Nikon D850 Performance


Timing and Performance

Excellent performance for its class.

Startup/Play to Record

Power on
to first shot

~0.2 second

Time it takes for camera to turn on.

Play to Record,
first shot

~0.1 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Startup including taking a shot was very fast, and switching from Play to Record and taking a shot was even faster.

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Optical Viewfinder

Full Autofocus
Single Point
(Center) AF-S

0.076 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder. All timing performed with a Nikkor AF-S 60mm f/2.8 Micro lens.

Manual focus

0.052 second

For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

Prefocused

0.046 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Live View

Full Autofocus
AF-S

0.726 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button, waiting for focus confirmation, then fully pressing shutter button in Live View mode.

Prefocused

0.145 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button in Live View mode.

In terms of the D850's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times (with no change of focus setting between iteration, to remove the impact of lens AF speed), its speed was excellent. The D850's full AF shutter lag measured only 0.076 second or 76 milliseconds using single-area (center) AF-S mode, our standard test. This is significantly faster than the D810's 0.212 second for the same test.

Manual focus lag was 52 milliseconds, a bit faster than the D810's 56ms. When prefocused, shutter lag was only 46 milliseconds, also faster than the D810's 54ms.

As expected, the D850's Live View mode adds a lot of AF shutter lag, though it still tested a bit faster than the D810. We measured 0.726 second for full autofocus lag, compared to 0.875 second for the D810. That's almost 10x slower than with the optical viewfinder. The D850 still relies on contrast-detect AF in Live View mode, though, so AF speed will vary a lot depending on the lens being used, and that is why we typically don't measure Live View full AF lag for DSLRs anymore.

Once prefocused, shutter lag in Live View mode was 0.145 second, also a bit faster than the D810's 0.158 second. Pretty fast, but still considerably slower than using the optical viewfinder.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance.

 

Cycle Time (shot to shot)

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG
(Optimal quality)

< 0.3 second

Time per shot, averaged over a few frames (we no longer test for buffer depths in single-shot mode).

Single Shot mode
RAW + L/F JPEG

< 0.3 second

Time per shot, averaged over a few frames (we no longer test for buffer depths in single-shot mode).

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous Hi
Large/Fine JPEG
(Optimal quality)

0.14 second
(7.12 fps);
200 frames total;
1.2 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over capped buffer depth of 200 frames.

Continuous Hi
14-bit RAW (Lossless compressed)

0.14 second
(7.14 fps);
200 frames total;
1.9 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over capped buffer depth of 200 frames.

Continuous Hi
14-bit RAW (Lossless) + L/F JPEG

0.14 second
(7.09 fps);
53 frames total;
4.4 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 53 shot buffer, then slowed to an average of 0.20s or 4.90 fps when the buffer was full.

With optional MB-D18 battery grip and EN-EL18b battery

Continuous Hi
Large/Fine JPEG
(Optimal quality)

0.11 second
(9.18 fps);
55 frames total;
4.4 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 55 shot buffer, then slowed to an average of 0.14s or 7.08 fps with a lot of variation when the buffer was full.

Continuous Hi
14-bit RAW (Lossless) + L/F JPEG

0.11 second
(9.20 fps);
20 frames total;
5.1 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shot buffer, then slowed to an average of 0.27s or 3.73 fps with a lot of variation when the buffer was full.

*Note: Buffer depths and clearing times measured with a Lexar Pro 2933x XQD 2.0 400MB/s flash card except where otherwise noted. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slower cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle times were so fast that they were difficult to accurately measure as they depend on the tester's dexterity and ability to maintain an optimum rhythm, so your results may vary. (Note that we no longer test single-shot mode with just RAW files, as the results are usually somewhere in between JPEG and RAW+JPEG.)

Continuous Hi burst mode slightly exceeded Nikon's spec of seven frames per second at about 7.1 fps no matter the file type, and we've confirmed the camera can shoot at just over 9 frames per second (9.2 fps in our tests) with the NB-D18 battery grip with an EN-EL18b installed.

Buffer depths were very generous with our fast Lexar Pro 2933x XQD 2.0 card, artificially capped at 200 frames for optimal quality large/fine JPEGs or 14-bit lossless compressed NEF RAW files when shooting at 7 fps. When shooting 14-bit lossless compressed RAW+JPEG, the buffer depth dropped to 53 frames but the buffer-full rate was still a very decent 4.9 frames per second.

Buffer clearing was quite fast with our Lexar XQD 2.0 card, even with the large file sizes the D850 generates. We measured clearing times ranging from only 1.2 seconds after 200 JPEGs to 4.4 seconds after 53 RAW+JPEG frames. And the camera lets you make setting changes and view just-shot images while it's clearing.

As mentioned, with the optional MB-D18 battery grip and an EN-EL18b battery the D850 managed about 9.2 frames per second, and when shooting optimal quality large/fine JPEGs, the buffer depth was 55 frames before slowing. With 14-bit lossless compressed RAW+JPEG files, buffer depth fell to 20 frames. Sorry, we didn't test just RAW files with the grip. Clearing was still quite fast, ranging from only 4.4 to 5.1 seconds in our tests.

Note that buffer depths will of course vary with file type, image size, compression, bit-depth, crop mode, etc., and like most high-end Nikon DSLRs the D850 offers far too many options to test. Below is a buffer capacity table based on Nikon's published figures using a Sony QD-G64E XQD 2.0 card to give you an idea how the file types compare. Note that Nikon's JPEG figures are with "Size Priority" compression versus "Optimal" quality for our tests:

Nikon claimed buffer depths with Sony QD-G64E XQD 2.0 card
FX (Full Frame) Image Area
Image Size
Buffer Capacity
RAW: Lossless Compressed, 12-bit
Large (45.4MP)
170
Medium (25.6MP)
94
Small (11.4MP)
56
RAW: Lossless Compressed, 14-bit
Large (45.4MP)
51
RAW: Compressed, 12-bit
Large (45.4MP)
200
RAW: Compressed, 14-bit
Large (45.4MP)
74
RAW: Uncompressed, 12-bit
Large (45.4MP)
55
RAW: Uncompressed, 14-bit
Large (45.4MP)
29
TIFF: RGB, Uncompressed, 24-bit
Large (45.4MP)
32
Medium (25.6MP)
35
Small (11.4MP)
39
JPEG: Fine/Normal/Basic
All Sizes
200
DX (APS-C Crop) Image Area
Image Size
Buffer Capacity
RAW: Lossless Compressed, 12-bit
Large (19.5MP)
200
Medium (10.9MP)
200
Small (4.9MP)
200
RAW: Lossless Compressed, 14-bit
Large (19.5MP)
200
RAW: Compressed, 12-bit
Large (19.5MP)
200
RAW: Compressed, 14-bit
Large (19.5MP)
200
RAW: Uncompressed, 12-bit
Large (19.5MP)
200
RAW: Uncompressed, 14-bit
Large (19.5MP)
200
TIFF: RGB, Uncompressed, 24-bit
Large (19.5MP)
113
Medium (10.9MP)
200
Small (4.9MP)
200
JPEG: Fine/Normal/Basic
All Sizes
200

While our policy here at IR is to use the fastest card we have available for performance tests, we also did some testing with our 64GB Lexar Pro 2000x UHS-II SDXC card to see how it compares to our faster XQD 2.0 card. At 7 fps, the UHS-II card managed 75 best quality JPEGs, 40 14-bit lossless RAW files and 35 14-bit lossless RAW+JPEG frames before the camera slowed down or began to "stutter" (oscillate between full speed and much slower speeds). Buffer clearing times increased to 7.6 seconds after the 75 JPEGs, 5.3 seconds after 40 RAW files and 7 seconds after 35 RAW+JPEG files. Not bad considering the large file sizes the D850 produces, but as you can see the camera makes good use of a faster XQD 2.0 card.


Bottom line, the D850's performance in the lab was superb for its class and resolution, with almost instantaneous startup and mode switching, swift autofocus (when using the optical viewfinder), low shutter lag, very quick cycle times, relatively fast burst modes (even faster with the grip), deep buffers, and rapid buffer clearing. The only "fly in the ointment" in terms of performance is the D850 still relies solely on contrast-detect AF in Live View mode, so autofocus during LV and video recording is sluggish and prone to hunting.

Battery

Battery Life

Outstanding battery life.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Still Capture
(CIPA standard, Optical Viewfinder)
1840
Still Capture
(CIPA standard, Live View LCD)
Not published

The D850 uses a custom EN-EL15a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and dedicated charger. The CIPA-rated 1840 shots per charge using the optical viewfinder is outstanding for its class, and a significant increase over the 1200 shots per charge of its predecessor, though keep in mind the D810 had a built-in flash which is fired for 50% of shots in CIPA battery life testing while the D850 does not have a built-in flash. Unfortunately, Nikon does not seem to publish battery life in number of shots when Live View mode is used, however it's a safe bet that it's much lower. Nikon does however claim about 70 minutes of HD video can be recorded on a charge. With the optional MB-D18 battery pack and EN-EL18b battery installed, CIPA-rated battery life increases to a whopping 3300 shots or 145 minutes of HD footage.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of on fully-charged battery, based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

 



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