The Nikon D800 is the long awaited followup to Nikon’s extremely successful D700, undeniably the best camera I had ever used, and the camera that full-filled all my wildest full-frame photography dreams. I honestly felt no need to upgrade from the D700, but once business picked up and one camera body wasn't cutting it any more, it was either purchase a second D700 or try to get my hands on one of the new 36mp D800s, which was hard to get at the time.
If you were to ask me what the best all around DSLR in the world is, under $5000...I would say the D700. While it doesn't have the high megapixel count of the D800 or the D3X, and some of the popular Canon cameras, or some of the features of the more costlier options such as the D3s or D4, it is a very capable full-frame professional camera that has, what I feel, the perfect combination of features and image quality for it's price. It has an excellent low-light performance and it is equipped with the same 51-point AF system that is found in Nikon's other professional D3/D3s/D3x cameras, which completely destroys the AF system of anything Canon put out until the release of the $3500 5D MarkIII.
When it came time for me to purchase a second camera body, I was faced with the decision to either go with another D700, or a new D800, making the D700 my back up, and also Sandi's camera. We decided to go with the D800, but only because we knew that if the D800 didn't live up to all the hype, as long as it was at least "as good" as the D700, we couldn't go wrong for just an extra few hundred dollars.
After going back and forth for a few weeks, whether or not the extra megapixels were worth the extra money, and if my laptop and memory cards could handle the extra file size, I got a call that a local camera store had just got a couple D800s in, I instantly gave into temptation, drooling over the thought of 36 megapixels, and drove out to pick one up. Was it the right decision? That's honestly a tough call to make right now. Yes, its true, its not so cut and dry, and after just a couple months of owning both, it would be difficult to say which I prefer over the other. I will try to answer that question again in a few more months, right now it still has that new car smell.
I plan on putting a review together, comparing these 2 cameras, to hopefully help anyone deciding on which one to go with, and more importantly, which camera better fits their needs. First off, I wouldn't necessarily call the D800 the replacement for the D700, I don't believe that the D800 I recently purchased was ever meant to replace the D700, I could be wrong, but I believe that they are actually 2 different tools, and if your considering purchasing one of them, you really do need to decide which better suits your needs. Any photographer that works in high volume environments (sports, weddings, photojournalism) I would actually recommend sticking with the D700 unless you can fork over the extra coin for the D4. Not really shooting many more than 200 images per photo shoot right now, with engagements and portrait sessions being the bulk of our work, Im not really feeling the real crunch of the monstrous file sizes that come along with each press of the shutter. I will be able to make a better judgement at the end of October after I put it through the paces of shooting a full wedding.
Im really not sure what Nikon had in mind, but as I see it, these really are two different cameras, intended for two different purposes. Yes, the image quality of the D800 is astounding, and it has the ability to pull detail out of the shadows unlike anything I've ever seen before, but the noise performance is about the same as D700, and at 77MB per image (14 bit uncompressed) it’s a bit of a ridiculous resource hog, making a joke of your 8G, or even 16G memory cards. I've already needed to upgrade my laptop to a new Dell XPS with an i7 processor, all my memory cards, and that is just what I could afford for now. For right now though, using this camera for portrait work, and some landscape and nature work, this camera is no joke, there really isn't anything on the market that can touch it, as far as image quality goes. If I was shooting sports, forget it. Its no slouch, but you would have had a better chance spotting one at the speed walking event in the Summer Olympics than in the masses trying to capture Husein Bolt mid stride. Once the weddings start rolling along and size limitations start to become more obvious, I think I will start to see the down side to this camera, if you can call it that. The good thing is, I will still have the D700 to use along side of the D800 when volume becomes a factor, and with any photographs smaller than a billboard, and any images viewed on a average sized monitor, no one will be able to tell the difference between the two.