A Nikon D850 review for wildlife and nature photographers by Steve Perry

This Nikon D850 review is written by Steve Perry (website | YouTube | Facebook, you can check also his previous NR posts here):

A Nikon D850 Review For Wildlife And Nature Photographers

As a professional nature photographer, I’ve frequently entertained thoughts about what the “ideal” camera might look like for my work.

Right off the bat, I'd want a camera with abundant resolution for both printing and, when necessary, cropping. Of course, a fast frame rate is a must for action, as is a buffer that can manage that flood of fast-paced imagery. Decent mid-to-high ISO performance is also mandatory for low light scenarios (so I can keep shooting when the magic happens). Naturally, we should round this out with a fast autofocus system featuring sniper-like accuracy for capturing those fleeting, elusive moments.

This hypothetical camera has been a little fantasy of mine for the last decade or so, and honestly, I thought the only place I'd ever see it was in my daydreams.

Then, the D850 burst onto the scene like some kind of photographic rock star, and you know, it's pretty darn close to that fantasy camera.

As it turns out, the D850 really checks all the boxes for 80% or more of my work. In fact, if I were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one camera body, it would be the D850 without question. With that single camera, I can capture wildlife, action, landscapes, macros, and just about anything else that I encounter while I comb the island searching for coconuts. 

Of course, I don’t offer this opinion lightly. I’ve had my D850 for over two months now and have been using it in a wide variety of scenarios. My travels have taken me through eleven states, and two countries (just US & Canada, but still) encompassing a large variety of different environments and circumstances. I’ve filled my cards to overflowing with wildlife, action, landscape, and macro shots.

I’ve also thoroughly tested all of the new features and even stumbled upon some handy tips and tricks for using them (included in the video). In all, I’ve shot over 16,000 frames since the UPS man delivered that little brown box and I’ve distilled everything I’ve learned from those experiences into the video review you see here.

Yes, it’s a long video, but I promise I've packed every moment with info. We’ll cover controls, ergonomics, autofocus, the new live view features (like pinpoint AF and focus peaking), we’ll look at frame rates, buffer, sensor performance, ISO, and more. Plus, I’ll not only tell you about all of the cool new features, but I’ll show you how to use them as well.

Below you’ll find a few of the images I’ve captured with the D850, along with some information explaining how I leveraged the strengths of the camera to get the shot. You should probably watch the video first though. 🙂

Foggy Morning Elk (D850, Nikon 600mm F4, 1/1000, F4, ISO 1600)

This is one of my favorite shots from my D850. The fog was lifting, and this massive bull decided to strike a wonderfully epic pose in the morning light (only three frames worth too). The D850 captured it perfectly, and the file was superb. Very little post-processing was needed to coax the RAW file back to the way I remembered - and I’m finding this is true with most of the D850 files I’ve captured.

Chipmunk (Nikon D850, Nikon 600 F4, 1/800th, F4, ISO 6400)

I know what you’re thinking - what kind of idiot goes out with $15,000 worth of gear to photograph chipmunks? The kind of idiot who just got his new D850 and was desperate to find ANY subject to photograph - that’s what kind!

While I think it’s a nice photo of a chipmunk, the real reason it’s here is because of the story behind it.  This was captured at ISO 6400 and underexposed by about a stop (don’t ask, remember I’m the guy using a 600 F4 and D850 for chipmunk photos).

When I reviewed the images back home on the computer, they just looked like sad, little underexposed triangles without much color. I was going to introduce them to my delete key but instead decided maybe it would be interesting to play with one first.

So, I pulled up the exposure by a stop, added some vibrance, and did a hefty crop (the little guy was at my 600mm’s minimum focus distance, and he made no effort to fill the frame). It was looking pretty good, but noisier than a kindergarten class during a Halloween party. So, I decided to see what Topaz Denoise could do with the file, and I have to say, I was impressed - it took to noise reduction like a geek takes to a Star Wars movie (I'm a geek so I can say stuff like that). 

So, even if you blow it, don’t necessarily toss the files - they can surprise you sometimes!

Tern In Flight (Nikon D850, Nikon 600 F4, 1/3200th, F4.5, ISO 450)

There has been a lot of controversy about the D850’s AF system and if it can measure up to the the D5. In fact, I’ve had quite a few e-mails from people who were going to skip the camera due to these perceived deficiencies.

Diving Tern (Nikon D850, Nikon 600 F4, 1/3200th, F4.5, ISO 200)

Well, as the owner of a D5, D500, and D850, I have to say, I am really not seeing too much AF disparity between the cameras at this point. As I mention in the video, I think there are times the D5 seems to lock on a tiny bit better, but for the most part, I’m hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two so far.

Angry Tern (Nikon D850, Nikon 600 F4, 1/3200th, F4.5, ISO 200)

These terns were all over the place (check out 13:50 in the video) and the way they fluttered around in the wind is the very definition of the word "erratic." Still, I easily stuffed my XQD card with more tack sharp tern-in-flight images than anyone really needs.

Snowy Egret Dancing (Nikon D850, Nikon 600 F4, 1/4000th, F4, ISO 500)

We were in Chincoteague NWR for part of our testing and came upon a small pond where various birds would gather every morning. This snowy egret, in particular, was there each day to greet us (always just the one, but he almost seemed to enjoy my efforts to capture his antics).

He must have been raised by reddish egrets because he hunted like one - darting and dancing around like a crazy bird trying to startle a fish into joining him for breakfast.

Snowy Egret Fishing (Nikon D850, Nikon 600 F4, 1/4000th, F4, ISO 200 - I had it wrong in the video)

This is a scenario I’ve frequently shot with my D5 and tracking these guys at close range with a 600mm can be brutal for both the photographer and the AF system. However, the D850 seemed to perform every bit as well as both my D5 and D500 and I have plenty of keepers featuring my nutty little friend as a result.

Elk In The Fog (Nikon D850, Nikon 600 F4, 1/640, F4, ISO 1800)

This is the same elk as before, only this was a bit before he’d had his morning latte. For this photo, I dropped the tripod low and decided to use the tilt screen and Live View to get the shot. However, when I placed the normal-sized focus point on his eye, I found it covered too much of his face - I wanted to make sure the eye was the absolute point of sharpness. I remembered the new Pinpoint AF mode and was delighted to discover it was just the right size for the eyeball of an elk!

Barred Owl On A Branch (Nikon D850, Nikon 300 PF, 1/500th, F4, ISO 2500)

We found this cooperative barred owl (see 15:48 in the video) on a hike down to a waterfall in Shenandoah National Park. He was hunting crawfish in the creek at mid-morning, unusual on both counts, but I wasn’t about to let odd behavior stand in my way (my wife didn’t 25 years ago). Besides, he seemed remarkably friendly for an owl.

Things were happening fast and getting a tripod into position carried a hefty risk of missing the shot, so I hand-held the 300PF at 1/500th sec and fired away. Despite the high resolution, the majority of these hand-held shots were absolutely tack sharp when viewed at 100% magnification. The dynamic range of the D850 was enough to keep the bright, mid-morning light from spoiling the image (and in fact, I think that light made the shot).

Barred Owl On A Log (Nikon D850, Nikon 300 PF, 1/500th, F4, ISO 4500)

After this photo, he tried for and missed a crayfish in spectacular fashion (it was funny for those of us in the peanut gallery). He decided to hang out on a log while he shook off the embarrassment of that little blunder, so after a couple of quick hand-held captures, I decided to take another approach. I grabbed my tripod, tilted my screen, and turned on Focus Peaking.  In a moment, I had smeared red highlight all over / around the eye. From there, I knocked off a quick series of shots, all nice and sharp.

Ladybug (10 image stack - Nikon D850, Nikon 105 Micro, 1/200th, F11, ISO 400)

This was the result of one of my first attempts at focus stacking (Focus Shift Shooting as Nikon likes to call it). This is a ten image stack using the method and settings described in the video. What I really like about automated focus stacking is how fast it happens.

This little guy wasn’t running a marathon or anything, but he was starting, stopping, and then starting again. Had I tried this manually, there's no doubt in my mind that he would have moved half-way into the stack and I would have been tempted to squish him into submission (kidding).  With the automated focus stacking feature, I was able to pull it off easily (using F/11 to minimize the number of shots I needed before he moved).

White Horse At Sunset (Nikon D850, Nikon 70-200 F4, 1/2500th, F4, ISO 1250)

I photographed these two wild horses at Assateague NWR just before sunset.

The first image is in here just because I like the shot. However, the second picture of the foal running is a different story. That image is a good reminder of why I need to keep more shutter speed at my disposal when photographing action!

Running Foal (Nikon D850, Nikon 70-200 F4, 1/1600, F4.5, ISO 280)

It started off with this little foal just strolling through the dunes, grazing on the buffet of grasses as he did so. I had the camera set to 1/1600th  - a very generous shutter speed for what was happening. However, I didn’t expect him to break into a run!

As it turns out, another notch or two of shutter speed would have been helpful, even tough 1/1600th seems like enough for that scenario. As I mentioned in the video, you may need more shutter speed than you think for your action subjects, especially if you’re coming from a lower resolution FX body. (D500, D7xxx, and D800/D810 users are probably fine since you’re already accustomed to higher pixel densities.)

In the end, I did manage a few sharp images, but the truth is I have quite a few great poses that just aren’t as tack sharp as I like and that clearly display motion blur. And the sad thing was, I had plenty of light for a faster shutter speed, I just didn’t anticipate properly.

Little Sable Lighthouse (Nikon D850, Nikon 24-70E, 1/50th, F9, ISO 800)

Of course, the D850 can do more than wildlife, it’s also an exceptional landscape camera. One feature that I really enjoy for landscapes is Focus Peaking since it gives me a nice visual of where critical focus is in the frame.

In this case, I wanted my focus point on the nearest yellow tree on the right. I knew that F/9 this would carry both the foreground and the lighthouse. However, I wasn’t entirely confident that Live View could get a good lock with the leaves blowing around in the stiff lake breeze.

Switching to focus peaking made it easier for me to verify I did indeed have the focus plane where I wanted it. Using Silent Shutter and  Exposure Delay Mode, I finished off the shot.

(Had it not been so windy, I probably would have also used Focus Stacking at a lower F/Stop. However, with that much movement, there's not a program on the planet that could stack the resulting mess.)

Finally, if you enjoyed this review, please check out my e-books, Secrets To The Nikon Autofocus System and Secrets To Stunning Wildlife Photography. Tens of thousands of photographers are already using the tips, tricks, and techniques to put more keepers on their cards. Oh, and there are still a few spots open for my Costa Rica workshop next year too.

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  • bobgrant

    Wow. Can’t wait for mine to ship!

  • Fly Moon

    The only person I trust when it comes to AF my Nikons is Steve. I own 2 of his books. Absolutely the best.

    • I agree!

    • bonem

      Indeed. I agree.

    • Claus Wilken

      Great books, trustworthy author, thanks Steve.

    • Thanks!!

    • Vinnypimages

      The speedy update to the Secrets to the Nikon Autofocus System E-book contains, so far, the best practical I have seen about the new focus stacking features. But it’s a great practical guide all round. (No other interest other than a satisfied customer)

  • surgeon67

    That was a great review video. I appreciate the work that went into it. Many thanks.

  • peterchia41

    I follow Steve and his review and opinions are just good and factual. Well to him is own. Can’t wait for mine.

  • Vinnie

    Great review Steve. This camera looks like a winner.

  • animalsbybarry

    Great article, great camera

  • Spy Black

    Perry always has a great way of discussing things. I haven’t seen the video, but the article was great.

  • bonem

    Great video and read. Love the camera and the Steve Perry books. Need to read all the new updates!

  • This camera appears to do just about everything. Kudos to Nikon, this is quite a machine. Nice wildlife shots, too. Love the feel he got of the snowy egret dancing.

    • Thanks – I was very happy with that one too 🙂

      • It’s more than just the bird, you know? The light and the water is rendered very sensitively and makes for a convincing reading. Part of that is the sensor and how Nikon “tunes” it (for lack of a better technical term). The other is your notion of what looks good. I love your naturalistic approach. Too much “nature” photography is ruined by photographers trying to be too artsy. Thanks again.

        • Thanks for the kind words – I’ve been trying to keep my images looking more natural and your comments really mean a lot – thanks!

    • marymig

      Like the colors on the horse myself.

  • Eric Calabros

    That “Snowy Egret Dancing” is wonderful.

    • Thanks – it’s one of my favs too 🙂

  • Aldo

    Nice photos. Love them all!

    • Thanks 🙂

      • Spy Black

        You mentioned having to use Topaz DeNoise on the squirrel shot, does DeNoise still require you to render a tiff file, or can it now work with raw files? Looks great at screen res.

        • I’m not sure about the stand alone program, I used the plug-in through photoshop after importing the NEF from ACR.

          • Spy Black

            OK, it’s probably still the same then, only rendered files.

            • dave

              In photoshop or Affinity Photo it just adds a new layer or if you use a smart object layer it uses that and doesn’t convert it to a tiff. If you use it in Lightroom it will have to send it out as a tiff (like every plugin would have to do) but they are now putting them all in a stand alone product called studio and not sure if you can work with raws or not in that.

            • Spy Black

              Yeah, I’m surprised Topaz haven’t created their own raw image processor. Something that incorporates their entire line of processors at the raw level. Their noise reduction engine in particular would be great to use on raw data.

  • decentrist

    Invest in SanDisk SNDK, Western Digital WDC for their next few quarters. They’ll be going full tilt making hard drives for the D850 owners.

    • LOL – no kidding. I can’t believe how fast I’m tearing through HD space when shooting action with this thing. With my D5, a good trip would push 100GB of date, with this, that can happen in the first couple days!

      • Eric Bowles

        Good point. I have about 600 GB of D850 images in the past 6 weeks. My laptop lives full and my external drives are about to be expanded.

        • Yeah, my external RAID drive just got a LOT smaller!

    • I just invested in a Synology DS1817+ which I thought was a bit of overkill. Now I am not so sure it will outlast my D850.

      • KnightPhoto

        Good thing that plus sign gives us expandable HD units you can add (I just bought a used Synology 1813+ from a friend). My original NAS is now an offsite backup!

      • Allen_Wentz

        What Knight said. It should be a while before you exceed 8 x 4TB = 32 TB…

        • Actually I have 8 Western Digital 10 tb gold drives in it, but yes, it will be a while despite having filled up 5 drives for a non-photography use.

          • Allen_Wentz

            Just curious. Do you use a RAID, and if so which one?

            • I use a Raid 5 on the 5 drives that I mentioned. The original data is in a rather large safety deposit box. The other drives are set up as JBODs (just a bunch of disks), but each one is backed up to two equivalent drives, one of which is in a safety deposit box.

              RAID without offsite backup does not help in a fire.

            • Allen_Wentz

              I have always done image backup manually rather than via one of the striped RAID configs. Like you describe, each drive backed up locally and off-site. My feeling is image data is static, and I want to effect the backup when I consider everything right; RAID mirrors simply copy any corrupt file.

            • You raise a good point. The files that I have under Raid 5 are static files that I am not writing to. Raid is a good defense against a bad drive. But to your point, bad files can be copied and the issue might be that a good file has been currupted. Offsite external backup strategies provide versioning that Raid does not.

    • My NEF files are only running 50-60mb each. That’s not too bad. They aren’t 14 bit though. I understand that it is very difficult to tell the difference between 12 bit and 14 bit so why use the extra space.

      • dave

        I’ve been trying 12 bit files off my d750 in situations that don’t need every gob of DR and I can’t tell much difference in the files but the files are much smaller and with a fast card in the buffer is way deeper.

  • Wow, as always, the best real world reviews in all regards. Thank you for this great work.

  • Very interesting review, once again. Thank you Steve!
    Is anyone out there ready to tell me, if the D850 is really worth the expenses? I own a D800 and a D500 and I don’t earn money with my pictures.
    But it’s my favourite hobby and I enjoy it to work with a good camera.

    • John Mackay

      The question is do you need great af and better buffer in full frame to shoot what you love. Don’t factor in image quality, the d800 is close enough.

    • No idea yet. Just got mine and haven’t shot with it yet. Had a d500, d800, d7100 in the past and now mainly shoot with the 750 and 3300 (yes the 3300 lol). Have to say just holding it feels really good in the hand. Excited to use the focus bracketing and focus peaking which are two features I know I’ll use. If you have the money, why not get one?

      • Hugh J.

        Lol. I shoot with a 3300 all the time. With good glass, it holds up to 7k series on IQ.

        • Haha totally agree. Why I still use it often.

    • You only live once 🙂 However, at the same time, do any of the features on the D850 seem like they would help your photography? When looking at new gear, I always try to fill in the holes / deficiencies in my lineup. If a particular camera or lens isn’t plugging a hole, I don’t need it.

      • I guess I need to sleep this over. Wish I would know what comes next from nikon.

        • marymig

          TNGT…will always be out there. I needed better AF than the D800 offered.

      • This is *exactly* why I haven’t jumped (and I’m a gearhead) yet – I haven’t seen a compelling reason (outside of the AF system) to move to the D850 for what I shoot (mainly concert/venue, currently using D750/D810 combo)…..

        • KnightPhoto

          D850 absence of magenta cast at high ISOs is a major benefit compared with D800/D800E/D810. There, just gave you a reason to upgrade – you’re welcome 😉

          • Generally I haven’t had an issue there – and what I do see is usually taken care of in post…stage lights are great for letting this slide by…. 😉 And I’ve never had an issue with it on the D750…I do appreciate you trying to help me spend money tho…my wife might not, but I do… 😀

    • Allen_Wentz

      Ask yourself how many D500 tele pix you take where you need to move farther away to get less crop. If the answer is not many, the D500 may be fine at the tele end, and with higher frame rate. Just as good as the D850.

      However at the wide end and for focus stacking, Steve’s captures sure do sell the D850.

      Plus the biggest thing to me would be the body. I dislike the D800 but love the D500/D850.

    • marymig

      Got rid of my D800and replaced it with the D850. Worth it IMO.

  • Seen his review and was impressed with how detailed he was. Great video which let me keep the instruction manual in the box. Lol.

  • maxx

    Yes… wonderful D850, but… what about the lens???

    • Allen_Wentz

      The lenses? You get what you pay for…

    • They too are covered in his video. Nikon recommendations and his.

  • Ushanas Trivedi

    As usual great images & review from Steve.

  • Joe Schmitt

    Excellent review! Thanks Steve.

  • Patrick

    “Think of this as more of a real-world field report from a wildlife guy…”

    And that’s exactly what you get in one of Steve’s reviews. Practical, useful information you need to operate the camera. I don’t think I would buy a camera in the price range of a D850 without a report from Steve.

    I can’t believe that Nikon hasn’t tapped him as one of their Nikon Ambassadors.

    • He is probably the best nikon ambassador out there, without nikon knowing it :O)
      He’s the one, I get the most and the most usefull input from!

    • I’m willing if they are 🙂

      • AlexG

        I like your reviews and love your pictures. Simple, accurate explanations and quite clear seperation of opinions and facts.
        Stay away from the ambassador thing so we can keep enjoying your unbiased reviews!

        • The truth is, the main reason I’d like it is so that I might have better access to their technical people. There are times I could really just use a quick conversation with someone to verify facts. It would save me a ton of time.

          • Allan

            It’s disappointing to hear that somebody like you, that promotes Nikon’s products and has in-depth skill in using their products, does not have easy and quick access to the Nikon technical people that you need.

            • I’m heading out to CES this year, hopefully I can talk to someone at Nikon and they can help me out in that dept. Any past contact I;v had with them, even as an NPS member, has been – let’s call it “underwhelming” and leave it at that 🙂

            • marymig

              Nikon can’t control Steve, hence no reason to cooperate. That’s the way companies work.

          • AlexG

            But with the ambassador thing you would lose time trying to balance objectivity with promotion of products, if it is even possible to balance those two.
            In any case, i hope that you get what you wish, you deserve it for being honest, analytic and thorough with your reviews

          • well, I am sure Nikon is reading this blog – hopefully somebody will get in touch with you soon 🙂

          • Allen_Wentz

            The access to free glass would be nice too… :~)

    • Ratatoskr

      I’m glad they haven’t grabbed him. I hope he’s not on their payroll. As soon as he or anyone else is, they lose a lot of credibility.

      • LOL – The money between Nikon and I only goes one way! I pay full price for every piece of gear I review.

  • Lightograph

    I agree with Patrick, Nikon should have tapped him for being a Nikon Ambassador. I saw all his videos and read his book on Nikon Auto Focus System. He does a thorough study of the features or camera system before he brings out his book or video. I have been waiting for Steve’s review before I buy my Nikon D850. Great work Steve.

  • Wild Treck

    Decent review if not a bit thin or stretched out like butter spread over too much bread. Much of the instructional info is a carry over from his D500 videos with updates to the D850 AF points and groups which was expected. Steve is one of the better reviewers and his books are decent particularly the Nikon AF system. His other wildlife book has nice examples but isn’t all that much different from other how-to wildlife books.
    There are still cold and freezing weather test to be performed on the D850 and some nice snowy owl images would be a good test of how good the D850 is in DR and detail especially against a background of snow.

    • I had thought of that when doing the review – it would have been much more concise to skip all the features that came out with the D500 and that I had already covered in another video. However, I can’t assume that everyone saw that video or that everyone getting a D850 was already familiar with the D500 feature set. So, I wanted to be thorough and it did make it a bit longer than I expected. However, I think those coming from a D810 will appreciate it.

      • Wild Treck

        Fair enough.

    • Re: the D850 addendum:

      Actually, I added the D850 to the existing book and it’s a totally free update for existing customers. Just re-download using your current link (the system will always deliver the most current edition). Hit me up on my contact page if you need the link resent. 🙂

      • Wild Treck

        Ah! Excellent.

        Thank you.

  • Nika

    Superb review and images

  • jonebize

    This guy’s a monster

  • Wild Treck

    Care to explain why my previous comment is in moderation?

    • Allan

      Try reloading the site, and then this topic.

      • Wild Treck

        Already have with browsers cleared and when not logged in the comment is invisible but the replies are visiable.

        • Allan

          I see two comments:

          “Decent review …”
          “Fair enough.”

          • Wild Treck

            Peter brought it back, thanks.

            • Allan

              I saw your first comment 2 hours ago. I’ve had trouble also.

            • Wild Treck

              It’s happened quite often to me, making it difficult to keep up with replies. Not certain if it’s ip censorship, or maybe even being in Canada might not like the protocols. It’s also happening on youtube for many.
              Although i don’t seem to have a problem on the Pentax or 4/3 division of rumors. Probably just an overworked server.

            • Allan

              It’s cooold in Canada. I know – I grew up there.
              Everything works slower in the cold (physics/chemistry). The guys running the ISP’s also drink too much beer.

              Are you guys ice-fishing yet?


            • Wild Treck

              Not yet but about 12 inches of snow but that will melt soon then the permanent snow will come in as usual. The recent cold did snap a 750Kv hydro line about 9km from me, 5 hours without power but we are kind of used to it. Yes indeed the cold makes electronics work strangely and it’s one thing most camera companies fail to test. A bunch of us are renting a D850 at the end of December to see if it is all it’s cracked up to be and if it can handle the cold like Pentax, Olympus and Panasonic.
              BTW it was -29c with the WCF two days ago.

    • I don’t know, the system did not like something. I approved it.

      • Wild Treck

        Thank you. reloading

        • Probably somebody has sent spam from your IP address before.

          • Wild Treck

            Possibly since it’s dynamic and covers an entire province and then some.

            • yes, that happens

  • ZoetMB

    Great comprehensive and detailed review (except that there’s a typo- several instances where D850 is “D805”).

    • Oops – Dyslexia kicking in. Maybe Peter can fix those 🙂

  • Delmar Mineard Jr

    I got Steve’s email and was going to provide the link to Peter to post and had second thoughts…figured he was on top of it. Nice post Peter.

    Agree with Fly Moon, Steve’s books are excellent.

  • Dariusz Breś

    nice review Steve, and photos.

  • Ratatoskr

    I’ve been waiting for a wildlife photographer to give a good full review on this camera, specifically one shooting BiF.
    I’ve been waiting for an upgrade to my D800E and finally it arrived. Can’t afford to upgrade more often with an NGO salary. Most important feature for me is AF for my BiF and even other wildlife, and second most important is fps. Then came the test on AF showing it was far from as good as the D5. So I put of my purchase.
    Now comes this review, the one I’ve been waiting for, and even though the camera is not portrayed as the super camera many others claimed it to be, it’s still showing that it does have a great AF compared to most cameras. It also has great features no other camera has for my type of photography, wildlife and macro.

    I’m still not 100% convinced to buy this camera. Do I dare? or will Nikon do the same thing they did with the D800, come out with a very improved version shortly after? Thinking mainly about buffer, AF and fps.

    I will get the battery grip, too bad it’s not as steady as it should be. Battery grip is just a must. Those 2 extra fps are good to have, but it’s also the ergonomics. One thing Steve did forget to mention that is also a benefit with having the grip is that you have much longer batterylife on your camera.

    Thanks for this great review Steve Perry, best so far on the net, and I’ve read all of the best ones from wildlife photographers and others.

    I bet you could sell me a bible with your smooth communication skills 🙂
    I’m here thinking “how did he manipulate me now” 😉

    • marymig

      The AF appears to be more than adequate for BIF.

    • Gosh1

      I’ve been shooting the D850 on wildlife and landscapes and more since early October. Best investment since my D500, which is now backup mainly and there for DX reach. Fully concur with Steve P on adequacy of the D850 AF on BIF!

    • Allen_Wentz

      “…will Nikon do the same thing they did with the D800, come out with a very improved version shortly after? Thinking mainly about buffer, AF and fps.”

      Yes Nikon will shortly come out with better “buffer, AF and fps.” They will most likely call it the D5s, and I am very interested in seeing it!

      D810 was partially a response to D800 lameness and was ~2 years later IIRC, not what I call “shortly after.” And so far D850 certainly does not seem lame. Personally I strongly doubt any chance of a D860 soon unless some substantive problem (like D800’s focus anomalies) presents with D850.

      • Ratatoskr

        That was not a very informative comment and definitely a lot of misinformation.
        A D5 is not the same series as the D8xx so an upgrade to a D8xx can never become a two char Nikon camera, ie a D5 series.
        D800 was never lame, it was actually just about the same amazing announcement of it as of this D850. It was a SUPER camera when it was new. Two years is a very short span for an upgrade of a Nikon camera.

        • Allen_Wentz

          The D5s reference was my apparently poor attempt at humor; sorry, no disinformation intended.

          The D800 was a great step forward in cameras, but unequivocally lame:

          1) Obviously a matter of opinion, but IMO the ergonomics were poor. I walked into Looking Glass Photo ready to buy one, but the ergonomics killed the deal. Nikon apparently agreed with me because they changed the ergonomics on the D810.

          2) Focus issues. A subset of D800 cameras had focus problems that denigrated the D800 name. That is the very definition of lame.

  • NYkon

    Thanks much Steve Perry for a solid look at the D850 from a wildlife photographer’s perspective. For Christmas, I’d love to see even more on Focus Stacking/Shift, Timelapse, and Electronic First Curtain compared with Silent Shutter and Mirror Lock Up. 😉

  • AYWY

    Interesting note about high pixel density cameras requiring higher shutter speed than usual for action. I understand they require higher hand-holding shutter speed than the value of the usual 1/focal length rule, but it did not occur to me it also affects the moving subjects which are photographed. Does this mean the 1/1000 sec recommendation for sports photography will need to be higher with these bodies?

  • karayuschij

    Great review!
    But I doubt that 100 focus stacking shots are really necessary for landscapes

    • As I mentioned in the video, the reason for the high number is because it takes advantage of the fact that the system stops when it gets to the end of the focus range for the lens.

      So, instead of trying to guess if I need 12 shots for one scene and 4 for another, I set in a ridiculously large number. When I start the stack, the camera shoots until it reaches infinity and stops – sometimes it does so in just a few shots for really wide lenses, for slightly longer lenses it make take a dozen or more. By setting in a large number I don’t worry about guessing the exact amount, just let the camera take what’s needed to get to infinity and let it decide when to stop.

      • karayuschij

        100 shots for every final image is a good way to reduce the life of your shutter.
        With a 20 mm at f/8, with 4 shots (even 2 or 3) you get all the field in focus, from the closest point to infinity.
        So, I really think that to make 100 shots is an enormous absurdity

      • karayuschij

        100 shots for every final image is a good way to reduce the life of your shutter.
        With a 20 mm at f/8, with 4 shots (even 2 or 3) you get all the field in focus, from the closest point to infinity.
        So, I really think that to make 100 shots is useless and even counter productive (wind moving trees, plants, clouds moving, water moving, etc. And you should also consider the space for the archive of the images, the time for the postproduction…)

      • karayuschij

        I did not understand well.
        So even if you set a number of 999 the camera will stop to shoot after 3 shots (for example) if only 3 shots are necessary to get the full image in focus?
        So why there is not an “Auto” mode? It would be more simple, no?

        • Yes, even if you set to the max of 300, it will stop shooting after it hits the end of the range, usually around 3-4 shots for really wide lenses. It will NOT continue to shoot if it hits infinity first.

          My only guess for no auto setting is that if you’re shooting a macro, you could conceivably have hundreds of shots starting that close, but maybe only need the first 20~30. However, if the system keeps going out to infinity, you DO get a lot of useless shots that just add to the shutter count.

          Setting a high number for landscapes essentially puts it in “auto”mode.

  • Gosh1

    I can only reiterate the compliments and thanks to Steve for putting in all the hard work and sharing hard won memes of how to drive Nikon. The price of his AF book is a pittance compared to what its innards confer on the more hidden wiring that drives the Greater Nikon Ecosystem. To reiterate comments on Steve’s review trending on a more than 1 forum, Steve does put in the hardwork, and he knows Nikon.

    Further to the personalities whose videos stand out. Namely that Granger, and worse the parroting tattooed-entity (let alone whatever entities flung together the daiper-review ) Compared against this clickbait, Monsieur Perry stands apart. It’s why I follow Steve Perry and Thom Hogan for reliable int, which takes not just days but weeks to assimilate and synthesize in a rewiew of a product as complex as the D850.

    Thank You again 🙂

    • Gosh1

      It also needs to be reiterated that ……if NIKON READ this Discussion (Buzz! Buzz! to quote Thom Hogan)…. release of the D850 throws up glaring gaps in the Nikon lens inventory, especially as focus-stacking in the D850 demands AFS lenses. This is where macro primes of longer FL are also vital for wildlife “closeups”, especially on arthropods and snakes. The 200 f4D ED, for example, is in dire need of updating to AFS!

      Nikon need to wise up to the realities that closeup photography is booming – judging by its regular and prominent featuring in magazines and on the www etc, and it’s further enabled by cheap LED lamps, 3rd party speedlights etc (among other gadgets). This is where the likes of Sigma and Tamron have filled the vacant niches in the Greater Nikon Ecosystem with affordable AFS compatible primes. A few of these are by reliable accounts excellent optics.

      And while I’m on the Nikkor buzz here, then there’s the superb 70-180 Micro-Nikkor AFD (sporting antediluvian AF at that) – but it is a unique and truly superb optic. Obviously, my treasured copy also cannot do auto focus stacking on the D850. Nikon let production of the 70-180 lapse in 2004. How utterly Bizarre if not utterly clueless strategizing ?!? They have all the in-house industrial knowledge and capacity to reintroduce an updated medium telephoto macro-zoom with superb specs. Not only AFS and VR but why not add a Super ED element or two to bring this optic up to APO specs? …. buzz, buzz….

      The 105 f2.8G VR you say? Useless to me in the seasonal tropics and deserts etc because it isn’t weather sealed (my ex copy, bought new, sucked in dust within a month). Furthermore, the cost, weather-sealing, AF performance, and above all acuity of the Sigma and Tamron macros are all significantly better than any Micro-Nikkor.

      How ironic how Nikon has lost the plot on macro-lenses, considering the pioneering legacy of the Micro-Nikkors (i still own and use a 55 f3.5 and 55 f2.8AIS). Very sad and embarrassing corporate failure 🙁

      I will likely buy a new Sigma 180 f2.8 – Nikon’s loss but my gain.

  • akkual

    The chipmunk one shows the edge D850 has over D810 and D750 in sensor wise, which I also noticed in my very first tests with D850 high ISO. At 1:1 situation does not look any better to D810 and maybe even a bit worse to D750. But do the noise reduction and sharpening over those sweet 46mpix instead of 36mpix or 24mpix, and you gain a clearly visible advantage from D850 at high ISOs. Now if only I could get that camera with EVF, I could stop thinking about between D850 and GFX.

    • Luca Motz

      I don’t know why you’d be in the market for the GFX and the D850 for the same use to be honest..
      They are totally different cameras. The GFX is studio/landscape only while the D850 actually has usable AF and reasonably fast frame rates usable ergonomics for long periods of shooting long glass etc.
      If you are looking for a camera for studio/landscape and you are not restricted by money then I wouldn’t think twice about getting the GFX or the Hasselblad offering for that matter. If you need your camera for ANYTHING else the D850 simply is the better camera

    • Wild Treck

      Actually i found it to be quite the opposite for the D850 at the lower range ISO. Landscapes are on and off and even some of Steve Perry’s wildlife images look better from his D500. What ever performance charts that were release seem confirm this. It’s why i am not diving into the D850 just yet. Also the price in most countries is quite a bit higher than in the US with limited support. In a few months perhaps when things settle down and the facts get too sink in.

  • BPhoto

    Yet another excellent video by Steve Perry. Well done!

  • Allen_Wentz

    Nikon in the D850 manual says to use AF-S or AF-P lenses for focus stacking (focus shift in Nikon parlance). Has anyone tried using AF lenses to focus shift the D850 (specifically the AF 105mm micro f/2.8D)? I would hope that excellent lens would work as long as one held the AF backfocus button in during the focus shift burst.

    • Wild Treck

      Are you talking about touch screen tap to focus in and take a shot of each part of the subject you want for focus stacking? An AF lock feature should work if your lens disengages from being driven, if not it won’t matter holding BBF.

      • Allen_Wentz

        No. I am talking about the automated focus shifting provided by the D850 with AF-S and AF-P lenses. The D850’s automated focus shifting does not work with live view.

        • Wild Treck


          • Allen_Wentz

            However perhaps your described process works just fine.

    • It doesn’t work with “D” lenses, only AF-S, AF-P. I tried it with my 200 macro 🙁

      • Allen_Wentz

        Thanks Steve.

  • P. Turtle

    There’s no reviewer better. Great video.

  • Gosh1

    With respect to questions on D850 focus-stocking, repeat of a comment below that will hopefully reach Nikon. We should take every opportunity to Buzz the company to fix gaps in the Nikkor inventory.

    Micro-Nikkors, especially. A core reason why I’ve used Nikon exclusively since 1984.

    The D850 throws up glaring gaps where focus-stacking demands AFS lenses. Here macro primes of longer FL are often vital for wildlife “closeups”, especially on arthropods and snakes. The 200 f4D ED, for example, is in dire need of updating to AFS!

    Nikon need to wise up to the realities that closeup photography is booming – judging by its regular and prominent featuring in magazines and on the www etc, and it’s further enabled by cheap LED lamps, 3rd party speedlights etc (among other gadgets). So no surprises that the likes of Sigma and Tamron have filled the vacant niches in the Greater Nikon Ecosystem with affordable AFS compatible primes. According to reliable accounts, a few of these are excellent optics.

    And while we are buzzing Nikon on these gaps, there’s the superb 70-180 Micro-Nikkor AFD (albeit sporting antediluvian AF ). Nevertheless, is a truly superb optic. Unique in fact. Obviously, my treasured copy also cannot do auto focus stacking on the D850. Nikon let production of the 70-180 lapse in 2004. How utterly Bizarre if not utterly clueless strategizing ?!?

    Nikon has all the in-house industrial knowledge and capacity to reintroduce an updated medium telephoto macro-zoom with superb specs. Not only build in AFS and VR but why not add a Super ED element or two to bring this optic up to APO specs? It’s high time Micro-Nikkors caught up to the 90mm Tamron and 180 f2.8 Sigma APO

    The 105 f2.8G VR you say? Useless in the seasonal tropics and deserts etc. It lacks weather sealing. My ex copy, bought new, sucked in dust within a month. Furthermore, lower cost, weather-sealing, AF performance, and above all higher acuity make the Sigma and Tamron macros significantly better than any Micro-Nikkor.

    Ironically, Nikon has lost the plot on macro-lenses, considering the pioneering legacy of the Micro-Nikkors (i still own and use a 55 f3.5 and 55 f2.8AIS). Very sad and embarrassing corporate failure 🙁

    I plan to buy a new Sigma 180 f2.8 APO in the new year. Nikon’s loss but my gain.

    • AYWY

      Now you mentioned it, weather sealing is one of those things I am thinking about. It seems most Nikon lenses’ weather seal is only at the mount. Maybe only the f/2.8 zooms are fully sealed – “maybe” because I don’t think it is officially stated.

      Nikon seems to be cutting corners in all kinds of places. So strange that there are more m43 lenses officially recognized by the manufacturers to be “splash-resist/weather-sealed” than modern Nikkor…

      How well sealed is Canon L glass?

      • Gosh1

        The better Nikkors are more than fine, and not only in their optical attributes. Not only do the holy trinity of zooms have excellent weather sealing (eg 16-35mm f/4G ED VR ) but also many of the better primes.

        Google the subject and there’s some discussion and posting on this, including an article on the thephoblographer. The 2016 list for Nikon on the blog by bodzashphotoastro is a gem.

        But the quality of the categories of pro, semi-pro vs budget Nikkors are fairly obvious. Some of the budget Nikon glass includes some superb optics even though they are not built to last, and survive in deserts etc. And polycarbonate carapaces can cope with serious abuse.

  • captaindash

    Hey! What’s wrong with chipmunks? Is it more manly to photograph a bear? Pressing a button is pressing a button (and fun). No rationalizing needed.

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