Recommended Nikon D810 Settings

Since I published my Nikon D810 review, a number of our readers requested me to provide an article with the recommended settings for the camera. The Nikon D810 is an advanced camera and comes with many different menus and settings. In this article, I want to provide some information on what I personally use and shortly explain what some of the important settings do. Please do keep in mind that while these work for me, it does not mean that everyone else should be shooting with exactly the same settings. The below information is provided as a guide for those that struggle with the camera and just want to get started with a basic understanding of the camera and its many features.

Nikon D810

Before going into the camera menu, let’s first get started on the exterior controls. The D810 has a lot of menu options, but there are some things that you can only control with external controls.

Autofocus Modes, Bracketing and Flash

On the front left of the camera, you will find a lever that goes from AF to M, with a button in the middle (big red circle in the image below). Make sure to keep that lever on “AF”, or your lens will not autofocus. If for some reason your lens stops focusing, this is what need to check first. Pressing the button in the middle of the lever allows to choose between different focus modes.

Nikon D810 Front

To activate this change, you need to press and hold the button, then rotate the rear dial with your thumb. As you do this, look at the top LCD and the camera will switch between AF-S and AF-C. I won’t go into too much detail about each focus mode, since it is all explained in detail in this article that I wrote a while ago. Here is a quick recap:

  1. AF-S – this mode is called “Single-servo AF” and it is used only for stationary subjects that do not move. When you half-press the shutter button, autofocus lock on the subject and if the subject moves, the focus will not change, resulting in a blurry picture. Only use this mode for photographing stationary subjects (landscapes, architecture, etc) and when shooting in extremely low-light situations and need the camera to engage the AF assist lamp.
  2. AF-C – known as “Continuous-servo AF” in Nikon’s lingo, this setting is used for photographing moving subjects. When you half-press the shutter button and your subject moves, the camera will re-acquire focus. I mostly keep my D800E in AF-C autofocus mode and only switch to AF-S in some situations.

If you cannot decide which one to start with, I would recommend to go with the AF-C mode for continuous tracking instead of AF-S.

Now if you rotate the front dial with your index finger while holding the same button, you will get many different options like “S”, “D 9″, “D 21″, “D 51″, “3D”, “GrP” and “Auto”. These settings are there for controlling the focus points that you see inside the viewfinder. Once again, most of these are already explained in detail in my autofocus modes explained article, so I won’t go into too much detail here. If you don’t know where to start, keep it on “S” (Single), which lets you choose one single focus point that the camera will use for focusing. Let’s move on to other external controls.

Right above the AF / M lever, you will find two additional buttons: the Flash button, which allows you to fine-tune flash compensation and set other flash parameters like front/rear flash sync, and the BKT (Bracketing) button to set up bracketing on the camera. Flash settings don’t really matter, but for now just make sure that everything is turned off and shows “0.0” when you press and hold it. Similarly, make sure that bracketing is also turned off by holding the button and checking the top camera LCD. It should show “0F” on the left side, which means that bracketing is turned off (the “BKT” letters should also disappear). Using the front dial will allow changing bracketing steps and the rear dial will change the number of frames shot in a bracketing sequence. The D810 allows bracketing up to 9 frames and up to 3 stops (EV) apart.

Shooting Mode and Camera Mode Dials

On the top left side of the camera you will find a large dial with buttons on the top. The primary function of this rotary dial is to set your shooting mode and the buttons that sit on the top are there for making quick adjustments to image format/quality, bracketing, ISO and white balance:

Nikon D810 Top

The dial has a bunch of shooting modes like “S” (Single), “Cl, Ch” (Continuous low and Continuous high), “Q” (Quiet), “Qc” (Quiet continuous), Timer and Mup (Mirror lock-up). Mine is usually set to “S” which only fires a single shot when I press the shutter release button. If I want the camera to fire multiple shots when shooting action, I switch to “Ch”. I rarely use other settings, but those can be useful as well, particularly the timer feature that I use when shooting landscapes to reduce vibrations (more on this below).

The top buttons are great for quickly changing important settings like ISO, Metering and White Balance. I am not a fan of the “QUAL” button and its location, since I have accidentally switched my image quality format a few times in the past. Nikon moved the metering button from the back to the top on the D810, so that’s where you do it from now. To change your metering mode, press and hold the button, then rotate the rear dial. The ISO button allows quick change of ISO if you use the rear dial and the front dial allows switching Auto ISO on and off. While I like the ability to quickly turn Auto ISO on and off, I typically end up mapping the Fn (Function) button on the front of the camera to Auto ISO settings, so that I can make changes to maximum sensitivity and minimum shutter speed (see my notes below under Custom Setting Menu). Lastly, the “WB” button is there for setting/changing white balance. The rear dial allows you to change white balance, while the front dial allows fine-tuning it.

To the right of the shooting mode dial, you will find three buttons: the “MODE” button for changing camera mode, the video recording button (with a red dot) and the exposure compensation button. I practically never record videos, so the two most used buttons here are the MODE and the exposure compensation buttons. Unlike other cameras with traditional “PASM” dials, the Nikon D810 does not have such a dial and requires using the MODE button instead. So if you need to switch between different camera modes, you need to hold the MODE button and rotate the rear dial. Doing so will reveal 4 different modes: “P” (Program Auto), “S” (Shutter Priority), “A” (Aperture Priority) and “M” (Manual). I mostly rely on Aperture Priority and Manual modes when shooting with my D810. The exposure compensation button nicely complements the Aperture Priority mode and the AE-L / AF-L button on the back serves me really well when I need to lock exposure.

Playback Menu

I rarely ever touch anything in the Playback menu, since that’s only used for displaying pictures on the rear LCD. The only two settings that I ever mess with are “Playback display options” and “Rotate tall”. The “Playback display options” can be useful when reviewing images. When you press the playback button on the back of the camera, you can press up/down buttons and you will be able to see different types of information. To keep the clutter out, I have three things turned on: “Focus point”, which allows me to see where I focused, “Highlights” to show overexposure in shots (a.k.a. “blinkies”) and “Overview”, which gives me a summary of my exposure (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focal length, etc). I always turn the “Rotate tall” setting off, because I do not want my camera to change vertical images to horizontal when I review them – it is much easier to rotate the camera to see a vertical image, rather than having to zoom in every single time. Everything else is default.

Shooting Menu

Let’s now go through the Shooting Menu, which is the first place that I usually go to when checking my settings. I will first provide my values, then talk about the important settings:

  • Shooting menu bank: A (default)
  • Extended menu banks: OFF
  • Storage folder: default, don’t change
  • File naming: DSC (default), don’t change
  • Primary slot selection: CF
  • Secondary slot function: Overflow
  • Image quality: NEF (RAW)
  • JPEG/TIFF recording
    • Image size: L (grayed out)
    • JPEG compression: Optimal quality
  • NEF (RAW) recording
    • Image size: RAW L
    • Type: Lossless compressed
    • NEF (RAW) bit depth: 14-bit
  • Image area
    • Choose image area: FX
    • Auto DX crop: ON
  • White balance: AUTO (AUTO1 Normal)
  • Set Picture Control: SD (Standard), Default values
  • Manage Picture Control: –
  • Color space: sRGB
  • Active D-Lighting: OFF
  • HDR (high dynamic range): OFF (grayed out)
  • Vignette control: OFF
  • Auto distortion control: OFF
  • Long Exposure NR: OFF
  • High ISO NR: OFF
  • ISO sensitivity settings
    • ISO sensitivity: 64
    • Auto ISO sensitivity control: ON
      • Maximum sensitivity: 3200
      • Minimum shutter speed: Auto
  • Multiple exposure: OFF
  • Interval timer shooting: OFF
  • Time-lapse photography: OFF
  • Movie settings
    • Frame size/frame rate: 1080p 60
    • Movie quality: HIGH
    • Microphone sensitivity: Auto sensitivity
    • Frequency response: WIDE
    • Wind nose reduction: OFF
    • Destination: SD card slot
    • Movie ISO sensitivity settings
      • ISO sensitivity (mode M): 64
      • Auto ISO control (mode M): ON
      • Maximum sensitivity: 12800

While there are a lot of different settings here, do not worry – you won’t be changing many settings very often. Let’s go through some of the important settings. The first one is “Shooting menu bank”, which allows you to store up to 4 different shooting menu settings. The good news is, you can name each bank with a custom name like “Landscape”, “Portrait”, etc. The bad news is, these shooting banks are completely useless! Many Nikon shooters, including myself, have been puzzled by Nikon’s implementation of the menu banks, which have not been changed for many years now. There are three fundamental flaws with the custom settings banks:

  1. Menu banks are separate for “Shooting Menu” and for “Custom Setting Menu” sections, which means that one would have to store settings in two places and when a change is needed, also have to remember to change in two places. There is no single place to store all camera settings.
  2. There is no button on the camera to be able to select a bank quickly. The quickest way is to press the “i” button on the back, then choose a different bank for “SHOOT” or “CUSTOM”. Lower-end Nikon DSLRs like D600/D610 are much better in this regard, because they have U1 and U2 options right on the PASM dial.
  3. There is no way to save menu banks. Yup, menu banks are supposed to be “memory” banks that allow one to store specific settings. If you pick a specific bank and then end up changing any of the settings, those settings will be preserved, which completely defeats the purpose of memory banks.

I have tried to be organized with my pro-grade Nikon cameras in the past and failed – the above limitations just make memory banks useless for me. The thing is, it is not that hard to get this fixed, as it is just a firmware change. All Nikon needs to do is add a few options like U1, U2, U3 and U4 to the camera MODE button, then allow saving all camera settings into these memory banks (including autofocus settings) and the problem is solved! I don’t know why Nikon keeps pushing the same useless banks over and over again to the pro-grade DSLRs…

Enough of ranting, let’s move on to other shooting menu settings. The next important setting is “Secondary slot function”, which allows you to choose a role for the second card slot when shooting with multiple cards. You can set the camera to save images in three different ways. You can set it to “Overflow”, which basically saves images to the first card, then when the space runs out, the camera starts saving to the second card. I usually set mine to Overflow, unless I am working on something really important and need to backup images. And speaking of backup/redundancy, that’s what you use the second setting “Backup” for. Once selected, the camera will save photos to both memory cards at the same time. The last setting allows you to save RAW files to one card and JPEG files to another. For your day to day shooting, just leave it on “Overflow” and if you really need to make sure that your photos are not lost if one of the cards fails, then choose “Backup”.

“Image quality” is obviously set to RAW, since I only shoot RAW. “NEF (RAW) recording” is always set on mine to 14-bit Lossless compressed. I choose 14-bit to get the best image quality the camera can provide and “Lossless” compression results in much smaller files than “Uncompressed”. “White Balance” is Auto and all other settings like Picture Controls, Active D-Lighting, HDR, etc. are turned off, since none of them (with the exception of “Long Exposure NR”) affect RAW images. Remember, RAW files contain non-manipulated data and require post-processing, so the above settings only impact two things: images displayed by your camera’s LCD screen (each RAW file contains a full-size JPEG image, which is what is used to display images) and if you use Nikon’s proprietary software like Capture NX, those settings can be applied to RAW images automatically. Since I use Lightroom to store and process my images, the second part does not apply to me. And I also do not care for how images are displayed on the camera’s LCD, so I leave everything turned off.

I do not bother changing the default color space (since color profiles do not matter for RAW files), so I typically leave it at “sRGB”.

The big menu setting that I frequently change is “ISO sensitivity settings”. When shooting hand-held, I mostly use Auto ISO, because it is a great feature that saves me a lot of time. Instead of specifying ISO for every shot, I just have it set on Auto, with its base ISO set to 64, Maximum sensitivity set to 3200 (my personal limit for “acceptable” noise levels) and Minimum shutter speed set to “Auto”. The “Auto” minimum shutter speed setting is great, because it reads the focal length of the attached lens and automatically adjusts the minimum shutter speed to the focal length of the lens. If you have shaky hands, you can change the Minimum shutter speed Auto to be one step closer to “Faster”, which basically doubles the minimum shutter speed. For example, if I have a 50mm lens mounted on the camera, my minimum shutter speed will go from 1/50 to 1/100 of a second with one step up. If I move it all the way to the end (Faster), it will double the shutter speed again to 1/200 of a second. When using a VR lens, I often lower the “Auto” minimum shutter speed to “Slower”. Unfortunately, Nikon has not yet implemented a way to automatically compensate for VR, so you have to adjust this setting based on the lens you are using. When photographing landscapes or architecture with the camera mounted on a tripod, I turn Auto ISO off and use ISO 64 for the highest dynamic range and lowest noise levels.

Custom Setting Menu

This is where a lot of people get lost, since there are so many different settings. Here are the settings that I personally use:

  • Autofocus
    • AF-C priority selection: Release + focus
    • AF-S priority selection: Focus
    • Focus tracking with lock-on: AF 3 (Normal)
    • AF activation: ON (Shutter/AF-ON) – please read below on this setting
    • Focus point illumination
      • Manual focus mode: ON
      • Dynamic-area AF display: ON
      • Group-area AF illumination: First option
    • AF point illumination: Auto
    • Focus point wrap-around: OFF
    • Number of focus points: AF51
    • Store by orientation: OFF
    • Built-in AF-assist illuminator: ON
    • Limit AF-area mode selection: (all checked, default)
    • Autofocus mode restrictions: No restrictions
  • Metering/exposure
    • ISO sensitivity step value: 1/3
    • EV steps for exposure cntrl: 1/3
    • Ex./flash comp. step value: 1/3
    • Easy exposure compensation: OFF
    • Matrix metering: Face detection on
    • Center-weighted area: 12mm
    • Fine-tune optimal exposure: –
  • Timers/AE lock
    • Shutter-release button AE-L: OFF
    • Standby timer: 6s
    • Auto meter-off delay: 6s
    • Self-timer
      • Self-timer delay: 5s
      • Number of shots: 1
      • Interval between shots: 0.5s
    • Monitor off delay: 10s, 1m, 10s, 4s, 10m
  • Shooting/display
    • Beep
      • Volume: OFF
      • Pitch: Low
    • CL mode shooting speed: 3 fps
    • Max. continuous release: 100
    • Exposure delay mode: OFF
    • Electronic front-curtain shutter: ON
    • File number sequence: ON
    • Viewfinder grid display: ON
    • ISO display and adjustment: OFF
    • Screen tips: ON
    • Information display: AUTO
    • LCD illumination: OFF
    • MB-D12 battery type: LR6
    • Battery order: MB-D12
  • Bracketing/flash
    • Flash sync speed: 1/320*
    • Flash shutter speed: 1/60
    • Flash cntrl for built-in flash: TTL
    • Exposure comp. for flash: Entire frame
    • Modeling flash: ON
    • Auto bracketing set: AE & flash
    • Auto bracketing (Mode M): Flash/speed
    • Bracketing order: Under > MTR > over
  • Controls
    • Lightbulb switch: LCD backlight
    • Multi selector center button
      • Shooting mode: RESET
      • Playback mode: Zoom on/off -> 1:1 (100%)
      • Live view: RESET
    • Multi selector: OFF
    • Assign Fn button: Access top item in MY MENU
    • Assign preview button: Preview
    • Assign AE-L/AF-L button: AE-L / AF-L button press: AE/AF lock
    • Shutter spd & aperture lock: — (OFF / OFF)
    • Assign BKT button: BKT
    • Customize command dials: All default
    • Release button to use dial: OFF
    • Slot empty release lock: LOCK
    • Reverse indicators: – 0 +
    • Assign movie record button: ISO sensitivity
    • Live view button options: ON
    • Assign MB-D12 AF-ON: AF-ON
    • Assign remote (WR) Fn button: OFF
    • Lens focus function buttons: AF lock only
  • Movie
    • Assign Fn button: OFF
    • Assign preview button: Index marking
    • Assign AE-L/AF-L button: AE/AF lock
    • Assign shutter button: Take photos

That’s a lot of options! Once again, I won’t go into details about each setting, so let me just go over the most important ones that you should know about. The “Autofocus” section is pretty important, because it controls the way your camera autofocus is configured. The first two settings “AF-C priority selection” and “AF-S priority selection” are there to assist in shooting in Single or Continuous modes. I personally prefer to set the “AF-C priority selection” to “Release + focus”, which puts priority on focusing after the first shot. This might drop the fps speed if the subject is not in focus, but the D810 is not a super fast camera anyway, so fps is less important for me than accuracy. The “Focus” setting in the “AF-S priority selection” selection forces the camera to acquire focus before taking the shot. Unlike earlier DSLRs like Nikon D700, the D810 will still let you take a shot if you “focus and recompose” in AF-S mode.

The next setting is “Focus tracking with lock-on”, which I normally keep at the default setting of “3”. This setting controls how quickly your autofocus will re-engage when it detects focus errors. When shooting birds in flight, I tend to reduce that setting to short delays, because I want autofocus to re-engage even with smaller changes. The rest of the time, I keep it in normal and almost never go up to long waits.

The “AF activation” setting on my D810 is always set to “OFF” (AF-ON only) to allow me to use the dedicated AF-ON button on the back for focusing. If you have not read my article on the Focus and Recompose technique, now is a good time to do it, because it explains this feature in detail. Basically, once you switch the autofocus function from your shutter release (half-press) to the AF-ON button on the back of the camera, your camera will no longer autofocus through the shutter release button and will only respond to depressing the rear AF-ON button. It is a neat feature that I always use by default on all of my cameras.

“AF point illumination” is used to light up the viewfinder focus point(s) and different grids in red color when you half-press the shutter button. I usually keep this on “Auto”, which does not light up in very bright conditions where I can clearly see everything in the viewfinder, and only does it in darker environments (which helps with identifying my focus point location). If you ever shoot in any of the crop modes like 1.2x or 1.5x, make sure to turn AF point illumination off – doing that will darken and blur the cropped area, which will make it easier to compose images.

I do not like when my focus points roll over to the other side of the screen when I am in the corners and I like to shoot with all focus points enabled, so my “Focus point wrap-around” is turned off and the number of focus points is set to 51.

The “Built-in AF-assist illuminator” is the lamp on the front of the camera that is engaged when shooting in AF-S focus mode. If the subject is dark, the front light will turn on and illuminate the subject you are photographing, which will help the autofocus system to acquire proper focus. I find the light to be helpful in low-light situations, so I keep that setting turned on.

If you shoot sports or wildlife, the D810 has a couple of new menu settings that will help a great deal. Now you can limit the AF-area mode selection! If you never shoot in say Dynamic-area AF 21 points or 3D-tracking, you can now disable those in the menu. Once you do that, pressing the AF-area mode button on the front of the camera will not show those options, which is neat! The same goes for Autofocus mode restrictions – if you never shoot in AF-S, you can now turn it off completely to prevent potential focusing issues in the field!

I never mess with any of the “Metering/exposure” settings, so I would just recommend to leave them at default values. I would also skip the whole “Timers/AE lock” sub-section.

Under “Shooting/display”, the first thing I always do is turn off the focus confirmation beep. I often re-acquire focus many times and I would hate to annoy anyone with the beeps coming from my camera.

The big setting that I often rely on when photographing landscapes is “Exposure delay mode”. This feature is a gem on the latest Nikon DSLRs, because it first lifts the camera mirror (which generates a lot of vibrations), then waits a specified amount of time and only then opens up the shutter to capture the image. The nice thing is, you can specify up to 3 seconds of delay, which can completely eliminate the dreaded “mirror slap”. When I conduct my landscape photography workshops, I often walk around the participants and check how they trigger their cameras. Those, that do not have camera remotes (remote cable release) initially feel frustrated, but once they discover this neat feature, they don’t regret that they did not bring remote triggers anymore. The best part about this particular feature, is that you can actually use it in conjunction with the camera timer! If you set the secondary dial on the top of the camera to Timer, then set the “Self-timer delay” to something like 5 seconds, you can completely eliminate camera shake. Basically, the initial 5-second timer is for the camera to settle after you press the shutter release. After it waits for 5 seconds, the “Exposure delay mode” feature kicks in and the mirror is raised. The camera waits 3 more seconds before the shutter finally opens up and the image is captured. This is a great feature that I highly recommend to use when photographing landscapes and architecture in low light conditions / very slow shutter speeds.

Another neat new addition to the D810 is the “Electronic front-curtain shutter” option. Although this one is only effective in Mirror lock-up and Live View with Mirror lock-up mode, it can completely eliminate vibrations from the shutter by starting the exposure without the shutter. Once Nikon fixes this feature so that it works in any Live View mode, it will be even more useful.

The “Viewfinder grid display” is a neat feature that creates vertical and horizontal lines inside the viewfinder. I use those grids all the time when composing my shots – they are great tools for aligning the horizon horizontally or vertically and having a better visual look at my framing / composition.

I won’t go into Bracketing/flash sections, because that’s a big topic on its own. The only thing that I usually change here is Bracketing order – I like to have my frames underexposed, normal, then overexposed, so I set “Bracketing order” to “Under > MTR > over”.

The “Controls” section is something I always change, because there are some time-saving features there. Let’s first start with my favorite hidden feature on Nikon advanced cameras – “Multi selector center button”. This one is a huge time saver and something I really wish the Nikon D600 / D610 cameras had. Basically, you can set up the center button on the multi-selector to zoom in and out to a set magnification level when reviewing images with a single press of the button! If you find yourself frustrated by constantly pressing the zoom in button until you get to the right magnification level, then you will absolutely love this feature. There are three magnification levels to choose from: “Low magnification (50%)”, “1:1 (100%)” and “High magnification (200%)”. The best setting to use is 1:1, because it allows you to view images at 100% / pixel level. It literally saves 9 zoom in button presses!

The next important menu option “Assign Fn button” allows programming the “Fn” (Function) button on the front of the camera. Since I shoot in different environments a lot, I like to be able to change my Auto ISO settings quickly. Unfortunately, Auto ISO is buried in the “Shooting Menu” and takes too long to get to. I love being able to access Auto ISO with just pressing the Fn button and that’s something you can set up very easily. First, go to “My Menu” section of the menu. Then go to “Add items” -> “Shooting menu”. Find “ISO sensitivity settings” and instead of getting into this menu, simply press the “OK” button. The next screen should say “Choose position” and you will see “ISO sensitivity settings” there. Just press “OK” one more time and you will see this on the top of the “My Menu” window. If you already have some favorites saved, make sure to move this one to the very top. Once you do this, go to the “Custom Setting Menu” again and navigate to “Controls” -> “Assign Fn button”. From there, pick “Access top item in MY MENU” and press OK. Now test it out – close the menu, then press the “Fn” button on the front of the camera. If you did everything right, the back LCD should get you right into ISO sensitivity settings! Pretty neat and saves a lot of time when you need to tweak the Auto ISO feature!

If you don’t particularly care for the depth of field “Preview” button, you can program your D810 to do the same thing from that button instead.

Another neat option that Nikon has on the D810 (which was also added to the D800 / D800E cameras with the latest firmware), is “Assign movie record button”. I personally don’t shoot movies, so I like modifying this button to change ISO. Once you do this, you no longer have to reach for the ISO button on the top – pressing the movie record button will allow changing ISO settings, which is great. This works just like pressing the dedicated ISO button – rear dial changes ISO and front dial turns Auto ISO on and off. Now you can change ISO while looking through the viewfinder!

Aside from these, I would leave the rest of the settings alone.

Setup Menu

Not much to go over here, because this is the area that you will only use for particular tasks like setting time/date, adding image comments, adjusting LCD brightness, formatting memory card, etc. The only thing I would do is set up “Image comment” and “Copyright information”. Basically, these settings add text information that gets embedded into each photograph. If you ever happen to lose your memory card somewhere (which I personally have in the past) and someone finds it (let’s just assume that you have no labels on the card with your info) leaving your Copyright and/or Name could help big time in finding/locating you. Plus, you are writing data into RAW files, so if you ever needed to prove that you are the author of a photograph, the RAW file along with your contact info could make for great evidence.

I hope you found this article useful. Once again, these are settings that work for me and they might not necessarily suit your needs. It is best that you explore your camera and learn about each setting as much as you can in order to take advantage of all the available features and customizations!

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Gordon
    August 29, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Thanks so much. I was struggling with some of these settings and this has helped me a lot

  2. Profile photo of eric
    2
    ) eric
    August 29, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Good timing ! Im getting mine today ! Just in time before 4 days off ! Im really excited !

    • August 29, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Congrats Eric, you won’t be disappointed with the D810!

  3. August 29, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Very useful and very well written.
    The timing is perfect too. I got my D810 a couple of days ago.
    Thank you Nasim.

  4. 4
    ) Casey Sylla
    August 29, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Nasim,

    Avid reader of your blog. Currently using D200 and D700 with good glass. Been wanting to upgrade and have read everything published regarding the D810. In your judgement (price not a consideration) would you purchase the D800 or the D810. Seems like the D800 is a proven commodity that is highly regarded and is a “can’t miss and the D810 has yet to prove itself and receives mixed reviews. Thanks for any thoughts you can provide.

    • August 29, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Casey, without a doubt, go for the Nikon D810. No need to wait for other reviews – it is one of the best Nikon DSLRs produced to date.

  5. 5
    ) abhijeet chatterjee
    August 29, 2014 at 9:38 am

    I read most of your post very carefully. Can you help me about d7100, when i am shooting a model the sharpness is quite little, i cannot understand stand that where is the problem. I am using 2 lenses 50 mm1.8, 18 – 200 mm 3.5- 5.6, is this good or buy another one.

    • August 29, 2014 at 7:23 pm

      Abhijeet, lack of sharpness could come from different problems. Please see this article for more information.

    • 29
      ) Anonymous Coward
      August 30, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      Absolutely, read Nasim’s article.

      By ‘the sharpness is quite little’ do you mean the depth of field is shallow? Such as the eyes are in focus, but the nose and ears are blurry? Or do you mean that the eyes are in focus, but just not very sharp?

      Which 50mm f/1.8 do you have? There is a ‘D’ version which has an aperture ring and a ‘G’ version that does not.

      I really liked my 50mm ‘D’. It was very sharp, but it took time to autofocus. It would search a bit and took time. But when it was done, the shot was in focus and sharp. I even recommended it to a fellow Nikonite and she loves it. Unfortunately, it the AF was so slow I couldn’t keep up with my children running around a park.

      So based on Nasim’s review just bought the 50mm ‘G’. OH MY GOODNESS!!! I could not believe (1) how fast the ‘G’ version was to autofocus. It was so fast and quite that I thought it was broken because it just zoomed into focus and stopped. (2) How sharp the pictures are. I casually took a photo of my kid in my living room and it is the sharpest picture I think i’ve ever taken.

      As for the 18-200, I like that lens when I’m chasing my kids around a park. It is versatile and gives me lots of options, but It is not particularly sharp (Nasim has an excellent review). You need to know its limitations, accept it for what it is, and have fun.

      I have been following Nasim’s site for a few years (my book mark still is to mansurovs.com) and I have come to one conclusion: Nasim is much pickier than I am, and I mean that as a compliment. If he says something is good or great, then I have zero doubt about it. If he says something is mediocre, then I may think is good enough for me. If he says to avoid, then I don’t waste my time.

      Good Luck!!!

  6. 6
    ) charles denis
    August 29, 2014 at 11:47 am

    great settings, simple and effective, thanks

  7. Profile photo of Noel Johnson
    7
    ) Noel Johnson
    August 29, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Many, many thanks this is wonderful article and the previous one about the thermal problem. I quickly returned my new D810 to B&H had it replaced with one without the identified problem. The replacement arrived yesterday, and I have spent much time trying to figure this one out. My steppingstone from medium format black-and-white film/darkroom was the D7000, learning about color and then trying to convert to b/w. The information on your site has been a godsend during this transition and now with this sophisticated D810. What is your opinion on shooting monochrome on this camera?

    • August 29, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      Noel, your best bet is to shoot color, then convert to B&W in post. You will have a lot more options for conversion if you have colors.

  8. 8
    ) Guest
    August 29, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks, Nasim. Very good info. Any recommendations for camera settings for taking a good photo? ;-)

    • August 29, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Guest, you are most welcome! Just go out and shoot as much as possible :)

  9. 9
    ) FT
    August 29, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Насим-ака, ассалому алейкум!
    Очень информативно и доходчиво, как всегда, спасибо. Читаю ваши статьи не меньше 2 лет и благодаря им стал более предметно заниматься фотографией.
    Касательно предустановок для D810, за месяц использования этого “чуда”, у меня сложились почти такие же установки как и у вас, только за исключением 3:
    1) я не стал ограничивать в ISO Sensitivity максимальное исо (у вас 3200), поставил 12800, шумы в пределах правки в LR;
    2) там же Minimum shutter speed (у вас Auto), оказывается очень удобная вещь, не только тем у кого дрожат руки, но и чтобы заморозить движение объектов съемки, я поставил 1/250, что снимки получаются намного резче;
    и наконец,
    3) функцию изменения значения ИСО я поставил в “Custom settings menu” на d8 “Show ISO/Easy ISO”, что дает возможность намного быстрее менять значение ISO только задним роликом. На мой взгляд это очень удобно при съемке в режиме “А”, когда задний ролик практически не используется…
    C уважением FT

    • August 29, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      FT, ВАА.

      Рад, что предоставляемая информация на сайте Вам нравится – для этого мы и работаем :)

      1) Шум дело субъективное. Для меня слишком много потерь выше ISO 3200 (особенно в динамическом диапазоне), поэтому я стараюсь держать ISO пониже.
      2) Auto работает довольно-таки хорошо, особенно когда часто меняю объективы. 1/250 иногда многовато для меня, особенно когда света мало и я фотографирую с 50мм и короче.
      3) Easy ISO хороший метод для Aperture Priority. С тех пор как я начал ставить ISO на movie record button, менять ISO я могу одной рукой, поэтому в Easy ISO не нуждаюсь :)

      Много чего иногда приходится менять в зависимости от ситуации…

      С уважением,
      Насим

  10. 19
    ) Winfred Paler
    August 29, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Just to let you know that I have been devouring all your postings on anything about Nikon . I am a Nikon user and I’m into bird photography. I have a Nikon D800, and a Nikon D4S recently bought. For my lens, I used a Nikkor 600mm. I intend to order my Nikon D810 and sell the Nikon D800 for my bird photography. And your review on the Nikon D810 just came in perfectly. However, I’m just wondering why up to now you have not come-up any review on the Nikon D4S especially its settings. I’m looking forward to your review soon!

  11. 20
    ) pieter Kers
    August 30, 2014 at 2:40 am

    Hello Nasim, thank you for this article – even as a 2 year D800 user i find new things in it i did not know…

    I think you are completely right about that stupid BANK system. I never use that at all… quickly changing to different custom settings (landscape- theater-portrait) is one thing missing in the Nikon menu system
    About auto engaging Auto-ISO, you can change that already quickly by pressing the iso button and turning the front dial… or is that not quick enough?

  12. 21
    ) Dave
    August 30, 2014 at 3:40 am

    interesting you always leave long exposure NR off. It reduces long exposure noise from hot pixels and does not in any way degrades image quality, so I thought there’s no harm leaving it on (other than the additional time for the camera to expose a dark frame of course)

  13. 22
    ) Winston
    August 30, 2014 at 7:11 am

    I noticed you shoot sRGB…what is the advantage of that over shooting RGB if you edit RAW in CC 20014 14 bit RGB and your almost exclusive output is home inkjet printer….Thanks

  14. 23
    ) MISTRY RASIK
    August 30, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Hi…….Thanks, Nasim. Very good info.
    I would Like to ask you.Which mode shell i set for plastic Florescent colour product ?Because
    when i am converting RGB img in to CMYK IMG color become vary flate color( lose Hight light &
    Shadow).
    I have a NIKON D800e n I am doing product shoots only.I am from MUMBAI (INDIA).

    • 24
      ) Pieter Kers
      August 30, 2014 at 7:35 am

      Mistry Rasek,

      CMYK is used for output to a printer am i right?
      Let us say the CMYK profile you use is correct. Then it just reflects on screen what it would look like in print and that is almost always a lot less saturated and less contrasty.
      Fluorisant colors are usually not printable in print. Usually you deliver the RGB file to the printer and the printer translates it to CMYK as good as he can…. hope that helps..

      PK

  15. 25
    ) Rick Merica
    August 30, 2014 at 11:51 am

    I am an avid reader of your blog posts and nearly always pick-up a thought or an idea that improves my photography efforts. Having said that, I just recently sold my D700 and the rest of my Nikon gear and have made the move to smaller and lighter, namely Fuji XT-1. I have read your thoughts on this camera, which were very helpful in making my decision. Do you have a similar “set-up” article for the XT-1? I know that it would be helpful to many if you had one available.

    Thanks, Rick

  16. 26
    ) Shreeni Rao
    August 30, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Thanks Nasim. Very helpful for someone switching from Canon :)

  17. 27
    ) Dror
    August 30, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Hi, great article.
    Does anybody know if the back focus issue of the D800 when the af assist beam is on (sb910) is solved with the D810?
    Nasim, I know I posted a similar question in a recent post of yours, I don’t mean to spam with this question :-) but specifically I’m interested in knowing if this issue was solved rather then the other focus issues.
    Thanks in advance:-)
    Dror

  18. 28
    ) Tom Wadsworth
    August 30, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Nasim,

    I got my D810 three days ago after moving up to FX from a great D300s. Your article on setting recommendations was very timely for me and gives me a great starting place. Thank you so much. Also just discovered Photographylife.com and will be become a regular visitor. Thanks
    again.
    Tom

  19. Profile photo of Mark Pitsilos
    30
    ) Mark Pitsilos
    August 31, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    It would be nice if Nikon could port back the “Auto” Minimum shutter speed to older cameras like the D700 and D3s.
    Shouldn’t be too hard really.

    P.S. My D810’s currently in service for the thermal noise issue (& more) and I’m pretty pissed of the technicians can’t see the stuck LCD pixel…
    No doubt they’ll be citing the 1 dead / stuck pixel as acceptable rule, even if they do manage to see it.

  20. 31
    ) Ekdonohoe
    August 31, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I am new to your site and am loving it. I just jumped from the D3000 to the D800. How similar are your D810 settings to what I can set on my D800?

    Thanks

  21. 32
    ) goldaccess
    September 2, 2014 at 1:42 am

    There is a small mistake about Bracketing in the overall very good article:

    With Exposure Bracketing the shots can be now up to 3 EV apart. This is a very nice expansion over the D800(E).

    • September 2, 2014 at 1:44 am

      Oops, not sure how I missed that one, thanks for letting me know – I fixed the article.

  22. 34
    ) AmyB.
    September 2, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I have just tried for the first time to load my D810 raw files into ACR cs5 on my MAC and it seems that there hasn’t been an update for this model yet. Can you direct me to another application besides Lightroom that can process these files?

    • September 4, 2014 at 1:26 am

      Amy, you need to be on Creative Cloud or CS6 to be able to read those RAW files… As for other apps, aside from DxO, I am not aware of other software tools having support for D810 RAW files yet.

      • 46
        ) Colin Adams
        September 27, 2014 at 8:52 am

        Darktable (git master version) has support for D810 RAW files.

  23. 35
    ) Sheree
    September 3, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I just applied all of your settings, but now the camera won’t shoot? It focuses but doesn’t release and take the photo. Where have I gone wrong?

    • September 4, 2014 at 1:24 am

      Sheree, a couple of questions:
      1) Do you have a memory card in your camera
      2) What focus mode are you using now? AF-S or AF-C?

  24. 38
    ) Mandip Lachhar
    September 5, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Hi Nasim,
    How I can assign my shutter button to movie recording in live view ? On my D 800, I had assigned it and will record movies only when it was in live view video and photo on live view photo and I totally forget how I had done it.
    Thanks.

  25. 39
    ) scorPIPhoto
    September 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Nasim , if you are photographing ice hockey, how would you set the focus points? One point or Group Area?
    Thank you for your great work

  26. 40
    ) Donald Lyons
    September 10, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Always great reading other photographers set up recommendations and examining their rationale. I have a bit of input that I hope you find useful regarding auto ISO. There’s no need to include this as an option in ‘my menu’..just hold down the ISO button and spin the sub-command dial and you’re there. Cheers and good shooting to you!

    • September 10, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Donald, thank you and I am aware of that feature – but that’s not why I add it into the menu. You cannot make adjustments to minimum shutter speed using the dial and I need access to that feature all the time.

  27. 42
    ) yavuz eryavuz
    September 18, 2014 at 4:08 am

    Dear Mansurov,
    2 Days ago I purchased my D810.. I was a D800E user for 5 mounts and I was very pleased with the image quality.But actually, Im basicly a nature photographer especially “bird”.. D810 ‘s smoother shutter, faster and more accurate tracking of birds, group af, 1 more frame rate was very important and I dared to spend extra 900 usd for exchange:)) Before buying your reviews helped alot.
    First thing to mention is .. its really different while takinf BIF photos and isolation of background nearly perfect and %80 percent of photos in near perfect focus. Second; with 1.2 crop mode 6 frames really make sense than 5 frames and I feel the happy maker difference..
    This -your set up guide- is so valuable and useful that with some minor addings anyone wont need anymore..:))
    İf you have any expirence about the new released camera raw support 8.6 and captureNX-D to process raw images.. I would want to know.. Because its easy to start with ps6..
    Also do you have any expirence of TIFF shooting?
    Dr . Yavuz Eryavuz İstanbul
    Thank you very much for your support..

  28. 43
    ) Amr El-Kady
    September 24, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you so much … you are really so helpful

  29. 44
    ) Shikha garg
    September 25, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Thank you so much for the information…its really very helpful..I read your post every morning… :)

  30. 45
    ) Rizalmi
    September 27, 2014 at 5:47 am

    Hi Nasim, thanks a lot for a very valuable knowledge and info on this new d810 setting. If possible I would like to know what is the best setting if I would like to shot in JPEG. Thanks

  31. 47
    ) James Rudd
    October 1, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Thank you very much for the setting guides, very much appreciated.

    Would be grateful if you could help me with the following issue that I’m facing with my new D810.

    I’m unable to turn on the “Time-lapse photography” feature in the D810 Shooting Menu. It is set to “OFF”, and is greyed out and I cannot even select to turn on and use.

    I have read through quite a lot of recommendations that I can find on the Internet and still unable to turn it on in the shooting menu of my D810.

    Kindly help. Thanks

    James

  32. 48
    ) Alireza
    October 3, 2014 at 4:26 am

    Hi,
    I bought a D810 and I did the recommended settings in this article. Before changing the settings, the autofocus worked well and I was able to change the focus mode by pressing the AF-Mode button and rotating the rear dial. But after changing the settings, this no longer works properly. Would you please let me know what is wrong with my camera?
    Best regards,
    Alireza

  33. 49
    ) bh
    October 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Nice one ….Im getting the d810 next week …first time I’m going to have a Nikon hope it won’t be to hard for me to play with this baby….

  34. 50
    ) Pallav
    October 10, 2014 at 1:34 am

    Dear Nasim,

    I have been a hobbyist photographer fro a long time and shot film on Nikon f50. Then I upgraded to Nikon F80. While I absolutely loved the simplicity of the camera and tried to stick to film as long as possible, I couldn’t sustain it for too long. Getting films processed and printed was proving to be a huge cost.

    So I got myself the Nikon D7000 and got the 18-200 lens to go with it. But I have been extremely disappointed with the whole set up. Maybe, I haven’t set the camera up right. Somewhere on this site, I read your disdain for superzooms. I also feel the 18-55 produces sharper results on this camera, which I had gotten initially and then then sold stupidly when I got this lens.

    I wanted to ask a few things. Could you recommend the right setting for the D7000 just on these lines? Also, I want to sell off my 18-200 (it will fetch me almost as much as I paid for it) and replace it with 2 primes, a wide angle and a telephoto lens. I have the 35mm 1.8dx, 50 mm 1.8D, in addition to the 18-200. I was thinking of replacing it with 70-200 f4 and one more wide angle.

    The thing is that I want to buy lenses which will be useful when I upgrade to FX as well, though it might take me another couple of years, so the D820 when it comes maybe. So deciding a wide angle is proving to be difficult. A wide angle FX wont be wide angle on DX. Are there any cheap, old manual focus primes that can act as good wide angle lens on the DX? Or should I invest in a Tokina 11-16. I am a bit confused on this.

    I apologize for inundating you with so many questions. It would be good to get your advice on this.

    Thanks,
    Pallav

  35. 51
    ) Mol Iu
    October 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Hi, I like your post on D810.

    As you may have heard that D810 was indicating that noise (bright spots) are noticeable in long exposures, and in some images captured at an Image area setting of 1.2× (30×20). Nikon mentioned “after this service some noise (bright spots) may still be noticeable in exposures longer than 30 s than they were in images captured by previous cameras with the same exposure time.”

    Do you have any issue with this Long Exposure problem? How’s the conditions after service from your experience? Thanks for sharing in advance.

  36. 52
    ) Andrea Leganza
    October 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    I’m taking photos with my brand new D810 (lovely) i noticed these behaviors (fw version c:1.01 l:2.005), i’ve sent these notes/solutions to Nikon to “fix”/”improve” some behaviors:

    – Save Metering mode in Shooting menu bank: metering mode is NOT saved in banks and is shared between different Shooting banks.

    – Quick switch AF-Area Mode: pressing the “AF-mode button” on left side of the camera sometimes due to the size of lenses/time/camera protection/underwater housing may be a problem and requires to use two fingers (or is a two step operation enabling the “release button to dial” f10 option) and requires to use the main/sub dial: is a time consuming operation for events like weddings where photos are took in hundred/thousand quickly and environment conditions change quickly. Due to the fact that this setting is not saved in Shooting banks there is no way to create a custom configuration for different shooting banks regarding this setting to avoid using the “AF-mode button”. Letting user to switch between two most common modes (eg: single 3D). A simple menu voice which will allow to select the two of them which will be switched using the FN/PV/AE-L/AF-ON button will be really user friendly (temporarily or permanently).

    – Quick switch between Custom Settings Bank (A-B-C-D) and Shooting Menu Bank (A-B-C-D): Switching from Bank A to Bank C requires time and the same happens between Shooting banks. Eg: i shoot using 3D Tracking AF / Programmed Auto / Auto ISO / Jpeg during weddings but when taking portraits during the same event i switch to Single-point AF / Aperture-Priority Auto / Manual ISO / RAW. I have to change Shooting bank, and after that custom settings bank too. Also using the i button requires to click the button , click again to enter settings bank selection, move to select, click to select, and do the same operation for the other bank (shooting). Creating a configuration to select different Settings/Banks will allow to switch faster between different modes. A simple menu voice which will allow to create the two most common couples of settings (e.g. “Setting Bank A and Shooting Mode B” and “Setting Bank C with Shooting Mode C”) the two of them which will be switched keeping pressed (and reversing to first configuration after release / or make it permanent) the FN/PV/AE-L/AF-ON button will be really user friendly .

    – Custom Settings & Shooting Menu banks cloning: creating a clone of a custom settings / shooting menu bank requires to set all the settings manually again, if the settings to change were less than 10 (from the default configuration) it’s simple and quick but if the new bank is a clone of 1 with tens of custom configurations and a few changes between the two a user needs to manually clone the whole settings from the previous one manually, writing down/memorizing what he changed in the configuration 1 and later change the required ones. Eg: my A-B-C-D banks share in common reverse dials, same preview button configuration, same display off times, same video mode, same bracketing settings, same no focus sound, same file quality settings, etc. It took me a whole battery (…) to clone and change the few settings which make different my banks. A simple “copy” operation will reduce this time consuming setting.

    Note: these functionalities are useful too for underwater photography (which i do too) because many times not all the buttons are reachable in the housings.

  37. 53
    ) Veasna
    October 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Just got mine yesterday. This is going to help me a great deal! Thank you so much!!!!!

    • 54
      ) Mol Iu
      October 21, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      Hi Veasna,

      Could you please keep me posted for your new D810? I am guessing the one you bought Nikon has been fixed the Long Exposure Problem. I am planning to buy D810 soon too, just want to make sure they fixed this problem well before I buy it.

      Thanks so much in advance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  38. 55
    ) Gaetano
    October 30, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Thanks for your good article.
    Only a suggestion: if you set AF-S with priority “Focus” and AF-ON button only, when ricompose, the SLR doesn’t shoot. This is the setting for the so called “trap focus”.
    Regards.
    Gaetano

  39. 56
    ) Paul T
    October 31, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks SO much. Far in a way the most helpful thing I found on the net to help me get started on my new upgrade!

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