Choosing Nikon D810 or Nikon D810a for astrophotography

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Nikon has made an interesting move with the introduction of the Nikon D810a. The camera is optimized specifically for astrophotography. So the question is what are the differences between the D810a and D810? Which one is the best for astrophotography. Read on to find out more.

The Nikon D810a specialised image sensor is four times more sensitive to H-alpha red tones than an ordinary DSLR, so it has the ability to record the brilliant red tones of H-alpha emission nebulae with great detail and sharpness, wide dynamic range and rich tonality. (Check out image sample of the D810a here). The D810a features an electronic front curtain shutter to eliminate internal vibrations—key for sharp long exposure images. Other new features including Virtual Exposure Preview helps you frame and focus when in BULB or Time Mode, and the Long Exposure M Mode enables exposures up to 900 seconds (15 minutes). The camera allows you to shoot an unlimited number of images with a shutter speed slower than four seconds to produce beautiful light trails. It is also capable of taking up to 9,999 photos with the built in interval timer to create a time-lapse sequences in-camera or via external software.

[REWIND – Nikon D810a for astrophotography announced]

Order your D810a here and D810 here.

While the Nikon D810a is a great camera for astrophotography it may experience white balance issues under fluorescent lighting due to the increased IR transmission characteristics, so it is not suitable for general photography.

Personally my thought on the D810a is that  it is only worth while if you are serious about photographing celestial objects like emission nebulae. For the typical star trails or long exposure night sky photography, you are better off sticking with the standard D810. Photographers have been using standard DSLRs for night sky photography for years and  they are more than capable of producing stunning images.

Here is a beautiful night sky taken at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand on a perfect night using the Nikon D4. Lake Tekapo is considered the world’ largest International Dark Sky Reserve. This stunning Lake Tekapo night sky is available to purchase on canvas, contact me for more details.

Check out the differences between the Nikon D810a and D810 to see which one is for you.

  Nikon D810a Nikon D810
Sensor 36.3MP FX-format CMOS sensor without an Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) 36.3MP FX-format CMOS sensor without an Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF)
IR Cut Filter The D810A employs an optical IR cut filter with specific transmission characteristics (characteristics in the 656nm range), enabling the capture of nebulae and distant galaxies that emit H-alpha wavelength in red, which can be difficult to capture with an ordinary digital SLR camera. Optimized for General Photography applications
ISO Sensitivity Range 200 to 12,800 Lo1 (ISO 32) to Hi2 (ISO 51,200) Optimized for General Photography applications
White Balance Although white balance has been designed and adjusted to retain the same performance as that of the D810, color reproduction might be different for an image taken under fluorescent light or difficult scenes due to the increased IR transmission characteristics of the D810A. The resulting image may be much more reddish than the actual color. Because an appropriate color reproduction cannot be obtained, D810A is not recommended for general photography Optimized for General Photography applications
P, S, A, M, M* Long Exposure Manual Mode Added Available shutter speeds in new M* mode: (exposure time): 4, 5, 8, 10, 15, 20, 30, 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, 600, 900 seconds (15 minutes), Bulb, Time Standard P, S, A, M Modes to 30 seconds
Virtual Live View Exposure Preview A virtual preview will be displayed for more accurate focusing and composition for exposure longer than 30 seconds Live View standard operation, preview will appear dark on exposure longer than 30 seconds

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About Kent Yu

Kent is a professional wedding and portrait photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand. He and his team specialise in modern and contemporary weddings. Kent has his work published in international magazines and is a regular author to a number of photographic publication. He is fascinated by photographic equipment and enjoys showcasing the gear used in creating his images. You can find him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
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