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News & Insight

Should You Upgrade To The Nikon D810?

By Paul Faecks on June 29th 2014

A few days ago, Nikon announced the follow-up to the D800: The Nikon D810. I have been pretty excited about this announcement because I own the D800 and have been thinking about upgrading. The new features on the D810 seem to be some nice improvements from the previous models and the price for the new D810 about the same as the D800E, so the the question for Nikon D800 owners is: should you upgrade?

The video below by Tony Northrup gives you an in-depth comparison between the D800 and the D810 and might help you make a decision.


Here are some improvements that I found to be the most important for me:

  • The new autofocus system with “group area AF”
  • The 64 native ISO
  • The brighter and sharper LCD-screen
  • Software development kit
  • No AA Filter
  • Auto ISO in video mode
  • Highlights Zebra stripping
  • Faster frame-rates in burst mode


The software development kit would basically allow programmers to create applications for the camera and manipulate the camera’s software – which is particularly exciting because this opens the doors for a Magic Lantern– like software for the Nikon D810.

My Initial Thoughts:

The improvements from the D800 to the D810 aren’t revolutionary, they are evolutionary, though. For me, the additional features are going to be enough to upgrade from my D800, because I’ve wanted to get the D800E for a long time as it has no AA filter. I’d rather deal with anti-aliasing/moire than with a softer image.

The native ISO of 64 is also pretty impressive. I’m shooting at least 80% of my images at ISO 100, in theory ISO 64 will give me 1/3 less noise. To really see how the Nikon D810 performs in comparison to the D800, we’ll have to wait till it ships and the first tests are published. But right now, it looks pretty promising.

What do you think about the new Nikon D810? Would you upgrade from the D800?

[via Tony Northrup]

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Paul Faecks is a portrait- and fine art photographer, based in Berlin. If you want to check out his latest work, you can do so by following him on Instagram or by liking his Facebook Page

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Tor-Ivar Næss

    In general the camera is gold, but I’ve encountered an issue with stuck pixels during long exposures. I’m hoping this issue will be sorted quite fast as the aurora borealis season is about to start up in the arctic.

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  2. James Blake

    I hope a new firmware upgrade will come to other Nikons to shoot at iso 64 and adjust your RAW file from large to medium

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  3. Stan Rogers

    I wouldn’t look at the ISO 64 setting as a lower-noise option; just as something that gives you more exposure options. It’s likely that most of the difference between the ISO 100 of the D800/D800E and the ISO 64 of the D810 is happening in front of the sensor with the removal of the AA filter (and the surface interfaces between filters) and some rethinking of the IR block, coatings, microlenses, and so forth (it’s only 2/3 of a stop, after all), so the sensor isn’t going to see much difference in total light levels hitting it. Maybe a smidgeon, but not enough to make a difference. Any noise difference you see will be from better processing and A/D conversion. But getting down from a 1/400 second exposure to a 1/250 for the same ambient light and aperture without an ND filter means that you can use studio/manual flash with fewer compromises. By “Sunny 16”, that’s f/8 at high noon on a sunny summer day, and correspondingly wider apertures as you get further from noon, and for anyone whose work involves location, people and setting up a shoot, that seemingly small sensitivity change brings with it a lot of advantages. (And it apparently does good things for people who use the red button too, but I don’t have much truck with them fancy moving pitchers.) Now, if they could just pull it down to a native ISO 25 (f/5 at 1/250 at noon)… but then the dim light crowd might start grumbling.

    You should see enough of a difference to make a difference between the D810 and the D800E, though. The way the D800E used a self-cancelling AA filter (to make the optical path the same length as the D800, thus saving retooling costs) was clever, but *not quite* the same as not having the AA filter at all. The difference wouldn’t be enough to warrant an upgrade for somebody who owns a D800E in good working order (unless they’re particularly gear-obsessed or have a lot of money that feels like it’s going to expire if it’s not spent quickly), but if the D800E would have been an upgrade, then the D810 will be a bigger one — on the order of having a little bit of clarity and just a touch of vibrance dialed in before you even touch the sliders. Sort of the same kind of difference you see between a lens that is merely really, really good and quite expensive and one that doesn’t really measure that much better and is truly jaw-droppingly expensive — you might not be able to explain the difference to anybody in a way that makes sense, but you can see it.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Agree with Stan here, I’m willing to bet that the ISO noise difference between 100 and 64 is not going to be anyhere near a 2/3 stop improvement, maybe at most 1/10 or 1/3 of a stop better.

      Also, using a D800e myself, and seeing how bad the moire is on certain wedding attire, I can only imagine how nasty it’s going to be on the D810! Eesh…

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    • Tony Northrup

      My basis for hoping that it’ll offer 1/3 less noise is because it will be gathering 1/3 more total light… but you’re right, I have no idea how they’ve gone about allowing ISO 64, so we’ll just have to test it and see if it’s any better. After I recorded this review I read an interview (here, I think) with one of the official Nikon photographers who said they loved ISO 64 for the studio because of the lower noise, so that makes me optimistic. I’m going to try and arrange a Q&A with a Nikon rep so we can clarify some of these questions. Stay tuned!

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