CliQ 2011, Sept 6th: Nikon D800 Release? Here’s My Wishlist

Nikon D800 as imagined by some unknown internet Photoshop aficionado

Nikon D800 as imagined by some unknown internet Photoshop aficionado.

by Peter Zack


The internet is rife with speculation that the D700 replacement will be released in late August, prior to CliQ 2011 (the new name for the PMA show this year). Or maybe it’s going to be in March or April; I’ve lost track. As amazing as the D3 series cameras are, I’d suggest that the D700 is really the flagship camera (in sales terms) for the Nikon FX line (full frame cameras with a 24x36mm sensor). The D700 far outsells the more expensive big brothers and is Nikon’s answer to competing FF bodies (namely the Canon 5D line). For many shooters looking at a pro specification body, they have no need to look beyond this model. Personally, as a wedding photographer with the D700, I’ve often looked at the D3s as a ’want’ but knowing I don’t really ‘need’ anything better than what the D700 offers. Well, maybe an extra stop or two in ISO… Of course, every camera can be improved, and there are a few things I’d like upgraded on the D700, which is why I’m writing this article.

Before I put out my wish list, I’d also speculate that like the new D7000, the D700 replacement body will be sold out much of the time for the first few months after it hits the shelves. If you really want a D800, preorder it as soon as the stores start taking orders; if not, then you’ll be like me and spend the next year happily shooting with the gear you already own.

The zero item on the wish list is simple: Nikon D700′s are becoming out of stock now at various retailers (still available at B&H for $2,400), so please Nikon, a roadmap for the new bodies. Tell us the release dates and the models—will it be the D4 and D400 this Spring, and the D800 in the Fall? Or maybe the reverse? I think it makes more sense to release the D4 and D400 sooner because a significantly upgraded D800 would kill D3s sales this summer. Of course, that didn’t factor in to the release of the D7000 which has directly impacted the sales of the D300s.

Following is what I think we could see in a new D800 intermingled with a few things I, personally, would like to see. I certainly don’t think we’ll see even 50% of this in the new camera, otherwise there would be little left for the D4, but dreaming is fun…and free!

  1. Move the ISO button. Please, Nikon, this is a critical part of exposure. We’ll probably see a D800 with D3s low-light abilities and shooters will be changing ISO as much as they change aperture in tough light. The current button placement on the left side is just plain awkward and slow to use. With the current layout, you can’t hold the camera in the proper way for a steady shot and change ISO at the same time. If you add an off camera flash (like a Stroboframe) on the ISO side of the body, forget it—you’re taking the camera from your eye to change ISO. The ISO button needs to be within easy reach of your right hand so you can change settings while looking through the VF and keep the left hand in its correct place for shooting..
  2. Low ISO. Yeah, you read that right: I want ISO 25. Not everyone enjoys carrying around a handful of ND filters everywhere they go.
  3. Weather seal on the mount. It would be great to have an “O” ring designed into the camera’s lens mount that would seal any lens to the body.
  4. Quiet mode and quiet shutter. Since this is often a wedding shooter’s camera, the shutter needs to be quieter.
  5. Additional shooting mode. If this camera can do very clean higher ISO, I’d like to see a shooting mode that defaults to ISO adjustment when changing either (or both) aperture and shutter. So the user sets an acceptable ISO range that defaults to the lowest ISO and the camera would increase ISO as needed to get the shutter speed required for a blur free shot. Call it SAI (Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and ISO adjust).
  6. Reset button for optimal exposure. How about a button that allows the camera to reset to the best aperture, shutter speed and ISO for the given exposure. This could be a multi-function button and programmable. It could also be the ISO adjustment button. Just put it near the shutter release. A good spot for this could be on the side under pop-up flash.
  7. ISO 102,400. You may never use it this high and most shooters will use the lowest ISO they can to get the shot, but high ISO can be critical in lower light and shooting sports, particularly indoors. It’s the new megapixel race and this camera needs it this high, especially when there are APS-C cameras like the Pentax K-5 that can shoot at this ISO.
  8. Add GPS geotagging to the new grip. Or WiFi to download cards without removing the card or using a connection cable. Maybe make the MB-D10 compatible with the new body and offer a second grip with these additional features as an option for shooters that want it.
  9. New sensor at around 18-20MP. Let’s not sacrifice good noise handling for resolution, but a high MP sensor would aid greatly with cropping and enlarging. I hope the MP wars are over and some huge sensor isn’t needed, just better than the current 12MP. With a new sensor, increase the CPU speed for even faster response times.
  10. 100% Viewfinder. Combined with a higher res sensor, less cropping will be required if you get exactly what you framed in the shot when it was taken. You’re going to get all the sensor resolution has to offer if you don’t have to crop out unwanted extras along the edge of the frame.
  11. Video du jour. It’s all the rage, right? Who doesn’t want a still camera to shoot video [insert sarcastic tone]? Full HD, 1080p video with adjustable frame rates. I don’t care about this but there’s no point in swimming up-stream. Video is here to stay and if so, let’s have it as good as possible. We should also be able to change aperture in video mode.
  12. Improved AF in Live View. Like the new D7000. For shooting without the VF and for video, this is critical.
  13. Articulated screen. Not something I want but I think the new camera should have this feature. It’s helpful when shooting video, macros and over your head.
  14. Improved metering. Use the new metering system from theD7000. Or bring out a new one to further differentiate the 2 models.
  15. Dual card slots. Keep the CF card slot and possibly offer a second slot as CF or SD to keep the size from increasing. If it’s possible to squeeze a second CF card slot in the same sized body, then great, as I think most shooters would prefer dual CF cards.
  16. Higher frame rate. I’m sure someone wants more FPS. More is better, right?
  17. Bracket button. With -/+ 1/3 stop adjustments, please. Put it where the ISO button was (we’re moving the ISO to the other side of the body, remember?), and make it a programmable bracketing button.

Oh, have you heard the rumour that this camera will have a dealer-replaceable sensor carriage? Nikon might have a patent for this but I’d be shocked if this becomes available. Imagine if most of the above were available and you could order a new sensor in 2 years. Would you buy another body before this one died from mechanical failure? I doubt it. As cool as this option could be, it’s a recipe for future sales volumes to drop significantly. But if they do it, I’ll take an 18MP dedicated B&W sensor that hits ISO 25 please.

What improvements or changes do you want to see in the new D700 replacement? Do you agree/disagree with my requests? Leave your comments below and let’s have a discussion about it. Maybe Nikon’s listening, you never know!

Cheers and good shooting
-Peter Zack


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  1. #5 on your list is already available on the D700, and I use it frequently, just combine Auto ISO with Manual exposure mode. Set the shutter speed as desired to freeze action, the aperture as desired for DOF, and the camera adjusts ISO automatically to fill in the exposure.

  2. Yes you are correct Peter. But it’s a manual setting in the menu. What I want would be another setting in the mode dial. I realize you can set the auto ISO in “My Menu” to put the camera in this mode a little faster but why not make this a dedicated mode selection just like A, S, M and P? Right now if you select Auto ISO, it applies to all modes. So if I don’t want it in A but want it in M, I have to go to the menu each time to turn Auto ISO on and off as needed. If you are shooting flash, changing from indoor to outdoor situation in a fast paced situation (think a wedding/event shooter), this extra step or 2 isn’t necessary and could cause you to miss shots.

    I should have made this a bit more clear that I just wanted a faster way to switch from one mode to another.

    Thanks very much for your reply and reading the article.

  3. Maybe you are thinking of Pentax?

    This would be the TAv mode:

    Additional shooting mode. If this camera can do very clean higher ISO, I’d like to see a shooting mode that defaults to ISO adjustment when changing either (or both) aperture and shutter. So the user sets an acceptable ISO range that defaults to the lowest ISO and the camera would increase ISO as needed to get the shutter speed required for a blur free shot. Call it SAI (Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and ISO adjust).

    This would be the “green button”:

    Reset button for optimal exposure. How about a button that allows the camera to reset to the best aperture, shutter speed and ISO for the given exposure. This could be a multi-function button and programmable. It could also be the ISO adjustment button. Just put it near the shutter release. A good spot for this could be on the side under pop-up flash.

    • Tom, Those are both great features on a Pentax and would do the job nicely if Nikon would consider something similar. TAv would be a very usable mode with a very clean high ISO capable camera.

  4. Yeah sounds like you just want a full frame Pentax. All but about 3 of those things are already on the K-5, of which I’m sure you are aware.

    • I won’t put words in Peter’s mouth, so this is just my opinion: A FF Pentax is not the same thing as a Nikon D800 with Peter’s whishlist items implemented. A camera is much more than the sum of its features, and a camera system is much more than a camera plus the sum of its lenses. I could be more specific, but I choose not to; maybe Peter will.

    • No not really, I don’t expect Pentax to introduce a FF body and I’m not suggesting they should. They would need a new full lens line and accessories plus some form of Pro support. To do all this for a smaller company, doesn’t make much sense. In fact, for sales volumes and to enhance the bottom line, having a new MILC camera line makes much more sense. Pentax can take a page from Sony and see how tough it is to take a FF buyer away from Nikon or Canon. It’s nearly impossible and expensive.

      Although the A850 and A900 are still showing on many Sony web sites (Sony Hong Kong shows it out of stock and discontinued). It seems this will be the end of the FF adventure for Sony. Many sites suggest Sony has either suspended or cancelled FF bodies. If they don’t have the money to cut into the 2 giants of FF, Pentax never will and that’s not a bad thing.

      All that being said, Pentax has a lot to offer in the segments they are strong in. The DSLR line has some great design features that are well implemented. SR and WS being just 2. Hyper Program (in my humble opinion) is probably the best shooting mode on a camera today. The green button, etc.
      Pentax should focus on their strengths and continue the direction they’ve set.

      No, this is a Nikon wish list for the new camera, it’s not a letter to Pentax or any other brand to consider these features.

  5. [retail site deleted]

    D800 will carry 24.6 MP sensor and 7 fps.

  6. Personally pentax’s TAv mode in a Nikon would be killer…having said that, I am sure the D800 will have the quiet shutter like that of the D7000.

    • Well the shutter/mirror on the d7000 is quiter than the d700 because they are smaller, correct? Even the “quiet” shutter on the d300s isn’t so much more quiet; it just pre-raises the mirror.

  7. Ogl, I suspect the site you had quoted has many errors. For example the LCD is listed as 92,000 pixels. As a result, the link was removed.

  8. I doubt it’s feasible with current technology to create a sensor optimized for 25 ISO and still be able to reach 102k. Too bad DMF cameras cost so much money huh? :P

  9. Raymond. I also have a D300s and a D700 and the shutters are much louder than the D7000, especially when the D7000 is in quiet shutter mode.

    • You misunderstood me. I said the actions of the D7000 are naturally less loud because of it’s smaller size in general. Smaller mirror, smaller shutter, smaller noise. The D700 is louder because it’s bigger. The old pentax 6×7 is a good, if not somewhat hyperbolous, example of this :) . I have a d300, d700, used a d300s and the aforementioned pentax, so it’s not like I’m just saying it just to say it. Pretty much what I was trying to point out in the first place was that asking for a shutter from a larger camera to be as quiet as a smaller one is kind of unrealistic unless you want the camera to start becoming uncessesarily expensive.

  10. Raymond, you’re right. You can’t have both a clean high ISO and a low ISO sensor. It would be nice though if there were a way to electronically get 25 for the landscape/waterfall shooter. Of course that’s not really the market this camera is aimed at.

    Also I think yo are correct about the noise of the shutter. I don’t expect it to be as quiet as the APSc cameras can be. I just hope they try to make the mirror slap and shutter a little less noticable.

    • Well, the MZ-S, i.e. the last pro-film body from Pentax, has an extremely quiet shutter, and the noise includes the motor drive for advancing the film. Solid body, good damping, i.e. good engineering and construction goes a long way to silencing the shutter.

      Sony’s translucent mirror will allow for quiet shutter speeds, not to mention Leica’s rangefinder.

      • For what it’s worth, the MZ-S had X-sync speed 1/180 (and top shutter speed of 1/6000), I don’t think Nikon’s customers would be satisfied with that for a “D800″. But the MZ-S, K-7 and K-5 do have admirably quiet shutters. Suspect the higher X-sync speed is partially to blame for the extra noise.

  11. I had bet on a release until April 2011, only 14 days before I lose and D800 is still not already released, and rumors aren’t really accurate.

  12. Let’s hope that the D800 doesn’t have that silly amateurish pentaprism pop up flash and have instead a metal pentaprism housing

  13. Peter, I really like the ideas which you bring on like: ISO button and others. But really, don`t you think that camera which you describe will cost something like D3s.
    We have market here, so why Nikon will sell such a camera “for nothing”.

    That`s my dream too. But lets be sane =)

  14. why not a dual card slot with one for stills and one for video ?

  15. Tom, if it has (and I bet it will). dual slots, then the user would make the choice as to the use. I like the idea of having the second card creating backups as I shoot. It would sure relieve the concern (even if slight) of having a corrupt card. I could see putting a very large card 32GB + in the 2nd slot as an entire backup while using 4′s or 8′s in slot one as the primary source cards.

    Dimetry, I see all these features as things I’d like and keep seeing people post that they want the camera to be a “reasonable” price. I’m not sure what that means. ‘Cheap’ or somewhere around the launch price of a D700? Cheap isn’t going to get the upgrades we want. Reasonable to me would be anything under $3000 and I expect the launch price will be around $2599.00 if it comes close to these features.

  16. “Who doesn’t want a still camera to shoot video [insert sarcastic tone]?”.

    Clearly you don’t understand why people like me are willing to give up pro audio inputs, a camcorder form factor and many other perks to shoot video on DSLRs. Shooting video on a sensor vastly larger than 2/3 inch gives an aesthetic very close to 35mm film completely unacheivable on standard video cameras.

    You just have to look at the Zacuto shootout videos to see how seriously video is being taken on DSLRs. You’re damn right video is here to stay and some people are lining up to buy these cameras based primarily on their video specs, not their still specs.


    • Oh I get it Andrew and there are some amazing videos being shot with these cameras. In fact I have 2 bodies with this ability. I’ve just got little interest in this myself but that’s only me.

      What I am disappointed in is that August 24th has come and gone. Only Sony had a DSLR announcement. I’m wondering if the earthquake has set many suppliers back more than we know.

  17. I vote for 100% finder,
    better settings memory – basicly I want everything loaded with a single setting, not multiple setting banks like the current d700: iso, exp compensation, bracketing… Everything!
    wtf even my 11 year old compact olympus c5050 zoom did this better.

    better support for tethering with computers, ability to bracket connected to pc / ipod / iphone with the mirror locked up. It’s silly what they make us buy for some really simple to program functions like mirror lockup control, custom bracketing etc…

  18. Hi,

    I think all your wishes became true ( I think you got more than what you wished for).

    I have pre ordered Nikon D800E & hope that I would get it by end April 2012

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