We'd all like to get as much "perfect" in camera and have no PP wouldn't we?
Yes, but... (ain't there always a catch?) Different people have different ideas of what "perfect in camera" means. I personally configure the camera with the absolute certainty that I will post process all images. A perfect in the camera image is one that allows me to best manipulate it in post processing. For me there is no such thing as using a Straight Out Of Camera image. I shudder at the thought... :-)
Other people work differently, and do what works best for their needs.
I'd like to do a small personalised photo book on birds for the grandkids, something like "The Birds in Grandad's Garden" I've counted around 15 different species so far. If I can get some good images and a paragraph of basic text?
That is an astounding project.
I've just taken delivery, and don't have it operational yet (but occasionally used such a device 15-20 years ago at work), of a "binding machine". This thing will do spiral bound one off books, and the one I bought can do dozens too without too much stress. Books for individual kids is one distinct possibility! And with the spiral binding the books can lay flat and they can easily read the text on one page and examine a photo on the opposite page.
My purpose wasn't one off books like that, but now that you mention it my mind is churning with ideas! I'm a great-grandparent, so there is a huge range of potential. Thanks for the ideas!
The big one is upgrades of my "historic" equipment. Bodies I'm thinking D7100 for birding (DX 2x crop factor, big resolution and better noise handling) and D600 (FX and resolution, noise handling and all round improvement) I know there are oil/dust issues with the D600 but the D610 seems a rip off with additional couple of hundred quid to fix the D600 issues.
Its either these 2 or the D800E. I can get both for about the same price and I have been advised the 800 is not fast enough for wildlife. I'm not convinced but the advantages of 2 rigs seems appealing. Its just a matter of saving up the money! If I can accrue enough quickly then I'll go D610 and D7100.
I use a D4 and a D800. The D800 gets the call about 75% of the time, but if I were allowed only one camera it would be the D4.
Personally I have no need for a D800E. I could go into lengthy technical reasons (the only real difference is ease of post processing with the D800 and an unmeasureable much less noticeable difference in Signal to Noise Ratio at spatial frequencies close to the Nyquist Limit), but basically the D800E doesn't do anything of value for me.
I agree that if you need a high frame rate, and for your style of bird photography it is useful, the D800 is slow. However, it is faster than the D600 or the D7100 (I haven't looked at the D610 manual yet). Only the D4 is faster, and it is blazingly faster.
The issue isn't actually frame rate though. All of those cameras have frame rates from 5 to 7, but the problem is how many images will fit into the buffer and how long it takes to dump the buffer to the memory card. The D7100 appears to have a smaller buffer by maybe half than the D600, which is only slightly smaller than the D800. The numbers for compressed NEF files are hard to evaluate, and I expect that the most useful number for comparison regardless of how you actually shoot is the number for JPEG Fine Large images. The D7100 can buffer 33, the D800 56, and the D600 57. Why the D600 is more I don't know, but it must have a faster JPEG engine as the number of NEF compressed 14 bit files is 20 for the D800 and 16 for the D600.
Regardless, the point is that unless you spring for a D4 there just really isn't much variation with the FF models, but they are faster to operate than the D7100.
However, there is a much bigger issue with the full frame models. Only the D800 has enough pixels to make using it in DX mode valid. And using the D800 or any of the others in FX mode means your 300mm lens is petty short. You'll need to look for at least a 400mm or even longer lens. So in addition to the price of the camera there is the price of more glass. The older 80-400mm AF-D is now relatively lower in cost on the used market, but it is just barely suitable too. It isn't as sharp as you'd like at 400mm, and the AF is very old and slow. The newer 80-400mm is more expensive (I haven't tried one yet, so can't really speak to it). And older 400mm, 500mm or 600mm lenses are very nice, but still very expensive too. Perhaps a D600 and the new 80-400mm AFS lens are the most cost effective with high quality. I'd rather spend a little more and get the highest quality, with a D800 and the 80-400mm AFS lens. You could use the D800 in DX mode with the 300mm lens until the piggy bank is ready for the 80-400mm AFS lens. You don't suffer too bad even to start with, and in the end have an exceedingly nice set of equipment.
I use a 400mm f/2.8, often with a 1.4 or 2.0 TC. It's too big to just carry around though, at least for an old guy that can't walk far anyway. I shoot a lot from a 4-wheel ATV and bounce around on the Arctic tundra for hours. A camera/lens combination that I can grab and shoot is nice, and the 400mm f/2.8 does not fit that description at all. I end up running around with the old 80-400mm lens more often by far.
Manual exposure in my preference for anything normally, but my experience in this garden is that auto ISO helps. Its limited to 1600 so to be able to go any where near ISO 12,800 would change my approach considerably. I could expose to the right easily.
With any of the newer models you will really love using Manual Exposure mode with Auto ISO turned on!