Nikon Unveils the D800 – Sports 51-Point Autofocusing System

Posted by at 11:28 am on February 7, 2012

Nikon ended a years-long wait today by unveiling the D800. Its sequel to the D700 claims a record-setting 36.3-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor. The camera not only competes with medium format cameras in resolution (though not sensor size) but can boost the focal range by 50 percent while still keeping a 15.3-megapixel image.

Like the EOS 1D X, metering plays a special role. Called the Scene Recognition System, it cross-checks a 91,000-pixel RGB sensor with a catalog of 30,000 images Nikon is using as reference. The trick helps compare against real-world scenes and improves both face detection as well as compensation for shots with backlit subjects.

The D800’s 51-point autofocusing system is borrowed from the D4 and mostly adds face detection along with nine cross-type sensors that can work with f8 apertures and under.

The dense sensor keeps the normal ISO range between 100 and 6,400 (50 and 25,600 at extremes), but it otherwise borrows many of the features from the D4. This includes Expeed 3 processing, which improves dynamic range and lets it still shoot at four frames per second even at the 36.3-megapixel maximum size. Likewise, it allows for some of the significant improvements in video. It too can compress B frames in 1080p at 30 frames per second to record for longer and has 20 to 30 steps of internal and external microphone sensitivity levels.

Storage drops the XQD format of the D4, but it still has both CompactFlash and SDXC card slots. In a rarity, the camera has a USB 3.0 port to transfer photos directly from the camera at high speed. HDMI video output also shows near-ideal 4:2:2 footage for videographers who want to check their work directly from the DSLR.

Pricing validates rumors and will see a rare instance of two variants on the same camera shipping at once. A body-only D800 will cost $3,000, a slight premium over the $2,700 D700. The second version, the $3,300 D800E, removes the usual low-pass filter to improve the sharpness at the expense of possible moiré artifacts before software edits. The regular D800 will be ready in late March, while the D800E is due in mid-April.

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