The Nikon D810 marks a distinguished improvement over the previously released D800. Originally released summer 2014, the D810 was the third iteration in Nikon’s D800 series of high-end Digital SLRs aimed primarily at the serious or professional photographer shooting for publication and seeking resolute detail.
At its core, the D810 is a camera focused on evolution not revolution. It melds the best of both the D800 and D800E while simultaneously inherits improvements from Nikon’s flagship D4S, creating a uniquely compelling camera for the price. Today we discuss whether or not the D810 still remains competitive in today’s world of professional-level Digital SLRs. Or whether it’s simply overshadowed by the newer D850.
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What are some of the goods, bads, and the uglies of the Nikon D810?
It offers superb image quality and resolution that, in fact, makes the D810 competitive with the results of the Nikon D4, Canon 5D Mark III and Sony A7II. Not only does it inherit the same 36.3-megapixel sensor from the Sony A7R, but Nikon has also opted to remove the Anti-Aliasing filter and Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) as well. The results of which are stellar RAW images that make this camera ideal for large scale prints or those favoring shooting to crop with immense detail. Not only that, the D810 also shoots 14-bit uncompressed RAW, making resulting images color accurate as well.
It shoots 1080p video at 60 frames per second that offers ample detail and has a built-in flat picture profile, supplying completely unaltered video that allows users to have complete freedom for color grading in post. Having 60fps allows videographers to have both natural looking video compositions while also offering the ability to do slow-motion video, if desired.
The D810 also has a smooth iris control feature, which smooths adjustments to the Aperture to avoid the otherwise harsh changes in exposure that occur otherwise. Overall, this feature is seen to create more subtle transitions leading to more cinematic video recording.
Has built-in auto ISO for video recording, a function that provides both a better dynamic range (post-processing shadow and highlight recovery) and, also, gives photographers greater control of both Aperture and Shutter Speed when shooting in changing environments. It does so by compensating for changes in exposure automatically through ISO. This feature is also extended to time-lapses and the camera now has the ability to perform exposure smoothing, also preventing the exposure from changing dramatically over the duration of the lapse.
It has the ability to simultaneously record to both the internal memory card as well as record uncompressed video to an external recording device.
Has superior autofocusing speed and accuracy. In fact, the D810 inherits the focusing system and abilities from the previously released D4s, Nikon’s Flagship line of high-end digital SLRs. The result of which makes its performance one that outperforms even that of the Canon 5D Mark III. Not only that, the D810 also has face detection metering, both in the viewfinder and in Live View, that focuses and meters directly from the subject’s face.
Outside of that, it has a total of 51 AF points, 15 of which are Cross-Type. And when shot in DX APS-C crop mode, these same 51 AF points cover the entirety of the frame. Low light autofocusing is also improved and the D810 has the ability to focus at -2 EV. Lastly, Group Area AF mode has been introduced and now redesigned to better track comparatively small subjects in high contrast backgrounds.
Has superior native ISO range and noise performance. In fact, the total ISO range has been expanded by one-stop in range, and the D810 now offers a total range of ISO 64 to 12,800, resulting in 3 whole stops of overall dynamic range. Having a native ISO of 64 provides even better image quality and images have markedly less noise in shadows when compared to ISO 100, this occurs because ISO 64 lets in ⅓
less light providing ⅓ greater resolution. Not only that, ISO 64 allows users to shoot during the daytime with faster Apertures or slower Shutter Speeds. Because of this improvement, images at ISO 3,200 are relatively noise free and even at ISO 12,800 this camera outperforms the competition, namely the Canon 5D Mark III.
Battery performance has been improved by 33% over the predecessor and is now rated at 1,200 shots per single charge.
The 3.2” LCD display has been updated and is now an OLED that utilizes the brighter RGBW technology. This LCD also has the ability to be color balanced to an external monitor as well.
The optical viewfinder has been updated with reduced glare and increased sharpness in bright conditions and is now also OLED.
Ergonomics are fantastic, and the overall user interface is simple yet intuitive. Build quality is as good as you’d expect in a $3000+ MSRP camera, and the camera feels solid. The button layout is well executed and the appropriate settings are conveniently placed for quick access. The camera now also has a shallower grip but more pronounced bottom than the predecessor, making it that much more comfortable for prolonged use.
The continuous burst rate has improved by 25% and the standard burst rate is now 5 FPS. Users also have the option to further increase the burst rate by attaching a battery grip which then increases the burst rate of 7 FPS. Alternatively, you can enable the built-in camera magnification of either 1.2X or 1.5X to increase the rate to 6 FPS. Impressive figures considering the file sizes the D810 produces for each image.
Has a built-in APS-C crop mode, allowing users to use DX cropped lenses on this camera without fear of the natural vignette that occurs when using smaller lenses. A benefit for those upgrading from an APS-C camera to their first Full-Frame FX camera who already own a number of these lenses or for those desiring greater versatility in their selection of lenses. Note: placing the camera into APS-C mode reduces the megapixel count, therefore reducing the resolution. If you want to avoid a reduction in resolution then crop the photos in post or use the in-camera magnification.
Has a built-in flash that has the ability to act as a commander for optically triggered remote flashes.
It’s fully weather sealed and it can definitely take a beating from the elements, have no fear there.
Dual Cards slots, one of which is a CF slot and the other is an SD slot, perfect for the serious photographer requiring a camera that has the ability to shoot backups to avoid the catastrophe caused when cards get damaged.
Has a microphone input jack, allowing users to attach an external microphone for better audio capture.
Has a headphone input jack, allowing users to monitor captured audio.
Supports USB 3 and now both file transfer and tethering are supremely fast. Definitely a necessity considering how large each individual image from this camera is.
Has the ability to shoot in RAW S (small), definitely a niche feature that’s more geared towards those who are limited on storage space and want to reduce the overwhelm caused by the 14-bit uncompressed RAW files this camera produces. When enabled, RAW S reduces the RAW files captured to 12 Bit compressed RAW with ½ the resolution and ½ the file size, greatly reducing the storage load.
Has updated exposure metering which places a greater emphasis and weight on highlights, resulting in better overall management of dynamic range and further reduces the likelihood of clipping.
Has an improved in-camera microphone that is now stereo and offers acceptable results when not using external audio recording equipment.
Only records video in 1080p and not 4K. 1080p capture records at 60 FPS but it is limited to 10 minutes of total video recording.
Doesn’t have a joystick, only a D-pad which makes navigating the complex menus of the camera slow.
The main LCD isn’t a touchscreen nor does it articular whatsoever. The D-pad is the only means to navigate, and review images in playback, which means navigating the camera is slow and composing videos solo will also be difficult. Not to mention, composing when shooting at lower or higher angles is also difficult.
Has no built-in Wi-Fi or GPS, with that there’s not remote shooting functionality whatsoever.
Is the Nikon D810 a good starting camera?
Yes absolutely. Granted, this camera is expensive and definitely a camera that is best suited to the serious or professional photographer who is already familiar with the workings of Full-Frame cameras, Digital SLRs in particular. Not only that, the D810 is primarily a photography centeric camera, that places only a slight emphasis on it’s video capabilities. If you’re in the market looking for a video camera, we would encourage looking into other options.
For video specifically, you can get far more features and capabilities at a fraction of the price. Outside of that, for photography, the D810 reigns as one the sharpness and resolution kings. While this camera is more so about evolution rather than revolution, the improvements offered over the previously released D800 and D800E make this camera a worthwhile successor.
Best bundles for the Nikon D810
Is the Nikon D810 a good camera for you?
Yes, depending on your specific needs. The Nikon D810 is definitely a camera aimed primarily at working professionals or serious enthusiasts looking to develop into professionals themselves. Because of this, the camera lacks any traditional features aimed to guide beginning photographers through the complexities of digital photography, namely automatic modes. The results and feature set offered, however, make the D810 a thorough replacement of its predecessors and an exceptional performer in portraiture, landscapes, and commercial work. If you are a working professional, consider upgrading.
In conclusion, the Nikon D810 is really just an evolution of an already fantastic camera, not necessarily a revolution. Yes, while Nikon has opted not to include dramatic changes, the changes made, however, do matter. Of course, the camera has some serious competition these days considering its age. But, we believe that the D810 still remains a contender for the serious photographer looking for their next workhorse camera. And all things considered, it’s still a phenomenal camera even in 2019.
All things considered, the D810 is a phenomenal camera and one that thoroughly replaces its predecessors. It’s one of the Full-Frame Digital SLR cameras that changed the way professional photographers looked at photography. And one that still offers the richness and detail seen in that of a medium format camera. Though it’s definitely a camera geared more toward the working professional or enthusiast, which will make it a challenge for the beginning photographer. The results and feature set offered from this camera still make it within the top professional Full-Frame cameras to date and definitely one to consider for those looking for a camera to meet the demands of the professional.