The D810 outputs a 36.3 megapixel image just like the D800/D800E cameras, however, the D810 produces a noticeably crisper image compared to the D800. The differences in image detail become negligible when compared to the D800E. One thing that has peaked my interest, but I haven’t been able to substantiate it with a test, is that the D810 seems provide a slightly better off-centre sharpness with quite a few of my lenses, especially the older ones. I presume it may have to do with a slightly thinner sensor-stack and/or different sensor micro lenses. Interestingly, this lead me to find an interesting article by Photographylife that also mentioned improved mid-frame and corner performance relative to the gain found at the centre of the frame. You can read the article HERE.

Interestingly enough, I found the average RAW file sizes of the D810 to be slightly bigger than those of the D800. This is unlike Nikon’s published average file sizes. Considering the price of memory cards and hard disks, the increased file size shouldn’t be an issue these days. The graph on the right shows the average RAW file sizes produced by my D810. The graph is fairly straight forward, and it’s easy to deduct that the best quality to file size ratio can be achieved with the use of Lossless Compressed NEF setting. I have not included the sRAW file setting because I find it to be a pointless format, cutting resolution in half (1/4 the total pixel count) but with a file size roughly that of a full resolution 12-bit compressed NEF. Besides the large file size, sRAW isn’t a true RAW file, making it less flexible to editing. Lastly, sRAW takes it’s toll on camera battery life due to the additional in-camera processing required. In my opinion, sRAW is a redundant feature.

Nikon doesn’t accurately represent the remaining shot count on their cameras if NEF recording is set to anything other than Uncompressed. This is understandable, since compression efficiency is directly influenced by the amount of detail recorded in the image. While my D810 is set to Lossless Compressed 14bit NEF recording, and it displays 396 images remaining with a 32GB card. I’ve had this same card fill up with 715 images and still have a little room to spare.

The differences between 12bit and 14bit are negligible, but these differences are bigger than those seen with D3/D3s/D700/D3x cameras. I’m not going to expand into the theory of 12bit vs 14bit, but I’ll provide an example that should show the small differences. The biggest difference can be seen when shooting at low ISO values and pushing the exposure and/or shadows a great amount in post. Pushing the shadows extensively of a 12bit NEF will yield slightly less colour depth and detail retention in the deepest shadow areas, including giving them a slightly greener tint. Again, the differences are negligible, becoming even more indistinguishable as the ISO is increased. Any image that requires that much pushing is likely better off deleted. Never the less, for those that like to push shadows, there is an easy way to greatly improve image quality, which I’ll get to on the next page.

Below is a slider comparison of a very underexposed NEF, needing a +4.5 stop exposure compensation in LR6. (the only noise reduction applied is for colour noise, set to “10”) The 14bit NEF is on the left, and the 12 bit NEF on the right. As you can see, the 12bit image has a green tint compared to the 14bit image.

Unlike in my D800 review, I’m not going to do a Nikon vs Adobe raw conversion comparison. Detail retention with the Nikon software, in this case Capture NX-D, is again poor by comparison to Adobe or Capture 1. The NX-D software is terrible and I’m not willing to waste my time downloading and installing it again.

Compared to the D800E, it’s reported the D810 has an improved dynamic range at base ISO, but I can’t tell much difference in every day shooting conditions. Most refer to the dynamic range comparison graphs of DXOMark seen HERE, but I prefer the graphs provided by Bill Claff, HERE. On the right is a comparison obtained from Bill’s web page. The differences between the D810 and D800E are negligible, but apparently favouring the D800E above base ISO. Both cameras have plenty dynamic range.

One thing I haven’t bothered much with was creating custom DCP colour profiles for the D810 using Xrite’s Color Checker Chart. While Adobe’s DNG Profile Editor can make some good custom profiles, I’ve had such good results with Colin Walker’s HUELIGHT profiles for my D700, I simply purchased them for the D810. These are solid profiles, and I can’t say anything bad about them or the service Colin provides. Colin also provided me with a custom Neutral profile on request. I can highly recommend the Huelight profiles. Below is a slider comparison between the D810 Huelight Neutral profile and the Camera Neutral Profile in Adobe LR6. A significant difference can be observed.

Following this, it’s important to realise the differences between the tone curve used in the RAW editor and the tone curve set in the camera’s Picture Control Settings. Presuming one doesn’t use Nikon software, try and match the profiles as best as possible, since this will make it easier to translate the camera’s preview image with that displayed in your RAW converter. My D810 is set to the Flat Picture Control, which matches my Lightroom default profile, the Huelight D810 Neutral profile, quite nicely.

The Matrix exposure meter used in the D810 is definitely improved, even though it shares the same name with the one found in the D800. The metering seems a little more consistent and accurate, and exposures tend to be a little brighter. Together with what seems to be a very reliable Matrix exposure meter, the Auto-WB has significantly improved as well. I’ve never had such good results with Auto-WB as I do with the D810. Good WB and exposure is also very important in achieving good quality high ISO results.

When it comes to shooting at high ISO, the D810 does really well considering the amount of pixels the sensor has. However, there’s a pretty solid roof at ISO 6400, after which image quality can start to deteriorate rapidly. Not much has changed from the D800, but the general consensus is that the D810 shows about 1/3 to 1/2 stop improvement at higher ISO values, but with a slight reduction in dynamic range. ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 produce very good quality images, especially when downscaling the image to match the pixel count of other cameras. Cameras such as the Nikon Df or D750, start to make strides ahead of the D810’s image quality at ISO 6400 and above. The Df can produce quite remarkable results at ISO 25600, unlike the D810.

The topic of camera high ISO performance and camera comparisons has been done to death across the many reviews out there. I’m not going to do any boring high ISO tests or comparisons, since I believe DPReview studio comparison tool does a pretty good job at doing that already.

Below are some high ISO samples. Click to see them large.

Please note, no editing beside a little WB adjusting was applied to these images in LR. No noise reduction besides default chroma noise reduction set to 10. Sample images are resized in Photoshop CS6 to 3680x2456px, followed by a 50% 0.3px Smart Sharpened with “More Accurate” enabled.

ISO 12800:


ISO 8000:

ISO 6400

ISO 3200

ISO 1600



Image Quality: Part I