POLISHED TO PERFECTION
Easy-to-use photographic tool boasts superior controls and performance
Who do you picture using the camera? What sort of photos do you imagine them taking?
Hara: "A high pixel count and high image quality are givens, but we've crammed it full of tricks that make it easy to take photos, including the layout of the buttons and other controls and the addition of bracketing and live view buttons. We've also provided a Picture Control button for direct setting of your pictures' final finish. So I think it's suited to all types of users from professionals working in studios or in the field, through advanced amateurs with near pro-level mastery of technique, to amateurs who do photography as a hobby."
Murakami: "Whatever else, I want photographers to be methodical. In our design we pictured a user who pays conscientious attention to each shot, so we handpicked easy-to-use features for inclusion without worrying whether they came from high- or low-end models. We included features that permit photo lovers of all kinds to express themselves: not only a viewfinder with approx.100% frame coverage and an easy-to-view 3.2-inch LCD monitor, but also a virtual horizon that indicates both pitch and roll, HDR, and retouch options. I think this one model will be enough to satisfy a wide range of users. In order to improve portability, we've also reduced the weight by about 10% compared to D700. We reviewed the design over and over and have repeatedly gone back over the specs to ensure performance."
Yoshimatsu: "Some of my older relatives enjoy photography, and they tell me that when they're out taking landscapes they see a lot of people with medium-format cameras and think, ‘What a lovely camera – I want one of those.’ But medium-format cameras are too big, too heavy. And so the oft-heard refrain: ‘If only there were a camera that offered high resolution at the right size and weight.’ The D800 is the answer to their prayers. And – this is a pretty technical example, but anyway – photographers who use a flash in a studio setting often match white balance to their studio flash units before shooting, but because the actual background lighting in studios usually consists of incandescent bulbs with low color temperatures, the live view preview looks extremely red, which I've been told makes it hard to visualize the results. So this time we've made it so you can choose separate white balance settings for live view and the final photograph. You can match white balance to the background lighting for live view and to the flash for the photograph, which should make a lot of studio photographers happy, given that high resolution is a must in their line of work. We've included a lot of features like this which should make photographers happy."
You say the emphasis was also on basic camera performance, but could you tell us more precisely what points you concentrated on?
Hara: "We spent considerably more time on development than we have for other models, so there were a lot of improvements. We concentrated on polishing the kind of specs you'll never see in a specifications table: for example, shortening release-time lag, a key factor in all photography, or improving the memory buffer to adapt it for high-volume data – 36.3 megapixels worth. At 36.3 megapixels, the D800 may have a lot of pixels, but that's not much use if the buffer fills after a few shots in RAW format and it stops recording photographs. We've got all the features to the level where they're convenient to use. It's the same with autofocus: a high pixel count is meaningless if autofocus lacks precision. We used the improved sensor module, the same as that used by the D4, to make phase-detection AF more sensitive under low light, increasing AF precision. We also bumped the pixel count of the RGB metering sensor up to 91,000 pixels so that faces can be detected even when shooting with the optical viewfinder, making AE even more precise."
Yoshimatsu: "It was the same with battery endurance. A high pixel count's no use if it drains half the charge from the battery. Picture it not just as having a lot of pixels, but as upgrading all the associated features to take full advantage of that pixel count."
Murakami: "We also achieved superb reliability with a magnesium-alloy body sealed to make it dust- and water-resistant. In addition, we used almost the same shutter, aperture, and mirror mechanisms as the D4, able to withstand 200,000 cycles, and reduced the release time lag to about 0.042 seconds for an enjoyable user experience. In this respect we've incorporated a lot of features you might find on high-end models in a camera that I think people will find attractively priced."
Was your reason for adopting a viewfinder with approx. 100% frame coverage to derive full benefit from the pixel count when framing photographs?
Hara: "The D800 is targeted at users who insist on a methodical approach to photography. We thought people like that would naturally require a viewfinder with around 100% coverage. Another fundamental consideration was the desire to have our customers make full use of all 36.3 million pixels."
Murakami: "But it wouldn't make any sense to have around 100% frame coverage if that meant making the camera big and heavy. So we improved manufacturing precision and prism performance to make the viewfinder as small and light as possible. This kind of attention to detail is included in the design."
Yoshimatsu: "As I think people who've used film cameras for a while will understand, it's easier to frame subjects in a big viewfinder. From this perspective, I think that an FX-format viewfinder with around 100% coverage is an extremely valuable asset."