After months of rumors and years of waiting, Nikon has finally announced the D800, the latest addition to the company's DSLR lineup. After some flood-induced delays, the new full-frame camera will be available in March for $2,999.95, and it's full of new features and upgrades. Rather than a lite version of the recently announced D4 like the D700 was to the D3, the D800 has a new angle: Nikon is aiming the new camera squarely at the Canon 5D Mark II, which has so far held something of a monopoly in the video world. Nikon thinks it can change that.
The D800's most eye-popping feature is its whopping 36.3-megapixel FX-format (35.9 x 24mm) sensor, which apparently creates TIFF files as large as 212MB. Many of its other upgrades mirror those on the D4: it has the same 91,005-pixel RGB metering sensor, the same 3.2-inch, 921,000-dot LCD, the same Expeed 3 processor that makes startup time as fast as 0.12 seconds, and the same new 51-point autofocus system with 15 cross-type sensors. The D800's ISO range goes up to 6400, expandable to 25,600 — not quite D4 territory, but solid nonetheless. To get the giant 36.3-megapixel shots off the camera, there's a USB 3.0 port built in, a first for any Nikon camera; there's also an SD card slot next to the CF slot, which the D700 didn't have. Nikon gave the D800 slight ergonomic redesign as well — the company evidently feels it got things right with the D7000, since the D4 and D800 were both reorganized to more closely resemble the D7000's controls and layout. One of the best changes, though, has to be the door that covers the ports: it's sturdy, and opens and closes like, well, a door — unlike the shoddy pieces of rubber we've seen covering ports before.
The still image specs are solid, but Nikon made this camera for videographers, and it shows. The D800 can output uncompressed HDMI, much like the D4, and footage can be simultaneously viewed on both the LCD and an external monitor. It also has the same power aperture control as the D4, and the same ability to wirelessly start and stop recording. There's also a new headphone jack on the camera, so you can monitor audio without need for another accessory, and you can see audio levels on the LCD itself (the audio metering system was upgraded as well, again much like the D4 — there's a theme here, folks). It can record 1080p video at 30 or 24 frames per second, or 720p at 60 or 30 frames per second. It also uses B-Frame compression, which should allow for higher-quality H.264 MP4 video.
The D800 is the main event, but Nikon has a few users with specific needs, so the company also released the D800E today. It's exactly the same camera, just with one tweak (the antialiasing feature is removed), and a $300 price increase to $3,299.95. It's meant for those who shoot fashion or textiles, and want the full 36.3 megapixels at the risk of the moiré you'll get without antialiasing. Whether either can make inroads against Canon's cameras remains to be seen, but Nikon certainly seems to be moving in the right direction.
See a comparison of the D800, D4, D700, and 5D Mark II right here, and check out our hands-on preview of the D800.
Update: Both Amazon and B&H have the D800E available for pre-order now, though without confirmed dates for when they will have stock (via Nikon Rumors).