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In early 2012, Nikon started a trend with the launch of the D800E, a full-frame digital SLR which did without a resolution-robbing optical low-pass filter in the quest for maximum resolution. That's a change which has since swept the industry, with OLPF-free cameras available at all levels -- professional, enthusiast, and even the entry-level.
Now, Nikon follows up with the D810, a camera which shares much with its predecessor -- but there are some very important differences. Perhaps the most important of the bunch is one of strategy. The Nikon D800E's move away from a low-pass filter was a bold one at the time, and the company hedged its bets with the Nikon D800, a simultaneously-launched model that was near-identical, save for the inclusion of a low-pass filter.
This time around, there is no such equivalent for the Nikon D810. With a refinement of the same 36.3-megapixel image sensor from the D800 and D800E, along with a next-generation EXPEED 4 image processor -- not to mention a market populated by photographers who now have a better handle on the moiré and false-color implications of foregoing that OLPF -- Nikon is clearly confident in the D810's ability to stand alone.
So what's new in the Nikon D810? We've already mentioned that both image sensor and processor are new, but specifically, the Nikon D810's FX-format CMOS image sensor has improved microlenses for better light-gathering capabilities, yet is also said to have a lower base sensitivity of ISO 64 equivalent. Coupled with the new EXPEED 4 image processor, which is said to offer 30% greater performance and superior noise-reduction processing, the Nikon D810 bests its predecessors for sensitivity not only at the bottom end of the range, but also at the top. The standard range is now ISO 64 to 12,800 equivalents, expandable to encompass everything from ISO 32 to 51,200 equivalents.
Nikon also promises even greater resolution from the newly-designed sensor than it managed with that in the D800E, perhaps because of the fact that it no longer needed to take into consideration an OLPF-equipped variant of the camera. And the new EXPEED 4 processor also allows a one frame per second improvement in burst performance across the board, to a maximum of five frames per second at full resolution, or 7 fps with a DX-format crop and the optional MB-D12 Multi Power Battery Pack attached.
And there are other important differences in the Nikon D810's components. There's a new mirror sequencer / balancer unit, for example, that's designed to better-control vibration, and the rear-panel LCD monitor now has four dots per pixel, adding an extra white dot to the existing red, green and blue. That allows either a brighter, better-visible display when shooting outdoors, or power savings when shooting in lower ambient light. And the TTL pentaprism optical viewfinder has also been revisited, gaining a new prism coating for better clarity, along with an Organic LED status display panel that's brighter and easier to read.
The body itself has also been redesigned, featuring a deeper, more comfortable grip and some minor tweaks to controls. And smaller improvements like these abound throughout: there's a new electronic first-curtain shutter function when shooting in live view or mirror lockup modes, for example. Nikon has also added a new highlight-weighted exposure metering option, as well as a new Picture Control called "Flat", aimed at those who want to color-grade and match output from multiple different cameras. There's even a space-saving, reduced-resolution raw format.
Videographers get plenty of love, too, with lots of new features that will make the Nikon D810 an even more interesting proposition for video capture. (And Nikon is clearly banking on significant sales in this area, offering two specific product bundles aimed specifically at video shooters.) Changes include the ability to record video to the camera's own memory cards at the same time as outputting uncompressed HDMI for capture with an external device, and to use the Power Aperture function while recording to internal cards.
There's also a new stereo built-in mic, a wind cut filter function, zebra stripes, and more. And those new highlight-weighted metering and flat Picture Control functions we mentioned previously? They apply to video, too.