Value for money and ease of use - Nikon D800?

I am looking at taking both still photographs and short videos of an owner build of a log house in the country. I want to be able zoom in on the video and show details of some of the build but I also want to show major steps in the process from a distance. As the scenery is amazing I want to capture this with stills and be able to take close-ups of key aspects of the build process.

I would prefer to have single camera which can take both good stills and good quality video but I am concerned about ease of use and value for money. The Nikon D800 looks like it will do both things I need but would I better of buying two separate cameras for about the same price as the D800. My wife is going to do a lot of the photography and she has very limited experience using a DSLR.

Darkcat studio advised that "Nearly any new dslr is capable of full HD Video, and all are still a compromise in that they do not offer smooth in-shot autofocus / focus tracking." I understand the D800 will provide a lot more features than needed but is the problem with dslr's in not offering smooth in-shot autofocus sufficient that I would be better of getting both a cheaper dslr and a video camera like the Canon Legria HFG25 HD Camcorder? The trade-off is against having to have two camera. As part of the filming process we are looking at travelling overseas and filming the supplier of our log house kit so I am trying to understand how serious the lack of in-shot autofocus might be when we are not looking at doing any sport style photography. Not much on the building site is going to happen very quickly.

Itai makes the point that you need to select lenses carefully to enable smooth auto-focus which I understand but can someone point me to more information why you must use MF?

  • \$\begingroup\$ While pretty much any modern camera can do for videos, you need to choose your lenses carefully for the easy of focusing with them and you must use MF if you do any serious videos. Otherwise, I would go with a system that has Phase-Detect AF at least. Continuous AF on the D800 and similar camera is highly disturbing for video. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    May 10, 2013 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ AF for video has long been considered an unwanted special effect. (For that matter, so has AE.) \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    May 11, 2013 at 0:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why MF: Here's a demo - youtube.com/watch?v=ca_Cd2mX03w And an intro on shooting video with DSLR which covers various options like fluid heads and follow focus. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2013 at 1:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ As this question gets edited, it just makes it even more off topic. What does this information and questioning about the "Canon Legria HFG25 HD Camcorder" provide for still photography for example? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    May 14, 2013 at 13:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I concur with @mattdm. I was trying to think of a way this question could be rephrased to be on topic here, but ultimatly, it is asking if a still camera is good enough at video. It would actually be on-topic if we were talking about a video camera that could take stills, but this question really comes down to "can I take good video on a DSLR or do I need a video camera?" and that's very much an AVP question, not a photography one. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    May 14, 2013 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


I'm not fully sure why you think you need to go as far as a D800, whilst it is an incredible camera (I have one) I see it as overkill for what you are looking at doing.

The D800 is no more complex in general use than most other DSLR's, however it has a lot of advanced features that you will likely never see/use/need.

Nearly any new dslr is capable of full HD Video, and all are still a compromise in that they do not offer smooth in-shot autofocus / focus tracking.

As you are looking at a D800, i will assume your budget is around £3000 inc a pair of decentish lenses. I would go with a lower end DSLR, and some decent lenses, and a good fluid-head tripod for video, and an external microphone. You can do without a separate dedicated video camera as long as you dont intend to swap focus points often.

Edited to add: Basically if you can live without usable AF/AE, then a DSLR will offer FAR superior video performance than ANY dedicated consumer level video camera - large sensor and high quality optics that you wont see until you hit £5k - £10k for a dedicated video camera.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 - Far be it from me to talk anyone out of a camera I'd sure like to find at the bottom of my next box of Cracker Jack, but the stuff that makes video interesting (fluid head, smooth focus aids, audio, sliders/jibs) does tend to add up in a hurry. If you don't need gallery-quality 24"x36" prints, the D800 is overkill, and the price differential going down will buy a lot of stuff that will mean more in the end. If there's room in the budget for the D800 when everything else is costed in, go for it. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    May 10, 2013 at 21:46

If money is no option, the D800 would be an excellent choice for your needs.

If money is an option, see Darkcat Studios reply.


For your project a few things are more important than the camera:

  1. A concept for your video. What story are you going to tell and what tools do you need for this? Maybe get some help from somebody with video experience (AVP-StackExchange maybe?) or a book.
  2. A tripod + video head.
  3. Microphone.

Then you can go for the camera. It is certainly cheaper and more sensible not to go for the D800. A dedicated video camera is better with zoom and focus and generally easier to handle. That being said, you could go with the D800 or any modern DSLR.


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