Initial impessions of the Nikon D800E

22/04/2012
My third shot with the D800E
Initial Impressions of the Nikon D800E after a morning’s shoot.

Up and out of bed at 4:30am, kettle on, flask filled and gear loaded. A couple of hundred yards up the road the forest bottom, (yes it is called a bottom), was shrouded in mist from the showers previously. To the east the first signs of dawn showed as I headed up to higher ground. Anticipation was high as this was my first shoot with the Nikon D800E purchased the day before from Nikon Pro dealer, London Camera Exchange, Civic Centre Southampton, where I buy most of my gear.

As I set up the conditions weren’t great. Yes there was mist on the moor, yes there were clouds in the sky but there was a large bank of high level cloud to the east which would diffuse the directional sunlight when it came. So conditions were good, but not great. (So picky us photographers!)

With my Manfrotto 410 head plate screwed on the camera, it felt decidedly smaller, which it is, than the Nikon Pro series D1 series, (D2, D3 etc), cameras I am used to. It still feels chunky and comfortable in the hand and even without the battery grip I find that my right hand grips the camera using all my fingers. On lesser bodies, D7000 and below, I find that I grip the camera with the first three fingers only, as there is no body for my little finger to wrap around. This sounds unimportant, but on a long hand held shooting day, spreading the load amongst all the fingers is important to allay fatigue and ligament stress.

But this morning I’m using the tripod. Aligning the level of camera using the adjustment of the Gitzo tripod is a doddle. The D800 E helps here as there is a very good virtual horizon shown in the viewfinder, not just horizontal but vertical as well. The viewfinder is clear and large and also brought over from the D1 series is a venetian blind to flip down and cover the eyepiece to avoid extraneous light from entering via this orifice. Because it is there you use it. I have done so for years so it has become habit now. I’m pleased little things like this have been transferred across.

As I attach the remote cord, I find that being a smaller body than D1 series makes screwing the attachment in a bit of a fiddle with my fingers, as there is less room than I am used to. Okay, the temperature here is just on freezing which doesn’t help, but I feel it worth mentioning for anyone else considering this camera from a D1 series body.

For some time now, Nikon have had the wonderful rotating release mode dial on their semi and pro bodies. Changing from single shot through continuous, remote release and even mirror lock up is so simple. No delving in menus necessary here, just select what you want using the dial. It is easily accessible just where you want it. For mirror lock up you don’t even have to look. Just turn it to the end stop. Job done. The turning dial itself is much more positive and robust feeling than the D7000 which always feels a bit flimsy, (my wife has a D7000), but not as bullet proof in feel as a D1 series. It feels a little softer somehow.

The previous night, looking through the menus to customise this camera to the same settings as my other bodies, the menu structure was familiar and easy for me to navigate. There is plenty of carry over again so customisation is easy. Such things as changing dial directions and button functions etc being easily transformed. I know these cameras are only tools, but you want them to work for you, not the other way around.

In working through the manual and menus, I came across a couple of modes which I am looking forward to trying out – perspective control and miniature effect. I know you can use a PC-E lens or Photoshop, but it will be interesting to see how it performs in camera. For another time though.

Okay so summing up at the moment. The D800E has for of a pro feel than I was anticipating. There are a number of features transferred down from theD1 series that make me feel at home. The smaller body is not too small so that gripping it is an issue but small enough to make attachment of the MC30 remote slightly fiddly.

There will be more of this D800E review and taking pictures with it in other blogs soon. I’ll update via Twitter and Facebook when there is another blog.

Ian