So, after spending some time with my Nikon D810 I must say I'm positively surprised by the upgrade. Coming from D800/D800E I had my doubts about wether the upgrade would be worth it. But hey, it's not all good, and not a revolution.
In general it's always a bad idea to jump straight onto the train when new gear pops up, and this time hasn't been without issues either. With the D800 we had the left focusing issue and this time the absolutely dreadful Capture NX-D software put a damper on the upgrade. I'm not a fan of Lightroom so I had to turn my eyes towards Capture One Pro. This however requires converting my NEFs to DNG, kinda sucks too. There have been moments when I regretted selling the D800E but hopefully those feelings will dissipate with time.
Nikon D810 image quality
As for the quality of the files it's very hard to tell any real difference between the E and the 810 in real life photography. I mostly use the otherworldly Zeiss 135/2 APO lens mounted on the camera, the only lens sharp enough to match the sensor. Even the Otus and Sigma 50 ART falls behind in comparison, far behind even. In combination with epic glass like that the D810 delivers some seriously stunning raw files. But so does the D800E. Image quality alone is not worth the jump. At least not from the D800E. From the D800 it's a different story and there you will see a clear step up in sharpness and clarity.
For me the new base ISO of 64 is superb in the studio. It lets me use large apertures without sharpness-robbing ND-filters. And if you are silly like me and run around shooting at photos or video f/1.4 or f/1.2 in broad daylight, that low iso is truly worth the whole upgrade. Gotta love that.
The welcome addition of small, 9mp raw files is greeted with joy. Your harddrive no longer takes a solid hit from your casual shooting. Thank you Nikon. But a shame it can't be implemented via firmware upgrades on the D800/E as well.
The new grip feels much better in a way I can't really describe. It's just better. And I must also put the new, much quieter, shutter in the ergonomics drawer as well. With the camera so close to your face and head, the new soft skaflonk sound is better on your ears compared to the harsh SLAMKLONK of the D800/E. The whole system feels a lot more responsive in general and even when browsing photos from a slow SD-card, the camera just throws the shots up there.
Nikon put tiny little bumps on the AF-selector button so your fingertip find it much faster. A minor but very useful feature. The AF itself feels fresh and a lot more confident than on the D800/E. I rarely use AF and haven't tested it with any AF-S lenses, so I can't be more specific on that.
I have rather modest requirement regarding video so I'm quite satisfied with the addition of 60fps 1080p. No more, no less. If I want raw video, 4K or some other fancy stuff I turn to Black Magic or Panasonic GH4. Or simply rent myself a Red Epic for a project. What the D810 offers now is perfect for music videos, short films and what ever you want to create. The new flat picture control setting gives you alot of headroom for grading and post work. The files look very clean. It's just like regular photography really. Expose your footage correctly and you have great material to work with. More than good enough to satisfy the youtube generation who's looking at your work on a tiny phone screen or retina pad anyway. Hell, I've made vidoes for world renowned artists with the dusty old D800 internally recorded files so, I'm fine with the D810.
Shooting a moving ghost in the studio. The files look really smooth a clean. Click below for a sample frame. Shot with (my very harsh and contrasty) custom monochrome picture control. View sample in full resolution.
I will post better video references in the D810 video review.
Don't buy the D810, unless..
So what's my problem? Well it all comes down to your workflow. I was tightly tied in with a Capture NX2 workflow. This upgrade shatters my whole approach. So my advice is to you is to take a good round of thinking about the upgrade and what it means to your workflow. If you're familiar with, or currently use, LR or C1 then go ahead, you'll love the Nikon D810. If you're on NX2, be prepared to learn some new software. I can't stress this enough - the NX-D software is the worst crap I have ever had the agony to use. Nikon needs to address this NOW.
Lovers of fat apertures will, just like me, love the low base ISO. That, the option to shoot small raw files and the 60fps 1080p video mode was mainly why I upgraded. And so far, I love it. The fast AF, the grip and the system speed is just bonus extras you don't really need. Not me anyway. What I do need is to learn C1 properly.