Nikon D810 Buffer Size

One question that has been continuously asked from our readers has been regarding the buffer size of the Nikon D810. Nikon stated that the buffer has been increased, but has not yet provided any information in the official documents on the English versions of the Nikon USA and Nikon Imaging sites. After doing a bit of research last night, I found the Nikon D810 manual in Japanese language at Nikon-image.com (here it is for reference). I compared the table to that of the Nikon D800 / D800E and found out a surprise – the buffer size on the D810 appears to be doubled in comparison. What a nice surprise!

Nikon D810

Take a look at the below chart:

DSLRImage TypeFX SizeDX SizeFX BufferDX Buffer
Nikon D810NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 12-bit31.9 MB14.6 MB47100
Nikon D800 / D800ENEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 12-bit32.4 MB14.9 MB2138
Nikon D810NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 14-bit40.7 MB18.3 MB2897
Nikon D800 / D800ENEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 14-bit41.3 MB18.6 MB1729
Nikon D810NEF (RAW), Compressed, 12-bit29.2 MB13.3 MB58100
Nikon D800 / D800ENEF (RAW), Compressed, 12-bit29.0 MB13.2 MB2554
Nikon D810NEF (RAW), Compressed, 14-bit36.3 MB16.4 MB35100
Nikon D800 / D800ENEF (RAW), Compressed, 14-bit35.9 MB16.2 MB2041
Nikon D810NEF (RAW), Uncompressed, 12-bit55.9 MB24.4 MB3478
Nikon D800 / D800ENEF (RAW), Uncompressed, 12-bit57.0 MB25.0 MB1830
Nikon D810NEF (RAW), Uncompressed, 14-bit73.2 MB31.8 MB2346
Nikon D800 / D800ENEF (RAW), Uncompressed, 14-bit74.4 MB32.5 MB1625
Nikon D810JPEG Fine (Large)18.1 MB8.6 MB100100
Nikon D800 / D800EJPEG Fine (Large)16.3 MB8.0 MB100100

Looking at the above table, Nikon shows the buffer to be almost double in size compared to the D800 / D800E in certain cases. For example, shooting lossless compressed RAW images in 12-bit on the D800/D800E yields 21 images, which with the 4 fps speed basically translates to 5.25 seconds of continuous shooting before the buffer gets full. With the 47 image buffer at 5 fps on the D810, we are at about 9.4 seconds of total continuous shooting time before the buffer gets full. That’s almost twice longer – a huge difference! And if you are willing to cut some corners and reduce image quality to 12-bit compressed RAW, the camera will be able to accommodate 58 images, which is almost twelve seconds of continuous shooting time.

It is pretty clear that the processor certainly takes a lot of load with mega-large uncompressed 14-bit RAW files – the D810 can only accommodate 23 of those in the buffer, compared to 16 on the D800 / D800E. Still, this is very impressive for the D810 and should be a great surprise for wildlife and sports shooters that are considering the Nikon D810.

If you get one of those fast SanDisk Extreme Pro 16 GB CF cards that can do 160 MB/second, you can squeeze up to 257 shots before the camera stops shooting. Now that’s very impressive.

More to come on the D810, so stay tuned!


Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) artfrankmiami

    It’s like, after a year, I have to buy the White Album again!

    • LOL :)

      • 5
        ) artfrankmiami

        I guess you got the joke and maybe remember me thanking you for your extensive review of both the D800 and the 24-120 F4 lens I got for it last July. Maaaaaaaaaan! I love the detail I get though. Just hate their control positions.

        Oh, I got a speck of dirt that won’t come off my sensor using the camera’s cleaning system (and it sucks because I have never removed the lens since putting it on for the express purpose to prevent dirt getting in!). Can I use the same anti-staic brush I used on my Canon 20D and 40D or I need your Gel stick? Just can’t afford that boy right now and this “blob” is running my videos of the sky.

        • Yes, I do remember our conversation from back then!

          As for the dust spec, try your anti-static brush, but make sure that it is clean before you touch the sensor. I like using a good old blower on the brush first :) If that does not remove it, then perhaps it is time to give it a better clean!

    • 13
      ) Fredrik

      Hi
      Do you know if the Nikon D810 will support them new scandisk SDHC / SDXC on read and write speeds of 250 and over?
      best regards
      Fredrik

  2. 2
    ) Cordell

    I enquired of Nikon what the write speed of the D800 is.
    The Nikon rep told me that it is unofficially 95 mb/sec.
    A faster card would not benefit write speed.
    Do you know if the write speed on the D810 has been increased?

    • Cordell, Nikon specifically tested the D800 and D800E with an 80 MB/sec card because of that limitation. As of now, the throughput appears to be increased, because they tested the D810 with the exact same 160 MB/sec card I referenced in the article.

  3. 7
    ) sassephoto

    Thank you Nasim, as always, wonderfully informative. As you know, I own a D4S, D800, and 800mm lens and do a lot of videography. I am still sitting on the fence – does the D810 offer the 2.7 crop factor now? Or is that only for the D4 / D4S?

    • No, the 2.7 crop factor is exclusive to the D4/D4s sensor, since it is the right combination of resolution to get 100% crop.

  4. 8
    ) Chris Weller

    The whole buffer size issue is always interesting. Personally, I think it is one of the most important features of any camera I buy. It is the sole reason why I never purchased a D7100.

    Interestingly, if the 810 was tested with a 160 mb/s CF card and the d800/800e was tested with an 80 mb/s card (as mentioned in a comment above) then the “nearly dubling” this chart seems to indicate with many settings could be due solely to the ability of the 810 to accept and maximize the throughput of the new faster CF cards, not the size of the buffer memory chip in the camera.

    Either way all that matters is the effective number of frames that can be taken before the camera slows, if the 810 allows for a faster throughput and accommodates faster cards, then that’s all they needed to do.

    I like to shoot with jpg plus raw with the second slot as “back-up” though, so this would mean I cannot achieve these buffer numbers because the fastest non uhs-II sd cards are now 90 mb/s, I believe. So, I will have to assign the raw to the cf slot and the jpg to sd slot. I’ll have two versions of each image, but not two versions of the both the raw and jpg. It’s a compromise I’m willing to live with.

    Nasim, I don’t see the 257 image buffer you mention anywhere in this chart of the accompanying verbiage. Can you elaborate?

    • Chris, you are partially right – faster memory card certainly do affect the stats, since the buffer space fills up first and then starts dumping on the memory card right away. The faster the memory card, the faster the write and emptying of the buffer for the next image. I wish Nikon standardized their tests across cameras using a similar type of memory card, but I realize that it is not practical, since memory card speeds change and memory formats change as well.

      Still, if I can spend $70 to get fast memory and attain the above-mentioned buffer capacity, that sounds great for sports and wildlife needs!

      I think your solution with writing RAW to CF and JPEG to SD will work great.

      The 257 buffer is mentioned on the PDF file I linked in the article (in Japanese language). The D800/D800E show half of that as well…

      • 11
        ) Chris Weller

        There has to be something more complex than meets the eye in Nikon/Canon’s decision regarding the buffer size. I remember reading the 1dx manual and it only allowed for 17 shots with raw+jpg in 14 bit raw mode!?! It was far better with just raw and just jpg (of course), but I shoot raw+jpg. I thought that to be incredibly stingy for a $6,500 camera. That’s less than 1.5 seconds at 12 fps.

        Memory chips in these capacities is super cheap, so it must be something else. Perhaps they are forcing us to take the lesser of two evils. They don’t want to give the user the ability to shoot a really long burst on a large memory chip, then have to wait 10 or 20 seconds to clear the buffer before you can shoot as full speed again (limited by the write speed of the cards available when the camera comes out).

        It might be more annoying to get 35 shots then have to wait 15 seconds to shoot again, then get 17 shots and shoot again in 5 seconds for example (just guessing at the math).

        • 12
          ) Chris Weller

          I don’t want to monopolize this post, but looking at line 5 of the chart a 12 bit compressed raw file in fx is 29.2 mb. So at 5 fps that is 146 mb/s of data being produced. Those sandisk cards are rated for continuous WRITE speed of 150 mb/s (160 is read). So, theoretically the camera could write to the card fast enough to fire of shots continuously, indefinitely, yet the buffer capacity is rate as 58.

          So, it appears that there is some inefficiency in that chain somewhere that won’t allow for that to happen. Line three shows an 18.3 mb dx file and a buffer of 97 shots, just below the Nikon limited 100 shot max, so this appears to be close the maximum that the camera card can produce and write-off to the card continuously, indefinitely.

          If anyone has any deeper information on this, I’m curious to know. I know none of this has anything to do with taking great pictures, and I’m totally geeking out here, but I find this stuff interesting.

          Anyway, I find this buffer to be enough for my needs and I’ll likely be purchasing this camera. I might wait to see what the d9300 has to offer (if it exists) before I do, though.

  5. 14
    ) William Jones

    As a sports shooter who uses the D800E, I find these #s interesting/pleasing. Any idea of the 1:2 buffer #s? I use that format a lot, and shoot exclusively in 14-bit Lossless Compressed, with Lexar 1000X cards (CF).

    Focus speed (and accuracy), however, will still be the most critical factor. I will wait out the first batch before switching. I wonder how soon before these actually start shipping. The Nikon 1 V3 seems to be taking forever to ship, and that was announced months ago. Different factory, I am sure, for this product.

    • 19
      ) Chris Weller

      I too am interested in seeing the pick-up from the 1.2 crop. I wonder if they even post that in the chart?

      BTW, you may want to check out the new sandisk 160 mb/s cf card. Importantly, it writes at 150 mb/s, which is much faster than the lexar write speed (at least on paper). The specs they all post of for the read speed, which will only matter when you download. If the specs are accurate for the cards you may find a few extra frame pick-up with your current rig.

  6. 15
    ) Lori

    Do you have the info on the small RAW files?

  7. 16
    ) Susan

    So I am photographing wild horses yesterday and my fellow photographers with their D3 or D4′s are just shooting rapidly while my poor Nikon D700 is not even in the ball park. So saving up for the D4s as it seems that is the way to go for wildlife photography but now the D810 comes out. My question to you and others on this post will the D810 be better for action photography or keep saving up for the D4s?

    • 18
      ) Chris Weller

      There is no substitute for speed. Period. The 810 will feel like a snail compared to the D4s. Once you’ve used a camera with that kind of speed, it’s often frustrating to use slower cameras.

      If you are shooting large animals like wild horses and don’t need to regularly crop, I would get the D4s for sure. I am likely going to use the 810 for Bird photography, but only because I crop more than half the frame regularly and having even 1 shot from a sequence that allows for a tight crop would make all the difference. I can have twice as many shots from my D4 but if the image won’t hold up to the crop, what’s the point.

      Tough choices though.

  8. 17
    ) idriss

    hi nassim you are a great photographer
    can you please make a comparison between canon 5d mark 3 and nikon d810 and which one is better for wild life photography and which one is faster in buffer

  9. 20
    ) Ram

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for you elaborate buffer capacity analysis. I have D800E and 128GB Sandisk card. I always shoot 14bit lossless compressed. I need to know if there is difference b/w 12bit or 14bit raw ?

    On D810, lossless compressed 12bit, it gives 47 continues shots in FX mode, equates to 9.9secs of shots? That is twice as much as D800E?
    So i would like to know the difference b/w 12bit and 14bit.

    thanks in advance.

    with regards
    r

    • 22
      ) Chris Weller

      Hi Ram,

      I think all the answers you are looking for are in the chart above. Perhaps it is not showing up correcting or formated correctly on your screen. Every combination of compression, bit depth and image size are there (except 1.2 and 5.4 crop)

      • 24
        ) Ram

        Hi Chris,

        I have read the chart in the right format. My question was/is when you shoot 12bit image and 14bit image will there be any quality difference between the two? The size difference b/w the 2 will be about 9mb. Will that impact the image quality?

        sorry if was not clear in my earlier post.

        thanks
        r

        • 27
          ) Chris Weller

          Well, that is good question. Of course, the answer is yes, there will be a quality difference, but the real question is will it be visible to based on the type of photographs you take, the type of digital manipulation (processing) and your intended final output.

          Having said that, I would personally, not be worried about using 12 bit image vs a 14 bit image. If I was shooting and bumping up against the buffer with any frequency, I would change to 12 bit, if it was still a problem, I would go to 12 bit lossy compressed. You may find in some instances that those files don’t have the ability to bring highlights back as easily or very subtle tone gradations in the sky or in people’s faces may suffer a tiny bit if you process them hard.

          One of the reasons some professional’s use medium format is to get 16 bit files, which helps ensure beautiful, accurate skin tones etc…We are limited to 14 bit files in dslr’s at the moment.

          I would say it’s like the Praeto Principle. You’ll receive well over 80%, perhaps 90% of the benefit just from going from 8-bit jpg to 12 bit raw. The bump to 14 bit helps, but not nearly as much as the jump from 8-12 bit.

          Hope that helps.

          • 30
            ) Ram

            Hi Chris,

            thanks for clarifying my doubts. I didn’t see any visible difference when using 12bit VS 14bit on my D800E while shooting wildlife. Probably because i am novice to post processing;((

            If i do get D810, I will definitely consider 12bit on FX as buffer size is quite large 47.

            thanks you once again.

            Looking forward for review of D810.

            regards
            r

  10. 21
    ) Susan

    Thank you Chris for that insight into the cameras. Though the wild horses are larger then birds :) since they are a distance away and the largest zoom lens I have is a 70-300 or 70-200 with 1.4 tele convertor I actually do need to crop in more then I would like. But on my D700 and the lenses not being 2.8 (with tele convertor) my cropped in images are not tack sharp. So if I am doing cropping you would then suggest the D810?

    So I may not be able to rattle off as many images as the D4s but if I can get extreme detailed images so when cropping in the image is still tack sharp I would be happy. So thinking the D810 may be the way to go.

    • 23
      ) Chris Weller

      Hi Susan,

      That being the case, I think the 810 would be a good solution. Plus, if you had the budget for a D4s and end up with the 810 instead, you could use the extra $3k towards a 300 2.8. That lens with a 1.4 or even a 2.0 converter would be really nice. If you want to keep things in a more reasonable budget I recommend the 300 f/4 with the 1.4 converter. Get’s you to 420 mm. Stop down 1/3 – 1 full stop for better sharpness. This combo will get you the extra reach, but the focusing won’t be as good at your 70-200 with the 1.4. The combo is wicked sharp, though. Far better than you would think for the price.

      You might also consider the new 80-400, it is a terrific lens as well. The new Nikkor lenses introduced in the last 18 months have been another step forward. For example, as good as the 70-200 2.8 is (I own one as well), the newer 70-200 f/4 is actually a bit better (as long as you can afford to lose the stop of light).

      Hopefully Nikon will update the 300 f/4 with their new optics and focus motor soon. If they do, I’m sure it will be incredible.

      Anyway, I’d consider one of those lenses. Not sure how important zoom is, but if you find yourself cropping the overwhelming majority of your shots, then the zoom is superfluous and the prime lens would give you the extra IQ.

  11. 25
    ) No D400

    For anyone thinking along the lines that the D810 might be the best DX camera that we don’t currently have the key question is how does the DX mode image quality compare to the D300s?

    • 29
      ) Chris Weller

      I think there will be a substantial improvement in IQ, very substantial for many reasons. Totally different league.

  12. 26
    ) Susan

    Thank you Chris for those suggestions regarding lenses too. At this point I can’t make a mistake and purchase the wrong camera and or lenses. Many times I use my Nikon 70-300 due to it being lighter then my 70-200 especially on day trips. But the 300 is just not enough for wild horses. I had ordered the new Tamron 150-600 which is backordered but canceled when the D810 came out. I actually can’t do both right now financial wise.

    I do use zoom a lot for closer view of horses faces but I suppose with a fixed prime which I know is sharper then zoom lens on the D810 I should be able to crop in on the image and get sharp cropped images.

    I have never purchased any off brand lenses, always Nikon. But looked at the new Tamron as it was more cost effective. I have a few friends that have the Nikon 300 2.8 prime and they say their feet are the zoom. :) But since I have the tele convertor 1.4 already that might be a good option.

    What is your opinion of off brand lenses?

    Thank you again for you time and insight. I really appreciate it.

    • 28
      ) Chris Weller

      Hi Susan,

      I don’t find the Tamron lens to have much value. The reason is simple; all of the test’s I have seen show that the IQ at 600mm is actually worse than if you took the same image at 500mm and cropped in post after. Therefore, it effectively becomes a 500mm lens. You are paying a price in weight and cost to have the 100mm you won’t ever use effectively.

      If you want a big zoom I would recommend either the Nikon 80-400 or the Sigma 50-500. I think the Nikon will edge out the Sigma just a touch in most all regards, but the Sigma is very good lens, that I would have no issue using on an 810. You will pay an IQ price, albeit small vs. say a Nikon 300 2.8 prime. No doubt. But in terms of cost efficiency I think those two lenses are excellent choices.

      The best way I can describe the difference is that you’ll find images made with that 300 2.8 or even the 300 f/4 to have that little bit of Magic or Wow factor that just isn’t there on the zooms mentioned. You pay for it though. Of course, having the extra light is a BIG pick-up in terms of visibility through the veiwfinder and overall all IQ. This is often overlooked. Looking at 300 mm through a 2.8 lens vs. the 5.6 you’ll see the subject though on a zoom is a big difference. More enjoyable and easier to use. Also, if you can pick up 1 or 2 stops it will allow for photographs that may not be possible or be possible with reduced qualify (higher ISO) on the zooms.

      The main issue with off brands has always been quality control. It’s easier to end up with a stinker.

      So, bottom line with your budget etc… I would go 300 f/4 with the 1.4 or either the Nikon 80-400 or Sigma 50-500 (I’d lean toward the Nikon).

  13. 31
    ) Stephan

    What I want to know is what the effect of S-Raw will have on the frame rate and buffer if any. Will it be faster in S-Raw and will it be able to handle more images before the buffer is full?

  14. 32
    ) Mike Davern

    Nasim: waiting by the front door for my D810 delivery. Hopefully early next week. What card reader do you and your readers recommend for the two cards on the 810? My 3.0 USB slots are on the back of my Mac desktop so I would need a version with a cord. Portability would be nice as well. I can’t seem to find one on Amazon with good reviews and dual slots for the Compact Flash and SDXC. (Is the SDXC worth it versus the SD?) Probably go with 32 gb on both as file sizes are so big. I have the 32 Extreme Pro Compact Flash coming with the camera. Haven’t purchased an SD yet.

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