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Why I Preordered a Nikon D810 (D800 vs. D810)

I really like that full-frame look and have two main FX cameras: Nikon Df and Nikon D800.

My use case for the Df is every-day shooting, low-light and street.
The D800 is for uncompromising image quality.

So why upgrade? What do these two cameras not offer?

I have the following issues with my gear:

  • I lack trust in the D800 focus
  • I sometimes shoot sports
D800 Focus Confidence

I didn’t suffer from the dreaded left-focusing-issue, but many did. I did experience generally poor focusing accuracy.  All of my lenses needed dramatic back-focus adjustment.  Sharp-ears instead of eyes back focus. I do not have the issue with my Df.  The same lenses focus better, and much more accurately on my Df. Generally, I just focus fine-tuned and mostly forgot about it.  Still, the confidence wasn’t there.

Also, I have often had the case where I know where my focusing point was, but my D800 decided that something else should be in focus.  I know I’ll have critics who comment that it’s my fault, but again, my Df with an “inferior” focusing system doesn’t have the issue.

Speed

Besides that, the D800 image quality is absolutely stunning at low ISO.  Shockingly good!
But it’s slow at only 4 FPS in FX mode.  The Df has a different focus: excellent image quality at high ISO.

The problem is that probably half of my shots are sports.  Not more than about 10-20% of all of my keepers are sports, but you shoot a lot during sports photography and cull out the bad ones and duplicates.

Ironically, my fastest camera at 6 FPS – the sweet spot for my shooting – is the D7000, which I’ve recently called the best camera for amateurs on a budget and the last camera that I would ever sell.  I get a lot more keepers on my D7000 than on my D800.

Here are two examples.

D800: Beautiful, but peak action was missed.

The first is my D800 that has beautiful colours and sharpness, but the action – not so much.  I missed lots of great images on this day.  From this angle, on the back side of a ramp, you have less than a second to get the shot.  You can’t anticipate because you don’t see the rider until he’s already crested the hill.  If he’s going to do something cool, you need three or four shots to pick the peak action.

The second is with my three-year-old, and rarely used D7000.  I had several images to choose from, even as the rider was flying by my head!  I liked this one for peak action.  The image quality is very good, but I would have liked to have a bit more dynamic range in this high-contrast situation.

D7000: Peak action!
More peak action (D7000)

Yes, I’m aware of the fact that with a grip and AA batteries, you can also shoot 6 FPS in DX crop mode, and I use this, but the image quality isn’t any better than the D800 in this mode.  I may as well use my D7000 and avoid changing lenses.

Not changing lenses in this! (D7000)

 

D810 Benefits

For me, the D810 benefits boil down to:

  • Much larger buffer according to Thom Hogan
  • 6 FPS (my personal sweet spot) in 1.2 crop mode
  • Quieter shutter
  • More confident focus

Even without a grip, you still get 5 FPS in normal FX mode, which should be familiar to Df owners like me.

The quieter shutter is also a big deal.  The D800 is CLACK! loud.  When I’m shooting wildlife, it’s important.  Take a look at this patient little guy:

In the wild, not in a zoo. I’m amazed the D800 didn’t scare him away.

Why didn’t I take the D610?  Focusing coverage.

In my very first image, this is on a monopod with focusing Auto Area AF.  I didn’t know, and couldn’t predict where the rider would pop up, so I needed a rather large area for the camera to choose from.

I’m also rather concerned with the weather sealing.  This is my setup for a typical winter day out:

Typical winter day out. (iPhone)
Conclusion

While it is an incremental upgrade, there certainly is a buzz around this camera – and rightly so!  It’s upgrading arguably the most famous DSLR of the last few years.  But the D800 was just a little short in a few areas.  The D810 makes up for this, in my opinion.

Check out this specs comparison if you want to know more.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Why I Preordered a Nikon D810 (D800 vs. D810)”

  1. I’m very tempted, too. I use a D610 right now but would like to have a larger autofocus-point area coverage. 100%-zoom-in on a button press like the D7100 offered is great, too. First-curtain electronic shutter and higher resolution LV is another benefit. So I save for christmas time! If the A7r successor offered 7fps and no shutter shock, would you be tempted to go for Sony? I personally hesitated, but decided to stay with Nikon since I still like DSLRs very much and added a Fuji X-T1 for casual photography.

    1. Thanks for the comment, HF. I was tempted by the D6xx also, but, like you, I was turned off by the small focus coverage.

      Personally, I don’t think mirrorless is ready yet for the types of shooting that I do, but more importantly, I have a bunch of Nikon glass that I’ll never give up.

      Love those Fuji colours though!

      1. I could test the D810 today in Munich together with my wife and directly compared it to the D800 and D610. I was overly convinced that I need to have it and bought it. The LCD is great, direct zoom to 100% on a press of the center four way controller button, no visible interpolation. Very fast focus using the new group area mode. Quiet. Hope you get yours soon too, it is just great.
        By the way: ein schönes Review von G. Wegner über die D810 im Vergleich zur D800, D5300 und 6D auf gwegner.de.

  2. Nice synopsis…. I’m waiting to get one in my hands before upgrading from my trusty D700.
    Cheers, D. Hamments

  3. Is the punch in for focus (video only) better on the D810?? On the D800 the video looks ‘weird’ and has a strobe effect when punching in to nail critical focus. Hopefully the D810 fixes this problem but have not heard yet. Thanks.

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