Nikon is not the first name that comes to one’s mind when considering a video camera. Coming from a photojournalist background and having primarily used the Nikon camera eco-system, the Nikon D810 released in July 2014 is one of the first cameras that is often compared with the Canon 5D series for its video capability. Although its 2017 successor, the D850, which retails for $3300 and boasts 4K capabilities and a better auto-focus tracking system, the D810 still continues to be a preferred amongst students and professionals due to its build quality and price. One can pick up a used D810 on eBay for about $1500, which is fraction of Nikon D850 price.
The Nikon D810 has a 36.3-megapixel full frame sensor that offers 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second. Users can get an uncompressed video feed via HDMI that allows the option to record a much higher quality video to an external device. Since the D810 got rid of the optical low pass and anti-aliasing filter, the video quality is sharper. Due to its large sensor size, video quality at ISO of 3200-6400 is still fairly clean and performs very well in low light. The sensor size also allows the filmmaker to get a more cinematic, shallow depth of field with the huge variety of sharp lens choice.
A huge improvement in the D810 is the addition of zebra highlight warnings, informing the filmmaker when a shot is properly exposed. Although Nikon does not have log video profiles, it introduced a new flat video profile with the D810 that packs a lot of scene dynamic range and gives editors the freedom to selectively grade or process the footage later. Another key feature is the ability to adjust aperture and auto ISO while in live view mode.
As a filmmaker, getting good, clean audio is important, which is why the D810 has included two microphones on the front, allowing it to record in stereo rather than mono. Those capturing audio with an external mic are able to split the recording into a separate ranges. Due to these features, it’s possible to fix sound issues that are not visible on the volume meter such as room noise, buzz and humming in camera.
The D810 has great ergonomics with external buttons for all of the most commonly used controls a filmmaker needs. The front wheel and rear wheel are used for quick aperture and shutter speed changes. The i button launches the entire menu of video functions, allowing the user to browse and adjust preferred settings quickly, whether it be the frame rate or size, movie quality, microphone sensitivity, etc. The dedicated buttons on the top of the picture mode dial allow users to quickly change ISO, white balance, picture quality and bracketing settings.
Overall, although the Nikon D810, though released more than three years ago, is still packed with essential features a filmmaker needs.