Nikon D810 Conclusion

Pro: Cons:
  • Even better ergonomics than the already-great Nikon D800
  • New i-button gives quick access to the most frequently-used settings
  • Excellent image quality
  • Extremely high resolution and per-pixel sharpness
  • Outstanding dynamic range at low sensitivities
  • Very good high ISO performance
  • Wider ISO range from 32 to 51,200 with a lower base ISO of 64
  • Improved burst speed and buffer depths over its predecessor
  • Autofocus works impressively well in vey low light
  • New electronic first-curtain option
  • Good performance from the built-in flash
  • Built-in flash can act as commander to remote flashes
  • Very good OVF coverage, and status display panel is easier to read than in its predecessor
  • LCD monitor is brighter and less power-hungry than that of the D800
  • Excellent battery life
  • Dual card slots
  • Allows uncompressed HDMI output at the same time as recording to the internal card slots
  • Better video feature-set than in its predecessor, including stereo onboard audio, Flat picture control and zebra striping
  • Lack of low-pass filter makes it more prone to moiré with certain subjects (and unlike the D800-series, you can no longer buy a version with a low-pass filter if you want one)
  • Places strong demands on your lens and ability to keep the camera steady or use a high-enough shutter speed, if you really want to extract the maximum detail
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance too warm in tungsten lighting
  • Default saturation, contrast and sharpening a little high for a pro model (though some will prefer the change in JPEG rendering)
  • Wi-Fi connectivity relies on an expensive, external accessory that negates the D810's weather-sealing

In late 2012, Nikon took its camera line to a new resolution high with the D800 and D800E, a pair of closely-related cameras based around a 36-megapixel full-frame image sensor. As we said in our reviews at the time, both cameras impressed mightily, and they went on to be very well-received by photographers seeking the maximum possible detail from their 35mm lenses. The Nikon D810 has some pretty big shoes to fill, as it replaces not one but both of those earlier cameras with a single model.

In terms of its physical design, the Nikon D810 is even better than ever. Its hand grip is noticeably more comfortable, and its tweaked control layout is very well considered, too. The new i-button, in particular, means you'll spend less time fiddling in menus, and more shooting great photos. And whether you shoot through the viewfinder or in live view mode on the rear-panel LCD monitor, there have been some very worthwhile improvements.

Beneath the skin there might seem to be less change, with the same effective resolution as before, provided courtesy of a refinement of the same sensor used in both earlier cameras. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, because the D800 and D800E stood in a class of their own, unchallenged by archrival Canon in their lifetimes. If you were hooked on the quest for more resolution, the D800E gave it to you in spades -- and the Nikon D810 is, if anything, just a little more detail-hungry than its predecessors. It's also more capable than before as a video shooter, which is a good thing given that still photographers are more likely than ever these days to be asked to provide video from their shoots.

Of course, the D810 does now, finally, have full-frame competition in the form of the Sony A7R mirrorless camera and Canon's EOS 5DS and 5DSR DSLRs. But if you need a thru-the lens optical viewfinder, then the Sony is ruled out, while Canon's offerings have, as of this writing, not yet hit the market and are hence something of an unknown quantity. Nor can these new rivals offer the same broad ISO sensitivity range provided by the D810, leaving it the sole option if both sensitivity and resolution are your primary goals.

And that is where the D810 truly delivers. Not only do you have the superb handling you'd expect of a Nikon DSLR, coupled with the spectacular resolution of the D800 and D800E -- the Nikon D810 gives you all of this plus truly usable high-sensitivity options that, in our testing, bested the Sony A7R to produce usable 8" x 10" prints at all the way up to ISO 25,600. Even at ISO 51,200, we found the D810 quite capable of good 4" x 6" prints -- perhaps even larger, for your less critical shots.

If you're looking for the maximum possible resolution without stepping up to a medium-format camera, and you're not willing to compromise on ISO sensitivity to achieve it, make no bones about it: The Nikon D810 is the camera for you. Like the D800 before it, the Nikon D810 is a clear Dave's Pick!

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