Nikon D810 review: this Nikon D800 replacement offers a new sensor and Nikon claims it boasts the best image quality in the company’s history. We put it to the test.
The Nikon D810 comes as the direct replacement to the Nikon D800 and D800E. In her Nikon D810 review video, Angela Nicholson takes a look at what Nikon’s latest has to offer; discussing detail resolution, noise, handling changes, even comparing shutter sounds between the D800 and D810.
Hi, I’m Angela Nicholson head of testing for Future’s photography portfolio and in this video I’m going to take a look at the Nikon D810, which replaces both the D800 and D800E.
Although the D810 has 36.3 million effective pixels just like the two cameras that it replaces, we are told that the sensor is new and it’s coupled with Nikon’s latest processing engine, EXPEED 4.
Also, although it was widely reported that the D800E had no anti-aliasing or optical low pass filter over its sensor, it now transpires that it actually had some anti-aliasing properties. This has been completely removed from the filter over the Nikon D810′s sensor and it enables it to produce images with just a little more detail.
Nikon has also given the D810 a new mirror and shutter box and this has a much quieter operation than the D800′s. It makes the camera much more discrete in use and somehow makes it feel higher quality.
Internal vibrations can also be reduced to increase detail capture just a little bit further by using the new electronic front-curtain shutter in Mirror lock-up or Exposure delay mode.
Other improvements brought by the D810 include a non-expansion sensitivity setting of ISO 64, with a native range that goes up to ISO 12,800 and expansion settings stretching this from ISO 32 to ISO 51,200.
In addition, the autofocus system is the same as the D4S’s, which means there are are 51 AF points, 15 of which are cross type, and there’s the new Group-area AF mode as well as the usual 9-,21- and 51-point dynamic-area AF and 3D-tracking.
Group AF mode is designed to help when shooting subjects that are comparatively small and close to a high-contrast or distracting background and it works very well.
The improved AF system is complimented by a 25% increase in the maximum continuous shooting rate for full resolution images. This means that the Nikon D810 can shoot 36 million pixel images at 5 frames per second.
What’s more, it can shoot more raw files than the D800 in a single burst. For example it can shoot 47 lossless compressed 12-bit raw files rather than 21, and 23 uncompressed 14-bit raw files instead of 16.
The maximum number of JPEG images that can be recorded in a single burst, however, remains the same at 100 whatever the file size or quality unless exposures longer than 4 seconds are used when the burst depth is only limited by card capacity.
Videographers will also appreciate the zebra display that indicates when areas are approaching overexposure and the new Flat Picture Control mode that makes footage better for post-capture grading. Some may ask where the focus peaking and 4K recording options are though as these are notably absent.
Like the D800, the Nikon D810 has a pretty solid build and thanks to the slightly more pronounced grips it feels a little more secure in your hand. The control layout will seem very familiar to D800 users, but there are a few differences.
The metering switch has gone for example, and the metering options are now accessed via this button which is used in conjunction with the command dial. This was the bracketing button on the D800, and that has been relocated to this new button.
There’s also a new I button which accesses an interactive information screen. This is especially useful in Live View or video mode as it provides a route to access the magnified split-screen view, which is useful for checking sharpness of two areas at the same time.
However, it seems strange to me that this screen is also used for accessing some of the customisation options that aren’t usually required frequently. I think it would be better if it gave access to features such as exposure delay which is more likely to be needed on a shot by shot basis.
The Nikon D810 is capable of resolving a huge amount of detail, but getting the full benefit of all those pixels often requires that the camera is used on a tripod with the optimum aperture selected and the front shutter used.
That’s not to say that it can’t be used handheld and to shoot sport, but you need to make sure that you use a fast shutter speed if you want to avoid any sign of movement when images are viewed at 100%.
The matrix metering and automatic white balance systems also perform very well, delivering correctly exposed images with natural, yet vibrant colour in many situations. Of course that’s not to say that you won’t need to use a little exposure compensation or a custom white balance here and there.
I’ve found that noise is better controlled at the higher sensitivity settings than it is by the D800, which makes the camera a little more low-light friendly. There is still noise visible, in some cases it is more evident, but it generally has a finer texture with less smudging in raw files produced with all noise reduction turned off.
All things considered, I think the D810 is an excellent camera. It may not be worthwhile existing D800 and D800E users upgrading, but it is still a superb replacement to these cameras with some great refinements.