Nikon D810 Nikon D810 a review

Nikon D810 and D810a Review

In June 2014, Nikon replaced its wildly popular D800 and D800E with the D810.

Although this time the model is a stand-alone and does not have an Optical Low Pass filter-including counterpart, Nikon did use this incredibly well-designed camera to make another model, completely customized for specific types of astrophotography, the Nikon D810A.

The D810 itself comes with a high resolution, full frame sensor and highly praised dynamic range capabilities, along with a set of other features that make this camera very suitable for the landscape photographer.

Nikon D810 review

PROS

  • Full Frame 36.3MP CMOS Sensor
  • Improved Dynamic Range compared to previous series
  • Expeed-4 Image processor that allows for improved noise - reduction processing
  • Redesigned mirror mechanism to reduce image softening
  • No Optical Low Pass Filter
  • 3.2" LCD screen with improved brightness
  • D810 A - dedicated to Astrophotography

CONS

  • No articulated screen
  • No touch screen
  • Demand high level lenses for best details
  • Heavy body

Features

Nikon D810 Review

Although the D800 and D800E already did a good job at impressing professional (landscape) photographers, Nikon has managed to pour those two great models into one body and create an even greater camera: the D810.

36.3MP CMOS Sensor

By far the most impressing feature is the high resolution full frame CMOS sensor, that is capable of producing images far above expectation from a 36.3MP sensor.

The sensor sports some improved microlenses to enable better light gathering capabilities, but at the same time is capable of a lower base sensitivity than its predecessors, with ISO 64.

ISO Sensitivity

This low ISO sensitivity (further expandable down to 32) really allows you to make the most out of this cameras amazing dynamic range, and create some of the most detailed images possible from a full frame sensor.

An outstanding quality if you are a landscape photographer that is keen on big prints of their work.

Expeed-4 Image Sensor

Adding to the camera’s high-performance sensor is an Expeed-4 image processor.

This improved processor not only has the continuous shooting capabilities from the D800 and D800E beat with 5 frames per second at full resolution, it also offers a 30% improvement in overall performance and has greatly improved noise-reduction processing.

Optical Low Pass Filter

To further improve the image sharpness, Nikon has chosen to leave the Optical Low Pass filter out completely, this time not offering the same model with the filter included.

Although lack of this filter may cause some slight moiré in certain situations, if you are a landscape photographer you are really better off without the OLPF.

As we have already said in multiple posts, the filter causes the images to soften and reduces the amount of detail in your image, and since moiré sensitive patterns very rarely occur in nature scenes, leaving the filter out is only beneficial.

Redesigned Mirror Mechanism

Adding to this, Nikon has included some other features to further enhance the image sharpness, first of which being a redesigned mirror mechanism.

The new mirror sequencer/balancer unit controls better the vibrations, and reduces image softening from mirror slap.

Electronic Front Curtain Shutter

Secondly, this body is equipped with an electronic front curtain shutter, adding to the reduction of vibration and image-softening.

Nikon D810 review

Camera Body

Moving on to the outside of the camera, we find the ergo dynamic design we’re used to from Nikon, with a nice beefy grip and dials within easy reach to adjust setting quickly.

LCD Screen

Adding to this user comfort is the ultra-bright LCD screen, cleverly equipped with four dots per pixel instead of the 3 in previous models, adding a white dot to the red, green and blue.

This not only enables a brighter screen that is perfectly visible in bright daylight.

The LCD can now also go into a battery saving mode – very useful when you’re out shooting in low-light conditions and really rather be using your battery’s juice for the long exposures than for a bright screen polluting the darkness.

Split Screen Zoom

Another added feature to the LCD screen is the ‘Split Screen Zoom’ setting, allowing you to zoom in on one half of the screen, while viewing the image normally on the other half.

This feature can be used in live view mode is very useful if you want your lines and horizons to be levelled precisely, and isn’t that what every landscape photographer wants?

Nikon D810 review

Nikon D810A

Now, if you’re thinking “That’s great, but what about long exposures and other features I need for my astrophotography?” – Nikon’s got you covered.

Nikon D810a Review

While they chose not to release the same model with the OLPF included like they did with the D800 and D800E, they did produce an identical looking model that is completely customized to the needs of astrophotographers: the Nikon D810A.

Customized for Astrophotography

To ensure a strikingly detailed capture of those brilliant red tints of constellations in the sky, the infrared cut filter on the D810A has been optimized in such a way that transmission of the hydrogen alpha spectral lines are allowed, which gives you a sensitivity of the 656nm wavelength that is 4 times larger.

Long Exposure Manual Mode

This model also has a new Long Exposure Manual Mode added, enabling you to set shutter speeds from 4, 5, 8, 10, 15, 20, 30, 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, 600 or 900 seconds (15 minutes).

But what I love most about this camera is the new Virtual Exposure Preview Mode.

This handy setting estimates a preview image in live view when you are shooting with long exposure times.

The image represents a 30 second exposure and is beautifully brightened, which makes your job of setting focus and exposure a lot easier.

Additional Considerations

Nikon seems to have almost succeeded in creating a perfect camera for the landscape photographer. There are, however, some minor points of improvement.

First off, the LCD screen.

Although it has some very ingenious features, it is still a fixed type screen that is not sensitive to touch.

I would have liked to see an articulating screen on this camera, because it really is a necessity when shooting landscape from strange angles.

Another issue is the weight of this camera – 980 grams.

Like most high-end DSLRs, this is a real brick to carry around with you on longer hikes.

And this is the weight of the body only, now imagine yourself hiking up a hill with that and NIKKOR lenses and adaptors and telescopes…

Lastly, although the sensor is capable of producing some very high quality images, it really only lives up to its full potential when used with high-end (A.K.A.) expensive lenses.

This makes the relatively affordable camera body suddenly a lot less attractive for all of you photographers trying to keep the costs down.

Alternatives

Sony a7R II

Sony a7R II

I have mentioned this camera as a rival to many, and for good reason.

This full frame mirrorless camera offers the same if not better image quality as the full frame DSLRs, only without the incredibly heavy weight.

It also has a rotating touch screen, and is capable of shooting 4K video.

Overall the Sony a7R II is more suitable for the all-round photographer, especially if you have a side interest in video.

I would not recommend this camera if you’re a professional astrophotographers though, because it does not have any of the optimized features the D810A or Pentax K-1 have to offer.

Pentax K 1

Pentax K1

If you are looking for a great landscape camera and astrophotography - optimized camera in one that is also very affordable – the Pentax K1 is an interesting proposition as we have already presented in our review

One of the best price-quality ratios I’ve witnessed so far, this camera is capable of creating some amazingly detailed and incredibly sharp images.

The 36.2MP sensor is movable, and Ricoh’s designers made sure to make full use of that by introducing an OLPF simulation, Pixel Shift Resolution mode, Horizon Correction mode and Astrotracer system. A

lthough this camera does not have an optimized infrared filter, the lack of star trails the Astrotracer system offers might be just as attractive

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

EOS-5D-MarkIV

This camera, replacing the 5D Mark III in August 2016, is definitely a better choice if you value the video capture on your camera.

Although Nikon is still trying hard to market their new products to cinematographers – by offering full packages of accessories aimed specifically at cinematographers, for example – Canon still has them beat on that department.

The 5D Mark IV is capable of shooting 4K, and comes with a 30MP high resolution sensor.

There is no in-body image stabilisation however, and the camera also lacks an electronic viewfinder.

Unlike the D810, it also does not have a astrophotography - optimized twin, so if you are looking for the perfect tool to shoot the stars, you may want to look somewhere else. Check our detailed review more more information

Conclusions

This camera is definitely worth noticing for the landscape photographer.

The full frame 36.3MP sensor has improved dynamic range capabilities and offers an incredibly sharp and highly detailed image.

The Lack of OLPF only adds to this quality, and the ergo-dynamics and bright LCD screen make this camera even more attractive.

The astrophotography - optimized Nikon D810A, although not recommended for other types of photography, is a treat for the astrophotographers and offers a perfect capture of the stars thanks to extended shutter speeds and an optimized infrared filter.

Nikon has succeeded once again in producing a very high quality camera especially attractive to the landscape photographer.

Although there is still no articulating screen and the body is quite heavy, these minor issues are easily overshadowed by the overall quality of the model

Nikon D810 Review

Check out more Camera Reviews here 

About the Author Luca

Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.

Leave a Comment: