Thoughts on the Nikon D800

The Nikon D800 seems to be generating far more buzz and interest than other cameras released recently. Why is this?

On first sight it can be pure technological lust – here is a camera with a MUCH higher resolution than anything with a 35mm camera price tag. You need to go to medium format to find anything that competes on resolution. Is this all the interest is – size matters? I think the answer is partly yes, but only partly.

I think a lot of photographers are craving more flexibility in their cameras. This is one reason why so many of us accept the limitations but use our iPhones for a lot of photography. It is convenient and also flexible because of the enhancement of the shooting experience that apps bring us. One key part of flexibility is the ability to crop and crop savagely. With a digital camera this requires resolution and guess which camera is top of the heap on that regard at present? The D800.

Life is complex, we have so many competing demands on our time and there seems to be less time available to actually shoot. Think about the implications of having so much resolution available. I can go out with a 70-200, say, and crop to get the shot I might have taken if I had a 400, 600 or even higher focal length lens with me, without the hassle of paying for and carrying the damn thing, let along the time and possibly missed shots spent changing lenses, and still end up with an image with more resolution than I actually need for the end uses I have in mind. Yes I can use cropping as a substitute for swapping lenses or even having such a lens in the first place. This allows me to move the decision making to later, when I am sitting in front of a nice, large computer screen. It gives me flexibility in how I use my images later. I can really afford to not crop so tightly in camera and choose later whether I want a landscape, portrait or square shaped image.

Frankly, right now, if I had the spare cash I would get a D800 and a good lens or two even though I own Canon gear. It would make some of my landscape photography trips much easier. Even when going on holiday it would mean one camera and one lens could do it all, because I could crop the hell out of images to produce the shots I would have needed a telephoto lens for. One of the most common questions I get asked in my workshops is whether people can get away with just one lens when going on international holidays. The answer has always been that to get the range of focal lengths you need in one lens produces compromises in image quality. If you can get by with a much shorter focal length range and then crop to get the long end it becomes feasible at a higher image quality.

Photography should be fun and let’s be honest, it is not fun carrying a lot of heavy lenses around and having to swap them all the time. Having more resolution than you need gives you options. Use them.


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