The LCD read-out panel has built-in illumination, but the D800 lacks the D4’s back-lit buttons. The built-in microphone is monaural, but there are both a stereo audio input and an output (for connecting headphones). Audio channel level adjustments are possible and the LCD monitor displays L/R level meters.
Also as on the D4, the D800 provides a choice of data management modes for its two memory card slots, including an automatic ‘overflow’ when one is full, the simultaneous recording of files to both for back-up or the separate recording of RAW files and JPEGs.
The maximum continuous shooting speed is 4.0 fps at the full frame size which is starting to look a bit modest among the growing crop of 10 fps screamers, but again it’s more than sufficient for many applications. In the DX format – which, remember, is still a healthy 15.3 megapixels – and with the optional MB-D12 battery grip fitted, the top speed increases to 6.0 fps.
Nikon recommends shooting at the mid-range apertures to avoid diffraction minimising definition if the lens is stopped down too far. Yes, the D800 does require some rethinking of long-held workflow practices.
The D800’s video-making capabilities are pretty much on a par with those of the D4. Clips are captured at the Full HD resolution at either 24 or 25 fps (in the PAL standard, 30 fps for NTSC) using the MPEG-4/H.264 codec with B frame data compression which Nikon determines provides the best balance of rendering motion and maintaining manageable file sizes. There are high-quality and normal modes corresponding to 24 Mbps and 12 Mbps respectively.
In the high-quality mode the maximum clip length is 20 minutes, but in the normal mode it can reach 29 minutes and 59 seconds without exceeding the 4.0 GB file size restriction. Movie clips can also be recorded at 1280x720 pixels and either 25 or 50 fps, but the D800 only has the DX crop and not the D4’s additional ‘16:9 Movie Crop’ frame format. The built-in microphone is mono, but as expected at this level, there’s both a stereo audio input for an external pick-up (Nikon offers its own ME-1 unit) and a stereo audio output for connecting headphones to monitor sound. The audio channel levels can be set manually or automatically attenuated and the LCD monitor screen provides a pair of linear level meters.
Video recording start/stop is via a dedicated button which is located just astern of the shutter release, and the D800 has the same switching arrangement as the D4 for engaging live view and selecting the movie mode. Alternatively, the shutter release can be set to operate as the start/stop control when the D800 is in video recording mode.
Video functionality is similar to that of the D4 so it allows for the manual adjustment of apertures, shutter speeds and the sensitivity (across the extended range up to ISO 25,600) during recording. Continuous autofocusing with face detection, auto tracking and wide-area point selection is also available, so are the ‘Picture Control’ presets. Index marking is possible – up to 20 marks per clip – to make a frame easier to locate during editing, and this function can be assigned to the depth-of-field preview button. A ‘Power Aperture’ control – allowing for adjustments in very fine 1/8 EV increments – is available for manually presetting the aperture if recording onto the flash memory cards, but allows for on-the-fly adjustments if recording via the HDMI connection to an external device.
As on the D4, the D800’s live view operation has also been revised, abandoning the old ‘Hand Held’ and ‘Tripod’ choice of modes for autofocusing and replacing them with the contrast-detection method only (which, incidentally, requires an AF-S Nikkor lens with a built-in focusing motor). However, it’s still possible to choose between single-shot and continuous operations, and select one of four area modes – normal, wide, face-detection and subject-tracking. The AF focusing zone can be positioned anywhere within the frame while, with manual focusing, image magnification over five steps and up to 23x is available. A small navigation window appears in the lower left corner of the monitor screen to assist with scrolling. In practice, this maximum magnification setting is actually a bit too much as the image starts to become very grainy making focus difficult to gauge. Additionally, if not using a tripod, it’s impossible to hold the camera still enough. Backing off to the middle setting provides the best balance of magnification and image clarity.
The live view displays include a virtual horizon – which shows roll and tilt – a real-time histogram which works in conjunction with an exposure preview, and a grid overlay.
Top panel control cluster allows for direct access to the settings for ISO, white balance, image quality and bracketing modes, and is encircled by the drive mode dial. Unlike the D4, the D800 doesn’t support the new XQD memory card format and instead has slots for CF and SD devices (with UDMA-7 and UHS-1 support respectively).