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24 hours with the Nikon d850

Friendly reminder, my reviews are not about doing rigorous testing and scientific information.  I am a documentary and lifestyle newborn/family photographer and I give impressions on real-life use of the gear I love.

I have been calling ProPhoto Rental to check on the D850 since the day it was announced.  It is a good thing I am a super awesome person or I might be labeled as annoying LOL.  It arrived on Friday and I stopped by to pick it up less than an hour before I had to pick Chloe up from school.  I ran home to pick up my Nikon 24mm 1.4 and then headed to her school.  ***I typically use my Sigma 24 Art but because there can be focusing issues with new bodies + sigma lenses I wanted to be sure there would be no issue without time to fully test.

I was immediately impressed with it’s performance using continuous focus.  The color rendering is beautiful and there are a lot of physical improvements over the D750 that make it easier for me to use.  Let me briefly touch on these now.

New and improved LCD screen. Gets a flip screen from the D750 (absent on the D800/810) and inherits the touch screen from the D5.  I love it to focus but HATE that it automatically takes a picture when you touch it in still mode.  I am hoping there is a way to turn it off but it seems to be all or nothing.  I love using it to focus in video mode.  ETA 12/10- on the screen if you tap the touch icon on the left you can toggle through to a focus-only option!

Better focusing system – It boasts a 153 focus points, 99 are cross-sensor, and 55 are selectable by the user.  While it expands the amount of the sensor covered by focus points it is still not comparable to the Sony, Fuji, or the Mark III/IV from Canon.  I am impressed by the way the continuous focus kept up with Chloe and her bestie on the playground.

ISO button – YES YES YES.  One of my main complaints about the D750 is the placement of the ISO button.  It is SO easy to hit the QUAL button instead of ISO.  In two different sessions I have changed from RAW + Fine to Basic jpeg without knowing.  Luckily I shoot pretty close to what I want in camera and I shoot on two D750s so I survived.  Regardless changing the ISO with a dedicated button on the top right is a very very welcome addition.

Comfortable grip – I can shoot one-handed again using back button focus.  The placement of the AF-lock button on the D750 and the grip was not conducive for me to shoot the camera with one hand.  I really missed that about my Canon 6D.

4k video – I haven’t had the chance to really test this yet but it has 4K which is absent from the D750.

Low-light ISO is impressive – I haven’t pushed it as much as my D750, but from what I have seen the D850 is at least better than the D750.  ETA 12/10 – I am not so sure about this.  After another weekend of use I have found that after scaling down the D850 pixels it does not feel as clean as the D750.  It could be the body I am renting, but just wanted to not.

Silent Live Preview Shooting – OMG it is a newborn or wedding photographer’s dream.  Still slow to focus as live view on Nikons is, BUT it is absolutely silent. (added 12/10)


It hasn’t all been puppies and rainbows, but almost.

The SnapBridge app sucks.  Yeah I thought the Nikon WMU was bad, this is worse in that I can’t even get it to pair as a control.  I have successfully paired it and downloaded a few images to my iPhone, but when I tried again today it kept sticking on “downloading information from camera”.  At least the D750 + WMU was good for a quick image transfer when I had preselected images on the camera.  I haven’t even been able to do that on the D850.

Battery died at the session.  Okay it didn’t completely shut off, but it did start blinking red at the end of the session.  I didn’t even use the screen as much as I usually do on my D750.

Bigger Images + Larger Buffer still sucks.  I don’t have a significant buffer issue with the D750, but while I used the D850 in a session today it tied up the camera several times.  Now I was using a 95mb/s SD card and not a XQD card so this might just be an issue of needing a faster card, but those cards work perfectly fine on my D750s.  I was using RAW large which are double the size of the D750 files, so maybe if I switched to medium the buffer issue would be negligible.  So just note, semi-fast SD card plus RAW large is just not sufficient.

The Live View Exposure Preview menu option is gone.  It took me a bit to figure out how to get the LCD to show me the actual exposure in still mode.  On the D750 it was a menu option accessible from the info button when Live View was activated.  On this camera if you are in Live View hit the OK button and it shows you the preview.  I use my LCD a lot to check exposure and WB so this is a very important feature for me.  The camera should ship with this by default.

I want to end with the image above shot at ISO 25600, f/2.0, and 1/160 sec.  So the high ISO is pretty useable.

Once I have a D850 of my very own I will post a full review for it.  In the meantime, next month look for the blog posts for the 1st birthday and newborn I photographed this weekend.  As a final note I want to say something about PIXEL-PEEPING.  If you get your hands on a D850 and you start zooming in, make sure your expectations are in check.  If you want to compare a 24mp file from a D750 to a 46MP image from a D850, resize the larger image down to 4000 pixels on the long side first.  Then you are comparing apples to apples and can see how your sharpness and noise compare.  For us low-light, indoor, typically grainy shooters, the 100% zoom on a 46MP image isn’t pretty 🙂


UPDATE – Just before I got ready to take it back to ProPhoto I tested out all 3 of the Sigma Art lenses I had (24, 35, 50) and all of them focused perfectly using the viewfinder as well as in LiveView (regular and touchscreen).  If your lenses aren’t up to date you may have an issue, but I can confirm they all work if they are up-to-date.

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