Nikon D810 Shooting Experience

By Barnaby Britton

Anyone who has ever used a Nikon D800/E or, for that matter, a D700, D7100 or D4 could pick up the D810 and feel completely at home. The upgrade from 800 to 810 is almost entirely internal: exterior controls and ergonomics are little changed. I didn't find much to complain about in how the D800 handled, and the D810 offers a very pleasant experience overall. Load the camera up with some high-quality glass and it becomes pretty big and heavy pretty quickly but that's the price you pay for using a full-frame DSLR in preference to a mirrorless system. It's been a while since I went out shooting with a full-sized DSLR and multi-lens kit, and I must say that I have not missed the shoulder and neck pain.

Nikon describes the D810's 36MP full-frame sensor as 'new' and it's most likely an improved version of the one we've seen in the D800/E and the Sony A7R. Like the latter camera, the D810 lacks an optical low-pass filter for optimal resolution.

That said, having taken a look though my first batch of images from the D810, in my opinion it's a price worth paying. The D810's image quality is incredibly good. Compared to the D800, images from the D810 look like they've had a veil removed (and bear in mind that images from the D800 look very nice). As I'd hoped, Nikon has tweaked the D810's JPEG processing to deliver sharper-looking, more detailed files than the D800, more in line with those from the D800E. This is good news, although for D800 shooters it might leave a slightly bitter taste in the mouth (there's really no reason why the D800's JPEGs couldn't look sharper, too with tweaked firmware).

Putting history behind us, where it belongs, the point is that the D810's image quality is top-notch. At low ISOs shooting at wide-ish apertures with a good lens, detail capture is fantastic. It's not an exaggeration to say that the D810 really does approach medium-format digital cameras for image quality, assuming of course that you're prepared to invest in the best lenses.

ISO 64 - JPEG (100% crop)

ISO 64 - Adjusted raw (click for original)

As far as noise is concerned, the D810 can be considered effectively noise free until around ISO 1000 in JPEGs but even at ISO 6400 and upwards there's still plenty of detail and noise is fairly easily dealt with in Raw files if you're prepare to put a little time into post-processing.

ISO 320

100% crop

ISO 3200

100% crop

ISO 25,600

100% crop

The maximum effective ISO sensitivity of the D810 is one stop higher than the D800/E and my impression of image quality at the higher ISO settings is that the newer camera probably is roughly one stop better although this difference is only really noticeable once you get up above ISO 3200.