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Nikon D800

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Nikon D800 Performance


Timing and Performance

Good performance for its class.

Startup/Shutdown
Power on
to first shot
~0.3 second
Time it takes for camera to turn on. (Very fast, difficult to measure.)
Shutdown
~0.3 second
How long it takes camera to turn off before you can remove the memory card. (Very fast, difficult to measure.)
Single-shot clearing times
Buffer clearing time
Large Fine JPEG
~2 seconds
(after 20 frames)
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't shut down until the buffer is cleared. (*See note about memory card speeds at bottom of table below.)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW
(Lossless compressed)
~11 seconds
(after 23 frames)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW
+ L/F JPEG
~19 seconds
(after 18 frames)
Continuous mode buffer clearing times
Buffer clearing time
L/F JPEG
~9 seconds
(after 54 frames)
Worst case buffer clearing time. (*See note about card speeds below.)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW

(Lossless Compressed)
~12 seconds
(after 18 frames)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW + L/F JPEG
~20 seconds
(after 14 frames)
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB 100MB/s UDMA 7 CompactFlash card unless otherwise noted. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Startup and shutdown times were fast, difficult to measure. Buffer clearing times depend on the image size and quality, burst length and the speed of memory card used, but were generally pretty good with a 100MB/s CompactFlash card given the D800's buffer and file sizes.

Mode switching
Play to Record,
first shot
~0.2 second
Time until first shot is captured.
Record to play
~0.5 second
Time to display a large/fine JPEG file immediately after capture.
Display
recorded image
~0.2 second
Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching was quite fast.

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Optical Viewfinder
Full Autofocus
Single Point
(Center) AF
0.209 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder. All timing performed with Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens.

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF, Flash enabled

0.224 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture. Auto Flash enabled.

Full Autofocus
51-point Auto Area
0.306 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder.
Continuous AF
Release Priority
0.044 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
Optical Viewfinder
0.044 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".
Prefocused
0.043 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.
Live View
Full Autofocus
1.735 seconds
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button, waiting for focus confirmation, then fully pressing shutter button in Live View mode. (AF-S and AF-F produced identical results.)
Prefocused
0.184 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button in Live View mode.

In terms of the Nikon D800's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times (with no change of focus setting between iteration, to remove the impact of lens AF speed), its speed was good for an enthusiast model, but a little slow compared to professional models. The D800's AF shutter lag measured 0.209 second using single-area (center) AF mode, 0.224 second with flash enabled, and 51-point Auto Area AF lag measured 0.306 second. Some consumer SLRs are actually faster in this test.

In Continuous autofocus mode with release priority, shutter lag was extremely fast, at only 44 milliseconds. We measured the same lag when manually focused. When prefocused, lag was only 43 milliseconds, which is very good.

As expected, the Nikon D800's Live View mode adds considerable AF shutter lag. We measured 1.735 seconds for full autofocus which is pretty slow, though performance here will vary a lot more depending on the lens used. Nikon has eliminated the faster "Hand-held" phase-detect AF mode found on older models, relying on contrast detection (or face detection) autofocus in Live View mode. AF-S and AF-F modes measured almost identically.

Once prefocused, shutter lag in Live View mode was 0.184 second, which is pretty good but still quite a bit slower than using the optical viewfinder.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. We also use the same Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro with every camera (on all platforms except Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds and Nikon consumer models lacking an in-body focus motor), to further reduce variation, and because our tests showed that focus-determination time with this lens was close to the fastest, across multiple camera bodies from different manufacturers. Being an older design with a non-ultrasonic motor, it wouldn't be the fastest at slewing from one focus setting to another, but that's exactly the reason we measure focus determination speed, which is primarily a function of the camera body, vs focus adjustment speed, which is primarily a function of the lens.

 

Cycle time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.42 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.
Single Shot mode
14-bit RAW
0.39 second
Time per shot, averaged over 23 shots.
Single Shot mode
14-bit RAW + L/F JPEG
0.46 second
Time per shot, averaged over 18 shots.
Early shutter
penalty?
No
(Yes with flash)
Some cameras refuse to snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.
Continuous Hi mode
Large Fine JPEG
(Optimal quality)
0.25 second
(3.98 frames/sec);
54 frames total;
9 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 54 shots.
Continuous Hi mode
14-bit RAW (Lossless compressed)
0.25 second
(3.99 frames/sec);
18 frames total;
12 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over 18 shot buffer, then slowed to an average of 0.63s or 1.59 fps with full buffer.
Continuous Hi mode
14-bit RAW (Lossless) + L/F JPEG
0.25 second
(4.00 frames/sec);
14 frames total;
20 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over 14 shot buffer, then slowed to an average of 1.30s or 0.77 fps when buffer was full, with a lot of variation.
Continuous Hi
DX Crop Mode
15.4MP JPEG
(Optimal quality)
0.20 second
(4.99 frames/sec);
100 frames total;
3 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over set buffer length of 100 shots.
Continuous Hi
DX Crop Mode
15.4MP 14-bit RAW (Lossless compressed)
0.20 second
(4.98 frames/sec);
42 frames total;
8 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over 42 shot buffer.
Continuous Hi
DX Crop Mode
15.4MP 14-bit RAW (Lossless) + L/F JPEG
0.20 second
(4.98 frames/sec);
23 frames total;
10 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over 23 shot buffer, then slowed to an average of 0.50s or 1.99 fps when buffer was full, with a lot of variation.
Flash recycling
3.8 seconds
Flash at maximum output.
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB 100MB/s UDMA 7 CompactFlash card except where otherwise noted. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle time performance was good, at about 0.42 second for Large/Fine JPEGs, 0.39 second for RAW frames, and 0.46 second for RAW+JPEG frames.

Continuous Hi-speed modes were on the slow side compared to most SLRs, but not bad considering the resolution. We measured four frames per second, matching Nikon's spec for full-frame FX mode. In DX Crop mode which captures 15.4MP images, frame rate increased to almost 5 frames per second. According to Nikon, DX Crop mode performance can be increased up to 6 frames per second when using the optional MB-D12 Multi-Power Batter Pack equipped with 8 R6/AA batteries.

Buffer depths were pretty good given the file sizes. We captured 54 Large/Fine JPEG frames before the camera started to slow, and that's with a difficult-to-compress target. You'll likely do much better with typical scenes. In 14-bit lossless RAW mode, we captured 18 frames per burst, and with 14-bit lossless RAW + Large/Fine JPEGs we captured 14 frames. In DX Crop mode, buffer depth naturally improved. Note that images were captured on a 100MB/s UDMA 7 CompactFlash card.

Buffer clearing was pretty fast given the file sizes, but can be lengthy. We measured 9 seconds after 54 JPEG frames, but that increased to 20 seconds after a 14 RAW + JPEG burst.

 

Download speed
Windows Computer, USB 2.0
17,041 KBytes/sec
Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-770=USB 2.0 Low;
More than 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speed with USB 2.0 was the fastest we've ever tested from a camera, at close to 17MB/s.

The Nikon D800 also supports the newer, faster (up to 10x) USB 3.0 standard, however we weren't able to measure any increase in transfer speed with our USB 3.0 add-on card. It's quite likely that an incompatibility caused our link to fallback to USB 2.0 mode, though, so be aware that compatibility issues do exist. We'll try to update this section if /when we figure out how to get USB 3.0 transfer performance going with our D800. (We have a USB 3.0 card reader which transfers a least 3x faster over 3.0 versus 2.0, so we know our card is actually capable of establishing a USB 3.0 link.)

Bottom line, the Nikon D800 is pretty fast in most respects for its class and resolution. Startup, shutdown and mode switching are very fast. Full autofocus speed was slower than average for a professional model, though good for an enthusiast model. The D800's full-resolution burst rate of 4 fps isn't exactly fast compared to most SLRs, but it's not bad considering 36 megapixels is a lot of data to move and process. (The 40-megapixel Pentax 645D for instance only managed 1.1 fps.) As you'd expect, though, buffer clearing can take a while with such large files.

Battery

Battery Life

Good battery life for its class.

Test Conditions
Number of Shots
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
(CIPA standard, Optical Viewfinder)
900
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
(CIPA standard, Live View LCD)
Unknown

The Nikon D800 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The CIPA rated 900 shots per charge using the optical viewfinder is good for its class. Unfortunately, Nikon does not seem to publish battery life results for when Live View mode is used, but it's a safe bet that it's considerably shorter.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of on fully-charged battery, based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))