First look: Nikon D850
Officially announced yesterday, the D850 is the successor to the venerable D810 and the newest full-frame sensor offering from Nikon.
With a massive 45.7 megapixel sensor and the ability to shoot at a swift 9fps, it's safe to say it has many Nikon fans feverishly checking their bank balances.
We've been lucky enough to have a hands-on with the camera over the last few days, enough time to gain an initial impression of Nikon's newest pro DSLR.
We weren't too surprised to read the D850 features a 45.7-megapixel sensor, but we were surprised to see it's backside-illuminated, which means it should respond well in low-light, something that's typically the weakness of high megapixel sensors like that in the 50 megapixel Canon 5DS line.
Add to this the fact there's no anti-aliasing filter, which we first saw in the D800E and later in the D810, and you should be able to take advantage of every last one of those 45.7 megapixels for maximum image detail.
Our initial testing confirmed this – images are amazingly detailed even in challenging lighting.
Feel the noise (or not!)
We've only had the camera for a few days but in early tests we can see that the noise performance is in a class of its own. Nikon claims the D850 produces the same image quality at twice the ISO setting of its predecessor, the D810.
That means, on paper at least, you can expect an image shot on the D850 at 25,600 (the top end of the camera's native ISO range) to offer the same noise and dynamic range characteristics as an image shot at 12,600 on the D810.
Time will tell if that claim holds true, but, we've definitely noticed a marked improvement at higher ISO settings.
For a camera that's primarily aimed at stills photographers, the D850 boasts some pretty impressive video chops, well ahead of the EOS 5D Mark IV, which for reasons known only to Canon shoots 4K with a pretty hefty 1.74x crop factor.
Much to the delight of Nikon users, the D850 offers 4K video (3840 x 2160 pixels) across the full width of the sensor, which means there's no crop factor at all.
You have a choice of three frame rates when you're shooting 4K – 24, 25 and 30 frames per second (fps) – but if you step down to 1080p, 50 and 60fps become available. For audio, the camera includes two 3.5mm jacks for an external mic and audio monitoring.
Best of all, if you are shooting video, you can access the full width of the D850's impressive full- frame sensor and its impressive low-noise capabilities at ISOs up to 25,600.
Drive speed and Autofocus
The D850 is fast, something that makes the new camera appealing to two traditionally distinct audiences – those who have the need for the large sensor (typically landscape, wedding or commercial photographers), and sports photographers who demand fast drive speeds.
The D850 shoots 7 frames per second (fps) at full 45.7 megapixel resolution (and if you buy the additional battery grip, that max speed bumps up to 9fps.) Sure, it's still less than the D5's 12fps, but you do gain a bigger sensor for cropping.
Regardless, our hats are off to Nikon: we haven't seen a sensor with this resolution offering such a fast drive speed.
Our initial tests of the autofocus prove it's also pretty snappy. It has the same proven 153-point (99 cross type) autofocus system used in the D5, and holding down the shutter button you can expect a 51-image buffer for 14-bit lossless RAW files, or 170 images shooting at 12-bit.
So where does it sit? One of the closest competitiors to the D850 is the FujiFilm GFX-50s and its 51MP sensor. But the D850 has a much faster drive speed than the GFX and costs considerably less too. Its other major competitor is the Canon 5DS series, but on paper at least it appears to better these two cameras in almost every way.
Finally you could consider the Sony A9, which shoots at 20fps, however the resolution of 24 megapixels may be limiting for some and its selection (and cost) of lenses is still, in our view at least, the weakness of the Sony A series.
The D850 will be available from September 2017 in a kit with the AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR, or body-only, with a local RRP of $5299.
In Nikon's hierarchy, the pro-level D5 may still be the top of the pecking order, but our initial look confirms it’s the D850 that will likely be the Nikon full-frame camera that gets the most attention from pros, semi-pros, and well-off amateurs.
There's lots more features we haven't touched on here, so watch out for our more detailed review in an upcoming issue of AP magazine.
Check out more on the D850 below, and you can read the launch press release here.