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Camera Reviews

The Nikon D810 is impressive - User Review

Rick Walker (walkerr) on July 31, 2014


Keywords: nikon, dslr, d810, d800, d800e, canon, comparison, review, user_review, hands_on, first_hand_impression

These are hardly original thoughts at this point, but I thought I'd add my observations of the D810. I'm coming from a background of using the D800E and D4 for the last few years, and I've used most of Nikon's FX cameras since they were introduced. I've also used Canon’s, Fuji’s and others.

d810
Nikon D810 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S Nikkor and MB-D12 grip
Click for an enlarged view

- This is the best general purpose camera I've ever used. I don't say that lightly, but Nikon has refined this camera in so many ways that are photographer-centric - it's impressive. I find myself repeatedly thinking "This is perfect. It's exactly how I would have updated the D800E" or "This is exactly what I want in my primary camera".

- The shutter sound is about half as loud as the D800E: it's a nice, muted "thunk". Perfect. It's about half way between the regular, very tinny sound you get from a Canon 5D Mark III and the 5D's quiet mode, which sounds appreciably better than the regular mode. While the latter is very nice, you lose frames per second, which you don't with the D810. This benefit is partially psychological (it's much more of a pleasure to shoot with it), but it's also a real factor in some shutting environments. The D810 is less likely to be noticed in quiet environments.

- Live View is greatly improved. If you zoom into the equivalent settings on both the D810 and D800E (100% equivalent), the D810 is far sharper and clearer. No comparison.

- Electronic first shutter curtain is a great change that will make it easier to get sharp results on a tripod.

- Autofocus appears to be quicker and more sure-footed. I see less "dithering" when I use lenses like the 80-400mm AF-S at 400mm. It's a bit too soon to declare victory on this, but so far so good. Every shot I've taken so far is consistently sharp. The new group AF feature will be very good for shots where the principal subject fills up a lot of the frame.

- Image quality is great, just like the D800E. I haven't bothered to make comparison photos and probably never will. Both cameras are great in this respect.

 



- The increased frame rate (five fps vs. the four of the D800E), combined with the revised autofocus, makes the camera feel more responsive. That extra frame per second matters with some subjects, so it's a welcome change.

- The highlight-priority matrix metering feature works exactly like you'd hope, at least so far. Shots that are overexposed on the normal matrix metering mode have perfectly exposed highlights when set to this mode. I'll use this metering mode a lot with landscape shots.

- This camera feels much nicer in the hand than the others in the D800 family. The revised grip fits my hands perfectly. I always felt like the Canon 5D MIII felt nicer to hold. The D810 is just as good as the Canon in this respect, and that's high praise.

- Auto bracketing now works in increments up to three stops! This is great for shooting handheld HDR sequences!

- The construction quality is just as nice as the D800E - very solid.

- Having ISO 64 as a native ISO is great. That extra 2/3 stop of difference reduces the number of occasions I have to use an ND filter to get a slower shutter speed.

- I'm using the release candidate of Adobe ACR 8.6 with my own color profiles. I'm not seeing any of the publicized problems, but I'm not trying hard to do so. In "normal" shooting, raw conversions from it look great. That's good because NX-D is very cumbersome and slow.

- The video improvements are nice updates, but I don't shoot a lot of video. I'm certainly not going to complain about the improved quality, zebras, etc.

- I'm glad Nikon didn't change the overall shape of the camera too much. My RRS L-bracket that I had on my D800E fits just fine on the D810. As before, it's not easy opening the rubber side panels with the bracket in place - a paper clip or fingernail file on a Swiss Army knife helps.

Conclusion: It would be easy to dismiss the D810 as just a warmed over D800E, but in my experience so far, that's just not the case. This is a very refined camera that just works. As nice as the D800E is, it'll definitely go to a backup camera status. For me, enjoying photography isn't just about the final result, it's also about the pleasure of using the camera and lenses. I like equipment that works well, offers a good shooting experience and "feels right" in the hand. The D810 is as good as it gets. Nikon gets an "A+" from me on this camera.

Rick Walker

(72 Votes)
Rick Walker Rick Walker (walkerr)

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

Colorado Springs, USA
Admin, 14786 posts

38 comments

Jim Troxell (FFN) on September 22, 2014

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

Followup, the car show images are in the first few pages of my Machines gallery at http://www.mudbrookphoto.com

Jim Troxell (FFN) on September 22, 2014

Donor Ribbon. Awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

At a recent car show I shot 300+ images with the D810. Only a single image was improperly focused - by me, not the camera. Only once did the metering get it a little too dark. My wife got the same results with her Df. Both cameras performed flawlessly. The D810 files have more information to work with in pp however - better color depth and DR. These results are a great improvement for us over our D800e experiences.

Rick Walker (walkerr) on September 21, 2014

Donor Ribbon. Awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

(Edited by walkerr Sunday, 21 September 2014 )
Margaret, this would probably be a good post for the post-processing forum, but Apple released an update to their OS that includes raw support for the D810. Aperture will work fine with your D810 once you've done that (I've tried it myself). Lightroom also supports the D810 if you download release 5.6, but make sure you also download the latest color profiles if you want to use the Nikon-emulated color profiles. They can be found here: http://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/kb/camera-standard-profile-displays-posterized.html I use Lightroom 5.6 plus Photoshop CC 2014 for my post-processing, but you should be able to make Aperture work for the time being, along with Capture One 8 and DxO 9. ViewNX2 should also work fine if you download the most recent version, along with Capture NX-D.

Margaret R. Kelley (marymargaret) on September 21, 2014

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

Rick, I do like my D810 and I took some good pix on a recent trip to a national wildlife refuge, but cannot process the pix. (aperture does not work, my current CS5 does not work so I downloaded Light Room and the new photoshop. When I load the pix using the Nikon's ViewNX2 they look fine, but they are corrupted (with colored lines, etc.) in my computer's preview, and when I transfer them to Light Room. What is a better way to transfer and process these pictures. (Apple will not continue to support Aperture...Mac users will have to change as the company is going in a different direction...though they may do an upgrade for the D810, but don't wait for it). And all that came from the Mac Store! So what do you suggest? Thank you so much in advance. Margaret Kelley

Donald R Miller (ScooterSenior) on August 29, 2014

Rick, As others have noted, your review is exactly what many of us need to know about a new camera. I just sent my D700 and P7700 to B&H in preparation for a D810 purchase. Just a few minutes ago I read two dozen complaints and white spots with extremely long exposures!! Wait a minute, I thought. As an electrical engineer I am familiar with designs that are stretched to meet a new customer request. Many times designers will push a particular component or setting to achieve a requested performance request, like low light performance in this case, but just going to the edge on another specification, like long exposure no (electronic) noise in another. The voltage supplied to a silicon chip always has conflicting results. More voltage equals higher output and correspondingly higher noise. Come on people. If they reduce the voltage on a return it will reduce low light performance!!

Mare Thomas (mgirishfan) on August 18, 2014

Thanks for a great real life review ---- but like some others, I'm curious about its low light/high ISO handling...I'm still considering a used D3s for its incredible abilities in low light - where most of my work is. Thanks!

jock skinner (southport) on August 17, 2014

I got mine when it first was released and before Photoshop and Lightroom had the ability to work with the 810's images which was frustrating and annoying. I had a macro session arranged and I had no idea that the images would be so much better than the D700 I had just replaced. It was night and day no longer any sharpening, burning and dodging before the images were of a usable standard. When Nikon release the SDK to enable third party tethering software I cant imagine being happier with a new camera straight out the box. I've now had more time to use the camera in different environments and apart from the fps of the D4s which isn't a problem for me I have saved myself over £2000 from what I expected to pay for a new camera. Having to buy the d12 grip hurt for what it is but I'm still quids in and happy.

Susan Bell (Aquaholic) on August 17, 2014

I received my copy of the D810 2 weeks ago, it's everything and more as you described. However, there is an issue with 'hot pixels' showing up with long exposure/low ISO settings. I was hoping mine wasn't one of the samples with this problem, but unfortunately it is. Not sure what Nikon will do to resolve the problem, whether firmware update will fix the issue. Just an FYI before you buy.

Jim Shane (jshane1) on August 17, 2014

Hello Rick; I appreciated your comments on the D810. I have passed the link to a friend who is considering moving up from his D700. I was especially sensitive to your comments on the autofocus and your experience with "dithering" when using the 80-400mm lens. I currently use a D800 for outdoor and wildlife. For the past year I have been struggling with my D800 and the second generation 80-400mm (I have several years experience using my D300 and the first generation 80-400.) The 'dithering" you refer to seems extreme to me. I have sent the lens back to Nikon Tech 4 times in the past year because of this issue, the last time with the D800. In every case they tell me my camera and lens are "within tolerance". I have the 16-35 and the 28-300 and neither have any trace of "dithering". Not one of the dozen Nikkor lenses i have owned and used over the past 5 years has ever done anything like what i am experiencing with the new 80-400. Yet Nikon claims what I experience is normal. When shooting in Continuous Servo mode, doesn't matter if VR is on or off, the focus indicator in the viewfinder "dithers" rapidly from in focus to out of focus. I can hear the autofocus motor moving the elements everytime this happens. If the images were good I would deal with it but I have hundreds of images that should be sharp but are not. The indication is motion blur, not incorrect focus. The optics of the lens are fine. In manual mode or single servo the images are very sharp. In continuous the images are mainly junk. For what it's worth, the lens has a similar "dithering" problem when used with the D300, only not as pronounced. I would appreciate it if you would share your experience with the "dithering" in a bit greater detail. Also, if this is a topic among other Nikonians I would appreciate a link to the thread. I believe Nikon has a problem with the new 80-400 mm lens and is resisting accepting it. Maybe if enough users complain about the problem we can get some help. Thanks for any help you can provide. Jim Shane

Henk Aalberts (aalbertsh) on August 17, 2014

It's your review, Rick, that pursuaded me finally to trade in my D800 for the new D810 and having this great camera now for a week I am absolutely convinced it was a good decision, despite the low exchange-price for the D800. In the Netherlands you can buy now a lot of 2-years old D800's for 1800 Euros with one year guarantee in most of the bigger photography stores, so you can imagine how much you have to pay extra for a D810 (selling price in Europe about 3200 Euro).

Frederic Landes (FreddyNoel) on August 17, 2014

Thank you Rick for this brilliant and clear review. I gave my D700 to my daughter when I bought the D800 in July 2012 and I am still very pleased with it. Using Nikon gear for over 50 years, it is a shame that getting old makes us wanting more gear that we find harder to carry along... But I do wish to have a second body for my lenses {and a younger body for myself :) } so the D810 would be a fantastic addition to my bag. Oh, I will need a bigger bag as well... Cheers.

Lester Picker (lpicker) on August 17, 2014

Thanks, Rick. I so much prefer reviews from experienced field photographers than the overhyped bench reviews. Great job. Les Les Picker Nikonians Academy Faculty www.lesterpickerphoto.com

Chris Moore (Photogcam) on August 17, 2014

Thanks for the report. I might have to look at upgrading the D800 to the D810.

larry wilson (mrwilson) on August 17, 2014

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

Great review and I agree 100% with the improvements of the d810. I have owned a lot of Nikon dslr's with the last three cameras being the d4, used d810e and now the d810. Three items come to mind for reasons for me to upgrade to the d810. 1) Acquisition speed and accuracy of the auto focus especially shooting bif. 2) Quiet shutter release for wildlife shooting is wonderful to reduce the scare to the wildlife. 3) The grip has been deepened and improved for hand holding the camera. I consider the d810 as a refined d800e, a great camera that seems to be selling well, thanks Nikon. Larry

Reza Gorji (gorji) on August 17, 2014

Great review. Its great that Nikon continues to fine tune an already superb camera. In 2 years the D900 will be even better.

Thomas A. Levy (photomx) on August 17, 2014

Thanks for a good look at the new D810. It makes the Df look less substantial, until you realize that the new cameras from Nikon continue to improve and continue to improve the users experience. I now must get one to test You have not mentioned wether you shot any images with higher ISO settings. I often shoot at speeds above 800 ASA.

Andrew MILLER (RAJMiller) on August 17, 2014

Thank you Rick, I've also upgraded to the D810 but from the D3 and D800. I can only echo your comments as I agree with them 100%. The 810 for me is the most perfect extension of my hand that I have come across - I've been using Nikon's for over 50 years and this is the best ever. When I bought it I also treated myself to the 200-400 Nikkor VRII and they were made for each other. Looking forward to further comments. Thanks Andy M.

KENT M. WHITNEY (KMWHITNEY) on August 17, 2014

Thank you Rick, great personal review... The D610, D810, Df and D4s makes it a banner year for Nikon. Great engineering I'd say! As is said by many, and me, "It isn't about the money, it is about how the gear fits/feels, functions and image quality production that matters". If it were about the $$'s, I would still be shooting my Kodak Brownie 120 and loving it because I would be thousands of bucks richer!!, LOL! :-) R/ The PhotogDog

Gregory Stais (GregS_0312) on August 17, 2014

For me the upgrade to the D810 is not economically feasible, given that I just purchased a new D800 about 2-months before the D810 was announced. I am not a professional photographer, but have been a serious amateur using Nikon equipment for over 40 years, so photography is by no means a new endeavor for me. For me to now sell my D800 (at a loss), and then purchase a new D810 to take advantage of these few changes just does not seem worthwhile to me. The images from my D800 are outstanding (the best I have ever seen), and I have not experienced any of the issues mentioned in previous posts, so what would I actually be gaining if I were to upgrade? But it is more than just the economics. It seems to me that now the D810 has been released the D800/800E has now been relegated to 'museum piece' status. The fact is that the D800 and D800E are both great cameras (two of the best in Nikons line-up), and it was not that long ago when the photographic community was gushing over them - just like they are now over the D810. The D810 does have some nice improvements, and had I waited a little longer, I would definitely have purchased the D810 over the D800/800E. But $3,000 plus is no small investment for a camera, and for me to now sell my D800 to upgrade to a D810 seems frivolous at best. I would rather take the money I would spend on an upgrade and buy a new lens, such as the awesome Nikon 24-70 F2.8 or the Nikon 70-200 F2.8. Or use my D800 for a few years, and then upgrade to the next ‘truly revolutionary’ DSLR.

Rick Walker (walkerr) on August 15, 2014

Claude, I can't do a universal ROI calculation because what people perceive as a "return" on their investment will differ and everyone's sensitivity to the cost will be different. It's better for individuals to make that decision, but realize it will only apply to themselves. If you don't perceive value in what the D810 offers, that's fine - you've done your own assessment. Others, including me, may view it differently. If your sole criteria is image quality and nothing else counts, I would keep your D800e.

Claude Dumas (claude_dumas) on August 14, 2014

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

If I may ask the question, how to justify that spending 1500$ in the upgrade from D800E to D810 will be better that acquiring a new HQ lens (like the Nikkor 85mm 1.4G) ? Yes, there are some improvements in the 810 (AF group, mirror noise, etc), but why is ROI never considered in the decision ? Is it the "I want a new gear whatever the cost" syndrome ? Show me a concrete example where D810 produces images stunningly better than D800E. Dynamic range is the same, ISO sensitivity is essentially the same. Colors are the same. Resolution is the same.

Neal F. Rattican (nratt) on August 14, 2014

Rick's review of the D810 is most encouraging, inasmuch as I've targeted this camera for my next purchase. But gotta wait until next month before I can pull the trigger. Thanks.

Richard Lee JK (richardleejk) on August 12, 2014

I have the D700 and just got this D810 last week. It is fast and impressive sharpness. Have to wait for DXO updates to support the D810 raw.

Garrett Hayes (Garrett Hayes) on August 12, 2014

You have me worried. I thought that my D800 was the greatest camera ever and even told my wife that I could not get better! Now I am worried and I wonder how much I will get for my D800...

Richard C. Eastman (DocE) on August 8, 2014

Wonder how many shots in raw format the buffer will hold at 5fps before the frame rate slows. The D610 buffers 20-25 at 6fps before the frame rate deteriorates, which is great for fast action shots. I haven't tried the D800 and this was my major reservation. Hope the 810 fixed this.

Mike Brinker (MikeB13) on August 4, 2014

A nice review without technical overload. We'll worth reading and considering for purchase. Thanks,

Steve Fenn (Handeye50) on August 4, 2014

What's this I hear about the sRaw not really being a true RAW file after all? Smoke and mirrors from Nikon??

Rick Walker (walkerr) on August 4, 2014

Yvan, dynamic range seems similar to the D800e - maybe slightly better at ISO 64, but not hugely different.

Yvan Bedard (newbird) on August 4, 2014

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

Any word about dynamic range?

Tami L Howard (Nikongirl651) on August 4, 2014

I am really glad I did not pick up the 800/800E. That was tough being a landscape photographer. I had to steel myself against the siren song. This refinements of this camera seems to be impressing users all around. Glad I waited. This camera is my next Nikon!

Allan Lemieux (DigitalAl) on August 3, 2014

Wow, from a quick read here, it seems to be a beautiful camera and I'm going to read more about this beauty...

Dileep Nageswaran (naturalist) on August 2, 2014

Excellent review.

Richard Luse (DaddySS) on August 2, 2014

Darn it Rick...you've just energized my NAS :-) Thanks for the write up!

philippe ned baba (nevan) on August 2, 2014

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

Hello Rick, I thank you a lot for this detailed file. I like the way you developed this dossier. You aren't one retailer of the brand but you simply gave your appreciation of the camera with much enthusiasm. A boy with a new toy, I'll say. My wish was to find a good camera to replace my top D300. I've chosen D610 + a 35mm Sigma lens. With your article, I'm ready to buy the D810 only. The lens will wait. Thanks for lighting our way.

Gregory A Hoyle (Greg Hoyle) on August 1, 2014

I have been using the B800 and the Df. I agree with every word of your review. I am so glad I got this camera--the detail at 100% is truly amazing. Cropping in with a 500mm lens gives reasonable people portraits a block away! Ok, birds come next.

Laddie Crisp (laddad) on August 1, 2014

I already own a D800 and I felt it was time to sell my D300 and have two compatible full frame cameras. Just picked up my D810 yesterday and all I can say is....wow. This is not a "minor" upgrade! This D810 is incredible!

Jeffrey Chastain (jchastn) on July 31, 2014

These a lovely tweaks of an already great camera! Part of me wishes that I had waited before buying my 800e but then I look at the images that I have created over the last 2 years and I can't say that. I will have to wait for the next incarnation because the differences are just not worth the extra cost of selling the 800 and buying the 810.

Claude Dumas (claude_dumas) on July 31, 2014

Hi, One must also take into account the financial side of the story. The question is : is it worth paying 1000$ for the upgrade, taking into account that I sell my current D800E ? Most of us are not Pro nor millionaire, so this question is of a paramount importance. Furthermore, wouldn't it be better to put this 1000$ in a new lens, like the marvelous Zeiss 135mm APO ? If I had an infinite amount of money available, sure, I would order the D810 right away. But considering the cost and doing a cold analysis of the real added value, my conclusion is to stick with the D800E for the next year or two. The D800E has not suddenly become garbage... I'll wait for a true breakthrough.

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