Nikon D850, Early Impressions

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ShunCheung, Oct 22, 2017.

  1. Smooth means (relatively) free from noise (as in smooth tonal gradations). D810 images (correctly focused) are clearly more detailed than D5 images (both at low ISO); at the same time they have less noise at low ISO settings.

    If you prefer measurements you can just look at dxomark they'll show that mid-gray SNR at ISO 64 for D810 is 46.3dB and for ISO 100 on the D5 it is 44.8dB; dynamic range 12.26ev vs. 14.76ev. It's easy to find evidence for the extra detail in D8x0 family images for example look at dpreview's studio comparisons. My subjective observations in this area of sensor performance of these particular cameras align with dxomark's measurements. Usually when measurements are correctly done they agree with subjective observations from a person who is experienced in evaluating image quality and understands what they are evaluating.

    What gives the D5 the edge is its autofocus system, however, if one is shooting subjects which are not moving a tripod and live view is what I use, and in that case the D5 has no advantage compared to D8x0 family cameras, unless of course the D5 is the camera in your hand when the subject presents itself in good light and alternatives are not available.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2017

  2. Only that it implies relatively easy correction. Local contrast variations are harder to correct.

    All true. But let's say you have 14 stops of dynamic range. You have a large highlight that results in uniformly raising the base brightness level at the sensor to half of the maximum brightness (say digitally 8192, or 2^13). Result: So long as you can distinguish level 8193 from 8192 as effectively as you can distinguish 1 from 0, you've still got 13 stops of dynamic range left. That's a fairly big qualifying statement, but on the other hand raw files are traditionally linear. I'd claim the actual influence of a small highlight on the sensor tends to be smaller.

    I'm standing by my "small highlights in a very dark room" argument, because I've seen it in images (note the banding in the walls) - but I'm very under-slept, and that may be making me less scientific than usual.

    I'd say both. Dynamic range tends to imply well capacity and read noise. These things are good. I notice the A7R3 has some apparently impressive (slight) improvements over its predecessor, making it better at ISO 100 than a D850 (but less good than the D850 is at ISO 64). Both the A7R2 and 3 have better high-ISO behaviour than the Nikon, sadly (in the graphs I've seen). I'm more than a bit bought into the F mount and what you can buy and hire for it, though, so I don't think Nikon need to worry about my custom just yet.
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    I managed to borrow a D810 and went back to the same location for some high-ISO test images. I used exactly the same 24-70 E VR lens but the focal length is a bit different. Even the D810 is not bad at ISO 12800


  4. Shun, if I read the description correctly at B&H they indicate 1. with the grip and battery, 2. in crop mode and 3. using silent live view 30 fps is possible. Have you tested that. 30 fps sure seems amazing to me.
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    30 fps? Sounds like you are shooting video.

    I don't have the MB-D18 grip.
  6. Shun, that's what I thought on first read. Here it is:
    Benefitting the sensor is the apt EXPEED 5 image processor, which affords a wealth of speed throughout the camera system, including the ability to shoot continuously at 7 fps for up to 51 consecutive 14-bit lossless compressed raw files in a single burst. When working with the optional MB-D18 grip and EN-EL18a/b battery, this shooting rate can be increased to 9 fps, and up to 30 fps shooting is possible when working in a DX crop mode during Silent Live View.
    Haven't seen too many typos at B&H so wondered if it was true.
  7. I don't think the 30fps mode requires the grip. It captures "JPEG normal" images at 3600x2400 with a DX crop and fixed focus/exposure - effectively video, but all i-frames and only for 3s. You don't get the usual JPEG vignette control or distortion correction either.

    I'll probably try it in an emergency, but capturing 3840x2160 video at the same frame rate without such a small time limit or sensor crop, then pulling frames, feels more useful. If it let you fill the internal buffet with raw files at that rate (even with the rolling shutter) I'd be a lot more interested.
  8. Fwiw, i button (or A? button if you have an iPhone) in live view, then look for "silent live view photography mode 2" if you want to try it, Shun. The manual says nothing about needing the grip to do it. I assume the grip is needed for 9fps to power the shutter/mirror mechanism at speed (not doing anything for this mode), although I've never quite understood why Nikon found the need to have their frame rate bound by the battery and in all their shutter redesigns haven't managed to make one run at full speed off the internal power source.
    mike_halliwell likes this.
  9. Andrew, cynically, one thinks it makes you buy the extortionately expensive battery grip to get a feature that should be there already.

    The 'mark-up' on grips must be HUGE. It also wouldn't surprise me if there's a custom chip in the grip that's quite hard to clone too, just to slow down the copiers! Same as the batteries having to communicate with the body and preventing clones being used at 1/5 the price.

    Grip is £370 and a new 18b is £199. That's nearly $750!

    Sure, Nikon's got to make money, but deliberate crippling the fps seems a funny way to do business.

    Equally, it's not as if you can't draw enough amps from the normal battery.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2017
  10. The EN-EL18(a/b) battery has higher voltage which is used in the D850 to move the mirror at higher speed. This is necessary to do the 9fps on an FX camera with a reasonable blackout time. Remember also that the processing the camera has to do for 45MP images at 9fps must be consuming a lot of electrical power as well. However, the camera designers said in an interview that the reason for requiring the larger battery is to run the mirror motor at higher speed.

    The D500 presumably has a smaller and lighter mirror and it has a comparatively long blackout time (it runs 10fps on the smaller battery). I recall the D500 blackout at 10fps is 45% longer than on the D5 at 10fps. This means the AF sensor is not seeing the subject for a longer time before the shutter opens and you also get less visibility in the viewfinder.

    There are (to my knowledge) no moving-mirror FX DSLRs that achieve > 7fps with a small battery. As for the pricing, it is necessary for Nikon to make a profit, otherwise investors will eventually abandon the company. If you want 9 or more fps for less money you can get the D500. It’s not like a lot of people ”need” 9fps & 45MP at the same time, the amount of data must be staggering. So when a feature is not really a need for most D850 users, but something of a want it is a perfect place to ask for exta money, without doing too much injustice.

    Some of us who are getting the D850 also have a D5 or D4(s), so we are at least spared of the extra cost of the battery and charger. The grip is about the same cost as this type of grips were in D800/D810 (five + years of use from that grip already) and D700 before.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2017
  11. The counterbalanced shutter in the D850 is also a lot more complicated than the ones in the earlier models. It would not be surprising if it consumes more power, though the mirror is said to be the limiting factor.
  12. For some reason I was convinced that Canon had managed to go faster with an unexpanded 1v than they actually did - although I'm inclined to think that cranking the film should be the limit there. Canon did manage to drive the original 7D at a rate that needed a grip for the D300, but since Nikon fixed it with the D500 I can't argue.

    Still, in all the many years of shutter development, I would have expected them to find a way. Of course they did, with the 30fps mode - kind of.
  13. Thanks Shun. I thought D810 was better at low ISO. Obviously is not .

    "Most likely Nikon is using different firmware on their top-of-the-line D5 or the strong battery on the D5 is making a difference"

    As far as can I remember (from min 20 years ago) it was always the same. And it was a Canon lineup who make me jump to this conclusion : only top pro cameras (both Canon and Nikon) deliver the best AF, best auto exposure and best flash exposure algorithm , noticeable better than the rest of the lineup.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2017
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Some friends and I have been comparing the D850 against the D5, D500, etc. Even though they have the same AF module, the D5 still has the best AF among all three, and that would extend to all Nikon SLRs. The D850 has very good AF, but not quite as excellent as the D5.
  15. While a lot has already been written about the D850, it would still be interesting to read the full review and your thought on its strong and weak points. Having read many reviews I still would like to learn more about its high ISO performance, its DX crop mode and lot more that you have observed during your time with the D850. Having a D800E, it seems like the natural upgrade path, when it is time.

    When do you expect the review to be ready to publish?
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  16. I'm highly likely to get a D850 in 2018 (I nearly said "next year", but it isn't any more, where I am), but if like to know about any surprises. I only recently picked up on the lack of "easy ISO", for example.

    My biggest concern is that dpreview reported "speckles" that I've not seen reported elsewhere, and I don't know how much to worry about them...
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    I wouldn't pay too much attention to the D850's high-ISO performance. Obviously it has the smallest pixel pitch among all Nikon FX-format DSLRs so far, and the small pixels don't favor high-ISO performance; that is simple physics. If we scale the images down to the same number of pixels, IMO, the high-ISO performance has not changed that much from the D800 to the D810 and to the D850. If you are after high-ISO results and are willing to pay, the D5 is designed to perform at high ISO for indoor sports, etc., and it "only" has 20MP. The D5 also sacrifices a bit of low-ISO dynamic rage. The D850 is designed to be used at (or at least close to) ISO 64 to capture the most amount of details.

    However, the dynamic range for the D850 is very good. I have on purpose underexposed some landscape images by 5 stops, and I have everything from "properly exposed" to -1, -2 all the way to -5 stops. Even the one that is -5 can be recovered quite nicely with plenty of details.

    In early December, I went with my wife to Hong Kong for a week, mainly to attend her high school reunion. She went to an all-girls school there, and I was one of the few husbands at the reunion. Naturally I was one of the main photographers there. The D850 is great for their group shots, and I used it for some 4K videos also.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the video files from 4K are huge. I shot MP4 and it is about 1G per minute of video. I used that to capture when the women sang their school song, which lasted about 3 minutes, but to be on the safe side, I had started the video capture well in advance. What I didn't pay attention to was that there is a 4G (video) file size limit. In other words, once the video reached about 4 minutes, the video file size hit the maximum, and it automatically cut over to a new video file.

    The end result was that the last 30 seconds of the song is in a different video file, although it is quite simple to use video-editing software to join the two files together. There is a very minor click during the transition, but you really need to know where it is and pay special attention to notice it.

    (I am including s small, low-quality JPEG of their group image. I know it doesn't do the D850 justice.)

  18. Every audio and video recorder I have is limited to 4G, or even 2G files. However the splits are totally seamless. Perhaps the "click" is introduced by your editing software. I use Adobe Premiere Pro for video, and Nuendo or Pro Tools for audio. When editing audio,I cut on the frame line (75 fps), so no click occurs on a CD (which completes a short frame with zeros)
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    It could be a software issue. I just used iMovie on a Mac to join the files.

    5 years ago in their previous reunion, I used the D7000 to capture 1080 HD video, and the video file for their school song was only about 500M bytes. I uploaded those files to FaceBook, which does additional compression.
  20. D850 with 28 AIS f2.8 at f2.8 DSC_1124_00137.jpg

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