Pascal’s plan to sell his D800 made me wonder what he could possibly have replaced it with. I havered long and hard about buying mine; at the time I wanted to extend my hugely satisfactory Sony NEX kit, but some of the lenses I wanted were just not freely available. Eventually, I weakened and decided to live with hauling heavy cameras around for a bit longer. The arguments with airline check in clerks were a bonus. Still, I’ve not been disappointed. The images it makes are extraordinary.
Now I have three Nikon DSLRs because I had two and now, I can’t bring myself to sell one and concurrently, find it shockingly easy to rationalise keeping them all.
Until recently that justification was easy; my D2x and its cropped sensor worked particularly well with telephoto lenses and as I often like to shoot landscapes with a long lens, it was a no brainer. The compressed perspective and ability to capture detail that a wide angle lens might lose, gave me a real reason for keeping it.
Most of the time, it played host to my ‘70s vintage 500mm f8 mirror, or 80-200 f2.8 zoom.
Keeping it company was the D700 which was made for the Nikon’s 24-70 zoom – a fantastic combination.
And then the D800 arrived and I needed yet another rationale for not selling at least the oldest of these once shockingly expensive camera bodies.
Having been a Nikon user for almost four decades, I have lots of kit sitting in my cupboard, not to mention an original F and an F2, both with Photomic heads. Read the rest of this article and you’ll probably be able to work out why they are there for yourself. With them, I also have lots of manual AI primes, which just love the D700 and D800.
Most photographers who have been through the kit buying and spec comparing cycle a few times will tell you that there’s no mileage in comparing features and performance. They’re all great and besides which, you can’t justify any kind of self indulgence that way.
Another significant issue; the resale value of say, the D2x body is probably now lower than that of a boat anchor, which it could easily double for. So, no way through there.
Deep breath. You know what? I actually don’t care.
I enjoy a deep, long-term relationship with the D2 body. It was my first full-on DSLR and no matter how I deny it and despite promising both myself and my wife I wouldn’t, buying it on a trip to Singapore was just fate waiting to happen. Today, eight years on it remains reassuringly heavy, solid and totally reliable. It’s like owning the photographic equivalent of a Mercedes Benz.
After the D2, the D700 was a while arriving. In fact, the D2 was already five years old by that time and a new camera really didn’t seem to be very necessary. That was until I started shooting a new project that required rapid response and a variety of focal lengths. Suddenly a second camera body came to be very desirable and I made space for the D700 in my bag.
Like the D2x, the D700 has its own personality. It’s tough, reliable, easy to set up to do exactly the right job, satisfying in use and very forgiving. I love the outrageously loud clack of its shutter and its size, despite both making it impossible for discreet street use. That notwithstanding, I think it’s one of the best, a true Subaru 4×4 of cameras.
Which means that when the D800 arrived, it immediately put me in mind of a Range Rover; it’s rugged, easy to handle, fast and supremely competent. Despite the doomsayers telling me it would shame and embarrass me and my lenses, it’s tractable and much easier to use than I anticipated. That is for as long as I remember that even a Range Rover has limits.
If I were a car buff, that would be the end of it. But of course, it isn’t. The D2 isn’t a Merc, it’s a super reliable old friend, one I seem to have had since I was a kid.
And, the D700 isn’t a Subaru either. In my hands, up to the eye, this is a super dependable workhorse, with good manners. Soft where it counts and as hard as nails when needed.
Which leaves the D800 and my rationale for keeping three DSLRs.
The first is easy – no matter how much I love theD700, I want to grow, learn and make better photographs. The step up from the D700 to the D800 was a big one, at least in terms of the photographic return on my investment.
Besides which I like the D800. I tell my wife I need it. A lot. I also ensure that I leave the other two bodies just out of sight when she is around. So, there they sit; an old friend, a supple and dependable companion and a sidekick that some days manages to make my work look much better than I have a right to expect.
They’re friends and you want me to turn my back on them? I think not.
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