Nikon D850 SLR review

Advantages/Nikon D850 SLR Excellent image quality, acceptable noise level up to ISO 12800, the great possibility of cropping, excellent automatic white balance, very good autofocus, burst at 7 fps (or even 9), focus peaking and steaking finally available, 4K30p without cropping, adjustable touchscreen, tropicalized case, good grip, improved ergonomics, very good optical viewfinder, decent battery life.

Cons Unstabilized/ sensor, no built-in flash, somewhat confusing menus, limited Wi-Fi, no GPS, still no USB-C port, no 16:9 format, average built-in microphone

Nikon D850 SLR review

Summary/ The Nikon D850 full-frame SLR is an excellent update to its illustrious predecessor, the D810. A device for professionals offering very high performance in all circumstances. Which gains a number of features previously missing.

In the battle for professional full-frame SLRs, Nikon and its D810 had been somewhat heckled by their rivals, notably the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Sony Alpha 7R II. But the famous “Japanese Optics Company”. Which celebrates  100th anniversary this year. Does not intend to let it go and therefore takes out the heavy artillery with a D850 with high flying characteristics.

Design and ergonomics

When we spoke to you about heavy artillery. We did not say that only in the figurative sense. And yes, the D850 is big (146 mm wide by 124 high and 78.5 deep) and heavy (1,005 kg), but so are its competitors, with the exception of the Sony A7R II. However, the Nikon D850 SLR gives a real impression of solidity. Besides, know that the D850, equipped with a magnesium frame, is tropicalized. No problem, therefore, to shoot in the rain or in the middle of a sandstorm.

The device is also very comfortable to hold thanks to its large handle. As with its other latest-generation SLRs, Nikon has reversed the Mode and ISO buttons, which is really practical: you can manage the exposure parameters with one hand and trigger in stride. Another good news, the device now has a large 3.2-inch vertically adjustable LCD screen, finally touch (multipoint), offering 2.4MP HD definition and faithful colors. Top! Obviously, we also have a very good 100% optical viewfinder. Note that the brand has removed the built-in flash, which will not please everyone but in fact does not really bother as the device performs well in low light. In addition, the device manages wireless flashes.

Menus and Connectivity

The menus have also been updated (and they are tactile!). With many settings, these are very complete but nevertheless a bit messy and sometimes counter-intuitive. As usual with Nikon. The Snap Bridge smartphone application is of course always there to transfer your photos via Bluetooth. You can also connect the device via Wi-Fi, a welcome but limited innovation: it is impossible to send the images directly to a PC, for example. Regarding Snap Bridge, the application “does the job”, and the transfer is quite fast if you reduce the size of the images. Things get complicated, however, when you keep the maximum size. By the way, note that there is still no integrated GPS.

On the autonomy side, the brand announces 1800 views but does not expect to reach them if you consult your photos a little too much or use the live view mode too often. You can also opt for an optional power grip to extend this figure to 5140 views. In general, autonomy remains satisfactory. The D850’s connectivity is quite complete, you will find an SD and XQD card slot, an 8-bit 4:2:2 HDMI output, a micro USB port, a mini-jack microphone, and headphone socket as well as a remote control socket and flash. Unfortunately, it is a micro USB type B port. No type C yet at Nikon, too bad.

Nikon D850 SLR  Image quality

Considering the features of the device, we could expect very high-quality images, and unsurprisingly, this is really the case. The D850 delivers large shots that are beautiful in every way, delivering some of the best image quality on the market.

The sharpness of the shots is simply excellent, and thanks to the 45.7 Mpx of the sensor (for images of 45.4 Mpx max), you have a considerable cropping margin. As in the previous model, you can choose between different formats: FX (full format), DX (APS-C), crop 1.2x, 5:4, or 1:1 Instagram style. Note that in DX format, the images retain a definition of 19.5 Mpx, which is very satisfactory. With the icing on the cake, you can now combine two different formats when shooting in RAW+JPG. However, you will notice that the 16:9 format is unfortunately not available.

Another weak point, the sensor of the D850 is not stabilized. Beware of shutter speeds that are too low without a tripod and without a stabilized lens. This is undoubtedly its main shortcoming in terms of image quality, especially since its rival Sony offers very good stabilization. During our test, the A7R II allowed us to shoot handheld at 1/8 speed with the ZA 35mm f/1.4 lens. In a similar configuration, it was difficult with the D850 to avoid a camera shake below 1/15.

That being said, we can easily compensate for this by increasing the ISO sensitivity, because, on this point, the D850 is really excellent. It can go up without any problem to ISO 6400 while maintaining a very satisfactory noise level. And then even at 12800, the noise level remains really correct. We also appreciate that the manufacturer has been reasonable in terms of the sensitivity range. This rises from 64 to 25600 ISO, values ​​which therefore remain usable. Note that it is always possible to extend it from 32 to 102400 ISO but the images will be really degraded. In short, you will have understood that when it comes to shooting in low light, the D850 is a real monster.

Nikon D850 SLR review. Finally, the dynamic range, expandable via HDR, of course, is very satisfactory. The same goes for the colors, which are bright but breathtakingly natural. However, what impressed us most was the efficiency of the automatic white balance, which relies on the new 180,000-pixel exposure cell. Indeed, its precision is surgical.

Nikon D850 SLR  And on video?

Nikon D850 SLR review. In the video, the great novelty of the D850 is its ability to film in 4K, at 30 frames per second, and without cropping. The D810 stuck to Full HD while Nikon SLRs allowing you to shoot in 4K, such as the D5, D500, or D7500, imposed a crop of 2.2x: not great for very wide angles. But this limitation no longer. The D850 now puts all of its large sensors to work for quality images, which is good news.

Responsiveness and autofocus

This is again an area in which the Nikon D850 shines. Indeed, Nikon D850 SLR is very responsive, it turns on and off in a fraction of a second. The autofocus, with its 153 collimators (99 in the cross), is also damned effective, at least in the viewfinder because, in live view, its speed drops noticeably. In manual mode, focusing is finally made easier by focus peaking and focus steaking features, welcoming new features that were sorely lacking from Nikon. Nikon D850 SLR review

The D850 also makes good progress in bursts compared to the D810 and Nikon D850 SLR 5 RAWs per second. In CH motor mode, we clocked Nikon’s latest at 6.7 fps in RAW and 7.2 fps in JPG. In total, we were able to take 19 RAWs at full speed (on SDXC class 10 card) before the frame rate dropped, and 46 in JPGs. With an XQD card, this figure rises to 28 RAW and 207 JPG. Note that with the optional grip and the EN-EL 18b battery of the D5, the frame rate also increases to around 9 fps, but this is a rather expensive additional investment. These performances are therefore satisfactory, although we are not yet at the level of a D5, which can reach 14 fps. Finally, be aware that the D850 is far from being the king of silence when triggered.


Nikon D850 SLR  is a great pleasure to work with the Nikon D850, which offers considerable improvements over its predecessor. With sumptuous images, increased video performance, excellent responsiveness, and up-to-date design (rotating touch screen, tropicalized case, complete connectivity with the exception of USB-C), and welcome new functions (long live focus peaking! ), the camera undermines the competition with a shutter movement. Clearly one of the best full-frame DSLRs on the market.

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