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Reader Comments: Why Both a D800 and D800E?

Tom S writes:

I have pre-ordered D800 and D800E and will likely cancel one or the other. I have read many articles and observations.

I cannot figure out why Nikon would produce these two offerings. Is it simply a way to increase the multiple and sell more units? Do they know that the D800 will produce softer images. Why offer the D800E if ,as they explain moire and color issues may be present. I just do not understand the balancing act. I use D3s and D3 and Lumix GH2.

DIGLLOYD: With a quality lens, there will be a noticeable increase in micro contrast and sharpness with the D800E. Less sharpening will be required to bring out the inherent lens quality. The very best lenses will shine, lesser lenses will more quickly show their limitations. The price to be paid for maximizing sharpness will be more artifacts under some conditions.

But at 36MP, the moiré issue diminishes and will not be an issue for most users with most subjects. For those shooting subjects with fabrics (weddings, product shots, etc), or artificial anything containing regular patterns, it might be. Except that RAW conversion can also deal with the moiré issue if necessary (PhaseOne CaptureONE Pro, Nikon Capture NX2, and perhaps Lightroom 4/ACR).

In a sense, the D800E is the only camera needed, and the D800 is a warm blanky for sleeping well at night. Well, something like that.

Ironically, it is with the best lenses that moiré is most an issue; with lesser lenses, the impaired contrast and resolution act naturally to blur the image slightly, acting as a sort of anti-aliasing filter. Ditto for stopping down to f/11 - f/16.

The choice is akin than to what has gone on in the medium format world, where there have been medium format backs with and without anti-aliasing filters, the vast majority being without an AA filter.

I will be ordering the D800E for myself (no AA filter). Over 2+ years of shooting, moiré on the 18MP Leica M9 has not been a problem for my images, and especially with dark low-contrast tones, the lack of an AA filter really seems to pull out better detail than can a DSLR with an AA filter. And 36MP is twice the pixels of 18MP, so I really don’t expect to see moiré as an issue very often.

Price difference

We are talking about at $3000 D800 and a $3300 D800E. I will have BOTH cameras in for testing, and I will be showing the tradeoffs with both in my review in DAP. I have no explanation for why the D800E costs $300 more.

Regardless of the reason for the price difference, the price difference is irrelevant for any serious use— choose the camera that best meets your needs (a D800/D800E with good lenses costs a lot more than $3K). Heck, here in California the sales tax on a D800 is $247. You don’t mind sharing your hard-earned money with those who haven’t earned it, do you? Life is full of lemons, go shoot.

The confounding decision is which camera best meets your needs! Accordingly, a major priority of my review will be to address the differences between the two models. BTW, DAP for a YEAR costs 1.33% of the cost of a D800, so it should be a no-brainer for anyone considering the D800 / D800E, even if I were to address only the choice between the two.

Nikon D800
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