Nikon has really shaken things up with the Nikon D800. Always known for lagging behind Canon in the megapixel war, Nikon blew pass Canon with the D800, tripling the number of pixels in the D700 and stealing the megapixel crown from Canon’s 5D Mark II (21 megapixels).
Nikon has been plummeted with criticisms over its decision to put 36 megapixels in the D800 and those criticisms only got louder when Canon this week announced that its long-anticipated update to the Canon 5D Mark II would only have 22 megapixels. Generally speaking, the criticisms and the questions that I have received fall into three general categories:
- With 36 megapixels, noise will be a problem for the Nikon D800.
- With such high-resolution, users will need the best equipment to get everything possible out of this camera.
- Who needs 36 megapixels?
Wow! Who thought Nikon or any camera company would be criticized for giving us exactly what many of us wanted-more megapixels-and at only $3,000!
My initial response to the criticisms is simple: Some cameras aren’t made for every situation, e.g., a Nikon D4 will make a better camera for a sports photographer and probably won’t consider a D800, and, if the Nikon D800 isn’t for you, it isn’t for you. However, in fairness to everyone, I have more considered responses to each of the criticisms.
First, noise is a problem for every camera regardless of the number of pixels. The question is at what point does noise become a problem. I expected and believe even more so now after seeing example images from the Nikon D800 on some reputable sites that images taken with an ISO setting up to ISO 1600 would have no to low amounts of noise. (A final evaluation will need to wait until I have my D800 in my hands.) Why 1600? The size of the pixels and pixel density of the sensor in the Nikon D800 is nearly identical to the Nikon D7000 (with its 16 megapixel, DX sized sensor). I have extensive experience with the D7000 and images taken at ISO 1600 with that camera can easily be blown up to 40 x 60.
Is ISO 1600 enough? Well that depends on what you will be using the camera for. If you are a sports photographer, you will want the Nikon D4 or the Nikon D700 not this camera. The D4 and D700 will give you useable images at higher ISO settings. However, if you are a studio photographer, where the amount of light is controllable, or a landscape photographer, where your shutter speed isn’t usually a significant factor, then this is the camera for you. Nikon agrees with this assessment and has stated this publicly.
Second, per my earlier post on the Nikon D800, I noted that this camera will require the best lenses and techniques to get best from it. Unfortunately, this is the nature of high-tech equipment. It changes and gets better. The fact is good cameras require good accessories and this is a very good camera. Also, good technique is important for capturing a good image from any camera.
Finally, while I regularly blow up images from my 12 megapixel Nikon D700 to 40 x 60, 36 megapixels will make it easier to make big, sharp prints. Does 36 megapixels seem a little bit of overkill? Sure but it will be really nice to have the extra pixels for cropping and making those large images. (Downsizing is easy if necessary.)
As I stated in my earlier post, whether this camera is right for you is for you to determine based on your needs and not some hypothetical photographer. Nikon has announced that it will continue to manufacture the D700, which is great news because the D700 fills a very important niche, good ISO performance above 1600 at a reasonable price. So, Nikon is giving us choice that we have never had before: The Nikon D4 for high ISO performance and speed; the D800 for high-resolution; and the D700 for high ISO performance and low weight. Isn’t this what we have always wanted?