Are 36.3 megapixels overdoing it? Experts say no way. In tests, the Nikon D800 balances record-breaking high-def detail with great color, clarity and everything else that makes images look splendid. Thus the D800 leapfrogs into our Best Reviewed spot, beating all other full-frame DSLR cameras under $6,000. There's just one caveat: It's a slow burst shooter, so don't buy it if you make your living shooting sports or action.
Better stock up on memory cards. Plenty of Nikon D800 users, excited to start shooting with their new massive-megapixel behemoths, soon found themselves shopping for spare cards and big external hard drives to corral the equally massive files. If you like, you can step down to fewer megapixels in DX crop mode to save space. Otherwise, experts and owners find the D800 generally easy to use. It feels lighter and sleeker than its specs would indicate, with well-laid-out controls that are easy to operate by feel. Unlike every competing DSLR, Nikon doesn't let you save your own user settings to the mode dial; you must inconveniently delve into two separate menus to retrieve them.
Glorious image quality, but it's not the quickest. This 36.3-megapixel beast really does capture incredible detail in tests, and Nikon apparently solves the old problem of low-light graininess as megapixels rise. HD video looks extremely sharp with full-time autofocus, and you can send full-quality, uncompressed footage directly out of the camera's built-in HDMI port. Two drawbacks do emerge in tests: First, the Nikon D800 is a pretty slow shooter at 4 fps at full resolution; second, left-side autofocus points never worked correctly out of the box. Battery life is rated at 900 shots per charge, on par with the D800's rivals.
Built tough, but not the toughest. With its all-metal, dust- and rain-sealed body, the Nikon D800 is almost as rugged as the range-topping Nikon D4 (Est. $5,000) . Yet because the D800 has a pop-up flash, "the weatherproofing cannot be of the same standard as found on professional models," explain reviewers at Amateur Photographer. "That said, the D800 suffered no ill effects when it got a little wet while shooting landscapes" in their test. "Build quality of the D800 is first rate," conclude experts at DPReview.com. Reviewed.com Cameras' TJ Donegan says the D800 delivers "the premium, durable feel you expect from a professional camera."
Generous storage; flexible resolution. To stow those mammoth photo and video files, the D800 offers two memory card slots, one Compact Flash (CF) and one Secure Digital (SD). If you don't feel like wrestling monster-megapixel files, you can capture photos and videos in a few smaller formats, down to a 15.4-megapixel DX crop. This boosts shooting speed by 1 fps, too, and experts point out that this "lower" resolution still beats some other DSLRs' best.
1. Amateur Photographer
The Nikon D800 catapults into a top spot here after a full review. It shares plenty of specs with the $6,000 Nikon D4 for half the price, not to mention its unrivaled 36.3 megapixels.
Review: Nikon D800 Review, Tim Coleman, April 28, 2012
This exhaustive review covers both the Nikon D800 and D800E in minute detail. Testers are impressed, and it's one of the few cameras to win the site's Gold Award. It's not a very quick shooter, however, so sports/action photographers probably won't want it.
Review: Nikon D800 Review, Amadou Diallo and Barney Britton, June 2012
"Are 36 million pixels too many?" experts ask at the beginning of this review. The answer is no: The Nikon D800 performs so well that editors name it Best in Class. TechRadar.com also publishes separate in-depth comparisons of the D800 versus the Nikon D600 and Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
Review: Nikon D800 Review, Angela Nicholson and Amy Davies, June 11, 2012
4. Reviewed.com Cameras
Massive megapixels prove to be an asset when TJ Donegan tests the Nikon D800 in both the lab and the field. Even low light isn't a problem, although the huge file sizes drag down the camera's burst speed, and quickly stuff memory cards and hard drives. The site publishes a head-to-head comparison of the D800 and rival Canon EOS 5D Mark III, as well.
Review: Nikon D800 Digital Camera Review, TJ Donegan, Sept. 30, 2012
The battery life of the Nikon D800 is its only downside, reports Lori Grunin. She writes in superlatives -- "stellar" photos and "excellent" videos -- and says the D800 is an "unsurprisingly great camera" that's definitely worth every penny.
Review: Nikon D800 Review (body only), Lori Grunin, March 23, 2012
This site's lab tests are incredibly thorough. Side-by-side shots demonstrate how the D800 stacks up against other DSLRs, including the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Sony A77, Pentax 645D, Sigma SD1, Sony Alpha A99, and the former pro flagships Nikon D3S and D3X.
Review: Nikon D800 Review, Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins, Mariea Rummel and Zig Weidelich, Nov. 22, 2012
More than 300 owners review the Nikon D800 here. Two-thirds love it, but the other one-third rates it mediocre or lower, usually because of faulty left-side autofocus. Some users say Nikon fixed their cameras, but others claim the camera came back from repair still broken.
Review: Nikon D800 36.3 MP CMOS FX-Format Digital SLR Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2014
Out of more than 750 reviews, far fewer customers here complain about autofocus problems with the Nikon D800. Most are extremely impressed with the quality of this camera's images, and several posts are very detailed. Each lists the user's level of expertise.
Review: Nikon D800 Digital SLR Camera (Body Only), Contributors to BHPhotoVideo.com, As of February 2014