The story behind the Nikon D850 doorstop (or how I destroyed a D850 camera in Alaska)

The story behind the Nikon D850 doorstop I posted about yesterday - written by Roy Mangersnes (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram, see also his previous guest posts, click on images for larger view):

First of all, I want to give a shout out to the best photography store in the world. The service found at my local pro store Stavanger Foto cannot be matched by anyone, and the knowledgeable people working there will always make you feel like their most important client. Check out and give them a try, they deserve it!

Nikon D850, 24-70mm/2,8, 1/400 sec, f/5,6 at ISO1250 (converted to DNG from NEF and lightly edited in Lightroom)

OK, so now on to my Nikon D850 field test. I was very excited when I first read about the new Nikon D850 and I knew that this camera would be exactly what I had been waiting for. The larger file size is welcomed from a fine art perspective and in combination with a highly improved focus system, fast processors and better ISO capabilities I could easily see myself using this camera also for wildlife. Unfortunately, Nikon has not been able to ship as many cameras as expected in the first batch and I was not able to get my hands on one before departing on a WildPhoto Travel photo tour to Alaska. That is when my local pro store, Stavanger Foto, stepped up and asked me if I would like to take their one and only demo camera with me to test in the field. Obviously, they didn’t have to ask twice and arrangements were made so they would have it back in Norway as soon as I returned from Alaska, as I was traveling on to another assignment in Mexico and they needed the camera in the store.

The Alaskan wild is a rewarding place for a wildlife photographer, but it is an unforgiving environment for fine technology, so this would be a perfect place to test the new camera. Like I have mentioned in previous field tests I prefer to try my cameras and lenses in the environment where I actually do most of my work rather than testing it in a lab or at a random location. For this field test, I stayed 7 nights in a tented camp with only a portable solar panel for charging. For the first three solid days, it was raining constantly before the weather cleared on the fourth day. During those rainy days, I used the Nikon D850 mainly as my short lens alternative, shooting with a 24-70mm/2,8E ED VR.

Nikon D850, 24-70mm/2,8, 1/250 sec, f/7,1 at ISO400 (converted to DNG from NEF and lightly edited in Lightroom)

Some of the features I very quickly recognized and enjoyed was the possible diagonal tilting of the LCD screen. This feature is very handy when shooting low to the ground, composing my images without the use of an angle viewfinder. I also noticed that the built-in flash was removed, which I completely understand as it was a weak point in the previous models. During my 7 years as a Nikon ambassador (which I am not anymore) I have been asking for the possibility to set the fn2 button to change between the different shooting bank menus without having to go into the menu system. Previously the response has been that the D800 and the D810 were not pro bodies and should not have the same features as the D4/D5. Finally, it seems Nikon has acknowledged that the D800 series is the only professional option after the D3X was discontinued.

Nikon D850, 24-70mm/2,8, 1/25 sec, f/7,1 at ISO500 (converted to DNG from NEF and lightly edited in Lightroom)

During my test I did shoot with ISO way above what I would normally shoot with the D810, and closer to what I use on my D5, and the converted DNG files look amazing. The lack of noise and also the colour dynamics at high ISO is several levels above the previous models, and can easily be compared with the D5 if corrected for the larger file size. I also enjoyed the new focus system, also found in the D5. I am especially impressed with the Group focus, which I use a lot while tracking fast moving subjects, but recently I have also learned to love the Auto AF mode. It is super fast and very intelligent. The frame rate is also impressive, considering the size of the sensor, with 7 fps, and a possible increase to 9 fps with the added MB-D18 battery grip.

Nikon D850, 24-70mm/2,8, 1/250 sec, f/4 at ISO2500 (converted to DNG from NEF and lightly edited in Lightroom)

Nikon D850, 24-70mm/2,8, 1/13 sec, f/2,8 at ISO8000 (converted to DNG from NEF and lightly edited in Lightroom)

As my preferred editing tool Adobe Lightroom has still not released an update for viewing and editing the D850 files I have not been able to review them properly, but from what I see so far the converted DNG files seem to have amazing dynamic range.

Nikon D850, 24-70mm/2,8, 1/320 sec, f/6,3 at ISO320 (converted to DNG from NEF and lightly edited in Lightroom)

Nikon D850, 24-70mm/2,8, 1/1600 sec, f/6,3 at ISO640 (converted to DNG from NEF and lightly edited in Lightroom)

Screen grab from Lightroom to show the dynamic range of the original NEF converted to DNG. No front filter (I often use Lee graded filters) was used on any of these images.

One feature I was really looking forward to test was how well this camera performs during night photography. The first night we had a clear sky I set up the camera on my tripod at the high water mark, and fitted it with the new Nikon 8-15mm lens. Being so far from civilization the entire Milky Way was visible and this night there was no moon so it was perfect for a test. I made use of the interval shooting option in the menu and found my frame to the west where the Milky Way would be most visible. I set my camera to take a picture every 15 minutes for five and a half hours starting at 23:00. My settings were 25 sec, f/4,5 at ISO3200. When all was ready I went to bed.

Nikon D850, 8-15mm/3,5-4,5, 25 sec, f/4,5 at ISO3200 (converted to DNG from NEF and lightly edited in Lightroom)

Next morning I came down to find wet grass on my camera thinking a bear came by to taste it. We did have bears around our tent regularly. The battery seemed to be empty, which was a surprise, but when I opened the chamber to change it, reality hit me like a fist in the guts. During the night we had a record high, 13,7 feet tide and the entire camera setup had drowned!!! I just killed one of the very few Nikon D850 that was delivered in Norway and possibly the only one found in Alaska…

Nikon D850 – you will be missed…

There were so many more features that I was looking forward to test, but now it seems I will not get the opportunity. Based on what I did see, and also the few files that I have converted to DNG using Adobes converter, I am extremely impressed with this camera and I am sure I need one in my bag!

P.S. Just to make it clear the Nikon D850 does come with a full weather sealed construction, but it is not an underwater camera…

This post was originally published here. All pictures are used with permission. If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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  • Ed Hassell

    That is seriously painful. I feel for your loss.

  • Polarkreis

    Great experience, and my condolences for the D850. Hence the reason why the there is a difference between weather resistant sealing and “water proof” camera bodies! 😉 For an extra $1,500, an underwater harness would be ideal for such circumstances. Maybe we will see an update to the availability of water proof cases soon, but in all reality and practicality, it is rare to find a photographer with a protective water rated case in the field, unless that individual is doing underwater photography.

    • Dmitry Anisimov

      The expense of waterproof cases comes because people are stuck in old paradigm where buttons on case have mechanical couplings with buttons

    • Spy Black

      It was unexpected that tide would rise so high, hence the event. He had placed the camera above the high tide mark believing it would be safe. Carrying an underwater housing in such a location would’ve been a heavy and cumbersome unnecessary accessory.

      • Just Me

        Kinda like carrying a gun…until you need it. 🙂

        • Spy Black

          You’re obviously American, and never trekked deep into the wilderness with gear.

          • Just Me

            First of all, I have. Northeast of Fairbanks, in February, in fact. Got some great photos of the Northern Lights and a few crappy photos of an arctic fox who was trying to figure out what the heck I was doing up in the mountains, in the middle of winter, in the middle of the night.
            My response, however, was a joke as indicated by the smiling face at the end.
            I would say you obviously don’t have a sense of humor but that would be an assumption based on the barest of evidence. Only a jerk would do that! 😉 <- Again…just joking.

            • Spy Black

              Perhaps so, but whenever guns come into a discussion of things like photography, audio, etc, I become suspect.

            • Just Me

              I don’t even own a gun.

    • Allen_Wentz

      U/w housing will likely be ~US$3k, not $1500.

      • Polarkreis

        Ikelite (rated up to 200ft underwater) sells theirs for $1,695, but I have found several used for under that price.

    • akkual

      Weather sealing is typically good enough to even rinse a camera under slowly running water tap. There is no pressure and the seals are there to stop any capillary effect, so splash water does nothing. But submerge a camera under water and the added pressure makes water find its ways inside.

  • Dennis W.

    Thx for sharing the story!

  • Proto

    Very cool. How close were you to those bears? And they visit your tent, but didn’t attack?

    • 1741

      As the bears came into camp they will have been a matter of feet away from them, also when camping in the wilderness you keep your food away from camp and do No 1’s an 2’s away from camp as a general rule, most animals are as scared as you are of them again it’s a general rule

      • XT

        …except that grizzly bears are one of the few N. American species that will actually hunt humans as food. And Alaska is loaded with them.

        • 1741

          It all come down to the element of risk and doing whatever to cut the risk to as little as possible, if the risk was high i’m sure they would have expert guidance in some way, as we both know it would be stupid to camp without any experience or knowledge of such places

          • XT

            Yeah I agree. I shoot with bears and mountain lions around quite a bit. I always have a can of industrial strength bear spray on my belt loop just in case…

            • Proto

              using bear spray with wrong wind direction will knock you out and piss off the bear. Gun is the best option

        • Thom Hogan

          “will actually hunt humans as food”

          Please support that with a factual, scientific report.

          • Allan

            From Wikipedia:

            Grizzly bears normally avoid contact with people. In spite of their obvious physical advantage they rarely actively hunt humans.[108] Most grizzly bear attacks result from a bear that has been surprised at very close range, especially if it has a supply of food to protect, or female grizzlies protecting their offspring.[109]

            • Thom Hogan

              And that source footnoted by Wikipedia actually says (in total and unsubstantiated) “There are also rare instances of Grizzly Bears preying on people for food.” However, many of us in the outdoor community asked for sources for that assertion and were given none. Remember, I used to run Backpacker magazine. Bears were a topic we were totally on top of.

            • Allan

              It makes you wonder why some people say or write unsubstantiated stuff, especially in this instance.

            • KnightPhoto

              Tell that to the solo fisherman who was consumed here in Alberta. It’s not that tough to find documented cases of humans consumed here in Alberta and BC by Grizzly (and even Black Bear also BTW). It’s small consolation whether the attack was a surprise encounter that turned predatory after the fact. And that’s the thing about bear encounters, if they turn predatory you are in a whole heap of trouble, I’d venture if it is a big male and you are alone, you’re finished. I agree with your point they aren’t likely out on a hunt for the unlucky humans that were minding their own business. But everyone should be aware of the danger of ever getting into a situation where a bear perceives you as food.

              BTW a fantastic book that gets into the mind of a bear (gone wrong) is ‘The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek’ by awesome Alberta writer Sid Marty.

              Cougar too one has to be careful, particularly women and children, as they will in some situations perceive you as food.

        • John Olson

          Grizzly bears do not hunt humans as a rule, the only bear that views everything as food is the Polar bear. They are extremely dangerous to humans and the only deterent is a gun, bear spray don’t work with them.

    • Roy Mangersnes

      In these images I wasn’t that close to the bears, perhaps 40-50 feet, but ones in a while a bear walked passed at around 20 feet when I was lying flat on the ground. These bears are fishing for salmon and do not see people as food at all. The only reason for them to charge would be to test us (especially the young ones would do that) or if we push them into a corner, meaning follow them and not giving them space to move freely. As long as you remember you are on their territory you will be fine. PS! There is a big difference between fishing Brown Bears in Katmai and Grizzlies in Denali and Brooks Range!

      • Proto

        very cool. yes, when i hiked in Denali and Wrangel, was told to beware of grizzlies…

      • 1741

        Nice pics an hope the phone call to the shop wasn’t too painful

    • Roy Mangersnes

      PS! The wolf was less than 10 feet away at some point. What a magical creature!!

  • Aldo

    Here so that you stop whining =)

  • TheInfinityPoint

    This is a good lesson here. Another lesson is: if there is high wind, and you are shooting time lapse, deploy camera to lowest possible center of mass otherwise it will blow over. Lol.

    • XT

      I shoot in the mountains a lot and it routinely gets pretty windy. I’ve got a solid Gitzo tripod and I hang a rock bag from the legs with 20# of rocks in it. No problems with movement.

    • Dinosaur

      Where was there any mention of wind being a factor here? He set up the tri-pod during low tide too close to the water and the tide rose 13′ feet and caused water damage. The lesson is don’t be a dummy borrowing equipment and not educating yourself about simple things like the tides if you are setting up your camera in sea water or water affected by tides, Alaska how some of the largest tide changes in the world along with Scandinavia(Finland/Sweden/Norway) and since this photographer is from Norway there is really no excuse about not being aware of possible tidal affects especially setting up his equipment next to the water in low tide.
      The lesson is common sense if you are going to set-up your gear for taking a time-lapse while you sleep/away from your gear.

      • John-Paul Bichard

        Sweden and Finland have zero tidal range in the Baltic (a closed sea) – if you want big tides, go to the Channel Islands with spring tides of up to 33 feet (9m)

        • Dinosaur

          The photographer is from Norway so the Baltic Sea really has no point in this conversation since Norway is surrounded by the North Sea/Atlantic I don’t know why you are mentioning the Baltic Sea since Norway doesn’t touch the Baltic, you may want to view a map before chiming in.

          • To be fair, Stavanger, Norway has very small tides of about 1/2 meter (c.20 inches). But other Norwegian coast towns like Narvik have tides of 10 feet (3 meters) or more.

      • TheInfinityPoint

        You say “The lesson is common sense if you are going to set-up your gear for taking a time-lapse while you sleep/away from your gear.”

        And I’m just saying one of those lessons is also to watch out for high wind. I had a time lapse going and was indoors when it blew over in the wind. What’s your problem?

  • 1741

    Call to shop – you know that camera you so kindly lent me well err err it’s a fantastic door stop now an won’t be returning it

  • What especially strikes me in this story, is the notion about long time request from Nikon ambassador himself concerning fn2 button and Nikon’s ridiculous answer on it… D8xx being not professional enough, lol. Facepalm. At very least, we finaly got it in D850. Hallelujah!

    And big thanks to Roy for interesting insites and story!

  • Semaphore

    Can you show us what the last frames the camera captured before dying look like?

    • Kiboko

      I to want to see that … or the sequence … If it is possible.

    • Allen_Wentz

      It is a digital sensor, so total immersion was likely fatal to all images. Maybe not though; I do not know how salt-water-tolerant an XQD card is.

  • Nils Kahle

    he shoots wildlife and the biggest zoom along was a 24-70 ???

    • Allan

      “During those rainy days, I used the Nikon D850 mainly as my short lens alternative, shooting with a 24-70mm/2,8E ED VR.”

    • Roy Mangersnes

      I was shooting with a 400/2,8 on my D5, and was planning to try more lenses as the test progressed. Then it all suddenly came to an end…

      • Allan


        Can you post one or two your shots with the 400/2.8? Thanks.

    • TwoStrayCats

      He was teaching grizzlies to take selfies.

  • Jørn

    I picked up my D750 on Thursday after a sensor cleaning. As I walked into the store I thought that the door stopper looked a lot like the D850. Didn’t realize that I actually walked passed this very camera. I live I Stavanger and shop at the same place as the author of this article. The world is a small place!

    • Husselang

      I usually drop by when I’m in Stavanger. I will make sure to check out their famous door stopper the next time 😀

  • IronHeadSlim

    It could be worse. He might have sent it back to Nikon and someone else would get is as refurbished. : /

  • Allan

    Great photos. Thank you for sharing.

  • William Ling

    Did the 18-135 in the doorstop picture drown too?

  • Not sure how you could let this happen to a borrowed camera. But I wasn’t there.

  • Joe Prete

    Do you have NPS? …Either way, I don’t think they’ll be loaning you any more cameras.

  • BeakerCasual

    Well…they still don’t make an idiot poof camera.

  • Donald MacLeay

    That reminds me of the Volkswagen commercial from long ago. “A Volkswagen definitely floats, but not indefinitely.”

  • Captain Megaton

    How short was your tripod that this could possibly happen?

  • Vince Vinnyp

    Wow, these things happen it’s a tool and it is on offer. I dropped my D850 and 24-70E off the tripod onto rocks the day before yesterday. It seems to have survived without a big problem. It will need a new hood as you can see but the alternative is put the kit before the image.

    • Wesley

      I would be even more worried in this situation and send in for inspection. The internals took a big shock and things can start to go loose or misaligned as time progress.

      Like a mild concussion or car accident. Any problem and repair bill will start to pile on.

  • Unfortunate but if you had purchased a SquareTrade warranty like I always do, they would have covered it 100%! I dropped my Canon 5D with lens into the ocean and by the time I retrieved it, it had blown up internally. I sent it in and they sent it to Canon. Canon said there was no way they could fix it so SquareTrade sent me a brand new camera and lens worth over $3500! The warranty was not cheap (around $450) but cheaper than a $3500 replacement! I don’t know about other warranty companies and have heard horror stories but I’ve never had a problem with SquareTrade. This is NOT an advertisement either. This is just from experience!

    • CERO

      But they are for the USA and specified countries only right?

      • Yes that is the disadvantage but I figured maybe your country would offer something similar. They have saved my butt many times!

  • saywhatuwill

    If it was purchased with an American Express card this may have been protected with their buyer protection.

  • Luiz Claudio Pattuzzo

    Esta câmera é simplesmente – show!!!

  • Alyosha Karamazov

    Yeah, I hate it when that happens…

  • Always check the tide charts (or apps like AyeTides)!

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