Nikon D850 Review
|Full model name:
(35.9mm x 23.9mm)
|Optical / LCD
|64 - 25,600
|32 - 102,400
|1/8000 - 30 sec
5.7 x 4.9 x 3.1 in.
(146 x 124 x 79 mm)
|32.3 oz (915 g)
|Nikon D850 specifications
The D850 is easily Nikon's most versatile DSLR to date. Offering a new 45MP sensor, faster processor and an improved weather-sealed body, the D850 is comfortable, highly customizable and able to photograph pretty much whatever you want to throw at it. It has outstanding resolution and dynamic range as well as superb high ISO performance, plus the fast processor and the D5's AF sensor give the D850 enough horsepower to easily capture all but the most demanding action subjects. And while video/live-view is still hampered by slow, contrast-detect AF, the D850 offers lots of new video feature, including 4K video and timelapse capture modes. Overall, the D850 is stunning and our pick for Best Camera of 2017.Pros
Class-leading resolution; Excellent dynamic range; Very good high ISO performance; Very fast AF and burst shooting; Durable weather-sealed body; Improved ergonomics; Touchscreen; Dual card slots; 4K video.Cons
Live view/video mode still uses sluggish contrast-detect AF; Viewfinder only tests at ~98% coverage; No 4K at 60p; 30-minute video clip limit; Focus peaking not supported with 4K.Price and availability
The D850 started shipping in September 2017 with a body-only suggested retail price of US$3,299.95. The optional MB-D18 battery grip has a suggested price of US$399.95, while the ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter retails for US$149.95.Imaging Resource rating
5.0 out of 5.0
Nikon D850 Review
Preview posted: 08/28/2017
Review finalized: 02/05/2018
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Does weather-sealing matter? Watch our test and decide for yourself.
Read more of our "Water Torture Test" by clicking here.
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Nikon D850 - Product Overview
The Nikon D850 is the direct successor to the D810, but it is much more than a mere megapixel upgrade or specifications bump. With the D850, Nikon is not only targeting high-resolution shooters, but also photographers who demand speed, performance and high-end video recording as well. Let's dive into Nikon's latest full-frame DSLR and see what it offers.
D850 Key Features
- Weather-sealed magnesium alloy body
- Tilting 3.2-inch high-res touchscreen
- Touch operation for all menus
- Nikon's biggest optical viewfinder ever
- Dual card slots, including one XQD and one SD card slot
- Illuminated buttons
- New backside-illuminated 45.7 megapixel full-frame sensor without optical low pass filter (OLPF)
- Native ISO range of 64 - 25,600, expandable down to ISO 32 and up to ISO 102,400
- The same 153-point autofocus system as the Nikon D5 and D500
- EXPEED 5 image processor
- Up to 7 frames per second full-res continuous shooting (9 fps with the optional battery grip and EN-EL18 battery)
- 200,000 cycle low-vibration shutter
- Focus-shift mode for up to 300 shots
- 8K time lapse
- Full-frame 4K UHD video recording at up to 30 frames per second
- Slow motion Full HD video at up to 120 fps
- Focus peaking when recording Full HD and using Live View
- HDMI output for 4:2:2 8-bit 4K UHD footage and simultaneous internal and external recording
- Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for Nikon SnapBridge compatibility
D850 Camera Body: Weather-sealed with a tilting touchscreen
The D850 remains a large full-frame DSLR, but there are some rather noticeable differences between the newer camera and the D810. For starters, the D850 has a thinner and deeper grip than the D810. Further, the top portion of the camera, in particular the viewfinder pentaprism, has a different shape and is narrower on the D850. The company says the D850 is equipped with a 0.75x magnification optical viewfinder with 100% coverage. This is Nikon's largest viewfinder to date, besting the 0.70x one found in the D810 and even the D5's viewfinder, which offers 0.72x magnification. You will also notice that the D850 now does not include a built-in flash, another change from its predecessor.
With a magnesium alloy body and weather-sealing, the D850 is built to last and features a rugged design akin to the D500 and D5. The pro-oriented body has a shutter rated for 200,000 cycles which is designed to reduced vibrations. The D850 features the same excellent 3.2-inch 2.3M-dot touchscreen LCD and tilting mechanism as the D500, which can tilt up to just over 90 degrees and down to almost 90 degrees.
Looking on the back of the D850, you'll notice that it includes an autofocus joystick selector, something the D810 did not include. There are a few other differences between the rear of the D850 and its predecessor, including a new Fn2 button and a few relocated buttons. Further, the D850's buttons are illuminated, which is a very nice feature for those who often shoot in low light.
Revisiting the top of the camera, the D850 has switched locations of the "Mode" and "ISO" buttons of its predecessor, meaning that the ISO button is now near the shutter release, placing all exposure-related controls within the reach of the shooter's right hand. This change was also seen on the D5 and D500 last year and proved popular with our reviewers.
Looking at the overall size of the D850, it has dimensions of 5.7 x 4.9 x 3.1 inches (146 x 124 x 78.5 millimeters). This is essentially the same width as the D810, but is slightly taller and slightly thinner. The D850 body does weigh in at a hefty 32.3 ounces (915 grams), versus 31.0 ounces (880 grams) for the D810.
The D850 uses a brand-new image sensor. The 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor is Nikon's highest megapixel sensor yet and is also their first backside-illuminated (BSI) full-frame sensor. The sensor was designed entirely by Nikon, although they told us that the manufacturing was contracted out, which is not unusual. However, it remains notable that the sensor, unlike some found in other Nikon DSLRs, is not off-the-shelf but rather built specifically to Nikon's specifications. As expected, the new sensor also has a built-in ultrasonic cleaning mechanism and dust-off image reference capabilities.
While BSI sensors have been lauded for their improved low-light capabilities in the past, Nikon says that the bigger advantage in the case of the D850's sensor is that it allowed Nikon more flexibility in wiring, which improves the sensor's readout speed and the camera's overall performance. The D850's low-light performance is very good and the D850's native ISO range is now 64 through 25,600, extended by one stop compared its predecessor. The D850 can expand sensitivity down to ISO 32 and up to ISO 51,200 and ISO 102,400, also one stop higher than the D810.
The D850 can capture RAW images at 12-bit and 14-bit depths in compressed, lossless compressed and uncompressed modes. Further, the camera includes RAW large, medium and small shooting modes. The large mode produces 45.4-megapixel images with the latter two modes capturing 25.5 and 11.3-megapixel images, respectively.
Regarding dynamic range, Nikon did tell us that the dynamic range performance is as good or better than the class-leading D810's, and that has been confirmed by DxOMark with the D850 offering improved dynamic range at moderate to high ISOs.
The D850's autofocus system borrows from the D5/D500
We were impressed with the autofocus capabilities of the D810, but the D850 takes it to a new level. The D850 utilizes the same autofocus sensor module as the Nikon D5 and D500, Nikon's flagship Multi-CAM 20K AF system. This sophisticated system includes 153 autofocus points, including 99 cross-type sensors and 15 autofocus points that support f/8 lenses. When using single-point autofocus, you can manually select 55 points, 35 of which are cross-type and 9 that support f/8 maximum lenses. Like the D5 and D500, the D850 also includes a dedicated autofocus processor to supply the necessary computational power for subject detection and tracking capabilities.
While we haven't compared the D850's AF tracking performance to the D5/D500's side-by-side in the real world to know for sure, our field tester owns a D500 and has used a D5 a lot, and he felt the D850's AF performance wasn't quite up to the performance of those two cameras. However it is very good indeed, and substantially better than his D800E's.
Also like the D5 and D500 but unlike the D810, the D850 no longer has a built-in AF assist lamp. On the topic of the DX D500, we want to point out that the D850's DX crop mode has the same autofocus point coverage as is found on the D500.
Autofocus area modes include 9, 25, 72 and 153-point dynamic-area autofocus, auto-area AF, single-point AF (as mentioned, you can select from 55 points), 3D-tracking and group-area autofocus. The AF system is rated to operate from -4 to +20 EV. Focus modes when shooting through the viewfinder include single-servo, continuous-servo, predictive focus tracking, face-priority AF, full-time servo and normal area AF.
When shooting in Live View, the D850 relies upon contrast-detect autofocus, and it can focus anywhere within the frame. A notable first for Nikon's DSLR cameras is that the D850 now offers focus peaking in Live View mode, and also when recording Full HD video. Live View autofocus modes include face-priority AF, wide-area AF, normal-area AF, pinpoint AF and subject-tracking AF.
EXPEED 5 image processor delivers high-speed shooting
With its 45.7-megapixel sensor and advanced autofocus capabilities, Nikon has designed the D850 to be a balanced blend of imaging performance and speed. That is made more evident by the D850's performance specs which have been confirmed in our lab. The EXPEED 5-equipped D850 is a very speedy camera, especially considering its resolution.
The D850 is rated by Nikon to shoot full-resolution, 14-bit lossless compressed RAW images at up to 7 frames per second with a buffer depth of 51 frames (we managed 200 frames at 7.1 fps in the lab with a fast XQD card).
This is already a significant speed increase over the D810, and the D850 also has a new optional MB-D18 battery grip, which can utilize the same EN-EL18 battery as is found in the D5. With the grip attached and EN-EL18a/b battery installed, the D850 can shoot at up to 9 fps, which is very fast considering its sensor and megapixel count.
The D850 also includes quiet single-shot and continuous shooting modes, which now utilize an electronic front-curtain shutter. The drawback of the quiet continuous mode is that continuous shooting speed tops out at 3 frames per second. Electronic front-curtain shutter is also available in mirror-up release mode, just like in the D810.
An all-electronic shutter is available in Live View mode, for totally silent capture. It operates at up to 6 fps (with AF/AE locked) at full resolution, while an additional mode enables 8.6-megapixel image capture in DX crop mode at up to 30 fps.
Continuing the pattern of similarity with Nikon's other flagship cameras, the D850 also includes the metering sensor from the D5 and D500. The 180,000-pixel RGB metering sensor nearly doubles the number of pixels found in the D810's metering sensor and has an operating range in matrix metering mode of -3 to +20 EV. The D850 also includes center-weighted and spot metering modes, the latter of which is tied to the selected focus point when a CPU lens is used.
Regarding Picture Controls, the D850 includes Nikon's new Auto Picture Control in addition to its standard array of user-customizable Landscape, Monochrome, Neutral, Portrait, Standard, Vivid and Flat controls.
Like its predecessor, the D850 includes a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/8000s in normal shooting modes and includes a Bulb mode for longer shutter speeds when using a remote control (the D850 is compatible with the MC-30A and MC-36A wired remote controls).
We've already discussed how the D850 offers different sized RAW files, but its high-megapixel sensor also offers ample flexibility for different crop factors. In addition to its full FX 36 x 24 frame, the D850 can shoot with 1.2X (30 x 20), DX (24 x 16), 5:4 (30 x 24) and 1:1 (24 x 24) crop factors. In terms of megapixel counts, those are 31.5, 19.4, 37.8 and 30.2 megapixels, respectively.
In-camera batch RAW processing
The D850 allows users to batch process RAW files in-camera even faster than their computer at home, providing more flexibility in the field than ever before. Nikon says the D850 can convert a RAW file to a JPEG in as little as 1.5 seconds, which is very quick.
4K and 8K Time Lapse
During the D850 development announcement last year, Nikon shared that the camera would have 8K time-lapse capabilities. The camera can be set, using its built-in intervalometer, to capture 8K images for compiling in external software. 8K UHD is about 33 megapixels, by the way. For users who want the camera to build the time-lapse movie itself, you're limited to 4K resolution.
Focus Stacking: D850 hopes to woo macro shooters with new built-in focus shifting
For macro shooters who like to use focus stacking, the D850 includes a special focus-shift mode designed just for that. You can record up to 300 shots at user-adjustable focus steps automatically, creating files which will be ready to be assembled into a composite focus stacked image using third-party software. Further, these files are saved in their own separate folder on your memory card, which will help with organization.
D850 video: Full-frame 4K UHD video recording and much more
While primarily a stills camera, the D850 is Nikon's most versatile DSLR to date for video shooters. The D850 can record full-frame 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) footage at up to 30 frames per second (29.97 fps). This means that the camera crops the top and bottom to create a 16:9 ratio, but does not crop in from the sides, which lets you use wide-angle lenses to their full potential. If you capture a photo during movie recording, it is a 38.3-megapixel file (8,256 x 4,640 pixels). The camera supports zebra stripe exposure warnings as well, a nice feature for helping spot blown highlights. The D850 includes an HDMI output, which allows the user to simultaneously record internally and externally, including recording 4:2:2 8-bit 4K UHD video to an external recorder.
For 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD) video recording, the D850 sports a number of other neat features. The camera can record Full HD video at up to 60 frames per second, for starters, but it also offers focus peaking and electronic vibration reduction (which will crop the frame slightly). The D850 also offers a nifty slow-motion capture mode as well, which captures Full HD video at up to 120 fps.
Maximum continuous recording time per clip is 29 minutes and 59 seconds, and it records in MOV and MP4 movie formats using the H.264/MPEG-4 codec. As with Live View still shooting, the D850 utilizes contrast-detect autofocus for video recording. Like the D810, the D850 includes both microphone and headphone inputs.
The front of the D850 includes a ten-pin remote terminal, which is compatible with the Nikon MC-30A and MC-36A remote controls. Along the sides of the camera, you will find SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0 Micro-B), HDMI (Type C mini-pin), 3.5mm stereo mini-pin and headphone jacks.
Looking at the camera's storage interface, the D850 includes dual card slots. One slot is an XQD slot and the other is a UHS-II compliant SD card slot. As far as recording features are concerned, the D850 allows you to copy images between the two slots, use them as backup, overflow or even split RAW and JPEG recording across the two different slots.
The D850 is compatible with Nikon's GP-1 and GP-1A GPS units, the ML-3 and WR/A10/WR-R10 radio flash accessories. The D850 is fully compatible with Nikon's latest radio-enabled flash, the SB-5000. You are able to control remote flashes from within the D850's menu system, including group configuration, power and more.
The D850 is powered by an EN-EL15a lithium-ion battery, which is rated for 1,840 shots per charge or 70 minutes of HD video recording. The camera is compatible with a new MB-D18 Multi Power Battery Pack (sold separately for around US$400) that can use an EN-EL18a/b lithium-ion battery. When using an EN-EL18 battery in the attached optional battery grip, as we've mentioned, shooting speeds increase to 9 frames per second, and the camera's battery life leaps to 5,140 shots! The grip also supports an EN-EL15(a) battery pack or eight AA batteries, though with no speed boost.
Wireless connectivity is provided via built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth 4.1 (low energy). The D850 is compatible with Nikon's SnapBridge platform, allowing for an always-on connection between your D850 and smartphone. The SnapBridge functionality is the same as the Nikon D7500, meaning that you have your standard SnapBridge assortment of remote control and image transfer features. For enhanced file transfer performance, the D850 is compatible with Nikon's WT-7A Wireless Transmitter, which includes an Ethernet port in addition to its 802.11ac wireless standard.
For users with 35mm slides or negatives they'd like to digitize, Nikon offers an optional ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter. Alongside a compatible Micro-Nikkor lens, this accessory enables super high-resolution digitizing of slides or negatives and allows for in-camera conversion to positives. The D850 inverts and corrects color right in the camera. The ES-2 has a suggested retail price just under US$150.
D850 versus D810: The biggest differences
While there are many more differences than can be covered in this section, we want to point out some of the bigger differences in the features and specifications between the new D850 and the D810:
- Sensor: The D850 has a 45.7-megapixel full-frame backside-illuminated sensor. This is nearly 10 megapixels more than the 36.3-megapixel sensor found in the Nikon D810. The D850 offers a wider ISO range than the D810 as well, with a native range of 64 through 25,600 compared to 64 through 12,800 and an expandable range that has the same low value of ISO 32 but a higher 102,400 top end. There is a similarity between the D850 and D810's sensors though; they both lack an optical low pass filter.
- Autofocus: With the same autofocus module as the Nikon D5 and D500 cameras, the D850 offers up a total of 153 autofocus points, over 100 more than is found in the 51-point AF system the D810 utilizes. In addition to the many more points, the D850 also has 84 more cross-type autofocus points and four more which are usable with maximum f/8 aperture lenses. Further, the D850 has a dedicated autofocus processor, which results in better speed, accuracy and subject tracking capabilities.
- Performance: With its EXPEED 5 image processor, the D850 promises faster shooting speeds by about two frames per second than the D810. Further, the D850 also offers an expanded burst length thanks in part to its XQD card slot and UHS-II support for its SD card slot.
- Shooting Modes: While the D810 offered a lot of shooting modes, the D850 brings in new features including an Auto Picture Control, built-in 4K and 8K time-lapse modes, electronic front-curtain shutter quiet modes, an all-electronic shutter Live View mode, a built-in Focus Stacking feature, Auto AF Fine Tune, radio-controlled flash support, and SnapBridge connectivity.
- Video: There are a lot of improvements and new features for stills shooters, but the D850 ups its game in the video department as well. Not only does it top the D810 with 4K UHD video recording, it also bests the D5 by being the first full-frame Nikon camera to offer 4K recording with the full width of the sensor. Plus for Full HD shooters, the D850 also includes slow motion recording at up to 120 fps, which the D810 did not include.
- Camera Body: There have been numerous changes made to the D850 camera body itself. There is a new autofocus selector joystick and some relocated buttons, including the newly-placed ISO button. Plus the D850 has illuminated buttons. Further, the rear 3.2-inch display on the D850 tilts, is a touchscreen and has more resolution than the D810's non-touch, non-tilting rear display. On the other hand, the D810 did have a built-in flash and AF assist lamp, something that the D850 lacks. On the connectivity side of things, the D850 has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, whereas its predecessor lacked the latter features.
Nikon D850 Price and Availability
The D850 started shipping in September 2017 with a body-only suggested retail price of US$3,299.95. The optional MB-D18 battery grip has a suggested price of US$399.95, while the ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter retails for US$149.95.
Nikon D850 Field Test Part I
Nikon's megapixel monster is more versatile than ever
Back in 2012 when Nikon launched the D800 and D800E, those models, in a sense, reignited the megapixel race amongst camera manufacturers. At the time, no other DSLR offered that kind of resolution. Yet despite the high megapixel count -- which has the potential to be detrimental to image quality, particular at higher ISOs -- the Nikon D800-series, both the original and successor D810 model, have all earned rave reviews for image quality performance.
These high-resolution Nikon DSLRs, while an excellent choice for crisp, detailed photos of slower, more deliberate subjects such as landscapes, portraiture and architecture, often compromised on speed, namely continuous burst shooting rates. Now, don't get me wrong, the D800 and D810 weren't slow, sluggish cameras, but at about 4fps and 5fps, respectively, for their maximum burst rates, they weren't exactly designed as the go-to choice for professionals when it came to photographing sports and action subjects.
Nikon D850 Field Test Part II
Nikon's new DSLR shines in the field - is it their best camera ever?
In William Brawley's Nikon D850 Field Test Part I from Bend, Oregon, he covered a lot of the camera's features and functionality. If you have yet to read his Field Test, click here. In this Field Test Part II, I am going to take a closer look at working with D850 RAW files and discuss how the camera performs in the field with respect to wildlife and night photography. Further, I'll write about my experiences using the D850 as a longtime D800E user.
Working with the D850 RAW files
In-camera RAW processing
Like other Nikon cameras, the D850 offers in-camera RAW processing. This allows you to take RAW images and perform a variety of edits to the file before exporting it as a JPEG. You can change the JPEG quality, image size, white balance, exposure compensation, Picture Style, strength of high ISO noise reduction, color space, vignette control and Active D-Lighting settings. You can also get a live preview of the changes you're making on the display. Once you've made the desired processing selections, you can then export the JPEG file of your choice to either memory card slot. What makes the D850 special though is that you can perform batch RAW processing to either selected images, all images on a chosen card or all images together. Not only is this a great feature, but it works really well and is very quick, with RAW files being processed and exported as JPEGs in only a couple of seconds.
Nikon D850 Field Test Part III
Is the D850 the best Nikon DSLR ever for video?
In my Field Test Part II, I discussed RAW files from the D850, how the D850 compares to the D800/D810. I also touched on using the D850 for wildlife and for night photography. In this Field Test Part III, I will discuss the camera's built-in timelapse functionality and video features.
Built-in timelapse functionality
The D850 has extensive timelapse functionality, including built-in 4K timelapses as well as an 8K timelapse function, although these 8K sequences are not compiled in-camera like the 4K timelapses.
When shooting 4K timelapses in-camera, you have control over the shooting interval, total shooting time and whether exposure smoothing and "silent photography" is enabled. I like how much control over the timelapses you have with the D850. Another nice touch is that as you adjust the settings, the camera automatically updates the total shooting time and the length of the final timelapse sequence, which is of course dependent upon interval, shooting time and the frame rate of the final video.
Nikon D850 Image Quality Comparison
Pitting this heavyweight against the 5D IV, 5DS R, GFX, D810 & A7R III
For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Nikon D850, Nikon D810, Canon 5D IV, Canon 5DS R, Fuji GFX, and Sony A7R III -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Nikon D850 to any camera we've ever tested!
Nikon D850 Print Quality Analysis
The new king of full-frame print size?
The Nikon D850 delivers outstanding performance in the print quality department, as we would expect given the storied history of this camera line. While slightly besting its predecessor the D810 by a print size at ISO 1600, it otherwise matches stride with its popular forebear at all other gain settings. It does however best the Sony A7R III and Canon 5D Mark IV rivals at several notable gain settings, allowing it to retain its crown as the king of the printing world for full-frame cameras, and further justifying its Best Overall Camera award for 2017.
Nikon D850 Video
The D850 is proof Nikon is finally taking video seriously
But finally, when I look at the D850, I think there are signs that is changing. With the features that Nikon has built in to their new flagship, I think it's fair to say they're finally taking video seriously.
Nikon D850 Conclusion
Best Overall Camera for 2017
Stunning image quality: excellent detail, dynamic range & high ISOs
The D850 sports a 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor, which is Nikon's highest resolution sensor yet and is also their first backside-illuminated (BSI) full-frame sensor. At both low and high ISOs, the D850's image quality is fantastic. Nikon's high-end DSLRs, especially their full-frame models from the last five years or so, have consistently earned high marks for their image quality, and the D850 undoubtedly continues that heritage.
In the Box
The retail package contains the following items:
- Nikon D850 camera body
- EN-EL15a Lithium-ion battery
- MH-25A Quick Charger
- BF-1B body cap
- DK-17F finder eyepiece
- UC-E22 USB 3.0 cable
- HDMI/USB cable clip
- AN-DC18 camera strap
- Warranty card
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