If you are a D800 user, you are probably wondering whether the Nikon D810 is really worth the upgrade. Having used the D800 myself for the last 2 years (and the D700 for 4 years), I can safely say the answer for me is a resounding yes.
Nikon have polished off the D800(E) with a whole raft of ‘small’ upgrades across the board. However there are so many ‘small’ upgrades that, when taken collectively, the D810 becomes a ‘substantial’ upgrade.
As the camera only launched shortly prior to the date of this review, I cannot at this point share anything more than my first impressions of using the D810 in comparison to the D800:
- When you first open the box and wrap your hand around the body, you will immediately notice how much the ergonomics on the body have improved. The grip is deeper (somewhat reminiscent of the D700 grip) and the rear now has an aesthetically pleasing ‘bump’ where the thumb rests to stop the camera from slipping. The additional rubber material around the side is also a welcomed addition. Being a 6 foot tall person with large hands, when I went from the D700 to the D800 I disliked the grip on the D800 as it felt cramped and awkward. The D810 brings back the traditional Nikon ergonomics and the camera now fits my hand like a glove. This makes a huge difference if you are going to be holding the camera for many hours on a shoot!
- Focusing is snappier and improved in comparison to the D800. Group area AF is a genius innovation and will certainly get serious usage from me. I have tested this on active subjects and was surprised at how good this worked. It nailed the focus precisely where I placed it, with very high keep rates. Complementing the improved auto focus module is the extra 1 FPS burst rate, which does make a difference in practice. To me the D800 felt like a bit of a slouch in bursts and sometimes hesitant when focussing. Nikon has sent the D800 to the gym and the D810 now feels sharp, agile and ready for a battle.
- Significantly improved image quality (I assume you are using professional grade glass if you are considering this body). We already know the D800 had an AA filter, which softened the image to reduce moire amongst other things. It is gone now and good riddance! When Nikon claimed that this camera delivers the best image quality in Nikon history with razor sharp details etc, I must admit I was sceptical. They have, however, proven me wrong and, my goodness, the image quality is impressive! Having taken some test shots, the lack of AA is immediately apparent. The images possess depth, clarity and tack sharpness even when zoomed in at 100%. This improvement alone places the D810 head and shoulders above the D800.
- Improved rear screen. Thanks to the increased resolution, you will immediately notice how much sharper the rear screen looks compared to the D800. Such a joy to use when reviewing images and the crisp screen makes it easier to manual focus in videos.
- New native ISO range of 64 to 12,800. ISO 64 is silky smooth and the dynamic range, to my eye, appears even better than the D800. On the opposite end of the spectrum, noise at high ISOs is very well controlled and I was impressed at how good a test shot at 10,000 ISO looked.
- Quieter shutter sound. I was never really concerned about the D800’s shutter sound as it was certainly quieter than the D700. However the D810 shutter now sounds refined and is significantly quieter during use. In all honestly this is not a ‘deal maker’ for me, but certainly a ‘nice to have’ bonus. There is also an electronic front shutter curtain which can be enabled in the menus to reduce vibrations – although I have not tested this yet so will not comment further.
- Improved video features. 1080p 60fps video is liquid smooth and frighteningly sharp (due to the lack of AA filter perhaps?). You will notice the difference from the D800. There are a whole raft of other video-orientated upgrades however, as I am primarily a stills person, I do not feel well placed to comment much further on those.
- The new blue/white “daylight” OLED display in the viewfinder looks nice although, again, this is merely a ‘nice to have’.
- Finally, there are many other ‘small’ upgrades which were comprehensively documented in the Nikon press release and marketing materials. I will not mention them here as they did not jump out to me during my ‘first impressions’ test. Perhaps after longer use of the D810 I will be able to make better judgement on them.
In conclusion the D810, whilst not revolutionary, adds a touch of finesse and refinement to the already very impressive D800(E). This, to me, is to what the D800(E) should have been. Worth the upgrade? Yes.