Nikon D810 Review
|Full model name:||Nikon D810|
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Dimensions:||5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 in.
(146 x 123 x 82 mm)
|Weight:||34.9 oz (988 g)
|Full specs:||Nikon D810 specifications|
Nikon D810 Review -- Hands-on Preview
08/25/14: Shooter's Report Part I: The quest for sunshine and razor-sharp detail!
In early 2012, Nikon started a trend with the launch of the D800E, a full-frame digital SLR which did without a resolution-robbing optical low-pass filter in the quest for maximum resolution. That's a change which has since swept the industry, with OLPF-free cameras available at all levels -- professional, enthusiast, and even the entry-level.
Now, Nikon follows up with the D810, a camera which shares much with its predecessor -- but there are some very important differences. Perhaps the most important of the bunch is one of strategy. The Nikon D800E's move away from a low-pass filter was a bold one at the time, and the company hedged its bets with the Nikon D800, a simultaneously-launched model that was near-identical, save for the inclusion of a low-pass filter.
This time around, there is no such equivalent for the Nikon D810. With a refinement of the same 36.3-megapixel image sensor from the D800 and D800E, along with a next-generation EXPEED 4 image processor -- not to mention a market populated by photographers who now have a better handle on the moiré and false-color implications of foregoing that OLPF -- Nikon is clearly confident in the D810's ability to stand alone.
So what's new in the Nikon D800E? We've already mentioned that both image sensor and processor are new, but specifically, the Nikon D810's FX-format CMOS image sensor has improved microlenses for better light-gathering capabilities, yet is also said to have a lower base sensitivity of ISO 64 equivalent. Coupled with the new EXPEED 4 image processor, which is said to offer 30% greater performance and superior noise-reduction processing, the Nikon D810 bests its predecessors for sensitivity not only at the bottom end of the range, but also at the top. The standard range is now ISO 64 to 12,800 equivalents, expandable to encompass everything from ISO 32 to 51,200 equivalents.
Nikon also promises even greater resolution from the newly-designed sensor than it managed with that in the D800E, perhaps because of the fact that it no longer needed to take into consideration an OLPF-equipped variant of the camera. And the new EXPEED 4 processor also allows a one frame per second improvement in burst performance across the board, to a maximum of five frames per second at full resolution, or 7 fps with a DX-format crop and the optional MB-D12 Multi Power Battery Pack attached.
And there are other important differences in the Nikon D810's components. There's a new mirror sequencer / balancer unit, for example, that's designed to better-control vibration, and the rear-panel LCD monitor now has four dots per pixel, adding an extra white dot to the existing red, green and blue. That allows either a brighter, better-visible display when shooting outdoors, or power savings when shooting in lower ambient light. And the TTL pentaprism optical viewfinder has also been revisited, gaining a new prism coating for better clarity, along with an Organic LED status display panel that's brighter and easier to read.
The body itself has also been redesigned, featuring a deeper, more comfortable grip and some minor tweaks to controls. And smaller improvements like these abound throughout: there's a new electronic first-curtain shutter function when shooting in live view or mirror lockup modes, for example. Nikon has also added a new highlight-weighted exposure metering option, as well as a new Picture Control called "Flat", aimed at those who want to color-grade and match output from multiple different cameras. There's even a space-saving, reduced-resolution raw format.
Videographers get plenty of love, too, with lots of new features that will make the Nikon D810 an even more interesting proposition for video capture. (And Nikon is clearly banking on significant sales in this area, offering two specific product bundles aimed specifically at video shooters.) Changes include the ability to record video to the camera's own memory cards at the same time as outputting uncompressed HDMI for capture with an external device, and to use the Power Aperture function while recording to internal cards.
There's also a new stereo built-in mic, a wind cut filter function, zebra stripes, and more. And those new highlight-weighted metering and flat Picture Control functions we mentioned previously? They apply to video, too.
The Nikon D810 is priced at around US$3,300 body-only, and expected to ship in late July 2014. Pricing for the video-specific Nikon D810 kits wasn't available at press time, though our affiliates are offering the Nikon D810 "Film Maker's Kit" with AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED, AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G and AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G lenses for around US$5,000 on pre-order.
Pre-order the Nikon D810 from one of Imaging Resource's trusted affiliates:
- Nikon D810 Body-only, US$3,296.95: ADORAMA | AMAZON | B&H
- Nikon D810 Film Maker's Kit with 3 lenses, US$4,996.95: ADORAMA | AMAZON | B&H
Let's take a closer look at the Nikon D810!
Nikon D810 Walkaround
At first glance, the new Nikon D810 is not altogether that dissimilar from the Nikon D800 or D800E models that preceded it. In fact, without the D810 emblem on the front, you'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it -- and the ergonomics and design of the D800 / D800E were already quite pleasant and well regarded, so not much needed changing with this new model.
However, there are a few more subtle tweaks and adjustments, as well as a couple new features added to the D810, the first of which is a slightly slimmer and deeper contoured handgrip. While the original model was certainly comfortable, the handgrip was quite substantial, and perhaps those photographers with smaller hands wished for a camera that was easier to hold.
With the D810, Nikon has carved out a bit more space between the lens mount and inner side of the handgrip, making it easier to wrap your hand around the camera. Not a striking change, but it's definitely noticeable when comparing the old and new cameras side-by-side.
Looking along the front face of the camera, nothing has really changed from the older model. The forward-angled On/Off switch and shutter release button sit atop the newly-contoured handgrip, with the familiar front control dial sitting comfortably at your fingertip. Nikon has kept the two customizable function buttons next to the lens mount for easy access, though the top-most is now labeled as a depth-of-field preview button.
Looking closely along the upper section from the face of the camera, to the right of the AF assist lamp you can see a row of microphone holes. Nikon has added built-in stereo mics to the D810, where the D800 and D800E had monaural mics. The left-channel mic port is in its normal spot under the "D810" logo on the left-hand side of the lens mount.
Also on the right-hand side of the front is the standard flash sync terminal cover and 10-pin remote terminal cover. Then we have the obvious lens-release button, and Nikon's familiar AF-mode switch/button at the left-facing base of the lens mount area.
Moving to the top plate of the camera, things are nearly identical to the previous model. The major changes are that the Metering Mode button gets a promotion to the main four-button cluster atop the Drive Mode dial on the left. It takes the spot of the Bracketing Mode button, which has a new location on the left side of the camera, above the Flash Mode button. The locking Drive Mode dial's release button sits in its usual spot right in front of the dial.
Everything else about the top plate of the camera will be familiar territory to D800 and D800E owners. There's the large Info LCD screen on the right side, with Exposure Mode button, Movie Record button and Exposure Compensation button out in front, along with Shutter release and On/Off switch. Then, of course, there's the built-in pop-up flash and standard hot-shoe for Speedlights, remote triggers and external mics.
The rear face of the Nikon D810 has a few minor tweaks, the most prominent of which is the inclusion of Nikon's "i" button. As seen on other recent DSLRs like the D5300 and D7100, the "i" button allows for quick visual access to a whole host of settings and exposure adjustments, both when shooting with the optical viewfinder or in live view mode.
In live view, pressing the "i" button activates a side panel along the right side of the screen for quick access to things like crop mode, picture profile, and image bitrate, among other things. If you're shooting video, you can make changes in real-time during recording for various settings using the "i" menu.
The other change seen at the rear of the camera is the addition of the Quiet Continuous mode to the Drive Mode dial, just as Nikon did on the D610 and D7100 cameras. This mode allows photographers to get a burst of photos more quietly than standard continuous mode (albeit at a slower frame rate) for sound-sensitive subjects such as skittish wildlife, live performances or press conferences.
The Nikon D810 keeps the D800's large 3.2-inch TFT-LCD screen, but it's been upgraded to a 1,229K-dot resolution RGBW panel. The RGBW display -- which includes white subpixels, as well as the traditional red, green and blue -- can be brighter than standard screens, but can also emphasize efficiency instead, saving power from the backlight.
And finally for the rear panel, there's the optical eye-level pentaprism viewfinder, which provides approximately 100% vertical and horizontal coverage of the frame in FX mode and 97% coverage in DX or 1.2x crop mode. Inside the OVF, Nikon has upgraded the info display screen to an OLED display for increased visibility, like that on the D7100. It has also changed prism coatings for better clarity through the viewfinder.
Moving to the sides of the camera, the memory card door on the right-hand side of the camera -- which still houses dual Secure Digital and CompactFlash card slots -- is now coated in the same rubberized grip material as the rest of the camera body. On the left-side of the camera, while the D810 still sports the same array of ports -- a 3.5mm mic jack, 3.5mm headphone jack, USB 3.0 port and Type-C Mini HDMI port -- the covers for these ports are now individualized, whereas the D800 and D800E kept these ports under one large rubbery-plastic flap.
On the left side of the camera, you can better see the re-positioned Bracketing Mode button, just under the pop-up flash. Below this new button is the standard Flash Mode button, then the AF Mode switch/button further below at the base of the lens mount. Near the tip-top of the pop-up flash is the Flash Activation button, for raising the flash unit.
Nikon D810 Shooter's Report Part I
The quest for sunshine and razor-sharp detail
Although I'll happily shoot with just about any camera you care to hand me, I am first and foremost an SLR shooter. I'm a big fan of the optical viewfinder, and I like a camera body that feels molded to my hands. Although I haven't yet gone full-frame -- I can't personally justify the cost, in part because I spend a lot of time shooting with the cameras I'm reviewing, rather than my own personal cameras -- I'd love to switch to a full-frame camera at some point.
The Nikon D810, then, is a camera whose design speaks to me.
As far as I'm concerned, you just can't can't beat a big, bright through-the-lens viewfinder image for the sense of attachment it gives to your subject. (I find it doubly nice when shooting active subjects, as I can keep both eyes open, framing with one and anticipate my subject with the other. That doesn't work as well with an EVF, because the lag inherent in an electronic view of the world means both eyes aren't seeing quite the same thing.)
On paper at least, the Nikon D810 is a camera made after my own heart. What did I think after spending some time shooting with it? Read on and find out!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.