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Photography News

Nikon D810A Announcement: The First Full-Frame Astrophotography-Dedicated DSLR

By Matthew Saville on February 10th 2015


Astrophotography has seen a significant spike in the past few years, with the advent of digital SLR cameras and significant leaps being made in the field of high-ISO image quality.

And rightly so – imagine being able to immediately see images you capture of the deepest, farthest reaches of space! To me, as a casual fan of astronomy and a more serious addict of night-landscapes in general, it is actually surprising that more of these types of cameras haven’t surfaced yet.


Then again, I have to warn you right off the bat – this camera is not recommended for use in normal photography, and its price is a not-so-paltry $3796. This is for serious astrophotographers only!

Pre-Order the Nikon D810A here on B&H for $3796.95 (Expected delivery May 28th)

nikon-d810a-slr-lounge-2The Rosette Nebula – Nikon D810A (mounted on a tracking telescope)
8 images, 300 sec. each @ ISO 800

Nikon D810A Press Release

MELVILLE, NY – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the new D810A, a DSLR optimized for astrophotography and other scientific applications. By modifying the infrared cut filter for the hydrogen alpha wavelength, Nikon has created a camera that gives photographers the ability to capture the diffuse nebulae in the night sky and to create colorful, breathtaking celestial images. The D810A shares its architecture with the powerful and professional high-resolution Nikon D810 DSLR and includes other new features designed uniquely to help capture the cosmos, letting users achieve sharp and vibrant images of the universe.

The Nikon D810A is engineered exclusively to meet the unique demands of professional and hobbyist astrophotographers,” said Masahiro Horie, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “The camera’s distinctive feature set and powerful imaging capabilities make it an appealing option for those who are ready to discover the fantastic cosmic features that are hidden among the stars.

I AM Star Struck: DSLR Optimized for Astrophotography

The Nikon D810A provides hobbyists as well as professional stargazers with a powerful combination of impressive resolution and features specifically created for astrophotography and scientific applications. The infrared (IR) cut filter has been optimized to allow transmission of the hydrogen alpha spectral line, resulting in four times greater sensitivity of the 656nm wavelength. The resulting images capture the brilliant red hues of diffuse nebulae and constellations in striking detail and fidelity. While not recommended for general photography, the D810A is an excellent option for photographing the universe with either NIKKOR lenses or third-party adaptors for telescopes.


In addition to the optimized IR cut filter, the D810A adds other features that are useful for astrophotography applications. A new Long Exposure Manual Mode is implemented, giving users the ability to set shutter speeds from 4, 5, 8, 10, 15, 20, 30, 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, 600 or 900 seconds (15 minutes), as well as Bulb and Time settings. Building upon the D810’s excellent low-light capabilities, the ISO range has been optimized from 200 to 12,800 (Hi-2 51,200), for maximum sensitivity with the optimal signal to noise ratio.

The D810A also adds a new Virtual Exposure Preview Mode, which displays an estimated preview image and is available when shooting at shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds when in Live View. The brightened preview image represents a 30 second exposure, simplifying focusing and composition.

Additional Images & Press


Nikon D810 Initial Thoughts & Opinion

nikon-d810a-slr-lounge-4 nikon-d810a-slr-lounge-1

Right off the bat, my first thought is that I really wish Nikon would offer that new extended shutter speed option for ALL its DSLRs!  I know that the D810A is optimized for astrophotography, but that doesn’t mean that all of the existing DSLRs are capable of creating good quality images at extended shutter speeds.  Using the tried-and-true options for in-camera long exposure noise reduction, I can already create ~30 minute exposures with my D750, D800E, D810, and even my D5300, if the ambient temperatures are cold enough to stave off thermal noise.  In short, I wish Nikon’s new high-powered firmware program would bring this feature to other cameras, but I suspect that would be wishful thinking.

So, while this new camera is an incredible toy that I’d love to own, I’m not (currently) a professional astrophotographer so I won’t be purchasing this camera for personal use any time soon.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have this kind of cash to spend on a hobby?  Or are there any folks reading this who are going to put such a camera as this to professional, lucrative use? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

Pre-Order the Nikon D810A here on B&H for $3796.95

Happy clicking,


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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Alexander Panzeri

    Ages after Canon….
    Canon is cheapest!!!! ihihihihi
    It’s a good news even for Canon: fight bring better products to costumers
    There’s no astrophotographer that will spend 3800$ for a single camera, I mean, We prefer spend 3000€ for the telescope and its mount, while 800€ for a modified Canon, maybe with cooler system (did you see the telescopes used in the film???)
    Yes h-alpha filter modification is a huge step for quality, however, post processing today in astrophotography it’s really important, and taking more pictures is cheaper than the camera S/N ratio…
    I think they made it in particular on NASA/astronauts request: actually Nikon has the contract for all camera in space at NASA

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  2. robert garfinkle

    ok, a bit of a reset here –

    I finally watched the video – I’m going after a nice whompin’ telescope and this camera… see y’all on the dark side; I won’t be able to afford a home, car – I’ll be livin in the street unable to feed myself – until I get one of these puppies… WOW WOW WOW WOW!!!!!!!!

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  3. Tosh Cuellar

    great imagery and video, don’t do much astrophotography, but still cool

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  4. Basit Zargar

    waiting for canon to beat it :)

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  5. aaron febbo

    That video was awesome ! End of story !

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  6. Ben Perrin

    I think it’s great that Nikon are releasing this. More options for photographers is a good thing, even if this camera is for a very specific market. The one question I have is “will this make a difference for astro-landscapes?” My limited understanding that it will help out more for nebulas like the horsehead. Does this modification only affect certain wavelengths of light? Are there any quality improvements for astrophotography for cameras with the IR filter modified?

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  7. Sean Goebel

    It should be noted that several services such as will convert ANY DSLR to full-spectrum, which is what this D800A is, for ~$300. But none of the conversions that I’ve encountered cool the detector, which is what really is needed for long exposures. You have to buy a dedicated astro CCD for that…

    And manufacturers have been releasing astrophoto-optimized cameras for ages–Canon did a 20Da and a 60Da back in the day.

    Altogether this announcement gets a big “meh” from meh. It would have made more sense for Nikon to produce an astrophoto-optimized camera with the D600 or DF sensor for the better ISO performance. Unless you have some insane wide-field refractor telescope, there’s approximately a 0% chance you’ll be able to get 36 MP of detail out of a telescope.

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  8. Stephen Jennings

    I don’t think Nikon would create something like this if there wasn’t a market for it. The few people I know who are into astro-everything spend ungodly amounts of their cash on telescopes that wouldn’t even fit in my car, I don’t see those type of people thinking twice about dropping $4k on a camera designed specifically to take amazing photos of the heavens. It’s not meant to be an everything camera for everybody, but a niche market camera for people accustomed to spending premium money for premium gear.

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    • robert garfinkle

      This is so ripe / perfect for the astronomer, and I mean perfect – not fully knowing “exactly” what is available for telescopes i.e. built-in CCD types, but looking at the image samples I think it’d lend itself to be a best choice for imaging…

      next argument I’d like to start is, what’s better, a telescope of the front of your camera, or a genuine lens made for the camera… Obviously a telescope may take you farther for the buck, but I speculate a Nikon “lens” would be a better choice optically – though very very very very expensive…

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  9. John Cavan

    Interesting camera. If you could combine this with the GPS-based sensor control that the Pentax line has it would even more of a killer in this arena. Nevertheless, the astro-photography community is likely to love this beast with all that resolution.

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  10. Adrian Jones

    This is incredible! Makes me want to get in to astro right now! But I still like having the context of the earth in photography. So, I would like to see how this performs when it comes to portraiture. I want to get celestial backdrops with well light models.

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  11. Steve VanSickle

    Sadly, I live in DC, so this camera will have little use with all the light pollution and humidity. But when I go camping, I’ll definitely think about renting this.

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    • Brandon Dewey

      You live near Spruce Knob, WV which has some of the darkest skies on the East Coast which would be a great place to camp to try out this camera.

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    • Steve VanSickle

      Brandon- I had a friend recommend the same thing, which I’m certainly interested in doing this spring/summer/fall. Though, it’s still a 3 1/2 hour drive, so it’s not something I can do frequently. Thanks for the tip, though!

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  12. robert garfinkle

    And Golly! I thought Nikon had secretly scouted this forum, knowing Matt took a personal liking of the D750 over the D810, and in a gotcha move created the D810A just for Matt (knowing he likes astronomical photography) – dang!! I mean that in the nicest way, seriously!! :)

    Though I think the move by Nikon is “ballsy” to say the least, and gosh what cool, cool images coming off this camera (the samples), I happen to agree with both Matt and Anthony all in the same shot…

    1. To Anthony’s point – Yes, I think that Nikon was right to do this, creating a specialized camera, and reading the other article, with a million plus in the waiting “worldwide” to potentially buy this version of the D810, it’s a right move. I mean think about it, if this goes well, Nikon just added a new category to their lineup – Sports / Journalism, Studio, and Astrophotography? – As a trendsetting move it’s cool, I doubt the others will care to follow in those exact footsteps… This is a righteous camera to do this with.

    2. To Matt’s point – Though it’s a great camera for what it can do, and it is great, I personally, as much as I plan on doing some astronomical type photography with my regular (imagine that, using the word “regular” in conjunction with a D810…) D810, I cannot see buying it for this sole purpose – unless I was to absolutely going to focus on astrophotography, then I would… and it’d come with having to buy a whole new set of lenses or a major telescope etc… gosh what beautiful images above… It’d be a waste in my hands at this point, best leave a copy of the camera for someone more capable…

    But, while we are talking about astrophotography, and I have seen a few articles in this forum and abroad – I am just stunned that our earth-based cameras are whacking the heck out of some of (if not most of..) NASA’s (and other space agency’s) equipment, seriously, it’s nice to know we have in our hands these capabilities, right. This is why I think this may be a right time for Nikon to do this…

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    • Matthew Saville

      Compared to the Df, and many other even more “commemorative” cameras from Nikon, I don’t think this is ballsy at all especially considering the recent popularity of astrophotography.

      And, as much as I’d love to own one of these and a big fat telescope with a tracker, I suspect that for now, my hobby endeavors will remain on the much more affordable side of the spectrum. Besides, I much prefer to include at least a little landscape in my images, and this camera would be though to swallow if it can’t at least shoot a sunset or sunrise here and there.

      I do wish, as do many others like me, that Nikon hadn’t restricted the new “extra long exposure” options to just this camera, though, considering that with long exposure noise reduction, on a cold night, I can easily shoot 30 minute exposures without problem on any of the existing Nikons…

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    • robert garfinkle

      I agree that some of the features in this camera should be brought forward to other models in the future –

      and as I was writing my first post (the made-for-Matt post) above, I was thinking about the fact that you have landscape in your astronomy pics, or is it astronomy in your landscape pics, and yes, this camera does not condone that… and, from what I see others do, is similar to you, where it’s not just stars, it’s more than that, right?

      This device looks to confine it’s use to astronomy only… still awesome

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yeah, and to be honest, it’d probably still make an amazing astro-landscape photography camera, there are plenty of instances in which the night landscape looks a little weird anyways, so what’s a little IR color cast? Bottom line, I’d buy one if I had the money, but I dunno if I’d buy it BEFORE a regular D810. So in other words, this is a camera for people with over $6,000 to spend on bodies alone, presumably, unless the photographer is so into astrophotography that they have zero desire whatsoever to be able to use such a fantastic camera for general landscape or astro-landscape work.

      For me, it is mainly about simply being able to create images at any time of day. I feel like the night sky is becoming just as common of a backdrop as a firey sunrise or sunset, or a beautiful bank of fluffy clouds at noon even. In fact I’ve gotten flak from some “more dedicated” astrophotographers who consider the concept of astro-landscapes to be an insult to the real astrophotographers out there. While I suppose this may be true for some kid who can’t stay away from the saturation slider and does nothing but star trails or over-saturated milky way fisheye shots, …I do like to think that my appreciation for celestial objects goes at least a little further than that.

      Anywho… I don’t have $3,800, or a means of making such a camera generate that kind of income on a monthly basis, so I’ll have to stick with using a timer remote on my D750, lol… Still, a very exciting camera!

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    • robert garfinkle

      I am fascinated by both approaches at capturing the night sky; heck, with backdrops, for some reason, you get a greater sense of being such a small, but still significant, cog in the entire wheel if you take my meaning, right? I think there is more of a sense of awe and humility when for example you capture a landscape with the milky way as a backdrop etc… it just moves me…

      at the same time, even with just a nebulae or star cluster in view w / no earthly reference, the awe is all in the ability to capture corners of the universe with our measly cameras, right? I have been an avid backyard astronomy type ever since I was a kid, with telescope in hand… picking up books, seeing what great telescopes with cameras can do. then there was hubble, and again, never thought it possible that something we could hold in our hands could do even better than those, right?

      So, both kinds of astrophotography are about equal weighted in my books, just different ends of the spectrum.

      I have to ask though – my friend and I believe, though he more so than I (as he is a yoda amongst yoda’s when it comes to photography, in my book…) that taking images with lenses which are designed / fitted / matched to the camera would be better candidates optically for astronomical capture vs. a telescope… what are your thoughts? lens or telescope?

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    • robert garfinkle

      Hey, Nikon can make an (extra)Terrestrial bundle; sporting both cameras and a couple lenses; D810, D810a, 20mm f1.8, and the 70 – 200 f4 for $8499.00 or do a similar package with the 2 D810’s and the new 300 f4 PF for the same price

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  13. Stan Rogers

    Well, I know (at arm’s length) people who have picked up the Pentax 645Z for astro, and that’s the *cheap* part of their kit, what with the 14-inch reflector, the self-correcting drive, the eleventy-ton tripod, and so on, so I’m sure this thing has a ready market awaiting it. However, until people and products start emitting hydrogen alpha in significant quantities, I ain’t part of it. But it’d be a helluvan upgrade from a 60Da, wouldn’t it?

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  14. Nick Viton

    D810A = one-trick pony?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Why is that an issue? I don’t understand why everyone wants every product to be able to do everything, I much prefer specialized products.

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    • Nick Viton

      Anthony, I didn’t realize it can still do everything the D810 can do. Matt states that “this camera is not recommended for use in normal photography”, so I guess I’m just confused by this new camera.
      To answer your question, however, this would not be an issue if all I shot was Astrophotography. I value versatility though, especially if I’d be dropping 4Gs on a camera body.

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    • Stan Rogers

      Nick, the camera would cause some significant problems for general-purpose photography unless you use an auxiliary IR-cut filter on the lens. Most things in everyday life emit a significant amount of infrared, and that will cause a significant amount of colour distortion (and some weird tonality in some cases as well). For examples of what that can do, take a look for problems with the original Leica M8 (not the later point-something editions); it had an insufficient IR-cut filter due to a design flaw, and dark things usually wound up with a magenta cast — but not always, since cold dark things didn’t have the cast, so trying to correct it in post was next to impossible. This camera (and the Canon 20Da and 60Da before it) *intentionally* lets in infrared that is normally blocked because it’s a major component of what stars emit. So yes, it’s a one-trick pony, but there is no general-purpose camera that can do the same trick.

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  15. Nick Viton

    No thanks. I’d take a D810s for sports though.

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