Nikon D850 Specification and Review

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The Nikon D850 is Nikon’s hottest high resolution full-frame digital camera, boasting a 45.7MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. Normally photographers have to choose whether they want a high-resolution camera or a fast model with high sensitivity settings suitable for shooting sport and action. The Nikon D850, however, combines the two with a 45.7 million effective pixel full-frame sensor, a maximum standard sensitivity setting of ISO 25,600, a maximum shooting rate of 7fps (9fps with the optional MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack) plus a fast and effective 153-point autofocus system.

Nikon D850 Specification
Nikon D850 Body Only

Nikon D850 Key Features

  • 7MP BSI CMOS sensor
  • Nonstop shooting (7 fps) with AE/AF (9fps with the optional MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack).
  • The 153-point autofocus system connected to the 180,000-pixel metering system
  • Ultra-HD 4K video record at up to 30fps from full sensor width
  • 1080 video at up to 120fps.
  • 4:2:2 8-bit Ultra-HD uncompressed outputs while recording to the memory card.
  • Battery life rated at 1840 shots
  • 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen with 2.36M-dot LCD
  • Illuminated controls
  • SnapBridge full-time Bluetooth LE connection system with Wi-Fi
  • Advanced time-lapse options (including in-camera 4K video making)

Nikon D850 Specification

Megapixels45.7 MP
Max Resolution8,256 x 5,504
Sensor InformationFX (35.9 x 23.9mm) CMOS
Shutter Speed1/8,000-30 sec, Bulb
ISO Sensitivity64-25,600 expandable to 32-102,400
ViewfinderOptical with pentaprism 100% coverage and 0.75 magnification.
Exposure ModesP, A, S, M
Metering OptionsMatrix, Center-weighted, Spot, Highlight-Weighted
Flash ModesExternal Fash Only
ConnectivityUSB, HDMI, IR Connection SnapBridge
Weight915 gm (Body Only)
Dimensions146 x 124 x 78.5mm
BatteriesNikon EN-EL15a Li-ion battery
StorageSD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II and XQD
LCD3.2-inch tilting touchscreen with 2.36M-dot LCD.

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Nikon D850 Review

Nikon D850 Specification
Nikon D850 Review

What’s more, with the right memory card, the standard maximum shooting rate of 7fps can be maintained for up to 51 14-bit lossless compressed RAW files or 170 12-bit lossless compressed RAW files. While those fast shooting rates may be useful for shooting sport or action, the D850’s ability to shoot silently using its electronic shutter in Live View mode is likely to spark the interest of wedding photographers wanting to shoot in a church or capture candid images of a bride and groom. What’s more, if you’re happy to use the DX image area and record 3,600 x 2,400 pixel (8.6MP) images you can shoot silently at 30 fps for up to 3 seconds. There’s good and bad news on the video front.

The good news is that, unlike Canon, Nikon has embraced 4K video and it’s possible to shoot at 3,840 x 2,160 at 30, 25 or 24p with no cropping – so you get the full benefit of Nikon’s full-frame lenses, especially the wide-angle optics. It’s also possible to record uncompressed 4:2:2 eight-bit 4K footage to an external recorder using the HDMI connection at the same time as saving to a card in the camera. The downside is that Nikon has stuck with contrast-detection focusing and it’s not a patch on the phase-detection focusing on Canon cameras – or the focusing in some mirrorless models. The hesitant nature of this focusing system in low light could also limit the usefulness of the electronic shutter, but the screen provides a good view for manual focusing if necessary.

At 146 x 124 x 78.5mm the Nikon D850 is 1mm taller than the D810 but 3mm shallower, and it’s only a little bigger than the D500 (147 x 115 x 81mm) which has an APS-C sized sensor. Its magnesium-alloy construction also gives it a solid, well-made feel while the deep grip makes it comfortable to hold. In addition, its weather-sealing ensured it survived a fair amount of drizzle as well as some sand-blasting on a windy beach during our testing.

Nikon D810 users will notice a few minor differences in the control arrangement of the Nikon D850 as it’s closer to the D500 in the layout. It’s generally good, but it’s not without the odd frustration. The Info button, for example, activates a display that shows the key settings, but they can’t be changed despite the D850’s touchscreen. Pressing the ‘i’ button activates a screen showing features that can be adjusted, but in stills mode, there are options such as ‘Custom control arrangement’ that only tend to be used in the early days when you’re setting up the camera to suit your shooting preferences. It’s more useful in video mode as it enables you to adjust aspects such as audio level and focusing peaking display.

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In Matrix mode, the Nikon D850’s metering system performs in a fairly predictable fashion, so if you’re shooting a bright scene you’re likely to have to dial in some extra exposure, and if it’s a dark one you’ll have to reduce the exposure. Although, that’s not going to be problematic for the target audience. If you’re shooting a high-contrast scene you can reduce the exposure to protect the highlights, as the D850’s RAW files have the good dynamic range and can withstand brightening by 3EV or more if necessary. With four Auto White Balance options, it’s worth being mindful of the shooting conditions and switching to find the one that works best for you (if it’s important to produce good looking JPEGs straight from the camera).

We used the Natural light auto setting for many of our outdoor test shots and it produced good results, with pleasant colors in the Standard Picture Control setting.

As you would hope with a 45.7MP full frame sensor, the Nikon D850 can resolve a lot of detail at the lower sensitivity settings. If you check images carefully at 100% you’ll find a hint of luminance noise at ISO 800, and although it increases as the sensitivity value rises, it’s kept under control well so that even ISO 25,600 images look good at normal viewing sizes. You’ll see some loss of fine detail in the JPEG images shot at that value, but they look good at around A3 size. As you’d expect, the RAW files look a little more natural although the luminance noise is slightly more evident.

While we would recommend sticking to the native sensitivity range (ISO 64-25,600), the results at the upper expansion settings are reasonable and could prove useful for evidence gathering or reporting purposes.