What's got me confused is all of the rumors abounding on the internet that the D800 is going to be a whopping 36 megapixels. Personally, I just don't think it's a feasible speculation. I've got some pretty solid reasoning behind why Nikon wouldn't release a 36 megapixel pro-level studio camera in a D800 body, but I can't for the life of me come up with one good reason why Nikon would make a move like this.
Here's my thoughts on it, for what it's worth.
- Before the D4's announcement Nikon's flagship cameras are the D3s - 12MP ($5100) and the D3x - 24MP ($8000). First of all would Nikon replace it's $8000 flagship high MP camera aimed at studio pros with a $4000 camera in a smaller body with non-pro features such as a smaller battery, an unnecessary pop-up flash, and less dedicated buttons? I don't think so. That's a loss of $4000 per camera.
- When the D3 was announced, shortly after came the D700. An upper mid-level full-frame camera, essentially a D3 in a smaller body for semi-pros or pros that prefer a smaller body (such as I do), and advanced (or rich) hobbyists. Historically speaking this is how Nikon operates. Although in the early DX only days the DX00 series always had a higher MP count up until the simultaneous release of the D3 and D300 which put them both at an equal 12MP resolution. I don't see Nikon changing their marketing strategy.
- The D700 was an affordable version of the D3 that appealed to part-time pros because they could superb quality without breaking the bank, especially in low-light. This was greatly appealing to a huge consumer base. Nikon sold A LOT of these cameras because it was an affordable way to get a pro-level camera. Adding $1300 to the selling price would place this camera out of range for a lot of consumers. Why ignore a huge segment of their loyal consumer base? Once again, a bad financial move for Nikon. I don't think they would do this.
- The MEGAPIXEL WAR. Nikon in ALL of it's history of manufacturing DSLR's has NEVER stepped into the megapixel war in order to garner sales from a "more megapixels = better camera" standpoint. They let Canon run wild with that. Nikon just stood by and made lower resolution cameras with better IQ than any of their competitors. Why would Nikon change it's marketing strategy when the megapixel war is already over? Not to mention the megapixel marketing technique is usually aimed at mid-to-entry-level cameras.
- Where's the mid-level full-frame camera? You have the $6000 16MP D4 & the $4000 36MP D800? Again, that's not Nikon's marketing history. If Nikon follows their regular pattern the D800 will be a lower priced ($2700-$3000) mid-level camera.
- Sensor price. This is a BIG one. The D3X cost $3000 more than the D3s. What did you get for that extra $3000? A 24MP sensor. THAT'S IT. Do the math. Take a $2700 D700 and add $3000 for a 24MP sensor and you get a $5700 camera. No doubt a 36MP sensor is going to cost more, so that lands you at around $6000. It doesn't quite make sense that a 36MP sensor is only going to add about $1300 dollars, which is coincidentally the same amount that it cost to add a 12MP FX sensor to a D300 body.
Is it possible that Nikon is going to release a 36MP camera? Yes, no question about it. I don't think it's going to be the D800. Later in the year Nikon will announce the D4x 36MP camera.
What wouldn't surprise me is if Nikon does a double release this Feb. 7th. The D800 and the D400 both with 16MP, 1080p video, and dedicated LV and record buttons.
In any case it's all just speculations and rumors, with a few people putting outright fabrications on the internet. We'll all just have to wait and see what the folks at Nikon have in store for us on Feb. 7th.
In the meantime, take a look at this 36MP file on flickr: