UPDATE: Within minutes of posting this – several of you claiming to be video experts say you disagree that the 36MP is good for video. So be it. I was simply reporting what I had been told. I personally don’t have a dog in this hunt. As my post clearly expresses, I personally think 36mp is too many for a 35mm sensor. Your mileage may vary.

I’ll start with the usual disclaimer. I am not one of the cool kids so I have never shot with a D800. This is not a review. Until I actually shoot the camera I won’t have a firm opinion, but looking at the specs, I am very confused about this camera.

Let’s step back in time. The D700 had about 12 megapixels. The D800 – its successor has three times as many pixels? Sorry but – WHAT THE YOU KNOW WHAT is that about?

Physics are physics. If you cram three times the pixels onto a sensor that is the same size as you used when your camera had 1/3 the pixels, something’s got to give. Yes the camera companies have come up with some neat tricks to make each pixel gather more light than it would have in the old days, but three times the pixels???

What this tells me is there is a bunch of back-end processing from the new processor that will make the image look smoother. Looking at the few still samples I’ve seen – they are a bit soft when it comes to details. This is no doubt why Nikon is releasing a D800E – canceling the anti-aliasing properties of the OLPF inside the camera. But I’d bet a bunch of money that’s not going to make the low-light religion shooters happy because eliminating that filter – WILL create noisier pics. Period. End of discussion.

So why 36MP? My guess is that Nikon is really betting on this being more of a video camera. The cinematic resolution you get from 36MP is probably more important to Nikon and their target audience for this camera than low-light performance with good detail. The video sample I’ve seen is tremendous. It looks very good for a $3000 camera.

Other changes? Much better video and audio. HDMI out that is uncompressed. Better metering and autofocus system. But a drop to four frames per second in FX mode – full frame. It looks nice but that darn 36mp count keeps sticking in my head.

The D800 costs the same as the D700 when it first came out. That’s a good deal. Over time the price of the D700 dropped to an average of $2500 and I expect the same to eventually happen to the D800. Talking with some video folks I respect, they agree with me that the 36MP move is all about video. I will test this camera before I make any final decision, but I am guessing I’ll stick with the D700 as a still camera and look at the D4 which has most of the video capability of the D800 but bigger buffer, faster frame rates and a bias that leans more towards stills.

I am sure the Nikon faithful will buy this camera no matter what. NPS members have already received their notification that they can pre-order the D800 so the March delivery date looks to be solid. But I think that if physics are still physics, Nikon missed a chance to nab some Canon 5DMKII owners who are tired of waiting for the III. If the D800 had 24mp instead of 36, all other things being equal – I am betting they would have made some converts. Time will tell.

Rest assured I’ll have my hands on one of these as soon as they are available and give you a full report.

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