Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • 36.3-megapixel full-frame FX-format CMOS image sensor
    • 7360x4912 resolution
    • no optical low pass filter (OLPF)
  • EXPEED 4 image processing engine
    • ISO 64-12,800
    • expandable to 32 (Lo-1) to 51,200 (Hi-2)
    • Advanced Scene Recognition System
    • 91K-pixel 3D Color Matrix Meter III
    • New "Clarity" setting added to Picture Controls
  • 3.2-inch high-resolution (1229K-dot) LCD screen
    • Split Screen Display Zoom
  • Full HD 1920 x 1080 video @ 60/30/24p
    • FX and DX crop modes
    • Flat Picture Control Profile
    • Uncompressed HDMI output
    • In-camera time-lapse and interval timer
    • Built-in stereo microphone with audio control
    • Expanded ISO for video
    • 64-12,800
    • Auto-ISO
    • 200-51,200 in manual mode
    • Zebra Stripes
    • Highlight weighted metering
    • Full manual control
    • Full time AF (Autofocus)
    • Compatible with 80 NIKKOR lenses
    • Enhanced Multi-Cam 3500-FX AF sensor
  • 5 frames-per-second burst shooting at full resolution
    • Up to 7fps @ 15.4MP
  • 14-bit RAW/NEF
  • 12-bit RAW Size Small
  • Durable magnesium alloy structure
  • Nikon Capture NX-D Software
  • Pros
    • Brilliant image quality across JPEG, RAW, and TIFF formats
    • Full frame FX image sensor
    • Sharper detail than many other DSLRs because Nikon removed anti-aliasing filter
    • Works fast in viewfinder mode
    • Very quiet operation
    • 36-plus-megapixels of resolution allows for cropping of images when required
    • Large range of extended ISO from Lo 1 (32) to Hi 2 (51,200)
    • Dual memory card slots
    • Viewfinder is clear with 100% coverage
    • 3.2-inch LCD is extremely sharp
    • Plenty of buttons and dials to control the camera's settings
    • Small RAW mode offers some flexibility in storage space requirements
    • 51-point autofocus system works extremely well
    • Manual focus option is easy to use
    • Nikon offers large number of customization options to easily personalize camera's operation
    • Camera is well-built and has weather-proofing
    • Strong battery life
    Cons
    • Heavy camera, especially if you make use of a telephoto lens
    • Photo files are extremely large in terms of storage space, even JPEG
    • High price tag
    • No Wi-Fi, no GPS, no articulated LCD, no touch screen LCD
    • Maximum burst rate of 5 fps at full resolution could be a little better for pro-level sports photography
    • Doesn't offer an overwhelming number of upgrades in features over Nikon D800
    • Images have obvious noise in extended high ISO range
    • Focus switch only offers AF and manual, AF-S AF-A, and AF-C must be selected through on-screen menus
    Timing Test Results
    • Power up to first image captured (Viewfinder mode) = 0.9 seconds
    • Power up to first image captured (Live View mode) = 2.9 seconds
    • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 0.1 seconds (Viewfinder mode), less than 0.1 seconds (Live View mode)
    • Shutter lag with autofocus = 0.4 seconds (Viewfinder mode), 0.8 seconds (Live View mode)
    • Shot to shot delay without flash (Viewfinder mode) = 0.9 seconds between frames
    • Shot to shot delay with flash (Viewfinder mode) = 3.1 seconds between frames
    • Shot to shot delay without flash (Live View mode) = 7.4 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 2.8 seconds with review Off
    • Shot to shot delay with flash (Live View mode) = 10.8 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 6.2 seconds with review Off
    • Continuous Mode Low = 10 frames in 3.3 seconds @ 36M in Viewfinder mode, 10 frames in 4.2 seconds @ 36M in Live View mode
    • Continuous Mode High = 10 frames in 2.3 seconds @ 36M in Viewfinder mode, 10 frames in 2.8 seconds @ 36M in Live View mode
    All tests were taken using a SanDisk Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
    Bottom Line
    The Nikon D810 DSLR camera has a host of eminently likable features, giving it the flexibility and power that all photographers want in a camera. The D810 works equally well as a camera for shooting sports, for shooting nature photos, and for shooting portraits. Images are brilliantly sharp and bright. And with 36-megapixels of resolution in the FX image sensor, you can easily crop half the photo and still have a high-resolution image. For advanced photographers who want to completely personalize their cameras, Nikon gave the D810 an impressive number of customization features. Not surprisingly, all of this power and flexibility comes with a price -- a few thousand dollars in this case for the camera body only. If you want one of the best models on the market and price is no concern, the Nikon D810 will be a great choice.
    Pick This Up If...
    You need a high-end DSLR camera with an FX image sensor that is easily customizable to fit your needs, and you're not worried about the extremely high price tag.
    The Nikon D810 is an impressive looking advanced DSLR camera with a wide variety of dials, switches, and buttons that give photographers many manual control settings. You also can customize many of the buttons to meet your personal usage needs, giving you access to the settings that you use most often. It's an impressive camera ... and that's before you see the D810's image quality.

    The D810 matches Nikon's highest resolution camera at 36.3-megapixels, and its FX-format CMOS image sensor creates outstanding images in nearly all types of scenes. And with 36-megapixels of resolution, you can crop the photos quite a bit to improve your composition while still maintaining a high-resolution image of 15MP or 25MP. This is a great feature.

    Its performance speeds are strong, thanks to the EXPEED 4 image processing engine and a greatly increased amount of buffer memory versus its predecessor, the Nikon D800. The autofocus mechanism is outstanding, working well even in low light, but you also have the option of using manual focus.

    Simply put, the Nikon D810 is a model that has lived up to its hype as one of the best DSLR cameras currently available.

    That doesn't mean the D810 is perfect. The high manufacturer's starting price of around $3,000 for the camera body alone will drive this model beyond the means of quite a few photographers.

    This model is very well built, but it's a heavy camera that's not going to be comfortable to carry outside of a camera bag for a full day of photography, whether you're carrying it by hand or via the neck strap. If you aren't using proper shooting techniques, the camera's weight can make it tough to hand hold the camera steady in certain low light situations without some camera shake.

    And the Nikon D810 doesn't necessarily offer a significant number of obvious improvements over what is found with the D800. Depending on the way they plan to use the camera, owners of the D800 may not find enough bells and whistles with the D810 to cause them to feel like an upgrade is required. Owners of older Nikon DSLR models are more likely potential purchasers of the D810.

    Another issue that may frustrate some photographers with the Nikon D810 is that the storage space required for each photo file is very large. Individual JPEG images require an average of 20MB to 30MB, RAW images require storage space in a range of about 50MB to 75MB, and TIFF images require 100MB, 125MB, or more of storage space. You'll burn up free space on the memory card in a hurry with this camera.

    Then again, when the images look as great as the Nikon D810's images look, you might be willing to sacrifice some storage space.

    Not only does the D810 create brilliant photos, but it does so in a variety of shooting conditions. This DSLR camera is equally at home when used in a museum as it is when used at a sporting event. Its versatility is impressive, allowing it to shoot great photos almost anywhere.

    The D810's 5 frames per second maximum burst speed isn't quite what a professional sports photographer would like, but it works well for shooting photos at most events where professional-level results aren't required. You can gain a little more shooting speed by switching to the DX image sensor crop format, rather than shooting at full FX.

    Low light results are extremely strong too with the Nikon D810, You can make use of the really good built-in popup flash unit, or you can add an external flash to the camera's hot shoe. The popup flash works over a distance up to 39 feet when shooting at ISO 100. The D810's performance at increased ISO settings is very good with minimal noise until you reach the highest ISO settings the camera offers, such as ISO 12,800 and then into the extended ISO range.

    For those photographers who are considering an upgrade from the Nikon D800, the new D810 doesn't look much different design wise from its predecessor, introduced a couple of years earlier. Each camera's button and dial designs are nearly identical, although Nikon added an i button to the D810. A few of the buttons have been slightly moved to provide some better ergonomics. I thought the D810's buttons were well-placed, but those who are D800 users may be a bit frustrated with the slight shift in positioning of the buttons.

    Nikon did give the D810 some upgrades over the D800, most of which aren't visible on the outside of the camera body, such as:

    • Improvement in full resolution burst mode from 4 fps to 5 fps
    • Upgrade from the EXPEED 3 image processing engine to the EXPEED 4
    • Removal of the anti-aliasing filter to improve image sharpness
    • Greater extended ISO range from 50-25,600 in the D800 to 32-51,200 in the D810
    • Addition of a RAW S file size, which makes use of 12-bit RAW and creates a 9-megapixel file, versus the 14-bit RAW, 36-megapixel full size image
    • Approximately 33% more pixels in the same-sized 3.2-inch LCD screen
    • A projected battery life improvement of about 33%
    Another area where the Nikon D810 shows improvement over the D800 is in its quiet operation. Nikon has given the D810 an upgraded shutter and mirror box mechanism, which provides improved noise results. The D810's shutter is quieter than most other DSLR cameras in normal operational mode, but Nikon offers a "quiet" mode with this model as well. You can feel comfortable using this camera in most indoor settings, such as a museum, a wedding ceremony, or even plays. You also often can photograph others without alerting them to the fact that you've pressed the shutter button, because of how quietly this top-flight Nikon DSLR model operates.

    The D810 offer 36.3-megapixels of resolution in a FX format (full frame) image sensor, the same as was found in its predecessor. You can change the crop setting for the images, emulating a 5:4 image sensor (30x24mm), a DX image sensor (23.4x15.6mm), or a 1.2x image sensor (30x19.9mm). You also have the option of dialing back the resolution to 20MP or 9MP when you want to conserve memory card space.

    The Nikon D810 doesn't offer any of the popular add-on features found on many cameras today, such as built-in Wi-Fi, a touch screen LCD, or an articulated LCD. But you do have a pair of memory card slots with this camera, one SD memory card slot and one CF memory card slot.

    The improved memory buffer with the D810 over its predecessors allows this camera to work more quickly, as does its improved image processor. Of course with the large amount of storage space each D810 photo requires, a huge memory buffer is a necessity, not a luxury.

    As with most DSLR cameras, the D810 works much more quickly when you're using the viewfinder than when you're shooting in Live View mode. Battery life is also much better in viewfinder mode than in Live View mode. Nikon rates its battery for up to 1,200 photos per charge using CIPA standards, but my tests showed that number to be a bit high. If you're using the LCD screen in Live View mode about half the time, as well as using the LCD to review photos and to work through the on-screen menus, you can expect 800-1,000 photos per charge. One nice feature of this camera is the ability to work through the on-screen menus to see a real-time estimated number of photos you can shoot with the remaining battery power.

    Even though it will cost you some battery power and performance speed, you may be tempted to use Live View mode quite a bit because of the impressive LCD screen included with this camera. The 3.2-inch LCD has more than 1.2 million pixels of resolution, which allows for extremely sharp image display. The viewfinder works extremely well too, so you can't go wrong either way.

    In fact there are quite a few different options for using the Nikon D810 in the way that makes the most sense for you. You can assign individual functions to several buttons on the camera, placing a commonly used function close at hand. This is a great feature of this camera. If you're willing to spend the time setting up the camera's personalization features, you're going to gain a lot of benefits in how you use the D810.

    Full HD movie recording is impressive with the D810, just as it was with the D800, although the D810 offers up to 1080/60p performance, versus the 1080/30p offered in the D800.

    I'd strongly recommend a tripod with the D810, as it weighs more than 2 pounds with the battery installed. While Nikon includes a neck strap with this model's kit, the camera is heavy enough that the neck strap will become uncomfortable after a couple of hours of use. Despite the heavy camera body, the ergonomics of the Nikon D810 are extremely good. The buttons and dials are within easy reach as you're holding the camera normally, and the right-hand grip is of a good size.

    Bottom Line - The Nikon D810 was introduced with a lot of fanfare on the heels of the highly impressive D800 DSLR camera. Even though expectations were incredibly high for the Nikon D810, it doesn't disappoint. Its image quality is absolutely brilliant in a variety of shooting situations, and with 36-plus-megapixels of resolution in the FX image sensor, you can crop the D810's images quite a bit and still end up with a high-resolution photo. This camera will work well in almost any type of scene, providing great image quality and performance. The D810's flexibility is great, and Nikon has given the photographer a large number of options for customizing the camera's use. With its new shutter and mirror box mechanism the D810 works extremely quietly, allowing it be used in a variety of situations where you normally wouldn't want to use a DSLR with a noisy shutter, such as at a wedding ceremony. Nikon gave the camera's LCD about 33% more pixels of resolution and extended the battery life by about 33% versus the D800. To be fair, the D810 isn't perfect. Its image files will require a surprising amount of storage, eating memory card space in a hurry. And those who already own the Nikon D800 may not find much of a reason to upgrade to the D810, especially with a starting price of about $3,000. Still, the Nikon D810 is an extremely impressive DSLR offering that excels in a large number of areas. If you're looking for a FX image sensor format camera and if you can squeeze the D810 into your budget, this DSLR is one of the best models you can purchase.

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