The Nikon D810's carries an FX-format (full frame) image sensor with dimensions of 35.9 x 24 mm. It's a 36.3-megapixel image sensor, and this camera's impressive image quality starts here.
The 36.3MP images will require a lot of data storage space, around 20MB to 30MB for JPEG images, 50MB to 75MB for NEF (RAW) images, and 100MB, 125MB, or more for TIFF images. Each JPEG image is two to three times larger in data storage size versus an average camera's JPEG photo, so be on alert that you'll use memory card storage space much more quickly with this model than you might be used to if you're upgrading from an average camera. You can shoot in JPEG, Nikon's NEF format (equal to RAW) in 12- or 14-bit, or TIFF format. You can record RAW and JPEG at the same time as well.
You also probably will occupy more memory card space than you're used to because it's so enjoyable to shoot photos with the D810 and because the camera responds so quickly between shots. You can shoot at up to 5 frames per second at full resolution. Nikon included its top-of-the-line EXPEED 4 image processor with the D810.
The D810 carries a Nikon F lens mount, and it can accept most AF or AF-S Nikkor lenses.
You can use manual focus with this model, and the Nikon D810 offers numerous autofocus options, including 9-, 21-, or 51-point dynamic-area autofocus, auto-area autofocus, single-point autofocus, 3D-tracking, or group-area autofocus. The autofocus modes include:
- Auto AF-S/AF-C
- Continuous-servo (AF-C)
- Face-priority autofocus
- Full-time Servo (AF-A)
- Single-servo autofocus (AF-S)
- Normal area
- Wide area
On the left side of the lens housing are the Pv and Fn buttons. The upper button is the Pv button, which provides a preview of the effects of the aperture. The Fn button is a customizable function button that you can set using the on-screen menus.
You'll have two options with using a flash with the Nikon D810, including the popup flash unit shown here. You also can attach an external flash to the hot shoe. Sync speeds of up to 1/250th of a second are available with the flash at typical flash range distances and up to 1/320th of a second at close range.
You'll open the popup flash with the round button, just to the right of the Nikon logo in this photo. The popup flash's range is up to 39 feet at ISO 100, and the popup flash does a nice job in most conditions.
Flash compensation settings are available at between -3 and +1 EV.
The flash sync modes include:
- Auto FP high-speed sync
- Front-curtain sync
- Rear-curtain sync
- Red-eye reduction
- Red-eye reduction with slow sync
- Slow rear-curtain sync
- Slow sync
As you're looking at the front of the camera, you'll see several buttons to the right of the lens housing. The buttons include (from top to bottom on the left side of this photo)
- BKT - Bracketing settings of two to nine frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, or 1 EV
- Flash icon - This button controls the flash compensation setting when used in combination with the command dial
- White dot - Indicates the lens mounting position
- D-shaped button - Lens release button
- AF/M switch - Switch between autofocus mode and manual focus mode with this toggle switch, while the button in the middle of the toggle switch allows you to select the focus mode
The round button visible in the upper right corner of the photo is the release mode dial lock release. You can just see the edge of the release mode dial in the far upper right corner.
Additionally, near the white dot on the right side of this photo, you'll see two coverings, which are shaped like a piece of candy corn when stacked on top of each other. The smaller segment on top is the flash sync terminal cover, while the larger segment, which is between the two white dots in this photo, is the ten-pin remote terminal cover. Both coverings are made of a flexible plastic with a flexible plastic hinge. Both covers snap into place.
Along the left side of the top panel of the D810 is a large dial, the release mode dial, through which you can set the drive options. To turn this dial, you must first press the lock release button just above it. The release mode dial options (which you can see printed on the edge of the dial in white) are:
- S - Single frame
- CL - Continuous low speed
- CH - Continuous high speed
- Q - Quiet shutter release
- QC - Quiet continuous shutter release
- Clock icon - Self-timer
- MUP - Mirror-up mode
The white line just below the release dial indicates the current drive mode setting.
To gain quick access to a few of the camera's more commonly used settings, you'll press one of the four buttons on top of the release mode dial and then spin the command dial, which is on the back of the camera. As you spin the dial, the new settings will appear on the control panel screen on the right side of the top panel of the camera. The four buttons on top of the dial include:
- QUAL - Allows for setting of image quality options, including JPEG, RAW, or TIFF
- Metering icon - Allows for setting of metering options
- ISO - Allows for setting of ISO
- WB - Allows for white balance setting
The middle of the top panel contains the hot shoe (shown here on the right), which is surrounded by the popup flash unit.
The right side of the top panel of the Nikon D810 has a few more buttons as well as the control panel screen. When shooting in viewfinder mode, this control panel screen allows you to make quick changes to some of the camera's settings without having to turn on the large LCD screen.
The control panel screen can display a variety of information about the camera's settings, depending on which buttons you are pressing.
Across the top of the screen, you'll may see the current shooting mode, metering mode, shutter speed, aperture setting, and memory card indicators. Across the bottom of the screen are icons representing the image quality setting, white balance, focus mode, battery indicator, and number of exposures remaining on the memory card.
At the far end of the right-hand grip is the power switch, which has options of On, Off, and LCD illuminator, which will activate the backlight on the control panel screen, making it easy to see the screen's data in the dark.
The shutter button is in the middle of the power switch. You can see the ridged edge of the sub-command dial above the power switch.
Just below the power switch is the movie record button with a red dot. To right is the exposure compensation button.
The MODE button is just above the control panel screen. Press this button and spin the command dial to change the shooting mode, which is indicated by the letter in the upper left corner of the control panel screen. The options are:
- P - Programmed auto
- S - Shutter-priority auto
- A - Aperture-priority auto
- M - Manual
You can use the MODE button to format a memory card as well. Hold down the MODE button and the Delete button on the back panel of the camera simultaneously. (Both buttons are marked with a red format icon.) When you see "For" flashing on the control panel screen, release the buttons. Then press them simultaneously again to format the memory card. If you have two memory cards inserted in the D810, the card that will be formatted will be indicated by a flashing icon on the control panel screen.
The upper portion of the back panel has a variety of buttons as well. But the primary item in this area of the camera is the impressive pentaprism single-lens reflex viewfinder. When shooting at full FX resolution, the viewfinder has 100% coverage of the scene with an approximate 0.7x magnification. Just above and to the left of the viewfinder is the eyepiece lock, which you'll need to activate to unscrew the eyepiece if you want to add a diopter-adjustment lens. The diopter adjustment knob is to the upper right of the viewfinder.
The buttons along the top of the back panel are:
- Play icon - Playback mode
- Trash icon - Delete button in Playback mode, as well as memory card format button, when used in conjunction with the MODE button discussed earlier
- AE-L/AF-L - Exposure lock and focus lock button
- AF-ON - Works in a manner similar to pressing the shutter button halfway to pre-focus on the scene
- Command dial - Use the command dial in conjunction with other buttons to move through settings options more quickly
The left side of the back panel contains a number of buttons, which offer the following functions:
- MENU - Opens the on-screen menus
- Key icon - Use this button in Playback mode to protect a photo from accidental deletion. This button also opens a help screen whenever a question mark icon appears in the lower left corner of the LCD screen. And you can use this button to set the Picture Control setting under certain shooting conditions.
- Plus magnification icon - Use this button to magnify the image on the LCD to aid with manual focus. In Playback mode you can use this button to magnify the image you're currently viewing on the screen.
- Minus magnification icon - Use this button to reduce the magnification of the image on the LCD during manual focus. In Playback mode you can use this button to reduce the magnification of the stored image you're currently viewing on the screen, or you can see a thumbnail grid of stored photos with this button.
- OK - Verifies the current selection
The buttons on the right side of the back panel of the D810 camera are:
As you're holding the D810 and using it, the camera's ports will be near your left hand. Each port is protected by a flexible plastic hinged cover, which snaps in place. The ports are:
- MIC - Includes the headphone connector port and external microphone port
The memory card slots are included on the right-hand side of the D810, as you're holding the camera. The memory card compartment cover consists of a hard plastic and is hinged. You slide the plastic compartment backward to open it on the hinge. It locks in place when you slide it forward again.
By placing the memory card compartments on the side of the camera, it's easier to access them when the camera is attached to a tripod.
Nikon included two memory card slots with the D810, a smaller SD memory card slot and a larger CF memory card slot.
The battery compartment for the Nikon D810 is on the bottom panel of the camera. The battery fits inside the right-hand grip of the camera. The battery compartment door is a hard plastic and contains a hinge. You must slide a toggle switch to unlock the door and open it.
Nikon included a separate battery charger with this camera kit, and it's the only way to charge the battery. It cannot be charged inside the camera.
The battery power with the D810 is very good, especially if you primarily shoot in viewfinder mode. Nikon's estimates place the battery life as high as 1,200 shots per charge, which my tests showed is a bit high, but I also shot plenty of photos in Live View mode, reviewed the photos on the LCD screen, and made changes to the on-screen menus, which I believe is a more realistic usage scenario. Under these usage circumstances, my tests showed battery life was more in the 800-1,000 shots per charge range.