This week I updated my Workshops page on both my blog and my website. There are quite a few new workshop and seminar offerings for this fall and over the course of the next year, as can be seen below:

Adventure Sports Photography – Telluride Photo Festival – Telluride, CO – September 29 – October 1, 2015

Mentor Series Photo Trek – Montana and Yellowstone National Park – October 7-11, 2015

Adventure Travel Photography – National Geographic Traveler Seminar – Houston, TX – October 18, 2015

Adventure Photography Seminar – Photo Plus Expo – Javits Center, New York City – October 22, 2015

Outdoor Adventure Photography – National Geographic Traveler Seminar – San Francisco – October 25, 2015

Adventure Travel Photography – National Geographic Traveler Seminar – Seattle, WA – November 15, 2015

Across the Patagonian Ice Field – Vertical Shot Expeditions – Patagonia Ice Cap, Argentina – January 25 – February 4, 2016

Mentor Series Photo Workshop – Maui Video – February 10-14, 2016

Surfing Photography – North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii – February 18-21, 2016

Photography Sailing Expedition in Arctic Norway – Lofoten Islands, Norway – August 20 – 27, 2016

One of the latest additions to my calendar is giving a 2-hour Adventure Photography seminar at the Photo Plus Expo in New York City. The Photo Plus Expo is the largest photography related show anywhere in the world and a meeting place for many photographers. If you are in the NYC area during the expo (see the banner above) check out the wide array of seminars on offer for excellent prices. I hope to see you there. You can find more info and register for my seminar by clicking on the banner above or on this link.


Also, I will be giving one of the Keynote presentations at the Telluride Photo Festival in Telluride, Colorado in October. That keynote address is scheduled for 8 PM at the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride on Friday, October 2nd. Check out the Telluride Photo Festival website for more info and a schedule of events. I will also be giving a three-day adventure photography workshop while I am out at the Photo Festival and there are still a few spaces left.

In addition, I just posted three new National Geographic Traveler Seminars for this fall in Houston, San Francisco and Seattle. The Nat Geo Seminars are in-depth intensives that cover a wide range of topics on Adventure Travel Photography and Adventure Photography and they are very affordable compared to a full-on workshop.


Last, even though it is a year away, I just added another super cool workshop with the folks at Vertical Shot Expeditions where we will be Sailing through the Lofoten Islands in Norway in August 2016. This is definitely going to be one of the most amazing workshops I am a part of next year, along with the Patagonia Ice Cap Expedition.

if you have any questions about any of these workshops, seminars or speaking engagements please feel free to email me.

A few months ago, while in New York City meeting with various clients and sponsors, I met with the fine folks over at Popular Photography magazine. I showed them my portfolio and this wave image in my portfolio wowed them. Amazingly, just a few months later, this image (as seen below) is on the cover of the August 2015 issue of Popular Photography. They also used the image inside the magazine as a double page spread in an article on shooting at the beach.

This image was shot the day before the last Quiksilver in memory of Eddie Eikau big wave surf contest in December 2009, where the waves at Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu were close to 60-feet tall. This wave was only ten or twelve feet tall since it was one of the waves that reform about 60 feet in front of the beach. The rising sun had just hit the wave when this image was shot. Hence, all of the wild green and blue colors in the image. This image has been published a fair bit and even won an award in the 2011 PDN Great Outdoor Photo Competition. My thanks to Popular Photography for choosing my image and using it on the cover!

Kohl Christensen riding a mountain of water on a chaotic day at Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii.

It’s official. We are holding our 4th Surfing Photography Workshop in February of 2016. This workshop has been so popular over the last four years that we are putting it on again. This workshop is by far one of the best workshops I have ever been a part of. In fact it is so much fun, we have had several people take it twice and a few of them even want to take it again in 2016. I have never had anyone take any of my other workshops more than once so that gives you some idea of the great time we have in this Surfing Photography Workshop. For all of the details read on…

Dates: February 18-21, 2016

Workshop Leaders: Brian Bielmann and Michael Clark

Location: Turtle Bay Hilton Resort, Oahu North Shore, Hawaii

About The Workshop

Join legendary surfing photographer Brian Bielmann and adventure sports photographer Michael Clark for an exciting one-of-a-kind workshop that delves into the world of surfing photography. Brian is a top surfing photographer who has been shooting the sport for more than 35 years. Michael brings his adventure photography skills and knowledge as well as his in-depth experience with digital workflow to round out the workshop.

This 4-day workshop combines daily photo shoots at world-class surfing locations, lifestyle photo shoots and classroom instruction. We will be spending half of our time shooting in the early mornings and in the late afternoon and evenings when the waves and the light are at their best. The other half of our time will be spent in the classroom. All of the classroom instruction will be centered around image critiques, discussions on gear, strategies and the business of photography as well as in-depth discussions on shooting surfing. We’ll also cover digital workflow in detail using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop.

The workshop is scheduled during a period where large waves hit the north shore frequently. Though we cannot predict or guarantee the wave size or surfing conditions, the north shore of Oahu serves up sizable waves on a nearly daily basis. Depending on the waves, we will choose the best locations for shooting and we will also schedule lifestyle shoots that help to fill out our coverage of the world of surfing.

Workshop Schedule

Day 1 – Morning
Introduction to surfing photography, gear selection, camera setup and shooting options.

Day 1 – Afternoon/Evening
Cover basic digital workflow and then head out to shoot at the world-famous Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu.

Day 2 – Morning
Dawn Patrol: Early morning surfing shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 2 – Afternoon/Evening
Group critique of previous days images, discussion of underwater photography and shooting from the water. Evening shoot with strobes on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 3 – All Day
Dawn Patrol: Early morning surfing shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 3 – Afternoon/Evening
Group critique of previous days images, portrait shoot on the beach with male and female surfers.

Day 4 – Morning
Dawn Patrol: Early morning surfing shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 4 – Afternoon
Group critique of previous days images, wrap up and discussions on the art of surfing photography.

Please note that locations may change depending on conditions.

About the Instructors

Brian Bielman is a legendary surfing photographer. He has shot everything from fashion, to rock stars, to surf. From world champ surfers Mark Richards to Andy Irons, he has captured them all and just about everything else important that has happened on Hawaii’s North Shore since 1975. He was there to document the early days of Teahupo’o (Tahiti) and put a fresh perspective on it ten years later with his underwater images. He is well known for not only his above water surfing images but even more for his stunning underwater images of surfing. Able to shoot more than just the action Brian also captures the spirit and faces of surfing. You can see more of Brian’s work at www.brianbielmann.com.

Michael Clark is an internationally published outdoor photographer specializing in adventure sports, travel and landscape photography. He produces intense, raw image of athletes pushing their sports to the limit and has risked life and limb on a variety of assignments to bring back stunning images of rock climbers, mountaineers, kayakers and mountain bikers in remote locations around the world. He contributes to National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Outside, Men’s Journal, Backpacker, Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Climbing, Alpinist, Rock and Ice, Bike Magazine and The New York Times among many others. You can see Michael’s work at www.michaelclarkphoto.com.


The Cost

The cost of this workshop is $1,295.00 per person. The same rate applies for each participant regardless of whether they are doing photography and participating in the workshop, or not. A deposit of $500 is required to secure your spot on the workshop. Final balance will be due no later than January 15, 2016.

Please note: We will attempt to adhere to this itinerary as much as possible. However, certain conditions, such as bad weather, lack of waves, or other issues may necessitate changes in the itinerary. We reserve the right to alter any itinerary at any time, if necessary.


The classroom portion of the workshop will be held at the Turtle Bay Resort on the north shore of Oahu. We have negotiated a group rate that is discounted from their advertised prices. To receive the discounted rate, please mention the Surfing Photography Workshop. Please note that there are few if any other hotels on this side of the island. If you would prefer to stay elsewhere there are also hotels in Haleiwa, which is 12 miles south of the hotel and approximately a 30 minute commute.


Most major airlines service the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Honolulu, the major city on the island is approximately one hour south of the north shore and our hotel. The Turtle Bay Reset is located on the northern tip of Oahu and is somewhat remote. The hotel has a restaurant, golf course, tennis courts and of course is located right next to the beach.

We do not provide transportation during the workshop. Please plan ahead and reserve a rental car. Rental cars are available in Honolulu. Of course, we will share vehicles and car pool to make life easier for all of us. We are not responsible for reimbursement of non-refundable airline tickets in the event of a workshop cancellation.

Workshop Materials

You will need to bring the following equipment with you:
• a 35mm digital SLR camera with interchangeable lenses
• a laptop computer with a USB memory key, DVD or external hard drive. Instructors will be using Apple Computers.
• Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software installed on your computer (you can download the 30-day trial version of Lightroom before the workshop if you don’t already have the software.)
• Digital memory cards with a card reader (preferably CompactFlash or Secure Digital Cards)
• power adapters and cables for laptop and digital camera
• camera manual
• batteries and charger for rechargeable batteries

It is expected that you know how to download images from your camera to the laptop, know basic editing techniques using your software, and are able to organize the edited images for critique.

Waves exploding in Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii the morning of the 2009/2010 Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave surfing competition.

Telephoto Lenses and Underwater Camera Housings

Also since surfing photography relies on large telephoto lenses, each participant will need to bring a telephoto lens that is at least 400mm. A 500mm or 600mm lens is preferred. If you don’t own one of these lenses please rent or borrow one to bring with you. Please contact Michael or Brian with any questions about lens selection and rental options. Both B&H and Samy’s Camera in the USA have rental houses that can rent these lenses. We also have a special deal with Hawaii Photo Rental Oahu who have 500mm and 600mm lenses for both Canon and Nikon and will be renting these to workshop participants at discounted rates ranging from $323 to $550. Call Josh Strickland at Hawaii Photo Rental Oahu at (808) 735-3838 for more information on renting one of these lenses.

Also, if you plan to shoot in the water please bring your underwater camera housing. Brian has several underwater housings for Canon cameras and will have these available for those that want to try them out.


If you’ve always wanted to shoot the amazing sport of surfing, then now is the time to register. Remember, there will be limited space available for this workshop. When they’re spoken for, that’s it. If you have any questions before registering, send us an e-mail with any inquiries to info@michaelclarkphoto.com. To register for the workshop send me an email and I’ll send you a payment request for the deposit and a packet of information about the workshop.

 We hope you can join us for this stellar workshop! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact either myself or Brian.

redbull_hypersyncMy thanks to Redbullphotography.com for publishing a news piece on the Hypersync Surfing project. This project has already been featured on Elinchrom.com and there was also an in-depth, geek-fest piece on the Photoshelter Blog as well. I am super stoked to work with Hypersync flash techniques as it allows me to create wild images that were very difficult, if not impossible to create previously.

I was just talking with legendary surf photographer Brian Bielmann last week, who helped me out on the Hypersync Surfing project, and we were discussing how many things had to come together to get this shot. The autofocus had to nail it, all of the flashes had to fire, the flashes had to be lined up to hit the surfer who was moving all over the place and I had to anticipate the action, which was tricky because the waves were not so great, and finally Thomas Ihnken, the surfer, had to launch a decent air to make this image happen. That afternoon, Thomas only got a total of three decent airs and we caught one of them. As mentioned in the news piece, this may not be my greatest surf image, but it still boggles my mind how many things had to come together to create this image. For the full story click on the Elinchrom link above.

The Red Bull Photography website has a ton of cool content on it. If you haven’t checked it out before, I recommend taking some time to peruse the site and checking out some of the projects, which all have behind the scenes videos where you can see how the images were made.  As shown above, their site is very elegant.

Techno-babble disclaimer: This article contains quite a bit of jargon about RAID enclosures. For those not familiar with the various forms of RAID and how a RAID system works, I highly recommend reading the excellent Wikipedia page that discusses RAID in detail. 

Earlier this year, I taught a one day storage and archiving seminar with my good friend Tony Bonanno for the Santa Fe Workshops. I have also gotten a few calls from several pro photographers asking for recommendations for backing up large image collections and for backing up video content. This article appeared in my Winter 2015 Newsletter but I thought I would republish it here on the blog so it is more visible for those looking for a solution to back up their images. For those looking for a simple back up strategy, the diagram below will look ridiculously complex because I have a huge image collection to back up. I have over 72 TB of hard drives. For those with only 4 or 5 TB of images or less, I would suggest getting three hard drives that can accommodate all your images and using SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner to back up your images to all three drives. The critical part of that back up strategy would be to make sure one of those hard drives is offsite. At this point, I am updating my digital workflow e-book and I will have a much more in-depth chapter in that e-book that covers a wide range of topics concerning backing up and archiving your images, including specific recommendations.


Caption: Backing up huge quantities of images can be daunting. For most amateur photographers, the fewer number of images and hard drives can greatly simplify this process, but for the pro the terabytes add up quickly. Above you can see my entire storage and archive workflow. I use the G-Tech G-Dock and various portable G-Drive ev HDs to backup my images in the field and this system allows for a very quick and simple ingest workflow once I am back in the office. My office storage consists of three OWC ThunderBay 4 enclosures: one with a RAID 0 configuration and two with RAID 5 configurations.  All of my images are also archived onto individual 3 TB hard drives and stored in a safety deposit box at my bank. 

Last fall, I upgraded my entire computer setup and with that upgrade I was also forced to replace the hard drives and RAID enclosures that I use to store and backup my images and motion content. I realize a review of an external hard drive enclosure is not as exciting as a review of a new lens or camera, but for the pro photographer, having a fast, robust and well-thought out backup and storage system is paramount. Hence, when I upgraded my computer system, I set out to find the fastest and most reliable storage option available that could deal with huge image files and the 6K video footage produced by the RED Epic, which I use for motion projects..

My old system was an Apple Mac Pro tower with multiple internal hard drives and a series of external RAID 5 enclosures, which were all connected to my tower via Firewire 800. My old Mac Pro didn’t have the option to connect Thunderbolt devices. With the new computer, I chose to update all of my external RAID enclosures and all of my external hard drives with Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 devices. My new system is a top-end, maxed out 15-inch Retina Apple Macbook Pro laptop, which is wicked fast. I have the Macbook Pro mounted in a Henge Dock Vertical Docking Station, which helps to keep all the connecting cables coming out of it organized and out of sight. At some point, I may bring in an Apple Mac Pro for the office if I need more computing power, but for now the Macbook Pro is working quite well for my needs.

After a ton of research, including setting up a spread sheet to calculate, quantify and compare the Input/Output (I/O) speeds of various RAID enclosures vs. the price/terabyte, I purchased three of the Other World Computing (OWC) ThunderBay 4 RAID enclosures. In my research, I found quite a few respectable and very capable RAID enclosures that would work for my needs. CalDigit, G-Technology, and Areca all make fantastic products that will work for storing and backing up images in a robust manner, but it was the OWC ThunderBay 4 that was the most economical, and even more important, allowed for a much more flexible storage solution. The OWC ThunderBay 4 connects with a Thunderbolt 2 connection, which means it is a bit faster than the normal Thunderbolt options and also allows for a 4K monitor to be added to the daisy chain of hard drive enclosures. Going with a Thunderbolt 2 connection also means that the I/O speeds of the second, third, fourth and fifth hard drives connected in a daisy chain setup won’t suffer too much in terms of transfer speeds like they would using the older version of Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt allows up to six devices to be daisy-chained to one port.

The ThunderBay 4 can hold up to four 6 TB hard drives whereas some other Thunderbolt 2 RAID enclosures would only work with 5 TB hard drives. On top of these features, the ThunderBay 4 allows the hard drives to be set up as a JBOD (Just A Bunch of Drives) system or in any type of RAID configuration you could ever need. In fact, you can set up two of the drives as a RAID 1 or JBOD and the other two as a RAID 0 all within the same enclosure. Practically any configuration you can dream up is achievable with the OWC ThunderBay 4. This is possible because the ThunderBay 4 uses SoftRAID software to build and maintain the RAID configuration. In the past, software RAID systems have been less than reliable and a fair bit slower than hardware RAID solutions. SoftRAID has changed all of that so that the ThunderBay 4 is as fast, if not faster, than many hardware RAID enclosures (depending on the drives you put in the enclosure) and is just as reliable, if not more so, than their hardware RAID counterparts.

The SoftRAID software is very easy to use and also comes with some very advanced features, including the ability to monitor all of the hard drives in any and all RAID configurations, a much faster rebuild time than a normal hardware RAID if a hard drive fails and the software also has the ability to predict when a hard drive is about to fail so you can replace it before you get into too much trouble. One of the issues with using a program like SoftRAID is that you have to be careful when updating your computer operating system (like MAC OSX). Luckily, the fine folks at SoftRAID are super attentive to these issues and you can check their website for the latest info on when it is safe to update your OS, and if there are any issues, how to deal with them.

Aside from the stellar RAID configurations and the incredible versatility of the ThunderBay 4, it is also a very well built enclosure with all metal construction—save for the rubberized feet. It also includes an excellent cooling fan that keeps the HDs cool and is very quiet for how effective it is. I have these three enclosures sitting on my desktop just next to my monitor and while they are audible, they are a quiet whisper compared to my older RAID 5 enclosures. And since most hard drives fail due to overheating, I am pretty impressed with how cold these enclosures keep the hard drives. The ThunderBay 4 enclosures also have vibration dampening built into the enclosures, which helps to keep the hard drives safe from vibrations that might affect the needle reading the hard disks inside the hard drives.

In terms of speed, my 12 TB RAID 0 enclosure achieves read/write speeds of around 600 to 750 MB/sec, which is blazing fast for a non-SSD hard drive set up. My 24 TB RAID 5 enclosure clocks in with read/write speeds in the neighborhood of 490 to 580 MB/sec. For comparison, a normal hard disk drive on it’s own has read/write speeds anywhere from 80 to 180 MB/sec depending on the hard drive and the connection. With the blistering read/write speeds of my ThunderBay 4, I can easily work with high bit-rate, 1080p video in real time. These units also make data transfers a very quick and painless process.

As I said earlier in this review, there are many good options out there for storage, what you choose comes down to your needs, what you can afford and the options you need. Hence, this isn’t one of those reviews saying this is better than everything else out there. This is a review discussing how the ThunderBay 4 is more flexible than most other options and just as robust and secure. All of the other options I found on the market for RAID enclosures offered either RAID 0 or RAID 5, and a few offered JBOD as a separate option, but none of them were flexible enough to offer JBOD and RAID in the same enclosure. Besides flexibility, the hardware RAID options were anywhere from 50% to 110% more expensive than the OWC ThunderBay 4. In the end, it was a no-brainer to go for the ThunderBay 4. For more information on the OWC ThunderBay 4 visit the Other World Computing website.

  • Dave - Great article….love your photos and articles, but for someone to write such a detailed piece for amateurs is really outstanding. I thought I had allot of photos and data at 12TB, but 72TB……goodness. Thanks again, and I especially loved the article on the D810, great camera, great job.

digitaltrends_interviewDigitaltrends.com, one of the biggest tech websites on the internet, just posted an interview with yours truly this past weekend. The editors took some liberties with a selacious title and even reworked a few of my quotes to give it some “adventure dude” speak but otherwise this interview has some useful insight. The title of the article is, How to shoot insane action-sports photos (from a guy who has nearly died doing it) — check it out on digitaltrends.com. My thanks to Bill Schiffner for tracking me down and putting this article together and to Digital Trends for featuring me on their website.

nikon_D810_1I realize that there are hundreds of reviews of the Nikon D810 out there already. I am certainly late to the game here, but I was on the fence for a long time as to whether or not it was worth it to upgrade to the Nikon D810 from my venerable D800. If you didn’t see my review of the Nikon D800 in my Spring 2012 Newsletter, I suggest that you give it a read as a primer for this review. Everything I said about the D800 applies to the D810 save for the focusing issues. I also compared the D800 to the Phase One IQ180 in the Winter 2013 Newsletter. Since there are so many excellent reviews of the D810 online, I am not going to go into every feature of the D810 or pixel-peep the image quality and noise characteristics of this incredible camera. In this review, I will present what I have found to be the key features of the D810 that make it worth the price of the upgrade.

One thing to note here is that if you just look at the specs and compare the D800 or D800E to the D810, the D810 doesn’t seem that different. It is only when you shoot with the camera that you will find out the array of new features add up to a significant improvement in terms of operating speed and also in terms of the number of sharp images this camera can dish out when mated with a top-end Nikkor lens.

Suffice it to say, the D810 is an incredible imaging machine. Thanks to B&H Photo & Video, over the last month I have been testing out the D810 and I have come to the realization that Nikon took the D800 and basically solved just about every issue we had with that camera in the D810. Just in case you were wondering, I have already put my order in for a D810 and will be selling my D800 here shortly.

Body and Build Quality

The D810’s ergonomics have been tweaked ever so slightly from the D800. Honestly if you didn’t have the two side by side you probably couldn’t tell the difference. With them side by side, you can tell that the grip on the D810 is a little different and more comfortable in my opinion. The grip fits my large hands better than the one on the D800. It is a bit narrower and deeper than the grip on the D800. As you can see below, the layout of the D810 is nearly identical to the D800 and D800E.



Other, more significant changes to the layout include a new info button, individual doors to the ports on the side of the camera (instead of one big pop-out door on the D800), a new Quiet Continuous mode, and a much sharper LCD on the back of the camera. The new LCD screen sports 1,299K pixels on a 3.2 inch diagonal compared to the 921,000 on the D800. This results in a noticeable difference in sharpness on the LCD. See my note below on the ability to check focus on the D810 LCD.

Similar to the D800 series cameras, the D810 has extensive weatherproofing via gaskets that hold back moisture, dirt and grime. This isn’t really any different than the D800. Both cameras have a solid heft to them and a professional build quality. In the past ten years, I have shot with the Nikon D300, D700, D800 and now the D810 – all of which have similar body styles and a pop up flash – and I have had these bodies unprotected in sideways rain for days on end. They never missed a beat. I am certain the D810 is just as tough as those other camera bodies. Also of note, the D810 is 20 grams lighter than the D800 series cameras.

nikon_D810_3Overall, the build quality and finish of the camera is very similar to previous models, which is to say that it feels comfortable, solid and fits my hands very well.

Image Quality

The image quality produced by the D810 is just as good if not slightly better than the D800E, and noticeably better than the D800. The caveat here is that all three have stellar image quality. The differences in image quality alone are not a reason to upgrade. Honestly, I could not really tell that much of a difference in the image quality from the D800E to the D810. Comparing the D800 to the D810, the D810 has a slight advantage, mostly because of the lack of a Low Pass Filter in the D810. Nikon, and all of us, found that there was very little moire seen by the D800E and followed suit by doing away with the Low Pass Filter (a.k.a. the Anti-Aliasing Filter) in the D810. I have yet to see a single image with moire issues in over 3,000 images shot with the D810.

Jean De Lataillade on a classic 5.10c route at Diablo Canyon near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Considering that I have made insanely stunning 60-inch long prints from the D800, I have no doubt that the D810 image quality is as good as it can get right now – save for the new 50 MP Canon that has yet to ship. It remains to be seen if that camera will dethrone the D810 on DxOMark.com, where the D810 has been at the top of the pyramid since it’s introduction. The fact that the D810 is at the top of the heap should tell all of the pixel peepers out there everything you need to know about the image quality of the D810. It is simply stunning.

Redesigned Mirror and Shutter Mechanisms

One of the major issues I have had with the D800 was a loss of sharpness due to the resounding mirror slap and shutter vibrations inside the camera. This issue forced me to use very high shutter speeds to overcome the vibration from both the mirror and the shutter. When I first starting using the D800, I figured it was because of the extreme resolution of the camera and it was just more sensitive to camera shake than my lower resolution cameras. When the D810 first came out, I tested this theory and found that the camera is certainly still susceptible to camera shake, but the mirror and shutter vibrations were a much larger part of the issue than I had first thought.

With the D800, I basically couldn’t handhold the camera at a shutter speed below 1/500th sec with any of my f/2.8 zooms (14-24, 24-70 and 70-200) and expect consistently sharp results. I could fire off a burst of frames and get the occasionally sharp frame at 1/250th sec or even 1/125th sec but not reliably sharp frames every time. With the D810, I have found that I can consistently get sharper images at 1/250th sec with those same lenses, and even had a solid percentage of images sharp at 1/125th sec. Effectively, this means I have one more stop of room to work with. It also means that I can easily handhold the D810 when syncing with Speedlights or strobes at 1/250th sec.


Click on the image above to see a full resolution version of this screenshot.

One of the other issues with the D800 was that at slower shutter speeds, when I had the camera on a tripod, the mirror slap and shutter vibrations would not allow for sharp images without locking up the mirror and playing some games. This was a huge hassle. The above image shows a comparison of a D800 image alongside a D810 image, both shot on a tripod. The D800 image was shot at 1/80th sec with a 70-200 and the D810 image was shot at 1/20th sec with a 24-70. It is easy to see here that the D800 image is quite soft and the D810 image, shot at one quarter the shutter speed of the D800 image, is tack sharp. This shows the huge improvement offered by the dampened and redesigned shutter and mirror mechanisms quite clearly. To see the full resolution version of this image click on the image or on this link. With the D810, Nikon has effectively solved the issues we had with the shutter vibrations and mirror slap in the D800 and D800E. Of course, if you lock up the mirror and use an external trigger these issues on the D800 could be overcome.

One of the biggest issues with the D800 series cameras is that many folks had serious trouble getting sharp images. The D800 series cameras are brutal when it comes to camera handling, paying attention to details and also using sharp, top-of-the-line lenses. Any lapse in attention to any of these details and the images would be rendered soft or downright muddled. This upgrade of the mirror and shutter mechanisms is in my view the biggest improvement in the D810 alongside the autofocus improvements. If this was all that was updated in the D810, it would be worth the price of the upgrade. The shutter and mirror dampening is so drastic that I notice it every time I shoot with the D810. It has a completely different sound and feel when you press the shutter release. In comparison, my D800 feels like a thundering heard of buffalo when I mash down on the shutter release. Trust, me, I didn’t want to shell out another $3,000 dollars for this camera but after shooting with it for a month, going back to my D800 was going to be a bit rough.

The D800 and D800E were cutting edge. We all knew that going in. The D810 feels like they got it right after experimenting with the D800 and D800E. I have no beef with Nikon on this. I produced some stunning images with the D800. I just feel with these improvements, I will be able to produce even better images with the D810.

Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter

In addition to the new shutter and mirror mechanisms, Nikon went a step farther and included an Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter option in the Custom Settings Menu (CSM > d5 Electronic front-curtain shutter > Enable). This option is only accessible in the Mirror Locked-Up mode (Mup) or in Live View. When the Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter is enabled and you are in Mup mode, the first press of the shutter button lifts up the mirror and opens the shutter so that the camera is ready to start the exposure. The second push of the shutter release fires the camera. After the image is recorded the shutter closes and the mirror drops back down. If you aren’t using a remote trigger with the camera then this method still introduces some amount to vibration because you have to touch the camera.

To overcome this, Nikon has also included an Exposure delay mode (CSM > a4 – Exposure delay mode > 3s), which will delay the exposure for one to three seconds depending your settings. With these two features engaged, you push the shutter button to raise the mirror and the shutter, then push it again and the camera waits 3 seconds to take the photo. This coupling of features allows us to completely eliminate any camera shake or vibrations when shooting long exposure images. Normally, one would use a remote trigger so that you don’t touch the camera and introduce any vibrations but this is a great alternative if you don’t have a remote trigger. It also solves the issues shown above when using slower shutter speeds with the camera on a tripod.

Improved Autofocus Speed and Accuracy

One of the other issues that befuddled users of the D800 and D800E was autofocus accuracy. I had one of the first D800 cameras in the USA way back in March 2012. When I got it, none of the focusing points save for the center point could actually achieve accurate focus on a stationary or moving subject. Such are the issues faced by early adopters of new technology. Luckily within a few months, Nikon had a fix for the issue and I sent mine back in for repairs. When I got it back it was noticeably better but it was never what I would have called crazy accurate. Part of this issue was that at slower shutter speeds there were multiple issues going on, as mentioned above. Aside from focusing issues, there were also mirror and shutter vibration issues and a greater sensitivity to camera shake because of the 36 MP sensor. Add all of those issues together and it was hard to tell if you had an AF issue or some other issue in addition to the AF issues. Once I calibrated the AF using the AF Fine Tuning feature in the Setup Menu, most of my AF issues were taken care of with the D800.

From what I can tell so far, Nikon has addressed a lot of those AF issues with the D810. With the D810, I am getting a far greater number of keepers than I ever did with the D800. I believe this is not only an improvement in the AF, as stated in the marketing materials, but also because of the dampened mirror and shutter mechanisms. The marketing literature says that the AF is 30% faster than in the D800 and D800E. I can’t quantify how much faster it felt but it was noticeably faster. More important, the AF is noticeably more accurate as well and that is more important than the speed. The marketing materials also note that the D810 has the same AF capabilities as the D4s, which is good news for us sports photographers.

Chris Sheehan catching some air out on the Freeride Jump Park in La Tierra just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.The D810 also includes the new Group AF option, which groups five focus point together to aid autofocus. In this mode the five points are equally weighted meaning the center point is considered just as much as the surrounding four focus points. This new AF mode is great for action photography and it seems to lock onto the subject quite a bit faster than previous AF options. It also seems to give a higher percentage of in focus images as long as you keep the 5 points on your subject as in the image above, where I used the Group AF mode to track the mountain biker as he came up to the jump and launched off it. I precomposed the image by placing the five Group AF points on the left side of the frame.

The Group AF mode differs slightly from the 9-point Dynamic AF mode so it is important to understand how they operate and the differences. In the 9-Point Dynamic AF mode, the chosen focus point has priority and the surrounding eight points help achieve focus but are not called upon unless the chosen focus point cannot achieve focus. In the Group AF mode, all five point work together to achieve focus. Dynamic AF is still a good choice if you need to track your subject and the focus point may not stay on them, which is what the “dynamic” part of that naming convention is referring to. Dynamic AF is also a good option if you want to focus on a smaller subject and need more accurate focus on the subject itself.


Also of note, the D810 has the option to engage Face focus in the Live View mode. To engage face focus in Live View, push the AF button under the lens and rotate the front command dial until you see the face appear in the upper part of the LCD. This mode will automatically find any faces in the frame and lock focus on them. When not in Live View mode, using the Group-area AF in AF-S mode the camera will prioritize faces if the five points cover a face. If the five points are not on the face then they will focus on whatever they cover. But if there is a face behind some foreground clutter, like say a tree branch for example, the Group AF will focus on the face instead of the foreground. In both Face focus modes, the camera will attempt to focus on the eye that is closest to the camera.

Faster Framing Rates and Larger Buffer

The D810 ups the ante in terms of framing rates as well. Out of the box, the D810 will shoot at 5 fps in full raw mode or at 6 fps in the DX and the 1.2x crop modes. If you attach the MB-D12 battery grip and use the the EN-EL18 battery then you can get up to 7 fps in the DX crop mode. In the DX crop mode the resulting images are 15.3 MP, which is still quite respectable. The 7 fps framing rate makes the Nikon D810 a legit sports camera in my book. It may not be the machine gun that is the Nikon D4s at 11 fps, but it is almost the same as the 8 fps of the older Nikon D700. When using a telephoto lens, as when shooting surfing or a wide variety of sports, this combo works pretty well and extends your reach.

Not to be forgotten, the D810 also has a massively improved buffer with the new EXPEED 4 chip. For 14-bit Lossless Compressed NEF files you can shoot 28 images before the buffer locks up, which is almost double that of the D800 at 17 images before the buffer locked up. If you are shooting in DX crop mode then you can shoot 97 images with the D810 before the buffer locks up compared to only 29 with the D800. That is a huge difference! That means the D810 is not far off from the buffer in the Nikon D4s. The faster framing rate and the new extended buffer make this a much more versatile camera than the D800 ever was. For more on the buffer size check out the chart on PhotographyLife.com’s website here.

An LCD that shows 100% Pixel-for-Pixel Images

Ok, this new feature is huge for me. The LCD on the back of the D810 has a setting where you can zoom to 100% and see a pixel-for-pixel display of the image. This is the first camera I have seen where you can actually tell on the back of the camera if the image is tack sharp or not. This feature alone is worth the price of the upgrade. The D800 had dubious zoom settings and I could never tell if the image was actually sharp or not.

I have never seen any camera where this was possible. I am not sure why it took so long for this to come along but now that we have it there is no going back. To set up this feature in the Playback mode go to the Menu > Custom Settings Menu > f2 – Multi selector center button > Playback mode > Zoom on/off > 1:1 (100%). Once you have this set, when you are playing back images on the LCD simply push the center of the multi selector button and your image will instantly zoom to 100% wherever the focus point was placed.

Battery Life

The new battery in the D810 now allows for up to 1200 images per charge, which is a 33% increase in battery life over the Nikon D800 that got only 900 images per charge. That is a pretty substantial increase in battery life and is very welcome for the long expeditions I find myself on where taking extra batteries to get me through a few weeks of shooting is the norm.

Better Video Quality and 1080p Capture at 60 fps

From what I have seen Nikon has made quite a few improvements to the video capture modes in the D810. Not only does the D810 now allow for capturing slow motion at 60 fps in full 1080p, but we also have zebra stripes added to the Live View video mode showing us areas that might be blown out in the highlights. There is also a new “Flat” Picture control that lowers the contrast recorded allowing for greater dynamic range during video capture. Lastly, you can now record to a memory card and to an external video recorder simultaneously. Overall, the video seems sharper than that produced by my D800. While these aren’t huge changes in the video features they are an upgrade.


All of the above features, when added up result in a significantly better camera than the D800 and D800E. For someone like myself, who specializes in adventure sports, my main camera is the Nikon D4. But now, with the new features of the D810, I can also use the D810 for action photography as well as lifestyle and portraits because it is much more versatile than my D800. These new features make the D810 a worthwhile upgrade for my work. Whether or not these features make the D810 a worthwhile upgrade for you is a matter of what you shoot and of course, whether you want to buy or trade out your existing camera.

Aren Rane surfing at Sleeping Beauty on the Racecourse on the Rio Grande river near Taos, New Mexico.

With the Nikon D800, I use to say that it was a future proof camera. I think that same statement is even more true of the Nikon D810. There are rumors of 50+ MP cameras from Sony flying around these days and I am sure at some point Nikon will match or exceed the 50 MP Canon 5DS. But the question all of us need to consider is if we really even need a camera with that much resolution. I don’t plan on printing images much larger than 60-inches on the long side and even those are giant prints. The D810 (and the D800 series cameras) produce phenomenal prints at that size. It will be very interesting to see the reaction and real world images from the Canon 5DS and 5DSr. Basically, unless the camera manufacturers improve the noise characteristics at high ISOs there will be very little reason to upgrade from the D810 for many consumers. Of course, when the D800 and D800E were announced, my first reaction was, “Why would I ever need that many megapixels?” As it turned out, when you see images with the quality of the D800 and D810, all reason flies out the window and you wonder how you ever got along without that resolution.

In short, as I said at the outset of this review, the D810 is a significant upgrade to the D800 and D800E. There were several new features that solved existing issues with my D800 and the bump in video options, autofocus performance and the new shutter and mirror mechanisms were enough to get me to upgrade. The Nikon D810 is highly recommended if you need this kind of resolution and have the lenses to support it.

What could be improved or added?

The D810 is a great upgrade to the D800 and D800E, but I thought I would shoot for the moon here and dream a bit about what a D820 (or whatever the next iteration of this camera will be named) might look like. What follows are a few features that could make the next iteration of these cameras appeal to all of us:

4K Video: I am pretty sure we’ll see 4K video recording in the next round of top-end Nikon DSLRs. If we don’t there are going to be a lot of disappointed people out there. Adding 4K video to the D810 or the D4s would make for a very compelling feature set for all who want top-end video without having to own a separate video camera.

Even faster framing rates at 36 MP: I would love to get a camera that can shoot at 8 fps with the same 36 MP sensor in the D810. If the 50 MP Canon 5Ds can shoot at 5 fps at full resolution, I bet the technology is already available to allow the next version of the D810 to shoot at 8 fps using a 36 MP sensor.

Focus Peaking: With the D810, Nikon added Zebra Stripes to the video features. It would be great to go that extra mile and get Focus Peaking in the Live View mode as well.

A moveable LCD screen: I realize by allowing the LCD screen to pop out away from the camera body there are some durability issues that come into play but having used these type screens on other Nikon cameras it would be great to see this added to the D810 and would be a huge boon for videographers.

Built-in WiFi: It is about time all DSLRs had built-in WiFi. I wouldn’t use this feature that often but it could come in handy for lots of situations like wirelessly tethering to a laptop.

Built in Stabilization on the sensor: Not all Nikkor lenses have Vibration Reduction (VR) technology. It would be nice to see Nikon add in-camera image stabilization to their cameras as that will help overcome the camera shake issues even further, especially if they choose to increase the resolution of this camera.

A smaller form-factor mirrorless version of the D810: I’d really love to see Nikon come out with a full-frame mirrorless version of the D810 along with smaller f/4 lenses to go along with it. It seems pretty obvious to me that mirrorless cameras are the future of photography and I am sure Nikon and Canon are working on these style cameras right now. For some of my expedition work where I am lugging everything on my back, a smaller, lighter camera is what I have been dreaming about since the dawn of digital photography.

  • Tony Bonanno - Better late than never Michael :-). Love my 810’s. Best of the breed so far.

    Thanks for the well written review. Mine have been working under less than ideal conditions this month in both Peru and France. Neither body has missed a beat !



  • Dan Reynolds Photography - Thanks Michael. That’s a great review and very helpful. I’m definitely going to upgrade to the D810 now. You’re advice is well taken. Can’t wait to get it going. Dan