I have a quick question about the dynamic range of the 5D3 which from what I have been reading is behind the D800. I have never owned a nikon and currently own two 5D3s. I understand what dynamic range is and how it is important for retaining details in the highlights and shadows of an image. I guess I would like to know from one who has seen the differences in the two cameras is what am I missing out on? How does a really high DR (better than the 5D3) help unless I am mostly shooting in high contrast lighting situations or am trying to push or pull and image by more than a couple of stops. I have always been really happy with the DR of my 5D2 and now my 5D3 and being a wedding photographer I shoot in about every lighting condition possible. I always shoot JPEG with highlight tone priority enabled and do my best to get the exposure and WB spot on. I also shoot in Faithful picture mode with the contrast turned down one notch. I end up with pretty flat images out of the camera with plenty of details in the highlights and shadows. Unless I really mis the exposure I have never been unhappy with the DR. I almost always end up adding contrast to the picture because there is too much DR and the image looks too flat. I probably won't own a Nikon so I am just curious from those who have seen the difference hands on how big of a difference is it and in what situations will it really be beneficial. It seems like low ISO high DR performance has become more important than high ISO low noise performance. I am not trying to start another debate over the two cameras I just want to know how much better it is and how much of a difference it would really make.
Unlike a lot of people commenting, I have taken the plunge, joined the dark side or whatever they call it, and actually OWN and SHOT with a D800 out in the field under tricky high contrast as well as even smooth controlled scenarios. My experience goes beyond reading reviews or articles about analog/digital SNR and all that stuff. Charts and equations are neat, but when you're in the field, you don't pull a calculator and start thinking about bits and crap like that. You shoot.
Okay, now that you know my angle, I'll make it simple. Whatever many stops of DR the D800 has, it is just destroys any canon DSLR I've ever shot with, 5DII, mKIII whatever. In paticular, at ISO100 - 800. As for the benefits of that range, you ask a very relevant question. Where are the benefits? First of all let's understand who the D800 is for: Landscape, Studio, and Wedding/Portraits. The landscape guys need no explanation. They are always bracketing, using GND filters and pulling all sorts of tricks to get more DR. At $3000 the D800 (or slightly pricier D800E) is a deal since no current 35mm camera can match it . As Lloyd Chambers puts it
I’m not inclined to disagree here. BTW, the rumor I’m hearing indirectly as word on the street from various dealers is that the Canon to Nikon switch is of tidal proportions, unprecedented.http://diglloyd.com/blog/2012/20120504_3-ReaderComment-5DM3.html
Studio. Resolution aside (which isn't the subject of this thread), I think they benefit less from the broad DR. But many studio photographers need shadows clean of noise for editing purposes and will do complex light setups so the added headroom isn't bad to have. I shoot under sutdio lights rarely and the times I do, I have kept everything within the range of lesser cameras.
I just shot an engagement session in NYC and I'm absolutely in love with the D800, and a big reason is it's DR. The highlights slider in LR4 pulls so much detail out of the images that I almost fell of my chair. I was literally pulling sky detail from images where the 5DII would be dead white blown out. I could have done the same with a big strobe but in NYC you can't set those up anywhere. That is by far my favorite thing about this camera.
In another shot, under shade, I incorrectly metered the background so my subject was nearly gone. No problem, I just re-meterd it it. But in post I went to the bad shot and rescued it. Shot at ISO100, I pulled all the detail I wanted out of the darks with nearly no hint of noise and whatever noise there was left, slight LR4 touches erradicated it. Awesome. Knowing I can pull that much out of the shadows and highlights I can now worry less about DR and more about composition and posing and more importantly, can now take shots I couldn't have before without strobes. I'm still going to use strobes naturally since even the D800 won't show all 20 stops of DR in a scene but it has definitively changed my mind about when I need strobes.
Lastly, girls in white dresses and guys in black moving around outdoors can stress your camera's metering system. The D800 has a very sophisticated 91K RGB meter (on par with the 1DX/D4), but even it goofs up sometime because its algorithms react as you expect: as an engineer not an artist. Having to compensate the meter up and down based on situations is extremelly annoying and a daily routine with lesser cameras. The D800's broader DR makes the inevitable glitch (camera or photographer) much less of an issue, if at all. It's one less crap to think about and if you shoot weddings, you already have enough in your mind.
Well hopefuly that sumarizes my own personal experience with the D800 coming from the red team. As usual, your subjects, shooting style and preferences may result in different reactions. So as they say, your mileage may vary. IMO this is the 5DmkIII I hoped for, it's just made by Nikon