Nikon D850 DSLR (Coming Soon)

Long time readers of my blog know that I’m pretty exclusively a Sony shooter (and Minolta before that) so an article about an upcoming Nikon camera may seem out of place. But I have so many close friends and colleagues that are shooting Nikon gear that I can’t help but have respect for the Nikon system. With the introduction of the new Nikon D850 it seemed like a great time to step outside of my normal system and share some thoughts about this brand new camera.

Nikon Announces the D850 FX DSLR Camera

This morning Nikon officially announced the all-new D850 DSLR camera and it looks pretty awesome.

  • full frame (FX) 45.7 megapixel sensor (with NO optical low-pass filter)
  • 153 point autofocus system
  • 7 frames per second (full resolution 14 bit RAW files up to 51 shots)
  • 4K video (UHD 3840 x 2160 up to 30p)
  • 8K time-lapse movies
  • Tilting touchscreen
  • base ISO of 64
  • top ISO of 26,600 (expandable up to 102,400)
  • dual memory card slots (one QXD and one SD)

I’m not going to lie – this looks like one extremely impressive camera. One glance at the specifications (along with the $3,300 price) and it’s obvious this is a camera aimed at the SERIOUS amateur photographer – and possibly professional photographers as a main body (for top quality studio, portrait and landscape work). As awesome as this camera looks there are still better choices for working professional shooters, but the D850 could easily become a killer second or third body to compliment cameras like the Nikon D5.

Nikon is easily one of the greatest names in the history of photography and if there’s one thing I envy as a Sony shooter it’s the completeness of their lens selection. They have absolutely every possibility covered from super wide to extreme telephoto with a whole lot of price points – along with some serious specialty lenses that Sony just doesn’t have. If you make a living with your photography then a Nikon system can easily fit the bill.

Optical Viewfinder (OVF) vs Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

It’s important to note that this camera still uses an optical viewfinder (it has a mirror system and optical prism) so it’s going to be larger and heavier than the current mirrorless options. For those of us that began our career with optical viewfinders this can be a truly welcome way to compose a shot. Optical viewfinders aren’t “resolution” limited or have any delay like some EVFs  so what you see is absolutely what you get when you press the shutter button.

The downside (aside from size and weight) is the lack of real image/camera setting previewing. In super low light, for example, you may not see what your camera sensor can and that means you will not know what the end shot will look like. Once you get used to this with really good EVF cameras it’s difficult to go back to OVF cameras. Is this a positive or a negative? It really depends on the shooter. Personally I have no problems working with either an OVF or an EVF – but I can completely understand anyone who prefers one to the other.

8K Time-lapse Movies

The single coolest headline feature for me is by far the 8K time lapse capability. Talk about amazing! On a full frame camera like the D850 you can capture some amazing shots – especially at night if you’re into shooting the stars (which I totally am). With a killer sharp and super fast Nikkor lens the night time possibilities are endless. And it looks like this capability is built in so you won’t need to purchase an external intervalometer (a remote for capturing timed shots). Right now I can get up to a 6K time-lapse with my small Sony cameras – but I need that external controller – and I need to capture stills and create the video outside the camera. Having everything built in (and 8K) sounds really cool!

If you’re into time-lapse movie making be sure to check out the blog post I put together about my Independence Hall time-lapse.

What’s Not to Love

When a camera comes out at this price point it’s super difficult to find something that I don’t love (and in this case it’s extremely difficult). Seriously – for still photographers there’s almost nothing that’s out of place with this camera. It’s got everything you could ever want to capture amazing images.

But there’s always something missing (no matter how minor) and the D850 is no exception. In this case it’s not up to the current standards for video shooters (and believe me – there are a lot of professionals who use DSLR cameras for their serious video work). The video specs are outstanding, but in some key areas they are bested by a $2,000 Panasonic camera.

The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 is a camera that took video seriously (possibly more seriously than even Sony does). The sensor size is only micro four thirds – so depth of field will look noticeably different than video shot with a full frame system – but it will capture 4K video up to 60fps at 10-bit 4:2:2 color depth – WITHOUT A 30 MINUTE TIME LIMIT! I’ll admit the GH5 is unique here (even Sony cameras don’t have those capabilities without using an external recorder) but I have to wonder to myself – if Panasonic can accomplish this in a $2,000 camera why can’t Nikon do it on a $3,300 camera? But seriously – that’s such a minor gripe (and it only applies to the most geeky of video shooters) that it’s almost not worth mentioning.

Speaking of video – it looks like it will pack a nice punch with full 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) at 24, 25 and 30 fps. It also includes a microphone input (un-balanced 3.5mm), a headphone output and a HDMI connection which should allow higher quality video when used with an external recorder like my Atomos Ninja Flame. There’s no doubt that the D850 will totally rock as a video camera.

Would I buy one?

People know that I’m a long time Sony shooter and don’t own the lenses, flashes or other accessories that would allow me to buy a Nikon body and quickly get up and running. But one look at the capabilities of this camera and I’m starting to think about the possibilities.

I have no doubt the D850 would rock for travel and landscape work – but I really enjoy the size and weight advantages I have with my mirrorless systems. The quality may exceed what I can get with my Sony systems – but the trade off in size and weight would be a question mark for me, personally.

For studio work (products and portraits) the D850 could easily find a home at Monicoz Photography. I have the strobe triggers so all I would need are a few lenses (and they wouldn’t need f2.8 or faster) and I’d be up and running for well under $5,000. That’s not a small amount of money, but for a working professional it’s a drop in the bucket that pays for itself when you start delivering quality images to your clients.

The only way to find out for sure if a camera like the D850 would be perfect for someone like me is to get my hands on one and give it a “real world” test. So as soon as they’re officially available I’ll be reaching out to my friends at B&H for a review sample. As soon as I run it through it’s paces I’ll write up a complete review here on my blog.

Until then it looks like an easy recommendation for anyone who is already invested in a Nikon FX system (especially D800 or D810 shooters who want to move up to 4K video). As of today the D850 is available for pre-order so if this is something you’ve been waiting for, and you want to be one of the first to get one, then you can preorder your own at B&H Photo.

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