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Nikon D850 Review: A Great Full-Frame DSLR for Low-Light Photography and Time-Lapse

Vinu Varughese Oommen
Technology Reporter
Editors Rating
Read our editorial review of Nikon D850, the latest professional camera from Nikon that packs a high-resolution and back-illuminated image sensor onboard that’s touted to handle low-light photography with ease. Read more about its new capabilities, improved AF system, higher ISO and more.

8.5
overall
Very Good
Pros: 45MP full-frame BSI image sensor produces exceptional image quality, fast AF system, ISO up to 256,00 and good low-light performance, lasts long on a single charge, dual memory card slots.
Cons: Expensive, focus slows down sometimes on low light scenarios

Nikon D850 Review- shooting vertically

When it comes to full-frame DSLR’s, Nikon simply reigns as one of the best brands in the professional camera market. With Nikon officially launching the D850 in the UAE for replacing the 3-year old Nikon D810, we find out if the new upgrades are worth the consideration for all the existing Nikon users as well as for those who are looking for a great full-frame camera.

Nikon D850 DSLR Design and Features

Since it’s made to be a good replacement for the D810, Nikon has given a lot of incremental upgrades on both the exterior and internal specifications of the new Nikon D850. Apart from the fact that the camera looks almost the same as its predecessor model, there are some differences between the two full-frame cameras with regards to design. For starters, some of the button placements have been changed on the top side. The ISO button, which used to be on top of the mode dial, has been shifted to the right side, behind the shutter release button. This makes it more convenient for users to tweak the ISO settings with the index finger, while they rotate the main command dial with their thumb. That said, the Mode button gets relocated to the left side, precisely above the mode dial where the ISO button used to be seen.

Nikon D850 Review- mode dial

The rest of the mode dial is the same as the previous D810 for performing single shot, continuous low speed, continuous high-speed, quiet shutter, quiet continuous mode and the mirror up mode. The Mup mode is meant to be used in situations where you want to take close range or macro shots and to reduce vibrations or camera shakes so that your macro shots don’t get blurred out.

When I reviewed the Nikon D850, one of my favorite features was the Control Panel LCD that allowed me to see the different shooting aspects of the camera. I could change the ISO, aperture, shutter speed, the shooting mode, metering and a lot more by looking at the LCD screen and turning the command dials. The best part is that the LCD has its own backlight and can be turned on by directing the power trigger towards its “light” indicator. Nikon also added backlights for all its rear-facing buttons, which can be very useful while shooting in low-light situations. This way, you don’t need to take out your smartphone and turn on its flashlight mode for finding the right button.

Nikon D850 Review- Control Panel LCD

Nikon also implemented a new 3.2-inch LCD touchscreen and is now tiltable with a 170-degree angle of movement, giving the flexibility to shoot or record videos from as high or low angles easily. Did I mention that the video record button is also conveniently close to the shutter button? That said, the display now features a resolution of 2,359,000 dots in precise. While I’m not really a big fan of using touchscreens, I was able to easily select subjects by tapping on the screen, change settings instantly and swipe through the image gallery with the zoom feature. You can also disable the touchscreen function from the settings menu.

Nikon D850 Review- Touchscreen

While the pentaprism viewfinder looks vintage, Nikon says that the viewfinder of D850 offers up to 100% frame of coverage when you use an FX lens. There is also an eyepiece shutter that can be used to close the viewfinder to protect from accidental scratches and dirt and there is also a Diopter that can be used to tweak the focus of the viewfinder.

The AF-On button is located near the grip so that you can use your thumb to focus on the subject. The sub-selector mini joystick is used to change different the focal points before capturing the right moment so that you don’t need to look away from the viewfinder. Nikon has also added a bunch of connectivity options for the D850 camera, which includes the 10-pin based remote control and the flash sync port with protective covers.

Nikon D850 Review- Ports

On the left side of the camera, you can find a USB port, HDMI Type-C port, and connections to microphones. I wish that the USB port was the standard micro-USB so that users will be able to charge the cameras using standard smartphone chargers. There are two memory card slots that are located on the right side of the camera: one that can house a high-speed UHS-II SD card and the other for a high-speed XQD card.

Nikon D850 Review- Memory card slots

With regards to the size of the camera, the Nikon D850 is quite huge and weighs 915g for just the body alone. Our Nikon D850 review unit came the with Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 FX lens and the whole package was quite huge. For those who are worried about the size of the camera, I had to free up to three compartments of my ONA Union Street bag to carry the Nikon D850. Of course, I could have just dismantled the lens and made more room but this is just to show how the camera looks like when kept in a camera bag.

Nikon D850 Review- ONA Union Street

Nikon D850 DSLR Image Sensor and Specifications

The heart of the Nikon D850 is the all-new 45MP back-illuminated image sensor that not only allows you to capture high-resolution images for billboards, but also shoots great low light images with less noise. Speaking of low-light, the ISO performance on this shooter is great. You get to choose ISO from 64-25,600 and can be extended up to ISO 102,400. Let me remind you that the previous D810 featured a 36.3MP FF image sensor and ISO up to 12,800. That being said, the Nikon D850 images are processed by the new EXPEED 5 image processor for great image clarity and reduced noise while increasing the ISO.

Nikon D850 Review- image sensor

Nikon also included a fast AF system with 153 AF points and 99 cross points, which as compared to the D810’s 51-AF/15-Cross system, is a very big improvement. While trying out the camera for a number of occasions, I noticed that the Live View mode is kind of slow to focus and capture, while shooting with the viewfinder was faster and convenient.

The Nikon D850 is also capable of recording videos up to 4K resolutions at 30fps, although, I wish manufacturers start implementing 60fps mode for UHD videos on cameras. Only a handful of DSLR’s are capable of recording 4K videos at 60fps. That said, you can choose to record at 1080p with 60p or 50p. There is also the time-lapse feature that allows you to record at 1080p 60p or 4K at 30p. We tried it and it was impressive. However, Nikon does say that you can also create 8K time-lapses but that is only possible when you extract the RAW files and process them with a third-party application. While photographers can do the after-process work, it would have been better if the camera had its own 8K creation tool or off some sort.

We should also mention that the Nikon D850 can transfer files wirelessly to your smartphone using the Smart Bridge application, although, the app still needs some improvement with respect to connectivity and usage. There are a lot more features that are related to different shooting modes and options that can be customized in the menu, but we are going to skip them and proceed with the image samples that we have captured with this camera. Please keep in mind that we have also resized the images to suit our website’s page dimensions. We can provide the original images if you want but only for observation purposes. If you must know, we shot all the images at L settings (8256 x5504, 45MP) and most of the images were at an average of 20MB.

 Nikon D850 Indoor shot

Shooting desserts with 1/60s shutter speed, aperture at F2.8 and ISO 1600

Nikon D850 Indoor shot

Shooting the mockup of Burj Khalifa with 1/80s shutter speed, aperture at F2.8 and ISO 2200

Nikon D850 Macro

Morning tea with 1/50s shutter speed, aperture at F2.8 and ISO 140

Nikon D850 Macro

Shooting desserts with 1/60s shutter speed, aperture at F2.8 and ISO 2000

Nikon D850 Macro

Flower macro shot at 1/320s shutter speed, aperture at F2.8 and ISO 125

Nikon D850 Night Shot

Dubai Creek night shot 1/100s shutter speed, aperture at F2.8 and ISO 10000

Nikon D850 night shots

Dubai Canal landscape night shot 1/60s shutter speed, aperture at F2.8 and ISO 12800

Nikon D850 night shots

Dubai Canal bridge night shot 1/80s shutter speed, aperture at F2.8 and ISO 3200

Nikon D850 outdoor

Dubai Canal walkthrough day shot at 1/1000s shutter speed, aperture at F2.8 and ISO 64

Battery Life of Nikon D850

The Nikon D850 comes with the EN-EL15a battery that holds up a capacity of 1900 mAh. According to CIPA, the camera is capable of firing up to 1840 shots with this battery. Luckily, I’ve got the chance to play with the Nikon D850 for some days and I was able to take a lot of images, night shots, record videos, and multiple time-lapses. During our review of Nikon D850, the camera was able to last for a couple of days in a stretch and the D850 is one of the longest-running DSLR’s I’ve used on a single charge. 

Nikon D850 Review Verdict:

While most of the consumers would rather go for the budget based models, there are a few among every crowd who would want to own the best DSLR that would produce exceptional image quality and won’t mind spending a lot for such an expensive camera. For all the previous Nikon D810 users, the Nikon D850 is a quite a series step forward with respect to performance, capability, low-light, and speed. Since the ISO has been enhanced, I spend most of my time shooting at night with the camera and I was amazed to see how well the camera performs with less noise.

Nikon D850 tryout

The time-lapse shooting mode was another thing that I enjoyed using and the new Silent shooting mode is a useful feature if you want to capture moments without making the shutter sound. Unlike other cameras that I’ve reviewed, the battery life of the Nikon D850 does seem last well for a lot of shots and the autofocus system, although, it does get a bit sloppy when I try to focus on the Live View mode. Our camera review team is sure that Nikon professional photographers will also appreciate the new upgrades of the new Nikon D850.

The Nikon D850 is priced at AED 12999 in Dubai, UAE (Body Only).

Tags:Mobile Phone Electronics DSLR Nikon