On the pleasure of shooting with a great camera

The Nikon D810 is a camera I’ve raved about before. It is an enormously capable camera which allows for images that are, at their best, better than any other camera with a 35mm sensor. There are a lot of things about the D810 that aren’t perfect: it’s a little thicker than I think Nikon could make these bodies if they pushed it, it lacks built in wifi, a touch screen and an articulated screen. None of it really matters.

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The reason it doesn’t matter is the D810 just works really well. It doesn’t feel rushed out of the lab too soon in the way the original D800 and Sony A7R did. Walking around with the camera you know you can rely on it to handle most things: Dynamic range, high ISO, resolution, colours, low shutter speeds, ease of control.

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Two huge innovations in the D810 were the shutter, which is the best sounding and lowest vibration shutter on a Nikon DSLR by far, and the electronic first curtain shutter, which between them remove the curse of the D800/E, low shutter speed vibration. It means you don’t need to panic about lower shutter speeds, within reason.

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About the most stressful thing about shooting with the D810 is the weight of the kit, if you pair it with the F2.8 zooms available for F mount. But you don’t have to shoot it with those lenses. Some of the best lenses available for any system are the Nikon F1.8 primes. They aren’t built to the same standards as the pro grade lenses, but they are small, very light and optically excellent.

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Lately I’ve been shooting my D810 paired with my 20mm F1.8, 35mm F1.8 and Sigma 24mm F1.4 and 50mm F1.4 Art primes. It’s a fabulous kit optically and it doesn’t break the back either. Get a day with perfect light (bright but overcast) and all of these lenses can make pictures you can almost reach out and touch.

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Inevitably, some will draw comparisons with the other high megapixel monsters available, the Sony A7RII and the Canon 5DS/R. That’s all fine, because competition is what inspires manufacturers to make great cameras like the D810. If you push me to consider the best of the two high megapixel cameras I own, I would nominate the D810. That isn’t solely based on tests and specifications. Both cameras rate highly – the D810 has slightly better DR and the A7RII has slight better high ISO results (when properly exposed).

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Both cameras have a very gentle shutter and a electronic shutter to control vibration. The A7RII has 4k video (which is excellent – I’ve lost all interest in the A7S) and in body stabilisation. The D810 has well spaced controls, almost endless battery life and an OVF. I’ve never been shy in expressing the view that an optical viewfinder, regardless of whether a mirror is in the optical path, gives more connection to the scene and for me, better results. Ultimately, though, what really turns it for me is the combination of accurate metering, almost infallible autofocus and fantastic colours from the D810. Others may have completely different views and that’s fine.

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However, regardless of what the “best” camera is (and it’s ultimately very subjective) if a camera maker makes a camera and lenses where you can have fun taking pictures without even thinking about it and the pictures themselves make you very happy, they’ve done something very, very right.

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Pictures of the Hemel Hempstead Bus Running Day. Taken with my Nikon D810, Nikon 35mm F1.8 and Sigma 24mm F1.4 and 50mm F1.4 Art primes.

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