Mar 15, 2012

Why I cancelled my D800.


My wife likes to mock me because I once said that my D70s was "the last camera I'd ever need". Now, I did say this... but was giddy with insurance-settlement glee, having been abruptly parted from my Nikon 601 by a thief.

But I certainly never uttered those words when I got my D700. Mock me once...

Having "toughed it out" with this amazing full-frame camera for three whole years, I kindasorta felt that I was due. After all, I had bought it used. How ghetto is that? Might as well have a D1.

Then they announced the D800. They skipped the whole D700s, D700x bull and moved into a whole new field. Sure the frame-rate was worse, but, HD1080... awesome! Dual card slots... yay! Face-recognition exposure settings... um, great... I guess.

But, 36 megapixels... Hell, that's practically medium-format.

In fact, bearing witness to Zack Arias and David Hobby going to the dark side (Phase One) I was starting to drink the megapixel Kool-Aid, even though I routinely mock the pixel-peepers who never print bigger than 5x7—if at all.

[Note: there is a silly reference in Arias's article about "when you show up with a medium format rig your clients take notice". Yeah, I suppose, but... seriously?]

So anyway, I checked in on my dedicated camera fund, got a bead on the market price of a D700, and pulled the trigger on the 800. Bam! Bought and paid for, just a matter of waiting now.

Then something unexpected happened. Buyers remorse kicked in. Which is pretty hilarious, considering the product didn't even exist yet.

So why, exactly, did I spend $3200 on a D800? I re-played my initial reasoning.

  1. HD1080. Hmm. Do I even shoot video? Well, yeah... occasionally with my GoPros and even my iPhone. I mean, it would be nice to shoot some slick stuff with my good lenses once in a while. I'm a good editor... but damn, I barely have time to shoot stills. Long story short, I have no market for video at this time.
  2. Dual card slots. To be honest, I reeeally wanted this... mostly for file redundancy, but also to shoot EyeFi tethered to my iPad... whole other post. Still, not necessary.
  3. Face-recognition. Cool idea, but not a deal-breaker, since it never occurred to me that it was desirable before now.
  4. 36 megapixels? This was both the initial siren song and the breaking point on which all decisions should have, and eventually did, hinge.
No doubt about it, 36MP is a nice image to crop from; and faces in a big group can get a little sketchy even with the best lens, but holy cow. That's going to be a biiiiiig file once it chugs its way into Lightroom. Then you have to process.


So, with increasing anxiety, I trawled for more opinion: Facebook, photo sites, email. I practically begged photographers to punch holes in my logic. And damn them all, they did—even the non-Canon guys. They reiterated everything I knew was wrong for me about the D800.

[Did I mention the vertical grip? Yeah, the MB-D12 is going to cost about $450. No built-in wifi, no built-in Pocket Wizard, no built-in cappuccino-on-demand. That's pure greed, guys.]

But what finally made me pick up the phone and ask for a refund was this... the most immutable law of photographic gear:


If it makes no difference to your final image... if your clients don't see something more amazing in their hands when it's all done... if it doesn't improve your workflow dramatically (may actually impede it, truth be told) why on earth would you spend your money on it?

So I called my camera place, cancelled the order, renewed my vows with my D700, and now I'm happy again. Relieved, actually.

The D800, remarkable tool that it is, as gorgeous and enviable a piece of gear as it will prove to be... has no place in my camera bag.