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Nikon D800 or D810 for sports?
Robert Hanashiro, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | | Posted: 10:52 AM on 08.05.14
->> Anyone out there in the Sports Shooter Universe shoot sports regularly with a Nikon D800 or the new D810 and can give me a little review?

I know the D800/810 is a high-res camera intended primarily for other than news and sports ... but the files are georgous. The AF systems are the same as the D4 and D4S respectively but is the slowish FPS an issue?
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Smiley Pool, Photographer, Photo Editor
Houston | TX | USA | Posted: 11:15 AM on 08.05.14
->> Focus is fine. FPS is an issue. Files rock. Great on a remote (like the glass cam).

Fine as your short lens at football (though you'll give away some frames) for instance. But you probably won't be happy with one on your long glass.

Somebody might be ok with it if it was the only body they had (I know plenty of folks shooting sports with a 5D3) or as a second body.

However, if you a used to a D3/D4/MK4/1DX as you main camera, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the focus performance, but the FPS will feel really, really, slow.

Personally, I shoot pretty much everything that is not sports with D800 (including most news) but shoot sports with D4. Though I have been known to use the D800 as a way to cheat my way out of situations where I am under-lensed.
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Smiley Pool, Photographer, Photo Editor
Houston | TX | USA | Posted: 11:17 AM on 08.05.14
->> Also, George Bridges may have more insight. He uses D800 as his second body at football.
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Tim Hynds, Photo Editor, Photographer
Sioux City | IA | USA | Posted: 11:37 AM on 08.05.14
->> I use a D800 as my main body for all assignments, including sports. As stated, files are beautiful and autofocus is great, even with a teleconverter (assuming decent light).

FPS is its only drawback. I'm a geezer, so I'm use to shooting with slow motors from the MD-2 and MD-12 days and I find I have to draw upon my once-lost timing skills to nail a frame, just like in the old days. That's not a bad thing.

One consideration. Due to workflow issues, I shoot the camera on medium quality .jpg, which is more than plenty of pixels for our needs. Even then I find I have a massive quantity of data vs the number of frames shot. If you tend to shoot liberally, be prepared for lots of 1s and 0s to deal with later.

God bless the workflow of those who shoot whole games in high quality raw.
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George Bridges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 12:41 PM on 08.05.14
->> I've found the FPS to be frustrating in certain situations -- even though I go back to the MD-12 days on an FE2, I've been spoiled by the faster motors.

Specs say it is a full-frame viewfinder but I feel it cuts a bit off, like on some of the older film cameras.

Also on basketball I found the noise a bit more than the D4 at higher ISO and didn't like that much.
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George Bridges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 12:42 PM on 08.05.14
->> And, as Smiley says, I use the D800 as a second or third body behind D4 and D3.
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Michael Chen, Photographer, Assistant
Saratoga | CA | USA | Posted: 12:48 PM on 08.05.14
->> I used the D800E as my main camera back when I still shot some sports. No complaints. I liked not having to lug around the integrated vertical grip of the bigger cameras when I didn't need it. My timing got a hell of a lot better, that's for sure. I couldn't justify owning my own D4 at the time.

When moving stuff on deadline, Raw + JPEG is a lifesaver. Also, even "small" JPEGs look great for web and small print, and clean as a whistle too.

When raising the ISO, the DR drops off faster than the D4, and above ISO 3200 the D800E is more noisy, but when you down-size the file for use it cleans up beautifully without any extra work.

I loved the D800E on my 200-400 f/4 and 400 f/2.8 (well, the 400 f/2.8 needed to be stopped down one stop, being an older model). Too bad I damaged the 400 f/2.8 beyond repair (thank heavens for insurance).

I currently shoot with other cameras, but if I still was shooting sports, I wouldn't hesitate to use the D800E or D810 as my main or only camera.

Doug Pizac also had an old post on here somewhere about shooting golf with the D800E.

Get the E or the 810 over the 800. The added acuity due to the reduced anti-aliasing of the E or the lack of anti-aliasing on the 810 is most obvious with fast lenses shot wide open. Also, if you're interested in a very lightly-used one (and I mean very, very, very lightly-used), contact me off-list and I can hook you up. ;-)
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Chris Peterson, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbia Falls | MT | USA | Posted: 12:49 PM on 08.05.14
->> I use a D800 on a 200-400 (version 1) as my main sports body for outdoor sports and on a 85 1.8 for indoor sports. Files are very good up to ISO 3200, though I prefer 2000 or less. 1600 are great. I customized the buttons so I can switch between DX and FX on the fly. When I need faster frames, I just switch to DX. I must admit, I'd rather have the D810, but I haven't the cash.
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Paul DiSalvo, Photographer
Highlands Ranch | CO | United States of America | Posted: 1:42 PM on 08.05.14
->> After doing SSA last year, and listening to Shawn Cullen; I started doing a floor remote for basketball. I found I could frame with a 24mm and cover sideline to other side of key because I could crop to maybe 20-25% of the original frame and still have tons of pixels left. This was on the D800 shooting JPG LG which is about 17mb when all is said and done. Everything I've read about the D810 seems like it does even better. And for anything else that you don't need FPS, it just rocks.
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Randy Rimland, Photographer
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 3:10 PM on 08.05.14
->> IMO neither

file size is way too big, fps way too slow, high iso not close to a D4
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 3:32 PM on 08.05.14
->> I started with D700 bodies and moved to the D800 followed by the D800E. I did a golf shot with the E of the player teeing off shot waist up. The E allowed me to count the hairs in his nose. The D810 captures more detail.

Last month I bought two D810 bodies and outfitted them with MB-D12 battery pack grips. With AA batteries I get 6 FPS which for me is plenty fast since I'm old-school and learned how to anticipate action using a Nikon F whose motordrive was a zippy 3.5 FPS. If I switch to DX mode the D810's 36 megapixels drop to 18 and the speed increases to 7 FPS. The 800/E speeds are 4 FPS with or without the grip.

The first sports I did with them was a MLS game where I could shoot clear down to the other goal and still get better quality with a 50% crop than shooting at mid-field using a D700 full frame. Cropping to half the frame is still more megapixels than a D4S.

Last week I shot a parade at ISO 100. The depths of color, sharpness and dynamic tonal range were phenomenal. Later this month I start using them with my tilt-shift lenses to capture multi-million properties for a high-end home rental company to entice celebrities coming the Sundance Film Festival next January to lease them.

Right now I'm shooting an indoor swimming championship at ISO 2500 without any problems. Everything looks very clean.

While there is a noticeable improvement from the D800/E models because of the lack of an anti-aliasing screen over the chip, what has sold me on the D810 is the new group focus point system that is in the D4S for $3k more. Instead of making sure your initial single point spot is on target whereupon the surrounding points kick in to track focus, the grouping feature has four focus points that can be moved around the screen as a group for that initial focus capture. So far it is working spot on nailing the heads of swimmers coming out of the water in the breast and fly events.

The D810 also shares the same EXPEED 4 processor as the D4S. It is about 30% faster than the D800/E's EXPEED 3 which means it can dump the large files to the memory card faster. Whereas the D800/E would sometimes stall to catch up, the D810 keeps pace with motordrive bursts.

My D700 bodies were my go-to cameras for sports. I'm now looking at selling them what with the D810's abilities. (email me if you're interested; they're in great shape)

FYI, some have said they like that the D810 can now record RAW Small files. While I have not tested this feature yet, from what I see in the specs is that it produces a 16 megapixel file -- the same as the D4S. But to do so it apparently doesn't use all the pixels; every other one at best to maintain full-frame imagery. But in DX mode it is just using the crop area in the middle which means while the file size is still half, you're using all of the tightly compacted pixels -- not every other one. So logically, a DX made photo is going to be sharper than a RAW Small even though they are both basically the same file size. I haven't done any bench tests yet, but I'll let you all know what I find out if my theory/logic is correct.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 3:34 PM on 08.05.14
->> I've not shot the camera extensively, but I know a ton of folks that use it on the motorcycle racing front as a second or third body for track and paddock action, mostly as their portrait grid-type work.

I shoot sports with my D600 with decent results, though my D700 is still top for focus and FPS.
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Doug Holleman, Photographer
Belton | TX | USA | Posted: 1:09 AM on 08.06.14
->> Most of my games are night games or indoors in light that's from "not that great" to "pretty bad." I use the D800 almost exclusively because the trade-off is a no-brainer for me. I get more shots I'm happy with. Shots with another camera look sick by comparison, so I hardly touch my second camera. I find myself switching lenses on the D800 instead.

Besides, I found I didn't really like shooting 8FPS blasts. It seemed to cause me to lose focus on the real action, I wouldn't get any better shots with it than just good timing, and I eventually cut the top frame rate down to about 6 anyway. It would be nice to have just a little more speed with the D800, but it's not enough to make me want to use any other camera. I use the 1.2x crop most most of the time, which helps some, and also cuts down on the enormous file sizes. I rarely use the 1.5x mode.

But that's just me. Everywhere around me it sounds like a bunch of machine guns going off during every play.
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Scott Serio, Photo Editor, Photographer
Colora | MD | USA | Posted: 2:31 AM on 08.06.14
->> I would be interested to see what people say about the D810. The D800 files are awesome. When I shoot high school hoops, I pair 2 SB's with the D800 and the 24-120 and the files are fantastic. Still, here are the negatives....

D800 files are HUGE raw, but allegedly the D810 has the RAWsmall like Canon.
D800 is slow in the FPS, but the D810 is supposed to hit 5 fps.
D800 is more D3ish in low light than the D3s or D4, but the D810 is supposed to be more D4ish.

That said, I use the D800 a ton. And, with the Eye-fi Mobi card, I am going RAW+JPGsmall to the SD card. If I am in a crush and need to move an image, I have the JPGsmall on my phone almost instantly. With Filterstorm Neue, I can FTP the image right way. And...when I am done, I still have the RAW file to do what I need with it.

I am guessing the D810 will be even more flexible.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 8:03 AM on 08.06.14
->> Scott...

See my take above on the D810. I've been shooting with two of them.

"allegedly... RAWsmall" -- yes it has it. However, the images may not be as detailed as it may be using only every other pixel; less pixels means smaller file.

"supposed to hit 5 FPS" -- yes as is. However, if you attach the MB-D12 grip with high-octane battery or 8 AA batteries it goes to 6 FPS, and 7 if shot in DX mode.

"supposed to be more D4ish" in low light" -- its low-light and focusing abilities are that of the new D4S which is better than the D4. However, the ISO doesn't go as high as the D4S. It also has the new focus point grouping feature that was introduced in the D4S.
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Scott Serio, Photo Editor, Photographer
Colora | MD | USA | Posted: 12:20 PM on 08.06.14
->> Doug....thanks. RAWsmall is the one thing I wanted in the D800. I think the D810 is a no-brainer. When I shoot stuff I want 36mp for, I have it, but when I shoot HS hoops and don't want to destroy memory cards and hard drives, the RAWsmall will definitely be used.
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Patrick Murphy-Racey, Photographer
Knoxville | TN | USA | Posted: 2:03 PM on 08.06.14
->> I tried shooting football with it a few games but it was too frustrating. I did find it was good for shooting baseball batters and tennis which I single frame anyway. Files are monstrous and very very good.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 2:40 PM on 08.06.14
->> Scott...

You may want to do some testing comparing rawSmall to DX mode as both reduce file size in half. The difference is how. With rawSmall you retain full frame but to do so only every other pixel is recorded. With DX mode you're shooting with a smaller chip area where all the tightly packed pixels are being used. Therefore -- logically -- the DX image will contain more detail as you're using all the pixels instead of every other one.
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Jack Kurtz, Photographer
Bangkok | Bangkok | Thailand | Posted: 8:03 PM on 08.06.14
->> You definitely want to do some experimenting and research before shooting sRAW files. Reduced size raw files (at least from the D810E) are not true raw files. When you set the camera to record sRAW, the camera initially records a regular raw file and then processes it down to sRAW. Among other things it reduces the Nikon 14bit NEF to an 11bit file, which limits highlight recovery. Because there's so much processing going on, battery life takes a hit. There's much more on it here:
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Jack Kurtz, Photographer
Bangkok | Bangkok | Thailand | Posted: 8:08 PM on 08.06.14
->> Errr, ummm, I meant D810. The D810E is a product of my fevered imagination.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 3:55 PM on 08.07.14
->> BIG ditto to Jack's link on the rawSmall link.

Contrary to my guess that rawSmall uses every other pixel to reduce file size in half, the story explains that all the pixels are used however the processor re-interpolates the image data to create smaller files. This interpolation however also means a loss of detail.

Plus, instead of having 14-bit regular raw files the rawSmall files are 12-bit and maybe 11-bit. This means there is less tonal range data which means less detail that can be massaged -- such as retaining wedding gown lace, or keeping white sports uniform detail plus being able to see a black player's face inside his helmet.

The story also says that because the processor works so much harder to create the smaller files, it eats up battery power. And instead of shooting 34 frames before the buffer fills up you only get 18. For sports shooters who lay on the button during a play this means you'll get about half the number of images before the camera shuts down to record to the memory card.

As to the D810's other new features, here's the link to a story on what its plus factors are, especially with video.
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Michael Troutman, Photographer
Carmel | CA | USA | Posted: 4:03 AM on 08.08.14
->> Well, much to my surprise I just ordered the D810 and am selling my D800E. I use D4S bodies for most of my still photography (a huge range of subjects, including sports) and the D800E has been almost exclusively a video camera in a SnapFocus rig (with VAF-D800 AA filter installed) but it occasionally gets used for landscape work and in the studio (with MB-D12 grip). I had no intention of upgrading but recently spent a week in Yellowstone shooting wildlife with the 800 f5.6 and was mulling the advantages of being able to crop even more than with the D4S for birds of prey at a distance (I only shot landscapes with the D800E, not wildlife). Today I compared both bodies side-by-side for over an hour with the 35 f1.4G (downloading and processed with my usual PM-->LR-->PS workflow) and here are the triggers that compelled me to upgrade:

• The AF is *resoundingly* better. Not quite the unbelievable speed of the D4S, but hugely better in speed and accuracy. No issues with any of the focus points and the new group AF is, jaw-droppingly, the shizzle. Should work great with all the f1.4 primes and long glass.

• The hand grip is *much* improved. This may seem like a small detail but I truly disliked picking up the D800E (even with MB-D12) to shoot stills; it always felt like it was slipping out of my hand. I've owned all the pro bodies since the F4 and far and away prefer that kind of form factor. I'm so glad this was addressed, it was my number one pet peeve with the camera (well, other than not being a D4X).

• The new mirror dampening is a *huge* improvement. Everyone is talking about how much quieter it is, which is great; I disliked the sound of the D800E too (my other big pet peeve) and use Q mode on the D4S frequently. But even more important is that less mirror vibration means SHARPER hand-held images. And yes, it also has Nikon's first Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter when used with mirror lock-up, but even without using that I could see better sharpness compared to the D800E. This was a real eye-opener.

• Better image quality overall. Improved white balance, contrast, color and "snap" to the images really stood out to me (along with the sharpness improvement mentioned above). Noise is maybe just a little bit better around 6400; some image areas looked better and some worse, but the overall "pop" was better. The D4S completely smokes it for noise performance, no question, but 6400 is very usable on the D810. For wildlife in low light with long glass this is very important to me; for event work I have zero hesitation on up to ISO 16,000 and beyond with the D4S.

• Higher frame rate. 5fps really helps for action along with a bigger buffer, and it's 7fps with the MB-D12 in crop mode. Having shot motorsports with the D3X and other slow bodies in the past *yes* this is probably enough…but the D4S is SO much better for sheer speed in *all* regards.

• 1080p/60 video, zebra stripes and other video improvements. Also the port covers on the side of the camera have been individualized for mics, HDMI out, etc. The new "flat" setting for video is huge for post-production as well.

• Improved viewfinder and display, along with some button changes and other small details really have made the ergonomics and general usability better. Battery life and operational speed (scrolling images, etc) are also improved.

• No problems with the latest ACR in LR 5.6 and CS6; I did not have significant profile issues and posterization problems that some have noticed (I think maybe with the earlier release candidate of ACR). I do think the camera standard profile will be improved in the next Adobe release, which may help further with noise.

• Enough secret sauce and little things that add up to a significant overall upgrade in my mind.

My testing was completely unscientific but instead was based on *exactly* how I really shoot with my cameras; I was not locking everything down with sandbags in order to shoot brick walls, test patterns and pet cats. This was hand-holding and shooting real subjects just like shooting a wedding or anything else; I wanted to see how it actually worked in my hands and responded to me trying to push it like a D4S. I was VERY pleased.

To directly address the question posed by Robert: D810 hands-down over the D800/E for not only sports but really *any* situation. That said, if I could only own one camera no question it's the D4S, and I'm not likely to shoot sports much with the D810 (and certainly not weddings or events). However, I anticipate shooting other kinds of work with it *a lot* more compared to what I have been with the D800E.

Since it was brought up in this thread, sRAW holds little interest for me; I shoot everything 14-bit NEF and that format throws away most of the advantages. But there are so many options and so much is customizable with this camera that it should really appeal to almost any shooter shopping at this price point; it does everything *really* well and is a thoroughly refined tool. There's a ton of stuff one can read online, but the Fstoppers video that Doug linked above is excellent.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 9:51 PM on 08.08.14
->> Earlier this week I shot indoor swimming using a D810 with a 400mm f2.8 wide open at a 1/1000 shutter speed. I've posted an image from the shoot for you to look at.

Go to:

The camera's native image size is 18x24" at 300 dpi. The full frame is there along with a 4x6 section of it so you can see an enlarged area. Both files are downloadable for you to examine. The image file is NOT sharpened. The crispness is straight out of the camera.

Oh, one more thing. It was shot at ISO-3200.
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Michael Troutman, Photographer
Carmel | CA | USA | Posted: 1:21 AM on 08.13.14
->> I own the camera now (sold the D800E), shot a job with it this evening (a Chamber of Commerce event, not sports) and then compared image quality to the D4S.

The color depth is what stood out to me the most, along with incredible detail (although the D4S is excellent). But I *did* have posterization issues come up (had to use the Adobe Standard profile in LR, which was not as good but had no artifacting). The handling is much better than its predecessor (along with all the other things I noted above) and it feels much more usable when paired with the MB-D12. The D4S utterly smokes it in terms of high ISO quality and noise; not even close in my mind. The D810 files are simply *gorgeous* at lower ISOs.

So my expectations and early testing were confirmed: this is a GREAT camera. It's just not the first one I'll reach for in the majority of my work…but for certain things it's absolutely unbeatable. It will definitely see more use for stills than my D800E did.

For sports it certainly has a lot of utility and would be acceptable in most situations for a lot of shooters. Highly recommended.
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Michael Troutman, Photographer
Carmel | CA | USA | Posted: 2:22 AM on 08.16.14
->> New D810 profiles that solve the posterization issue:
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Michael Troutman, Photographer
Carmel | CA | USA | Posted: 3:18 PM on 08.16.14
->> Excellent review:
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 10:07 PM on 08.16.14
->> If you're looking for a "sports" camera you might want to wait just a little longer and see what this hubbub is all about...
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Thread Title: Nikon D800 or D810 for sports?
Thread Started By: Robert Hanashiro
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