A closer look at the Nikon D810

Following on from our first impressions of the D810 in June 2014, Anthony Sinfield (Training Manager for Park Cameras School of Photography) takes a more in-depth look to see what this new model brings to photographers. 

The replacement to the D800 was expected but more of a shock was the fact the D810 replaces both the D800 and the D800E.

There are numerous reviews available on line, my own however is based on usability, being the photographic trainer here at Park Cameras and specifically running courses on the Nikon D800 I was aware that its predecessor had to be used with care. I had heard so many cases from customers commenting on “soft” results from the D800 (due to pixel shift / shutter speed issues) that I was curious to find out if the D810 was more forgiving.

Expanding on this pixel shift problem, when using the D800 it is necessary to use faster shutter speeds than normal in order to gain sharp results, the key to fantastic images with the D800 was down to technique and a different mindset more than anything.

So is the D810 any more forgiving or easier to use??

As mentioned, full specifications can be read at ParkCameras.com. As such, I wanted to concentrate on the features that made a genuine difference as opposed to spec list in general,

  • OLED viewfinder display - This may not sound a big thing but believe me it is. The first time I picked up the camera and looked through the viewfinder it was very noticeable how easy it was to see the readout in blue and how clear this was. Having used virtually every Nikon DSLR since the D70 it was a refreshing change from the normal green display.

  • Improved ergonomics, specifically the grip and button placement relating to the AEL / AF - ON buttons, these fall easily to hand and the camera feels so much more comfortable in the hand. It is fair to say that this is probably the best handling Nikon to date.

  • Quieter shutter - Again another vast improvement, having shot weddings on both the D700 and D800 I was very conscious of how loud the shutter was, even to an extent embarrassingly noisy. The reduced noise on the new shutter is a marked improvement and brings it more in line with cameras such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

  • Improved White Balance - With each and every new model released the results from the Auto White balance improve, initially results proved a significant improvement over the D800.

  • Faster AF / Group Focusing - A faster/ more responsive focusing is always welcome and now having the same focusing module as the D4s makes a great improvement. I see the group focusing feature being of particular interest to wedding photographers. I have lost count of the times my D700 / D800 has failed to focus on groups when needed.

  • Sharper JPEGs out of camera - For the JPEG shooter (yes we do shoot JPEGs with the D800 / D810). The JPEGs out of the D810 are the best I have seen, thanks partially to the new CLARITY facility which is built in to the Picture Controls. It remains to be seen whether Adobe adopt this feature for Picture Controls within future versions of Adobe Camera Raw.

  • Faster thumbnail generation of thumbnails on playback - Again another welcome change, the D810 is blisteringly quick in generating thumbnails and navigation of images on playback.

  • Increased dynamic range - This can only help with regards pulling back shadow detail, allowing the user to expose for highlights. It is quite surprising how much detail can be coaxed out of shadows and with the inclusion of a native 64 ISO now allows the sensor to achieve more film like results.

  • Larger buffer - Although this has not been increased greatly, it is again a welcome benefit with the limit removed with regards continuous shooting.

  • Improved LCD screen / Live View capability - these changes relate to the Information screen / increased pixel count and better live view capability which goes hand in hand in making the camera more pleasurable in use.

There are additional improvements including the expanded ISO range, split screen zoom facility, face detection matrix metering which I am sure will be welcome.

One feature which I would like to have more made of is the Electronic First Curtain Shutter Sync. At first I thought this would be the answer to the pixel shift problem but it seems as if this is only implemented in the mirror up mode when most of the problems with vibration are counteracted anyway.

There have also been murmurs and worries regarding the lack of Anti-Aliasing filter and how this will lead to more problems with moiré. This can be a problem although this is only really evident on 100% or greater enlargements and evident when shooting subjects wearing manmade fibre (I can image this will not be popular with wedding / social photographers). There are however solutions in place to eradicate this problem by way of software from Nikon or Adobe. From my own brief tests I did not see a problem and the benefit of sharper images far outweighed this perceived problem.

So all in all, the introduction of the D810 brings with it some welcome changes, although not groundbreaking as with the original D800 but never the less welcome, and in my opinion this heralds Nikon’s best DSLR to date.

I look forward to using the D810 and will be swapping my age old and much loved D700’s and am glad to say I waited....

One final thought, even though the D810 is easier to use, it is still necessary to configure the camera correctly. Like the D800 it can be very unforgiving if not set up properly but can yield truly amazing results if set up and used correctly. We will be covering this in our new Understanding Your Nikon D810 course starting in late September / early October. Register your interest on this new course at Park Cameras by e-mailing sales@parkcameras.com.

You can see the Nikon D810 and the rest of the Nikon range or DSLRs and lenses in our stores in Central London, and Burgess Hill (West Sussex). In both stores, you can touch and try them out for yourself. Alternatively visit www.ParkCameras.com where you can see the Nikon range of cameras and accessories online.

If you've got a question about the Nikon D810, why not post a comment in the box below and we’ll do our best to answer them for you.

Park Cameras School of Photography Training Manager

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