Nikon D810 Review: A Phenomenal DSLR Worth Buying in 2021

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Last updated on December 18th, 2020

The Nikon D810 is Nikon’s top consumer camera, and Nikon’s highest-resolution camera. Nikon D810 is that the camera that replaces the classic D800 and D800E. It’s a full-frame 36.3-megapixel camera that highly offers some of the best images you can get from any DSLR. It’s also Nikon’s nicest-sounding camera, with smooth, high performance in its Quiet modes that lets me shoot quickly without calling attention to myself.

What is the Nikon D810?

The Nikon D810 astounds me with how well it can handle multiple assignments, from ultra-high resolution gallery and fine art production, botanical fieldwork and scientific record-keeping, military reconnaissance and industrial espionage to family, portraits, and fast action — and it works astounding well down into the dark with autofocus that’s fast and sure in a light dimmer than I can see. Of course, it’s super-clean at insanely high ISOs, and gets even sharper when shot at ISOs below 100!

It’s a real multi-mode camera, easily handling everything from fine art to industrial use to portraits to sports. It has such a lot of pixels that we are able to use any of its crop modes and still have quite enough pixels left for any price.

Its simple HDR mode is good for landscapes and land listings. Just flip it on, and now everything from bright daylight to dark indoor shadows look as detailed as they do to our eyes, instead of washing out to a blank white and pitch black. The D810’s autofocus is superb.

The D810 not solely focuses quick and certain in near blackness, it automatically recognizes faces and focuses properly on the nearest eye. My D810 continuously selects the proper detector mechanically for my sports and other people’s footage.

Unless your subjects are posing, the superior AF system of my D810 lets me capture action and life faster than ever. No matter however you slice it, if gallery exhibition is your effect, no DSLR will build higher pictures these days than the Nikon D810 — and it currently runs quick enough for action, too!

Nikon D810 Review – Features:

This is an awesome camera, and much of the way the Nikon D810 operates is about zero compromise performance. In a practical sense, this can become somewhat difficult to deal with if you don’t have the kit to go with it. What do we mean? 36-megapixel RAW files are huge and will fill up even a 64GB memory card in no time. You could even do so in a day if you get snap-happy during a shoot.

Key Specifications

  • 36.3-megapixel sensor
  • 64-12800 native ISO range
  • 51-point autofocus

Pros

  • Fantastic image quality
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Superb dynamic range

Cons

  • No inbuilt Wi-Fi
  • No 4K video capture
  • Not a huge upgrade over the D800E

Nikon D810 Review – Performance

Looking a bit closer into the Nikon D810’s actual shooting specs, the camera uses the same Expeed 4 image processor as the Nikon D4S – a slightly older camera but one that costs around twice the price of the D810.

Despite this, though, the D810 highly offers much slower shooting speeds than the D4S. Shooting at full resolution tops out at 5fps or 6fps for DX sensor crops of 15 megapixels.

The Nikon D4S goes up to 11fps, with full re-focusing and metering with each shot. That gives you some idea as to where the extra $1159-odd goes. The rival Canon EOS 5D MKIII only shoots up to 6fps, so you’re not really missing out on speed among its price peers.

As you’d hope from a DSLR of this pedigree, autofocus speed is excellent – especially if you’re not using Live View mode, which limits the Nikon D810 to contrast-detection autofocus. Once again, the camera uses the same engine as the Nikon D4S, the Multi-Cam 3500FX.

This is a 51-point focusing system, and we found it to be extremely fast even in poorer lighting conditions. The system also has 15 cross-focusing points, although this is a good deal fewer than the Canon 5D MK III, which has 41.

What’s so special about a cross-focus point? It means the contrast-detect system can analyze contrast differences along both the horizontal and vertical axes. So while focusing in practice is great, those extra cross points give the 5D MKIII technically more accomplished contrast-detect autofocus.

Metering performance is excellent too. The Nikon D810 responds to lighting changes extremely quickly even in low light conditions, and this added to the strong tracking autofocus makes a mean combo, even without Nikon D4S-grade speed.

Nikon D810 Review – Image Quality:

Nikon has rather dramatically enhanced the ISO range of the D810 over the D800, giving the new camera a huge native ISO range of 64-12,800. This was just 100-6,400 in the D800. This native range may also be expanded to 32-51,200.

As you’d expect of a top-end full-frame DSLR, image quality is Awesome. Resolution is frankly incredible, with only the Sony A7R IV able to get close to its performance. Detail rendering stays superb right the way up to ISO 6,400, with only minor loss of detail.

Naturally, the noise reduction engine cuts into fine detail a bit more substantial as you work further up the ISO range, but the results remain impressive. Even at the extreme high ends of the range, ISO 25,600 and 51,200, the results are just about usable in an emergency. Such is the power of a great full-frame sensor.

However, we should note that the Nikon D810 doesn’t represent a huge image quality improvement over the Nikon D800E. It’s no huge surprise, though, with the cameras using sensors of the same resolution and size.

The dynamic range of the Nikon D810 is fantastic, with a whopping 12.9EV at ISO50. That is superior to the Canon 5D Mark III. DR drops down to 9.7EV at ISO3200, but it’s still good. Colour reproduction is excellent, with just a slight blue bias according to our benchmarks. However, flesh tones look extremely natural, helping to provide good results before you even get to post-processing.

Of course, to get near to unlocking what the Nikon D810 is capable of, you need to pair the camera with the best lenses the Nikon FX system has to offer. If you’re buying at this level there’s a good chance you already have a favored stock of Nikon-compatible lenses, though.

Nikon D810 Review- Video

There are some factors where the Nikon D810 remains oddly deficient. One of the most obvious is the video. While Nikon has added to the video capabilities of the D810 over the D800 by increasing 1080p capture to 60p, where the D800 topped out at 30p, there’s no 4K video mode. Much like the lack of Wi-Fi, this is something we now see in cameras much cheaper than the D810.


We won’t resort to comparing the Nikon D810 to a 4K-capable phone like the Galaxy Note 3, but we can’t ignore the excellent Panasonic GH4, which has become a videographer’s favorite thanks to its 4K abilities. The D810 starts lagging behind from day one, and that’s disappointing. Naturally, match the Nikon D810 with a decent lens, especially one capable of some nice depth of field effects, and you’ll be able to shoot some fantastic footage. But it’s unfortunate to see a replacement camera of this grade released without 4K capture in 2014.

Nikon has incorporated some options for the video fan, though. Zebra pattern mode fills in areas on the verge of becoming overexposed to act as a warning sign, and there’s a flat mode that strips out all on-camera processing to make your footage a bit more versatile when you get to the post-production stage.

Should I Buy the Nikon D810?

The moves made by the Nikon D810 make it clear there are a few groups of people who don’t need to consider buying the camera. Thanks to a lack of 4K capture, it’s not a top videographer’s choice, and the relatively minor updates over the Nikon D800E mean it’s not worth the upgrade for most.

However, for people who price image quality over with regards to the rest in an exceeding camera, the Nikon D810 is very hard to beat. It does not simply image quality, either, however shooting performance too. It’s naturally not as fast as the Nikon D4S, but the extra frame per second the camera provides over the D800E will matter to many, even if it does mean it’ll chew through memory cards even more quickly.

Our Verdict

If you have an old camera like D700 and want to upgrade to D810, then it will be a huge step forward for you. It may be more re-hash than revolution, but the Nikon D810 can produce staggeringly good images when paired with the right lens. It’s no shooting performance slouch either.