Nikon D850 Review
Hi guys, Shawn here from digiDIRECT. Today we’re going to be checking out the new Nikon d850. Now, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about this camera, there’s been a ton of buzz around it and it literally flew off the shelves when it came out earlier this month. This is really aimed squarely at the working professional – there’s a lot of high-end performance in this camera. It also takes a lot of cues and features from the very popular at D500, which Nikon came out with recently as well. We’ll go through all these features, but without any further ado let’s start with a look at the body of the camera. Form-wise there’s not too many surprises here, it looks very similar to a lot of full-frame cameras Nikon have put out in the past. It’s a fully weather-sealed camera and it has a very solid feel to it – a nice weight to the camera.
There’s a really nice deep grip that’s very comfortable to hold even if you’ve got larger hands. Even if there’s a weighty lens on the front it’s going to give you some nice leverage, so that’s excellent. One unique point, here we have the addition of a tilting LCD screen which is going to allow you to shoot from high or low angles. This is really nice, and very hard to find on a full-frame DSLR. It’s also a touchscreen, which is also something new in this range for Nikon, so that’s a nice addition. We also gain a joystick – we saw that on the D500 but it was not on the D810. This allows you to quickly and effectively change your AF point. The viewfinder is also very nice and large and it features a 0.75x magnification – it looks really nice. Other than that we see a lot of similarities here in the button layout. We’ve got a couple customisable function buttons, the top LCD screen, our drive selector – all things that we’re used to seeing on Nikon full-frame cameras. On the side we have an HDMI and USB port as well as a mic and headphone jack, and on the front we have a remote and a flash port. On the other side we have slots for an XQD card and an SD card, and you can of course save your files to these separately.
At the bottom we have our EN-EL15a battery, and that’s rated for 1840 shots on this camera – that’s quite a good battery rating. Note there is also a battery grip you can get for this camera. We also do have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capability on this camera and therefore Nikon SnapBridge capability, which is something that we’ve seen in a number of recent Nikon cameras. So the first thing spec-wise Nikon has done here is up the sensor resolution game. This camera has a 45 megapixel sensor inside of it with no low-pass filter. That’s a ton of resolution, and that’s approaching the top of what you’d be able to get without going to a medium format camera. That’s going to be great for a lot of different styles of photography – landscape photographers in particular are really going to like this because you always want more resolution when you’re shooting landscape. It’s going to allow you to crop in quite a bit with your files so you can be a lot more flexible with them. It will also allow you to blow up huge prints if you need. So a lot of different uses for that extra resolution, although it is going to mean that the file sizes coming out of this camera are going to be quite a bit larger than on a camera with a much lower resolution, so it’s going take up more space on your SD card or in your computer.
Luckily Nikon has included a half RAW mode that actually shoots a 25 megapixel shot or even lower if you don’t need the full resolution you want to save on some space. They’ve also added an electronic shutter mode on here which essentially gives you a silent shooting mode if you’re somewhere where you have to be quiet like perhaps of wedding ceremony. It also means that you can shoot without having any mirror shake at all. Now don’t get me wrong, the mirror damping on in this camera is quite good, you’re not going to see a lot of shutter shock. BUT, with 45 megapixels, if you really want to make sure you’re getting the absolute most out of that, chuck this on a tripod in electronic shutter mode and you’re going to make sure that you’re maximising that resolution. They’ve also given a low ISO mode of 64 on this camera, so you can shoot at a very very low ISO. That’s great if you’re shooting in a bright environment – especially if you’re shooting video and you want to maintain that 1/50th shutter speed or thereabouts when it’s bright outside and you maybe don’t have ND filters. It just gives you a little bit more flexibility, which is always handy to have. So let’s talk about the autofocus system here because this is where this camera really gets serious. It inherits the 153 point autofocus system that was on the D5 – this is just hands-down one of the best and most effective auto focusing systems on the market. It’s a definite upgrade over the 51-point autofocus system that was on the D810.
It also gains the 3D Tracking functionality that was in the D5 and the D500. This system is fast, its responsive, and it’s accurate – it’s almost impossible to take an out-of-focus photo with this camera. Take a look at some of these bird shots. Now, these are not good photos, but what I was doing here is basically shooting from the hip without looking at the viewfinder – quick drawing the camera up and just pointing at the subject as it was flying past just to see how fast it could grab focus and keep it. You’ll notice, all of these shots are in focus! It’s amazing at keeping focused, amazing at tracking focus. If you have a subject coming towards you, which is traditionally very difficult for cameras to keep track of, it’s just with it the whole way. If you’re shooting any kind of sports or action this camera is going to absolutely do it for you. For low-light shooters the autofocus system is effective at up to negative 4EV, so if you’re shooting in dark environments like a wedding reception hall or a concert, that’s still going to work for you. It has a 7 frames per second burst shooting rate – that actually goes up to 9 frames per second if you have the battery grip on there – so it’s a quite fast burst shooting rate. You have a buffer of 51 RAW photos, so you can shoot for about seven seconds straight before you fill up the buffer. That’s pretty impressive considering that this is shooting 45 megapixels shots. Obviously if you jump down to half RAW or JPEG that buffer size is going to increase. So it’s excellent for action, lots of fast shooting options, and excellent auto focus tracking.
The only area where it falls a little bit down from that is when you’re auto focusing in live view. There is a noticeable performance decrease when you’re shooting in Live View, which includes the electronic shutter or also autofocus for video. It’s not quite up to snuff for those capabilities. But for most of these situations where you’re shooting a lot of fast action you’re probably going to be using the viewfinder anyway, so that’s not a huge thing but just be aware of it. But overall an exceptionally high quality autofocus system here on the D850. the D850 is actually a surprisingly capable video camera. I say “surprisingly” because Nikon is not generally well known for their video performance. But the camera can shoot 4k video with a full sensor readout, which is excellent. You also can go into a crop mode which can still shoot full 4K video – that’s handy if you need a little bit of extra reach, maybe you have a prime lens and you can’t move the camera, chuck it into crop mode you’ll get a little bit extra telephoto reach out. Both regular and crop mode are 4K, both of them are really nice, crisp, high-quality video, so that’s excellent. It also can shoot 1080p at up to 120 frames per second. Now, like most cameras, as you increase the frame rate the video gets a little bit softer, but even at 120 fps it’s still pretty good.
This let’s you get some nice slow-mo footage which is excellent as well and very handy to have. The camera has 8K time-lapse, which is great although I will note that in this mode it does not put the time-lapse together for you in-camera, you do have to take the photos to your editor and make the time-lapse yourself. It has a mic and headphone jack, so you can attach an external microphone and monitor that audio with no issues, that’s excellent. They’ve added focus peaking in here but strangely it’s only for 1080p – you can’t use the focus peaking in 4K. That’s a bit of a strange gap in the feature set, especially since in 4k you’ve got that higher resolution and you really want to make sure you’re in focus……and you don’t have focus peaking. So that’s a little bit weird. It does have a flat picture profile which will give you a bit of a lower contrast image which is better for grading, but it’s not like an S-LOG or a V-LOG profile. It’s not a profile that’s ABSOLUTELY really meant for colour grading. Overall this is very strong performance in video from a company that’s really not known for that, so I’m glad to see them trying to up their game in that area. If you’re primarily a stills photographer but you have to occasionally shoot video, this is going to be excellent.
You can shoot really nice high-resolution footage, slow-mo, a nice feature set, time lapse as well – really it’s going to do it for you. If you are looking for a camera PRIMARILY for video though, I would still look elsewhere as there’s still other better options on the market. But like I said, it has come a long way and is definitely certainly very competent. So there’s very little that I can fault the D850 for here, and it’s obvious why it’s had all that buzz around it. It’s a well-built camera that takes exceptionally sharp and high-resolution photos, it has an amazing autofocus system inside of it and very good video features as well. I think this is going to be a workhorse camera if you’re a working professional. It’s got something for all different genres – landscape shooters, wedding, portraits, sports shooters. Really a well-rounded camera that excels in almost every aspect. The one caveat I will say is that this is obviously not an inexpensive camera, so you’re paying for that performance. But for someone who is making their living from their their photography it’s an absolutely a worthwhile investment and I think it will not disappoint. As I mentioned the D850 is out now, you can come into one of our stores and give it a try – we have stores in the Sydney CBD, Bondi Junction, Miranda, Chatswood, the Brisbane and Melbourne CBD, and Cannington, Western Australia.