D810 Questions and Answers

Question: why did Nikon change the filter used over the sensor in the D800E to a different one in the D810?

Answer: to understand this, you have to realize that from the front of the filter over the sensor to the back of the sensel where photons are converted to electrons, this forms an optical system. Remember, focus occurs on an infinitely thin plane, so where is that plane when there’s many microns of depth in this rear optical system? 

With the D800 and D800E, Nikon chose to build them the same. Same manufacturing line and tests, same focus system adjustments (where the focal plane is), etc. This made it easier for them both in manufacturing and in repairs: both the D800 and D800E use the same tests and should produce the same results in them.

The D800 had a filter that was slightly thick, starting with UVIR blocking, then a horizontal antialiasing, followed by a vertical antialiasing. The D800E used a filter the same thickness, starting with UVIR blocking, then a horizontal antialiasing, then a horizontal re-aliasing instead of a vertical antialiasing. As much as possible, light followed the same optical path through this rear system. Technically, the light only diffused a bit in the D800, but light coming into and out of the filter had the same distance and angle on both cameras.

With only one camera now, the D810, Nikon doesn’t need the two antialiasing/aliasing layers of the D800E because it doesn’t have to match the optical path of a second model. It’s less expensive to produce just a UVIR filter instead of a UVIR/AA filter, so it’s a no brainer to drop the more complex D800E filter.

Question: why is the D810 buffer so deep compared to the D800 models? 

Answer: another stick of memory in the camera, basically. Moreover, the EXPEED4 chip is capable of processing data 30% faster, so some things that caused buffer hiccups are less a problem now. It does not appear that Nikon changed the actual circuitry that writes to cards, though, so we don’t need CFast or UHS-II cards in the camera. 

Question: is the D810 sensor actually a new sensor?

Answer: we won’t know for sure until cameras come out and someone disassembles one enough to see the sensor markings, but I’m told it is a newer iteration of the original sensor. What that means, I don’t know for sure. It seems clear from what we know so far that the whole gain approach to sensor data on the D810 must be different than on the D800/D800E. We’ll know much more about that when we (and others) can run our standard tests on production cameras. Given the boost in ISO range, I suspect a multi-gain approach, but have no way of telling at the moment if that’s true or not. Nikon Japan’s literature seems to imply an increase in well saturation size, too.

What seems clear is that Nikon expects better image data out of the D810 in most circumstances than the D800/D800E produced. How much of that is insights to data processing versus sensor physical change I don’t yet know.

Question: how useful is the new split screen Live View? 

Answer: I’m hoping it will be very useful. While Nikon only touts it for leveling horizons, I can see other uses for it. For example, use of PC-E lenses and trying to determine whether you’ve placed the focus plane correctly (that only works for certain orientations, but still, some is better than none). But for this to be useful I suspect that the Live View magnification problems of the D800/D800E would also need to be solved. I’ve heard conflicting reports on this so far. I’m hoping that we don’t have the line sampling problems with magnification that the D800/D800E did. 

Question: is the focus significantly improved?

Answer: I like the addition of Group autofocus, but that alone wouldn’t change focus performance significantly. I also wish Nikon would add back an option for Closest Subject Priority, too. Since the EXPEED processor is involved with focus and is now faster, I suspect that we’ll see better focus performance even in the focus modes we were using on the D800/D800E. That needs to be born out by testing, though. Nikon doesn’t seem to be making a big deal about focus speed improvements, though they do hint at it.

Question: has your opinion changed since the introduction?

Answer: a little bit. There’s a pretty good chance that all the small incremental changes are one of those sum of the parts is greater than the sum of the parts results. In particular, the buffer changes with the increased frame rate open the D810 into areas where the D800/D800E were more marginal choices.

The other good news is that, with the exception of the addition of sRaw, every one of the changes that we know about in the D810 are welcome and make an already great camera better. The sRaw bit seems more like a paean to marketing checklists than a truly useful feature, but everything else that’s new is a nice progression from the current cameras. 

Sometimes a lot of small changes can make a far bigger impact than you’d think, and I’m guessing that this is what we’re going to find with the D810 in field testing.


Question: was the D810 press release really better than previous ones?

Answer: yes, though in studying it some more for nuance, it is overwrought with flowery language and excessive superlatives. But I like the direction implied by the change: less concentration on techno mumbo jumbo and meaningless boilerplate. Instead, more on user benefit. And more interestingly: virtually all of the changes in the camera have direct, tangible user benefits ;~). The D810 is a better camera, and that’s what the D810 press release said, in essence, even (mostly) explaining why while overusing hyped up adjectives. 

However, the press release missed the buffer change, which is actually more important than the frame rate change, but coupled with it, is even more significant. So I’m not thinking that Nikon’s marketing got it perfect, just better.


Question: when will the D810 ship?

Answer: July 17th, according to Nikon. 

Question: will you do a book on the D810?

Answer: I will create a second edition of my D800 book that includes the D810, yes. I have not yet figured out how I’ll handle owners of the original book who want the second edition.

Question: will we also get a D700 update?

Answer: highly unlikely. My understanding is that the next DSLR introduction will be DX. 

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