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1 month with the Nikon D810


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It's now been a month since the 810 arrived. It is certainly a better camera in every way than the 800e, which was the best camera I'd ever owned. The most important differences - and not necessarily the ones I thought would matter:

1. faster and quieter

2. the AF seems more repeatable and reliable, especially in bad or odd lighting

3. it feels better, but isn't any heavier. Must be the revised grip. I have big hands and don't love small cameras, but at the same time find the D1/2/3/4 size bodies ungainly and just too big.

4. the improved live view is nice. It doesn't affect photos since the previous ugly live view was perfectly focusable - just rack it a bit and stop at the least bad looking image - but it's a nice "experience" improvement.

5. EFC gives peace of mind on the road to ultimate sharpness/detail, but I haven't had much use for it yet.

6. I really like iso 64 and iso 32. Expands the shooting envelope in a meaningful way, for landscape work when an ND isn't handy, or portraiture when it's simply too bright otherwise for big apertures.

My two dissapointments :

1. Noise levels are similar. slightly better perhaps, but not meaningfully. I don't like to shoot it above 3200. I don't find noise endearing in any way, particularly the way it interacts with sharpening in the case of an image which was shot wide open, focus not quite nailed, etc. With my fuji gear, I don't like to shoot above 1600, and with the Nikon 1, 400 is pretty much the limit assuming reproduction at a reasonable size.

2. GPS not integrated. I've already lost one di-gps to the stupid 20th century connector.

I haven't had a lot of time to make photos for photos sake lately, but here's a random sampling of the last 30 days:

1. focus nailed in harsh backlight, f/1.8, iso 800, 1/160s. 85mm

0139-natalieBacklit-2048.jpg

2. 24mm pc-e wide open, handheld. dynamic range to spare.

0141-oneMaritime-2048.jpg

3. 15 seconds, f/8 with the 70-200 f/4. Didn't survive the conversion to sRGB all that well.

0228-twilight-2048.jpg

4. Shooting in the shade, holding color in the sky, nailing AF on a fast moving "object" with enough FPS to catch a funny expression. 85mm f/1.8 at f/1.8 again, iso 200, 1/5000s.

0372-natalieScootering-2048.jpg

5. Once again, tricky lighting including daylit through tinted and spectrally selective glass plus interior flourescents, focus nailed on eyelashes and not hair. The 85 f/1.8 has been getting a lot of use.

0492-natalieOffice-2048.jpg

6. Click large to see lots of detail. 70-200 f/4 at f/4, 150mm, 1/1250s, iso 400.

0631-natalieWind-2048.jpg

7. With the 24-70 f/2.8 at f/2.8, 70mm, 1/800s, iso 400.

0822-natalie-2048.jpg

8. I really like the little 50 f/1.8g. the 810 and that are 1150g together, which over the shoulder or tossed in a bag with a bunch of other stuff is hardly noticeable. f/4, iso 100, 1/640s here.

0920-autoSpkr-2048.jpg

9. I took this because of the unusual (for this part of the world) coloring of the house and the charming little stair landing and door. as with some others, it is more interest on a wide gamut display in the original proPhoto RGB. 85 f/1.8 at f/4, iso 100, 1/1000s.

0937-blueHouse-2048.jpg



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Guest schwett

Posted

10 i liked the strange sense of circular motion that the oof areas impart this image. 85 f/1.8 and f/1.8. iso 100, 1/1250s.

0950-bokeh-2048.jpg

 

11 i'm sure there's a joke in here somewhere. 85 f/1.8 at f/4, 1/320s, iso 100.

0960-lemons-2048.jpg

 

12 this is cropped to less than a fifth of the original image. her eyes are closed. 85 f/1.8 at f/4, 1/1600s, iso 400.

0976-sleepingOnMuni-2048.jpg

 

13 the 24-70 again, at f/4 and 40mm. the foreground is open shade, the background in bright sun.

1098-oliviaNatalie-2048.jpg

 

14 i posted this elsewhere recently, 24-70 at 24mm, f/8, 1/640s, iso 400. shot at +1 with a lot of highlight recovery and push in the shadows in ACR. 

1221-wake-2048.jpg

 

15 same ferry ride, with the 85. i love the line of light across the top of the water and the last flare of sun. lots of highlight recovery again. f/4, 1/1600s, iso 200.

1329-smallBoatSunset-2048.jpg

 

16 my wife and older brother at a recent 75th birthday party for my mother. really difficult lighting, very dimly lit. auto WB was off here, 3300 vs 2900 or so. this is shot at iso 6400, f/1.8, 1/100s with the 50mm. AF was fast and accurate on nearly every shot.

1502-ericRoxan-2048.jpg

 

17 same setting, down to 1/60s. by the end of the evening i was shooting at iso 12800. i processed a few shots as black and white which i'll have to post elsewhere for feedback. 

1651-natalieIceCream-2048.jpg

 

all in all, i'm very happy with the 810. i hope to do some more serious shooting soon, real life permitting. ;)

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Great post, Mark! Duly promoted to the Articles section (with some capitalisations, hope you don't mind). :) 

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I too have found the handling improved over the D800, I recently found I had set continuous instead of single shot , so every time I pressed the shutter I got three photos, quite confusing till I twigged why. It seems to be quick in continuous. So far I reckon the D810 is a belter.

 

I agree with your impressions and the images are super!

 

What is EFC Mark?

 

PS my apologies I've just googled EFC, should have done that first, oops

Edited by Mike G

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Thanks for the review. Unfortunately our company firewall categorizes your image host as a malware site so I can't see the images.

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Thanks for sharing.  For whatever reason, the most stunning image here is the one with the lady in the bus.  Less than 1/5 of the original image?  That's quite something!

 

That said, the most notable improvement of D810 over D800/E may be the AF.

Edited by Akira

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Guest Bjørn J

Posted

That said, the most notable improvement of D810 over D800/E may be the AF.

 

I have had the 810 for a few weeks, and can agree that the AF is way better than the 800. The Group AF function is a very good idea that works.

My experience with the 810 is similar to what Schwett says. The minor changes in the grip and ergonomics makes a big difference - I feel much more comfortable using the 810 than the 800. I haven't done much high ISO photography with the 810 yet. It will be interesting to see how it performs when the northern lights appear on the winter sky.

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It is funny how different ones among us value the D810 differently. I have never even used the autofocus because I don't use autofocus lenses, at least I have not yet on the D810.

 

I value the D810 for the ISO 64, but have never used the ISO 32 because I thought it is said to be a faux ISO, not a real one. What do you folks find with the ISO 32?

 

I also appreciated the EFC (Electronic First Curtain) very much for my work and especially the improved LiveView. Finally I can see to focus clearly by magnifying LiveView.

 

This is by far the best Nikon I have ever had, and I have had most all of the digital bodies. 

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Guest Bjørn J

Posted

It is funny how different ones among us value the D810 differently. I have never even used the autofocus because I don't use autofocus lenses, at least I have not yet on the D810.

 

I value the D810 for the ISO 64, but have never used the ISO 32 because I thought it is said to be a faux ISO, not a real one. What do you folks find with the ISO 32?

 

I also appreciated the EFC (Electronic First Curtain) very much for my work and especially the improved LiveView. Finally I can see to focus clearly by magnifying LiveView.

 

This is by far the best Nikon I have ever had, and I have had most all of the digital bodies. 

 

Seems the 810 suits many different types of photography. For your kind of work the excellent LiveView is welcome, and those of us who use AF are satisfied that Nikon put their best AF-system in the D810.

I am also very impressed by the extraordinary dynamic range the camera can capture. In total, the D810 is probably the most versatile camera Nikon has made.

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Yes using the upgraded CAM3500 AF module, as fitted to the D4S, is a smart choice by Nikon. 

 

The original CAM3500 was in the D700 and D3, so Nikon has obviously built upon a well proven AF technology in this instance.

 

---

 

A pity that the Df was fitted with the D600/D610 AF system.

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Guest kristian skeie

Posted

Interesting reading- I agree with most comments, have had the D810 for a couple of weeks and will in the weeks to come post some "reportage" images from Bhutan. I am running a workshop there at the moment!

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It is a true value add of this community to read real world impressions of a product I might be interested into buying in the future

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Very interesting read Mark, thanks for sharing your experience

with the new camera.

Some cracking photos included, great thread!

 

Tony

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Guest schwett

Posted

thanks to all who have commented. i am thoroughly enjoying the camera. hopefully the next batch will have some interesting shots from a few upcoming trips.

looking back on the last month of shots in bridge reveals that the new f1.8g lenses and the 70-200 f/4 are getting the most use. perhaps I'll cull the herd a bit :)

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Thanks for the review. I look forward to getting my hands on the D810. In particular, improved AF is always important to me since I like to use wide apertures in people photography. Also I look forward to testing the EFCS in landscape photography with longer lenses (which I currently don't own, for the very reason of reduced sharpness I experienced at slowish shutter speeds using the D800). 

 

With regards to Nikon's choice of the Multi-CAM 4800 for the Df, one explanation is a tradeoff to get more light to the viewfinder especially to off center areas. I would guess that the semitransparent area of the main mirror which lets in light to the AF module is smaller in bodies that use Multi-CAM 4800 than those using Multi-CAM 3500 since the focus point spread of the latter is greater). If my hypothesis is correct, it could partly explain why the vignetting experienced in the D800 viewfinder is not present in the Df. The current "advanced" Multi-CAM 3500 works nicely in low light; obviously what is needed for a sensitive AF module is a lot of light; light that is diverted away from the optical path leading to the viewfinder.

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Tonight's testing: Thermal noise found at high elevation ISOs. Shows up as purple tint at lower 1/8 part and slightly less on the left edge of the image. Boosting exposure in PP reveals the issue clearly (at least with my camera).

ISO range tried so far: 12800 to Hi2.

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Mark,

to carry on the point you made re noise.

I was and remain surprised how easily noise shows up in my d800e

images, it's telling you make the point that the d810 has similar noise characteristics to the d800e/d800.

It surprises me when I read on certain reviews that the d800/800e has the best sensor, as far as I'm concerned this series of cameras shows it's very best at or near to it's base iso sensitivity, perhap I'm wrong in suggesting that this camera does have limitations, personally I'll prefer to use my d4s when

light levels are at all challenging.

The d800/800e cameras are literally superb at low iso, anything else 

rapidly demonstrates they still have their limitations.

Guess there's still no free lunch!

 

Tony

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Was the noise versus resolution trade-off not also observed between the superb 24Mpx D3X and its sibling the trusty 12MPx D3S, the former being optimised for resolution and the latter for speed and low light abilities?

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Thanks for this explanation - it seems to make sense to me. 

 

The Df is not an inexpensive camera, so one would hope that there was a better explanation for the AF choice than just penny pinching, especially when the sensor has been reportedly tweeked by Nikon to give even superior performance in some areas  (low ISO) than in its  D4S configuration.

 

 

...................................

...................................

 

With regards to Nikon's choice of the Multi-CAM 4800 for the Df, one explanation is a tradeoff to get more light to the viewfinder especially to off center areas. I would guess that the semitransparent area of the main mirror which lets in light to the AF module is smaller in bodies that use Multi-CAM 4800 than those using Multi-CAM 3500 since the focus point spread of the latter is greater). If my hypothesis is correct, it could partly explain why the vignetting experienced in the D800 viewfinder is not present in the Df. The current "advanced" Multi-CAM 3500 works nicely in low light; obviously what is needed for a sensitive AF module is a lot of light; light that is diverted away from the optical path leading to the viewfinder.

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Was the noise versus resolution trade-off not also observed between the superb 24Mpx D3X and its sibling the trusty 12MPx D3S, the former being optimised for resolution and the latter for speed and low light abilities?

Hugh You are absolutely right on this.

Personally I can't help but think/wish Nikon had made the effort to totally optimise 24mp resolution, I'm still convinced it is, or could be 

the best of both worlds!

Tony

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Guest Bjørn J

Posted (edited)

Of course the D810 (and D800) has its limitations, like any other camera. But in my experience noise is not one of them. I take a lot of photos of the northern lights, in dark winter nights. High ISO and several seconds exposure time is normal.

For a long time I used the D3 and D3S because of their excellent low-light capabilities. When I got the D800 I decided to test it together with the D3S, and I soon was convinced that it was a better camera for that purpose. Yes, it does show a hint of luminance noise a stop earlier than the D3S, but it is grainy, random noise. No patterns or banding, and no chroma noise. But the detail level was so much better than the D3S, there was no comparison to what was the technically best photo.

 

Remember that to compare noise on a monitor, you must scale the photos to the same size. When a D800 image was scaled down to a D3S-sized photo, the noise largely disappeared (because of the downscaling). But the detail level was maintained. Conversely, if I scaled up a D3S photo to a D800 size, the noise was also scaled up, and the level of detail in photo was so bad, it looked muddy.

 

My conclusion was so definite that I sold my D3S, the D800 performed better on moderate to high ISO. Much better.

 

This is ISO 12800 on the D800 (that is Hi1, an uncalibrated setting).

 

post-1586-0-34712300-1408404373_thumb.jp

Edited by Bjørn J

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      Nikon are not in the mirrorless charge with much conviction yet this is the only camera segment that is growing. In fact, with their only mirrorless offering being the lukewarm Nikon 1 series, it seems that Nikon are not really interested in the mirrorless market at all, which to me is a cause of major stupefaction. While they are polishing their DSLR crown jewels for display in the elite areas of camera stores, their competitors are stocking the rest of the emporium with stuff that is obviously being well received by those consumers who are willing to spend their Dollars on them. It should be of grave concern to Nikon, especially when the Wall Street journal starts publishing articles asking the same questions of their strategy. Investors read WSJ. Everyone wants investors. What will the investors do if they don’t like what they’re seeing?
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