Benchmark Performance: Nikon D810 review
Two years after Nikon shook up the high-end DSLR market with the 36MP D800 and D800E, it consolidated the 800-series with the release of a new camera, the D810. The D810 replaced both previous 800-series models, and took the D800E's 'AA filter cancellation' trick one step further by dispensing with an AA filter entirely. As of May 2016, the D810 is available for $2,796.95.
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 do make the new camera more capable than its predecessors. The D800/E were known for their massive Raw dynamic range, and the D810's ISO 64 mode improves on this. An electronic front curtain shutter guarantees sharp images in Mup mode, and the redesigned mirror mechanism reduces image-softening mirror slap. Continuous AF algorithms have been refined.
These and many other changes 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 in almost every respect.
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
- 91,000-pixel RGB metering sensor for advanced subject tracking and metering
- 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 for massive dynamic range capture (video-focused)
- Auto ISO available in manual exposure movie mode
- Zebra stripes 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, at the risk of increased moiré. One area in particular the D800 fell behind was in JPEG detail: D800E JPEGs looked far sharper, and it wasn't just due to the OLPF differences. Thankfully, our studio testing shows the D810 to be more similar to the D800E than D800 in this regard, but it's still not the sharpest JPEG engine on the block. We've compiled a list of key differences between the D810 and its predecessor below.
D810 versus D800/E: Specification highlights
- 36.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor with no AA filter (D800E has effects of AA filter 'canceled')
- ISO 64 for industry-leading dynamic range (compared to ISO 100 on D800/E)
- Body redesigned to offer more general grip
- 5 fps maximum shooting rate in FX (compared to 4fps in D800/E)
- 7 fps maximum shooting rate in DX with MB-D12 grip (compared to 6 fps in D800/E)
- New 'Group Area AF' mode (5 AF points can act together with equal priority)
- New electronic first-curtain shutter and redesigned sequencer/mirror balancer to reduce vibrations in Mup mode
- 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)
- Live View magnified view is far more detailed, allowing for accurate manual focus
- 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)
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