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Nikon Announces the D850, Commentary + Reader Comments

See Nikon wishlist.

Get Nikon D850 at B&H Photo.

The Nikon D850 has arrived. It is wonderful to see an announcement followed by stated availability within a few weeks (September 7, only 2 weeks from now). As a longtime fan of the Nikon D810, my one and only true workhorse camera, the D850 will be my top priority in September. Review material for the D850 will go into Advanced DSLR. Fresh evaluations with the D850 of Zeiss Milvus lenses and Zeiss Otus lenses will go into Zeiss DSLR Lenses.

See my Nikon lens reviews and Zeiss DSLR lenses for lens choices for the D850.

Nikon D850, rear view
  • Nikon-designed back-side illuminated (BSI) full-frame image sensor with no optical low-pass filter
  • 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution, outstanding dynamic range and virtually no risk of moiré.
  • Up to 9 fps continuous shooting at full resolution with full AF performance.
  • 8K and 4K time-lapse movies with new levels of sharpness and detail.
  • Tilting touchscreen
  • Focus Shift shooting mode, outstanding battery performance and much more
  • 4K Ultra HD video recording, slow motion up to 120 FPS at 1080p.
  • The lowest base ISO (ISO 64) of any DSLR or mirrorless camera. [DIGLLOYD: the D810 already has ISO 64]
  • 2.35 megadot rear LCD (high res) with tilt, touch sensitive, 170° viewing angle

The “focus shift shooting mode” is about taking a series of frames at stepped intervals. Depending on how implemented, it might or might not be useful for focus stacking in the field.

I expect the D850 to trounce the Canon 5Ds R in terms of image quality and possibly resolution (even though it the D850 is 45MP versus 50MP), because of the new state of the art sensor design.

No EVF (electronic viewfinder) option from what I can tell, which was/is my #1 feature desire in a new Nikon. I don’t know which customers Nikon has been “listening to” (not me!), but Nikon clearly has not a clue about the #1 item on my wish list. As for “next 100 years”, “monumental resolution”, etc—the hyperbole police need to get involved over at Nikon.

The claims about “medium format quality” have my attention. Unless that means the inability to focus accurately due to lack of an EVF, as has been the case with most medium format, the new Hasselblad X1D and Fujifilm GFX systems having upending that anachronism. But Nikon lags far behind in implementing an EVF.

The idea that conventional OVF autofocus is adequate for a 45 megapixel camera is laughable. Maybe sometime in the next 100 years we can have an EVF so that the required precision focus can be achieved without being forced to use a focusing loupe on the rear LCD.

I’ll assume the best about image quality, and I am of course looking forward to putting the D850 through its paces in early September, taking off my my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van for the mountains on September 9 with its new onboard power system and my in-the-field workstation setup, assuming the D850 arrives Sept 8, on schedule.

The base ISO of 64 and the quality claims suggest that we might see equivalent or better per pixel quality versus the Nikon D810, which absolutely rival medium format since the D810 already holds its own in some cases.

The approach to focus stacking appears to be well considered, but it requires an autofocus lens: the camera shoots stepped-focus images for later processing into a stacked image. Let’s see how that works out in the field, if it works well at all (that is, can it shoot a proper stepping sequence from 3 feet to infinity taking into account the aperture and rigorous sharpness).

8K time lapse also has my attention, as do the video features: I trust that Nikon has not damaged usability by forcing video-centric controls into a still-shooter’s operation and menu access, and the pictures of the D850 inspire confidence that all is well—a trusty old friend (the D810) will just morph into something better, the D850.

Confirmed with Nikon PR, batteries are forward/backward compatible: the D810 battery is the 1900 mAh EN-EL15 whereas the D850 specifies the 1900 mAh Nikon EN-EL15a, which is listed as compatible with {Nikon D7500, D7200, D7100, D7000, D810A, D810, D800E, D800, D750, D610, and D500}. It’s a BIG plus to have compatible batteries if one shoots two cameras, like a D850 and D810 or other combo—one charger and batteries that work in all. Great for working pros. Plus it saves money on the upgrade process since existing D810 batteries work fine. It shows a Nikon-esque attention to detail that I admire, Nikon being the most reliable in introducing new cameras without issues or hassles.

In general I am not a fan of dual slots of differing types: in the field I’ve had problems with the camera switching to the wrong card when I have pulled the SDXC card for download, leaving me unable to download images without attaching a USB cable to the camera (because I lack the necessary card reader). I’d rather have dual SDXC slots—the speed of XQD sounds nice, but the hassle of the card reader in the field isn’t appealing and XQD makes zero difference to me in the field. That said, it is the reality of the D850, so I ordered the Lexar 128GB XQD with USB 3 card reader. Maybe I’ll change my mind if I just have that reader always at hand.

The conventional hot shoe at top makes it abundantly clear that there is no EVF connector slot.

Nikon D850, top view
Nikon D850 feature set vs Nikon D810

FULL-FRAME, EXTREME SPEED & EPIC RESOLUTION: THE NEW NIKON D850 DSLR DEFINES PROFESSIONAL VERSATILITY

New Nikon DSLR Offers Incredible Combination of Performance, Image Quality and Thoughtful Features 

 

MELVILLE, NY (Embargoed until Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 12:01 A.M. EDT) – Today, Nikon announced the new Nikon D850, a powerful full-frame DSLR camera that provides professional photographers and multimedia creators with an impressive combination of resolution and high-speed performance. The 45.7-megapixel D850 is Nikon’s first DSLR with an FX-format, back-side Illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor for image quality that is nothing short of majestic, allowing professionals to create stunning, high resolution still images and full-frame 4K UHD video. Despite its monumental resolution, the D850 is capable of an astoundingly fast capture rate of up to 7 frames-per-second (fps) or 9-fps with the optional battery grip and EN-EL18a/b battery, while offering a range of new user-friendly features requested by Nikon shooters around the world.

The Nikon D850 is a serious tool that expertly enables every kind of photographer. Whether capturing for client work or personal projects, the camera delivers intense clarity and accurate skin tones for portraits, with the added benefit of low-light ability for weddings and events. It is versatile enough to be used for landscapes and fine art where broad dynamic range is critical, for sports that require a high frame rate and decisive AF, or for video creators who want 4K UHD flexibility. Whether in the studio or on-location, from the catwalk or the scenic overlook, to a wedding ceremony or night sky, the Nikon D850 is the tool that can capture it all, with astounding resolution and speed.

“The Nikon D850 is much more than a camera, rather it’s a statement that Nikon is continuing to listen to customer needs, to innovate for the next 100 years, and bring to market a full-frame DSLR that exceeds the expectations of the professionals that rely on this caliber of camera to make a living,” said Kosuke Kawaura, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc.

“I have had the pleasure of putting this camera through its paces, and there is nothing like it. The Nikon D850 introduces a whole new generation of photographers to medium format quality; the resolution is out of this world, and the tonality and range are at a level I never thought possible from a DSLR,” said Nikon Ambassador and award-winning wedding photographer Jerry Ghionis.

The Ultimate Combination of Resolution and Speed

The Nikon D850 is the new benchmark in DSLR image quality, with an unprecedented combination of resolution, dynamic range, ISO and processing power. The 45.7-megapixel CMOS sensor approaches medium format-level resolution and forgoes an optical low pass filter (OLPF) to harness the maximum sharpness of NIKKOR lenses, with fantastic fidelity, tonality and clarity. This is also Nikon’s first DSLR to incorporate a BSI CMOS sensor, which captures light more efficiently, resulting in a wider dynamic range and low-noise image capture. Beyond the immense resolution, the Nikon D850 offers photographers superior performance:

•  High-Speed Capture: The D850 is capable of shooting up to 7 fps at full resolution, with full AF/AE or 9 fps at full resolution with the addition of an optional battery grip (MB-D18) and EN-EL18a/b battery (Buffer approximately 51 frames of 14-bit lossless RAW capture / 170 frames of 12-bit lossless).

•  Wide ISO Range: The D850 offers a wide ISO range from 64-25,600 (Expandable down to ISO 32, up to 102,400).

•  Flagship Focus System: The D850 uses the Nikon D5’s 153-point, Multi-Cam 20K AF system, which features 99 cross type sensors, 15 of which are sensitive to f/8. 

•  EXPEED 5: Behind every great sensor is a great image-processing engine. EXPEED 5 is Nikon’s most powerful engine yet, allowing for fast data readout and swift image processing, improved low light performance, high speed shooting, full-frame 4K UHD video capture and greater power efficiency for longer battery life.

Innovation Built for the Needs of Professional Creators

In addition to its phenomenal performance, the Nikon D850 hosts a range of innovative and thoughtful new features that enhance workflow, and will leave every photographer or content creator wondering how they ever lived without them:

  • Tilting LCD Touchscreen: The 3.2-in., high resolution (2359k-dot) LCD monitor offers Nikon’s most extensive touch functionality ever.
  • Silent Shooter: The D850 offers the ability to operate with an electronic shutter in Live View. When in this mode, users can shoot in complete silence, which is ideal for weddings, ceremonies and events where the shutter sound is discouraged. The electronic shutter operates at up to 6 fps (AF/AE locked) at full resolution, while an additional mode enables 8.6-megapixel capture in DX image area mode at up to 30 fps.
  • Radio Flash Control: Like the D5 and D500, the D850 also supports Radio-controlled Advanced Wireless Lighting with the optional SB-5000 Speedlight and WR-A10 and WR-R10 accessories.
  • RAW Processing Power: Users can choose from 3 sizes of RAW files to enhance workflow, including Large (45.4-MP), Medium (25.6-MP) and Small (11.4-MP). Additionally, the D850 lets users batch process RAW files in camera, saving time in post-production.
  • Nikon’s Widest and Brightest Optical viewfinder: The 0.75x viewfinder magnification is the highest ever for a Nikon DSLR, and offers a wide and bright view of the frame to easily track and compose subjects. 
  • Phenomenal Battery Performance: Shoot all day and well into the night with up to 1,840 shots at full resolution or approximately 70 minutes of video on a single charge. Users who opt for the additional control and handling benefits of the optional battery grip can expect up to 5140 shots (CIPA standard).
  • Dual Card Slots: The D850 features dual memory card slots -- XQD for high-speed capture and transfer, as well as readily available SD media.
  • Illuminated Buttons: Buttons that light up at the turn of a dial increase visibility and allow easy shooting at night or in low-light scenarios.
  • Focus Stacking: Ideal for macro, product and landscape photographers, the Focus Shift Photography feature of the D850 is high resolution meets high magnification. This feature lets the user automatically shoot up to 300 shots at adjustable focus step intervals to infinity which can be easily assembled into a focus-stacked image using third party software.
  • Negative/Positive Scanning: With the optional ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter and compatible Micro-NIKKOR lens, the camera enables super high-resolution digitizing of 35mm slides or negatives and converts them in-camera to positives
  • Durable Construction: Ready for any field assignment or production environment, the rugged and weather-sealed magnesium alloy body lets users work with confidence in a wide range of tough environments.
  • Square shooter: Photographers can choose from five formats, including FX-format, 1.2x, DX, 5:4, or 1:1 square with viewfinder shading for easy composition.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi1 & Bluetooth2 Connectivity: Users can seamlessly send images to their compatible smart devices through an always-on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connection or through Wi-Fi. Nikon SnapBridge3 also gives the ability for remote capture and preview.

Multimedia Production Ready

Multimedia content creators and filmmakers alike will appreciate a wide range of considerate, industry-leading new features that can help to elevate any production:

•  Full-frame 4K UHD at 24/30 fps: The D850’s FX BSI CMOS sensor allows 4K UHD output at a full-frame width at 16:9, to increase lensing options and provide a true field of view. 

•  Slow Motion: Creators can also capture Full HD 1080p at up to 120 fps (4x or 5x) for dramatic slow-motion video capture.

•  Focus Peaking: When shooting Full HD or in Live View for stills, focus peaking can be enabled which highlights in-focus subjects in the frame to ensure sharpness.

•  8K / 4K Time-lapse: Users can create 4K UHD time-lapse videos easily in-camera, or can use the built in intervalometer to capture images for an ultra-high resolution 8K time lapse that can be assembled in post for those who want the ultimate in video quality.

•  Zebra stripes: The D850’s highlight display mode uses zebra patterns to quickly spot overblown highlights. What’s more, the zebra patterns come in two varieties, selectable according to the patterns and textures of the subjects.

•  HDMI output: Using HDMI, users can record uncompressed, broadcast quality 4:2:2 8-bit 4K UHD footage, directly to an external digital recorder while simultaneously recording to a card.

•  Audio Control: The D850 features an onboard stereo microphone, as well as inputs for headphones and microphone. The camera also features a new audio attenuator to regulate sound levels.

THE FX-Format advantage

The amazing performance and image quality of the Nikon D850 is best coupled with the wide variety of NIKKOR lenses, heralded for their unmatched image quality, color reproduction and optical characteristics. For maximum fidelity, Nikon’s Gold Ring Series of lenses provide the highest caliber of optical performance needed for such immense resolution applications.

Price and Availability

The Nikon D850 will have a suggested retail price (SRP) of $3,299.95*, and will be available in September 2017. The MB-D18 Multi Power Battery Pack will have an SRP of $399.95*, while the ES-2 film digitalizing adapter will have an SRP of $149.95*. For more information on the latest Nikon products, please visit www.nikonusa.com.

Reader comments on Nikon D850

John G writes:

I'm, of course, anxious to read your coverage of the new Nikon. Will it rise to the challenge, on pure IQ terms, presented by the GFX? Discounting versatility and 4K video capabilities, etc., strictly in terms of the quality of the sensor vis a vis photography. The D850 certainly seems to have the right stuff. Except no EVF. Sigh.

DIGLLOYD: seems to be aimed right for image quality for sure.

Ron L writes:

Still no voice memo button ! Just stupid ! and so easy to add, I use voice memo all the time on my D3 series bodies. Just my rant, otherwise it looks very good : )

DIGLLOYD: I don’t but I can see what I might want to.

Richard W writes:

I am a professional photographer who enjoys reading your blog. I thought I may explain why I like optical viewfinders.

I would argue that the vast bulk of professional work is photographing people and events. A believe a smaller amount of people are employed solely photographing still objects and landscapes.

Weddings, family portraits, fashion, event, sport, reportage and wildlife photography all require shooting moving subjects.

Given that there are a lot of amateur, enthusiast and professional people photographing moving subjects, it is often the auto focus system on the camera that will achieve consistent focus rather than manual focus. I also feel that it is less tiring on your eyes over extended periods to be looking through an optical viewfinder.

I recently shot an event half with the Sony A7 and half with my Nikon. I found the Nikon to be more ergonomic in the hand, less tiring on my eyes and for me a easier camera to navigate in regards to controls and menu. The Nikon also has a far greater battery life.

I completely understand for landscape and product photography an EVF would be preferable but I feel that is more a niche market whereas the D810 is more for a mainstream professional market. In terms of manual focus I still prefer my Leica rangefinder for quick focus and the ability to see what is out of frame or about to come into frame!

DIGLLOYD: first, there is NO REASON that the hot shoe could not accommodate an EVF option, even if Nikon wants to keep the OVF. Alternately, the camera could be offered in two variants: EVF and OVF, with the EVF one significantly lighter, but the same lens mount.

I absolutely agree that for some shooting cases, the OVF makes sense but I don't think that Richard has used either the Sony A9 (incredibly fast to get just the right expression, with a zero blackout high-res EVF). That technology should soon move into the other models.

Sony Eye AF achieves the best hit rate I’ve ever seen for portraits from any camera ever, meaning pinpoint focus on the iris of the eye, something a DSLR just cannot do reliably, if at all more than hit and miss. Eye AF leaves DSLR OVR focus in the dust for portraits (if you’re shooting at f/8 or f/11... well you do get by fine with a DSLR, assuming no gross errors). So saying that the DSLR is better for portraits IMO is way off the mark in my own personal experience—it ain’t so if Eye AF is configured and used properly, particularly with Sony GM lenses.

On the ergonomics and battery front I agree absolutely—Nikon is far superior.

As for who buys the D810 or D850, that’s an interesting question. I’d guess that a lot more are sold for landscape and general photography than for people/weddings, which AFAIK is a

2.3market that has rolled over to Sony.

For precision work, OVF makes no sense, it's unreliable, with a light path that is different from one to the sensor along with mechanical limitations. And that’s assuming the manufacturer has matched the length of the to-sensor light path to within 20 microns—dubious at best since I learned that the typical error is 40 microns—huge. Well, some samples are probably good and some not.

The Leica M rangefinder is terrible for accuracy across several lenses, at dusk, many types of subject matter, it forces center focusing only (focus and recompose errors), and it cannot account for focus shift. So claiming it is accurate is dropping a huge amount of context. It can be accurate in many cases, but in general it’s a disaster and this is inherent in the technology. I shot it for years with many lenses. Just try getting Leica to adjust M lenses to M (and forget about them doing ZM)—3rd time and months of waiting is the charm! It’s why when the M240 came out my hit rate rose dramatically and I abandoned the rangefinder entirely.

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