Unless you've been asleep under a bush for the past couple of days, you've probably noticed that Nikon's completed its pro dSLR one-two with the announcement of its D800. It's the 5DII-killer that Nikon shooters have been clamouring for for the past couple of years. In fact, given its specs and price, Nikon clearly expects it to be a 5DIII-killer too. Canon will have their work cut out to match expectations, now that Nikon has shown their hand.
In case you haven't seen the specs, the salient points are thusly:
- D700-ish body with some styling tweaks and a small drop in weight (yay!)
- 36mp at 4fps, with a 15mp DX crop mode that actually looks like being genuinely useful
- all the weather sealing and robustness you'd expect (though not quite as much as a D3/D4)
- nearly all the D4's video cleverness
- price back to D700 price at launch
In other words, it's one heck of a lot of camera for a price that, although not a trivial sum of money, actually gets you an awful lot of very solid performance. What particularly interests me is the DX crop mode, which offers more pixels than my D300 and is therefore genuinely, supremely useful. The AF sensors cover almost all the DX frame. See where i'm heading with this?
However. 36 is a very big number indeed when we're talking millions of pixels. You don't get something for nothing, so anyone expecting a D4 sensor in a small body is going to be disappointed. Specifically, the D800 loses out on high ISO (though it's likely to be at least as good as the D7000 in this respect - which is to say, very good indeed, though not quite up to D3 levels). It's also not particularly fast, although 4fps is perfectly useable. Anyone wanting more than that out of a high pixel count camera needs their head examining... 9fps @ 36mp is getting on for 1Gb per second.
There are also the tangentially related issues of lens performance and diffraction, as well as the weakest link of all in the image quality chain - technique. I'll make a prediction now: an awful lot of D800 buyers are going to be disappointed with their results unless a. they own absolutely stellar lenses and b. have the technique to get the best out of them. The intersection of those two groups is a fairly small number...
From my point of view, as intrigued as I am by the D800 it doesn't actually solve any of my needs. There's no way I - or the vast majority of my clients, the vast majority of the time - need anything like that many pixels. If I were habitually making A2 or bigger prints, on the other hand, i'd be lining up to buy one straight away. It's certainly a lot of camera for the money.