UPDATED First Impressions: Nikon D850 (The 45.7MP Full Frame Beast)

In what is perhaps one of the worst kept secrets of the year in the photo industry, the Nikon D850 is finally making its debut today. The Nikon D850 is the company’s latest update to the Nikon D810 and brings with it a number of pretty awesome features that are probably bound to keep Nikon users from going to something like a Sony a9 instead. For starters, the Nikon D850 has a brand new 45.7MP Full frame sensor–and they’re not saying who makes it. And as is very typical Nikon in the past few years, it goes down organically to ISO 64–which is fantastic news for us landscape and portrait shooters. But in addition to that, the Nikon D850 sports a touchscreen LCD, dual card slots, a diopter that goes to +/- 3, 7fps with expansion up to 9 when using the booster grip, an EXPEED 5 processor, ISO sensitivity to 25,600, focus stacking abilities, flash sync of 1/250th, weather sealing, 4K video options and much more.

Updated: September 13th 2017 with a sample image gallery

At one point in the presentation, I thought the Nikon D850 had built in radio flash control–but that isn’t the case. You can do it with an attachment and using Nikon’s flashes–and this is why the PC Sync port is positioned where it is.

I had some time to meet with Nikon in their offices and play with the Nikon D850; and here’s what I think so far. It’s much different from what everyone else out there is thinking and saying about the camera.

Tech Specs

 

 

Launch Time and Date Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 12:01 A.M. EDT
Product Name Nikon D850
Type Single-lens reflex digital camera
Lens Mount Nikon F bayonet mount
Effective Pixels 45.7
Sensor Size 35.9mm x 23.9mm
Image Sensor Format FX
Total Pixels 46.89 million
Dust-reduction system Image sensor cleaning
Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX-D software required)
Image Area (pixels) FX-format
(L) 8,256 x 5,504 (45.4 million)
(M) 6,192 x 4,128 (25.5 million)
(S) 4,128 x 2,752 (11.3 million)
1:2 format (30 x 20)
(L) 6,880 x 4,584 (31.5 million)
(M) 5,152 x 3,432 (17.6 million)
(S) 3,440 x 2,288 (7.8 million)
5:4 format (30 x 24)
(L) 6,880 x 5,504 (37.8 million)
(M) 5,152 x 4,120 (21.2 million)
(S) 3,440 x 2,752 (9.4 million)
1:1 format (24 x 24)
(L) 5,504 x 5,504 (30.2 million)
(M) 4,128 x 4,128 (17.0 million)
(S) 2,752 x 2,752 (7.5 million)
DX-format
(L) 5,408 x 3,600 (19.4 million)
(M) 4,048 x 2,696 (10.9 million)
(S) 2,704 x 1,800 (4.8 million)
FX-format photographs taken during movie recording
(L) 8,256 x 4,640 (38.3 million)
(M) 6,192 x 3,480 (21.5 million)
(S) 4,128 x 2,320 (9.5 million)
DX-format photographs taken during movie recording
(L) 5,408 x 3,040 (16.4 million)
(M) 4,048 x 2,272 (9.1 million)
(S) 2,704 x 1,520 (4.1 million)
File Format Still Images NEF (RAW): 12 or 14 bit, lossless compressed, compressed, or uncompressed; large, medium, and small available (medium and small images are recorded at a bit depth of 12 bits using lossless compression)TIFF (RGB)

JPEG: JPEG-Baseline compliant with fine (approx 1:4), normal (approx 1:8), or basic (approx 1:16) compression (Size priority); Optimal quality compression available

NEF (RAW) + JPEG: Single Photograph Recorded in both NEF (RAW) and JPEG Formats

Picture Control Auto                                                                           Flat
Landscape
Monochrome
Neutral
Portrait
Standard
Vivid
Storage Media 1 XQD card and 1 Secure Digital (SD) card
SD
SDHC (UHS-II compliant)
SDXC ( (UHS-II compliant)
XQD Type Memory
Card Slot Either card can be used for primary or backup storage or for separate storage of NEF (RAW) and JPEG images; pictures can be copied between cards.
File System DCF (Design Rule for Camera File System) 2.0
EXIF 2.31 (Exchangeable Image File Format for Digital Still Cameras)
PictBridge
Viewfinder Eye-level Pentaprism Single-Lens Reflex Viewfinder
Viewfinder Frame Coverage FX (36×24): Approx. 100% Horizontal and 100% Vertical
1.2x (30×20): Approx. 97% Horizontal and 97% Vertical
DX (24×16): Approx. 97% Horizontal and 97% Vertical
5:4 (30×24): Approx. 97% Horizontal and 100% Vertical
1:1 (24×24): Approx. 97% horizontal and 100% vertical
Viewfinder Magnification Approx. 0.75x (50 mm f/1.4 lens at infinity, –1.0 m–1)
Viewfinder Eyepoint 17 mm (-1.0 m¯¹)
Viewfinder Diopter Adjustment -3 to +1 m¯¹
Focusing Screen Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark VIII with AF Area Brackets (grid lines can be displayed)
Reflex Mirror Quick-return type
Lens Aperture Instant-return type
Electronically Controlled
Depth-of-field Control Yes
Pressing Pv button stops lens aperture down to value selected by user (A and M modes) or by camera (P and S modes)
Lens Compatibility at a Glance*** AF-S or AF lenses fully compatible
Metering with AI lenses
Compatible Lenses AF NIKKOR lenses, including type G, E, and D lenses (some restrictions apply to PC lenses), and DX lenses (using DX 24 x 16 image area), AI-P NIKKOR lenses, and non-CPU AI lenses (exposure modes A and M only).IX NIKKOR lenses, lenses for the F3AF, and non-AI lenses cannot be used.

Electronic rangefinder can be used with lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/5.6 or faster (the electronic rangefinder supports 15 focus points with lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/8 or faster, of which 9 points are available for selection).

Shutter Type Electronically controlled vertical-travel focal-plane mechanical shutter
Electronic front-curtain shutter available in quiet shutter-release, quiet continuous shutter-release, and mirror-up release modes
Shutter Speed 1/8000 to 30 sec. in steps of 1/3, 1/2, or 1 EV, Bulb, Time, X250
Fastest Shutter Speed 1/8000 sec
Slowest Shutter Speed 30 sec.
Flash Sync Speed 1/250 sec.
Synchronizes with shutter at 1/250s or slower
Auto FP High-Speed sync supported
Bulb Shutter Setting Yes
Shutter Release Modes Continuous high-speed [CH] mode
Continuous low-speed [CL] mode
Mirror-up [Mup] mode
Quiet Continuous Release
Quiet Shutter Release
Self-timer Mode
Single-frame [S] mode
Continuous Shooting Options Up to 9 fps With an EN-EL18b Battery inserted in a MB-D18 Power Pack:
CL: 1-8 frames per second
CH: 9 frames per second
Quiet Continuous Mode: 3 frames per secondOther power sources:
CL: 1-6 frames per second
CH: 7 frames per second
Quiet Continuous Mode: 3 frames per second
Top Continuous Shooting Speed at full resolution 7 frames per second
Self-timer 2, 5, 10, 20 sec.; 1 to 9 exposures at intervals of 0.5, 1, 2, or 3 sec.
Timer duration electronically controlled
Exposure Metering System TTL exposure metering using approximately 180K (180,000) pixels RGB sensor
Metering Method Matrix: 3D Color Matrix Metering III (type G, E, and D lenses); Color Matrix Metering III (other CPU lenses); Color Matrix Metering available with non-CPU lenses if user provides lens dataCenter-weighted: Weight of 75% given to 12 mm circle in center of frame. Diameter of circle can be changed to 8, 15, or 20 mm, or weighting can be based on average of entire frame (non-CPU lenses use 12-mm circle)

Spot: Meters 4 mm circle (about 1.5% of frame) centered on selected focus point (on center focus point when non-CPU lens is used)

Highlight-weighted: Available with type G, E, and D lenses

Metering Range ISO 100, f/1.4 lens, 20 °C/68 °F
‘-3 ± 20 EV (Matrix or center-weighted metering)
2 to 20 EV (spot metering)
0 to 20 EV (Highlight-weighted metering)
Exposure Meter Coupling Combined CPU and AI
Exposure Modes Aperture-Priority (A)
Manual (M)
Programmed auto with flexible program (P)
Shutter-Priority Auto (S)
Exposure Compensation ±5 EV in increments of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV
Exposure Bracketing 2 to 9 frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV
Exposure Lock Yes
Mirror Lock Up Yes
ISO Sensitivity ISO 64 – 25,600
Can also be set to approx. 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, or 1 EV (ISO 32 equivalent) below ISO 64 or to approx. 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 1, or 2 EV (ISO 102,400 equivalent) above ISO 25,600; auto ISO sensitivity control available
Lowest Standard ISO Sensitivity 64
Highest Standard ISO Sensitivity 25,600
Expanded ISO Sensitivity Options Lo-1 (ISO 32 equivalent)
Hi-1 (ISO 51,200 equivalent)
Hi-2 (ISO 102,400 equivalent)
Long Exposure Noise Reduction Yes
High ISO Noise Reduction Low
Normal
High
Off
Active D-Lighting Auto
Extra High
High
Normal
Low
Off
D-Lighting Bracketing 2 frames using selected value for one frame
3-5 frames using preset values for all frames
Single-point AF Mode Yes
Dynamic AF Mode Number of AF points: 9, 25, 72, or 153 point dynamic-area AF, 3D-tracking, group-area AF
Auto-area AF Mode Yes
Autofocus System Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 20K autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection and fine-tuning, and 153 focus points (including 99 cross-type sensors and 15 sensors that support f/8), of which 55 (35 cross-type sensors and 9 f/8 sensors) are available for selection
Detection Range –4 – +20 EV (ISO 100, 20 °C/68 °F)
Lens Servo Autofocus (AF): Single-servo AF (AF-S);
continuous-servo AF (AF-C); predictive focus tracking automatically activated according to subject status
Manual focus (M): Electronic rangefinder can be used
AF-area mode 9, 25, 72, or 153 point Dynamic-area AF
Auto-area AF
Single-point AF
3D-tracking
Group-area AF
Focus Lock Focus can be locked by pressing shutter-release button halfway (single-servo AF) or by pressing the center of the sub-selector
Focus Modes Single-servo AF (AF-S)
Continuous-servo (AF-C)
Predictive focus tracking activated automatically according to subject status
Manual (M) with electronic rangefinder
Face-Priority AF
Full-time Servo (AF-F)
Normal area AF
Wide area AF available in Live View and D-Movie only
Maximum Autofocus Areas/Points 153
Autofocus Sensitivity –4 – +20 EV (ISO 100, 20 °C/68 °F)
Autofocus Fine Tune Yes
Built-in Flash no
Flash Bracketing 2 to 9 frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, or 1 EV
X-Sync Speed 1/250 sec
Top FP High Speed Sync Up to 1/8000
Flash Control TTL: i-TTL flash control using RGB sensor with approximately 180K (180,000) pixels; i-TTL balanced fill-flash for digital SLR is used with matrix, center-weighted, and highlight- weighted metering, standard i-TTL fill-flash for digital SLR with spot metering
Flash Sync Modes Front-curtain sync (normal)
Rear-curtain sync
Red-eye reduction
Red-eye reduction with slow sync
Slow sync
Flash Compensation -3 to +1 EV in increments of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV
Flash-ready indicator Lights when built-in flash or optional flash unit is fully charged; flashes after flash is fired at full output
Accessory Shoe Yes
Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) CLS Supported
Flash Sync Terminal Yes
White Balance Auto (3 types)
Choose color temperature (2500K–10000K)
Cloudy
Direct Sunlight
Fine-tuning
Flash
Fluorescent (7 types)
Incandescent
Natural Light Auto
Preset manual (up to 6 values can be stored, spot white balance measurement available during live view)
Shade
White Balance Bracketing 2 to 9 exposures in increments of 1, 2 or 3 EV
Live View Shooting
Photographjy Mode (Still Images)
Movie Mode (Video)
Photography Live View Mode
Movie Live View Mode
Live View Lens servo Autofocus (AF): Single-servo AF (AF-S); full-time-servo AF (AF-F)                                                     Manual focus (M)
Live View AF-area mode Face-priority AF
Wide-area AF
Normal-area AF
Pinpoint AF
Subject-tracking AF
Live View Autofocus Contrast-detect AF anywhere in frame (camera selects focus point automatically when face-priority AF or subject-tracking AF is selected)
Movie Metering TTL exposure metering using main image sensor
Movie Maximum recording time 29 minutes 59 seconds
Each movie will be recorded across up to 8 files of up to 4 GB each. The number of files and the length of each file vary with the options selected for Frame size/frame rate and Movie quality.
Movie File Format MOV
MP4
Movie Video Compression H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding
Movie Audio recording format Linear PCM, AAC
Movie 4K UHD 3,840×2,160 / 30 fps
4K UHD 3,840×2,160 / 25 fps
4K UHD 3,840×2,160 / 24 fps
Full HD 1,920×1,080 / 60 fps
Full HD 1,920×1,080 / 50 fps
Full HD 1,920×1,080 / 30 fps
Full HD 1,920×1,080 / 25 fps
Full HD 1,920×1,080 / 24 fps
HD 1,280×720 / 60 fps
HD 1,280×720 / 50 fps
Slow-motion: Full HD 1,920×1,080 30p (x4)
Slow-motion: Full HD 1,920×1,080 25p (x4)
Slow-motion: Full HD 1,920×1,080 24p (x5)
Actual frame rates for 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p are 59.94, 50, 29.97, 25, and 23.976 fps respectively
Quality selection available at all sizes except 3,840 x 2,160 (when quality is fixed at high) and 1,920 x 1,080 slow-motion (when quality is fixed at normal)
Movie Audio Built-in microphone, stereo
External stereo microphone (optional)
Microphone sensitivity can be adjusted
Monitor Size 3.2 inch
Monitor Resolution 2,359,000 dot
Monitor Type Tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD
Monitor Angle of View 170 degrees
Monitor Adjustments Monitor Adjustments Manual 5 level
Virtual Horizon Camera Indicator Yes
Also visible in LiveView Modes
Also visible in Viewfinder
Playback Functions Auto Image Rotation
Full-frame and thumbnail (4, 9, or 72 images)
Highlights
Histogram Display
Location Display
Movie Playback
Movie Slideshow
Photo Information
Photo Slideshow
Picture Rating
Playback with Zoom
Playback Zoom Cropping
In-Camera Image Editing Distortion Control
D-Lighting
Filter Effects
Image Overlay
Monochrome
NEF (RAW) Processing
Perspective Control
Red-Eye Correction
Resize
Side-by-Side Comparison
Straighten
Trim
Trim Movie
Image Comment Yes
Voice Memo Function n/a
Interface Audio input: Stereo mini-pin jack (3.5 mm diameter; plug-in power supported)
HDMI Output: Type C mini-pin HDMI connector
Headphone Connector
SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0 Micro-B connector); connection to built-in USB port is recommended   Ten-pin remote terminal: Can be used to connect optional MC-30A/ MC-36A remote cords, ML-3 modulite remote control sets, WR-R10 (requires WR-A10 adapter) or WR-1 wireless remote controllers, or GP-1/ GP-1A GPS units
Wi-Fi Functionality Standards: IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g
Operating frequency: 2412–2462 MHz (channels 1–11)
Maximum output power: 8.5 dBm (EIRP)
Authentication: Open system, WPA2-PSK
Bluetooth Communication protocols: Bluetooth Specification Version 4.1
Operating frequency: Bluetooth: 2402–2480 MHz
Bluetooth Low Energy: 2402–2480 MHz
GPS GP-1 GPS unit, GP-1A GPS unit
Save/Load Camera settings Yes
Total Custom Settings 55
My Menu Yes with customization
Recent Settings Yes
Supported Languages Arabic
Bengali
Brazilian Portuguese
Bulgarian
Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)
Czech
Danish
Dutch
English
Finnish
French
German
Greek
Hindi
Hungarian
Indonesian
Italian
Japanese
Korean
Marathi
Norwegian
Persian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Russian
Serbian
Spanish
Swedish
Tamil
Telugu
Thai
Turkish
Ukrainian
Vietnamese
World Time Setting Yes
Battery / Batteries EN-EL15a Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
Battery Life (shots per charge) Stills: 1,840 shots per charge
Approx. 70 minutes of HD footage
AC Adapter EH-5c/EH-5b AC Adapter; requires EP-5B Power Connector (available separately)
Battery Charger MH-25a Quick Charger
Tripod Socket 1/4 in.
Approx. Dimensions
(W x H x D)
Approx. 5.8 x 4.9 x 3.1 in. (146 x 124 x 78.5 mm)
Approx. Weight Approx. 2 lb. 0.3 oz. (915 g) camera body only
Operating Environment Temperature: 32 to 104°F (0 to 40°C)
Humidity: Less than 85% (no condensation)

Ergonomics

If you look at the Nikon D850, you’ll notice a fair amount of changes to a camera that is still more or less the same shape as the Nikon D810. But there are a few key updates you’ll notice more when you hold it, use it, and bring it up to your eye. For starters, there’s the Nikon D850 branding on the top front side.

When you look at the top of the Nikon D850 you’ll see that the pentaprism shape is now different. The reason for this is because Nikon removed the pop-up flash. Everything up top here will all look familiar to a seasoned Nikon shooter.

 

At the top right of the Nikon D850 you’ll spot the multi-control wheel. There are buttons for metering modes, camera modes, white balance and quality. Then below this is a wheel for drive modes.

On the top right side of the Nikon D850 you’ve got a big LCD screen to look at and change a variety of settings. Nikon also opted to put ISO control here as opposed to the left side–which we’ll get to in a bit. Video recording functionality is also here as well as exposure compensation. In use, this makes a lot more sense.

To the left of the Nikon D850 you’ll spot a whole lot of ports and connectivity. There is USB 3.0, HDMI, a headphone jack and a microphone jack. When you combine all this with Nikon’s newest initiative to give their lenses an electronic diaphragm, you’ll get something more tailored to video shooters. However, Nikon still has to compete with both Canon and Sony on that front.

 

Turn to the right side of the Nikon D850 and you’ll spot the dual card slots. It takes SDXC cards and an XQD card. For what it’s worth, I don’t know a single photographer who actually uses XQD cards. Lots of computers still have SD card slots, but not XQD slots.

Turn to the back of the Nikon D850 and you’ll spot some new tech here. The LCD screen tilts up and down as well as comes out. In addition to that, there are a few buttons on the right and a number of buttons on the left of the screen. New to the Nikon D850 is this FN2 button which can be programed to do various things. There is also direct flash control wired into another button.

Of course, there is also the big, beautiful viewfinder. Nikon’s viewfinders have always impressed me more so than Canon’s and part of this comes from the fact that I’m still legally blind. With my Mamiya RB67, I use a -4 diopter, and the fact that the Nikon D850 goes down to -3 will make it a bit easier to work with–though this viewfinder is nowhere as large as the massive prism on the Mamiya.

Build Quality

In the hand, the Nikon D850 feels really nice. All the ports have rubber gaskets on them and there are a number of seals on the camera to keep out dust and moisture. Nikon DSLRs have always been very tough but I haven’t tested them in hurricane-like storms the way I have Fujifilm and Canon gear. Of course, these cameras aren’t made to be submerged either. During my time with the Nikon D850 (all of about an hour) I didn’t get to pour a bottle of water on it or go test it in the rain. In fact, it never left the room. So I’ll need to give it a more thorough test later on.

Ease of Use

Current Nikon D810 shooters will need to rewire their brain a bit when it comes to operating this camera. Very subtle things like where the ISO button is placed–that’s where Nikon used to put the mode button. In reality though it makes more sense for the ISO button to be where it is on the Nikon D850. Then there are new things like the touchscreen interface that make Nikon’s menu system navigation almost as simple as Canon’s. Nikon’s menu is still more or less the same and still as long though sectioned. But you’ll still need to understand their menus to figure it all out.

In some ways, I like to think of it as taking some of what Canon has done and putting their own spin on it with this new body.

Autofocus

In the small amount of time that I spent with the Nikon D850, I got to photograph a water bottle and my two Nikon reps. The autofocus is fast–faster and seemingly more responsive than the Nikon D810 which is already pretty darned good as it is. But I still haven’t tested it out in real life environments.

Update: The Nikon D850 photographed motocross dirt bikers with little to no problems. What really helps is the continuous autofocus and the expandable focusing point options. However, Nikon has always just been really great at this. These images are also a bit extra sharp because many of them were done with high speed sync with the Nikon SB5000 flash.

Any sort of focusing issues were my fault. The camera and many of Nikon’s lenses also focus very well in low light situations. But I’m going to need to do further testing for sure. It’s pretty difficult to miss the focusing when you’re shooting landscapes.

Image Quality

I wasn’t allowed to shoot images from the Nikon D850 because the version I saw was a prototype. But I’ve got quite a bit of faith in what the Nikon D850 will be. Nikon, Pentax, Phase One and Sony already top the charts for DXOMark and I feel like the Nikon D850 will be even better. High ISO output and dynamic range on the D810 were already good, but where I felt it and pretty much every other camera except for medium format and the Sony a7r II can step up is with color depth and color gradation. This is something I’ve spoken about at fair length in previous reviews and posts here on the website and it’s part of why I manually white balance to 5500K and 3200K before I even begin editing. It’s especially a problem I feel with skin tones and those with red undertones. Film, especially slide film, I’ve always felt got it right. But digital doesn’t really do it. I found this to be the case with the Sony a9 as did David Schloss of Digital Photo Pro–a sister site of ours under the Madavor Media banner.

I hope that changes with the Nikon D850 because Nikon got it close and what I’m asking for is something that most folks don’t even probably pay attention to unless you print a lot or work with a wider color gamut screen. Most people will be perfectly okay with most colors but they find high ISO output and dynamic range to be unacceptable when there is just a bit of what they don’t want. I’m the opposite, I believe that good metering with a camera can help you produce better images and that the right software and techniques can kill the high ISO noise you don’t want.

Needless to say, I’m uber excited to be testing the Nikon D850.

Update: Sample images are below

First Impressions

The Nikon D850 so far seems like a great camera. I’m not sure why a lot of people are complaining about it online, as even though I feel like mirrorless cameras are ultimately the way to go, DSLRs still have a place in the world and that place is with a higher end audience. The Nikon D850 targets that audience–the working professional who doesn’t spend every countless hour on Facebook, in forums, and on Reddit simply complaining. There surely isn’t innovation at the Sony level with the Nikon D850 and I’ll be the first to admit that. But what you don’t get with that is timelapse capabilities you’d otherwise need to buy an app for with Sony, arguably more solid build quality, more native lens choices, significantly better battery life, a functional touchscreen that interacts with a menu that doesn’t drive you nigh insane, and high reliability. That isn’t to say that Sony doesn’t have the latter–it surely does. But the Nikon D850 has the reliability that a working professional needs and demands and that the Sony a9 can deliver and the Sony a7r II can deliver to a point–or at least that’s what I’m expecting when I will be picking the camera up for review later on.