Shooting the D810

I was very fortunate to be able to pick up a D810 with not a lot of additional cost over selling my used D700 and some older lenses.  This made the change too much to resist and so I pre-ordered and received one from Best Buy.


 On location DF picture taken of D810 on Bogen Tripod

You can find lots of first reviews on various Nikon Forums so I won’t spend long talking about that aspect of the camera.  My views will be more from the vantage point of a D700 and Df user.

The quick version of the notes from my vantage point is more pixels, quieter shutter, video (I don’t care for it) and some minimal Auto Focus improvement over the D700.  There is a notable difference in AF performance over the Df.


The picture above was taken in the early morning with a Nikon DF and a Samyang 14mm F/2.8 Wide Angle lens with Metering Chip. (See Location Shot Above – just a local lake I have been testing the cameras at, most people would never believe this photo is of that lake! 🙂

Focus was set using the flowers in the right corner, metered, and then the scene was reframed and shot ISO 100 1/30th at F16.  I wanted to see what the lens and the D4 sensor could do since in many cases if your new to high resolution sensors you don’t know what you don’t know.

In the picture above you see a small White Angle, and inside it is a flower.  Here is a pixel level crop of that flower.


I had to enlarge this so you could see it since its literally about 300 worth of pixels.

Here is the Photoshop ScreenShot of it in Pixel view.


And a little larger again for more perspective about 1500X Magnification


As you can see, even while the flower in the first crop is about 17×18 pixels, the detail to support it is still rather low and so one cannot expect miracles with 16MP.

This shot was taken on a Tripod, Mirror Up.  There doesn’t look to be any significant motion blur impairing the image IQ.

Let’s now compare this to a similar capture on the D810.

This was captured using a different lens, so its not apples to apples, however, the Sigma 12-24 ED ASP is also a very nice sharp lens.


This was actually taken 7 minutes earlier, you can see how the clouds have shifted!  Its also ISO 100, only F14 though with Mirror up and Front Curtain.


This is enlarged to a similar size as our first, however it took about 2700X Magnification and the crop of the flower similar to the first would occupy about 30×32 pixels.  There is no mystery here, we should see more pixels.


Looking larger though, we can also see perhaps some wateriness, or maybe its motion blur.  This is where moving up in resolution gets interesting.  You don’t have any real reference to work with on how things should be, so we have to learn as we go.

Lets pixel peep another shot!


This is with a longer lens, around 500mm in focal length, tripod as were the first, Mirror Up, Front Curtain, ISO 100 1/100 F8.

I want to say first that I have been playing with shots like these for a few weeks now on the DF and now on the D810.  Prior to today I had come to the conclusion that higher shutter speeds were needed in the order of 2x to 3x the focal length.  I believe this shot finally shows that this doesn’t have to be true as it is the best shot on the DF or D810 I have taken in terms of clarity.  So, I have more work to do on technique, however, am very pleased that I might be able to shoot slower speeds like this with some care and work.

You can see the 600% Enlargement and what looks like a pretty clear image overall.  Sure, it could probably be even better, but remember, I am shooting this on a mid 2000 Sigma 50-500 ED, no OS.


Pixel wise you’re looking at about 150 x 150 pixels or about 22K Pixels of 36MP so very encouraging indeed!

I have to admit I was seriously thinking of returning my D810 prior to today’s results and this won  me over as I needed to see that results like this were achievable to convince me that the effort of working with a high resolution sensor as a hobbyist was worth the while.

I say that because as non-pros, we have families, jobs and other responsibilities that limit our time behind the lens.  To me investing time into my hobby comes at a premium and so believe it or not, if it all came to push verses shove, I would have rather have a camera like the DF as my only camera verses the D810.  DF images take seconds verses minutes to process.  I think things will get better though when we have a working ACR converter for LR5 for the D810.

In terms of shooting the D810 over the DF, its going to take a while to sort through the myths that are out there on these cameras.  There are issues with conversions as far as I am concerned, in both NX-D and Beta ACR.  Color management seems to be a bit awkward with NX-D and I have found myself changing picture controls and even whitebalance temperatures to offset some strangeness I have seen.  This of course is likely my fault so I am sure it will work out over time.


This wild flower was shot with a Nikon 105 VR at F3.2 ISO 400 1/1000 hand held.  Its about a 50% crop from the original image taken at about 1 foot so very very small DOF.  You can see its brief line of sharpness fade into a nice Bokeh.  Of course higher shutter speeds are still going to help with handheld shots.

My overall impression of the D810 so far in the early going is that its an extremely competent camera and it will take upgraders like myself some time to learn the new ropes.  I have always believed though new cameras take time and deserve a fair effort towards learning what’s what and how to get the most from them.

I am not a brand fan or product loyalist, so what I say next will surely offend those that are.  For ISO 800 and above, I prefer to shoot the DF.  It clearly performs at a different standard on those faster ISOs.  There is a reason the D4s exists and people should not so quickly dismiss the fact that the Df has a D4 sensor.  I am very glad I have both these cameras, one can get me the detail when I work for it and the other is much more carefree for day to day operation.  Note, i really wont talk about the operating paradigm of the DF, you either like it or hate it or are indifferent like me.  I bought it for its sensor, not its looks!

That said about the Df, the D810 also has an amazing sensor in what it can do, the limits of which I haven’t even begun to explore!

As for the upgrade over a D700.. Nikon may have traded it for producing a Df to plug its desire to sell in that space.  As a D700 user you really were given three options, the D6X0, the D8X0 and the Df.  Having tried two of the three and knowing the AF is no better than the DF on the D6X0 I would say that ones clear upgrade will be the D810.  With it though, your going to have to adjust and learn to manage the greater number of pixels.  Everything else is pretty much an upgrade in my humble opinion in moving to the D700 for the average user.

The downside is clearly the volume of Data, its going to eat your computer up in both CPU and Storage.  I manage that now with strict discipline of really only working and keeping the files I absolutely want.  I used to be a pack rat on photo data and paid for it dearly.   You can still get a pretty good price for a lightly used D700, so your total upgrade cost for a camera that is several years old is actually reasonable considering the original price for the D700.

I hope this little informal foray into shooting the D810 helps.

This entry was posted in Talking Gear.


  1. Anonymous July 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    One of the myths that needs to get put to rest is that you need the computing resources of the CIA to process D8XX images. The only people saying that are those who haven’t worked with the images.

    I’m using a MacPro 1,1 from 2006 and the latest version of Lightroom. It inhales my D800e images and has since I bought my D800e two years ago.

    • MarkA July 28, 2014 at 2:01 am #

      With NX-D they are a bit slow to work with, reason for me is I don’t copy all images to my machine and then work on them. I am of the habit now to view them on the card and only pull the ones I want over. The bigger issue though is storage over the long haul. Again though, this is dependent on the shooter, volume of images they shoot, workflow habits, ect.

      • Allan July 30, 2014 at 3:43 am #

        If you’re going to browse the card for picks, you’d be best to use Photo Mechanic ~ very fast !

        • MarkA July 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

          Thanks for the tip!

    • Bokeh July 30, 2014 at 3:46 am #

      Wondering how much RAM do you have installed in your MacPro? I have two 3,1’s – one with 4GB & the other with 10GB, I should be able to work with the D810 files on either right?

      • MarkA July 30, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

        I use 8mb in my 2008 Macbook Pro and 16mb in my Mini i5, they are fine. Even my surface pro has 4MB and works fine.

        Again, it may not be lightning fast but its not horrible either. Storage gets to be a bigger issue depending on how much you keep.

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