Six Reasons to Upgrade your Nikon D7000 to the Nikon D800

NikonD800 - D700 UpgradeIn the realm of HD videography, the D7000 was a game-changer for Nikon. The D7000, although equipped with Nikon’s DX cropped sensor, was the first Nikon DSLR to offer 1080p movie mode at 24fps. As the only 1080p option and having already invested in Nikon lenses, this was the only logical choice until something better (and still economical) would arrive. Even though more framerates would soon be available on other Nikon DSLRs like the D5100, D3100, the D4 – none of these was a logical “upgrade.” while the D4 could out-perform the D7000’s movie mode, the price-point didn’t make sense for most videographers. Enter the Nikon D800 in 2012. The features on D800 bear the indication that it’s primarily for still-shooters (high megapixel count, for one), but it also happened to bring along new video/movie features that videographers could appreciate – and at half the cost of a D4. Here are the reasons you may want to consider upgrading to the D800 from the D7000 for videography:

1) Sound Levels & Headphone Jack
The D7000 has a microphone mini-plug jack, but lacks any sort of sound monitoring capability, making the use of cable like this one from Sescom nearly a necessity. It allows you to use a separate audio recorder like the Zoom H4N (with audio levels), plug the line directly into the camera’s audio input, and still monitor the audio quality with headphones via the headphone jack. The D800 has both visual AV levels on the screen, as well as a headphone jack to monitor sound quality. With the D800, there is no longer a need to have a completely separate device and added cables just to monitor the level and quality of sound being recorded – unless you want to for quality or continuity purposes – but that is another discussion.

2) Histogram in Live View
Shooting in the sun is tough. Nailing down the proper exposure when you can’t accurately judge how bright your scene is can be a nightmare. On the D7000, the only ‘feature’ you can lean on in such a situation is to exit live-view, peer through the viewfinder, and expose your image based on the -/+ indicators inside. While this method works and can be very accurate and helpful, exiting live-view takes time; time away from whatever event you’re trying to capture not to mention you have to stop recording completely to do it. The D800 offers the live-view histogram view, which gives a live read-out (even when recording) of the overall scene exposure – and the ability to change exposure mid-way through recording is our next reason.

3) Changing Aperture in Live View
I wrote about this topic at length with some workarounds in another article (Videographers: Understand the D600 Aperture Live View Problem). That article discusses Nikon’s newest camera, the D600, but it is still very much a problem on the D7000 as well. The short review is that in order to increase or decrease your aperture, you have to stop recording, exit live-view, change your aperture, switch back to live-view, and record again. This can be a challenge when providing full coverage of a live-event where the lighting may change (anything outdoors) – and nearly impossible without more than one camera. The D800 allows you to change the aperture while recording – so if the sun comes out, you can simply stop-down your aperture a few stops without having to stop recording.

4) More Frame Rates
With each new DSLR, Nikon is adding more and more frame-rates. The Nikon D4 was the first Nikon DSLR to offer 1080p at 30fps, and a 60fps option – even if only at 720p. Again – for the price of six D7000s, a videographer couldn’t really justify that purchase. The D7000 had neither of those frame-rates, and the D800 has both. Since then, Nikon has even released those frame rates on both the D600 and D3200, but those models still suffer from the problems mentioned #2 and #3. 60fps is great for slow-motion, and dropping down to 40% speed fits quite nicely (not choppy) into 24fps footage, even when upscaled to 1080p depending on your project. While I personally don’t use the 1080p at 30fps, I can see where some videographers may want it – especially for corporate, educational, or some commercial purposes.

5) Better Bokeh
Whatever you want to call it – shallower depth of field, bokehlicious, blurry background, blown-out background – it’s more pleasing on a full-frame camera. Shallow depth of field is the trademark of faster lenses (and higher-end productions!), and when you combine fast lenses with a full-frame sensor, it’s more appealing visually because the effect is greater. The D7000’s sensor is much smaller than the D800’s full-frame sensor, so while you can get great images with great bokeh from the D7000 – the D800 will produce an image that’s a little better.

6) Same Batteries
At nearly $60 a pop, the Nikon EN-EL15 Batteries aren’t cheap – and if you’ve already invested in extra batteries (if you’re shooting events, you have), it’s nice that the D7000 and D800 share the same battery. (FWIW, the D600 also shares the EN-EL15 battery)

D7000s still outnumber D800s in our arsenal – they’re still great cameras capable of capturing great images and movies. The D800s, in our opinion, are just the next logical step up – both in terms of quality and ease of use. Learning on a D7000 (or D3100, D5100, or D3200) will help make you a better videographer, as they make you work a little bit harder to achieve terrific results.

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