Rumors: new special Nikon D810 version designed for deep-sky astrophotography with increased hydrogen-alpha sensitivity

Here is a rumor that just came in: next week (probably on February 2nd or 3rd), Nikon will announce an all new, special version of D810 DSLR camera designed for deep-sky astrophotography with increased hydrogen-alpha sensitivity.

Given the short notice, I do not have enough time to get any confirmation from other sources. Because of that, I will give this rumor a probability rating of "only" 60%.

Back in 2012 Canon did something similar with the EOS 60Da model.

Nikon has several articles on astrophotography on their website.

If you want to learn more about astrophotography, check also those guest posts.

Update: I am now confident that this camera will be released, read this post for more details.

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  • Benno Hessler


  • I wonder why adapting a FF body instead of a maybe more convenient higher pixel density 24mp crop body? Is astro photography reeally in need of the FF format?

    • HF

      Oftentimes people recommend:
      shutter speed = 600 / focal length (for full frame sensors or)
      shutter speed = 400 / focal length (for crop sensors)
      ISO = 6000 * f-stop^2 / shutter speed

      So you see whether you get to an ISO value acceptable on a crop camera.

      • Nacho

        for avoide star trails use pentax k-5/k-3 + gps

      • Beso

        These typical 400/500/600 rules don’t apply to a D800 or D810. You can see movement at 15 seconds on the 36 megapixel sensor. About 20 to 25 seconds is the maximum acceptable limit using a 15mm lens on a D800 or D810. Even then a 100% crop will show movement.

        • Jed

          guys, do not forget that the most astrophotographers use some tracking equipment to avoid trails. so, FF is definitely the best choice when it comes to capturing dark

        • Cristian

          Right. The maximum exposure time depends on three aprameters: the focal length used, the declination angle and the dimension of photosite (the pixel) of the sensor. Given the first two variabiles, if you don’t want trails, smaller is the pixel, shorter will be the exposure time.

          • Marcelo Tezza


    • Kynikos

      To get really, really wide, I think so.

    • Mikey

      FF is SOOO much better than crop for astro, especially when not stacking, the noise control is just much better on FF.

    • Fango

      Anyone who is even somewhat serious about astrophotography will be using a star tracker mount to eliminate star trails.

      • Jed

        exactly! good point.

      • Wouldn’t that work only if you have no foreground in image?

        • Fango

          Well, astrophotography is more than just shots of the milkyway so the won’t have foreground. But in that case, you are using wide angle and 20-25sec exposure, which will show very little trailing. Or you could have it on a tracker expose milkyway for 30 secs or so, stop tracker and shoot another exposure for the foreground. Then combine the two in a composite.

          • Mikey

            Much easier to just shoot the one exposure and edit that, you don’t need a tracker to get a good Milky Way shot.

    • Matthias Brandstetter

      The term “deep sky photography” already implies using a tracking mount. FF is better than APS-C for light gathering reasons. Additionally big photosites are better than smaller photosites for charge capacity reasons(on small photosite you hit the saturation barrier earlier which is important for star shapes).

  • djm

    Oh my god, it’s full of stars!

    • neogene

      Naaa, simply noise for high iso 😀

      • Jeff Hunter

        Movie reference, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    • fjfjjj


  • Kynikos

    How would this work as a daytime camera… how different would it be from a ‘regular’ D810 in terms of colours, ISO, etc.?

    • Kyle

      Good question. I’d like to know that too. Because, if it’s just as good in regular every day situations, with the added bonus of being able to shoot the stars at night, I’d buy one for sure.

    • Extended red sensitivity, essentially. Brighter reds? H-alpha is around 6540 angstroms. Peak sunlight is around 5000. I wonder if that would make the camera practical with some of the H-alpha filters that are available?

    • JohnM

      I have an H-alpha converted D5000 (from LifePixel). If you try to shoot with it straight using auto-WB or the presets, your images have a red tint to them. If you use the custom white balance option you can almost always get proper color balance. The one definite exception is in very low light such as dim tungsten/warm white LED lighting (around the 2500 to 2700K point). There’s just too much red for the camera to deal with and it can’t find white. There are other extreme situations where it can’t find white either, but they are more rare.

      This hypothetical D810E might be programmed to deal with these reds in such conditions, though. After all, it’s more or less a software limitation.

      • JohnM

        Also, the red channel will tend to blow out before the others giving you a cyan cast to highlights if you aren’t careful. When shooting normally it’s good to underexpose by a 1/3 or 1/2 stop if you have bright spots in the frame.

      • Steve C

        What about regular daytime AF? I Have a modded Canon 1000d, but it doesn’t find correct focus with AF. No matter to me though because I use it for night stuff only.

  • HF

    If this mean D810 with D4s 16MP sensor, I would like that.

    • Michael Devaney

      why? why not just get a d4s then?

      • HF

        3000 Euros difference. Option using extra grip if needed.

    • get a Df instead.

      • HF

        Would like to have the D750 AF system and fps at least. I like the D810 body and layout.

  • Guest

    I hope it’s true because Canon has already released two astro models, the 20Da and the more recent 60Da. Why should Nikon not do one. I’ll buy it!!

  • Beso

    I do some dark sky/astrophotogrphy and Nikon needs to do more to eliminate high ISO/long exposure noise if this is to become a reality. The D810 is slightly better than the D800 in terms of noise management but nothing close to the D4s. The sheer volume of megapixels means noise is going to be much more visible in the D810 over a D4s and requires better sensor or processing engine performance.

    • The D750 ironically is one of the best sensors Nikon has made for long exposure noise at 4+ minute exposures. Even better than the Df in my opinion.

  • halfwitrumors


  • AMA

    If it’s true, I’m looking forward to see what astrophotographers can do with this thing.

  • just to mention again: I not sure about this rumor, it came from a good source, but the timing and the fact that I have not heard anything about this camera before makes me a little skeptical

    • Wei-Hao Wang

      I heard a similar rumor a day earlier than this NR post. The source is someone close to the Nikon dealer in my country. After the source saw your post, he felt relieved because it was quite painful that he couldn’t tell this exciting news to anyone.

    • Brother Grimm

      The D9300 fable was from a “good source” too as I recall.

      • true

        D9300 is coming eventually, just you wait..

  • Jamie Smith

    What kind of computer horsepower would you need to handle stacking & aligning a bunch of 36mp frames?? With a 2mp sensor it is very cpu intensive.

    • Beso

      It doesn’t take a lot of computing horsepower, at least nothing beyond reasonable, to stack 36 megapixel images. The D800 and D810 cameras produce 75MB files and are easily handled by a decent computer.

    • Matthias Brandstetter

      I already stack raw files of a D800 with Deep Sky Stacker. Stacking 100 raws typically takes like 15 minutes in total.

      • Fango

        I’m not sure how you are doing that in DSS without running out of memory, since DSS is a 32 bit program. It always tells me I’m out of RAM even though I have 12gb. This had been reported by many people.

        I had to buy PixInsight to align/stack my RAW files.

        • Matthias Brandstetter

          Hello, to be honest i never had a memory problem in DSS. I just googled your statement and most people who have memory problems seem to have the “Drizzle” option turned on.
          I use the standard options for stacking and so far no problems.

          • Fango

            I have the problem even with drizzle turned off.

  • Kristian David Smith

    Hydrogen-Alpha* :/

  • Global

    I feel like this is a very positive spin on the “White Thermal Noise” issue! 😀

    Honestly, though, if Nikon can tweak a D810 to be an Astrophotography monster machine (which, I’m not sure it really is designed to be to begin with.. wouldn’t Df be better??), then it will go a LONG way to making up for the reputation of temporary white-noise during 1st batch production.

    Do your best, Nikon! Do not have “extra stars” in the photos, if you know what we mean! Just the real ones please… 😉 D810 is a wonderful camera, by the way. After getting firmware update.. it has been a DREAM camera, truly one of the best!

  • This sounds unlikely, but possible. If only Nikon could pull of the 6D’s noise and DR at 6400…

  • fjfjjj

    Last-minute sensor stack tweak to take astro sales from 5DS?

    • IsaacImage

      Probably 😉

    • Wei-Hao Wang

      unlikely. 5DS will not be an astro-friendly camera. The pixels are too small, meaning that each pixel has very limited capability of collecting photons. No matter what’s the reason behind this D810 astro-camera, it’s not targeting at 5DS.

  • fjfjjj

    What’s hydrogen-alfa? An Italian car that runs on hydrogen?

    • Eledeuh

      It took you 4 hours to come up with this joke ? 😀

  • itsmyname

    Yea Right..

  • Mr_Miyagi

    I presume by “increased H-alpha sensitivity” it means Nikon has enhanced the overall red response of the sensor between 600nm and 700nm. I can’t imagine how or why Nikon would enhance the response of the camera over the narrow range of wavelengths (colors) corresponding to a single spectral line. That doesn’t make sense. To increase the overall red sensitivity perhaps Nikon has exchanged the red and green filters in the Bayer color filter array, doubling the number of red sensitive photosensor elements while halving the number of green ones.

    • Kevin Purcell

      Or just use a different dye for the red filter in the CFA with reduced absorption in the far red. Most likely choice if they’ve messed with the sensor (or had Sony mess with the sensor … they’ll do custom CFA … see the Fuji XTrans a Sony sensor with custom CFA).

      They also have to turn the “star eater” off too in firmware. Nikon Hacker has done this for a few models already.

    • Mirceaar

      The enhancement comes by replacing the AA/IR filter in front of the sensor with a flatter-response over visual range and a bit of IR “hot-mirror” filter. You can see a Canon AA/IR filter response in the diagram, compared to the response of a hot-miror one. Nikon’s filters are not very much different than Canon’s.
      Such a hot-mirror filter will give a red-tint to the image, and in order to use the camera as a regular one, you’ll need compensating filters over the lenses, for normal/natural/regular photographic use.

  • qki

    Nikon should first get rid of the white noise at high iso in the nikon d810… no one seems to care about that… the thermal fix took care of it at long exposures, but white noise is also present in dark areas at high iso…

  • I think they are going to call it D810S*** lol!

    • true

      That would be the new Canon 5d..

  • SimenO1

    The camera sales numbers are misleading since they dont count Samsung as a condenter all.

  • UR Gullible

    Even less likely than a professional DX body.


  • Michael W

    I have been using regular D810s for astrophotography for a year and a half. If used properly, they can produce very good images. Here are some that I made in Australia recently using a tracking mount (note that the Orion photo and some others were made with a D800 modified body – red blocking filter removed to allow the hydrogen alpha red to come through):

  • Matthias Brandstetter

    As much as i hope that this rumor is true, i simply can`t believe it. From the Nikon lineup the D810 is imho the worst camera for astro photography. Additionaly the price will be well beyond that of a standard D810 and people who are serious about deep sky photography buy an astro ccd at that price point (16bit + cooling).
    However in case Nikon really discovered the astrophotography genre great times are ahead because we would most likely also see software improvements (star eater, black level clipping etc.)

    • Fango

      At the $3000+ price point (probably $3500), I would rather buy a CCD imaging camera. Or get a canon 6D modded for fullspectrum, and then use it with either CLS filters, or a filterwheel w/ OIII + H-A

  • rgrandall

    Star trails will also depend on how wide you’re shooting. Most ot the night photographers I know are shooting 14mm for the Milky Way … Often for multi-frame composites … And trails are not an issue at 25-30 seconds. Am I missing something here?

  • Busted.

    “all new, special version of D810” – that rather gives the game away doesn’t it?

  • vwking

    Sign me up for one.

  • Steve C

    In theory, Nikon should also change the colour of the backlit LCD panels and the Card Read-Write LED to red, because red does not affect an astronomers low light vision.

  • Mirceaar

    This coming from a guy that did shoot some stars so far:
    Nikon, do this with D750 and/or D610. Lower resolution, yes. That’s good. The level of megapixels D810 offers has absolutely NO advantage in this field. Not with a DSLR sensor anyway. Better (is it?) dynamic range for postprocessing (and boy, there’s some really heavy postprocessing involved in astro-photo). Smaller intermediate files.
    If Sony planned to come out with a A7S astro-modified camera, you’ll have people drooling in expectation.
    Anyhew, the guys that would use this kind of camera will use it mounted on a tracking mount, so any (star) trails discussion loses its purpose.

    • Mirceaar

      ..or better, come up with smth like D750s or D610s, using the 16 mpx sensor in D4 and Df, and use that as a platform to derive an astro-photo variant. I’d go for it. In both variants.
      Problem is, the guys that would buy such a camera from Nikon or some other producer are generally tech-savvy and know pretty well what they want, what tool they need and what tool they don’t need.

  • true

    Best camera is getting better!

  • Mirko Valagussi

    At last! I have been waiting for this one. I really hope Nikon does it right as H-Alpha sensitivity is important but is just one feature we need. Ability to take dark frames (fire with closed shutter), ability to mechanically lock mirror up (to save battery and avoid vibration) and published SDK for remote control would be high on my list as well.

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