Is Nikon’s D800 or D800e Better For Boudoir Photography?

Nikon D800 DSLR camera

If you’re looking to buy a used Nikon D800 or D800e for your boudoir photography, which is better? There’s only one key difference between these two cameras and in this article we’re going to examine this difference and I’ll give you my conclusion on which is better for shooting boudoir.

First of all, if you can’t afford Nikon’s flagship model, the D850, then a great alternative is one of its predecessors, the D800 or D800e. In a previous article I wrote entitled, “Why Fuji’s XT3 May Be the Best Camera For Your Boudoir Business” I talk about all the attributes that would make that camera a great choice, but if your heart is set on a full-frame DSLR then deciding between the D800 and D800e can be confusing.

Before we dive into this one big difference that separates these two models, let’s list all the features that both cameras share.

Nikon D800 and D800e Specifications

51-point auto-focus system

36.3 megapixel FX format full frame CMOS sensor

full HD video recording at 1080p

4 frames-per-second continuous shooting

ISO from 100 to 6400

two card slots, one for compact flash, one for SD 

3.2” rear display

pop-up flash

red eye reduction

Along with all of that, both cameras are exactly the same size and weight. 

The Difference Between the D800 and D800e

The difference between the D800 and D800e is that the D800e has no optical low pass filter, or OLPF for short. Actually, that’s not quite true. The D800e does have an optical low pass filter but its effect is neutralized by a plate of optical glass, so for arguments sake let’s just say that the D800 filters light through an OLPF and the D800e does not.

There, that should clear things up.

Or put another way, when light enters your lens on the D800 it will pass through an optical low pass filter (also known as an anti-aliasing filter) before it hits the sensor but on the D800e it won’t.

Let’s now examine what an optical low pass filter does.

What’s the Purpose of An Optical Low Pass Filter?

In short, an OLPF prevents the moire` effect from Bayer sensors (the kind that Nikon uses). 

What Is the Moire` Effect? 

The moire` effect is those strange wavy lines that can appear on clothing but also in straight hair and in architectural photography. 

It’s caused by the sensor being unable to resolve the very fine detail of a repeating pattern, such as fabric in clothing, or the small patterned facade of a building. It can happen with dots too in a pattern of very fine tiny dots.

To see this first hand, try taking a picture of your computer screen with your smartphone. See those colored wavy patterns? That’s the moire` effect.

What Are the Advantages of Having an OLPF?

The advantages of having an optical low pass filter is that it prevents the moire` effect (or aliasing, that’s why it’s also referred to as an anti-aliasing filter). 

— You don’t have to spend time in post trying to remove it (if you have a camera without one).

— You don’t have to spend time trying to fix it during your shoot if you see it showing up in your images, such as changing your f-stop, changing the subject’s wardrobe, or compromising the entire concept of your shoot.

Those are some pretty good advantages to have on your side, so owning a D800 will save you from having to deal with a problem that could crop up depending on the type of photography you do.

(I’ll mention how all this affects boudoir further down.)

Side Note

Despite all those advantages, having an optical low pass filter on your camera is not a guarantee that it will prevent all moire` patterns from appearing. Case in point, I own a D800 and can remember once or twice when it cropped up on a subject’s shirt, but other than that, I really haven’t seen it. 

What Are the Advantages of Not Having an OLPF?

Yes, you read that right… what are the advantages to not having an optical low pass filter on your camera?

Well, there’s really only one, and that is that you’ll get marginally sharper images with slightly better resolution.

I say “marginally” because there are certain conditions you have to be shooting under in order to take full advantage of not having an OLPF in front of your camera’s sensor, and then the results are not amazingly sharper… they are sharper, yes, but only slightly sharper… depending on how big your image is. 

What’s The Disadvantage of Having an OLPF On Your Camera?

The disadvantage is that it will make your images a little less sharp than if you didn’t have one… but that’s what an OLPF does. It blurs the light slightly and in turn, the image as well because that’s how it prevents the moire` effect from happening in the first place.

See? There’s always a catch.

Camera manufacturers were worried that the moire` effect would ruin too many images so they decided to do something about it… but there’s always a cost and that cost was that it softened the image up… but just slightly.

Optimal Conditions For Using the D800e

To take full advantage of the sharper images that you’ll get with the D800e you should:

  1. use a tripod (to prevent any possible camera shake)
  2. use a fast shutter speed (above 1/125th, to prevent blur from camera hand-held shake)
  3. shoot with mid f-stops, like f/5.6 – f/11
  4. use really good lenses
  5. shoot in RAW
  6. avoid photographing anything where you’ll encounter the fine detail of a repeating pattern that could create the moire` effect

Types Of Photography That Would Be Great For the D800e

The types of photography that would benefit the most using the D800e (with no OLPF) would be landscape photography, nature/wildlife, and micro-photography. 

Landscape photography — because fine regimented patterns don’t appear in nature, you can use a tripod, utilize higher f/stops, shoot in RAW, and use great glass 

Nature/Wildlife — because like above, no fine regimented patterns in nature and animals, you can use a tripod, utilize higher f/stops, shoot in RAW, and use great glass

Micro-photography — because you want as much sharpness as possible, you can use a tripod, shoot in RAW, use great glass, avoid the fine detail of a repeating pattern because it’s nature… (although I’m not sure about that gazillion eyes on a fly shot).

It’s also good if you print really large prints and you want as much detail and resolution as possible. Yes, the D800e will be sharper.

So, D800 or D800e For Boudoir Photography?

The verdict is in!

In my opinion the regular ‘ole D800 would be better than the D800e, and here are my reasons why.

1.) You’re going to be encountering fine detail of repeating patterns with lots of fabric that lingerie and other types of intimate apparel are made of. Fine sheer meshes, intricately detailed lace, these could produce the moire` effect causing you to spend valuable time trying to fix it during your shoot, or in post. 

Plus, there’s no guarantee you can even eliminate it entirely in post.

In my opinion, it’s just not worth the hassle for what would be marginally sharper images with the D800e.

2.) The D800 will probably cost less than the D800e. The D800e was priced about $300 more new than a new D800 so used ones will also reflect that price difference. 

3.) Boudoir is a hand-held shooting experience (for the most part). Using a tripod during a shoot will slow you down and is just not practical, so realizing the full benefit of sharper images with the D800e will be further diminished.

4.) A lot of boudoir is shot at low f-stops like f/1.8 or f/2.8, again, in order to reap the full potential of the D800e’s sharper images, you should be shooting with mid-range f-stops (f/5.6 – f/11).

5.) You don’t have control of the light like in a studio environment. This one didn’t show up on my list above but it’s another element that helps prevent the moire` effect if using the D800e. 

A lot of boudoir is shot in natural light and although you have some control over it, it’s limited in comparison to shooting with speedlites or strobes where you have much more control. Not having that extra latitude to control the light takes away one option for solving the moire` effect on a shoot.

6.) You’ll save lots of time post processing images because you won’t have to correct that annoying moire` effect… if you catch it at all! 

7.) You won’t be restricted to use shutter speeds above 1/125th of a second to capture those sharper images when shooting hand-held. 

Whew! Them thar’s a lot of reasons to stick with the D800 over the D800e.

Oh, I almost forgot one…

8.) After applying your own sharpening in Photoshop or Lightroom, will you really be able to tell the difference? You may… possibly…but your boudoir clients won’t.

Photography Genres the D800e Is Best For

As I stated earlier, the D800e is ideal for genres like landscape photography, nature and wildlife, and micro-photography where you can use a tripod, use fast shutter speeds, utilize mid-range f-stops, and most importantly, avoid the fine detail of repeating patterns. 

What If You Already Have the D800e?

If you already own a D800e then great! It’s certainly not the end of the world… far from it.

You just need to be aware of what to look out for when shooting boudoir and that’s mainly the fine detail of repeating patterns in clothing material. 

To check for the moire` effect, magnify your image 100% on the back of your camera on areas that might give you trouble, or if you’re shooting tethered, check out some test shots before going full bore. 

If you do find some strange wavy moire` patterns in your images after the shoot, Photoshop and Lightroom both have tools to help remove it. I’m sure there are plenty of videos on YouTube that explain how to do that and it’s a rather simple process. 

Final Thoughts On the D800 vs the D800e

Both the D800 and the D800e are excellent cameras with an arsenal of 36 megapixels and sensors that at one time were the very best in the world. 

Shooting boudoir with either will yield excellent results, you just have to be a bit more careful with potential moire` patterns showing up if using the D800e.

I would still prefer my D800 over the D800e when shooting boudoir because the difference in sharpness is marginal and the conditions to achieve that difference to its fullest potential don’t really jive with the boudoir shooting experience.

Last Words

If you’re considering buying either the D800 or D800e and didn’t know what the difference was or how it might affect your boudoir photography, I hope this article cleared things up for ya’… because it did for me! 

(I write stuff I want to know about too!)

If you found this article helpful, pass it along to someone else who may also benefit.

Thanks for your time!

Charles Mitri

Founder / Lounge Boudoir

Bella Mitri Boudoir

Charles Mitri

Charles Mitri is an award-winning boudoir photographer and also founder and writer of LoungeBoudoir.com, an educational blog and resource website for boudoir photographers worldwide. He lives in Yorktown, Virginia.

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