Nikon D850 – Video
The D850 is capable of producing excellent movie footage in the hands of a videographer. It’s capable of in-camera 4K recording (3840 x 2160) at 30fps and Full HD (1920 x 1080) at up to 60fps for a maximum record time of 29mins 59secs.
For cinematographers, the feature that sets the D850 apart from others is its 4K and 8K time-lapse capabilities. The time-lapse movie and intervalometer settings are easy enough to get your head around, offering advanced options such as being able to turn on silent shooting and exposure smoothing.
Once you’ve setup the interval and shooting time, you get a visual of how much space the time-lapse is going to take up on your SD or XQD card, as well as the indicated length of the time-lapse once complete. It’s simply a matter of hitting start to commence a 4K time-lapse. However, it’s worth noting that those who’d like to generate an 8K time-lapse will need to shoot in Raw and run the files through a third-party program since this can’t be done in-camera.
Creating high-resolution time-lapse footage is rather draining on the battery, so the MB-D18 grip and EN-EL18 high-power battery are recommended if you’re going to use this functionality regularly.
Nikon D850 – Image quality
The increase to 45.7 megapixels sees the D850 yield a slightly higher resolution than 42.4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor found in the Sony A7R II, but it isn’t quite as high as the 50.6-megapixel resolution offered by Canon’s EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R twins. With its lack of optical low-pass filter, the sensor produces a sensational level of detail, with great scope for cropping and maintaining high resolution when required.
Despite the sensor being densely packed with pixels, it offers wide dynamic range leverage and allows users to return a high level of shadow detail to Raw files with minimal noise. Pushing the D850’s sensitivity to its extremes reveals that ISO 6400 is usable, and the same can be said for ISO 12,800 with some vigilant noise reduction applied in post.
The D850 resolves such a high level of detail that it was necessary to shoot our resolution chart from double the distance to determine our results. The sensor resolves 4800l/ph at ISO 100 – a sensational figure that it manages to maintain up to ISO 400. Beyond this point it drops a little to a very respectable 4400l/ph at ISO 800 and 4000l/ph at ISO 1600.
The sensor showed no problem resolving 3600l/ph at ISO 6400, with a slightly lower 3200l/ph figure being recorded at both ISO 12,800 and ISO 25,600. Detail starts to tail off more beyond this point as noise becomes ever more prevalent at higher sensitivity settings.
To produce the best results at high ISO, you’ll want to shoot in Raw. However, I was left impressed by the in-camera processing that’s applied to the D850’s JPEG images, with fine detail being well preserved up to ISO 12,800.
A close examination of raw files revealed noise-free results between ISO 100-800, with trace luminance noise starting to creep in at ISO 1600. ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 are perfectly usable, and I wouldn’t fear pushing to ISO 12,800 – just beware that shots taken at this setting will require some noise reduction applied during processing.
I noticed a drop in saturation beginning at ISO 25,600, and noise becomes so imposing at ISO 51,200 and ISO 102,400 that you’ll want to avoid these settings at all costs. Whereas ISO 3200-6400 was the limit at which I’d want to shoot at with the D810, I wouldn’t be too fearful of pushing to ISO 12,800 on the D850 if there’s no other option.
Should I buy the Nikon D850?
Nikon users have had a long three-year wait for a replacement to the mighty D810, but the great news is that the D850 doesn’t disappoint in the slightest, delivering impressive features by the truck load.
Professionals, semi-professionals and serious enthusiasts who settle for it will be thunderstruck by the performance of the new 45.7-million-pixel full-frame (FX-format) CMOS sensor, particularly its low-light capabilities at high ISO. Nikon is well aware that a professional DSLR needs more than a high resolution and excellent noise response to satisfy photographers in their droves, and by successfully marrying high resolution with high speed they’ve made the D850 one of the most versatile DSLRs around.
For anyone who carries a D810 for high-resolution shooting and a D500 for fast action work, for example, the D850 is capable of replacing both in a single body. The only thing to factor in here is that you will require the MB-D18 battery grip and EN-EL18b battery to shoot at 9fps, which adds £550 to the body-only price.
It’s not just the speed and the way the D850 is capable of processing such high volumes of data so quickly that impresses, either, as the AF response is as good as you get on the flagship Nikon D5. It’s insanely accurate and responsive, even when challenged with the fastest subjects and poorest of lighting conditions.
Other attractive features are its tilting touchscreen and impressive video capabilities, although I do feel that both of these areas could have been made better by offering touch control of key exposure variables and implementing a faster live view focusing system. The only other disappointment was SnapBridge connectivity, which didn’t perform faultlessly and wasn’t always reliable at transmitting images to my mobile device as they were taken.
There’s no question that the D850 is going to be a well-received camera because it’s going to appeal to so many users, from action, sports and wildlife photographers to landscape, portrait, wedding, architectural and still-life photographers.
All that’s left to say is that the D850 is an absolutely sensational camera, and after a few tough years Nikon appears to finally be back on track with one of the finest and most versatile DSLRs ever made.
The Nikon D850 is the perfect blend of high-resolution, speed and performance. It’s an all-round sensation and will be hugely popular with its target audience.