First Thoughts on the Nikon D810A Pre-Production Sample

Monument Cove – First Thoughts on the Nikon D810A (pre-production sample)

This year is turning into the year where I’m knocking off shots that I had been after for a couple years, including this one at Monument Cove in Acadia National Park in Maine.  And what better way to shoot it than with the Nikon D810A?  Nikon has provided me with a pre-production sample D810A unit so that I can write an article for them about using the D810A for landscape astrophotography.

Note that the greenish color in the sky is from airglow, a natural phenomenon that occurs in the upper atmosphere and is easily captured on camera you’re in a dark enough area and the airglow is active that night.

I’ve been shooting dark skies (when available) with the Nikon D810A for over a week now and my initial impressions are that this is an amazing camera for landscape astrophotography, as you’d expect given it is designed with astrophotography features.  The biggest thing for me is the improved high ISO performance.  To me it looks like the D810A is on par with the D750 in terms of high ISO performance.  I’d say the D750 is about a stop better with noise over the D810, and the D810A seems to match that.  So you’re getting very good high ISO performance with a 36MP sensor and no anti-aliasing filter.  I guess I’ll be selling my D750!

Another nice feature is the new M* manual mode that lets you choose exposure times greater than 30 seconds.  You get 60, 120, 240, 300, 600, and 900 options.  If you only need those times for your long exposure foreground shots then you can get by without a remote if you enable exposure delay mode on the camera (to delay the shutter after the mirror snaps up) and gently press the shutter button on the camera.  The best way is still to use a remote trigger, mirror lock-up, and electronic front curtain shutter.

The IR cut filter definitely makes nebulae pop.  The sensor picks up more red tones for nebulae and there is a dramatic difference over regular cameras.  It’s important to remember that the natural color, that is the color that our eyes would see with a telescope, is not the increased red color with the IR filter, but it’s nice to make the nebulae pop in the image.

Stay tuned for my article in the coming weeks!

This is a blend of 12 exposures, 10 star stacked for the sky and 2 foreground exposures.  The sky exposures were all taken at ISO 12800 for 10 seconds each.  The foreground exposures were taken at ISO 1600 for 15 minutes each using different focus points.  All shots were taken with the Nikon D810A, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens @ 14mm and f/2.8.

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