Long term review : Nikon D800E

Overall impression

I have a long term relationship with Nikon – I started with a Nikon D80, upgraded to a D300, then to a D3, bought a D90 as a back up, and eventually made the jump to the D800E, after trying the Canon system. (it sucks, but that is for another article) I keep a Fuji body and lens because I need some bullshit in my life. 

The Nikon D800E dynamic range has been praised among photographers – and I will praise it till I die. It is that great. Same with the autofocus. It is just as good as the D4, but for a fraction of the price and with thirty-six megapixels of sweet colour rendition. 

Everything feels great with this Nikon. But I won't tell you – I will show you.

 The D800E delivers the nicest colour.

The D800E delivers the nicest colour.

 Unedited picture, straight JPEG.

Unedited picture, straight JPEG.

 The colours. Oh, the colours. So natural. Fiona on  Sailing Monarch .

The colours. Oh, the colours. So natural. Fiona on Sailing Monarch.

Reliability 

On the last 7500 pictures, my mirror locked-up twice. Never happened with my D90, D80, D3 or D300. Why ? Who knows. The quality might have went down over the years at Nikon...There are quite a few horror story of D750/D600 owners.

Well, here is the true: I do not take care of my D800E. I actually beat the hell out of it, partly because I'm travelling around the world in a Jeep in extreme climate condition and partly because I am way too curious to see how much it can take before it dies. I might be a terrible person.

It fell on the ground once. Still work. It went to -30ºC. It went to +40ºC. Still works. True workhorse. Oh, and what an awesome battery life ! Not like my other camera. I charged my battery eight times in a year. Yeah, that is great. But this is from the same company that makes it possible to shoot three months with one battery and take well over five thousand shots...Nikon is just great at battery life.

Advantage over the D750

 Pay attention to the layout.

Pay attention to the layout.

Here's a secret – and here's something that only real world photographer knows (not arm chair photographer or paid reviewer *cough*cough*) – the Nikon D800E is significantly better than the newer D750. Here's why:

It has a real metering control ring attached to the AF-ON button, right where your thumb naturally rest. This difference is underrated. The D750 only has one button, the AF/AE. And D800E has two, both of them programmable. I programmed my AE-L (Auto-exposure Lock) to switch to spot metering (yeah, I know, redundant, but this is the best setup in the best world). I focused using AF-ON. Now observed what is missing on the layout of the D750. Of course, you can program the AF-L to be your Back Focusing button, but how can you switch metering in a fraction of second ? You cannot. And you will miss a shot.

I'll tell you in which condition you might want to switch so quickly. Say you photography a crowd full of people at a wedding. You're on the 50mm f/1.4. Suddenly, something happens near a spot light, say the bride kisses her grand-father on the cheek. With my current setup, I can change the metering to spot so my Nikon goes semi-auto on exposure. A matrix metering would probably blow the highlights, as the rest of the crow is well illuminated. It is a very specific occasion, but I have been using it more than I would think of. I was used with the D3 to quickly change the setup, but this feature on the D800E is what makes the D800E the best camera possible for weddings.

Also, the 1/4000 shutter speed is a bad news for the photographer that loves shooting wide open at f/1.4. Who has time to throw an ND filter on these days ? No one. Yeah, of course, landscape photography, but who shoots landscape at f/1.4 anyway (I do sometimes just for the heck of it)

I wonder why there are so many people raving about the D750. I tried both – the D800E wins every.single.time. I cannot overstated this so much – the D800E has much better ergonomic when it comes to do weddings. The ability to switch from matrix to spot metering in a glimpse and the ability to use 1/8000 are strong enough reasons to get the D800E.

Just figured I would tell the world what I think. Not that nobody care. The Nikon D800E with a 20mm f/1.4 Sigma Art and a SB-900 is a killer combo. 

 Fiona learning how to make the most out of her Canon 60D

Fiona learning how to make the most out of her Canon 60D

Conclusion

My D800E body has 114 000 shutter actuations and still perform like it just got out of the box. Don't buy into the hype of getting the latest DSLR. An used D800 will be sufficient for 100% of your need. And then some more. It is much better than the previous D3/D300/D700 generation. It also much better than a brand new D5400 or D3400. 

 JPEG, straight out of camera.

JPEG, straight out of camera.

 6400 ISO

6400 ISO