Ratings
  • Value - 6.8/10
    6.8/10
  • Build Quality - 8.9/10
    8.9/10
  • Size & Weight - 8.2/10
    8.2/10
  • AF Motor Performance - 7.8/10
    7.8/10
  • Battery Life - 8.7/10
    8.7/10
8.1/10

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Here I am again. Again, I am writing a review for a new camera body. Normally I’d wait a little longer before dropping my opinion, but I’m so familiar with Nikon cameras that after 5000 frames I’m already in the “nuanced subtle detail” phase of using this camera.

Build quality is excellent. The grip is excellent. The flippy screen is excellent. The body is on par with the other d800 series cameras, which is all good news. Totally subjective observation, but the shutter sound is pleasant as well. I was a huge huge fan of the d810 shutter sound and though this isn’t exactly the same it is pillowy and not distracting.

http://samhurd.link/d850-shutter-sound<- movie demoing the shutter

Oh, there’s also the ability to take totally silentRAW files in live view at 6 FPS (in stead of the normal 7). It’s long overdue, but does come with a blackout the entire time it’s capturing. There’s a “Mode 2” that lets you shoot RAW files with no black out, but it forces a DX crop. I’d bet the next flagship DSLR will do this with no DX crop with little to no screen blackout time. Helllllo ultra fast Brenizer Methods!

I did need to focus calibrate all of my lenses. It’s definitely a camera body issue as my D5 needed little to no calibration with the same lenses. Example: my Nikon 58mm was -13 on the D850. +3 on my D5. Pretty extreme, but after calibrating it’s been as sharp and reliable as I expected it. Thankfully, the D850 supports the auto AF fine tune feature.

Having the same AF system as the D5 in a body this size is nothing short of amazing. When using the optical view finder my focus hit rate is somewhere around 95%. The low light AF is exactly on par with the D5. Low light auto focus is something I struggled with big time with the newly released Sony A9.

It also supports in camera cropping with an actual masked overlay like the D5 instead of just outlines. I much prefer this look:

The AF in live view is also great, but slow. A far cry from the Canon Mark IV live view AF. I don’t know what voodoo canon cast upon their live view game, but the d850 doesn’t come close. That being said it does have FOCUS PEAKING when manually focusing or using tilt shift lenses.

I swear. The trade offs never stop.

Anyway, I love the way they implemented focus peaking and every camera released hence forth should include it. It’s natural, reliable, and works wonders with a title shift lens.

http://samhurd.link/d850-tilt-shift <- video demo of focus peaking

The touch screen implementation that Nikon has is my favorite of any DSLR or mirrorless camera to date and the d850 continues to make excellent strides. It’s fast, intuitive, and reliable. Double tap anywhere on an image review and it zooms into that spot instantly. Double tap again and it zooms out. Scroll your finger along the bottom edge of the screen and you scrub through your whole memory card. So. Awesome.

I cranked out 2300 frames on one battery with liberal use of live view. So, I bought a few more batteries and a grip is on the way. I recommend this dual charger kit: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01JG6QWUA/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

So, where does the camera fall short? Double exposures. Nikon had some ambiguous statements about the double exposure features. They said it would be expanded to include features like canon cameras… and though it does have new blending modes there is still no way to create a double exposure using live view. I can’t believe it! Sometimes it’s almost as if Nikon hasn’t a clue about what photographers actually fine useful and exciting about live view.

16,000 ISO Image below. DNG file here: http://samhurd.link/16000-dng-file

The high ISO is mind glowingly (yes, glowingly) awesome. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s on par or better than the D5. The dynamic range is off the charts I’m not even going to bother… but you can see some samples here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/d850-raw-files-14318344

D5 @ 12800 below. Higher res link: http://samhurd.link/d850-review-high-res-d5-link

D850 @ 12800 Below. Higher Res Link: http://samhurd.link/d850-review-d850-high-iso

25,600 ISO Below. Higher Res File: http://samhurd.link/d850-review-file-1

102,400 ISO Below. Higher Res File: http://samhurd.link/d850-review-file-3

Medium raw works fantastically. Previous implementations of sRAW and mRAW resulted in raw files being cooked similarly to a jpeg. You lost color data and white balance adjustments were very limited. No longer! I photographed an entire wedding on mRAW and the files are around 25 mega pixels with full raw editing as you’d expect.

http://samhurd.link/large-raw-sample<- sample .DNG large raw

http://samhurd.link/medium-raw-sample<- sample .DNG medium raw

http://samhurd.link/small-raw-sample <- sample .DNG small raw

The d850 also has refined auto white balance masking features. This is a big deal for me. I did not expect and haven’t heard much about from anyone else for some reason. You can now have the ability to dial in your auto white balance to make relative “masking” adjustments. What this means is that you can tell the camera “make this image cooler where you’d normally balance it warm.” or any other adjustment to temp or tint. It’s a feature that’s been available on other cameras, but it’s implemented the best with the d850.

http://samhurd.link/white-balance-masking<- video demoing white balance masking

The Top Row of images above are auto white balance with the relative Temp adjustments applied. The Bottom Row of images above are auto white balance with the relative Tint adjustments applied.

This is different than just dialing in a specific white balance value. This is such a big deal because whenever I edit, my preset warms images up – a lot. So much so that one of my most common edits is the need to counter the warming with over cooling the white balance to get a perfectly blended skin tone color. Well, NO LONGER. The D850 makes it particularly easy to achieve this with both Temp and Tint in live view (see above linked video).

The base ISO was lowered to ISO 64 (lowest of any DSLR or mirrorless camera), which is superb for shooting with off camera lighting. You can retain shallow depth of field without as much need for an ND filter.

There are some other nice features… wifi is more simple to setup. Better implementation of the star rating and sub menus, but I’m going to wrap this review up neatly for you…

This is the camera you want. It’s it.

Reviewing camera bodies is hard. There are thousands of talking points and many elements are completely subjective so at the end of the day it’s really up to you to decide, but I do hope you can trust my experience and intuition. I held off on writing a full fledged Sony A9 review because it’s really hard to review a camera you know won’t be your main workhorse. On that note.. I’m off to order my second D850 and sell my D5. Keeping A9 for travel only.

 

Sam Hurd

Sam Hurd

Photographer
DC/NYC/Anywhere

Starting as a political news and celebrity portrait photographer in DC, Sam was instantly drawn to wedding photography as a space to promote more inventive ideas. Sam’s focus is on photographic techniques that are deceptively simple but have the potential to transform difficult or uninspiring shooting environments into one-of-a-kind opportunities for every photo made.

Most reviews, technical write-ups, and other photo nerd content is posted first, and exclusively, over on his patreon.