Hello again, and welcome to another edition of the blog! This time we have a special treat as it’s not often that a Camera company introduces what many consider to be a “game changer”, but in this instance we have one that many consider to be. This is going to be no ordinary review either considering that while almost every review of the NEW Nikon D850 has been for professional application; and I am indeed a Professional photographer I have decided to take the path less traveled. On vacation.
(Nikon D850, AISO360, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@48mm. 1/160th@F10)
Two things before we get to the meat of the review. As usual, NO I am not getting paid for this review. In fact the NEW Nikon D850 I used is MINE, that I purchased from Roberts Camera after being on the wait list for one. So no pay or special treatment here. Also worth noting; my incredible wife planned out our trip to Italy almost a year ago, so this has been quietly on the books for a while. I had no idea the D850 was coming out, much less that I would have one before leaving on this adventure. That said, while I shoot professionally I definitely do take a camera with us on trips like this. That camera is normally a Fuji X100T which I absolutely love, but since trips to Rome Italy don’t come around all that often the D850 was the only choice. The lens I decided to take with us on this trip is the Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6ED VR. It’s definitely NOT my 24-70F2.8 or 70-200F2.8, but it’s only 1 reasonably small lens instead of two large ones and while this review is NOT about the 28-300, the lens is really pretty great for what you would assume to be a lens made of stacked up glass ash trays. That said, lets move onto the meat of my experience.
(Nikon D850, AISO64, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@55mm. 1/125th@F10)
For the trip I was planning to travel very light. This is a shot of ALL the stuff that I took with photo related. Notice that YES there is a Phottix Speedlight and ODIN2 transmitter in there. Also notice there is NOT a computer.
Nikon 28-300F3.5-4.5ED VR
Nikon EN-EL15 batteries (3) (With Nikon MH-25 Battery Charger)
Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries (18)
AA Battery Charger
San Disk 32gb 90mb/s SD Cards (5)
Lacie 4TB Thunderbolt Raid
Western Digital MyPassport Wireless
Phottix Mitros+ Speedlight
Phottix ODIN2 Wireless Transmitter
Benro MeFoto Travel Tripod
Apple iPad Pro 10.5″ 256gb 4G
Not Pictured: iPhone 6s, iPhone and iPad charging Cable, BesTek Power Converter with USB ports
So that’s all I took with. The NEW Nikon D850 takes both XQD Cards and SD cards, and while I LOVE XQD cards I decided they were not the correct card for this trip as I couldn’t imagine going into a shop and asking someone for a XQD card in Italian. Not only that, but it’s not like I could dump the XQD card to my iPad in a pinch, I’d have to rely on the wireless which for as many files as I was planning on taking was a big old NO. San Disk SD Cards it was, and as expected they performed flawlessly.
(Nikon D850, AISO280, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@300mm. 1/1000th@F5.6)
Taking this camera around as a walk around didn’t present as many challenges as one might think. The first thought everyone has had so far is: “Wow 46 megapixels, what did you do with all the shots?”. In reality I dumped my card every day to the 1TB Western Digital My Passport Wireless and rarely did I go through more than 1 32gb card in a day. I could have shot on just SD cards the whole trip without any trouble. I am also a fool in that I refuse to set my camera to anything less than 46 megapixel RAW. Why? Glad you asked. Because what if I shot the most amazing photo I’d ever shot? If I only had it as a 20mp raw file, or even worse……. a (gulp) Jpeg; I’d never forgive myself. Did I shoot he best photo I’ve ever shot? No, but I shot a number that I liked, so it was worth it.
(Nikon D850, AISO140, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@70mm. 1/250th@F10).
So everybody online is referring to this as a game changer, and I have to be honest in that I totally agree. The Nikon D850 is a game changer in so many ways. The AF is second to none except *maybe* the D5. I say maybe because the D5 has a dedicated processor for Autofocus, where as th D850 uses its Expeed 5 as double duty so things like a 200mph racecar *may* be too fast for the D850, but until racecar season there is no way to tell. I shot soccer in the dark with my D850 and a 200-400F4 lens and it performed flawlessly, so only time will tell. As far as speed goes, I’ll be honest I haven’t pushed this camera to its highest FPS limit as I don’t have the grip yet. Like i said earlier though I am a firm believer that ALL cameras should have XQD cards as once you fill the 40+ frame buffer on this camera it only takes about 3 seconds to clear completely thanks to the 400mb/s write speed of the XQD 2.0 cards.
(Nikon D850, AISO1250, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@28mm. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Walking around in any light the D850 snapped to focus with little to zero trouble. If it did have any trouble (which I don’t recall it having) Id’ guess it was because of the 28-300, but as I mentioned, it didn’t have any trouble that I can recollect. Even in the lowest of lights.
(Nikon D850, AISO20,000, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@92mm. 1/50th@F5.3)
The shot above is at 20,000ISO. Looks good but how about at 100%? Lets see if we can read the text on the sunglasses sticker.
MOTHER OF GOD. That’s 100% at 20,000ISO with a lens that is in my opinion capable of little more than location scouting or walk around duty. Little bit of noise reduction applied, but nothing extreme as I don’t particularly like the plasticly look. Holy smokes, this camera is 46 Megapixels and can do THAT with 20,000ISO?? Lets get past the excitement real quick and think logically again. This then begs to ask the question of Dynamic Range since the Nikon D5 was knocked originally for having not as good dynamic range in favor of High ISO. Yes, the D5 can shoot at a native 100,000ISO, but shooting people at a buffet it’s very difficult to recover faces from the heat lamps. The D4s is better in this aspect, but the D800/D810 have been the reigning kings/queens of Dynamic Range the last few years. How does the D850 stack up?
Here is a shot from inside the coliseum straight out of the camera as a RAW files Screenshot. We visited the Coliseum in the early afternoon, so the sun setting didn’t exactly lend for great light on the inside so I tried to split the difference on this shot to hope for the best. Lets see what some raw Processing can do (NOT HDR, Some Graduated filters inside Adobe Camera RAW only).
That’s all just inside the RAW plugin for Photoshop CC2017. I haven’t even taken it into the real photoshop yet. Even at 100% the push pull didn’t destroy the file. Zero sharpening or Noise reduction applied.
(Nikon D850, AISO720, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@28mm. 1/250th@F8.)
It’s not a scientific test, but as far as Dynamic range goes I’m sold. I don’t generally like to push or pull my files as far as I did in that shot above, but it’s so amazing to know it’s there if needed. In a studio environment it’s not necessary to do things like that, but to know the information is there is really comforting in so many ways.
(Nikon D850, ISO100, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@28mm. 1.3 seconds @F16. Camera supported by a Benro MeFoto Travel Tripod)
So did I only test this camera on vacation? No, I already told you I shot a soccer match with it, but I also have shot it in the studio and or on location with lighting and it performed exactly as you would expect. Very high resolution, very sharp and meaty files. Glad I didn’t do a whole series of studio tests for this blog, it would have gotten boring very quickly.
(Nikon D850, ISO200, Sigma 24-70F2.8OS ART@63mm. 1/125th@F4. Phottix Mitros+ set to 1/16th power bounced out of a Westcott 32″ umbrella on a 7′ Kupo Click Stand to camera right. Mitros+ triggered by Phottix ODIN2 Transmitter on the camera hot shoe.)
As far as cameras goes, when I owned my D800 it was never the first camera out of my bag in favor of the D5. Will the D850 change this? Not sure yet, but it’s well on its way that direction. There definitely are some things I like about the D5 better than the D850. Example being that the focus points in the D5 are laser etched and always RED, vs the D850 which has black etched points that light up red when you focus. Not a make or break, but something to note. Also D5 and D850 share the ability to rate your images in camera to sort them in Lightroom or Photo Mechanic, which is outstanding! I just wish you could sort them in the camera to be able to see just the images you have tagged instead of the hundreds of others at the same time. Minor complaints, but they are complaints. One thing to not complain about? BACKLIT BUTTONS. Whenever I do a review that requires me to get a Canon Camera it’s probably the thing I miss the most. Both Nikon and Canon have their high points either with the interface or some feature or another, but holy smokes once you have gotten used to backlit buttons going back to working in the dark is very difficult.
(Nikon D850, AISO7200, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@28mm. 1/80th@F3.5. Used the live veiw and tilty screen to line this one up over my head. Tilty screen is so good.)
Over the week we spent in Rome this camera proved to be very versatile. It definitely exceeded all of my expectations despite not being the camera I normally would have chosen for a trip like this. (Defaulting to either my D750 due to size, or my aforementioned FujiX100T). You would be surprised to know that I was even called out for having a D850 on the streets of Rome while we were there. Walking back to the hotel one night I stopped to photograph a Scooter and a woman stopped to ask me all about it. A surprising twist actually as normally a camera like a D5 draws a lot of attention, but to have someone stop me because of the D850 was a very unexpected turn of events. This camera with the 28-300 lens made for one epic vacation camera though as almost anything was within reach of making a picture or three.
(Nikon D850, AISO3200, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@300mm. 1/320th@F5.6)
So the verdict. This camera definitely IS a game changer. I traded my D800 body into Roberts Camera to buy this one (Notice I said D800 and not D810; I never upgraded to that one) and boy what a camera this is. It’s so much camera in fact that when they become more readily available my D750 might make it to the chopping block for another one. This camera is super in EVERY way to the D800/D810 and while the D800/D810 makes a great used value if you have the money for a D850 you should jump up to it. If you can’t? Save up for it as I doubt you’ll find one on the used shelf for quite a while. Until then though, save your pennies or get on the wait list. Is it the right camera for you? only you can decide that but hopefully these impressions have helped out. If you are going to order one, do yourself a favor and go get it from the folks at Roberts Camera. They are good people there. And as always if you are ever curious as to what gear it is that I”m using these days, have a jump over to my gear page
. More soon.
(Nikon D850, AISO500, Nikon 28-300F3.5-5.6EDVR@78mm. 1/250th@F14)
On a side note I’d like to point out that I managed to write this whole thing without using the joke ‘When in Rome’.