Nikon D850: Thoughts, Impressions, And Specifications Review

The earth shook for Nikon enthusiasts on August 24th, 2017 with the launch of the new Nikon D850. For weeks and months prior, rumors had been running rampant to such an extent that this body could easily win the award for “Most Leaked Camera In History.” Still, it’s good to have final confirmation from Nikon.

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail asking what I think about the new addition to the Nikon family, so I thought I’d post this article to share those thoughts and impressions with you.

First, let’s take a quick look at the primary specifications. Just a casual glance down the list is enough to give any Nikon user a few excited heart palpitations as they reach for their credit card. In fact, I think this list is impressive enough to make quite a few shooters, who currently aren’t using Nikon, consider making the switch.

  • 45.7MP Nikon-Designed Backside Illuminated Full Frame FX Sensor
  • Expeed 5 Image Processor
  • Newly designed shutter mechanism (less vibration) Tested to 200,000 shots
  • RAW, Jpeg, and TIFF support – three sizes of RAW files (45, 25, & 11 MP)
  • XQD and SD (UHS I and II) – Buffer clears in 7 seconds with XQD
  • 0.75X Magnification 100% viewfinder with diopter
  • 30 seconds to 1/8000th of a second shutter, flash sync 1/250th (Auto FP supported)
  • 7 FPS, 9 FPS with grip + EN-EL18b battery inserted. No speed increase in crop modes
  • 51 frame buffer 14 bit RAW (170 frames in 12 Bit RAW)
  • 180K RBG pixel sensor (improved AF, face detection, metering over D810)
  • Native ISO range of 64 – 25,600
  • Multi-Cam 20K AF system (153 point AF system) – same as the D5/D500
  • AF sensitive -4EV to +20 EV
  • Single, Group, Dynamic (D9, D25, D72, D153), 3D and Auto AF areas
  • Live View touch to focus AF
  • Up to 4K 30FPS movie recording (full frame!) with focus peaking and zebra stripes (finally!)
  • 29 minutes, 59-second consecutive movie recording
  • 3.2-inch tilting touch screen, 2.3 million dots with 170-degree viewing angle
  • 1840 shots per battery cage with En-EL 15a battery
  • 32.3 oz (915g) body only

I don’t want to drone on about every specification, but there are a few that caught my eye and that I think would interest my fellow nature photographers.

Sensor

The overall resolution goes from 36MP in the D810 to 45.7MP in the new D850. It’s a nice leap but not extraordinary. If you print at 240 PPI, it’s the difference between making a 30.6-inch print with the D810 vs. a 34.4 inch print with the D850. Still, it’s a nice bump in resolution without going overboard.

Nikon is also using a backside illuminated sensor, making for easier and more efficient capturing of all those little photons – and more importantly, increasing readout speed (Nikon says the latter was the primary reason for going with a BSI sensor). Also, like the D810, this sensor lacks a low pass filter, so you won’t sacrifice any sharpness on the altar of moiré prevention. (Moiré isn’t really a problem at this pixel density, so don’t lose any sleep over the missing AA filter.)

As for performance, let’s examine dynamic range first since that’s one of the hallmarks of the D8xx series. The good news is that despite the increase in resolution, early tests seem to indicate that dynamic range is at least as good as the D810. However, at lower ISOs, it looks like the D750 is still in the lead and the D5 still holds the crown for higher ISO dynamic range. Still, it’s an estimated chart, so things may change once more data is accessible. (Only a few data points were available at the time of this article, but the gentleman who creates the charts is usually spot-on about such things).

(chart courtesy of Bill Claff, photonstophotos.net )

Nikon claims an increase of up to a one stop in ISO performance over the D810, but that almost seems too good to be true (although I have seen a few jpeg samples online that seem to corroborate Nikon’s statement – but the RAWs will tell the tale). Once I get my D850 in hand, I’ll be doing some ISO tests to compare. I have a feeling that the one stop advantage is for Jpegs only (where Nikon has quite the secret sauce for noise reduction), but if it holds true for RAW files that would put it solidly into D5 territory.

Autofocus, Live View

The D850 also inherits the incredible AF system from the D5/D500 – an AF system that, in my opinion, is currently the best on the planet.

It seems to have just about all the AF goodies we find in the D5 – Single Point, Group (not sure if it has the new Horizontal / Vertical Group AF options like the D5 or not), Dynamic (D9, D25, D72, D153), 3D, and Auto Area AF. I’m delighted to see D9 in that collection – the D500 lacks that mode and in my option D9 is one of the most useful of the bunch. I frequently use it in my D5, and it’s incredibly handy when you need an area that’s just a little bit larger than single point.

Thankfully, Nikon also saw fit to include a dedicated AF processor just like we have in the D5. So, I think it’s safe to say you’ll see AF performance that’s identical to what you get in the flagship pro body. (Note – in the past, Nikon’s pro series bodies sometimes shared the AF system with their “lesser” siblings, but the pro bodies always seemed to have more “aggressive” AF. This even seems to hold true with the D5 and D500, although the gap isn’t as wide as we’ve seen in the past. With this dedicated AF processor, I think the D850’s AF system will be every bit of what we experience with the D5.)

Another welcome addition from the D5/D500 is the little joystick on the back of the camera for moving AF points. I know it sounds like a minor thing, but try using one for awhile and then switch to a camera that doesn’t have one! Nowadays, my thumb goes on strike every time I shoot a non-joystick enabled camera.

As I predicted, this camera also includes Nikon’s Auto AF Fine Tune feature. This is a handy way to calibrate your lenses to your camera and solve any minor front or back focus issues. Plus at 46MP, you need army marksman-like precision with your AF system. Note that the typical way people use Auto AF Fine Tune tends to give mixed results. However, I have a system outlined at the link below (and in my Nikon AF book) that works much better:

Get The Most From Nikon’s Auto AF Fine Tune System

Also, note that there is a bit of a learning curve to this new AF system. If you’d like to get a leg up on it as you wait for your new camera to arrive, be sure to check out my e-book, Secrets To The Nikon AF System. Since it uses the same AF system as the D5/D500, all the information for those cameras will apply to the new body. Of course, there will be a free update to that book once I get a D850 in hand and have the opportunity to run it through its paces.

Live View also gets an upgrade with an option called “Pinpoint AF.” This feature allows you to use a focus area that’s only 25% the size of the “normal” area and can be an asset when you need ultra-precise focus (macros come to mind).

Speaking of cool Live View features, the D850 includes Focus Peaking. (Finally!) This feature has been commonplace in the Micro 4/3rds world for a long time, and it’s a very welcome addition to the new camera. Basically, what focus peaking does is to “highlight” the sharp areas in the photo (usually with a very gaudy color) so you can visually see what’s in critical focus. Focus peaking is a MAJOR upgrade for Live View shooters and a feature I know I’ll use on a regular basis. It’s also amazingly helpful for video, so I’m thrilled to see it included.

The camera also incorporates an innovative new feature for focus stacking that’s sure to be a hit among landscape and macro photographers. In case you’re not sure what focus stacking is, here’s a quick overview:

The idea with focus stacking is that you can achieve perfect focus from foreground to background without resorting to diffraction-limited F/Stops such as F/16 or F/22. Instead, you take multiple photos at different focus points throughout the image using something like F/5.6 or F/8.

So, you typically start with a focal point near the camera, focus, and shoot. Next, you rack the focus out deeper into the photo, being careful to overlap the zone of focus from your previous shot and shoot again. You do this until you have a collection of images that contain sharp “pieces” of the entire scene.

From there, you use third party software (like Photoshop) to automatically assemble all the sharp portions of the series into one single image that’s perfectly sharp from foreground to background. (I have a step-by-step walk through with examples of this in my Nikon AF book on page 369.)

This new automated focus stacking system in the D850 takes most of the hassle out of the process. You simply tell the camera the distance you want between shots, and it automatically changes the focus from shot to shot until the series is complete (plus it will store the stack in a separate folder on the memory card).

I’m VERY excited to try this out in the real world, and I’ll give you a demonstration of it in the upcoming full field review. As a bonus, it sounds like this can happen at 5FPS so if you have a subject that’s likely to move this may enable you to get the shot where manually adjusting focus is impractical. (Take that bugs and frogs!)

Frame Rate And Buffer

Next, let’s take a moment to gawk at those FPS. We’re talking 7 FPS with just the camera and a whopping 9FPS with the camera and grip! (Although you need the battery from the D5 in the grip to get those 9FPS, so just the grip itself isn’t enough.) That’s a ridiculous amount of data getting slid around inside that camera.

Also, note that there is no increase in frame rate with any of the crop modes. My understanding is that the mirror mechanism in this camera simply won’t go beyond 9FPS.

This incredible frame rate is groundbreaking for wildlife photographers in particular. In the past, we were always forced to make a choice: A slow, high-resolution camera capable of rendering extreme detail (and allowing for heavy cropping as needed) OR a fast camera at a lower resolution. Now, for the first time in Nikon’s history, we have a camera that can deliver an astonishing amount of resolution at very respectable frame rates. For the vast majority of wildlife action scenarios, 9 FPS is all you really need (and matches the speed of the D3 and is only a single FPS shy of the D4!)

To go along with that massive frame rate is a wonderfully deep buffer. The D850 can deliver 51 frames (14-bit lossless compressed RAW) or 170 frames (12-bit lossless compressed RAW) before it starts to chug. However, the good news is that even if you fill the buffer, it should only take about seven seconds to completely empty if you have an XQD card inserted.

Yes, I know, it’s not the 200 frame buffer we enjoy with the D500 or D5, however, after shooting both of those cameras for the last year and a half, I can tell you that I very seldom have gone beyond 50 frames worth of buffer for my action work. So, I think that although it comes up far short of the D5/D500, it’s still more than adequate. (Heck, once upon a time even pro series bodies couldn’t do much more than 20 frames in the buffer!)

Note that this cavernous buffer is thanks to having an XQD slot inserted in the body. I have little doubt that the SD slot will yield a smaller image reservoir before the buffer starts to chug. So, if you want to get the highest level of performance from your D850, make sure you budget in a few XQD cards with the purchase.

Buffer Note: One of our readers, Eric Bowles, sent me a message with an interesting point. It’s very likely the 51 frame buffer is based on the slower frame rate of 7FPS. With two extra FPS going into the buffer at 9FPS, he estimates a buffer capacity of more like 40 frames. I’ll test this when I get my camera, but something to think about. Although, keep in mind that switching to 12 bit will likely make it a non-issue if you need a high capacity buffer.

Another interesting new feature is the silent shutter mode. In Live View, you can shoot with a fully electronic shutter for completely silent photography (at up to 6FPS ). However, the lack of noise is just the icing on the cake in my opinion. The unique side effect of this system is that there is absolutely no vibration induced by the mirror or shutter mechanism at any time during the exposure. Think of it as mirror lockup on steroids!

Everything Else

The battery life also takes a significant step up from the D810, going from 1200 shots to 1840. In fact, if you use the D5 battery in the grip, you’ll get well over 5000 shots on a single charge! Plus, I’ve found battery life to be much higher than what the rating indicates for every Nikon camera I’ve owned. I tend to shoot in short bursts and can often get over twice the rating – so battery life with the D850 is going to be nothing short of outstanding.

Now, let’s talk about that tilt screen. The first camera I owned with this was the Nikon D500 and truthfully, I didn’t utilize it very well initially. However, as time has gone on, I’ve really come to appreciate the ability to tilt that back LCD panel and it’s starting to become a “must have” in my book. Honestly, I just can’t imagine going back to plopping down in the cold mud because I was forced to lay down to use the viewfinder – just flip on Live View and knock out your low-level shots with the tilt screen.

Thankfully, this implementation of the tilt screen allows you to use the touch feature for more than just a handful of chores. Unlike the D5/D500, you can now use touch for both image review AND menus. A very welcome addition and one that I really enjoyed with the D7500. I’m glad to see it here.

The specs also indicate that it’s quite a durable body, incorporating what Nikon calls “comprehensive weather and dust sealing.” That’s coupled with a magnesium alloy body and a newly designed vibration resistant shutter rated to last through 200,000 clicks. (If you do the math that’s just over 6 hours of continuous shooting. Umm, yeah, don’t do the math.) As an added bonus, it also features illuminated buttons for night work!

Finally, although I’m about as far from a DSLR video expert as you can get, there are a few points I’d like to mention.

First, the D850 can now do full frame 4K video – this is a REALLY big deal since previous Nikon bodies could only do cropped 4K (and there weren’t too many doing that either).

As mentioned, it also has focus peaking to help with manual focus scenarios. In addition, it also adds “Zebra Stripes” to the mix. Zebra stripes show up on the back LCD panel in video mode as a blown highlight warning – much like the blinkies we use when shooting stills.

In the end, I see this as – potentially – the ultimate camera for nature photographers. You can easily use it to capture a jaw-dropping high-resolution landscape in the morning and grab some bird action in the evening. On paper, it seems like a camera that can do everything a nature photographer would ever want.

I know phrases like this get thrown around more than a stuntman in a super hero movie, but, “This could be your last camera.”

Of course, all of this is based strictly on specifications so we’ll have to give it a real test run in the wild. I already have mine ordered and I’m planning an extensive field test that will take at least a month or two to complete.

High-Resolution Concerns

Any time a new, higher resolution body appears on the scene, it’s followed very shortly by a wave of concern over things like image quality and diffraction. So, let’s put some of those fears to rest.

First, diffraction. In short, it’s not a big deal. The #1 rule you must remember with diffraction is this: A higher resolution sensor will never give you worse image quality at a given aperture than a lower resolution sensor of the same size. So, in short, there’s nothing to worry about. However, if that’s not enough to set your mind at ease, take a look at my video that gives you the complete scoop:

Lens Diffraction In Photography

Next, is overall image quality. The truth is, to get the most out of this higher resolution sensor, you’ll need to have better technique than may have been required in the past. This involves better support and (very likely) faster shutter speeds. However, it’s far from an impossible task. If you’ve shot with any DX body above 20MP and made acceptable images, you’re already accustomed to using pixels at the same density as the D850. So, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it.

Recommendations

Normally, I have to really give this section of my reviews / overviews some serious thought.

Not this time.

In my mind – and based on the information at hand – the D850 seems like the ultimate “do everything” camera for nature photographers. You can start the morning out with an incredible sunrise shoot, taking advantage of the amazing resolution and dynamic range of this body. From there, you can head over to your favorite wildlife area and knock off incredibly detailed shots and easily have the performance to capture any action scenario.

Basically, if you can afford it, get it. 

I’ve had quite a few readers asking if this would be a “better” camera than the D500 for wildlife shooting since the DX crop is about the same resolution as the D500. That’s a valid point, and the truth is, I think the answer is a resounding, “Yes, it’s a better choice!”

Sure, it still falls 1 FPS short of the D500 for frame rate and has a smaller buffer, but the camera is more than adequate for just about any wildlife action scenario.

Plus, you have the advantage of a full frame sensor for better low light performance and dynamic range. And, most importantly, that full frame sensor allows you to capture images with shallower, subject-isolating depth of field – my #1 reason for preferring full frame to DX for wildlife work. In my mind, the only reason to stick with a D500 is if the $1300 price difference is just too much to swallow.

Speaking of price, the Nikon D850 retails at $3296 – far less than I had expected. Although, I know in other countries it is considerably higher in price. However, keep in mind if you want the vertical grip you’ll need to add another $400 on to the price and if you want 9FPS, you’ll also need to snag a D5 battery at the cost of $150, plus a charger for $370. That brings the total up to $4216. Not cheap, but keep in mind that this camera can easily replace two (like a D500 and D810), so not totally unreasonable either. 

In the end, the hardest thing for me about this camera is resisting the urge to buy two of them.

If you’d like to help support these reviews, please consider placing your pre-order through my amazon link. Thanks!

PS…

If you enjoyed this article, I think you’ll REALLY like my e-books, Secrets To Stunning Wildlife Photography and Secrets To The Nikon Autofocus System. They’re filled with hundreds of pages of information just like this. Check it out – click here (hey, it’s free to look 🙂 )

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This entry was posted in Nikon Gear, Opinions, Reviews.

66 Comments

  1. Jeff Holdgate September 25, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    Steve, have you done a comparison of the AF performance vs the D500 or D5? I’ve seen some reports that the D850 does not match the AF performance of these two cameras …

    See here – https://www.nikonians.org/forum/topic/430-46852-46852/interesting-video-on-d850-tracking-af

  2. Jakes De Wet September 20, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

    The D850 looks like a serious camera that incorporate most of what wildlife shooters want and need. locally in South Africa we have already seen a big number of D810’s, D500’s and D5’s coming to market as they are exchanged for the D850. Never seen so much hype and excitement around the launch of a DSLR. My approach with upgrading is to do it when my current cameras get to a stage where I feel they are holding me back or require ongoing maintenance. Maybe the same the way I treat cars, Driving them for 6-7 years. I just invested in a D5 and 2 yrs ago a D810. So will have to drive these 2 for a few more years. The D5 is an amazing camera and as I do a lot of early morning and late afternoon photography, the ability to shoot at higher ISO levels and get clean images is a big plus. So, I enjoy the enthusiasm around the D850 and fantastic for Nikon to enter the market with what looks like a serious camera that will restore confidence in the market. Now, I am waiting for the new 200-400 f4 E with build in TC1.4. So to all the D850 buyers, enjoy.

  3. David Maynard September 11, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

    Hi, I am from UK, I have bought new nikon D850, one thing with Mup, I cannot find instruction about Mup, I know its Mirror lock up but the old D800/800e when I use cable called Nikon MC-30A, I press twice on my D800/800e one press for mirror up and second press to fire shutter. But with D850 only press once?

    I am doing landscape.

    Many thanks

    • Scott Trebble September 14, 2017 at 11:18 pm #

      I just tried those same settings, and only managed to get 32 frames before slowdown. This is with a Lexar 440 MB/s 2933x card (I think the fasted you can get)
      What’s going on Nikon?

  4. Oliver September 9, 2017 at 10:07 am #

    Dear all…..Great disappointment- got my D850 two days ago and just tried several of the highlighted features of the D850.
    I was interested in the number of shots per burst. I tried 14bit losless compressed with 7fps and only achieved 24 frames until slow down. Display showed r20. Bringing it down to 12bit, no more extra frames (25 tested, display r20). Even bringing it down to DX with 14bit the display showed r15??? Big questions. Any suggestions. I would really appreciate feedback…. thanks in advance…. greetings from switzerland……Oli

  5. Steve W. September 9, 2017 at 1:42 am #

    Hi, Steve. Sounds like you expect the D850 in crop mode will at least equal the results you achieve with your D500? (Otherwise it would take some big and expensive glass to match the crop sensor’s reach).

  6. Al Wyman September 6, 2017 at 9:16 pm #

    Hi Steve
    Do you know if the vertical grip and RRS L brackets on my D810 will work with the D850 or will I have to replace them which now pushes the cost up close to $4k

    Thanks
    Al

    • Sabra September 13, 2017 at 9:39 pm #

      I have the Kirk L-Bracket for a D500 that fits my D850. I haven’t tried my D810 bracket though. Now you’ve peaked my interest on that, and I will try later. Also, the Phantom LCD glass protector that fits my D500 also fits my D850. Just put that on today. And yes, the touchscreen still works, too. 🙂

  7. rolando September 5, 2017 at 7:38 am #

    Hi, I was wondering how the ISO dynamic range of the D850 compares to the one of the D4s.
    Also, given the high resolution of the D850, is there anything to worry about lenses having a lower resolving power than that of the D850’s sensor?
    .
    Some lenses that interest me are the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, Sigma 50 f/1.4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8, Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8, Tokina 100mm f/2.8 (macro).
    .
    Thanks a million, highly appreciate your expert advice!
    Ciao,
    Rolando

  8. Walter September 2, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    Hi Steve
    Thanks a lot for this detailed article. It finally made my decision to order a D850 with battery grip and trade the D800.

    But what should I do with my D4s? I afraid when I become accustomed to the new body, the D4s will remain sadly in the cupboard. And that would be a waste of investment. Ok, at least the second EN-EL18a could be kept. Do you think the D850 can replace the D4s too?

    • Steve Perry September 2, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

      Hi Walter –

      I’m in the same situation with my D5 – I think the D850 may replace it. However, the good thing with the D4s is that the value of that camera has (probably) stabilized at this point – at least until there is another single digit pro camera released. So, I’d say just hang tight and see what the D850 can do. If you never use the D4s, sell it at that point.

      NPS said I should see mine between the 7~14th, so I’ll be doing a lot of field testing and getting a review up by late October (hopefully).

  9. Tom Jones September 2, 2017 at 3:01 am #

    Steve, good work product from you as expected. I have a pre-order in for the D850. I hope you can give us some early advice on settings as you did so well on the D500.
    Tom

  10. F P D Cotterill September 1, 2017 at 8:21 am #

    Hi Steve
    Latest articles appearing on the www (including feedback from Nikon) further confirm the D850 is the obvious choice for wildlife and outdoor photography (cf updates on Nikon Rumours)
    Notably:
    https://www.dpreview.com/news/6772782345/exclusive-nikon-answers-20-popular-questions-about-the-nikon-d850

    https://www.richardpeters.co.uk/nikon-d850-review-the-best-wildlife-photography-camera-ever-made/

  11. Jack Zhi August 31, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    Great article! Always loved them and your videos too! I have a D500. I am never able to shoot a flying bird with the LiveView. AF is too slow. Not sure if the flying spoonbill was shut with LiveView of D5 or D500? Any thoughts on LiveView AF performance on the new D850? Thanks!

    Jack

    • Steve Perry September 2, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

      Live View just can’t do flying birds – you have to stick with PDAF (viewfinder based AF). LV is just too slow and I don’t think that’s going to change until nikon starts using PDAF on the imaging sensor.

    • Jack Zhi September 3, 2017 at 6:00 pm #

      Cool. Thanks again, Steve! Look forward to your hands-on review, especially regarding the AF speed (comparing to D5’s) and the ISO performance (also comparing to D5 🙂

      Jack

  12. Willy Enns August 30, 2017 at 7:02 am #

    Hi Steve, I have always enjoyed reading your articles, one thing I have not heard much about the 850 is the file size it will produce. Most people will have to upgrade their mac/pc also or waiting longer for their images to download. We already had this delima with the d800 and 810.

    • Steve Perry September 2, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

      No clue on that one – larger than the D810 for sure 🙂 I’ll make a note of it in the field review.

  13. Alex Ragen August 28, 2017 at 8:50 pm #

    Thanks for the detailed and informative review. One point regarding price comparisons. US prices are always quoted not including sales taxes, which vary from locale to locale. EU prices always include VAT (= sales tax), so a straight comparison is misleading. EU VAT is typically around 18-20%, US sales taxes are 9-10% at the most.

  14. Craig August 28, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

    Great review Steve. Has me contemplating a change from Canon. I’ve been happy with my 5D Mark IV, but I like what I’m seeing on the new Nikon. I’ll wait and see what Canon does next. If they don’t come up with some features I’m looking for, I may make the switch to Nikon

    • Steve Perry August 30, 2017 at 11:01 pm #

      Hi Craig –

      I purchased a 5DIV earlier this year to “try” Canon and although I try to get out and use it, I just keep coming back to Nikon. Better AF, greater DR, nicer files IMO.

  15. John Steadman August 28, 2017 at 2:07 pm #

    Hello Steve.
    Thank you for a very interesting article on the new D850, At present I have a D810 but I shall look forward to reading more details from you when you have tried the D850 out in the field before I make up my mind. Your articles are first class and highly recommended.
    John.

  16. Michel August 28, 2017 at 10:41 am #

    Hi Steve,
    Amazing article, thanks for it!
    The D810 does very loud clicks. DX series cams are much smoother.
    How are the D850 clicks? Are they like the D810 or more like the D500/D300… ?

    • Steve Perry August 28, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

      Can’t say yet – I haven’t had a chance to handle the camera. We’ll look at that in the field report 🙂

      • Prasad Palaniyandi August 28, 2017 at 10:35 pm #

        As usual great work Steve…

        We all need to write to Nikon CEO to make you as Ambassador for Nikon and should be part of pre-production testing team. I believe certainly you have all the credit and eligibility for it..

        • Steve Perry August 30, 2017 at 11:01 pm #

          I’m game if you can talk them into it 🙂

    • IScott Trebble September 14, 2017 at 11:52 pm #

      I can say the 850 is much smoother and quieter than an 800.

  17. Ganesh August 28, 2017 at 5:49 am #

    HI Steve,

    Thanks for the great overview as always. Just a quick observation on Focus Peaking. I think focus peaking only works at 1080P and not at 4K.
    Also, is there a significant advantage in shooting at 14bit vs 12bit? considering the fact that the latter offers a better buffer, i am sure that’d be the preferred setting for shooting action but just want to know what are the ‘cons’ in terms of shooting 12bit.

    • Steve Perry August 28, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

      Hmm – not sure on the 4K thing, I’ll test it when I have a camera in hand. That would be odd if it didn’t allow it though.

      14 bit is capturing more information and allows for better tonal gradation than 12 bit. The upshot is that it can help when you’re pulling shadows or fixing highlights since there is more color information to work with. However, up until recently, I’ve frequently used 12bit RAW for my wildlife work for the increased buffer size and very seldom saw any ill effect from it. If the light is harsh / tricky, 14bit can be your friend, but in the vast majority of circumstances, you’ll never see a difference.

  18. Marc Mol August 28, 2017 at 5:44 am #

    Hi Steve, it might be best to delete my response, as I have just realized that I had it the other way round, one requires the MH26A charger which is from the D4s to use the adapter and not via the D3s charger, my apologies.

  19. Gregory August 28, 2017 at 1:53 am #

    Thank you Steve, I follow your advice like a hawk.
    I am going to Rwanda in 4 weeks to photograph Gorillas and then to the Serengeti. Am expecting a new 850 before leaving. Are there any changes in your recommended camera settings for this model, i.e. Single point, Dynamic 9 vs 153 points and group settings?
    Are there any recommendations for crop mode button assignment?
    Thx,
    Greg

    • Steve Perry August 28, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

      Hi Greg –

      The thing is, I haven’t used the camera so I can’t say for sure. For AF, the info in the Nikon AF book for the D5/D500 will apply, so use the advice there for sure. As for crop modes, keep in mind they do not increase frame rate, BUT they will increase the buffer size and allow for more images on your cards. I normally assign my PV button to a different AF Area, so I’d probably assign the FN1 button to crop mode duty (press and turns dial) if I were going to use it regularly. I suppose the Fn2 button on the back would be fine for that use as well – if it supports it.

      Hope that helps!

  20. nino Liberatore August 28, 2017 at 12:55 am #

    Steve
    Thanks a very easy to follow review
    i really enjoy reading your work ,sooo now off to sell the D500 and my D810
    keep up the good work !!

  21. Gary August 27, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    Thanks for a great review. Tried one yesterday, amazing.

    I note the lens size to shutter speed ratio is 4x as opposed to 1x on the D500/D750.
    Shoot some wildlife handheld with an 80-400mm so at 400mm shutter speed 1\1600 less a bit for AF. Do you see this as an issue. Concerned about sharp images hand held. In good light ok but what happens when its not perfect light.

    • Steve Perry August 28, 2017 at 12:40 am #

      Not overly concerned. Keep in mind the D850 is about the same pixel density as the D500 – that’s what’s important. Just a larger sensor. So, if you can get sharp images with the D500, then you should be just fine with the D850.

    • Gary August 28, 2017 at 5:45 am #

      Thanks Steve.
      Nikon thought it may be a concern. Decision is do I trade in my D500 or D750. Love both!!
      Going to Africa in October and want the best chance of great images.

  22. Timothy Errington August 27, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

    Thanks Steve. Good overview.
    Once you have one in hand will you be testing/commenting on the behavior of the Dynamic AF modes as opposed the D5/D500 and earlier models? I know this has been an area of concern with the new AF module and the discussion has paused pending the introduction of the D850.
    Thanks again.

    • Steve Perry August 28, 2017 at 12:41 am #

      It’s one of the first things I’m planning to test – VERY curious about it. If it’s the same as the D5/D500, then I guess it’s just the way Nikon is doing things now. If it’s like the older system, then we need a firmware update for the D5/D500.

  23. Paul August 27, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

    Its always nice to have two bodies I get frustrated in the wilds taking a scenery shot then wildlife appears so trying to change lenses in a hurray and you miss the shot so a D500 as a second body would work out nicely but I think the basic price in Canada is around 4300$? then add on the extras so out of most peoples reach. will wait a couple of years to pick it up cheaper or see what the D750 replacement looks like!

  24. Dave Glatz August 27, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

    Great intro review Steve. You brought up several practical details I hadn’t appreciated. I know your emphasis is stills not video but I read somewhere that focus peaking does not work in 4K video mode. If true that’s a letdown but not a game changer for me. Not sure about zebras at 4K. Thinking this will replace D500 and D810 for me. Thanks as always Steve. Appreciate what you do!

  25. Matthew Saville August 27, 2017 at 6:22 pm #

    The D850 is an amazing camera, but its biggest competition is the global economy, and its own predecessors. In other words, the D810 is still a fantastic camera, and even the D800e is going to deliver stunning results if you’re a “traditional” landscape photographer. Heck, with a bit of stitching (which is becoming more and more common these days) a D750 can match/beat 45 MP resolution…

    I hope Nikon does very well with the D810, but ever since the D800e I’ve been on a stricter budget than $3300, and the mid-range cameras have been really delivering the goods.

    If anything, I’ll look forward to seeing if a Pentax K-1ii offers this sensor for $1800. 😛

  26. Robert D. August 27, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

    Thank you for the best synopsis of D850 that I have reviewed. Your two e-books have been wonderfully instructive and your comments and tips are always informative. I have the D850 on order but hope I have enough time to study it before my next major trip in October. Thank you again for all your efforts.

  27. Ian Douglas August 27, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    A first class intelligent and thoughtful first review. It is always a pleasure and an education to read your thoughts on such items as we can see by your photographs that they are based on experience. I am glad you touched on the inexcusable higher prices in some countries (such as the United Kingdom). I am hoping I can rally the British Nikon Users to actually complain about this. Since this item is ‘generic’ market sizes etc have no effect prices and given the exchange rates can be examined by anyone (at a point in time) then we should all see parity between markets in prices other than the middle men taking a greedy extra slice off the Nikon customers.
    Sorry to add the sad plight of historically ‘ripped off’ UK customers to what is a great concise but detailed article.

  28. F P D Cotterill August 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    Hi Steve
    Thanks for this most useful synopsis. Could not agree more on the potentials.

    Applications of the silent shutter/vibration reduction feature stands out as a huge plus to outdoor photography! I would single this out as important as the fast AF, HR sensor performance, frame rate et al that you rightly highlight in full

  29. Brian Bernard August 27, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

    Steve, this is a very interesting and well thought out article. It seems that for the right photographer, the D850 can be the “all-in-one” camera, while potentially saving money. versus buying a D810 and D500 separately.

    I just wonder if sales of the D850 could eat into sales of the D500. (But, the same could be said for the D7500, too.)

    • Steve Perry August 27, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

      I’m sure it will. I know had the D850 been out before the D500, I never would have purchased a the D500 (other than for review purposes). I also think D5 sales may suffer a bit – I can see my D5 getting a LOT less use now. However, history has shown Nikon isn’t afraid to cannibalize their own sales with a different model. (Better than people switching)

      • Bruce August 28, 2017 at 2:49 am #

        Oops, i think I made a mistake, it looks like the pixel pitch between the D500 and D850 are about the same. So maybe the BSI sensor helps with the noise at higher sensitivities but it probably won’t be as great as I was erroneously assuming and may be be closer to the D500 (and certainly won’t match the D750). But I guess we have to wait and see until people can actually shoot with the camera to answer that question more definitively. So perhaps I have to settle for a little less cake (or eat a little less ;-). Can’t wait to see how it performs though.

    • Bruce August 27, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

      I totally agree. I don’t know if I should be mad at you for such a great overview because, assuming the reviews are good, I agree with your conclusion and this camera will replace my D750 and D500. (I’m trying to explain to my wife why this is such a smart decision!) Currently when I go out in the field I carry both cameras using the D750 in the morning and as the light increases switching to the D500. Now I will get a little more resolution in DX crop mode (than the D500) and with larger pitch pixels I can get my FX performance in the morning with better high ISO performance but with the DX extended reach option always available. Having my cake and eating it too! Seriously thanks for all the great work you do. I have both your books.

  30. Bruce August 27, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    My D2x had better autofocus performance in low light than my D3 did. I saw far better autofocus performance from my D7200 than I get with the D810 in low light or with low contrast subjects. A D500 has the same number of autofocus sensors as the D5 and D850 but they cover a much smaller area and so the gaps are less and the coverage area of the viewfinder is greater. I doubt very much that the D850 will provide autofocus for action shooting that is as good as that of the D500. The D500 is the first camera that I have found where Group AF functioned as one would expect. On the D750, which I bought with the expectation that Group AF would help with BIF shooting, the Group mode has not been of any benefit and after the arrival of the D500 it has sat in a drawer.

    • Steve Perry August 27, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

      You’re right about the AF coverage – it’s smaller on an FX camera (physics of flange distances). However, Group AF on the D850 will be the same as the D500 – maybe even better since it has a dedicated AF processor. Plus, don’t discount the advantages of full frame. I love my D500, but I always prefer a full frame body when I can use it.

  31. Stan Strifler August 27, 2017 at 4:40 pm #

    Very helpful review of the D850 … most wildlife specific review yet … well done Steve … as per usual.

  32. Richard C August 27, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    Steve, thanks for the concise first look. I currently have 2 d500’s for wildlife and a d810 for most everything else. If the d850 lives up to its specs (for me this means dynamic range and high iso performance are at least on par with d810), I will likely be selling a d500 and my d810 to fund the purchase of a d850. I won’t likely get a grip as the extra size and weight don’t do it for me, but honestly I don’t go above 7fps even with my d500 all that much. The af system is key for me. While I love the images the d810 takes, when I use it as a second camera for wildlife it really doesn’t measure up to the d500 imo. Anyway, thanks again.

    • Fred Johns August 27, 2017 at 8:34 pm #

      I’m wondering if the En-EL 18 will be able to drive the higher frame rate in a grip, or will it specifically require the newer En-EL 18b model battery?

  33. Tim August 27, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

    Don’t forget that if you don’t already have a D5 and its battery charger then you will need to add another $370 on top of the cost of the grip and battery for the MH-26 charger in order to get that extra 2fps.

    • Steve Perry August 27, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

      Good point – I forgot about that. I’ve updated the article.

  34. Chris K. August 27, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

    This is just great Steve I will be for sure selling my D500 and D810 to buy the D850 but am going to keep my D3s as I really love it, What do you think? also I heard you will need to buy along with the D5 battery the charger my other question is will my D3s charger work with the D5 battery?
    Thanks
    Chris;)

    • WarrenD August 27, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

      I don’t think the D3 used the ENEL 18. If it didn’t you’ll need a D4 charger which will work with the later -18a and -18b. The 850 grip will need the -18a or -18b.

    • Steve Perry August 27, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

      Hi Chris – I think Warren is correct – you’ll need a newer charger.

      As for the D3, it’s a great camera so no harm in keeping it 🙂 The 810 and D500 can both be replaced with the D850 though so I think that’s a solid plan.

    • Marc Mol August 27, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

      When I had both my D3s, D4 and D4s there was a Nikon MH-26a adapter BT-A10 that fitted on the D3/s charger that allowed you to use the newer EN-EL18 batteries.
      Back then this allowed me to carry just the one charger. The plate cost me $50, still cheaper than buying another Nikon charger. But I see it is now gone up here: https://www.amazon.com/BT-A10-Nikon-MH-26a-adapter/dp/B00BIWQS8W
      and here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/192282567953?chn=ps&dispItem=1

      • Chris K. August 28, 2017 at 3:05 pm #

        So Marc all I need is this adapter to put on my D3s charger then I don’t need to buy a D5 charger right? thanks;)

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