The Mega Pixel War

Nikon D800

So we are into the 30s now ? eh ? Yeah am talking about the mega-pixel war that has just been unleashed. This morning Nikon announced their flagship FX format camera Nikon D800 which according to their terminology and hierarchy is the upgrade to the lovely Nikon D700. D800 boasts a massive 36MP sensor ( 36.3 to be more precise ) and just like any other camera which is being rolled out in the market since a while has a Full HD (1080p) video recording as well. Apparently according to the tech specs the 36MP sensor is from Sony ( who are yet to themself utilise this sensor in any of their product catalog ). Until this launch day, the only higher megapixel non-pro level (proabably call it affordable) DSLR  in the market was the Canon 5D Mark II @ 21MP. Only other place where we used to see such massive number of pixels were in the legendary Medium format cameras like Hasselblad and PhaseOne etc. Not sure if we can consider this as a little brother ( or sister ) to the D4 – on paper they seem to be two worlds apart.

Having said all that, there has been numerous wows and boos floating around in the virtual world about this new baby in the market. Keeping aside the people who wow such releases, the ones who boo are the ones who dont even know what this product is all about, or wont bother to buy or cant afford one or in worst case dont even know a spec of what they are talking about let alone having any knowledge about technicalities and the brand factors. Each and every camera or mobile or car or tablet or anything that comes out in market always get compared with each other and people always have one or the other negative to crib about it and tell “this gadget doesnt have this feature”. There is no end to man’s ( women’s also ) imagination and desire to see something in what they want, but we will also have to look at the practicality. At 4fps and 36MP giving out a massive 75MB NEF files, D800 is not meant for sports photographers nor for wildlife guys for whom action at times is more important. Commercial and Advertising photographers are in need of larger files for larger prints and at affordable rates when compared to Medium formats. As a Landscape photographer – we believe in details and larger higher resolution/detailed images. As a wedding photographer one expects to have a noiseless 6400ISO images which can beat the $#!t out of any cropped sensor camera. If you are none of the above and one who fancies carrying/owning a latest in the line DSLR just to be called as a Photographer, but cribbing that 36MP is a over head ( just because you have only 1 8gmg memory card in your bag ) – then this is def not for you – please give way. If you are a person who are planning to give a spin for D800 images on a outdates windows system with a 2Gig RAM and a 2nd generation graphics card – then again you know what you have to do. Also files for this camera are meant for large prints, and if you are not in print world or dont even know a spec about what printing process is all about but just only know that larger images from FF camera == best prints then ….

Coming to Video once again Nikon along with the what so ever hype that has been created with D4 seems to be very eager to catchup on the HD DSLR Video market which has been stormed by Canon. Features like the clean HDMI out giving out uncompressed 422 output at full resolution especially for camera with such beautiful sensor is definitely a big plus and in lines with what Nikon did with D4. Moire, Rolling shutter, Low light performance with minimal grain/noise, Compactness, clean HDMI out, Advanced audio controls are something which every filmmaker or media person in market now is drooling about and Nikon seems to have addressed it pretty bang on.Though it practically makes no sense to assume that the complete 36MP sensor will be utlised for a 1080 video, wonder why Nikon didnt opt to raise the bar again by trying something out with 4K video format ( probably Nikon is the best player photography and they want to remain so ? )

Whats more interesting is that with D800, Nikon seems to be launching 2 versions of the same camera – D800 and D800E – ie one with and one without Anti Aliasing filter. Personally i feel its a bold and also strange move by Nikon because with / without has its own pros and cons and at a cost difference of about 300$ it just depends on what the buyer wants.

Recently a friend of mine wrote really well on his twitter (which am modifying here slightly) – “Having a 36Mp Nikon 800 or a Pro D4 doesnt make you a photographer – it just makes you a Nikon owner”. So stop drooling/cribbing about the gear and pick up what suits the best for your job and your pocket and go out and shoot and make some images than rant about features and shortfalls in gadgets.

Best thing about the D800 i have seen since morning is the launch video shot by Internationally known photographer Sandro who is known for his zillion awards he grabs each year in the advertizing world. The video called JOY RIDE is a nice short, shot completely on 6 or so pre-production D800 cameras in Chicago, showcasing its lowlight and other HD video capabilities.


Now that we have seen Nikon D4 as a answer to Canon 1D X and Nikon taking the first step in announcing its next version of FX camera in form of D800, all eyes ( including mine ) are glued on Canon press conference which is due anytime in the next few weeks or so for their next lauch which could be a new flagship camera or a upgrade to their existing 5D Mark II series. The rumours have made it clear that it wont be a camera in the 30+ MP range ( but 22MP instead ) – but am sure Canon is in for a game changing move shortly after having the world dance to their tunes since the launch of C300 recently.

For the gear heads below are some links related to Nikon D800

Nikon D800 on Nikon site

Nikon D800 Broucher

Nikon D800 Samples ( with AA filter )

Nikon D800 Samples ( without AA filter )


Update :

Just when i finished writing this blog post, i got into a conversation with a wildlife photographer friend of mine and we ran into discussion about using a lower fps FF camera for wildlife and the cameras acceptance/relevance in Landscape Photography. Whilst discussing i had to share him link to what a 40MP PhaseOne Medium Format camera can offer in form of details, so sharing the same link of a blog post by Zack Arias – “Why i moved to medium format“. We are really not sure if a 36MP D800 will come close to even half way of what a MF can offer, but for sure cameras like this and Canon FF cameras ( existing and coming down the line ) will be a poor man’s medium format for landscape photography.

One comment

  1. Hi Shiva,

    A very thoughtful article. D800 with its 36MP can be an alternate cheaper option for MF cameras. It can still do good for a nature/wildlife photographer as long as there is no need to shoot mfs.

    When you say “uncompressed 422 output”, did you mean 4:2:2 color sampling rate ? Or am i missing something here. What is the format of the video files? Is it a nikon proprietary format or a .h264?

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