I’ve been shooting on a crop frame sensor camera for a good while now, this was down to the fact that most full frame cameras were out of my reach financially. That was until recently when I decided to part exchange my Nikon D7100 body and my crop sensor only lenses for a D800, a 36.3 megapixel full frame body. I’ve got some shoots planned to put the new camera through its paces.
I’d been wanting to go full frame for a while now but the new cameras put them out of my price range. I don’t have the disposable income to be able to go out and spend £2000 – £3000 on a camera body and I don’t like finance either. So that left me with the only other option, to find a decent second hand full frame body. I’ve done just that and bagged myself a Nikon D800, in good shape and with a fair shutter activation count.
The D800 is no spring chicken when it comes to the Nikon full frame DSLR line up, it’s been superseded by newer cameras, but getting hold of a good second hand model within my price range meant the D800 was my only real option. The D800 received rave reviews on it’s release back in 2012 and seems to be held well in regard even now. So that’s what I decided to go with.
The D800 is a step up from my D7100, the key points that affected my choice on which DSLR to go with were;
Full Frame Over Crop Sensor If you’ve never heard of these terms or are unsure what they actually mean, a full frame sensor refers to cameras that have a sensor which is the same dimensions as a 35mm film camera sensor. 35mm has been the “standard” film gauge since 1909 and was said to offer the best balance between cost and quality, Whereas a crop sensor is smaller. I could bore you with the technical jargon and the arguments surrounding full frame and crop sensor benefits and pitfalls but I won’t. Why it mattered to me was that I want to take the next step with my photography, moving from crop sensor to full frame. It feels like a natural progression for me and one that interests me enough to do it.
Megapixels Up from the 24MP available with the D7100, to 36.3MP with the D800. Very basically, the increase in megapixels offers finer detail in photographs and allows for larger prints without quality suffering.
Dynamic Range The D800 offers increased dynamic range, DXO scored the D800 dynamic range as 25.3, as opposed to 24.2 with the D7100. In laymen terms dynamic range is the measurement of light intensities from the darkest part of a scene to the lightest. As camera with poorer dynamic range in scenes where there is a lot of dynamic range could result in the details in shadowed areas being lost or detail in highlight areas could be lost too. So if the camera has better dynamic range this helps in scenes where there are really dark areas and really light areas present (think bright sky and overcast and dark ground).
Low Light Performance The increase in low light performance is something that I’m keen to take advantage of. I’ve got some shoots lined up where I’ll be photographing at night in a couple of city locations, so this is a definite plus for me.
Not all better though..
However, there are some pitfalls too;
Weight & Bulk The D800 weighs more and is a larger body. The difference in weight is 135g. I hike in and out to landscape locations. I sometimes hike 15-20 miles in a day, so weight is a very important for me. The added weight wasn’t enough to be a deal breaker for me though. The extra bulk makes packing that tiny bit harder as space is always at a premium in my rucksack or daysack.
Lenses Cost The other pitfall for me was that I had 3 lenses that were DX only (crop sensor). They could work on the D800 as it allows you to use the DX lenses but with a drop in megapixels using the DX mode with the camera. I decided to put these DX lenses in as part of the part exchange, I ended up with the company paying some cash to me as the part exchange value of the D7100 body and the three DX lenses was more than the value of the D800. I had to consider the fact that the increased resolution of the D800 meant that lenses that aren’t up to great level in terms of optics are going to have that exposed more. So I’m now looking at FX (full frame) lenses that usually cost more than DX only lenses.
Used Equipment / Risks Camera manufacturers put a figure on the amount of shutter activations (photos taken) on their cameras, this is an indicator of the life expectancy. The D800 shutter is rated by Nikon to have a 200,000 activation life expectancy. A camera may survive for many more than that, or could fail well before so it’s a bit of a gamble. Consequently, the lower the shutter count of a camera the better, if you’re buying second hand. Faulty and worn shutters can be replaced but it isn’t cheap. My used D800 should still have plenty of life left in it though, if it lasts me a year or two I’ll be happy with that.
Influencing my decision..
I spent quite a lot of time reading and watching reviews, studying images taken with the D800 and various lenses before I made my mind up. I like to do my homework before committing my cash! The list is lengthy but here’s a couple worthy of note I found to be a wealth of info;