Nikon D810 Review

Nikon D810 Review

Nikon D810 takes over from D800/D800E

With the D810, Nikon is launching a 35mm DSLR with 36 megapixels resolution in July. It does not require a resolution-reducing low-pass filter and replaces both the D800 and the D800E. Externally identical, Nikon has mainly worked on the inner values: New sensor with extended ISO range, higher video refresh rate, improved autofocus, faster image processor with higher continuous frame rate, higher resolution monitor, etc.

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Greatly improved video features
  • Excellent image quality
  • On-board flash
  • Continuous shooting rate higher than predecessor

Cons

  • Very slow AF in Live View mode
  • No motif programs/automatic modes
  • Control concept that needs getting used to (but is conclusive in itself)
  • Menu confusing due to long scroll lists

Nikon D810 with 24-70 mm 2.8 The Nikon D810 is the successor of both the D800 and D800E. Hard to distinguish externally, many technical details have been improved. [Photo: Nikon]

The Nikon D810 now has the Expeed 4 image processor of the D4S, and the AF field of view control has also been inherited. [Photo: Nikon]

The Nikon D810’s 35mm sensor resolves 36.3 megapixels and offers a sensitivity range from ISO 64 to 12,800 (extended: ISO 32 to 51,200). [Photo: Nikon]

 

The rear screen of the Nikon D810 now offers four instead of three subpixels per true color pixel, making it easier to read in sunlight. [Photo: Nikon]

With the D810, Nikon remains true to its modular housing concept: the multifunction handle is still available separately and the camera alone remains relatively compact at 146 x 123 x 82 mm. A robust magnesium housing is also used, which is sealed against environmental influences by means of numerous seals. But a lot has happened under the hood. Although the resolution remains at 36.3 megapixels, Nikon has redesigned the sensor. As with the D800E, the D810’s CMOS image sensor does not require a low-pass filter, which promises about ten percent more resolution than a camera with a low-pass filter. The new 35 mm sensor (36 x 24 mm) offers a sensitivity range from ISO 64 to 12,800 (D800/D800E: 100-6,400), which can be extended to ISO 32 to 51,200 (D800/D800E: 50-25,600). Also new is the even more powerful image processor Expeed 4, which was already used in the professional model D4S. Not only does it boost the processing speed, it also increases the continuous shooting rate from 4 to 5 frames per second. In the 1.2x Crop or DX format even 6 frames per second are achieved, with multi-function handle MB-D12 and other energy source than the standard battery EN-EL15 there are even 7 frames per second in DX format. An EN-EL18/18a or mignon cell can be used as alternative energy sources in the multifunction lever. But even with the standard EN-EL15 rechargeable battery and without a multifunction handle, Nikon was able to increase battery performance from 900 to 1,200 CIPA-standard shots, which is 33 percent more pictures per battery charge.

The autofocus module was also revised by the Japanese manufacturer, and the Multi-CAM 3500FX continues to operate with 51 measuring fields. It should now work even more precisely and the measuring field group control of the D4S has been added. The mechanical shutter continues to operate in the 1/8,000 to 30 second range with a flash sync time of 1/250 second. Nikon was able to reduce the trigger noise with the help of new drive technology for shutter and mirror, and a new mode for quiet continuous shooting at three frames per second is now available. To reduce camera shake, especially during long exposures, the D810 has an optional electronic first shutter curtain.

The integrated flash can also be used as a master for wireless flashes. And if you can’t do without raw images, but don’t need the high resolution of 36 megapixels, you can fall back on the S-Raw format with reduced resolution at 12 bit color depth, with only half the file size not even a compression is used. With the normal “large” raw format, the user can select the color depth between 12 and 14 bits and switch on lossless compression; but the D810 can also save in JPEG and TIF format. Nikon has added the new Highlight mode to its Exposure Metering System.

Nikon D810 with 24-70mm lens and battery handle. [Photo: Nikon]

Nikon D810 with 24-70mm lens. [Photo: Nikon]

Thanks to the new sensor and faster processor, the D810 now supports Full HD video recording at 24, 25, 30, 50 or 60 frames per second with the video function. Also new are the integrated stereo microphone (previously only mono), a finer gain with selectable frequency spectrum, the marking of a bright area to a zebra pattern, and the option to adjust the aperture during video recording and automatically adjust the ISO sensitivity when the aperture and shutter speed are selected manually. The HDMI interface allows the video signal to be output uncompressed, even when recording to the memory card.

The rear screen still has a diagonal of 3.2 inches or eight centimeters, but the resolution is now 1.23 million pixels instead of 921,000. The nominally higher resolution provides better brightness thanks to the RGBW matrix, the sharpness of detail remains identical to the RGB screen with 921,000 pixels. A pixel no longer consists of only one green, one red and one blue subpixel, but also of one white subpixel. The pentaprism viewfinder also shows a 0.7x magnified image with 100 percent field coverage and an exit pupil of 17 millimeters. The memory card slot still offers two slots, so that an SD card and a CF card (type I) can be operated together. CF supports the UDMA standard, SD also supports the SDHC and SDXC standards.

In spite of the many new functions, which among other things increase the menu of the individual functions to 65 options, Nikon was able to reduce the weight of the camera by 20 grams to now 980 grams ready for operation including battery.

This is unusual: Nikon replaces the previous full-frame D800 and D800E cars after only 24 and 18 months respectively. Usually, cameras in this category remain on the market for several years before a successor model is released. But this is exactly what Nikon announced recently with the D810. So it’s hardly surprising that the D810 isn’t a revolutionary new camera, but first and foremost gently develops the concept of the D800/D800E. In addition, it takes over a number of functions that Nikon recently introduced with the D4S, such as the new Expeed 4 image processing processor. Like the D800E, the D810 does without a low-pass filter that minimizes Moiré, but also limits the resolution.

Ergonomics and workmanship

Although the Nikon D810 replaces the D800 and D800E models, you have to take a close look to distinguish the new model from its predecessors. There is a small change, for example, in the switch group on the left above the selector wheel for the frame-sequence mode: It now allows quick access to the metering method of the light meter, but the button for configuring the exposure series had to give way. Similarly small, but quite interesting in detail, are the new features, so that this compact test shows what Nikon has changed and improved in the D810 compared to the D800/D800E. We tested the D800 extensively in the past, and this camera is from more than a decade ago, about 2012.

Anyone who has worked with the D800/D800E so far will immediately feel at home with the new D810. The camera may seem a bit bulky, but it lies like a glove in the hand. Although Nikon hasn’t changed the shape and dimensions of the case, the D810 has become a few grams lighter. What has remained is the formidable optical viewfinder, which covers 100 percent of the field of view and is large and bright. Nikon has improved the display: Although it stays at a diagonal of 3.2 inches, the monitor can’t be tilted or folded as usual. But the resolution now increases to 1,229,000 dots because white pixels are added to the usual RGB subpixels.

They ensured that the monitor display is even brighter and more brilliant than its predecessor. This is particularly noticeable during Live View operation in bright sunshine. In Live View, a new function has been added with “Split Screen Zoom”, which enlarges the right and left edges of the screen. This not only helps with manual focusing, but also makes it easier to align the camera horizontally.

Nikon damped the already very pleasant trigger noise of the D800 once again with the D810. The mirror stroke is very smooth, so the Quiet mode is even quieter and less necessary. The D810 follows Nikon’s tradition for professional cameras when it comes to operation: all important switches and controls are protected against accidental adjustment and can only be operated with both hands. Nikon-typical is also the renunciation of a program selector wheel, the recording mode is changed while you turn the thumbwheel while holding down the “Mode” button. The menus are long and confusing, so Nikon might like to tidy up a bit.

Anyway, the solid metal housing is well sealed, the interface and memory card flaps close tightly and the EN-EL15 battery now lasts even longer with 1,200 shots than its predecessor.

Equipment

Already the D800/D800E was so richly equipped that one wonders if there was anything that could be improved at all. Nikon has made it – especially in that the D810 adopts one or the other innovation introduced with the D4S. First there is the Expeed 4 image processor, which helps to increase the D810’s continuous shooting rate by around 25 percent (5 frames/s at full resolution instead of the previous 4). And, of course, it should also provide a further improvement in image quality – more on this in the next section.

Another new feature of the D810 is the light-accentuated exposure metering. It prevents midtones from being played back too dark in bright subjects. The AF module Multi-CAM 3500FX now also masters the measurement field group control that Nikon recently introduced with the D4S. From this, the D810 also takes over the option of recording in sRAW, reducing the resolution to around nine megapixels.

These new features may be marginal for photographers, but Nikon has significantly improved the video capabilities of the D810. Although it remains at Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), the D810 records at up to 60 fps. In addition, Nikon has equipped the D810 with a stereo microphone, an external microphone and headphones can also be connected. There has also been a change in exposure control: the aperture can now be changed while the movie is being recorded. And when filming in M mode, the ISO auto can adjust the exposure if desired. Another new feature is the Zebra Warning, familiar from professional video cameras – it hatches areas with a predefined brightness value in the Live View image and thus warns against overexposed shots.

If you don’t like to record in raw format, but want JPEG files that are easy to edit, the D810 offers the new image style “Balanced”. It reproduces the recordings with an almost linear tonal value curve, which is also available for video recordings. For all “Picture Control” configurations, there is a new “Detail Contrast” parameter that can be used to control the reproduction of fine structures.

It’s quite remarkable in detail what Nikon has given to the new D810. One shouldn’t forget that the D800/D800E was also equipped with excellent features. And so it remains with the new one with a small on-board flash, the clever flash system from Nikon and the various post-processing options in playback mode. However, the D810 does not offer full automation and scene modes – this camera is aimed at photographers who know what they are doing. The D810 also doesn’t have GPS or WLAN on board, but both can be retrofitted using appropriate adapters.

Picture quality

The image quality of the D800 already caused a storm of enthusiasm. No wonder, since two years ago it was the first camera with a 36-megapixel sensor to be tested by digitalkamera.de. In the meantime, Nikon had added another model, the D800E, which does without the low-pass filter in front of the image converter. Its task is to limit the resolution defined in order to avoid the Moiré effect.

At a resolution of 36 megapixels, however, the critical spatial frequencies are so high that Moiré can only be expected in combination with very fine motif structures and high-resolution lenses. Therefore Nikon could safely do without a low pass filter in the D810.

One could therefore assume that Nikon has transplanted the image converter of the D800E into the D810. But that’s not how it is, the D810 has been equipped with a newly developed sensor whose basic sensitivity of ISO 64 is unusually low. Nevertheless, the maximum ISO sensitivity of the D810 is a whole light level higher than its predecessor, now reaching up to ISO 51,200.

36 megapixels – this also means for a full-format sensor that the individual sensor cells are relatively small. And so it is to be feared that the image quality will decrease rapidly at higher ISO values. But Nikon has the effects of high ISO numbers on the D810 well under control – at least up to ISO 3,200. From this value on, the signal-to-noise ratio drops below the critical 35 dB mark and then decreases more rapidly with increasing ISO sensitivity. At the same time, luminance noise becomes visible from about ISO 3,200, but color noise does not begin to interfere until ISO 12,800. Nevertheless, the Nikon D810 can still be used well at ISO 6.400 – Nikon keeps a check on noise reduction, so the texture sharpness remains high up to ISO 6.400.

The dynamic range of the D810 is impressive, only dropping below the very good mark of more than 10 EV beyond ISO 3,200. Studio photographers benefit from the low basic sensitivity, at ISO 64 the dynamic range already reaches 10.5 EV, at the same time the shots are practically noise-free – many a medium format camera can remain in the cabinet. This is all the more true as the Nikon D810 can also convert its high sensor resolution into a corresponding image resolution – at least with the Nikon AF-S 24-120 mm 4 G ED VR lenses (the basis for our test marks) as well as the Nikon AF-S 105 mm 2.8 Micro VR IF ED. It is remarkable that the zoom lens at the top has a slightly higher resolution than the macro lens. Especially in wide-angle position it swings up to undreamt-of heights and almost cracks the magic limit of 70 line pairs per millimetre (lp/mm). In addition, it reproduces virtually distortion-free, which unfortunately does not apply to the 24-120 millimeter.

In the wide angle position it is strongly barrel-shaped, at normal focal length and at the long end there are clear cushion-shaped distortions. Nikon, on the other hand, has chromatic aberrations well under control, color fringes only disturb the edges of the picture at the short end of the zoom. On the other hand, there is hardly any problem with vignetting, the loss of brightness towards the edges is only about 0.5 EV, apart from the open aperture.

Nikon tuned the tonal curve of the D810 somewhat steeper than that of the D800. This means that JPEGs directly from the camera are already quite well optimized for printing with the D810 – those who want to edit their shots should better record them in raw. This also applies when it comes to the most unadulterated possible colour reproduction: blue and orange tones saturate the D810 strongly in the standard setting, blue tones also shift it towards magenta. The white balance is very accurate for this. The D810 slightly weakens the output tonal range, in particular it doesn’t differentiate reds and blues as well as one would expect from a professional camera. All in all, however, the image quality of the D810 is convincing, the resolution is very high, Nikon is exemplary restrained in noise reduction.

Bottom line

With the D810, Nikon is gently developing the D800 and D800E further, without making the predecessors old-fashioned. Ambitious videographers in particular will benefit from the new features, as the 36-megapixel camera finally also films at full HD resolution with 50p or 60p. Sure, the many small detail improvements make the camera even better for photographers than the first generation was. “Split-Screen-Zoom” is a welcome innovation in Live-View mode, the autofocus gets the new measuring field group control of the D4S, the continuous shooting speed has been increased. However, little has happened (apart from the extended ISO range of the D810) with regard to the most important aspect of a camera, image quality. But that’s not a point of criticism, the D800/D800E already played at such a high level that it’s hard to beat even today. The real surprise in the test was the 24-120 mm 4 G ED VR, which convinced for a zoom lens with amazingly good resolution values.

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Nikon
Model D810
Price approx. 4.230 EUR
Sensor Resolution 37.1 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 7.360 x 4.912
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens AF-S Nikkor 24-120 mm 1:4 ED VR
Filter threads 77 mm
Viewfinder Pentaprism-SLR
Field of vision 100 %
Enlargement 0,7-fold
Diopter compensation -3 to +1 dpt.
LCD monitor 3,2″
Disbandment 1.229.000
rotatable
swivelling
as seeker yes
Video output AV and HDMI (each PAL/NTSC)
Program automation yes
Aperture priority yes
Aperture priority yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long-term exposure yes
Motive programmes
Portrait
Children/Babies
Countryside
Macro
Sports/Action
more
Exposure metering Multi-field, Centre-weighted Integral, Light-weighted, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection System flash shoe (ISO)
Remote release Cord
Interval shooting yes
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC, CompactFlash
Video mode
Size MOV
Codec H.264/AVC
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 60p
Sensitivity
automatic ISO 64-51.200 (upper limit adjustable)
extended
manually ISO 32-51.200
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Light bulb yes
Other Shadow, flash, manual color temperature selection
Manual yes
Autofocus
Number of measuring fields 51
AF auxiliary light whitely
Speed approx. 0.25 s
Languages Yes
more 33
Weight
(Ready)
approx. 980 g (housing only
)approx. 1,690 g (with lens*)
Zoom
Zoom adjustment at lens
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Triggering during
.Save as possible.
yes
Battery life approx. 1,200 images (according to CIPA)
– = “not applicable” or “not available”
* with lens AF-S Nikkor 24-120 mm 1:4 ED VR

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Greatly improved video features
  • Excellent image quality
  • On-board flash
  • Continuous shooting rate higher than predecessor

Cons

  • Very slow AF in Live View mode
  • No motif programs/automatic modes
  • Control concept that needs getting used to (but is conclusive in itself)
  • Menu confusing due to long scroll lists

Nikon D810 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 35mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm (crop factor 1.0
)36.8 megapixels (physical) and 36.3 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 4.9 µm
Photo resolution
7.360 x 4.912 pixels (3:2)
5.520 x 3.680 pixels (3:2)
3.680 x 2.456 pixels (3:2)
Picture formats JPG, RAW, TIF, TIF compressed
Colour depth 42 bits (14 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 25 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 60 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 50 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 24 p
Video format
MOV (Codec n.a.)
MPG4 (codec MPEG-4)

Lens

Lens mount
Nikon F

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 51 sensors, contrast autofocus
Autofocus Functions Single autofocus, Continuous autofocus, Tracking autofocus, Manual, AFL function, AF Assist Light
Focus control Depth of field control, dimming button, Live View

Viewfinder and Monitor

Reflex viewfinder Reflex viewfinder (prism viewfinder) (100 % image coverage), 17 mm eye relief, dioptre compensation (-3.0 to +1.0 dpt), replaceable focusing screens, grille can be inserted
Monitor 3.2″ TFT LCD monitor with 1,229,000 pixels, brightness adjustable
Info display additional info display (top)

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 1,000 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/8,000 to 30 s (Auto
)1/8,000 to 30 s (Manual)
Bulb Function
Exposure control Fully automatic, Program automatic, Aperture automatic, Time automatic, Manual
Bracketing function Step size from 1/3 to 2 EV
Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 64 to ISO 12.800 (automatic
)ISO 32 to ISO 51.200 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, cable release
Motives 0 further motif programmes
Picture effects Landscape, Monochrome, Portrait, 3 more image effects
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sun, White balance bracket, Fine-tune, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent lamp with 7 presets, Incandescent light, from 2,500 to 10,000 K, Manual 6 memory locations
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting 5.0 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer at intervals of 2 s, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Shooting functions AEL function, AFL function, live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)flash shoe: Nikon, standard centre contactflash connection socket
: F-plug
Flash number Guide number 12 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, Fill-in flash, Flash on, Flash off, High speed sync, Slow sync, Flash on second shutter curtain, Red-eye reduction, Master function, Flash exposure compensation from -3.0 EV to +1.0 EV

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
CF (Type I)
second memory card slot
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I)
GPS function GPS external (wired or plug-on receiver)
Microphone Stereo
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL15 (lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 1,030 mAh
)1,200 images according to CIPA standard
Playback Functions Image Rotation, Protect Image, Highlight / Shadow Warning, Playback Histogram, Playback Magnifier, Image Index, Zoom Out
Picture parameters Contrast
Special functions Electronic water level, Grid can be faded in, Orientation sensor, Live View
Ports Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 3.0 SuperSpeed
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D
)Audio input: yes (3.5 mm jack (stereo with power supply))
Audio output: yes (3.5 mm jack (stereo, 3-pole))
Supported direct printing methods DPOF, PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″
Features and Miscellaneous S-RAWIntegrated
sensor cleaning systemD-Lighting
for artificial brightening of dark image areasEXPEED-4 image processorAF motif recognitionLeidertrigger mode for single and continuous images (3 fps)
65 Individual functions

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 146 x 123 x 82 mm
Weight 920 g (ready for operation)

Other

included accessories Nikon BF-1B (Case Cover
)Nikon BM-12 (Monitor Cover)Nik
onBS-1 (Shoe Cover)
Nikon DK-17 (Eyepiece Protecting Glass)
Nikon EN-EL15 Special BatteryNikon
MH-25 Charger for Special BatteriesEN-EL15 BatteryCharger

MH-25USB-Cable
UC-E14LCD-Monitor Cover
BM-12Case Cover
BF-1BRubber EyecupShoe Cover

BS-1; Eyepiece cap DK-17TragegurtImage editing software

Nikon Picture ProjectImage management software
Nikon View ProImage editing software
Nikon Capture NX 2 Full version

optional accessory Nikon EH-5B AC AdapterNikon
EP-5B Battery Compartment Adapter CableNikon
MB-D12 Battery / Battery HandleNikon
MB-D18 Battery / Battery HandleNikon
ME-1 (Microphone)Nikon

UT-1 (LAN Adapter)
Nikon WT-5 (WiFi

A

dapter)
Nikon WT-6 (WiFi-Adapter)
Nikon WT-7a (WiFi-Adapter)
EN-EL15-Replacement BatteryNetzadapter
EH-5b mit Akkufacheinsatz EP-5BExchangeable Memory CardWireless

Transmitter WT-5Battery Handle
MB-D12

Firmwareupdate C 1.02 for the Nikon D810: Three bugs fixed

Nikon provides a firmware update for the D810 in version C 1.02. Three errors are fixed: If the crop magnification was used in the image control immediately after shooting and still during the writing process, the image was not displayed correctly. Furthermore, there were display errors when connecting via HDMI to a 4K television and calling up the camera menu. The third and last fixed error concerns noise if the individual function d1 is set to an option other than “Off”. The noise is at least reduced by the update according to Nikon. The firmware update can be downloaded from the Nikon support website and uploaded to the camera on your own. The corresponding instructions can be found on the support website.

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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.