Mastering the Nikon D800 by Darrell Young - Book Review

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, September 2012
Published by: Darrell Young, Rocky Nook and Nikonians Press
Requires: An interest in photography using the Nikon D800
MSRP: US$39.95, CAN$41.95, £30.99, €24.95 for print edition, ebook edition TBA

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Mastering the Nikon D800 is author and pro photographer Darrell Young's latest in his Mastering the Nikon series as of this review date. Young has specialized in this book series and has several very well received titles under his belt including Mastering the Nikon D90, Mastering the Nikon D300, Mastering the Nikon D700, and Mastering the Nikon D7000. Young has created a book development process which works well for him, with customizations that reflect the particular camera he's writing about and the type of photographer at which the camera is targeted.

Mastering the Nikon D800 is organized in 13 separate sections. The book begins with a hand-holding session as you open up the Nikon box containing your new camera, works through each and every control location, setup menu item, configuration of the camera, custom settings, in-camera photo retouching, exposure controls, white balance, autofocus, Live View, videography, and the use of Nikon Speedlight flash units (including the built-in pop-up flash on the D800).

In each section, Young breaks down every feature, function, configuration, control and setting, offering his experienced, related references and usage advice, and then provides a general conclusion at the end of the section. The conclusion in each section is essentially contextual advice which briefly summarizes the section and provides an overview, helping to put all of the preceding information into usable perspective.

Mastering the Nikon D800 is meant to be read and worked through with a D800 or D800E at your side so that you can immediately make control references, set up the camera to your liking, and most important, work through all of the features, functions, the remarkable autofocus system, and so on, in a way that will make you thoroughly familiar with the camera and its capabilities.



In addition to the table of contents, foreword by founders J. Ramón Palacios & Bo Stahlbrandt, and an index reference, Mastering the Nikon D800 consists of 13 chapters:

  • Camera Setup and Control Reference
  • Playback Menu
  • Shooting Menu
  • Custom Setting Menu
  • Setup Menu
  • Retouch Menu
  • My Menu and Recent Settings
  • Metering, Exposure Modes, and Histogram
  • White Balance
  • Autofocus, AF-Area, and Release Modes
  • Live View Photography
  • Movie Live View
  • Speedlight Flash

The book contains lots of camera menu screen shots, sample photos and reference tables. Young accepted submissions by members of the web site for chapter opening photos, and many of the selected photos are very good - something which helps begin each chapter with a bit of photographic inspiration.

The finished quality of the printed edition is excellent, with great color screens, very clean printing, excellent typeface clarity and good quality paper stock. If you're going to do print books, might as well pay attention to quality. The ebook version - not quite ready when this review was written - will be available alone for Kindle, Nook, etc., and in a bundle with the print edition.

The writing style and use of language is friendly and relaxed. Young obviously has done some teaching over the years because he addresses each section of the book and camera with a calm, measured efficiency which only barely conceals his enthusiasm for the subject of photography and the Nikon D800/D800E in particular.


Camera at hand or by your side, sit down with the book. Work through the book in order. Start with chapter 1 and go through each and every setting and configuration, and experiment with the camera as detailed in the book. When you're tired, stop and do something else. If you come back to it the next day, do a quick review of the effort from the previous day, then continue where you left off. Do this, and you'll very quickly become intimately familiar not only with the Nikon D800, but also with the ways in which it can initially be put to best use for the sort of photography you prefer. Even if you've been using a Nikon D800 for some time already, I still recommend you work through the book from start to finish with your camera by your side.


Almost every photographer who owns a Nikon D800 will easily glean information of value from the book. There's nothing quite like a professional photographer and skilled writer who spends several months dedicated to investigating every aspect of a powerful digital SLR camera, testing, checking, analyzing, experimenting and producing an enormous number of photos in an effort to deeply understand the capabilities of the camera and to push the camera to its limits. That's what Young does to prepare for a book, and it shows.

I review a lot of photography books. Frankly, because of that, few camera-specific books hold much new for me. As usual with Darrell Young's efforts though, even for a jaded reviewer like me the book offers more than enough (e.g., I like the depth Young goes to in chapter 8 "Metering, Exposure Modes, and Histogram" and in chapter 10 "Autofocus, AF-Area and Release Modes" and chapter 6 "Retouch Menu" with a heavy load of screen shots showing the effects of various retouch functions) to be well worth the purchase price. I rate the book an excellent value.

Cons: No lay-flat binding, so you're going to need a sturdy bookmark. Frankly, I'd rather have a spiral-bound edition even though that sort of finished print product is kind of sloppy looking. No downloadable ebook edition to accompany the print edition as of the date of this review. An ebook edition for Kindle, Nook, etc., is on the way - which is great - but RockyNook and Nikonians Press should consider doing ebook releases concurrent with the release of the print edition.

Pros: Every copy of Mastering the Nikon D800 comes with a coupon page containing a discount code for 50% off the Gold membership level at I've been a Nikonians member for years - the membership discount is a great deal and a nice little spiff. Darrell Young has made a dedicated effort over the years to delve rationally and deeply into a series of Nikon digital SLR cameras in order to give them a startlingly thorough workout, and then write about his experiences from the standpoint of an accomplished photographer who is essentially teaching you all about the camera and its capabilities. Young's extensive knowledge of Nikon digital SLR photo and video cameras is evident throughout the book. Young states clearly up front that, "Because the Nikon D800 and D800E are cameras for advanced users, this book assumes you have knowledge of basic things like depth of field, lens focal length and angle of view, and how the aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity control exposure." The point is well made and saves enthusiast, intermediate, advanced and pro photographers from having to deal with, potentially, a hundred pages of useless beginner text - pages which are instead dedicated to more advanced information. Mastering the Nikon D800 is designed to be a deeply detailed guide for intermediate, advanced and pro camera users interested in thoroughly familiarizing themselves with the camera, and it works brilliantly that way. You'll be fully up-to-speed with the Nikon D800 in no time at all. Highly recommended.

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