Nikon's ultra-high resolution camera just turned things up a notch. Or maybe a just degree. The Nikon D810 is the replacement for both the earlier D800, sporting a brand new 36.3-megapixel full-frame sensor and host of other feature tweaks. Pocket-lint got to handle the new high-profile DSLR ahead of its announcement to see what we made of it.
First impressions are good. From our point of view the original D800 was already a master camera that we loved. We didn't expect it to be back in 2012 when it launched, but it blew us away. With the D810 it's familiar business, albeit with a slightly reworked design. Long-time D800 users will notice the reformed grip, the new "i" button on the rear for a quick menu display, a textured finish to the focus mode button, and other subtleties such as bracketing moving from the top-panel quick access buttons and being replaced with metering instead. Nothing huge overall, but if it's not broken then no need to fix it, right?
READ: Best DSLR cameras 2014
Other headline features are pulled directly from the top-tier Nikon D4S model. There's the same 51-point autofocus system (meaning group area AF is also included) and Expeed 4 processor, but the new sensor at the core is a wholly different beast compared to the less resolute D4S model. This is the D810's calling card: its 36.3-megapixel resolution.
READ: Nikon D4S review
This time around there's no optical low-pass filter in the D810, so the light entering the camera isn't diffused which ought to mean the sharpest possible results. The earlier D800 had a sister D800E model - the latter which offered the same OLPF-free setup - but in the case of the D810 it replaces both predecessors. Paired with the right Nikon optics, which is an essential given the significant resolution, and we have high hopes for this camera. Indeed Nikon was claiming it will deliver the "highest image quality in Nikon's history".
Just like the D610 updated the D600, the D810 also updates the shutter. The new sequencer unit still has a life span of 200,000 cycles, but can now shoot at five frames per second (5fps) or up to seven frames per second (7fps) if you opt to crop by 1.5x in the DX mode. An in-between 6fps is available at 1.2x crop, and there's a 5:4 ratio option too. Interestingly the camera can shoot JPEG Fine until a card is full, so the buffer has seen expansion too.
READ: Nikon D610 review
When new sensors are announced these days they typically don't make a huge leap in final image quality performance compared to the last generation. With the Nikon D810 it's not the anticipated jump in image quality per se that catches our attention the most - it's the ability to shoot from ISO 64 as standard. Like the good old days of film. There's even a "Lo1" option of ISO 32 if you want it, while at the other end of the scale native ISO 51,200 can be pushed to 128,000 at "Hi2". We've shot a few frames with the camera, but as it's a pre-production model we are unable to share them.
The D810 looks good, it feels good in the hand and given its dust- and weather-sealed magnesium alloy chassis it ought to come to good in the field too. Just like with the D800 that large circular viewfinder provides a large 100 per cent field of view and is comfortable against the eye. This time around the rear 3.2-inch LCD gets a spec boost - it's not 1229k-dot rather than 921k-dot - but that's due to the addition of a white dot layer, rather than a bump in resolution. We weren't able to take the camera outside into the big wide world - it would have led to slapped wrists - so, for now, can't comment on how that additional layer assists brightness in daylight conditions.
On the video capture front the 1080p mode can now reel off at 50 or 60fps, but there's no 4K UHD recording on this model which some will see as a missed opportunity - especially with Panasonic now owning that market.
Elsewhere there are some cool new tweaks, such as the spotlight exposure mode (entirely new for Nikon) to use in conjunction with studio spotlights, a Raw S (12-bit uncompressed, quarter pixel output, half file size) option for speeding up workflow and a pinpoint AF option for acquiring zoom-in accuracy on screen.
As the D800's massive resolution has been attracting architectural photographers and the like, the D810 now offers a split screen focus mode which shows up a magnified point of focus on the left side of the screen, next to a magnified point on the right of the screen - useful for ensuring the focus is spot on across a given plane.
All this could be yours for the princely sum of £2700 for the body only - and the Nikon D810 is available to buy right now.