Nikon D850 Camera Review

camera review - Nikon D850 Camera

Nikon D850 Camera Review

INTRODUCTION

Long awaited Nikon D850 camera is the replacement for Nikon D810 camera featuring Nikon’s latest high-resolution full-frame DSLR with a 46MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. This new camera is a fast DSLR with capabilities to capture 7 fps continuous shooting with AE/AF (9 with battery grip (MB-D18) and EN-EL18b battery).

camera review - Nikon D850 Camera

Key Features:

 

45.7MP BSI CMOS sensor

UHD 4K video capture at up to 30p from full sensor width

1 XQD slot and 1 UHS II-compliant SD slot

4:2:2 8-bit UHD uncompressed output while recording to card

7 fps continuous shooting with AE/AF (9 with battery grip (MB-D18) and EN-EL18b battery) (Battery + Grip Kit)

3.2″ tilting touchscreen with 2.36M-dot (1024×768 pixel) LCD

19.4MP DX crop (or 8.6MP at 30 fps for up to 3 sec)

Advanced time-lapse options (including in-camera 4K video creation)

153-point AF system linked to 180,000-pixel metering system

1080p video at up to 120p, recorded as roughly 1/4 or 1/5th speed slow-mo

Battery life rated at 1840 shots

Illuminated controls

SnapBridge full-time Bluetooth LE connection system with Wi-Fi

camera review - Nikon D850 Camera

High resolution

Nikon D850’s backside illuminated (BSI) sensor is a highly sophisticated sensor with light collecting elements that are positioned closer to the surface of the chip. As a result, low light capabilities of Nikon D850 camera is improved. Pixels being closer to the surface has many advantages such as improving the overall performance of each pixel’s light gathering capabilities.

Nikon D850 camera continues in the tradition of Nikon D810 offering ISO 64 mode which allows the camera to improve contrast in bright lighting conditions. Our test results indicate that the dynamic range of Nikon D850 is on par with Nikon D810.

Nikon D850 also answers some of the demands of professionals such as the ability to utilise quiet shutter mode which was achieved via implementation of an improved electronic first curtain shutter option; among other improvements are live view function and mirror up mode and omission of anti-aliasing filter which allows for more details in images captured with the risk of adding moiré to the final result.

Newly improved high-resolution capabilities of Nikon D850 means that the lenses used must also be capable enough to resolve for the 45.7MP full frame sensor. Our test results show that Nikon D850 resolving performance is on par with Sony A7r ii and Canon 5DSR.

camera review - Nikon D850 Camera

Auto Focus Performance

Among the many improvements to Nikon’s flagship camera, Nikon D850 is the increased speed which is found in Nikon D5 and Nikon D500 autofocus system making Nikon D850 a worthy contester in sports and action photography. Nikon D5 perhaps can be singled out as one of the best AF camera systems in the world for its ability to perform under challenging scenarios and conditions with minimal need to adjust configurations. At a closer examination, all of Nikon D5’s features autofocus, metering sensor, dedicated autofocus processor can all be found in Nikon D850 making this high-resolution camera an all around greater performer.

Nikon also incorporated an automated system for setting AF fine tune value which requires the lens based central autofocus point for a single distance to be fined to achieve maximum performance from the lens. This is a particularly important improvement since Nikon D850 can capture 46MP images lending a greater amount of detail which bears a strong reliance on the resolving power of the lens.

Perhaps what surprised us the most is the fact that Nikon D850 can capture nine frames per second if optional MB-D18 battery grip is attached along with an EN-EL18b battery which is also used in Nikon D5. Nikon D850’s buffer can compensate up to fifty-one 14-bit losslessly compressed Raw files. This added battery grip not only increases the camera’s burst rate performance but also improves camera’s ability to capture up to 5140 images. It is important to mention here that there are two types of batteries available for Nikon D850 designed with a and b at the end of the model (EN-EL18a / EN-EL18b) and only b type gives the additional burst and performance advantage that is mentioned above.

As far as cost is concerned the battery grip (MB-D18) will cost $396.95. The EN-EL18b battery can be purchased as a combination package with the hand grip for $940.85.

camera review - Nikon D850 Camera

Video capabilities

Nikon has been dragging its feet in bringing 4K video capabilities into their cameras as a result has lost valuable market share. Nikon D850 is about to change that with an inclusion of full sensor 4K video capture capabilities which is not cinema standard 4096×2160 but UHD 4K which is designed for consumer grade TV’s having 3840×2160.

Nikon D850 can record at 30, 25 or 24p, at a bitrate of around 144 Mbps and simultaneously output uncompressed 4:2:2 8-bit UHD to an external recorder while recording to the card. Although these numbers appear to be an improvement for Nikon cameras, they are still years behind current camera technologies which now yield a 10-bit recording with up to 60 frames of 4K recording at DCI (4096×2160).

Nikon D850 can also capture 1080p resolution also commonly referred as HD quality which can be recorded up to 60 frames per second for slow motion offering the ability to utilize such important features as focus peaking and digital stabilization which are not available in 4K shooting mode.

Our test shows that the video captured has pixel binding which can be attributed to the technology used in a camera to resolve the image captured. There is also noticeable rolling shutter issues with video capturing making it less than a worthy camera that can do little more than capture still images.

Furthermore, Nikon does not offer any log gamma profile options that all professional videographers and filmmakers demand post production purposes. Since Nikon D850 only offers full Auto ISO with exposure compensation when shooting in manual exposure mode, videos will have varying exposures making it almost impossible to correct in post production. Not having a “flat” picture profile means that color correction can only be performed on a minimal basis with little latitude for adjusting for adverse lighting conditions.

Nikon attempted to introduce “Power Aperture” feature that allows the camera to open and close the lens iris smoothly when in live view mode but in our tests, we found this annoying and useless. There is also an ‘Attenuator’ mode, a fancy name for the camera’s audio capture, that rolls-off any loud noises to avoid unpleasant clipping sounds, commonly marked as wind cut mode in almost all cameras with video capabilities today.

Camera Features

The new Nikon D850 is very similar in construction to D810, both featuring magnesium alloy body. Nikon D750’s flip up and down types rear screen is utilized in Nikon D850 for no apparent reason other than providing added viewing advantage for paparazzi photographers. But a higher resolution rear screen with touch function was a much-needed improvement now available with Nikon D850. Our tests show that navigating D850’s menu and playback via touch screen feature makes this camera a much more user-friendly DSLR.

Among other improvements is the Nikon D850 is the camera grip making it easier to grasp and use especially with heavier lens combinations like Nikon 70-200mm. Of course, Nikon also made sure some features were removed, among them, the built-in flash which could easily be noticed in Nikon D810 as a hump protrusion at the viewfinder. For most photographers who work at events and weddings must use on camera flashes such as Speedlight SB-5000.

Autofocus

Nikon D850 has a 153-point AF system featuring 99 cross-type points as found in Nikon D5 but still far behind Sony A9 camera’s 693 point AF system. Most of the AF points are positioned close to the center of the frame which would make wild-life and sports-action photographers happy with the D850 performance results.

For those who wish to engage in night time photography, Nikon D850 has a wide EV range of topping out at -4EV for low light performance. This is not the only improvement we see in this camera; there is a much-improved metering sensor that has 180,000-pixel chip which doubles the D810 metering pixel range. All in all, AF performance as well as the quality of the images from D850 should easily surpass that of Nikon D810.

Nikon D850 and Nikon D5 have dedicated AF processors which improve the AF capabilities of the cameras especially when the subject is moving, giving sports-action photographers an added advantage with subject tracking.

camera review - Nikon D850 Camera

Viewfinder

When Nikon decided to remove a built-in flash feature from Nikon D850, it meant redesigning the viewfinder. What we found with the new D850 is an increase in magnification ratio from D810 moving the factor from 0.7x to 0.75x making the new camera capable of housing the largest optical viewfinder in Nikon’s line up of DSLR cameras.

Although many users of D810 may not see much difference in the new viewfinder with D850, there is a new design which features a condenser lens and an aspherical element allowing a 17mm angle of view.

Camera Review - Nikon D850

Additional Features

Time-lapse

Perhaps the most taunted feature for Nikon D850 is its ability to do 8K time-lapse photography. This achieved via built-in intervalometer function common to most Nikon cameras. As in other Nikon cameras with built-in intervalometers, the number of images to be captured and delay times can be set with the D850. Moreover, intervalometer can be engaged with silent shutter mode simultaneously to circumvent vibration and wear on the mechanical shutter.

Although most photography and video software can easily lace images to form a time-lapse, Nikon D850 can also arrange the images to create a 4K video. Should you choose to use a keep the images unaltered, you can easily create 8K videos on different third party software. This, however, would require the use of large images (7680×4320) making the file sizes rather large.

Camera Review - Nikon D850 - Sample Photos

Focus shift

The D850 features a focus shift mode in which the camera captures a series of images at different focal lengths. When using focus shift mode the distance intervals and the number of images can be specified which can be combined to create a single image in third party software.

Focus shift mode can be found on other camera brands such as Panasonic which is capable of merging the captured images into one single image. Nikon has yet to master this feature for its cameras.

Camera Review - Nikon D850 - Sample Photos

Time-lapse

Perhaps the most taunted feature for Nikon D850 is its ability to do 8K time-lapse photography. This achieved via built-in intervalometer function common to most Nikon cameras. As in other Nikon cameras with built-in intervalometers, the number of images to be captured and delay times can be set with the D850. Moreover, intervalometer can be engaged with silent shutter mode simultaneously to circumvent vibration and wear on the mechanical shutter.

Although most photography and video software can easily lace images to form a time-lapse, Nikon D850 can also arrange the images to create a 4K video. Should you choose to use a keep the images unaltered, you can easily create 8K videos on different third party software. This, however, would require the use of large images (7680×4320) making the file sizes rather large.

Camera Review - Nikon D850 - Sample Photos

Wi-Fi Connectivity

Today almost all cameras have wi-fi connectivity allowing the images to be transferred to smartphones, tablets or computers. Nikon D850 has Nikon’s SnapBridge connectivity system that establishes a full-time Bluetooth LE connection between the camera and compatible smart devices. Our tests with SnapBridge was somewhat cumbersome as the only way to transfer files efficiently was to use Wi-Fi connection. Even then the transfer of raw files with 46MP size is almost impossible. Moreover, we have found that transfers via Bluetooth took too long for the app to be sufficiently useful.

Nevertheless, Nikon D850’s offering of connectivity is a giant step in the right direction. For those who have owned Nikon D810 would remember that there was no Wi-Fi connectivity at all.  

Camera Review - Nikon D850 - Sample Photos

Verdict

Nikon cameras are known to be great still photography cameras. To that end, Nikon D850 is a great camera regardless of its shortcomings with some issues we have mentioned in our review.

If you have been debating whether this camera can deliver amazing results at 46MP image size, the answer is an overwhelming yes. The details from the images acquired with Nikon D850 will rival the quality of medium format cameras. Considering that medium format cameras require considerable investment in a camera body and new set of lenses it is worthwhile to have an option to continue using Nikon’s legendary line up of lenses without having to invest in a new system.

Of course, there is plenty of competition in the market for high-resolution cameras. Canon 5DS R and Sony A99 ii are two good examples that fall in direct competition with Nikon D850; when compared side by side Nikon D850 performs better than Sony A99 ii and Canon 5DS R in terms of speed and autofocus.

We believe what sets Nikon D850 apart from the rest of the competition is its ultra fast AF system which will go a long way in satisfying professionals whether they are in fashion, wedding, event, sports-action or wildlife photography.

Camera Review - Nikon D850 - Sample Photos

As for those who own Nikon D810 and considering an upgrade, it makes logical sense to invest in this new camera, simply, because it resolves many of the issues such as vibration with shutter and mirror mechanism when using longer lenses and a much improved AF system. Unlike Nikon D5, D850 delivers a much improved dynamic range on par with today’s medium format cameras like Pentax 645Z or Fuji GFX 50S.

On low light performance, Nikon D850 delivers clean images up to 6400 ISO without the need to apply noise reduction in post processing making it a versatile camera to use at night-time or when lighting conditions are less than ideal.

One obvious drawback for this camera is its video capture in which Nikon fails miserably both in providing a viable solution to utilize manual settings to capture video but also in not allowing log gamma profiles to be applied to “flat” image profiles.

Camera Review - Nikon D850 - Sample Photos

Sadly, in today’s world magazines and newspapers demand more than just still images from photographers as the videos are often used for online sites. This means photographers often have to juggle both video and photography tasks to cater to client’s needs. Similarly, events and wedding clientele also demand video and still images from their photographers. Nikon D850 is not the camera if your professional needs are in this line of work.

This camera is a professional camera and in the hands of a skilled photographer can deliver amazing results. For anyone who wishes to use D850 for things like v-blogging or Instagram sharing, it is overkill in all respects. Nikon D850 is a professional tool with 46MP image size to deliver details that are unrivaled in 35mm /full frame format.

Camera Review - Nikon D850 - Sample Photos

Buying Decision

If you have decided to take a closer look at buying Nikon D850, we recommend that you look into well established online retailers because they deliver better prices than local camera stores and provide Nikon full-service guarantee.  

As for those considering the gray market, (Hong Kong Retailers), we suggest that you take full advantage of Nikon’s service warranty as this camera is still being used and tested for possible defects in design and manufacturing process. If at anything your camera needs servicing you will need U.S. Nikon to service it, gray market products don’t qualify for this.

Here are the links for the best prices for Nikon D850 camera and as well as the grip and battery.

Nikon D850 Camera

Nikon Grip (MB-D18)

Nikon Battery (EN-EL18b)

Nikon MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack with EN-EL18b Battery Kit

Nikon D500 Camera

Nikon D5 Camera (best value)

Nikon D810 Camera (best value)

Nikon D750 Camera (best value)

Nikon SB-5000 Camera Flash

Sony A99 ii Camera (for comparison & best value)

Sony A7r ii Camera (for comparison & best value)

Sony A9 Camera (for comparison & best value)

Pentax 645Z Camera (for comparison & best value)

Fuji GFX 50S Camera (for comparison & best value)

Canon 5DSR Camera (for comparison & best value)

Nikon 70-200mm Lens

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