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Can you change the aperture on the camera without the lens or does the lens on the camera have to be connected to the camera?

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The Nikon D810 has no aperture to set. Only lenses attached to the D810 have apertures that can be set.

The camera can remember what the aperture setting was the last time a "CPU" lens was attached and apply that setting the next time another "CPU" lens is attached, assuming the attached lens is capable of the stored aperture setting.

For example, if the aperture is set at f/1.4 and you detach your 50mm f/1.4 "CPU" lens and attach a 24-40mm f/2.8 "CPU" lens, the aperture will not remain set at f/1.4, it will shift to f/2.8 since that is the nearest setting that the second lens can do.

On the other hand, if the 24-70mm f/2.8 "CPU" lens is set at f/5.6 and you swap it out for the 50mm f/1.4 "CPU" lens, the camera will set the aperture on the second lens at f/5.6.

What you have no way of doing is telling the camera to change the remembered aperture setting when there is no lens, or a non-CPU lens, attached.

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