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The D800/D800E

Image size adjusts to photographers' needs

While many people have high expectations of the kind of image quality possible with 36.3 megapixels, I think some may worry that it'll be tough taking full advantage of that potential. What have you done to make the camera accessible to a wide range of users?

Hara: "The D800 has an effective pixel count of 36.3 megapixels, but that doesn't mean it can take pictures only at that size. There are three image sizes – large, medium, and small – and you can choose the one that suits your needs. In FX format, the large size enables shooting with about 36.2 megapixels, while about 20.3 megapixels are used for the medium size, or maybe if you're taking snapshots you'll find you can get by with the small size, which is about 9 megapixels. Both the medium and small settings use data from the full extent of the 36.3-megapixel sensor optimally processed to a smaller size using EXPEED 3. Therefore, we suggest selecting medium or small for normal use and choosing large only for, say, group portraits or very high resolution landscape shots. And just like our high-end D4 model, the D800 offers a choice of four image area settings: FX format, DX format, a nearly square 5:4 format that studio photographers will find easy to use, and a 1.2x format that is slightly narrower than the FX format. Each of these formats is available in the large, medium, and small sizes I mentioned earlier, giving the photographer considerable freedom in choosing a size."

36.3 megapixel sensor delivers high-resolution movies

Can you tell us why you added a new live view selector for movies?

Yoshimatsu: "Nowadays movies shot with digital SLR cameras have come to carry considerable weight as a means of cinematographic expression, so we looked at our design from the point of view of how easily it could be used to film movies, and the type of controls and operations that could be employed. To begin with, because still photography and movies approach shutter speed and aperture from very different perspectives, we thought it necessary to adopt appropriate control for each in achieving accurate preview. Consequently, we came up with the idea of using the live view selector to select between live view photography and movie live view. This allowed us to clearly separate the settings for each type of live view and adapt them for improved ease-of-use. We have included separate functions for each type of live view: for example, when using live view photography in studio settings the user can employ separate white balance values for background and flash lighting, as I mentioned earlier, while in movie live view we have given the user access to microphone sensitivity and headphone volume settings."

Are there any points you insisted on in terms of movie specs?

Yoshimatsu: "Although it's not a movie spec per se, there was some debate internally concerning the specs for photographs taken during movie live view. Specifically, with the D800 you can take a photograph by pressing the shutter-release button during movie live view; the problem was how to handle the photographs in terms of exposure control and picture angle. We concluded that the photographs had to be perfect as photographs, even taken during movie live view, but also that there would be no point if the picture angle wasn't the same as that used for movie live view. Photographs shot during movie live view would, in other words, have an aspect ratio of 16:9 but use the same exposure program as normal photos. This may have complicated the control specifications, but as the person responsible I found it a very satisfactory decision in that it produced optimal results for both photographs and movies."

Where did you get the idea for multi-area mode Full HD D-Movies?

Hara: "The reason movie makers and cinematographers started using D-SLR cameras instead of expensive movie equipment was that D-SLRs can be used to artistically blur backgrounds. One characteristic of the big image sensors used in D-SLR cameras is that they permit extremely shallow field depths for elegant effects, but the flip side of this is that even when you stop them all the way down, adjusting depth of field – or in other words, rack focus – can be a challenge. Consequently one is obliged to say that there are certain aspects of using a D-SLR, such as their unforgiving focusing, that call for advanced techniques. On the other hand, because the DX format produces movies with file sizes very similar to 35 mm movies, there are those in the movie industry who seem to find D-SLR cameras easier to use in terms of photographic sensibility and depth of field. We were motivated by thoughts of how convenient it would be if these elements could be combined into a single camera. Wouldn't it be great if the ability to record high-resolution Full HD movies in a choice of FX-based or DX-based formats using EXPEED 3 to handle the large number of pixels lead to D-SLRs being more widely used in the movie industry?"

Murakami: "We included this feature because in our opinion it would have been wrong not take advantage of the FX and DX formats Nikon had already made available for still photography."

Yoshimatsu: "If I may add something from the professional's point of view: professional cinematographers also want to use uncompressed data from the camera image sensor. I think we may have met this demand by designing the specs for the D800 to make it easy to output the compressed data to a recorder via HDMI."

Exceptional alternative

The D800E offers resolution superior even to the high-definition D800. What can you tell us about this model?

Hara: "Although the D800 is more than adequate in terms of the resolution it is tuned to provide, we can't avoid a slight drop in resolution as a side-effect of the optical low-pass filter used to prevent color artifacts and moiré. Nevertheless, there are those who will only use the camera for landscapes or who need photographs with even higher resolution, and it was for these users that we wanted to create a model that went the extra mile in terms of resolution: the D800E."

Murakami: "The D800E exploits the image sensor's potential to the full. The D800 is however also more than sufficiently capable of producing sharp images, so we suggest that customers enjoy photography using the model that meets their needs."