800 is improved as to D700 which was just a DX frame and the rest of the image was distracting. Hope the outer image will completely be masked for a peaceful usage with DX lenses.

  • Baked bananas

    Canon 5DIII a big disappointment for half the photo community and too expensive for everyone.

    There are two photo camps that have somewhat divergent needs. They break roughly into the low light action shooters and the high resolution tripod shooters. Neither is right or wrong, just different needs for different types of photography. For low light, video, and action photogs, the improvements represent a desirable upgrade, at an undesirable price point. For high resolution, still work (and yes, there are plenty of pros that print big) the lack of resolution and perhaps dynamic range improvements are disappointing, to say the least. A previous poster said it right, the improvements amount to a 5D2.1 Most perplexing is the price point, particularly after Nikon released a much better speced camera for less. Unless Canon comes out soon with a high spec followup, they will have lost two sales here, one to the guy that buys my 5D2 and one to my new D800.

    • baked bananas

      ooops…..The above statement was not made by me,but by someone at dpreview in which I wholeheartedly agree with. WAS WAITING for the 5dmk III. But from the looks of it I’m gonna end up selling my d7000… it in for a 5d mk ii, then purchase a d800.

  • bill

    Yeah, and the pixel pitch of cameras like the 5D Mark II, III or the D3x is much higher than 4.88. So I wonder what the dynamic range of the D800 will be when each pixel is so small compared to other full-frame cameras in its class.

    D3x: 5.94 microns
    D800: 4.88 microns
    D700: 8.45 microns

    What does that all mean? Because the dynamic range of the D3x is higher than the D700 even though the D3x’s pixels are smaller…

    Now what?

    • It all comes down to technology. New technology is constantly getting smaller, lighter, less power hungry all while still being faster, better and in some cases even less expensive.

      Remember when Blu-ray players were $1000+? I sure do. Guess what, you can buy a top-of-the-line Oppo BDP-95 Blu-ray player for that now, and it is FAR superior to anything else on the market. Or if your budget doesn’t call for the best of the best, you can get a common consumer grade BR player for under $150 that is still as good or better than any first-gen player costing 10x as much.

      Using another example, my 47″ LG Infinia television is MAGNITUDES better than my 42″ Sharp Aquos that is not even 3 years older and cost $600 more!

      Technology changes and improves. Using some peoples logic, we should still be using sensors with the pixel pitch of a D70 so that we can get the most light in the thing. (If that was the case, a 36mp sensor would be larger than the whole camera.) And if I remember right, going over ISO400 on the D70 was a MESS of noise!

      • Frisco

        You’re right, and that’s why we can’t make any reliable assumptions yet regarding the D800. We just don’t know enough about the camera and any new technologies it incorporates. Right now, everybody is just guessing what it will and what it will not do based on older cameras and perhaps older technology. Unless a Nikon engineer wants to join us and add some new insights, we’re all just guessing.

        • I’m glad someone besides me can see it from a perspective of constant improvement. If we could be satisfied with the current level technology, their would be no need for them to ever release a new camera. (or anything based on rapidly advancing technology) But it’s simply not the case, we always expect some level of improvement in most if not all aspects of performance when the next bigger, better model is released.

          • Frisco

            We’ll all have the answers to our questions in about three weeks. The Nikon D800 represents a big change; people are afraid of change. We don’t have enough input yet to draw conclusions, but I understand the concerns. Let’s just hope it lives up to our highest expectations. Hopefully we’ll be saying, “ah, so that’s how they were able to do that” —- “wow, that’s a big step forward in sensor technology” —- “now it all makes sense.”
            HAPPY SHOOTING !

  • Mel

    I think the reason there are a number of people who are iffy about 36 MP is because they are primarily interested in photographing people or events or sports or in low-light situations. Excellent captures at high ISOs is where it’s at. For the moment, they can use the D700 or the D3s or the D4. Then there are those of us who photograph primarily landscapes (or studio shots). For this latter group, there has been the D3x, which is still a formidable camera but which has a prohibitively high price. The D800 (E) is more specifically addressing the photographic needs of this group. Personally, it would not surprise me to see a new model DSLR introduced to more directly replace the D700, a baby D4 as it were. The D800 (E) is not a D700 replacement, in spite of expectations to the contrary. Down the road, I am also sure we will see a new D4x, probably with all the bells and whistles of the pro-level camera, but with more than 24 MP. A single camera can no longer do it all. You will need to decide if you want a van or a sports car, both legitimate vehicles, but not intended for the same purpose. I certainly do not mean to imply that any DSLR in Nikon’s line-up is equivalent to a van… but you get the point. Can we all spell niche marketing?

  • Doug

    I don’t believe that every criticism of the new D800 is a knock against the camera or Nikon. What I see is that some people were looking for an upgrade to their D700 cameras and were hoping for a 16~18 megapixel sensor with similar low light that they have enjoyed with the D700. Yes there are Canon snipers as there are Nikon snipers in Canon forums. I’m moving from my D200 to the D800 and I’m optimistic that Nikon has developed another excellent product. Time will tell if that is the case. I understand the disappointment that some Nikon folks are expressing however I would say to them, ‘give the D800 a chance’. If it proves to be a lemon (I doubt it) then sales will dry up and Nikon will have to rethink their design. These camera companies are creating unbelievable products products. Don’t let your bias nor egos ruin the excitement you may be missing out on.

    • Frisco

      Doug, you’re right. Let’s wait and see what the D800 can actually do. We don’t know what advancements have been incorporated into the sensor and other aspects of the D800, so we can’t make reliable assumptions at this point without more information. I too, am upgrading from a D200 to the D800. I’m optimistic. Although there is no camera out there from any manufacturer that is PERFECT, let’s hope the D800 is one of the better options available.

    • Fishnose

      No, the D800 will certainly not be a lemon. It will in fact be a revolution. A whole new ballgame.
      You’ll find people doing sports shoots with it. Put a 70-200 /2.8 VRII on it and you can do ANYTHING with it.
      I don’t buy the ‘Only good for lansdcapes, on a tripod’ nonsense.
      Sure, the D4 is even cooler for the really fast stuff. But the D800 will be there too.
      Imagine shooting sailing, diving or horse jumping in the Olympics in broad daylight. Can you imagine the resolution and the quality? Like have a superfast and easily handled Hasselblad.
      We’re at a paradigm shift. In 10 year’s time people will look back and say ‘Yeah, the D800… That was amazing.”

  • SNRatio

    The people who developed the D800 think ca 20MP is optimal for many uses/situations – jpeg medium. 36MP you use when you need it. It has to do with a lot of things, but as fred notes here, given the same sensor area, and the same lens, the number of pixels affected by camera shake will depend on the pixel pitch. And when a point is smeared out over several pixels, there’s, in general, no way to tell exactly where it should belong. Which is why one may end up with worse results from a small-pixel sensor than from a large-pixel one, and “unforgiving” is so often used to characterize high-MP cameras. The same thing also applies to lens errors.

    • BJ

      Here is a link for a shot taken last week with a d7K and the “soft” 80-400, hand held by an old man. My calculations tell me that the D800 will have the same pixel size so I am expecting to be able to get this nice of shot at least ;o)

  • Frisco

    Found this on a Nikon site; it is very interesting — read it. It is from an interview with the designers & engineers that worked on the camera.

    Image size adjusts to photographers’ needs:
    While many people have high expectations of the kind of image quality possible with 36.3 megapixels, I think some may worry that it’ll be tough taking full advantage of that potential. What have you done to make the camera accessible to a wide range of users?
    Hara: “The D800 has an effective pixel count of 36.3 megapixels, but that doesn’t mean it can take pictures only at that size. There are three image sizes – large, medium, and small – and you can choose the one that suits your needs. In FX format, the large size enables shooting with about 36.2 megapixels, while 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. And just like our high-end D4 model, the D800 offers a choice of four image area settings: FX format, DX format, a nearly square 5:4 format that studio photographers will find easy to use, and a 1.2x format that is slightly narrower than the FX format. Each of these formats is available in the large, medium, and small sizes I mentioned earlier, giving the photographer considerable freedom in choosing a size.”

    • Sounds perfect to me. 9mp for the “small” size would be perfectly suitable for most situations. While 20.3mp would be good for things I may print as big as 30×40″. Of course the 36.3mp option would be suitable for MASSIVE prints (in excess of 6 feet) or when absolute fine detail is desired. It’s almost like having three very good cameras in one body.

      • Frisco

        Don’t forget that 36+MP will be good when you may need to do extreme cropping (maybe pulling a reasonable size headshot out of a group of people), or when you don’t have a telephoto and need to pull things in a little closer.

  • pup

    I have old slides which are perfect printed at 50×70 cm, no problem with the lenses.

  • BJ

    As a “tech geak I’ve moved from a D70 to a D200 to a D300 to a D7000 with visible IQ improvements with each step, probably a little operator experience growth as well but the IQ has consistently improved. As a landcscape photographer I’ve been stiching panos for years and I LOVE the flexibility to work the perspective, crop etc of a large image (26-50mp) while still holding good detail for a 13×19 print. Doubling the size and pixel count of my 7000 with a full frame camera is a dream. I CANT wait for mine to arrive.

  • Rob

    You usually only hear the “too many megapixels” argument from people that are loyal to brands that have less megapixels.

    • Fishnose


  • Can someone explain to me in (somewhat) layman’s terms what pixel pitch is in DSLR’s, and why it matters? Is larger better? Smaller? And, the same size pixel pitch in an FX vs DX…which one would be “sharper”…I’ve googled it and read some articles, but feel like I need a Ph.D in physics to understand them. I’m very technically adept, but am baffled by what this means, or if it even matters. Thanks in advance. And FWIW, I shoot w/ a D7000 if that makes any difference in the explanation.

    • I think what confused me most from the OP is this:

      “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.


      I can see how larger pixels would be better at gathering light, but don’t understand how that increases quiality…I would think finer grained pixels would be better quality. But I’m all ears as I love the science behind digital photography almost as much as taking the actual pictures. The better we can understand our tools, the better shooters we can be.

      • GrumpyDiver

        Jayson : You have a couple of misconceptions here:

        If you took a DX and a FX camera with identical pixel pitches and used the same (FX) lens, mounted the camera on a tripod and took two pictures at the same focal length, ISO setting, shutter speed and f-stop and then superimposed them on one another so that the additional material of the FX camera is cropped to the same size as the DX image, there should be NO difference between the two images.

        The focal length of a lens always projects the same image size; but the sensor size (or film size) results in a different sized image. If you took a 50mm lens and put it on a DX camera, it would act like a short telephoto, on an FX camera it would be a “normal” lens and on a medium format camera, it would be a wide angle lens. The difference between the lenses designed for each of these formats is the “image circle”. If you put a DX non-computer lens on all three cameras, the DX image would look normal. On the FX the top and bottom of the frame should have an image, but you would see a semi-circular cut-off portion on the sides and on the medium format camera, there would be a circle of the image, but the edges would be black.

        What the higher pitch will give you is the ability to enlarge the image more before you get serious degredation of the image. That’s all. I don’t agree with the “quality” comment. Larger pixels will give you less noise (at higher ISO values), smaller pixels will give you better resolution. Quality is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. In normal shooting conditions, I would likely prefer a higher pixel count sensor, in low light situations, a lower pixel count will likely give you better results.

        Clear as mud?

        • Clear as…well, dirty bathwater (which is clearer than mud). I understand crop sizes, and lens focal length differences on different size sensors (I shot film for 20 years on all sorts of cameras…35mm, mf, lf). I guess what I’m asking is what is pixel-pitch, and what does it mean to the every day photographer? I understand pixels in general, it was the whole pixel-pitch term that baffled me.

          Seems like there is always a tradeoff…large pixel-pitch = better light sensitivity but lower density (less overall resolution): small pixel-pitch = poorer low light performance, but better resolution. Is there a happy medium? Or does pixel-pitch even matter that much? Perhaps I’m spending too much time researching something that doesn’t really matter (pixel-pitch).

          I appreciate you taking the time to respond, and the last paragraph made a lot of sense.

        • Michael
        • Fishnose

          Very good, sir. Well explained.

          • GrumpyDiver

            The everyday photographer will likely not care. He or she is out there taking pictures for fun or money, not reading spec sheets that are little more than part of the manufacturer’s marketing machine.

            I have never ever heard a photographer say that they had enough speed or resolution. At least not until Nikon announced the 36 MP sensor, and even then I’m not sure if the complaint isn’t really about the additional storage requirements, rather than the resolution.

            To answer your question. Unless you are into some specialty photography; wildlife and need a higher frame rate, sports or event photography, where you need the low-light performance, studio or landscape photography, where you what ultra-high resolution, you won’t care. Any reasonable camera will deliver the results you are after. If you post on the internet, 5 or 6 MP is probably good enough. If you go to print and don’t go to crazy sizes, 12 MP on a crop-frame camera is probably good enough.

            The bottom line is not about the technology, but rather what you do with it…

            • Gotcha. Just being the technical person I am, I like to understand the science behind the tools I use to create things with. Sounds like this is something I don’t need to get bogged down with, was really just trying to figure out if it was something important to know about. Kudos to your technical explanations though…you seem to know your tools quite well! Cheers mate.

  • Landscape Photo

    Diffraction vs. DoF will cause a dilemma in landscapes. D800 will reveal a (perceived) shallow DoF than seen before due to higher pixel count.

    Some compositions will call for say f/22, but it wil not be possible due to diffraction. Then f/11, a compromise between two may have to be chosen.

    PC-E lenses may come to mind, but tilting the focal plane won’t solve anything other than continuous near-far compositions (like a flat flower field). Think of a forest with trunks of different distance. A tilt-shift lens won’t offer solution.

    What’s left? Either avoiding such compositions or just accepting as is, or finding aesthetical means of shallower-than-desired D0F. For most situations, everything cannot be fully crisp on the image as easy as it were on D700 & f/11 without getting diffraction limited.

    Another problem is soft corners. Stopping down to f/11 used to render even the mediocre lenses usable. Now with D800, it may not anymore. The photographer will either use a better lens, or crop the corners, or resize, or rant over it, or better find a creative solution to mask the problematic areas of the lens (if exists). All lenses are sharper in the center and tend to show more aberrations towards corners, especially if wide open. Now it will be more pronounced with sharp in-the-center but soft-on-the-edges type results…

    • GrumpyDiver

      DoF is related to sensor size, not pixel count. Looking at the analogy of shooting film, what you are saying is that a slow fine-grained film (higher pixel count) versus a fast coarse grained film (lower pixel count). Grain has nothing to do with DoF, and neither does pixel pitch.

      I do think you are right on the diffraction and expect that we may have to shoot at a larger aperture to avoid the softness.

    • How about using hyperfocal distance to get max dof at apertures like f8? Wouldn’t that be a low-diffraction high-DOF solution?

      • GrumpyDiver

        DoF and diffraction are two different animals.

        The last time I studied optics was in 1st year university physics, and that was some time ago so while I remember the principals, the details are a bit shakey. Minimum difraction occurs with a wide open lens, and the more you stop down the iris (which is what causes the diffraction), the more the diffraction starts to matter. Lens resolution is measured in lines/mm; and at some point as you stop down the resolution of the lens drops below the pitch of photodiodes in the sensor. Lets assume a sensor has a resolution of 100 lines / mm at f/16 and the sensor has 100 photoreceptors / mm. This means you’ve reached the limit that can be resolved. Stop the lens down to f/22 and let’s say the lens can only resolve 75 lines/mm; then you are going to get some softening.

        Now a camera manufacturer comes along with a photodiode pitch of 300 per mm. With the same lens, you will get softening of resolution for sure at f/16 and f/22, as both 100 lines/mm and 75 lines/mm are much larger than the sensor pitch. You would have to stop up to perhaps f/11 or f/8 to get to a resolution of more than 300 lines/mm.

        You are only going to see this, if you enlarge to an extent where this becomes visible.

        • Thank you, that was the most clear explanation for diffraction I have seen. But let’s say for example that the diffraction limit is F8. You’re doing landscape and need more DOF than that, but you don’t want to step down further and risk diffraction issues. Couldn’t you use the hyperfocal distance technique to get infinity DOF?

          • GrumpyDiver

            Again, you are still confusing DoF and diffraction. They are linked only because they are effects of the same mechanism. i.e. stopping the lens down. The hyperfocal will get you the DoF you need, but you are trading off a slight softening of the image. As a photographer you are always adjusting four variables; focal length. ISO setting, aperture and shutter speed, trying to balance those to get the result you want.

            Remember we are really looking at theory here, rather than a practical issue. If you are hand holding a camera, even with image stabilization, the camera motion will probably have a greater impact that diffraction. Pop the camera on a tripod, and then this may become an issue. You will likely have to enlarge to a very large size to ever see this.

            If you are really concerned, switch to a larger format camera. The effects will still be there, but as you are starting from a larger image, the results won’t be as noticeable.

            All that being said, I would stop down and live with a slightly softer image. The DoF issue, people will notice, the softening from diffraction, probably not.

            • Thank you so much, I was going to limit my stopping down but you made me realize it would be worse not to have the DoF and less fixable. I now wish I had ordered the D800E instead, one less thing to cause blur. I may have the AA removed at some point at maxmax. I do a lot of wildlife and the moire might mess up some bird feathers now and then but I’d rather have less blur to add to the motion blur I’m already getting from handholding. I often have to crop so I don’t really want to depend on having to reduce the size even further as a means to obtain sharpness. Anyhow, you are wonderful to explain all that.. many thanks 🙂

  • Landscape Photo

    Nikon must introduce a quality walkaround FX VR lens about or even smaller than the size of 16-85mm DX VR. Neither the 24-120 f/4 or 28-300mm can fit in this definition. But there are already some non-VR examples:


    I’m not an expert on optics but for common sense, to achieve these can be tried:

    – avoiding fixed aperture, but opting for f/3.5-5.6 or even f/4.5-6.7
    – avoiding 24mm on the widest end but opting for 28mm
    – avoiding extreme figures on the tele but trying modest focal of 105mm or 135mm

    The criteria should be as follows:

    – it should be sharp in the corners @ f/8 but not necessarily as much wide open
    – it should have VR
    – it should be compact (no longer than 7.5cm, preferably taking 62 filters)
    – it should be lightweight (no heavier than 400 g.) wth help of light but robust materials
    – it does not necessarily be a cheap lens, it may have a nano coating, min. sample variation, boasting a golden ring, and be priced accordingly, somewhere above $1K)

    Nikkor 28-135mm f/4.5-5.6 VR !

    Compact & sharp @ f/8 designed for D800. Not for action, nor for fashion. But many landscape & travel photographers would buy this lens in a heartbeat.

    • GrumpyDiver

      They do have one; the f/2.8 24 – 70, and at those focal lengths VR is really redundant. A good general rule of thumb for high-end optics is that minimum to maxium focal length should be less than a factor of three; past that you get into some quality trade-offs

      Compact; that means you are going to have some pretty significant trade-offs optically. Personally, I tend to wander around with three prime lenses (35mm, 50mm and 105mm) . You want sharp and light; go fixed focal length.

      • Ralph

        The 3:1 rule you are talking about is similarly evolving. I remember the 24-70f2.8 evolved from the 35-70 (2:1) then the 28-70 (2.5:1) and finally the current 24-70 (2.9:1) . I expect nect it will be a 21-70 (at least I hope so).

        I still have the gorgeous 75-150E, I love that lens.

        I also remember the controversy over zooms back when everyone used primes – god I feel old.

        • GrumpyDiver

          If the top-of-the-line products from Canon or Nikon start exceeding the 3:1, I will agree with you. All that being said, I still shoot primes.

          If you look at all the high end movie productions; these guys are not shooting zoom lenses for their HD work; primes by Red, Cooke, Zeiss and now Leica are the lenses of choice, with a set of running in the $100k to $200k range..

      • Michael
  • iamnomad

    It doesn’t matter what Nikon or Canon release,
    people will complain and want something else.

  • stve

    Why all the bitching about large file sizes back in 2008 when the D700 came out hard drives were much smaller & PC’s far slower & compact flash very expensive.
    The solution get a fast modern PC & larger hard drives.
    If moneys tight & you cannot afford to upgrade your PC & storage shoot with a DX lens for 18.6 MB 14 bit lossless compressed files.

  • guru

    You should compare it to the iPhone camera, I guess D800 would be a clear winner 🙂

  • Roland Barthes

    As a predominantly “fine art” portrait photographer I am on the fence here. I am quite interested and intrigued by the D800. I am interested in the idea of potentially printing images at around 24×36 for exhibition. Why I think so many people are hemming and hawing about the camera’s megapixels comes from the release of the D800 technical guide. There are quotes like:

    “The superior resolution of the D800/D800E makes small amounts of focus blur more obvious. Select a shutter speed slightly faster than you would normally choose photographing the same subject with other cameras.”

    “At high resolutions …even the slap of the mirror can sometimes be enough to blur photographs. ”

    I did read Thom Hogan’s article on this. It just seems that the high mp are placing a certain amount of limitations when looking to hand hold. Any thoughts on this?

    • GrumpyDiver

      Actually, you would be getting exactly the same result on a lower resolution sensor today. Handhold a shot (same shutter speed, ISO setting and aperture) with a D3, D4, D700 or D800 and the images should appear virtually identical.

      Now enlarge that D800 image to where you see motion blur, the images from the other three camera will be totally pixellated. If you are enlarging to that extent, yes I would expect you will see degradation, but only because the D800 has enough resolution to show it. The other cameras would be beyond their workable limits.

      That being said; to actually see the defects you would have to be very close up. Step back to a normal viewing distance, and you’ll never notice.

    • I’ve shot a Phase One medium format with the IQ-180 (80 megapixel digital back) and that thing has a huge mirror compared to the D800’s. Even hand held, as long as shutter speeds were reasonable, the images were sharp down to the last pixel. Of course for “ultimate” detail, tripod mounting, wired or wireless trigger and mirror lock all help a bit. But to be honest, if you are doing fine art photography / landscape photography, odds are you are already taking these measures to be sure your images are as sharp as possible.

      Personally, I take my tripod and use it at least 80% of the time along with a remote release or the built-in timer. I don’t use mirror up often, but don’t find it causing much of an issue compared to camera shake from physically touching the shutter release, even on a tripod.

    • Banksie

      Roland, I thought you were dead. Didn’t you die from your injuries after being hit by a laundry truck while walking home in Paris? Yet here you are commenting on a camera rumors website.

  • Jeff

    Pixel spacing is only a guess at ISO quality. it is a very rough estimate of the inter-pixel signal to noise ratio. I.e., how clean is the signal in a single pixel? How much is the signal recorded in a single pixel effected by the pixels around it? That’s what we need to know.

    As technology progresses the components on the chips shrink. Pixel spacing on one chip technology will have very different signal to noise ratio characteristics from pixel spacing in another chip technology.

    So, comparing pixel spacing without knowing the chip technology and the signal to noise ratios is a meaningless exercise.

    When DxO Labs measures the noise, we will finally know the answer.

  • R!

    You’re all forgeting the improovement of the quality of the photosites(pxls), they’re not the same as the 3 yrs old ones, just check the Nex 7 at DXO ,and compare it with a D3 or 5DII ,then you will understand!!!!!!

    • BJ

      Amen, if we follow this pixel size only logic to its extremes the D70 should have much better High ISO capability than my D7000.

  • Jeff

    You can compare sensors for the EOS 5D Mark II and the D700 at

    > Measurements > SNR 18%

    These are actual measured results and not what the manufactures claim.

    • Michael

      The 5DMii is actually better in terms of noise performance. If both picture are resized at the same size, 5DMii’s noise will be less.

  • R!

    By the way,while I’m giving free lessons here ,the 200 vr is a must with the D800 ,I think!

    • Prestige

      U think??…….u r not worth it

  • JB

    The reason I switched to full-frame was to get better pixel pitch. The Canon 5DII blows away the Canon 7D in high ISO ability, resolution , colors, and every image quality related category imaginable. Offering cameras like the Canon 7D and Olympus E-P3 as means ofcomparison is a huge fallacy. I’m a sports photographer. If I wanted small pixel pitch, I could continue to use my 7D with it’s 1.6x better reach and access to cheaper lenses (e.g., compare the price of 135mm f/2 to a 200mm f/2). But I haven’t been using the 7D lately. Why? Because even with its crippled autofocus the 5DII still smacks the hell out of the 7D in any indoor lighting situation. With the Nikon D800, Nikon is offering me the opportunity to spend $3,000 on a body and far more on lenses in order to get pixel pitch similar to what I already have. No thanks. If 36 megapixels is so great, why didn’t Nikon throw it into the D4? Why didn’t they release it as a D4X? The 7D and E-M5 can bring other advantages, such as longer reach, weather sealing, or portability. What will I get from a D800? Wall-size prints won’t do me any good if the quality isn’t there. Maybe this camera will be amazing and I’ll eat my words, but I don’t think so. I’ll wait for ‘refutation’ to come in the form of actual images, not a list of the specs on consumer cameras.

    • GrumpyDiver

      How about low-light performance and faster frame rates.

      Larger photodiodes will provide higher usable ISO range, which is important to someone doing sports or event photography, and that is what the D4 is aimed at. The other issue with the higher resolution is that there is far more data to be processed to get the significantly higher frame rate; the amount of processing power to handle a 16MB image versus a 36MB image. Again, if you look the difference in the frame rate capabilities, things are rather obvious.

    • Michael
      • GrumpyDiver

        Much of the article is bang on, but there are some errors in it. The author assumes that all noise comes from the photodiodes themselves, but discounts noise from other source such current leakage in the analog circuits in the amplifier sections of the photosensor.

        The reason that the manufacturers do not product higher ISO is that increasing gain also increases noise. The image processing engine noise reduction circuitry use cutoff filters, but once noise gets to a certain level it cannot distinguish the signal from the noise. I suspect that the “normal” ISO range is probably established this way and that some more sophisticated averaging (smearing) techniques are used for the higher gain levels. Remember, a photodiode has a fixed sensitivity; the higher ISO settings are obtained by increasing gain (amplification).

  • WSY

    Yes the D800 is a horrible camera! Totally and utterly agreed! Because you will need impeccable hand holding skills which you techno geeks cannot do and end up asking for things like a VR 24-70mm f2.8 lens. I mean come on! I managed to take sharp 1/3s and 1/5s shots hand held before and attribute that to skills, technique and practice.
    Rather than complaining that the camera is a poor release just admit that you suck at using such an equipment. Either step up to the plate which the Nikon and the D800 is serving you and improve yourselves or go to Canon.
    In the mean time I will stick with and tell everybody the D800 sucks… hopefully there are less buyers, price drops quicker and I can get my hands on one sooner.


    • Anonee

      You, selfish guy!

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