Contradicting the adage that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too, Nikon has just released the high-resolution, speed-minded D850 DSLR. Succeeding the popular D800/E and D810 cameras, the D850 looks to hold onto its high-resolution, multimedia spot in the Nikon lineup, as well as add speed, autofocus, and video to a list of things it can do better than most.
Beginning with the heart of the camera, the D850 sports an all-new sensor that, more than just simply being new, is a first-of-its-kind for any Nikon DSLR. The 45.7MP CMOS sensor uses a back-illuminated design that helps to gain improved clarity and reduced noise when working in low-light conditions at high sensitivities. The sensor’s design also, once again, omits an optical low-pass filter to contribute to notable sharpness and resolution. The BSI CMOS sensor also benefits from the inclusion of the apt EXPEED 5 image processor—the same one featured in the D5—to realize an expandable sensitivity range ISO 64 to 102400, continuous shooting at 7 fps for up to 51 consecutive 14-bit lossless raw frames, and 4K UHD video recording. The continuous shooting capabilities can be further improved with the addition of the optional MB-D18 Multi Power Battery Pack, which accepts one EN-El18a/b battery, to boost the continuous shooting rate to 9 fps.
Regarding video recording, 4K UHD shooting is possible at 30p, 25p, and 24p frame rates and the camera can use either a full-frame recording area or a DX crop area. Full HD video can also be recorded at up to 120p, for slow motion playback. Nikon has also equipped the D850 with a dedicated power aperture (Pv) button to achieve smooth, continuous exposure transitions, and Auto ISO can be used to maintain consistent brightness when working in changing lighting conditions. Audio recording is possible using the built-in stereo mic, or with an optional external mic via the 3.5mm jack, and a headphone jack also permits real time audio monitoring.
Blending stills-shooting and video recording, one of the D850’s initial calling cards is its ability to record 8K time-lapse sequences, which can be output as 4K movie files directly from the camera. Time-lapse recording is further benefitted by a silent interval timer that does not contribute to wear on the shutter mechanism, is energy efficient to maximize battery life, and is well-suited for working in sound-sensitivity environments.
In addition to borrowing the image processor from the D5, the D850 also makes use of the flagship’s 153-point Multi-CAM 20K AF system and dedicated AF engine. Among the 153 phase-detection points, 99 of them are cross-type sensors for greater subject recognition accuracy, and 55 of the points are selectable for greater compositional freedom. Additionally, suiting telephoto and teleconverter users, 15 of the points, including nine selectable points, are compatible with an effective aperture of f/8 and all points are compatible with an effective aperture of f/5.6.
Looking at the physical design of the D850, it has carried over the magnesium-alloy build and weather sealing from previous iterations; however, it distinguishes itself with an updated 0.75x-magnification optical pentaprism viewfinder for bright, accurate, and realistic viewing. Also new is a rear 3.2" 2.36m-dot LCD touchscreen that utilizes a tilting design to benefit shooting from high and low angles. The D850 also has an updated memory card layout, and now accepts one high-speed XQD card as well as one SD card. It retains its compatibility with the EN-EL15a battery, too, for approximately 1,840 shots per charge, but if you’re working with the MB-D18 grip and EN-AL18a/b battery, you can achieve an astounding 5,140 shots per charge.
Differentiating more from the D810, the D850 finally receives built-in SnapBridge connectivity for wireless sharing of low-resolution photos, as well as for gaining remote live view monitoring from a linked mobile device. For a more robust, faster wireless solution, the D850 is also compatible with the WT-7a Wireless Transmitter.
Beyond the expanded imaging and video capabilities, as well as the upgraded physical design, the D850 manages to sneak in a few more surprises to appeal to an even wider range of image-makers. A dedicated Negative Digitizer mode is specifically designed for converting film negatives and slides to high-resolution digital files, and is intended for use with the optional AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED lens and ES-1 Slide Copying Adapter. Ideal for close shooting or critical focus applications, an Automatic Focus Shift mode can also be used to automatically acquire images for focus stacking applications. This mode will automatically record up to 300 images within 10 distinct focus steps to extend depth of field, and all the files will be saved within a dedicated folder on the memory card for a more streamlined post-production workflow.
Proving that a camera does not need to be relegated to solely the speed or high-resolution realm, the D850 is an all-around workhorse that is adept at video, well-suited for time-lapse series, and obviously excels in its strong suit of still photography with an impressive autofocus system, notable low-light sensitivity, fast continuous shooting, and a brand new sensor design to maximize clarity and detail.