Nikon D810 First Impressions Review
Two years after Nikon shook up the high-end DSLR market with the 36MP D800 and D800E, it has consolidated the 800-series with the release of a new camera, the D810. The D810 replaces both previous 800-series models, and will be offered at an MSRP of $3299 - about the same as the D800E, and a little more than the D800. Why is the D810 priced like the D800E, and not the D800? Well, the D810 takes the D800E's 'AA filter cancellation' trick one step further by dispensing with an AA filter entirely, which should result in a camera that offers greater resolution than either of the two models that it replaces.
Anti-aliasing filter aside, the D810 is not by any means a reinvention of the popular D800/E concept, but the handful of major changes should make the new camera more capable than its predecessors. Perhaps more importantly, they should also make the camera more attractive to potential buyers who have been weighing up whether or not to jump into full-frame. The D810 isn't a camera that you should necessarily sell your D800 or D800E for, but it's a better camera than both older models - at least on paper.
Following Nikon's general philosophy a few of the refinements made in the D4S have trickled down into the D810 and videographers especially should be pleased with a couple of the additions to its video feature set. Other welcome changes include a redesigned shutter and mirror mechanism to mitigate resolution-reducing shock from shutter actuation, and a new S-Raw mode for reduced-resolution raw capture (Nikon owners have been asking for that one for years).
Nikon D810: Key Specifications
- 36.3MP Full-frame CMOS sensor (no AA filter)
- ISO 64-12,800 (expands to ISO 32-51,200)
- Electronic first-curtain shutter and redesigned mirror mechanism
- New 'RAW Size S' 9MP Raw mode
- Expeed 4 engine
- Max 5fps shooting in FX mode, 7fps in DX (with battery grip + EN-EL18 / AA batteries)
- 3.2in 1,229k-dot RGBW LCD screen with customizable color
- OLED viewfinder information display
- Improved Scene Recognition System allows face detection in OVF mode
- 'Split screen zoom' display in live view allows horizons/lines to be leveled precisely
- 51-point AF system with new 'Group Area AF' mode (inherited from D4S)
- New 'flat' Picture Control mode (intended to appeal to videographers)
- Auto ISO available in manual exposure mode
- Zebra strips for exposure checking in video mode
- Uncompressed HDMI output with simultaneous recording to memory card
- Built-in stereo microphone
D800 and D800E: Two become one...
In testing, we found that the practical difference in raw detail reproduction between the D800 and D800E was minimal except in a very narrow range of circumstances - specifically, tripod-mounted short shutter duration shooting at wide apertures with prime lenses.
As such, if two models must be consolidated into one, it makes sense for that single model to offer the highest possible resolution. We can only hope that Nikon has given the D810 the same sharper, more detailed JPEGs that it (apparently arbitrarily) gave the D800E, which were significantly more print-ready than those from the D800 for no obvious reason at all beyond justifying the extra $300 MSRP.
Some people might not have been entirely sure why Nikon released the D800 and D800E as separate models two years ago. Our take on it at the time was that the D800E offered some advantages, sometimes, but if you weren't too bothered you could be perfectly happy with the D800 and you'd have saved a little cash. Perhaps now, after success with the D7100 and D5300 the company felt more confident about omitting the AA filter from its highest-resolution body - albeit naturally at the risk of more moiré than we'd expect from the D800 and possibly also the D800E.
D810 versus D800/E: Specification highlights
- 36.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor with no AA filter (D800E has effects of AA filter 'canceled')
- 5fps maximum shooting in FX mode (compared to 4fps in D800/E)
- New 'Group Area AF' mode (5 AF points can act together)
- New electronic first-curtain shutter and redesigned sequencer/mirror balancer to reduce vibrations
- New 'highlight-weighted' metering option (to preserve highlight detail in contrasty scenes)
- 1080/60p movie recording with built-in stereo mic (compared to 1080/30p with monaural audio)
- 3.2" 1,229k-dot RGBW LCD screen (compared to 3.2" 921k-dot RGB)
- Power aperture available while shooting video to SD/CF card (compared to only when using HDMI)
- The ability to record to memory card while simultaneously outputting video over HDMI
- New 'flat' Picture Control mode (intended for videographers who need broader dynamic range)
- Unlimited continuous shooting (previously 100-frame limit)