With Photokina 2014 on the horizon, Nikon is updating one of its premier professional DSLRs, replacing the D800 and D800e with a new model: the D810. The broad strokes of the new camera are the same, but look closer and you'll see a few dozen minor tweaks were made to one of Nikon's best cameras.
First off, the basics: the D810 has a newly-developed 36.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS image sensor, backed up by the same Expeed 4 as the Nikon D4S. The new sensor does away with the optical low pass filter entirely, which should allow for D800e-level resolution without the complex "canceled" optical filter that the D800e used.
The D810 also retains the split CompactFlash/SDHC dual card slot configuration, with one slot for each type. The body will still feature both mic and headphone jacks, a hot shoe, and the same 51-point autofocus system (15 cross-type, 11 cross-type sensitive down to f/8).
On the outside, the changes are small—but should improve usability. The grip has been slimmed down to match the D4s, with more clearance between it and the lens. There's also a new "i" button borrowed from lower-end Nikon cameras, enabling quick changes to numerous settings on the rear LCD. The display itself has seen a bump up to 3.2 inches, with a 1.229 million-dot resolution.
Elsewhere on the body you'll find that the memory card door is now rubberized for better moisture-sealing. Some controls have also swapped places: the bracket button moved to the left side beneath the flash button, and the exposure lock button is now on the top left dial. A quiet continuous mode has also been added to the drive dial for more discreet burst shooting.
Speaking of continuous shooting, the D810 can now shoot at 5 frames per second at full resolution. Additionally, it can hit 6 frames per second if you use the 15.4-megapixel DX crop mode and even 7 fps if you shoot in crop mode with an external battery pack. The D810 can also now stretch from ISO 64-12,800 natively, with both an ISO 32 and 25,600/51,200 modes available.
With all that continuous shooting you're bound to fill up cards faster, so Nikon has once again borrowed a feature from Canon's playbook: smaller RAW files. First seen on the D4s, this mode lets you shoot in 12-bit RAW at 1/4th the file size at approximately 18-megapixels. The full-size RAW files can still be shot in 12 or 14 bits.
Quite a bit of attention has been paid to video shooters this time around. The D810 allows for 1080/60p shooting (with 50p/30p/24p also available). You can also now leave auto gain on while still taking manual control over aperture/shutter speed. There's also power aperture control right in the camera, rather than requiring an external recorder as with the D800.
For audio hounds, the D810 replaces the D800's mono mic with a stereo version. You can also make use of the aforementioned mic/headphone jacks or roll with Nikon's ME-1 microphone. There's also new zebra striping for monitoring highlights, smooth exposure changes when outputting a video with the built-in timelapse/interval timer, and uncompressed 1080/60p output to an external recorder while recording h.264 compressed video.
The D810 should also help with multi-camera video shoots thanks to the addition of custom color profiles that can be shared between cameras. There's also a new flat picture control designed to preserve more tonality and highlight/shadow detail—for times when you want to preserve dynamic range and color grade after the fact.
The rest of the changes are about as small as they get. The optical viewfinder borrows the OLED display from the D7100 for text readout. There's a new split-screen live view giving you the ability to focus check points on the opposite side of the image. And there's a new sequencer/mirror balancer to improve vibration from mirror slap when shooting with the mechanical shutter.
What do all these improvements cost? The same as the D800e: $3299.95. As is typical with Nikon announcements, it should reach retail shelves sometime in the next 30 days. We haven't had a chance to get our hands on one just yet, but we'll have a full review up as soon as possible.