Nikon D810 Tips and Tricks – Part 2

Here is the second part of my Nikon D810 Tips and Tricks article. You can find the first part here:


6. Extend Your Telephoto Reach with the DX, 1.2x, and 5:4 Image Area “Crop” Modes: The Image Area menu item of the D810 can be used to capture images of smaller dimensions and different image area ratios, such as having your full-frame FX format sensor act as an APS-C sized DX format sensor. You can choose full-frame FX (36×24), 1.2x (30×20), DX (1.5x, 24×16) or 5:4 (30×24). You can see which portion of the sensor each setting will use in the image below, and the Viewfinder of the D810 will also display the crop lines to show you the active area. By enabling the 1.2x, DX, or 5:4 image areas, it will change the aspect ratio (very slightly for 1.2x and DX) and angle of view (somewhat with 1.2x or 5:4, dramatically with DX) of your resulting images. The camera is basically cropping your photos from full-frame images to smaller sized images, so note that rather than capturing 36.3 MP full-frame FX images, you will be capturing 15.4 MP images with DX crop, and 25.1 MP images with 1.2x crop.

Nikon D810 image area viewfinder virtual crop zoom telephoto FX DX 1.2x 5:4
D810 Image Areas – Simulated view of the D810 Viewfinder, showing the full size FX image area, the location of all AF Points, the Grid, and superimposed sizes of the Image Area options. Note that the DX area approximately aligns with the Grid. The cropped Image Areas will, in effect, allow you to “virtually” extend the reach of your lens and get closer to the action, but you will not be using the full 36.3 MP resolution of your camera, so it is basically like cropping your full-frame images in Photoshop.

The first advantage of DX and 1.2x crop is that they will allow you to “get closer” to the action by virtually extending the reach of your lenses. This can be particularly helpful when using a telephoto lens to capture sports, wildlife, or bird images where the subject is at a significant distance from you. DX image area will allow, for example, your 200mm focal length lens to act as a 300mm focal length. (Since the DX frame provides a 1.5x crop factor in relation to a full-frame FX sized sensor)

The second advantage is that with the DX crop, the area of the autofocus points as seen in the Viewfinder reaches much closer to the sides of the effective frame. This will allow you to track and capture a moving subject throughout almost the entire width of the active frame (when using continuous AF-C Focus Mode), or enable you to focus on and capture a still subject most anywhere in the frame without having to lock focus and reframe (when using single-shot AF-S Focus Mode).

A third advantage of working in the DX and 1.2x crop modes is that the Continuous High shooting speed goes from 5 fps to 6 fps, allowing you to capture slightly more images in a quick burst.

Nikon D810 tips tricks how to use learn book manual guide recommend setting setup autofocus af meter metering focus
Nikon D810 – 1957 Chevrolet Corvette – 2014 Annual Antique Auto Show – Codman Estate, Lincoln, Mass. 

As mentioned above, the disadvantage of the smaller Image Area crops is that you will be using a smaller area of your sensor, and thus capturing images with reduced resolution and not the full 36.3 MP. The end result will be as if you cropped the image in post-processing. However, 15 MP and 25 MP are still very high resolutions, and for some shooting situations and image needs this may be more than sufficient.

You can set the Depth-of-Field Preview Button, Fn Button, or AE-L/AF-L Button to quickly change the Image Area. If any of these buttons are assigned this function, you can press the button and turn the Main Command Dial to change the Image Area while viewing the setting on the top Control Panel, in the Viewfinder, or on the rear Information Display.

7. Take Advantage of New Features for Videographers: While the predecessors to the D810, the D800/800E, are great cameras for HD video, this new model adds even more helpful features. The D810 can record full HD 1080 video at 60p/30p/24p, including simultaneous recording to a memory card and an external recorder, and outputting 60p video to an external recorder under certain conditions. The D810 has also added “zebra stripes” which enable you to preview potentially overexposed areas of the scene, and a Flat Picture Control which is a setting preferred by videographers because it helps to preserve details in the shadow and highlight areas of a scene, and allows one to capture videos (or images) with the widest tonal range. This can help to provide the greatest amount of flexibility for making adjustments in post-processing. Not to mention that, for both video and still photography, there is a new Clarity adjustment for Picture Controls, a broader Brightness range, and increased control over the Picture Control adjustments with more precise 0.25 EV increments.

Nikon D810 video HD movie zebra stripes highlight overexpose overexposure live view film
D810 and Zebra Stripes – The Highlight Display feature will show zebra stripes, to indicate potentially overexposed areas of the scene.

The D810 now also allows you to set the frequency range for audio recording, either Wide to capture all sounds, or Voice to capture a more limited range and thus reduce unwanted sounds. And the Power Aperture setting found on the D800/D800E can now be used not only when recording video to an external recorder, but also when recording to a memory card. Power Aperture is a feature that allows you to more smoothly and continuously change the aperture opening while recording a video, rather than change it step-by-step where you might see the depth of field change as you jump from f/4 to f/ 4.5 to f/5 to f/5.6 for example. This feature, available in A or M shooting mode, actually changes the aperture in 1/8 EV steps, rather than the 1/3 EV steps you can choose with the command dial, so it gives the appearance of a smooth transition. Power Aperture can thus allow dramatic visual changes in the depth of field of a scene, or allow you to smoothly adjust the exposure settings to accommodate changing lighting levels.

8. Set up your Dual SD / CF Memory Card Slots: The two memory card slots of the D810 – the SD slot and the CF slot – can function in a couple different ways, including using one for saving RAW files and the other for JPEG files, saving all your images to both cards simultaneously, using the second card as overflow when the first one fills up, or saving still images to one and movies to the other. You can set this up in the Shooting Menu under Primary Slot Selection to choose which is the primary card, and Secondary Slot Function to determine the role played by the second slot. To set how the cards function for saving videos, use the Shooting Menu > Movie Settings > Destination.

Nikon D810 sd cf memory card body use tips tricks how to learn manual guide book


Detail of the Nikon D810, showing the SD and CF card slots.

9. Customize the Exposure Compensation Controls: Exposure Compensation can be used to adjust the camera’s exposure settings in order to achieve the final exposure that you desire. Explore the various options of Custom Setting b4: Easy Exposure Compensation to customize exactly how the exposure compensation (EC) controls works. You can set it so that you press the Exposure Compensation Button first before turning a dial to change EC, or have it set so that you can just turn a dial to quickly and directly change EC. You can even select which dial you use with Custom Setting f9: Customize Control Dials. And you can set it so that the EC amount that you dialed in stays set for the subsequent shots, or that it is automatically reset to zero, depending on which controls you choose to use to set EC. This last option is the most sophisticated and most flexible, and may be the best one to learn and take advantage of. Using this option, On (Auto reset), you can choose to turn a dial to directly adjust EC, but your EC setting will be reset when the camera or exposure meter turns off. This is because you can still continue to use the Exposure Compensation Button with a Command Dial to set EC, but by setting it this way, EC will not be reset when the camera or meter turns off. Exposure Compensation will only be automatically reset if you set it directly using the dial without the button. So if you wish to use EC for just one shot, you can adjust EC with just the dial. But if you wish to take a series of shots with the same adjusted EC, you can use the button/ dial combination to set it more “permanently.” Pretty powerful stuff! This is why you got the D810, right? So that you can take advantage of these sophisticated controls!

Nikon D810 menu custom setting how to quick start tips tricks
Making use of Easy Exposure Compensation to configure how the controls can be used to change exposure compensation

10. Matrix Metering Face Detect, and Fine-Tune the Exposure Metering Modes: Using Custom Setting b5, you can enable a face detection feature of Matrix Metering. This means that the exposure metering system will take faces into account when determining the exposure settings, to ensure that portrait subjects are better exposed. This can be an extremely useful setting to use when taking images of people where they may be moving to different lighting, or moving in and out of the shade – especially in a fast moving session where you don’t have time to inspect all your images and adjust the settings. For example, if you are taking wedding portraits in lighting that varies.

While the Matrix Metering Mode will do an excellent job of determining the proper exposure for your images the majority of the time, there are some situations where you may wish to use the other exposure modes – Center-Weighted Metering, Spot Metering, and Highlight Weighted Metering. This includes dramatically backlit situations, subjects with a dramatically dark background, scenes that contain a wide range of highlights and shadow areas, or other dramatic lighting situations.

If you find that you are consistently not quite happy with how the camera’s meter is determining the exposure settings when making use of any of these modes, you can make fine-tune adjustments to the metering system using Custom Setting b7: Fine-tune optimal exposure. This is not an exposure compensation adjustment, but rather a “behind the scenes” fine-tuning of how the camera’s meter will determine the exposure settings, independently for each of the different Exposure Metering Modes (Matrix, Center-Weighted Average, Spot, Highlight Weighted). If you find that your images are always typically being slightly underexposed or overexposed when using a specific metering mode, adjust this accordingly so that you don’t have to use exposure compensation every time you use that metering mode. For example, you may find that Center-Weighted Metering delivers great exposures, but you would prefer that the images taken with Spot Metering were 1/3 EV (1/3 step) underexposed all the time. If that is the case, you would adjust Spot metering to -2/6 using this menu. If you make use of this fine-tune adjustment, you can still use exposure compensation in any situation in addition to this fine-tune adjustment.

Nikon D810 menu custom setting meter metering face detect tips tricks
Left: Custom Setting b5: Matrix Metering face detection for exposure. Right – Custom Setting b7: Fine-Tune Optimal Exposure, used to adjust the exposures of each metering mode to your preference, “behind the scenes,” so that exposure compensation is not needed each time you use that metering mode.


I have previously written articles with tips and tricks for the Nikon D7100, and most all of those items will also apply to the D810. Some of the tips overlap, but many of them are different that the ones explained here. You can read the D7100 Tips and Tricks part 1 and 2 here:


Remember, I also explain these features and functions in even more detail, as well as explain all the other aspects of the D810 in my e-book guide Nikon D810 Experience, available on my Full Stop website. The guide not only explains the features, functions, and controls of the camera, but more importantly explains when and why you will want to use them in your photography. Take control of your D810 and the images you create! Click the cover below to learn more, preview, and purchase the guide.

Nikon D810 Experience book manual guide how to learn use tutorial tips tricks setup quick start

And, in conjunction with the book, I have created a detailed and comprehensive Nikon D810 Setup Guide spreadsheet, which has recommended Menu settings, Custom Settings, and exposure settings for various shooting situations such as Landscape, Performance, Sports, and Travel, in order to help you set up your camera. You can learn about and download this free “cheat sheet” spreadsheet here:

Still looking to purchase your Nikon D810 or some lenses or accessories for it? Please consider using my affiliate links for Amazon or for B and H, found at the left side of this page – thanks! And please feel free to spread the word if this blog has been helpful.

14 thoughts on “Nikon D810 Tips and Tricks – Part 2”

  1. Doug — In a few minutes, I’m going to purchase the Kindle version of your Nikon D810 book but I already have a question based on comments you make about the D810’s “crop modes” on your web site. Do the crop modes degrade in any way the resolution of the “recorded” portion of the file? You say that resolution is reduced but also say that the cropped version is the same as if one had shot in full DX and cropped in post. Put simply, is the rectangle or square of image captured using a D810 crop mode such as DX exactly the same, pixel-wise, as the same area if cropped in post from a full FX exposure?

    1. Hello, That is a good question – when using the other Image Area modes (“Crop Modes”) of the D810, the camera simply uses a smaller portion of the sensor to capture the image, just as you see with the crop lines in the Viewfinder or in a diagram. So the image has a smaller dimension. But the image quality is not affected in any other way, the actual pixels used to capture the image are not affected in any way – it really is just as if you took an FX image and then cropped it yourself to the DX dimensions.

      The only things that would affect the image quality would be if you changed the image file format (RAW/TIFF/JPEG), or the image quality (JPEG Fine/Normal/Basic), the JPEG or RAW Compression, RAW Bit Depth, or the JPEG/TIFF Image Size (Large, Medium, Small). But if all of these settings remain the same and you switch from FX to DX (or another Image Area), nothing is changed with the pixels other than “chopping” off those on the edges.

      1. Doug – an interesting question regarding DX crop and DX-based camera sensors (e.g. D7000 / D7100) using an FX lens.

        DX Crop, which denotes a 1.5x factor, but as you say uses less of the FX sensor, hence that’s why we see the inner box when in that mode (and a similar less than FX-sized box(es) to denote other “simulated” crop factors) etc.

        The question I would have, just for validation is, that FX lenses used on a DX camera actually do a true 1.5x magnification (e.g. a 100mm translates to 150x) is this accurate? It’s been my experience with FX lenses on DX equipment but it has come into question by some in previous discussions.

        and if the answer is yes, I ask 2 more questions regarding “the 1.5x magnification”

        1. it’s obvious that the finer the lens you own the better image quality you get (theoretically), yes? But does the magnification affect quality, or is it just straight up magnification. I suppose that could be a tough answer in the sense that “each” lens reacts differently – but what’s your take?

        2. If us D810 / D800 / Any other FX camera owners wish to get a true 1.5x “real” magnification from our FX lenses, is there a DX camera in the Nikon lineup you’d recommend that would come close to the quality of our FX sensors – or, what is the best DX camera period in the Nikon lineup.

        That’s a loaded question in a way I suppose. I mean, if I owned a 200mm f4, that ran 5k dollars, I suppose picking a $1000 DX camera would be less expensive than say purchasing a 300mm f4, yes?

        But, if I want to maintain all around quality to get the full benefit of the FX sensor (no matter what FX model) and had the money, it’d just be better to buy the larger lens, yes? what’s your take…

        1. Hello, that is an interesting and difficult question, due to terminology and the lack of visual diagrams! The reason that an FX lens on a DX camera is said to have a 1.5x “magnification” is because…well, it isn’t actually a “magnification” but rather a 1.5x crop. The lens doesn’t magnify any different on an FX camera vs a DX camera. The FX lens merely lets in a larger circle of light, which covers the entire FX sensor. But on a DX camera, all of the outer parts of that large circle of light fall outside the area of the smaller DX sensor. The DX sensor only captures a smaller part of the scene, so when you take the resulting image, it is as if the image has been cropped from a larger potential FX image. And the crop makes it appear as if you have zoomed-in on the scene. This diagram and article may better explain it:

          So it is a “virtual” zoom, a “virtual” magnification that appears to happen. Really it is just a cropping.

          I will have to come back to try to answer your additional questions, when I have a moment. In the mean time, perhaps put these questions on a forum such as DPReview in order to get a detailed and spirited conversation!

  2. Doug,

    Your ebook is well done and I find it very helpful even with my experience with the D70, D200, D300, and the D3s. Thanks for getting something on the market so quickly. I really like the 810….Starting to use it more than my D3s.

    Would be nice to have in print…. I am not too fond of ebooks except for light fiction


    1. Hello, I’m glad you are finding the guide to be helpful! Let me know if you have any questions.

      Currently I only offer e-books of all my guides, but in the near future I hope to begin offering printed versions as well (for future guides).

  3. I found your articles about the D-810 very informative. ALSO I DID NOT KNOW THAT YOU PUBLISHED A E-BOOKON THIS CAMERA. I WILL TAKE A LOOK AND SEE how it looks. I am interested in information about the Highlight-Weighted metering. Does it work as well in any of the metering situations? I usually use Manual Mode but just wanted to check what you have found out when using the Highlighted metering.
    Thank you
    David Arkin

    1. Hello, yes, I how you will find my D810 guide helpful! The Highlight-Weighted Metering is designed for very specific situations, namely theater, stage, concert situations where a subject is well lit, perhaps by a spotlight, and when the background is typically dark. It will use the highlights in the scene to determine the exposure, to ensure that they are not overexposed – so that means the rest of the scene may be slightly underexposed. But it prevents, for example, a critical face from being overexposed.

      However, if you capture some stage lights above the subject in the scene as well, the camera will try to properly expose those since they are the highlights, and that will throw off the whole exposure, so you need to avoid that. Users have found that it indeed works very well in those types of situations. Other uses for it may be at a wedding reception for the dance floor pictures, where the subjects may be well lit, surrounded by a dark setting and background.

      1. Thanks. Funny, I am from San Diego but visiting friends in Milton. What I specifically wanted to know is when in those situations that Highlighted-Weighted is useful does it do besting Spot Metering or Aperature?


        1. Matrix will often do a fine job in similar situations, and I think it comes down to trying out both and seeing which one you prefer.

          Nikon’s thinking in developing Highlight-Weighted seems to be that in those types of concert / dance situations with bright highlights and dark backgrounds, one might typically wish to use Spot, however when the subject is moving around, the use of Spot is very challenging. Thus they offer Highlight-Weighted. If the subject in that type of scene was more stationary, and you prefer using Spot, then there is no reason not to continue using Spot.

  4. Hi Doug
    Fine explanation on some of the subject – but, e.g. with the description of the DX and 1.2X it would have been nice with a shortcut to where in the D810 this is actually set up :-)

    1. I’m glad you are finding it helpful! Thanks for pointing that out about the crop modes. I believe that information is found in the text under the explanation for the Image Area menu item, which is where the setting is changed. And I typically try to slip that sort of info into the text, such as “you will find that in the Image Area item of the Shooting Menu,” so next time I will make sure it is clear!

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