Nikon D810 Review

July 23, 2014 | Mark Goldstein | |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 36 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 25Mb.

At full resolution, the Nikon D810 produces images of 7360x4912 pixels, which yield sharp 24”x16” prints at 300ppi with no interpolation. The level of detail captured is stunning and comparable to many medium-format digital cameras and backs. However, there is more to the Nikon D810's image quality than pure resolution. The photos, especially those shot in NEF format, also have great dynamic range and generally low levels of noise.

When scrutinised up close at 1:1 view, they may seem noisier than most other full-frame DSLRs, especially at ISO 6400 and beyond, but given the insanely high levels of detail captured you can apply quite a bit of noise reduction to them and still walk away with a sharper and more detailed final image than if you had used a cleaner but lower-resolution photograph to begin with. Thus noise really only becomes a problem when shooting at high ISO settings in in DX crop mode, and even then it's comparable to what you've been used to seeing from top-of-the line 16-megapixel APS-C dSLRs.

Nikon's Active D-lighting and HDR technologies work well in contrasty light, the built-in flash produces even exposures with no detectable red-eye, and the camera is also very well suited to night photography and long exposures in general.

Noise

The base sensitivity of the Nikon D810 is ISO 64 but you can go down to ISO 32 (L1.0) if you wish. At the other end of the scale, the highest native sensitivity of the Nikon D810 is ISO 12,800 but two boosted settings, ISO 25,600 and ISO 51,200, are also available.

JPEG RAW

LO 1EV (ISO 32) (100% Crop)

LO 1EV (ISO 32) (100% Crop)

iso32.jpg iso32raw.jpg
   

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

iso64.jpg iso64raw.jpg
   

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg
   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg
   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg
   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg
   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg
   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg
   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg
   

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg
   

HI 1EV (ISO 25600) (100% Crop)

HI 1EV (ISO 25600) (100% Crop)

iso25600.jpg iso25600raw.jpg
   

HI 2EV (ISO 51200) (100% Crop)

HI 2EV (ISO 51200) (100% Crop)

iso25600.jpg iso25600raw.jpg

Sharpening

The out-of-camera JPEGs often benefit from some sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Alternatively you can change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes. Here are two pairs of 100% crops - the right-hand images have had some extra sharpening applied.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
   
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

The file quality settings available on the Nikon D810 include Basic, Normal and Fine for JPEGs, and the camera can also shoot 12- or 14-bit NEFs (Nikon's proprietary raw file format) and 8-bit TIFFs.

Fine (23.2Mb) (100% Crop)

Normal (12.3Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_fine.jpg quality_normal.jpg
   
Basic (5.95Mb) (100% Crop)

Raw (43.4Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_basic.jpg quality_raw.jpg
   
Tiff (110Mb) (100% Crop)

 

quality_tiff.jpg  

Flash

Unlike its main competitor the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, the Nikon D810 features a pop-up flash, with a guide number of 12 in metres at ISO 100. This little on-board Speedlight has a number of functions including front- and rear-curtain sync, red-eye reduction, i-TTL, Manual and Repeating Flash. Additionally, it can act as a trigger for up to two groups of wirelessly slaved system flashes, alleviating the need to buy an SU-800 commander unit or use a more expensive flashgun as the master.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (70mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (70mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

As the shots below demonstrate, red-eye isn't a common problem with the built-in flash even if you don't use red-eye reduction.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg
   

Flash - Red-Eye Reduction

Flash - Red-Eye Reduction (100% Crop)
flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg

Night

The Nikon D810 lets you dial in shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds and has a Bulb mode as well for exposure times of practically any length, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. There is an optional long-exposure noise reduction function that can be activated to filter out any hot pixels that may appear when extremely slow shutter speeds are used, though we found no need for this when taking the photograph below at a shutter speed of 30 seconds, aperture of f/11 at ISO 64. We've included a 100% crop for you to see what the quality is like.

Night

Night (100% Crop)
night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Active D-lighting (ADL)

D-lighting is Nikon's dynamic range optimisation tool that attempts to squeeze the full dynamic range of the sensor into JPEGs. Active D-lighting works “on the fly”, before the in-camera processing engine converts the raw image data into JPEGs. The available settings are Off, Low, Normal, High and Extra High.

Off

Low
adl_01.jpg adl_02.jpg
   

Normal

High
adl_03.jpg adl_04.jpg
   

Extra High

 
adl_05.jpg  

HDR Capture

The Nikon D810 offers the ability to shoot two differently exposed images in rapid succession, which are then blended in-camera to form a single, high-dynamic-range image. The exposure differential can be 1, 2 or 3EV, and you can choose from three different levels of smoothing (low, normal and high; with normal and high producing  more realistic results than the low setting). Note that this feature is only available when shooting JPEG.

Auto

1EV
hdr_01.jpg hdr_02.jpg
   

2EV

3EV
hdr_03.jpg hdr_04.jpg

Picture Controls

Nikon's Picture Controls are akin to Canon's Picture Styles in being preset combinations of sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue. All Picture Controls can be tweaked to your liking, then saved and transferred to other cameras.

Standard

Neutral
picture_controls_01.jpg picture_controls_02.jpg
   

Portrait

Vivid
picture_controls_03.jpg picture_controls_04.jpg
   

Landscape

Monochrome
picture_controls_05.jpg picture_controls_06.jpg
   
Flat  
picture_controls_07.jpg  

Crop Modes

The Nikon D810 is an FX camera but it can also shoot in one of three crop modes, including a 25-megapixel “1.2x crop mode”, a 15-megapixel “DX crop mode” and a special, 30-megapixel “5:4 mode” that uses the full height of the sensor but trims the sides. The boundaries of the cropped areas are denoted with thin black lines in the viewfinder, which otherwise continues to show the full FX view, allowing you to see what's happening outside the cropped frame - perfect for sports and action shooting.

FX

5:4

crop_fx.jpg crop_5_4.jpg
   
1.2x

DX

crop_1_2x.jpg crop_dx.jpg