I received my D800 almost two months ago (03/30/12) and have had the opportunity to use it on several outings. My impression is that it lives up to the speculation about its performance. The files are very large and detailed, but offer no particular problems in post processing. Lightroom 4 takes a few moments more to load the files, otherwise everything else is normal. Some specifics:
- I shoot in RAW, converted in LR (14bit, compressed) – the files are about 40MB, which works out to more than 600 images on a 32GB CF card (Sandisk Extreme 60MB/s). Battery life is also greater than 900 images, depending on review, etc.
- For me, handling is great. Most of the buttons are in familiar places compared to the D300s, except the focus controls,which use the front and rear dials, activated by means of a small button on the left front. This was one of the few things I had to refer to the manual about.
- Much discussion is flying around about the redesigned right hand grip. For me it is an improvement over the D300. Even though the D800 is about 3oz heavier than the D300, it is very comfortable to hold and carry.
- The images using a top quality FX lens are very detailed. The ability to crop extensively means that each image can produce several different interpretations of the shot, created at leasure in post processing. The lenses I have used so far are the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, Nikon 17-35 f/2.8, Nikon 24-120 f/4 VR, and the Nikon 70-300 VR f/4.5-5.6. In addition, I just received a Rokinon 24mm f/2.8 manual focus (which will be discussed separately). All of these produced excellent results when used on a tripod or with higher shutter speeds.
- Exposure control is excellent, if about 1/3 stop over-exposed. Dialing in -0.3 took care of that. Only slight tweaks in LR were needed to bring up shadows or bring down highlights. The images appear to be quite forgiving and capable of a lot of adjustment to taste. LR4 can easily bring down the apparently over-exposed highlight and recover lots of detail in the shadows.
- The Auto ISO mode appears to work very well, and is easily turned on or off using the dials.
- With the wide angles, the level and tilt indicators are great and easily controlled using the front FN button.
- Video is interesting, to say the least. I shot a full length musical production in 1080p, processed in Adobe Premiere. the lighting was awfull, but the auto ISO worked great, with excellent images up to ISO 3200. The only problems with video are zooming anf focus. Auto focus is not very good at all. Prefocus is a must, since the autofocus at the light levels for the production was very slow and uncertain. Compared to a mid-range Sony camcorder, the D800 images are sharper and with less noise. The 20 min. limitation on recording time was also a pain. Overall the result was very good, but achieved with some difficulty.
- For still photography, the D800 is a joy to use and well worth the extra expense and file size handling.
Some sample images are shown below. Most are available in full size (7360×4912) as well as 100% crops of the center. The 1500×1000 images have been down-sampled for ease of viewing. The full size images are available at the link below the image. All were shot as RAW 14 bit compressed and converted to JPEG in LR, sharpened in LR with radius 1.0 @ 90%. Click on a thumb to view. The full size JPEG images are 15MB+ files, so they may take a few seconds to load.