Entry 137 : [REVIEW] Nikon D810

I got the day off yesterday because I sat for the GRE General Test (which was balls).
As it lasted well until after lunch, my boss decided that it was better if I just took a leave.
So, with much appreciation, I used the rest of the day to street shoot and play around with the brand new Nikon D810!

Nikon D810
Shot with a Nikon Df + 50mm f1.8G

The Nikon D810 is marketed as "the camera that will let you create your next masterpiece" with "Incomparable image quality and practical versatility'.
With major improvements in the movie features such as highlight display (zebra stripes), Auto ISO and focus checking, the D810 is set out to cater to not only stills photographers, but also HD-SLR filmmakers and videographers.
Brochure can be viewed here.
I don't shoot videos, though, so all these massive improvements to the movie features don't apply much to me (as of now).
Even so, I wanted to test out other aspects of the camera.

Super Resolution
First of all, I am honestly intrigued by the super resolution of the D810, which maintains all 36.3MP of the D800 and D800E, but this time with a newer sensor.
The D810 has also completely done away with the optical low pass filter (OLPF) so it promises sharper, more detailed photos.
Of course, I've only used my D7100 for one year and the D810 does cost around RM11,000, but I have to admit I am really digging this new body.
Nikon has really outdone themselves with their newer models, with the unchallenged low light capability of the D4s and the stunning detail in the D810, which makes camera geeks like me drool with excitement.
Due to its abundance of pixels, this camera produces 70MB RAW files with a maximum resolution of 7360x4912!
That is twice the RAW size of my D7100 and 7 times the size of a JPEG export.
But with all that data comes a brilliant, beautiful rendering of detail.

Ain, the nice girl at Nikon that lets me use everything
Nikon D810 + 85mm f1.4G | f/2.8 | 1/800 sec. | ISO-1600 | 85mm

Ain, 100% crop
The skin tones, the fine details in the eyebrows, the pores and even the hair fibers are visible in the 100% crop. If I were to do portraits full time, the D810 would definitely be at the top of my list.

I guess I now get why they have that diorama at Nikon Centre
Nikon D810 + 85mm f1.4G | f/4.0 | 1/160 sec. | ISO-1600 | 85mm

Diorama, 100% crop
This is every pixel peeper's wet dream. The fine details are rendered seamlessly and the color retention is just superb. There isn't any double-lining or moire detected, either. Grain is inevitable at such a high MP, but does it even matter?

Stick to the shadows!
Nikon D810 + 85mm f1.4G | f/4.0 | 1/200 sec. | ISO-1600 | 85mm

Shadows, 100% crop
Look at that. Just look at it. All that detail retained in the dark areas of the photo with minimal to no noise, at all.

Tracking & Burst
The D810 is fitted with the Group AF (autofocus) mode, something only preceded by the flagship D4s.
The Group AF mode is supposed to allow for better tracking of a moving subject since it focuses on 5 AF points at once.
I put the a 70-200 f2.8 VRII lens on the D810 and shot this kid who was moving about.
The D810 was in Group AF on AF-C (continuous) and I expected the camera to track the kid nicely.
But it didn't!

#1 : In focus

#2: Out of focus

#3: Out of focus

#4: Out of focus

#5: In focus

All photos: Nikon D810 + 70-200mm f2.8G VRII | f/4.0 | 1/250 sec. | ISO-6400 | 200mm

3 out of 5 photos were out of focus! I don't know why it couldn't track the kid in all of the first 5 photos here. Low light couldn't have been a reason. I mean, it's a Nikon! After the fifth photo, though, the camera finally got a grip and tracked the kid till the end of my 13-photo burst. I only showed 5 photos here because the D810 shoots at 5fps in FX mode.

The D810 has a lot of variations of the Continuous High mode:

  • 5 fps in FX/5:4 Crop Mode
  • 6 fps in DX/1.2X Crop Mode
  • 7 fps in DX Crop Mode with MB-D12 with AA batteries

The buffer sometimes allows for a longer burst time and other times only lets me shoot 5 frames before clogging up.
The D810 has the new Expeed 4 processor which is said to be 30% faster than the previous Expeed 3, so writing to the card shouldn't be that problematic.
I was using a Class 10 SD Card when shooting the D810, too.

It feels much better in the hands than the D800/800E.
Though I've never used any of these cameras on a job, I did use the D810 for a good two hours and without a doubt it was comfortable in the hands.
I compared it to the D800 and it is miles more suited for long hours of work.
The grip is much better as there is an indentation or curve in the front so that it allows your fingers to hold on tightly into the contours.
The thumb rest has also been beefed up so your thumb won't slip as much as it would when using the D800.
The body is large in the hands and really fills your face if you're the type of person that likes to point cameras at the mirror for a 'selfie'.
When I shot the Df and D810 together, the Df felt so light, I almost forgot I was holding it.
Although this goes without saying, the build quality of the D810 is excellently solid; something you would expect from a professional body that costs more than two used cars.

It operates generally the same as how any other double-dialed Nikon camera operates while still retaining the 51 AF points from the D800/800E.
The only difference for me, as a non-"pro" body owner, was that the QUAL, ISO, WB and metering buttons were on the top left of the camera.
It was awkward to change ISO mid-shoot as I had to reach to the top of this large camera.
Maybe those who have shot with the D700 for years and D800/800E recently won't think of it as awkward but as a person who is used to pressing buttons on the back of the camera, it took some time to adapt.
Heck, even the D4s has those buttons on the back (save for the metering button)!

Image Quality
I think we can already establish that there is no doubt about the quality of images this camera produces.

High definition in whichever way you can think of

The colors are just wonderful and the details are retained so handsomely.
The high MP might accentuate grain but that doesn't take away from the beautiful photos that the D810 produces.
Moreover, grain is only visible upon ultra close inspection.

Is this camera for you?
I expect macro photographers, wedding photographers, commercial photographers and also fashion photographers to make full use of this camera since attention to detail is really important in their line of work.
Plus, the large resolution allows for larger prints, which gives added benefit to photographers who want to sell large prints to clients.
Filmmakers will love all the new movie improvements (which I did not touch in this review), with features such as zebra stripes, split-screen, 60p at Full 1080p HD and so much more.
Sports photographers may not feel that the 5fps (or maximum 7fps) is adequate for their photography but the ability to crop their photos without losing a lot of quality is something to consider.
Street photographers are better off without the weight and size of this camera. (Stick to your Leicas and Fujis!)

If you are a working photographer who needs a solid camera and emphasizes superb quality, then the D810 is certainly for you.
Is it a worthwhile upgrade from the D800/800E?
Personally, for a stills photographer like myself, I wouldn't bother upgrading (if I already had a D800/800E of course), unless I really wanted the added function of the Group AF and faster burst rate.
Also, if you're none of the above but can afford this camera, then why not?

The D810 is a masterpiece.
It looks a bit ugly with the battery grip on but it excels in every feature it has to offer.
If I someday make a living off of photography, I would really have a hard time deciding between the D4s and this body.
It isn't the sort of "fun" type of camera, too.
When you hold it and shoot with it, you automatically feel like you're at work and that instills professionalism.
Not that the camera makes you a professional (NO!), it just gives off the feeling.
At least, that's what I felt.

Check out all the HIGH RES photos from this review and more at my Flickr here!

DISCLAIMER: I do not represent Nikon or any other brand that might be showcased in this review. This review is written for THE FEAR and is of no significance to any sort of argument that may or may not ensue. I deliver this with utmost honesty and sincerity.