Nikon D850 SLR: A Bomb
Nice excellent picture quality, acceptable noise level up to 12800 ISO, great possibility of cropping, excellent auto white balance, very good autofocus, burst at 7 fps (even 9), focus peaking and steaking finally available, 4K30p without cropping, touch screen and adjustable, tropicalized housing, good grip, improved ergonomics, very good optical viewfinder, suitable autonomy
The full-size Nikon D850 is an excellent update of its illustrious predecessor, the D810. A device for professionals offering very high performance in all circumstances, and which gains a number of features that were previously missing.
In the battle for full-size professional SLRs, Nikon and his D810 had been somewhat heckled by rivals, including the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Sony Alpha 7R II . But the famous “Compagnie d’Optique Japonaise” , which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, does not intend to let it go and therefore takes out the heavy artillery with a D850 with characteristics of (very) high flight.
On the program, a new sensor backlit (BSI CMOS 23.9×35.9) of 45.7Mpx, just that, new autofocus to achieve 9 frames per second burst (with the necessary accessories), processor Expeed 5, new cell exposure measurement 180000 pixels … In short, heavy, with AF-S optics 24-120 mm f / 4 .
Design And Ergonomics
When we were talking about heavy artillery, we were not saying that figuratively. And yes, the D850 is big (146 mm wide for 124 high and 78.5 deep) and heavy (1,005kg), but so is its competitors, except the Sony A7R II. However, this gives a real impression of solidity. Besides, know that the D850, with a magnesium frame, is tropicalized. No problem so to shoot in the rain or in the middle of a sandstorm …
The device is also very pleasant to take in hand thanks to its large handle. Like its other latest generation SLRs, Nikon has reversed the Mode and ISO buttons which is really handy: you can manage the exposure settings with one hand and trigger in stride. Another good news, the device now has a large LCD screen 3.2 inches vertically adjustable, finally touch (multipoint), offering a definition HD 2.4Mpx and faithful colors. Top ! Obviously, we also have a very good optical viewfinder 100%. Note that the brand has removed the built-in flash, which will not please everyone but does not really bother in fact as the device is powerful in low light (but we’ll come back). In addition, the device manages wireless flashes.
Menus And Connectivity
The menus have also been updated (and they are tactile!). With many settings, they are very complete but nevertheless a little messy and sometimes counter intuitive. As usual at Nikon. The application for smartphones Snap Bridge is of course always at the rendezvous to transfer your photos via bluetooth. You can also connect the device to Wi-Fi, a welcome but limited novelty: impossible to send images directly to a PC for example. Regarding Snap Bridge, the application “does the job” , the transfer is fast enough if we reduce the size of the images. Things get complicated when you keep the maximum size. Incidentally, note that there is still no built-in GPS.
Side autonomy, the brand announces 1800 views but do not expect to reach if you consult a little too much your photos or use too often live view mode. You can also opt for an optional power grip to extend this figure to 5140 views. In general, autonomy remains satisfactory. The connectivity of the D850 is quite complete, you will find an SD and XQD card slot, an HDMI output 4: 2: 2 8 bits, a micro USB port, a microphone jack and headphone mini jack and a remote and flash. Unfortunately, it is a micro USB port type B. Not yet type C at Nikon, too bad.
Given the characteristics of the device, we could expect images of very high quality, and not surprisingly, it is really the case. The D850 delivers great shots from every point of view, offering one of the best image qualities in the market.
The sharpness of the shots is simply excellent, and thanks to the 45.7 Mpx of the sensor (for images of 45.4 Mpx max), you have a considerable margin of reframing. As on the previous model, you can choose between different formats: FX (full format), DX (APS-C), crop 1,2x, 5: 4 or even 1: 1 Instagram way. Note that in DX format, the images retain a definition of 19.5Mpx, which is very satisfying. Best of all, you can now combine two different formats when shooting in RAW + JPG. However, you will notice that the 16: 9 format is unfortunately not available.
Another weak point, the sensor of the D850 is not stabilized. Be careful of too low shutter speeds without a tripod and without a stabilized lens. This is undoubtedly his main shortcoming in image quality, especially that his rival from Sony offers a very good stabilization him. During our test, the A7R II allowed us to shoot freehand at a speed of 1/8 with the objective ZA 35 mm f / 1.4. In a similar configuration, it was difficult with the D850 to avoid camera shake below 1/15.
That said, we can easily compensate for this by raising the ISO sensitivity, because on this point, the D850 is really excellent. It can go up without worry at 6400 ISO while maintaining a very satisfactory level of noise. And then even at 12800, the noise level remains really correct. It is appreciated that the manufacturer has shown reasonable sensitivity range. It rises from 64 to 25600 ISO, values that remain usable. Note that it is still possible to extend it from 32 to 102400 ISO but the images will be really degraded. In short, you will understand, when it comes to shooting in low light, the D850 is a real monster.
Finally, the dynamic range, expandable via HDR of course, is very satisfactory. The same goes for the bright colors, but of a breathtaking naturalness. However, what impressed us the most is the efficiency of the automatic white balance, which is based on the new 180000 pixel exposure cell. Indeed, its precision is surgical. Hat.
In video, the big novelty of the D850 is its ability to shoot in 4K, at 30 frames per second and without cropping. The D810 was sticking to Full HD while the Nikon SLR for shooting in 4K, like the D5 , D500 or D7500 , imposed a crop of 2.2x: not great for very large angles. But this limitation is no longer, and the D850 now puts all of its large sensor to contribution for quality images, good news.
On the other hand, the integrated microphone is rather average, as it is often the case. It lacks a bit of bass and even induces a little annoying hissing (a noise gate should nevertheless clear easily). Apart from the 4K, you can also shoot in Full HD (with electronic stabilization) 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p or 24p, or even in 120p but with a crop in DX format (APS-C). Finally, last little novelty, it is possible to make timelapse with an 8K definition.
Reactivity And Autofocus
This is again an area in which the Nikon D850 radiates. Indeed, it is very responsive, it turns on and off in a split second. The autofocus, with its 153 collimators (99 cross), is also booming effectively, the viewfinder at least because in live view, its speed drops significantly (it is still suitable … if you do not shoot the moment). In manual mode, the focus is finally facilitated by features of focus peaking and focus steaking, welcome news that were sorely missed by Nikon.
The D850 also makes good progress in burst compared to the D810 and its 5 RAW per second. In CH engine mode, we timed the latest Nikon at 6.7 frames per second in RAW and 7.2 fps in JPG. In total, we were able to take 19 RAW at full speed (on SDXC class 10) before the cadence dropped, and 46 in JPG. With an XQD card, this figure rises to 28 RAW and 207 JPG. Note that with the optional grip and battery EN-EL 18b D5, the rate also rises to 9 vps, but it is an additional investment quite expensive. These performances are therefore satisfactory, although we are not yet at the level of a D5, which can reach 14 fps. Finally, know that the D850 is far from the king of silence at the trigger.
It’s a great pleasure to work with the Nikon D850, which offers significant improvements over its predecessor. With sumptuous images, increased video performance, excellent responsiveness, an up-to-date design (adjustable touch screen, tropicalized case, complete connectivity except USB-C) and new features welcome (long live peaking! ), the device hurts the competition of a shutter movement. Clearly one of the best full format SLRs on the market.
To pay less, you can also opt for the Sony A7R II. Do not forget that the Sony A7R III , which displays features very similar to the D850, is available since November at a lower price. We have not tested it yet, so it was not taken into account in this test. But anyway, if you have the budget to offer the D850, go for it! It’s a real gem.