Nikon D800 file size

D800 File Size

There is a big discussion going on about the D800 file size. A 36MP camera does produce HUGE files. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to shoot a few photos and upload them to my two Macs: a 13inch 2011 MacAir (i5, 4GB RAM) and a 2011 iMac (i5, 8GB RAM). I use Aperture as the main tool in my workflow. Here is what I have learned so far. I am comparing my experience with the old D300s:

d800 file size
This image was cropped and then edited in Nik Silver Efex Pro2


  • The D800 file size is heavily influenced by the RAW settings in the camera. The difference between 14bit uncompressed and 12bit compressed is almost 40MB.
  • Even the JPEGs are over 20MB at the highest resolution.
  • I tried different settings over the weekend: 12bit compressed and 14bit uncompressed.
  • The files transferred quite quickly from my SD card slot to both MAcs.
  • The initial processing Aperture does after importing photos was a bit slower than usual. This did not bother me too much (I imported 50 photos)
  • Opening photos in fullscreen mode is a few seconds slower. This was especially pronounced on the MacAir (surprise!)
  • Standard adjustments were pretty fast – I hardly noticed any difference at all
  • Retouching took a long time on the MacAir. The iMac was much better. Still slower than usual.
  • The loupe on the MacAir is slow. Very slow sometimes, as a matter of fact.
  • I did not notice any significant difference between 12 and 14bit. Speed seemed to be the same…I guess.
  • I use the wonderful NIK plugins for Aperture a lot. Editing the images in NIK was super fast. Hardly any difference. But creating the TIFFs and saving them was extremely slow on the MacAir – we are talking around 60-90s for saving a single image. The iMac was fine. Maybe just a few seconds slower.
  • You need to be careful when you share the photos. Exporting as JPEG at 100% creates huge files, obviously. I created a new preset for emailing photos to take care of that.

Verdict: Yes, the D800 file size does slow the processing workflow down. Not as bad as I had feared, though. Overall, I am happy that my workhorse MacAir is able to get the basics done. The iMac works pretty well. Investing in a new set of HDs is probably in order.

Just a final not about the difference between the 12bit compressed and 14bit uncompressed: I did not notice any difference on my calibrated monitor. But this is just an observation. I might do some tests later this week.

Up next: Uploading and processing RAWs on the iPad2 with Snapseed.


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2 Comments Nikon D800 file size

  1. Ashley February 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I just purchased the Nikon D800 and perform all my editing currently, on my Macbook. I did export a few files even just in JPG yesterday, and the file sizes WERE huge. I would like to shoot in RAW. What do you recommend to make the file sizes SMALLER? Should I do the 12 bit compressed? And how did you create a new preset for e-mailing photos? Any info would be so helpful!
    Ashley- with

    1. cpapenfuss February 27, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      Hi Ashley – Congrats on the purchase. You’ll love the D800. I shoot with 14-bit RAW and lossless compression. The resulting files are somewhere in the 45-55MB range. Back in August of 2012, I switched to Lightroom and now convert all files to DNG. The final size is around 36-44MB. Lightroom seems to handle those files quite well. I have a Macbook Pro with 8GB RAM and store all my files on an attached USB3 drive. So, no complaints there. In terms of exporting, I did create a few presets for Lightroom. That was pretty easy to but it required some experimentation on my side. I ended up with three main presets: Web (for my blog – around 1MB), sharing (for quick file exchanges – around 3-5MB) and then a high quality full resolution one. That works really well.
      If you are really worried about file size, you can also you the new Lightroom compressed DNG feature. I just tested that last weekend and it works quite well. Please feel free to shoot me an email at


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