Review of D850 from is out, but. . .

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Landrum Kelly, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. I just don't get it. Sure, overall the D850 is an incredible camera, but it does not match the D5 in tracking, and it does not match the D800, D800E, or D810 at ISOs of 1600 and 3200 (much less higher). I'm not buying the hype. No camera does ALL things well!

    It has its niche, but, when all is said and done, it is still a niche camera.


    Nikon D850 Review
  2. Here is a comparison of the D850 and the D800E that I put on my Facebook page. I would not expect a high-megapixel camera to have the highest scores where high ISO and low light are concerned, but why does DPReview keep saying that the D850 is superior to the other D800 series cameras in this regard? I just don't see it.
  3. Lannie I'm not interested in starting a fight here but honestly wonder what you are expecting at 1600 and higher in poor light? Results in that sort of combination have always been a compromise and at 3200 seems nearly useless. I agree with you that the D850 isn't all that much better but is anything ever going to be? It's also kind of funny to me that the review compares the D5 and the 800 series. Different tools with different strong and weak points. With film I could and still can simply change film types in the same camera body but now it seems we are expected to buy a different body for every different application.

    Rick H.
  4. Rick, it wouldn't bother me if they would simply admit that the D810 etc. are better at high ISO. The D850 is good enough at what it does. There is no need to exaggerate.

    I don't doubt that the D850 is the best all-around, hands down.
  5. I spotted the review. For what it's worth, NPhoto are covering it too, unsurprisingly.

    Huh? I'm seeing significantly less chroma noise in the D850 compared with the D810 and D800e. There's a bit of a green colour shift (presumably because this is an early version of Adobe's raw converter), but that should if anything reduce noise when corrected, because the base level is higher on the D850. I'm a little worried about the "hot spots" (not reported by anyone else I've seen); I'll be interested to know whether we're stuck with that behaviour, but it appears to be subtle.

    From what I've seen so far, I'm buying Thom Hogan's pre-analysis: probably not a whole stop better than the D810, but better nonetheless. DxO suggest high ISO is a bit behind the A7R2 - which is a shame, but I'll live with it. I wasn't expecting to match the D5. Given that my D810 is mostly used at minimum ISO but occasionally gets pushed into service around the ISO 6400 range, I'm happy with the trade-off.

    It doesn't match the D5 in AF (or low light, although at least the cross-over now according to DxO is around ISO 1600 rather than the 400 it was for the D810, if I'm remembering the graphs), possibly partly because of the difference in blackout time (I'm curious to know whether the grip helps when they try it). I'll take "massively better than the D810".

    I don't think the D850 is best at everything. With the possible exception of dynamic range if you exclude some RED sensors and medium format, it may not be best at anything. What it is, is much more flexible and more general-purpose than its predecessors. The D800 and (less so) D810 were great cameras, but basically compromised for action shooting compared with the average competition, in return for being state of the art for landscape and portraiture; the inverse of the 5D2 vs D700 comparison, although less so. The D850 appears to be at least as good as the D810 at what it does (which was not true of the D700/D800 transition, hence a lot of complaints) while substantially improving the D810's weak points.

    I was already happy with the D810 for what it did will, but I did occasionally run into its limitations. I've not seen anything yet that persuades me that a D850 wouldn't be an improvement for me. If I were happy shooting a D5, I'd probably be in no hurry to switch, however. All improvements in cameras are about being able to take a good photo in more challenging conditions - in perfect conditions you can get a "good" image from any camera made since the history of photography.

    I'm under no delusion that the D850 is the perfect camera. I've got a plenty-long list of things that I'd like fixed by Nikon, and I've little inclination to believe that they've fixed any of them on the D850. If they fix enough of them, Nikon may be able to sell me a D860 in the future. For now, for me, the D850 looks like the best camera on the market. A friend and current (elderly) Canon shooter (who already admitted that he's regretting sticking to Canon because everyone he knows now shoots Nikon) is thinking of a camera upgrade, and I've pointed out to him that the D850 is a very strong option.

    Of course, I may hate it when I get one. :)
  6. Oh dear! If that really is typical of the D850's performance at 3200 ISO, then it looks like another foot-shooting exercise by Nikon.

    I'm pretty sure my D7200 can get better results than that at 3200 ISO, and has a higher pixel density.

    And why would the AF performance be inferior to the D5, when they supposedly use the same AF module?
  7. If the D850 is getting roughly the same noise performance as the D810, with 45mps, compared with 36mps, it's all to the good, no?
  8. I'm seeing a green tint, which means greater green luminance and hence greater noise in the green channel - also for some reason shown in the JPEG - but I'm not sure it's worse. There's visibly less low-frequency chroma noise on the D850, even with both at 1:1. The D800E looks a bit pinker than the D7200, too. Adobe are known for putting out a conversion and then adjusting it over time, I believe; DxO haven't released their D850 support yet as far as I can tell. The D850 honestly looks slightly better to me - especially looking at, say, the hair on the dark background. Probably not quite a whole stop better (although the JPEG engine does seem improved unless they've just changed default settings), but better. I certainly don't think it's worse, although I concede the crop Lannie suggested is one of the least convincing areas.

    • Different mirror black-out times (the D5 has more time looking at its AF module - although some tests suggest the D5 is better even at full frame rate, which means this might not be the whole problem; hard to tell because presumably the subject was moving less... testing is hard.)
    • Higher sensor resolution so you can see when you miss more easily. I got a very high AF hit rate out of my D700, probably because I couldn't see when I was missing compared with the D800 and D810.
    Still, reports are slightly inferior to the D5. It's still very good almost all the time, and better than anything that's not a D5. Unless someone wants to give me a D5 as a backup (I like low ISO dynamic range and resolution too much to want it as a main body), that'll do for me. And I've still to see a test with the grip (which, if it increases frame rate by moving the mirror assembly faster, might split the difference). I'm happy to hear that the mirror assembly is less prone to shock than the D810's, too.
  9. We must not be looking at the same images then:(
    Not from what I see in the dxomark results:(
    Agreed. But I certainly prefer a D810/D500 combo over a single D850. Even when considering new prices, the two options come out almost identical in cost (the D850 needs the grip, D5 battery and charger to perform at nearly the same level as the D500; this adds almost $1000 to the body purchase price). I paid about as much for a barely used D810/D500 combo as a new D850 costs. And I rather have two camera bodies than just one; in particular when the one I expect to put the most shots on is the cheaper of the two to replace. I would certainly like to have a D850 next to my D500 - if for nothing else but have the same handling characteristics - but that's not worth the price of admission to me right now. There's literally nothing in the D850 that I desperately need (over what a D810 already gives me).
    It is though. Shorter mirror black-out may have something to do with it, as does higher voltage supplied by the D5 battery. AFAIK, no one has yet compared the AF performance of a D5 with a D850/MB-D18/EN-EL18a. There's also the possibility that the AF processing is not identical in the D5 and D850 (even though the AF modules are the same).
  10. It appears to be a great camera in many regards. Some of it's features are no better or worse than some current bodies but that is to be expected. Not many photographers really need the D850 but will buy it to have the latest and greatest (nothing wrong with that). I don't know half the things my D750 will do so I certainly wouldn't upgrade until I feel I maxed it out. When I think I have maxed it out, I will get a new or slightly used D810 and that would last me for quite a few years and by that time there will more than likely be a D900. I do enjoy reading about new cameras and lenses however and will continue to do so.
  11. I respectfully disagree with this premise. With the exception of action sports, the D850 would meet my needs in a DSLR for the gamut of situations I encounter. I get along just fine without a vertical grip, which keeps the D850 size and weight manageable. It's performance at ISO 3200 is more than adequate for scenes which have enough light to read a book, including most social events. If you have to pump the ISO for a dim scene, like a jazz club concert, it's okay to be on the gritty side. Even so, it's not that bad, IMO.

    Would I trade in my Sony? Probably not. Between the A7Rii and A9 I have all the resolution and speed I need, including better AF and lower noise. In-body image stabilization is far better than IS in the lens, which isn't widely available, and compensates mainly for tilt and yaw, leaving three other axes of motion untouched. Furthermore, all the niceties of AF are also functional in Sony's video mode.

    Focus isn't going to get much better in DSLR technology, since the sensors are not part of the sensor. Focus only occurs when the mirror is down, so less blackout is an advantage. Nonetheless, tracking is predictive rather than determinate (as in the A9). While Nikon has updated some of their most popular lenses, most are showing their age and are not up to 45 MP performance. Where resolution counts, e.g., landscapes, there's always the option of Zeiss Otus lenses, or even their budget counterparts, the Milvus lineup.

    That aside, if I were still relying on my D3, the D850 would be a likely, even welcome replacement.
  12. Perhaps different parts of the same image? We're looking at the same thing, yes? I'm seeing low frequency colour blotches on the D810 and D800e that are appreciably less visible on the D850. It's a bit hard to judge the rest because of the tonal difference, but the D850 does look less noisy to me, even at 1:1 pixels. The Asian girl's face does look worse where there's a pronounced green cast, but the hair looks less noisy. I'd hope a raw converter update could do something about the colour balance.

    Huh? I am, again, confused. The D800E is actually a little better than the D810 between ISO 200 and 1600 (which I knew), but the D850 is somewhat better than both in the graphs I'm looking at. There's essentially no gain at ISO 64, but it's not worse, either.

    I've shot that combo. The user interface differences were quite annoying. :)

    No argument about that, although Thom Hogan has pointed out the merits of third-party chargers. There are enough advantages for the D850 for me (touch screen UI, auto AF fine tune, focus stacking...) that I'd rather put the money towards a single body, although I won't deny the merits of the D500.

    Sure; we each have different needs, and the D810 is still an extremely good camera. That's one reason I'm waiting until next year before damaging my credit card. Also, I'm not coming to this conversation already having a D500. :)

    I could certainly believe all that (I wonder whether the voltage driving the lens's AF might have affected things - I don't recall which lens they used and whether it has direct battery connectors). I'm looking forward to hearing. I believe there were reports at one point that the same AF processor was going into different models of Nikon body, but at different clock speeds, presumably due to binning and whether they ran at full speed. I've no idea whether that's the case here.

    I'll be interested to have my F5 not be the fastest shooting SLR I own, if I get the grip. I'm quite interested in the 30fps 8k-ish crop, too (even without AF). I anticipate many tiddlywinks-in-flight shots. :)
  13. From a practical stand point some folks may not see much need to replace the D810. I am comfortable with and shoot a D800e that I bought within a few months of its release in 2012 and I use a D3s and D500 for speed. I plan to purchase a D850 in the next year. I understand the cost of the MB-D18 grip and EN-EL18 are pricey like all Nikon grips but at nine 46MP full frame images a second all-in-all this camera will fly (sorry Doug Marcaida). It cost roughly the same as a bare bones new D810 did a few years ago and my beloved D800e 5 years ago. It can automatically focus shift images into a separate folder for stacking, has better faster autofocus and a much larger buffer. It has Nikons highest pixel count while maintaining parameters that depending on the objective testing site while measurably different are for practical purposes, arguably indistinguishable from its predecessors. I love my current set up but look forward to using this body for focus stacking landscapes as well as birds in flight. I have never thought of Nikon as an innovator but have to remind myself that the pixel count alone on Nikon D800 was an initial forcing function for quality optics by all manufacturers in the last 5 years. So you get more with this camera and pay less in inflation adjusted dollars. Having this level of versatility in a camera may at worst take a small adjustment but I am willing to suffer through it :) At the beginning of my digital photography journey I was much more constrained but still happy. However I have a 1st generation i7 3.3 GHz processor in my PC that will likely be feeling the pain. Good hunting
  14. Nope, I was looking at the ones Landrum linked to.
    The one I am looking at (SNR Scren) the D850 is below the D810 everywhere. For Dynamic Range, the D850 wins though.
    While I wish they weren't there, they have not risen to the annoyance level for me. While I have a battery grip for the D810, I almost never use it as it makes the combo too heavy and bulky. I certainly don't want to be force to use one on the D850 just to get the 9fps that my D500 can do without. I only use the MB-D17 on the D500 when I shoot the 200-500; for all other lenses I prefer to shoot without it.
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The user-interface differences are annoying because the new one is superior. I have used the D5 and D500 extensively, and it is much easier to change the ISO by holding down a button next to the shutter release. And it is easier to switch between regular ISO and auto ISO. You can do all of those with only the right hand (and perhaps the camera on a tripod.) Now even the D7500 has the ISO button next to the shutter release. That is another small incentive to get rid of the D800 and D810.

    We need to keep in mind that DPReview is owned by Amazon. Their objective is to entice people to buy more camera equipment. It should surprise no one that there is hype on just about every new camera, be it Canon, Sony, Olympus, or Nikon ....

    Our friends at Nikon USA are nice enough to send me a D850 sample for review. Hopefully I'll have some first-hand experience with it soon, and I can compare it against my D800E.
    paul_b.|1 and Landrum Kelly like this.
  16. Focus isn't going to get much better in DSLR technology, since the sensors are not part of the sensor. Focus only occurs when the mirror is down, so less blackout is an advantage

    How do you know that? The D5 AF was a massive improvement over technology previously available, and I'm sure Nikon continues to make improvements (small and large) to the technology. The separate AF sensor has geometric advantage over on-sensor PDAF which rely on tiny PDAF elements. When reading comments from A9 users trying Canon superteles (there isn't a native Sony option for fast superteles) they basically say that focus tracking is ok after the focus is first obtained on the moving subjects, but prefocusing may be needed to get there in the first place. I believe there is a physical reason for this stemming from the geometry of the embedded PDAF sensors relative to the dedicated units such as Nikon's Multi-CAM 20k. This embedded tech might never get the instant initial focus of the best DSLRs (with lenses like 400/2.8, which are the "normal lenses" of sports photographers).

    Nonetheless, tracking is predictive rather than determinate (as in the A9).

    AFAIK the A9 does not use CDAF to finalize focus in high speed burst shooting, and only uses the PDAF. And in reviews I've read the D5 tracks somewhat better than the A9 so ... so much for "determinate" focusing. I am sure it does better when the subject isn't moving but then these aren't the cameras to choose for such subjects. I still believe that for static subjects a tripod should be used and results in visibly better quality and consistency (of focus, sharpness, and composition) than hand held shooting. And I've never had any difficulty focusing on static subjects with Nikon D810's live view (I am sure the D850 with its higher resolution LCD is better). I'll take a large, high res LCD over any EVF for tripod based work of static subjects. Sony doens't even support split display image zoom for tilt shift lenses. Thanks but no thanks - I'll take my Nikons for focusing on either AF of moving subjects (D5) or MF for tripod based static subjects (any modern high resolution Nikon). I'm sure the Sonys have many advantages (silent shutter, lenses such as their 12-24/4 etc.) but Nikon have their own advantages as well.

    Still, reports are slightly inferior to the D5.

    And that's the essence of it: the 3D tracking of a gripless D850 doesn't quite perform as well as on the D5, but it's still better than A7R II, 5Ds R and D810 (source: dpreview). From many reports of actual users, the D850's other focus area modes (dynamic, group, single point) perform excellently. Even though the D5 has allegedly the best subject identification and tracking of any camera, I still don't find myself using this feature often. I don't need the camera to find the subject for me in most cases I prefer exercising that control myself, by manually moving the focusing area around the frame as needed and cropping a bit on the side if it turned out compositionally less than ideal choice. This works better because mistakes are on me, not on the camera, and so when in a difficult situation I can benefit from skills acquired over the years as well as the camera's excellent autofocus technology. I use D9, group area, single point, D25, auto area, and rarely 3D tracking. I prefer those other modes because they offer me the ability to exercise precise control over the focus area and if I choose so, some assistance when I'm not able to hold the primary point on the subject all the time for every split second. I've achieved as good results as 99% of images in focus with 105/1.4 wide open with the D5 in daylight and only slightly worse in dimmer light. This is simply astonishing improvement over the D810 and even greater improvement over the D800. Now, since reports basically agree that the D850 is basically slightly behind the D5 in 3D tracking but I havent' read reports that claim that the other AF area modes (which I would prefer in most cases anyway) are worse than D5, so basically it's like saying it gets an A- grade and as a result, users of B grade autofocus cameras complain about the minus (which is only a minus because there is one better camera at that task, at almost twice the cost). Fortunately most people see the forest rather than just trees and the D850 remains an elusive, hard to get camera because of high demand.

    it does not match the D800, D800E, or D810 at ISOs of 1600 and 3200 (much less higher).

    According to dxomark, the D850 has better dynamic range than the D810 from ISO 100 to 25600. Color sensitivity and midtone SNR are similar between the two. The D850 has counterbalanced mechanical shutter and EFCS available also in viewfinder shooting (quiet / quiet continuous modes) which means the detail is not attenuated as much by the mechanical shutter as with the D810 (which in turn was an improvement over the D800 and D800E in vibration). So if you use a long-ish lens at mid speeds hand held you can get better results on the D850. Finally there is the fully electronic shutter as an option as well.

    It has its niche, but, when all is said and done, it is still a niche camera.

    So, which camera in your opinion is capable of producing better results than the D850 in most serious fields of photography?
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
  17. Focus sensors are behind the main mirror, on the floor of the mirror box, analyzing light reflected from a secondary mirror behind the first one. They are not in the sensor itself, nor the prism. From the moment the mirror starts to go up and until it is returned to the static position, the camera must guess what and where the subject is based on predictive data. The faster the mirror action and the smarter the camera, the better the results. But any improvement on this mechanism comes in small increments.

    Focus in a mirrorless camera, where detectors are embedded in the sensor, can occur any time the shutter is not open. While predictive focusing is used, it is tempered by up to 120 actual measurements per second. Smarter firmware has virtually limitless potential, and there is no focus shift to "automatically calibrate." The A9 is very, very fast, but there are a lot of options, some of which work better in some situations than others. I'm still exploring those options, but if it tracks a honeybee in a flower patch, I think I'm on the right track.

    That does not alter what I said about the D850. It is an outstanding camera, and I would have given it due consideration in other circumstances. Very few people make a living shooting sports, and the D850 seems to excel at nearly everything else.
  18. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I was considering the D 500, less likely due to cost, the D 850. After reading quite a few articles and comparisons, though there were some very interesting additional features, for my use, they did not do enough better than my current cameras DF and D 750 with GXR for back up, not counting Nikon Film. Marketing is effective in positing more as better.;)
  19. Morning all.

    [DPReview test scene at high ISO]
    Lannie's images appear to be a capture of one view with the DPReview tool - and one that, admittedly, isn't especially complementary to the D850. I claim that other areas in that image show the D850 in better light.

    I'd say the SNR is almost identical (at total image size, not per pixel) - generally the D800 is slightly better than the D810, which is slightly better than the D850, but the differences are tiny. The D850 has an advantage at minimum ISO (over the D810; the D800 obviously starts at ISO 100) and at the top ISOs (again, not supported by the D800). The D850 wins on dynamic range and colour sensitivity, and they're essentially identical on tonal range (with the D850 again winning at minimum and maximum ISO). It's not an enormous improvement in all areas, but I certainly wouldn't call it "worse". And I agree with Ilkka on the other benefits.

    Actually, that makes almost no difference to me, because you get that behaviour on a D810 by mapping the Rec button to modify ISO. Since the first thing I'd do with a D850 is map the Rec button to Mode, the main difference there is that the position of the two buttons has (roughly) swapped. If I were constantly hopping between the two bodies that might bother me, in the way that the swapped (and un-fixable) + and - buttons did when I tried running a D800 and D700 concurrently. Other things (like the touchscreen and joystick) do make a difference, though. I'll look forward to more detailed thoughts, Shun!

    Ed: I think we can say either approach has merits. I certainly agree that the separation of the AF system from the sensor by a relatively delicate mirror mechanism has some accuracy disadvantages - I'd like it if Nikon would offer a "approximate with the PDAF system, confirm with contrast detect" mode, which is how I believe a lot of PDOS systems work. On the other hand, a dedicated contrast detect system can be configured with more sensor area and a flexible baseline, and faster readout than is practical without compromising a sensor; there are reasons the A99-II offered both approaches, and Canon has both. Would I like Nikon to have PDOS (in something other than the 1 series)? Yes, partly for the advantages in video. Do I want to get rid of a separate AF system? Not yet.

    The one you have with you, obviously. I'm not going to argue with those who say they're not going to subsidise Nikon and the D850 production chain for me by buying one; Nikon, and others, make many very good cameras. The D850 isn't better than all of them in all areas, it's just very competent in many different areas (although the base line has moved on since the days when we thought a 5fps D700 was fast, or thought the 5D2 was high resolution). You don't have to buy the (expensive) cool-aid, but I would say that you can try too hard to justify not doing so by claiming the D850 has disadvantages that it doesn't really have.

    There are other reasons not to own yet another camera. If you have cameras with detectably different interfaces (the D750 and Df are examples) then finger confusion may well cost you more than the technology would gain you. Compatibility changed too - I'll have to replace an L plate (and I still have a D700-compatible grip but no D700), a load of CF cards, get some UHS-II SD cards alongside XQD, get a new reeader, and get some kind of trigger for my three SB-600 flashes. That's not nothing, and that's before you decide that you need any lens upgrades to make the best of the sensor (I am seriously considering a 70-200 upgrade to the E version, and that'll annoy me with switched rings).

    When the D3s was launched, I ceased to have the best low-light camera in the world in my D700 (joint with the D3). I decided I could live with that for a while. My D800e didn't become terrible when the D810 was launched; my D810 isn't suddenly the limiting factor in my ability to take a decent photo, usually. The D850 won't make me magically better, it'll just slightly improve a few shots where the D810 would have struggled. I'm lucky enough to be able to throw money at Nikon for the improvement. (Well, I'm not, but hopefully I will be if I save up until next year.)

    There's no shame in having better things to spend your money on than an incremental improvement, and it would be worrying if "incremental improvement" wasn't all we got after so many years of refinement. (Even the D850's speed, without a grip, won't gain me much - 7fps is nice, but if I drop to 1.2x crop I can get 6fps out of my D810 at 25MP, and I've done that before.) But the D850 really doesn't seem to have many negative steps compared with the alternatives, to me. If you already own the alternatives, its big disadvantage is that you have to pay for it, and that's a very good reason not to buy something. It's the reason I don't own quite a lot of Nikon kit I'd like.

    If anyone wants to give me a 400 f/2.8 FL without my paying for it, I'll gladly demonstrate the principle. :)
  20. You cannot judge a camera based on the fact that it is not free. When you buy a new camera you always have to pay for it, and that was true of the camera(s) you already have when you bought them. If you're not in the market for a new camera then why participate in a discussion about new cameras? People who talk about new cameras presumably have a reason for doing so which is that they want something they don't have and are investigating solutions.

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