Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nikon D800 compared to D800E
a hands on comparison review

When I first began using the Nikon D800 I also had a medium format camera system I used for high end photographs.  It quickly became obvious that the D800 was superior, and I sold off my medium format. I now use the D800 for still life and landscape photography, and any other situation where I need the highest image quality.

This blog post is not a full review of the D800 or D800E.  I will save that for another day. For now, I will only be examining the two cameras together to see how much of a difference there is between them.

Ever since acquiring the D800 I have wondered how images from the D800E would compare.  Would the images be improved enough to make the D800E a better choice despite the complication of introducing annoying moiré patterns to deal with due to the absence of an anti-aliasing filter? Two other cameras I use, the Leica M series and Fuji X-Pro1, both have the anti-aliasing filter removed, and I have noticed a degree of crispness to their images that is not present in images from cameras where the filter is present. The Leica does have a moiré problem that I have learned to deal with, whereas a new sensor design in the Fuji has eliminated the moiré problem.

Recently, I borrowed a D800E and began running a series of tests against the D800.  I used a large variety of the better Nikon lenses. I shot on a tripod and hand held. I chose some situations that I knew to be prone to producing moiré patterns. With the results all in, I could only see a slight difference between the two cameras. Where a difference existed the images from the D800E did seem a bit crisper.  I did encounter moiré in one situation where I typically expect it.  Sometimes the lens made a difference.  Often times, where I placed the focus point made a difference that ruined the test.  Bottom line is that the overall differences were generally so subtle that in most cases I had to read the file info to verify which camera was represented.

Below are some of the tests I did.  Links are included below the images to download the hi res versions of the files so you can judge the differences for yourself. These are very large files and two of each example are contained in each zip file.

This is one of the more telling examples.  The D800E does produce a crisper detail in the buildings.  You can also notice the moiré pattern from the D800E in the top of the tallest building on the left.  I typically find moiré in modern building when shooting cityscapes. Download hi res files by clicking here.

Click here to download hi res files
Click here to download hi res files

Click here to download files 

Click here to download hi res files

Click here to download hi res files


Both cameras produce exceptional images. The difference between them, however, is not very dramatic.  Even the DxOMark sensor tests has the two cameras only 1 point apart, which is negligible. Is the trade up worth the extra $500 and potential for moiré creeping into your images?  You will have to decide that for yourself. No matter which of the two you choose, you can rest assured you will be using the very best full frame digital camera available today. 

If you are planning on purchasing this camera, you can help support this site at no extra cost to you by purchasing from one of our affiliate sellers listed below -- and thanks for your support.

Nikon D800 Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) can be ordered from:  BH-Photo  Amazon
Nikon D800E Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) can be ordered from:  BH-Photo  Amazon


  1. The high res files seem to be missing.

  2. Thanks for pointing that out. I have no idea of how all the links got messed up, but I think they are now fully restored. - t

  3. Thank you for pointing that out. It should be fixed now.