Nikon d810 review
Reviews abound on the web. Type the right keywords in Google Search and you can find a review on just about anything. This, of course, is a good thing. However, when it comes to finding information on the best camera to buy, most reviews are geared toward techies or pinpoint only certain features of a particular camera. In this short review, I will describe my journey into the world of DSLRs these last seven years and why I decided to buy the D810, a purchase I once thought impossible.
Let me start with a short introduction. It’s nice to reminisce about pleasant photographic memories. I’m not sure of the exact date, but I guess it was around 2007 when I bought my first full-frame digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera, the Nikon D700. The change from what I was used to was huge. My previous camera was a Nikon D200 and the differences were many. The most important two: a CMOS sensor instead of CCD and the fact that the frame size was 24mm x 36mm full frame, so I was able to use my 35mm as 35mm, a true revolution.
I was so happy with this camera’s performance, increased ISO range, awesome color profile and the final results it produced that I soon bought two more. Year after year, I added new lenses and accessories and tried new techniques. Through it all, the camera remains the same, the immortal D700. Here’s why. The body is the perfect size for me, 12mp are enough for weddings and documentaries and I prefer compact flash cards over SD or any other type.
Then the D600 came out and I immediately fell in love with it. With two cards slots, I could shoot Raw images to both cards as a backup measure. The increased resolution was nice, too: 4256 x 2832 pixels on the D700 vs. 6016 x 4016 pixels on the D600, which is a lot if you need to crop, plus you are able to capture a lot more information.
A third selling point was its economical price. I paid $2,100 USD for a new D610 instead of the $3,000 I had paid for the D700.
Lastly, and most importantly for me, was the desire to keep my equipment up to date. I always like to have the latest gear, computers, hard drives, etc. I believe it’s very important to stay current if you can afford to do so. My method is to keep a camera, laptop or whatever for a year or two, then sell it and replace it with the latest model. Selling the old equipment makes the new purchase a lot more affordable. Doing things this way, I can have the best, most up-to-date equipment while avoiding any bad surprises from old gear. Plus, I am able to experiment with the latest gadgets to hit the market, all while doing what I love to do most: photography in all its varied forms.
Once I started shooting with the Nikon D600, I really liked it and decided to sell two of the D700. (I kept one because the D700 was my first full frame DSLR and I want to be able to show its amazing capabilities to my grandchildren one day.) With the proceeds, I bought a D610 body.
If you want to know more about the D600/D610 you can check here in the review I wrote last year.
Last month, I bought a D810 and now I’m in love once again! I was happy with the D600/610, so why the upgrade? There are many factors. Mainly, it filled the need for an even better camera, necessary to accommodate our current style: documentary wedding photography. As shooters, in our eternal quest to capture the decisive moments at these events, we need a camera that can handle everything we throw at it. I needed a camera with a faster AF, better ISO performance, better ergonomics, more custom functions, and one that was more responsive at a moment’s notice, a truly professional camera. The D810 fit the bill in every respect.
The D610 had been my main body camera for two years. Despite all its awesomeness, I was only 80% happy with it, knowing there was another camera body that could better provide the level of professionalism that I required. So, I upgraded once again.
After purchasing the Nikon D810 the first week of September, I shot a lot of street photography, one session and one wedding. I’m so in love with the beast (as I call it)! There is only one major problem: file size. As mentioned, I shoot RAW, lossless compressed at 14 bit; but the average file size is 42MB. This means that with a 64GB card I can shoot approximately 1560 frames. If you’re a prolific shooter like we are, and you prefer to shoot in RAW format, expect to spend a lot of money on cards.
These large files will also impact the amount of free space on your computer’s external hard drive, the performance of your laptop, the performance of Adobe Lightroom to edit the images, etc. Find a way to resolve these issues and the negative aspects of shooting with a monster camera will disappear. It’s like listening to a great song on killer speakers with no possibility of setting the volume to low. Resolve that issue and you have the best sound performance possible at any volume you choose. :-)
Here are a few tricks to avoid huge files when using the D810:
– Once you select the images you want to import into LR, convert the files to DNG format. This will allow you to work with a 15-20% smaller file. It’s a start. Here is a link where you can download free conversion software: link
– If you use Adobe Lightroom 4 or earlier, I highly recommend you to upgrade as soon as you can to Lightroom 5. There are many advantages to doing this and one of them is the Smart Previews feature. (Learn more here: link) Editing in Smart Previews means that you are working with a very small preview file instead of the full-size image file. Once you are ready to export your changes, or if you want to take a closer look at 1:1 ratio, simply reconnect to the drive where the original files are located.
– I currently shoot with both the D810 and D610. The files are respectively 7360 x 4912 and 6016 x 4016. I don’t like that some files are bigger than others and also so heavy, so I usually export everything at 6000 px longest side to avoid the problem and I still have a huge file. If I crop later some of the photos, those files will be smaller, but not by much. This is yet another way to reduce the monster size of D810 files, by as much as 20%.
– Once you are done editing, you can generally export from LR at 90% quality for weddings, personal use, documentary style, etc. You won’t be able to see a difference between 90% and 100%, but the final JPEG files will be about 30% smaller.
Some D810’s numbers samples:
– Regular RAW file size: 42.3MB (OMG!!!)
– RAW file format converted in DNG: 36.2MB
– JPEG exported from a RAW file format at 300 dpi and 100% quality (original size 7360 x 4912 px): 16.2MB
– JPEG exported from a DNG file format at 300 dpi and 90% quality (original size 6000 x 4000 px): 6.3MB (oh yeah!)
So now you can have a beast camera and use it almost as easily as a non-beast, but without losing those superpowers.
Conclusion – What I really like about the Nikon D810
– It’s a pro camera, no regrets or complaints about it, although I was hoping that the S-RAW format would be larger than 3680 x 2456… my point-and-shoot camera has larger files than this.
– The custom buttons are incredible; I can easily set thing up the way that works best for me, which was not so easy with the D610.
– The ergonomics: I have big hands, and camera size is very important to me. After a few months using the D610, I wound up adding a battery grip because the camera was too small for my hands and at the end of the day I was in pain. No need of a battery grip on the D810; it’s the perfect size.
– The shooting menu bank and the custom settings bank are great, I can switch settings in seconds. Many cameras have similar settings, but on the D810 it is very quick to make adjustments to all the custom functions.
The nicest part: You can personalized your own settings with weird names ;)
– The shutter is quieter, and I’m not talking about quiet mode. I’m talking about normal mode. Love it!
– You can assign a function to the movie-record button, which is great! I assigned the ISO function to this button. Now I don’t have to remove any fingers from my camera when I need to change shutter speed, aperture or ISO. It’s all very quick and easy.
– The D810 has no optical low-pass filter (Learn more here: link), which means that it provides much more sharpness and detail than others cameras. If you don’t much like the sharpness of a particular lens, try it on the D810 and you’re gonna love it again. :-)
Quick note: What about the Nikon D750?
Many folks were waiting for the true successor to the D700, and I was one of them. But when it finally arrived, it was a bit of a disappointment. The D750 has little in common with the D700. It’s more of a D610 upgrade than anything else. If you don’t own a D600/610 yet, you will probably prefer the D750 because of its tilting screen, WiFi feature, high ISO performance, etc. Judging by my selling and buying style, I may wind up getting one at some point, I don’t know. But, once you test the D810, it is difficult to step back. Considering that I’m currently shooting with only one body, I’m happy now with my D810. Still, if you are looking a full frame camera at a more affordable price, the Nikon D750 could be the best choice for you.
I hope you found something of interest in this short Nikon D810 review. I tried not to get too technical, while still giving you some nice tips.
Have a wonderful day and happy clicks!