Nikon D850 review


This Nikon D850 camera review is by Andy Zofka (annazofka.com | Facebook):

I’m Andy – half of Anna Zofka Photography wedding photography duo, photography tutor and a complete photography geek 😉

I got the D850 only a couple of days after its UK launch (early September) and I’ve been using it as my main camera since. Before I got the D850 I have been using mainly Nikon D750 for the last 2 years, as well as the Sony A7RII and the Nikon D5, so I’ll be making some comparisons, especially to the D750. Those of you looking to upgrade their D750 may find these bits particularly helpful. On the other hand I have no experience in using D800 or D810, so can’t really draw any comparisons to these cameras.

Please bear in mind that this review was written from a wedding photographer’s point of view – my priorities and expectations regarding equipment may be quite different to yours ☺ This review is based on my experience with the camera over the last few weeks. There is another, albeit shorter review, planned for January, once I have had a chance to use the camera for more landscape and wildlife photography during my trip to Costa Rica.

This review is based on a combination of real life shooting scenarios (events, portrait and a lot of casual shooting) and set up test scenarios, to see how far this camera can be pushed. I haven’t used the camera at a wedding yet, as until recently it was not supported by Lightroom and therefore camera profiles were not available.

Any photos in this review are included to illustrate a specific point, so if you are expecting dozens of pretty shots, I’m sorry to disappoint 😉 I think it’s beyond anyone’s doubt that this camera is capable of producing absolutely stunning images, hence why I decided that including such images wouldn’t be necessary.

The camera used for the review was bought by me and I’m in no way affiliated or commissioned by Nikon. I’m are also pretty much brand agnostic – as long as the bit of equipment does what I want, I don’t care what brand it is ☺

The sensor

The sensor in the D850 is absolutely epic. It’s also exclusive to Nikon, designed by Nikon and most likely made by Sony. A while ago you might have heard the statement that the state-of-the-art Sony sensors would be exclusive to Sony cameras. This statement was rather worrying considering that Nikon is using Sony sensors. To the best of my knowledge, this statement is not exactly true – it’s a combination of miscommunication, misinformation and the usual marketing fluff. It would be more accurate to say that in the past, Sony Semiconductor used to make state-of-the-art sensors, which were available off the shelf to camera manufacturers. These sensors included the well-known and widely used 24MP and 36MP full frame sensors used in the Nikon D610, D750, Sony A7, Nikon D800, D810 and Sony A7R to name a few. What is happening now is that such state-of the-art sensors are no longer available off the shelf. Camera manufacturers have to design their own sensors and Sony Semiconductors then make it for them – which is exactly the way Nikon have been working for years anyway. So, whilst it is true that no other manufacturer can use, for example, the exact sensor that’s used in Sony A9, they can still make their own (better or worse) version of that 20MP sensor.

Back to the D850… What actually makes its sensor so good? Let’s have a look...

Resolution/sharpness

  • First off, is really 45MP needed? Well, that’s up to you. I never needed such a high resolution for my wedding work. Anything in 20-30MP has always been perfectly fine for me (Nikons D750 and D5 and Canons 5DmkII and mkIII before that. Sony A7RII was a bit of an oddball). The additional pixels are for me an unnecessary but perfectly acceptable feature in what is otherwise already a very, very good camera.
  • Such high resolution also makes the DX crop mode perfectly usable due to 20MP resolution. So all in all, while I don’t need 45MP, it actually turns out to be a very useful feature.

mRAW and sRAW

  • In theory, if you don’t need the full 45MP you can change the settings to mRAW (approx. 25MP) and sRAW (approx. 11MP). Sounds great? Well… I’ve got mixed feelings about those modes. Yes, you can have smaller RAW files, but straight away you lose the 14 bit mode, as you can only have this option when you select 12 bit RAW. Does it matter? With 14 bit you get 16,384 possible values per pixel instead of 4,096. In real life applications the difference isn’t anywhere near as obvious as this would imply, but you can push 14 bit files more when editing. Whether this matters or not in terms of image quality, depends largely on the image contents and how you like to edit your images.

The images below shows what happens when an image is seriously pushed in editing (almost 4 stops of underexposure with highlights then pulled all the way back).


14 bit RAW holds together very well. The colours remain natural and there’s pretty much no visible noise.


12 bit RAW loses integrity in the shadows – the greens are oversaturated and there is some noise.

mRAW has even more oversaturated shadows and more visible noise.

There will be another example showing this issue later in this review.

My another concern regarding mRAW is the fact that Nikon doesn’t make it public how exactly they accomplish making they RAW files smaller. There’s some clever algorithm running in the background and the files are certainly much better than Nikon’s previous attempts at creating smaller size RAWs. This doesn’t change the fact that some sort of resampling has to take place to reduce the file size and I don’t like not knowing what exactly is happening to the image before it’s written to the card.

As m- and sRAW files are 12 bit it is only fair to compare them to 12 bit full res RAW. Ok, you do save around 28% of the file size (25MB vs 35MB), but the buffer capacity remains the same in both cases (approximately 38 photos when writing to XQD and SD simultaneously). This is due to the additional work the processor has to do to make the files smaller.

So overall, the only benefit of mRAW is the somewhat smaller file size, at a cost of being limited to 12 bit and some small loss of image quality in extreme situations.

What’s my preference then? 14 bit lossless compressed full res RAW when shooting at up to 400 ISO and 12 bit lossless compressed full res RAW when shooting at higher ISO settings. While around 50MB makes it quite a hefty file at 14 bit, I can live with it… Sony A7RII files were around 80MB at 14 bit. The buffer and write speeds are good enough for my style of shooting and I know I’m getting the highest possible quality should I need it.

I do use mRAW quite a bit for casual shooting though and I’m more than happy with the results.

File sizes

Depending on the ISO and the scene, the file sizes for 14 bit RAW vary between around 45MB and 65MB. Nothing surprising here.

Same scene photographed at ISO64 gave the following results:

  • 14 bit RAW – 47.5MB
  • 12 bit RAW – 35.1MB
  • mRAW – 25.5MB

Skin tones

The below images have only very modest amount of processing applied to them. Skin tones look pretty awesome to me although I appreciate that pleasing skin tones can mean different things to different photographers. I’m certainly happy with the results.


Dynamic range

The dynamic range is nothing short of amazing – I’m sure no one was expecting anything less from this camera. At the base ISO and in 14 bit mode, the files are impressively malleable and shadows retain integrity even after pulling them up by 4-5 stops. There’s also a lot of detail preserved in the highlights. Switching to 12 bit or mRAW gives far less impressive results though. The image below is quite an extreme example – exposure was metered for the highlights, resulting in the foreground being underexposed by around 5 stops.


As expected, straight out of the camera there is absolutely no detail visible in the shadows. Let’s see what we can get out of it.


14 bit RAW file pulled up by 5 stops looks very good indeed. There is a little bit of noise and a tiny bit of green cast in the deepest shadows but otherwise the image holds up very well.


12 bit RAW… well, the image speaks for itself 😉 The amount of noise looks similar but there is a horrible green colour shift in the shadows and even in some of the mid-tones.


mRAW shows some more pronounced noise and the colour shift is even more visible. There’s certainly further loss of image quality when compared to 12 bit RAW, let alone the 14 bit version.


The above shot is from the Nikon D750 (14 bit RAW, at ISO100 rather than 64 though). The image quality is certainly comparable to 14 bit RAW file from D850 and arguably even a touch better but the difference is barely perceivable.

I’ve done a similar comparison at ISO400 and although the difference is not quite as dramatic, the same loss of image quality can be observed.

As I no longer have the Sony A7RII, I cannot make a direct comparison, but looking at the images shot with it in the past and the images coming out of D850, I can say with full confidence that both cameras have very similar dynamic range. Frankly, I’m not bothered about lab results showing a 0.5 stop difference in favour of one camera or the other, as both perform exceptionally well in this regard.

And compared to D5? Well, there is no comparison really. Shadows in the D5 files were falling apart when pushed around 3-3.5 stops, but that camera was never made for maximum dynamic range.

Here’s another example, this time a bit more realistic, of just how much can be recovered from heavily underexposed shadows.


High ISO performance

I tested the full native ISO range from 64 to 25,600. Up to around 800 ISO the noise is virtually non-existent. At values up to 6400 it is still very well controlled and limited to luminance noise. I’m certainly perfectly happy with using any of these settings if needed. In the 12,800 – 25,600 ISO range the noise becomes far more visible and the image quality deteriorates below the level I’m happy to accept. This is in line with what I expect to see in most cameras – the highest ‘clean’ ISO setting is 2 stops below the maximum native ISO setting.

I always find discussing high ISO settings a bit pointless as everyone has a different perception of what is an ‘acceptable’ amount of noise. I have to say though that at any setting, the noise is impressively well controlled, especially given the resolution of the camera.
The below images were shot at ISO12,800 and 10,000 with no noise reduction applied to them.


And a slightly different subject 😉 Shot at ISO3200, pushed almost 3 stops in Lightroom, no noise reduction.

Below is a 100% crop of this image.

Autofocus

Same as D5 what more is there to say? 😉 – this was the line I first wrote when I started making notes for this review based on my initial observations. Since then, other reviewers have pointed out that D850’s AF tracking is not quite as accurate. While this may be true for very dynamic action, in my experience I’ve noticed no difference in the AF performance between the D850 and the D5. I got plenty of keepers from both cameras and I got some out of focus shots from both. I must emphasise here that this is true in my experience and for my style of shooting. Your experience may be different. It’s beyond any doubt however, that this AF system is one of the most advanced systems currently available. It is also highly customisable so I’m sure most photographers will be able to tailor it perfectly to their needs.

Speed

The default card combination I use is the Sony XQD G Series card with the Lexar Professional UHS-II 2000x Speed SDXC card (both 64GB). This setup allows me to write RAW files to both cards without worrying about the buffer (this doesn’t mean that the buffer is unlimited – please see my notes below).

I did a few tests to compare the performance with various card combinations. Unless stated otherwise, the tests were done with the camera set to CH mode (7 fps), 14-bit full res RAW with second card set as backup.

Here are the results:

  • Fast XQD + fast SDXC UHS-II – around 4s of continuous shooting, 23-25 photos, 10 sec to clear the buffer, around 2 fps while clearing, the camera never became unresponsive. In my default setting (CL set to 5 fps) I got around 6s before the buffer was full.
  • XQD (Sony G Series) only – around 7-8s of continuous shooting, around 46 photos, 5 sec to clear the buffer, 3-4 fps while clearing
  • SDXC UHS-II (Lexar Professional 2000x) only – around 4s of shooting, 23-25 photos, 10 sec to clear the buffer, around 2 fps while clearing
  • Fast XQD + SDXC UHS-I – around 4s of shooting, 23-25 photos, around 1 fps while clearing and over 20s to clear the buffer
  • SDXC UHS-I (SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB) only – around 4s of shooting, 23-25 photos, 10 sec to clear the buffer, around 1 fps while clearing and over 20s to clear the buffer
  • As a comparison Nikon D750 – around 2s of shooting, 13 photos, around 1-2 fps while clearing the buffer, around 7s to clear the buffer, the camera is a bit slow while clearing the buffer.
  • 12-bit RAW, around 6s of shooting, around 38 photos, 9s to clear the buffer
  • mRAW – around 6s of shooting, around 38 photos, 9s to clear the buffer

To sum it up – if you do a lot of bursts in quick succession, then using the XQD card only will give you the best performance. When shooting weddings, I cannot be without a backup, so the next best thing is the XQD plus the UHS-II SD card.

  • The UHS-I card does not reduce the performance until the buffer is full at which point the camera becomes slower and the buffer takes much longer to clear. If your shooting style never maxes out the buffer then you can save fair few quid by using UHS-I cards.
  • 12-bit full res RAW and mRAW gave identical results even though mRAW is generates smaller files. This is the result of additional processing required to create mRAW.
  • Frame rate. 7 fps is only marginally more than D750’s 6.5fps but the buffer takes far longer to fill up. With the D750 there were moments at almost every wedding when I would either hit the buffer or had to consciously slow down to prevent it from happening. Hitting the buffer wasn’t as much of an issue as the fact that it would take a while for the camera to become responsive again. With the D850 this problem is non-existent (in my use), as I never go ‘all out’ for more than 2-3 seconds.

What about the 9 fps capability when the grip is attached? Well, for me, the rather hefty cost of the grip, the battery and the charger, as well as the added bulk and weight plus dealing with different batteries and chargers (I still use the D750) is simply not worth it. But I can totally see how it can make sense for others.

Ergonomics/customisation

  • The body feels quite a bit heavier and chunkier than the D750, which for me, is not a bad thing. I don’t mind the added weight and I definitely prefer the feel of it – it’s built like a tank and feels very similar to the D5. If you have small hands, then you may find it a bit too chunky compared to the D750. I still think that the grip on the D750 is a little bit more comfortable.
  • The AF-ON button, AF joystick and both programmable buttons at the front are positioned absolutely perfectly for me, better than the D750 and even the A7RII.
  • The available customisation options are also better than D750. Below are some of my favourites:
  • More programmable buttons than any other Nikon DSLR (apart from the D5 and D500).
  • The ability to have a second AF mode under joystick ‘click’, and third under Pv button if you wish, which allows quick and easy access to different AF modes depending on the shooting conditions. At the moment I’ve got 3D Tracking programmed to the AF-On button and Single Point AF programmed to the joystick, although I keep experimenting with different options (initially I had Group AF instead of 3D Tracking).
  • If you are moving from the D750 or other consumer (in terms of layout and controls) Nikon body then you may miss user settings U1 and U2. Photo Shooting Banks allow you similar or in fact even better features but they take a while to set up, as by default every bank will be set to manufacturers defaults, so you must change it to your personal ‘defaults’. You also have to remember to switch on the ‘Extended’ banks option. I’ve got my banks set the following way:
    • Bank A – Max quality - my default shooting bank, 14 bit RAW and low ISO (usually up to 400).
    • Bank B – Indoor – if I’m frequently moving from indoors to outdoors, this will be my indoor preset with higher ISO. I set it to 12 bit RAW, as there is no benefit of using 14 bit RAW at higher ISO settings.
    • Bank C – High ISO – this is the preset I often use alongside Bank A if I keep switching between flash and available light in low light situations. Also set to 12 bit RAW and usually set to ISO3200 and above.
    • Bank D – mRAW – pretty self-explanatory 😉 It’s just a bank I use when I don’t need larger RAW files. Handy for more casual shooting.

I realize that this is a very basic way of using banks and they give potential for far more customisation, but this setup works perfectly for me, as it allows me to change between a few groups of main settings without having to worry that I will accidentally shoot a whole wedding on a small JPEG setting 😉

  • I’ve got also Pv button + rear command dial set to Shooting Bank selection, so I can switch between them quicker than I was able to switch to U1 or U2 on my D750. Of course you can have them set up completely differently, for example, with different focusing or exposure modes. You just have to keep track of what exactly is recorded in each bank and make sure you’ve got the right one selected at the right time 😉

Other features/observations

  • Quiet shutter setting is actually reasonably quiet (at least comparing to the D750, although I do appreciate that this doesn’t set the bar very high 😉
  • Silent shooting – Does exactly what it says on the tin 😉 Selecting silent shooting in live view generates absolutely no noise whatsoever. Unfortunately banding is an issue here as it was with the A7RII.
  • Touch screen – It was barely an OK feature in the D5 and I’m pleased to say that Nikon did far better job implementing it in the D850. The touch to focus feature in live view mode is especially welcome.
  • Articulated screen – although this is now a feature of many DSLRs and mirrorless cameras and shouldn’t be anything to get excited about, I’m glad to see that Nikon decided to implement it in the D850. It was only after I used the D5 for a couple of months I realised how useful this feature is. Especially if you are not very keen on laying down in a puddle to get ‘the’ shot 😉
  • Focus peaking in live view – I haven’t used it much yet, but it works well and it’s a nice feature to have.
  • Focus stacking – this is not something I use often but it’s awesome for ring shots and occasionally other detail shots.
  • Lack of built-in flash. I know that some reviewers are complaining about it, but personally I think it’s about time Nikon got rid of it on a professional grade DSLR. I haven’t used the built-in flash in about 10 years and I use radio controlled speedlights so I don’t miss it at all. I do however, appreciate that getting rid of it means better weather sealing and more space for a bigger pentaprism. Again, just my opinion, feel free to disagree 😉

Conclusion

Nikon, you’ve created a truly amazing camera and I’m struggling to find anything to dislike about it. Yes, certain things could be improved, but this is true for every camera on the market. The D850 is one hell of a camera. In fact, I would go as far as saying that for the vast majority of photographers it is currently the best DSLR on the market, and by some margin (unless you need the extreme speed and durability of the PJ style bodies). For my needs and preferences the D850 is just about perfect.

This doesn’t, however, change the fact that the D750 is still an undisputed king when it comes to the combination of features, small size/weight and great price. Is the D850 a better camera? Absolutely yes. Is it worth over twice as much as the D750? That’s for you to decide. For me, yes, without any doubt it’s my favourite camera ever.

Pros:

  • Image quality
  • Ergonomics
  • Customisation options
  • Built quality
  • Speed
  • AF
  • Pure joy to use

Cons:

  • Banding in silent shooting mode
  • Doesn’t have some of the fancy features the competition has (e.g. Sony’s Eye AF)
  • Could be a bit cheaper 😉
  • SD card impacts buffer clearing time (minor)

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Check D850 availability: B&H | Adorama | Amazon | BuyDig | BestBuy | Cameta Camera | Focus Camera | eBay | WEX | Jessops

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  • Eric Calabros

    Could be a bit cheaper? What?

    • Luca Motz

      It’s way more expensive in the EU

    • Davidvictormeldrew Idontbeliev

      True on that, could be pegged down to £2999 and ever time there is a price increase for each series may mean less custom and sales.

    • fanboy fagz

      yea, why not? whats the problem? you losing profit out of your pocket?

    • A. F.O.

      Yes; here in Europe it is more expensive that in the US.

    • sgredsch

      yea, currently ~4550$ US inkl VAT in germany, barely available. hopefully the prices drop – its ~twice what i paid for my new d800 back in the day.

    • Did you not see the wink emoji? It’s a joke.

  • Photobug

    Its nice to see a review with more comments and less pictures. Looks like another positive review. Nikon is going to sell lots of these cameras. Liked the approach he took for this review.

    • Andrew Zofka

      Thanks a lot!

      • Spy Black

        “The image quality is certainly comparable to 14 bit RAW file from D850
        and arguably even a touch better but the difference is barely
        perceivable.”

        Um, no. The D750 blows it away. It’s QUITE perceivable. Not to take away from all the great things the D850 is, but that D750 DR example is far superior.

  • The Sensor is made by Tower Jazz

    • Luboš

      It’s BSI, and they don’t make them in mass production.

      • Back iLluminated Sensor made by Tower Jazz

        • RC Jenkins

          What’s the difference between a BSI and a BLS? Also, what is your definitive source that the sensor is made by Tower Jazz?

    • We don’t know that for sure.

      • Nuke Dchat

        True that. I still think it might be a Sony.

        That being said it is a very interesting and well done article.

        • Vinnypimages

          I don’t know anything for certain, and no one from Nikon has said who makes it to me. However they have been very quick to point out any time asked that it is NOT made by Sony. This is not an isolated throwaway comment, but consistent across several events and 3 different Nikon presenters.

      • DrToast

        We don’t know that for sure, but I would say there’s more evidence pointing toward that than it being built by Sony.

        At the very least, I wouldn’t say it’s “most likely made by Sony” as this article does.

        • RC Jenkins

          Which preponderance of evidence is this that you’re referring to?

          A comment that TowerJazz made on a Q3 earnings call about a non-specific reference that they have engaged [not manufactured] with a DSLR leader in the development of their next-generation [not current generation] sensors? Of course, this is only relevant if you ignore TowerJazz’s other comments in the same call about not launching scalable commercially-available BSI production until next year.

          On the flip side, there is evidence to the sensor being related to Sony, such as its layout & inclusion of technologies.

          We’ll know for sure once they do a teardown–but until then, it’s not wise to go by hearsay.

      • Efi

        I’m From Israel and i know 100% that the sensor is made here. It’s not a secret that TowerJazz Semiconductor is the company that manufacture the 850 sensor. As far as hi tech developing, Israel is a leading country. TowerJazz Semiconductor is 49% owned by Panasonic Corporation.

    • Robert Isha

      Yes. Your correct. It’s made by tower jazz. The same company that makes sensors for Leica

      • those are just rumors, we don’t know that for sure

        • fanboy fagz

          nobody has any proof of info to show here and just making statements like they know. its just a copy paste of what they read others say. sheesh

    • A. F.O.

      I would not say this many times… it is only a possibility, not even a rumor I would say.
      🙂

    • Pretty sure that hasn’t been proven. NR and tom hogan have constantly questioned that rumour and have said,it may be true it might not be.

      • That’s correct.

    • Michael Jin

      There is literally zero hard evidence to support this claim.

  • Tony Bonanno

    IMO, as a working pro for many years, who was happy with the D5 and two 810’s, I have to say that the 850 is the best DSLR I’ve ever used. VERY happy with it. It is truly the one camera that pretty much can do it all.. and do it very well. Thanks for your review Andy.. nice job! Oh, BTW, Sensor probably NOT made by Sony this time around. But that is another topic :-).

    • Andrew Zofka

      Thanks!

  • Günter Hofstädter

    the Autofocus in liveview mode could be better!
    In cold surrounding the live view doesn’t work as fast or accurate
    I´d wish to have optional EVF possible for filming.
    The flip screen is not helpful in portrait orientation!
    If 2 cards used the camera slows down a bit when showing menu!
    except mentioned points above its a lovely camera!
    In terms of pure image quality my Pentax 645z is still in a different league but the Nikon is a bit more flexible, so i keep both!

    • ITN

      Accessory EVFs are available e.g. from Zacuto.

  • BlueBomberTurbo

    Use EXIFtool to get rid of the green shadows.

  • Raimondas Kazenas

    Just small correction to article uncompressed RAW files is 89mb to 92mb not 45mb…. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/780ebf18dcf3c408282712d6341649522c8dacd2dadaa9f0f7c96f0d940ffb58.jpg

    • RC Jenkins

      The article is referring to lossless compressed 14-bit file-sizes, not uncompressed.

  • Aldo

    Thank you for addressing the different RAW options in this review. It appears the d850 suffers from a green cast, particularly in the shadows… I know the d750 has a more reddish tone, but it is much easier to correct and the end result appears more natural.

    • Jørn

      In my experience the D750 has the same green tint as the D850 is showing here when recovering shadows.

      • Aldo

        See both his samples from both cameras at base ISO. D850 clearly has a green tint when the d750 seems to render better.

        • Jørn

          Maybe a bit of a misunderstanding here. I agree that the D750 appears to do better in this case, but when recovering extreme shadows in general my experience is that it shows a green tint rather than a reddish one.

      • What you get probably depends on white balance or ambient light. I have seen both.

        • Fred

          yup, this sounds like the most logical explanation. could be what the surrounding area looks like where the shadows are being lifted. Depends on the low level reflected light whether off grass, foliage, sand, pavement etc.

  • RC Jenkins

    That reply doesn’t answer either question.

  • Ben Brantley

    How do you get the AF-ON+Mode custom controls to give you 3D tracking? My customization menu doesn’t offer that choice, and the manual says 3D tracking is “excluded” as an option as well. But I sure would like it…

    • Andrew Zofka

      I set it in Custom Setting Menu f1. I couldn’t set 3D Teacking to the joystick though.

      • Ben Brantley

        I can’t set 3D Tracking to either the joystick nor the AF-ON button. Weird. (Thanks for the review and tips, btw.)

        • Andrew Zofka

          That’s odd. Maybe it has something to do with other custom settings? I couldn’t set 3D Tracking to the joystick but it works with AF-ON. I have to look at it in more detail.

          • Ben Brantley

            If AF-ON is set to just AF, it will use whatever AF mode is currently selected. My guess is that you have it set to do that and you have 3D Tracking as the current mode.

            What I don’t think AF-ON can be configured to do is to *change* the mode to 3DT. It seems pretty arbitrary that they exclude that option, though.

            • Andrew Zofka

              Yes, you are right. Sorry, I wasn’t very clear. AF-ON will pick any mode AF is currently set to.
              But on the joystick you cannot select 3D Tracking – not sure why. That’s why I selected 3D under AF-ON and joystick is set to single point (or Group as I keep tweaking my AF settings).

  • AnotherView

    Appreciate the effort the Author put into this, but I don’t understand why a wedding photographer would ever consider using a D850…like using a proverbial sledgehammer to kill a flea.

    • Andrew Zofka

      Why not? 🙂 I know wedding photographers who use D750, D850 or D5. A lot depends on your shooting style and preferences. For me the only overkill is the resolution. Other specs are spot on for shooting weddings.

      • The resolution is really the killer, when it comes to long wedding days. If you only ever shoot 6-8 hour gigs and never rattle off more than 2-3K total images per week, then I’d doesn’t matter. But, shoot a few Hindu weddings a month and you might start averaging 10K images a week which gets crazy real quick in the hard drive and memory card department.

        Having said that, shooting lossy 14-bit, or lossy 12-bit if you’re desperate, saves a ton of space, and raw files are probably smaller than a 5D3 or 5D4 raw file actuallysince those only have 14-bit lossless.

        Having said THAT, I wouldn’t dream of trading in my D750 for anything too much higher res as a wedding photographer who regularly shoots 12-16 hour jobs, and I’ll be waiting to see what Nikon does with the D750 successor. Or which sensor their first FX mirrorless ILC offers.

        The D850 only appeals to me for landscapes, nothing else.

        • Andrew Zofka

          Fair point 🙂 we shoot around 5-7k frames per wedding over around 12h. It’s a lot of data but it’s manageable. But yes, we would be happy with 24-36MP range.

          • When you say “we”, are you referring to a team that is entirely using D850’s, or similarly high-res camera bodies? That’s not too many gigabytes per year if you’re only shooting 15-20 weddings a year, with a few other portrait sessions etc. here and there. When I had a high-MP camera for weddings, (D800e) …I did a whole lot of shooting in 1.2x crop mode for telephoto candids, too, which can be helpful. That, plus shooting lossy 14-bit or lossy 12-bit, keeps things very manageable.

            Still, I hope the D750 successor sticks with a sub-30 MP sensor, and yet offers improvements such as 4K video and general AF improvements. I’d much rather have that for weddings.

            • Andrew Zofka

              I’m referring to Anna and myself as we always shoot together. We now use both – D850 and D750. Previously we’ve used 2x D750 each, D750 + D5 and D750 + Sony A7RII at various points.
              Since we shoot a combination of 14 and 12 bit RAW on the D850, the files are reasonably manageable. But I know that more and more wedding photographers are switching to D850 only setups.

            • Tip: You’ll save more space by going 14-bit lossy compression than 12-bit lossless, just in case either of those two formats are the combination you’re using. Of course you’ll save the most space in 12-bit lossy, but some people think that is just crazy.
              (Even though, as I’ve said before many times, I’ve yet to see that mythical category of over-editing that “ruined” a 12-bit lossy file, and yet didn’t ALSO ruin a 14-bit lossless file.)

              Shooting in a team that includes at least one 16, 20, or 24 MP camera definitely also takes the edge off the storage consumption compared to a wholly D810 / D850 team. (Thankfully the A7R2 also has 12-bit lossy compressed, I believe, which also made those files pretty manageable.)

              I know a lot of people shoot entirely with those heavier bodies, like the D850, D810, or Canon 5D4 / 5D3. I used to shoot with a pair of D700’s, too. But once I held the D750, I never wanted to go back to the heavier body type, not for long wedding days. I suppose I could do it easily if I stuck to lightweight 1.8 primes most of the time, or started exercising my wrists, arms, and shoulders a lot more, but for now, I think people who shoot entirely with those bigger bodies are only putting off the inevitable.

              I also understand that many folks consider the D750’s body class to be unacceptable for pro work, due to whichever weird preference or pet peeve is their favorite, from no CF slot, to the articulated LCD, or the “consumer” custom menu system and button layout. Personally though, as long as I have right-handed ISO control and 1-touch 100% zooming with face detection during playback, I’m happy.

            • Andrew Zofka

              Yes, I totally understand your point of view. D750 is absolutely brilliant in terms of price/performance/size&weight ratio.
              I prefer shooting with D850 but I’m also perfectly happy to have D750 as my secondary camera.

        • 10,000 images a week is a terabyte on my D850 (I rounded up), which would max out my NAS in 80 weeks, so that would be a problem. But if you are shooting like that, then you have a problem even with a D5. Regardless of what you are shooting, you will need to cull photoes.

          • 10K images a week is not bad at all if you’re shooting only 16-24 MP, and you shoot 12-bit lossy compressed. It’s less than 1 MB per megapixel, usually, so if you only shoot 20-30 weddings (weeks) a year, it’s fine.

            It does get crazy if you’re shooting super high volume, though, and lots of other gigs in addition to weddings.

          • Allen_Wentz

            I for decades have lived with outgrowing my mass storage every 80 weeks. It is what it is…

            The good news is mass storage gets cheaper faster than I have ever been able to outgrow it. As a frame of reference my first hard drive was ~$1200 for 10 MB (yes _MB_) and it rocked.

    • What else would you use?

      • AnotherView

        Well I’m no wedding photographer but I’d think a pair of D750’s would be about perfect — 24MP is all that should be needed for wedding photos and processing would be faster. ISO performance is quite good and having two identical cameras where everything is interchangeable would be my first choice — and you could buy both for the cost of one D850.

        • There might be certain shots where the resolution is required. If so, you can make every shot with a D850, but not with a D750.

          Regardless of what I was shooting, if I shot weddings, my minimum requirement would be two bodies (preferably identical) with two cards each – one set to backup.

          • Fred

            Whatever did they do when there wasn’t any 36-45mp sensor cameras, I wonder? Maybe they used 12, 16 18, 20 or 24mp cameras?

            • Allen_Wentz

              Correct. “Back in the day” my DX 12 MP D2x was state-of-the-(digital)-art for all kinds of things, including weddings. However today that body would be doing a disservice to clients at anything except base ISO with good lighting.

        • A camera is not “only sensor”. There is a lot more to it. Especially when in fast paced, fluctuating, and rough and tumble wedding situations, those things make a lot of difference. File size is one of the last consideration for it now that the storage is cheap.

          • Allen_Wentz

            Also note that the high MP of the D850 allows every lens to function as TWO (or more) lenses, whether actually cropping with the camera or (my preference) letting your brain plan the crop but actually doing the cropping during PP.

            E.g. one could capture at WA 35 mm FX or at normal 52mm (DX) using a single prime lens (all sane photogs hate changing lenses). Or one’s 24-70mm becomes 24-105mm, etc. This is IMO actually a big deal.

            • peter w

              yep
              You can crop three D700 – good enough for large prints – images from one D800 image. A 35 mm F1,4 prime gets a very handy 35 – 85 F1,4~F3,5 zoom (unsharpness wise).
              Very acceptable.

  • Phil

    I’ve not seen those dramatic differences between 12 and 14bit raw files on any tests and reviews with the D810, though never tested myself, so maybe something changed with the new sensor

    • Andrew Zofka

      It’s not always very visible or sometimes not visible at all but it certainly be an issue in extreme circumstances. With that being said I often use 12 bit as I stated in the review.

    • peter w

      Same here. It really is rather strange. Especially since even at 5 EV over exposure in post, the difference between 14 and 12 bit should still be in the deeper shadows, not in the area just below the mid-tones.
      Well, there is the data off course, very strange.

    • HF

      Agree. When I still used the D850, I shot all weddings in 12bit lossless as I couldn’t get such drastic differences in post-processing. Weird.

  • Gabriel Schwartz

    Sensor is TowerJazz not Sony

    • Again, we don’t know that for sure. It’s a remote possibility, that’s all.

      • Gabriel Schwartz

        It’s all over the Internet but who trusts the Internet (like reading reviews about new cameras) right?
        http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1508441/0
        If any relation exists between Sony and Nikon is that Sony may manufactures Nikon sensors but definitely not designing them

        • I am sorry, but a random forum post doesn’t confirm anything. Everything is just speculations. In fact the whole thing started here on NR by a reader and then got blown out of proportion online. This doesn’t make it a fact.

      • Salty-snack

        Remote?

        Pretty high probably actually.

        • Pretty high based on what?

  • RC Jenkins

    Again, you are unable to answer either question, probably because you don’t understand the questions or don’t understand the hearsay you’ve heard.

  • A. F.O.

    thank you, Andy Zofka, for these review.
    Keep up and enjoy the D850 for a long time.
    🙂

    • Andrew Zofka

      Thanks! 🙂

      • IronHeadSlim

        Yes, thanks! I am trying to be happy with my D500 (and I am) but this might have put me over the edge!

  • I am very pleased with my Surface Laptop with a performance base – so I can run dual 4k monitors. The Surface laptop is the only laptop that I am aware of with a display that competes with Apple.

    • Allen_Wentz

      What are the i/o ports with a “performance base?” To me 16 GB RAM minimum, a strong independent GPU and Thunderbolt 3 are what we need to cope with batches of NEFs from a 45 MP camera.

      • USB 3.0
        3.5mm Headset jack
        mini DisplayPort
        Surface Connect

        The Surface Book 2 just came out and supersedes mine.

        But you would buy a surface dock and connect everything you need through that. Its ports are:

        2 Mini DisplayPorts
        1 Gigabit Ethernet port
        4 USB 3.0 ports
        1 Audio out port
        Surface Connect cable
        External power supply

        I cannot imagine that you would have any issues running this.

        The “performance base” is not a factor in the Surface Book 2. Jus get the Intel Core I7, select 16gb ram and decide if you want a 512gb or 1tb SSD (I picked the 512gb) as I mostly rely on my NAS.

        I run two ASUS ProArt 32″ 4k monitors off of mine at 30hz. I will not run both at 60hz, but I don’t watch much video, so 30hz is fine. It was a bit of a pain to configure, but it works well now.

  • I haven’t tested the D850 in particular but I have tested a whole lot of Nikon NEFs, and in my experience if you’re really desperate for space savings just shoot 12-bit compressed raw, full-res. The difference in image quality is not visible unless you’re doing terrible things to your raw files that would usually ruin a 14 bit lossless file anyways. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you choose unless you’re really going nuts with the files.
    And if you’re really going nuts with the files then beggars can’t be choosers. Just shoot 14 bit lossless, unless you’ve got an 18-hour Indian wedding or a 36-hour time lapse or something crazy… (in which case don’t over-edit your files, and you’ll be just fine.)

  • ChristopheR

    Thank you for this realistic test without external influence 🙂

  • Yoms

    Just to be sure that nothing has evolved: if I select a shooting bank, then modify a setting, it will modify the bank, right? There’s no way to make a setting reset to its user-configured value a la Canon where you explicitly need to “write” modifications in custom mode to memorize them?

    • That’s how the U1 U2 menu Banks work on the d750 and those class of camera, you get a fresh restart on the saved settings every time you switch back and forth between the you modes.
      But I doubt they would mess with the status quo on their other menu bank system, because all the people who still like that system prefer it for that very reason.
      I used to love that old system until I tried the D750 and now I prefer that by far. Although I can see the advantages of each, I feel that the older system is a bit antiquated.

    • Andrew Zofka

      Correct.

  • Mau

    Good review. I dunno how old it is but they should know that the sensor is made by TowerJazz.

    • This is just a speculation that was started by a reader here on NikonRumors. We don’t have any evidence that the D850 sensor is made by TowerJazz. Zero evidence.

  • BRNSMRF

    Valuable review. You’ve convinced me to check out how those mRAW and sRAW files look under the hood. Still think I’m buying it when it’s eventually available. Thanks!

  • Vinnypimages

    Whats a consumer desktop?

  • Thanks for the review. I’m thinking of replacing a pair of worn D810 with D850.

  • peter w

    At this moment available in shops The Netherlands:

  • P. Turtle

    Nice review. I’d like to see the superb auto focus and focus shift features of the D850 implemented into the D750 successor. I really don’t need 45mp and a $4300(Canadian) price tag.

    • Andrew Zofka

      Thanks

  • Laddie Crisp Jr.

    The new D850 is not the successor of the D750 but rather the successor to the D810. The articles constant comparison was inappropriate.

    • Andrew Zofka

      I did say at the beginning that I’ll be making comparisons to D750 as that’s what I used previously. I also said that I won’t be be making any comparisons to D800/810 as I’ve never used them. I think that’s fair enough?
      Of course D850 is a very different camera to D750 but I know a lot of photographers who moved from D750 to D850 or are considering it. Plus, while I made some comparisons I think most of the review should be quite useful regardless of which cameras I compared.
      I hope this makes sense?

    • KnightPhoto

      Except that he clearly stated at the beginning he did not have the D800/810 previously. So the context is he is reviewing as a wedding tog and as someone coming primarily from a D750. So you have to read it in that light.

  • Michael

    I find D850 setting banks useless compared to U1 and U2 on D750. Could not even imagine flagship D850 would lack so badly in this area. Format card and reset to my U1 and I am 100% sure to get the desired results. Now I am prone to errors without thorough setting check before each session. Major waste of time and loss of confidence.

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