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Nikon beefs up moviemaking capabilities in new D810 full-frame DSLR

Nikon just announced the D810, a new full-frame pro-level DSLR for a cool $3,300 (body only). Basically an upgrade to the current D800E (also $3,300), both cameras have 36.3-megapixel sensors – the highest of any models other than medium format cameras. Moviemakers should also take note the D810 has a maximum resolution of 1080/60p versus 1080/30p of the current edition, as well as other tweaks detailed below. The D810 will be available in late July. 

The D810 is definitely a beast and targeted to studio and fine art photographers, as well as cinematographers. Your average shutterbug won’t go anywhere near it other than to ogle its massive size and hefty price tag.

Although similarly priced to the older D800E, the D810 has a new full-frame sensor even though it’s the same pixel count. Like the D800E, Nikon omitted the optical low-pass filter for enhanced sharpness – a common trend among new interchangeable lens cameras. As is typical with next-generation cameras, Nikon engineers improved the processor, in this case moving to EXPEED 4 from EXPEED 3. Besides overall operational improvements, the new chip increased ISOs: now the native range is 64-12,800 with extended settings down to 32 and up to 51,200.

Unfortunately, the burst mode – while improved – is no big deal. The new D810 has a maximum frame rate of 5 fps, compared to 4 for the D800E. Clearly not a camera for the sidelines at the World Cup, but this spec is still impressive when you realize the camera is funneling huge 7360 x 4912 pixel files onto either Compact Flash or SD memory cards (there are two slots). Again, it’s best suited for still capture. 

Nikon also bumped up the resolution of the 3.2-inch LCD monitor to 1,229K dots from 921K of the D800E. A new Split Screen Display Zoom function magnifies two separated points on the same horizontal line to confirm the points are level and in focus. Not something for shooting a birthday party but a great feature for landscape and architecture photographers. 

The company clearly sees Canon making headway in the filmmaking community, so it added loads of features for moviemakers along with the jump to 1080/60p. It can send uncompressed digital video to an external recorder, offers expanded ISOs for video 64-12,800 in auto, has zebra stripes to check exposure, accepts optional stereo mics, and offers full manual control, among others. Nikon will even offer two kits for filmmakers (the Nikon site has full details and prices).

Nikon will also introduce Capture NX-D in mid-July, a new software package available via download, to handle the D810’s RAW files; it can adjust TIFFs and JPEGs as well.