The detailed technical explanations in the book seem to have been designed to work photographers far enough into digital photography and digital video technology that they'll understand much more clearly how the technical implementation of still image and video capture is impacted by configuration changes, focusing techniques, manipulation of exposure settings, customization of color settings and so on. Hogan has taken the approach that a photographer who understands how the technology in these incredible cameras works, is mostly likely going to evolve into a photographer who will make better photos and video. I think he's correct.
The book is divided into four large sections:
- D800/D800E Background (things you should know and consider before buying the camera, including an extensive discussion about the relative merits of the main competing cameras)
- Shooting Pictures with the D800 (every feature and function of the camera explained and discussed, with recommendations provided)
- Shooting Video with the D800/D800E (things you need to know while using camera to take video)
- After Taking Pictures or Video with the D800 (things you need to know and do after you've taken your pictures)
Hogan includes a large number of tables to help organize his feature/function and configuration explanations and recommendations. In most respects, Hogan has written a definitive guide which very effectively renders almost completely irrelevant the printed user manual that Nikon supplies with the camera .
The very first section of the book includes a thoughtful, well researched and technically understandable discussion of the recent history and evolution of the advanced Nikon digital SLR cameras. Don't skip the section. It provides a technical and creative context for the enormous number of different types of photography which you can successfully pursue with the D800 or D800E.
I feel strongly that the book is aimed primarily at enthusiast, intermediate or better photographers, serious amateur and avid hobbyist photographers, and experienced professional photographers. However, if relative digital SLR newbies are willing to devote the time and concentration needed to make good use of D800 or D800E cameras in the first place, then the Complete Guide to the Nikon D800 and D800E can work exceedingly well for them too.
Whomever you are though, sit yourself down with the book and your D800 or D800E, then work your way through each and every feature and function in the camera using the book as a settings and configuration guide. Do it all in the order in which it's all laid out in the book. It may take days (or even a week or slightly more, depending on the time you have available). Don't skip around. I made some configuration setting changes to my own D800 while working through the book for this review.
When you've completed a initial setup of your D800 or D800E, the PDF book file can thereafter be used on a portable device (e.g., iPhone or iPad, Blackberry smartphone or PlayBook, Android smartphone or tablet, laptop, netbook, etc.) as a quick or spot reference.
Forget about the book being 851 pages in length. In this case, it's big because it has to be; the D800 and D800E are extremely complex cameras. Read the book as recommended, with a D800 or D800E by your side, and those pages will fly by surprisingly fast. The book is well organized, detailed and concisely written. Hogan makes no pretense of catering to absolutely all skill levels, although the opening pages include clear mention of photography novices who definitely want to move up in the world. The book - PDF though it is - has turned out quite large enough thank you, and would not benefit from the boatload of rudimentary extras which would be needed if the author kicked open the doors to all novices and beginners. Frankly too, the D800/D800E cameras are not aimed anywhere near beginners or first time digital SLR camera owners. The PDF is fully formatted with sidebar linking to every section and subsection, in addition to table of contents linking. That means once you've done your first pass through the book to fully address your camera, the PDF can then be used as a spot reference. At US$29.99 the book is a steal.
Cons: Hogan hints at the book's possible usefulness for digital SLR newbies (people coming from point & shoot and film), but his main camera comparison is (appropriately enough) between the Nikon D800 and the older D700, hardly a familiar reference point for digital SLR novices or beginners. Possibly the author had in mind that some newbies contemplating the D800 might benefit from the knowledge that they might be better off choosing a D700 instead, but the point is likely moot (except with respect to the used camera market) because as of this writing the D700 has been discontinued by Nikon. There are comparisons to the D700 further along in the book as well, which again are liable to leave novices and digital SLR newbies scratching their heads. On page 35, the "Do You Need a D800?" subsection is poorly titled since it is highly unlikely that readers will spend US$29.99 on Hogan's book unless they've already got a D800 or D800E either in-hand or on order.
Pros: Thom Hogan knows how to write. His years of rather literate blogging and the time he has spent writing previous Nikon camera guides and photography guides clearly shows well. The benefits of Hogan's successful professional photography experience litter the book in the form of advice and recommendations most pages. The Complete Guide to the Nikon D800 and D800E reads very well as a result. Either Hogan is a natural at this sort of writing or he has used quite a few test readers during his editorial process because the pace, generally very clean prose, and carefully written, straightforward detail in even the most conceptually or technically difficult sections is easy to read and understand. The way in which the book is organized (and you really should read the book in the order in which it is presented, with your D800 or D800E by your side) leads photographers along in a measured, interesting and educational manner. It will likely take a few days to get through the book, camera by your side, but when you're done you'll be able to get out and start making great photos confident that the extremely powerful and complex camera is correctly set up.
The subsections devoted to autofocus settings, replete with Hogan's recommendations and explanations about each setting and its configuration, will likely immediately improve the quality of photos made by most intermediate, amateur and enthusiast shooters. No doubt some pros will benefit as well, especially because Hogan has an intimately precise knowledge of the ways in which Nikon's autofocus technology and sensors work best. Similarly, the subsections devoted to flash settings will probably help elevate the work of most photographers who use the on-board flash or one of Nikon's many external flash units. These two coverages alone are worth the price of the book. Add in the subsections on matrix metering and the other metering modes, and I think Thom Hogan has earned the right to say the book is a complete success and an excellent value. For budding videophiles, the video section provides the clearest possible explanation of how to set up the camera for various uses (from home movies to broadcast footage), and will disabuse you of any confusion between the D800 and the last camcorder you owned. The explanations of video settings and the related discussion about video file formats, compression, frame rates and bit rates, in particular, will clear up a lot of confusion for many photographers who are now getting into serious video.
Hogan's experience and skill have earned for him a successful career as a photographer. His blogging and writing seems to concentrate that wealth of successful experience into books that extend far beyond the printed manuals Nikon provides for the D800/D800E and its other camers. If you own a Nikon D800 or D800E and you're wondering how on earth you're ever going to learn all about it in some reasonable amount of time, Thom Hogan's Complete Guide to the Nikon D800 and D800E will thoroughly demystify the camera and make you completely familiar with it. Hogan explains what all the D800/D800E features, functions and configuration settings do, but also explains how they function and the situations in which certain settings work best. That depth of attention may help make you a better photographer or videographer. Highly recommended reading for every D800 or D800E owner. We like this one a lot.