You can find many articles on the Nikon D810, describing all the technical details of this excellent full frame camera: this post doesn’t want to be another review, instead it aims to provide a diary from the field of our wedding services in Tuscany, reporting my impressions of use.
Introduction – The benefits of using a full frame sensor (FX)
Let’s start with a major premise, since many amateur photographers often ask me if there is a real advantage in purchasing a full frame camera, since the price tag sets these bodies in the professional market and considering that even latest cropped sensor camera models, both Nikon (DX) and Canon, are able to provide impressive results.
Even sharing the same resolution (MPixels), a full frame sensor records a wider dynamic range if compared to a cropped one. This means being able to capture more informations, more details in both shadows area and in the highlights, resulting in a better image. During weddings, we often find ourselves in low-light conditions, in particular during religious rites where it is not allowed to use flash or other artificial lights: a full frame sensor “works” much better, allowing to obtain usable images even with high ISO values.
Nikon D810 is able to produce perfectly usable images up to 6400 ISO, ready to be printed on one of our wedding albums: a stroke of noise reduction on Lightroom (slider value between 15:20) and images return to be spectacular.
During religious rites, but even during evening receptions, we were often struggling with the auto focus system of our previous camera bodies, which were struggling to lock the subject, often missing the “magic” moment. From this point of view, a D810 excels and makes magic: his ability to focus is incredible, being able to lock your subject in a blink of an eye, even at night or in almost total darkness. I believe Nikon engineers practice black magic!
Speaking of its auto focus, the new “group focusing” function is another icing on the cake. During processionals or recessionals, this evolution of the continuous autofocus mode, allows you to keep your subjects locked, evaluating autofocus on more than one point, using a bunch of adjacent points: sequences of 10/15 frames, with bride and groom approach you at ultra fast pace are all perfectly in focus!
The new shutter
If you have got to use any Nikon camera body, in particular the previous D800, the shutter sound will not be gone unnoticed: every shot is like slamming a security door!
It was so embarrassing, during rites, to get noticed for the strong “clack” of our shutter release. The new D810 shutter on the contrary, is delicate as a butterfly, even quieter than the Canon 5D, often considered one of the quietest DSLR.
Ergonomics and battery life
The D810 is well-balanced and its grip is pleasant, even attaching the additional MB-D12 battery grip. This at least in the hands of a male photographer. My wife Daniela prefers her Nikon DF, since it’s lighter and more compact: if you do not have big hands and well trained biceps, the weight of the D810 with battery grip, perhaps coupled with a 70-200 tele lens, will put to test your endurance, specially at the end of a typical wedding photographer day. Battery life is excellent too: you will be able to complete a 10/12 hours assignement, taking 2500/3000 shots, only using a battery inside the camera body and one in the battery grip, with no need for any replacement.
Conclusion – Image quality
The D810 to express its best, must necessarily be coupled with high end glasses. The images produced, for example with an AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8, will give you tons of details out from the 36MPixels of this machine, allowing even to make extreme crops, making the D810 one of the best portrait machines on the market.
As a wedding photographer, I am really satisfied of my D810, strongly advising its usage for wedding photography: together with a D750, you will got an incredible arsenal able to defend you in every situation.
My only advice: if you shoot RAW, you will have to own a fast personal computer to properly manage the almost 50Mb D810 NEF files, otherwise your Lightroom experience will be a Zen exercise (or a Calvary)!