Skip to main content

Nikon D850 review

Still one of the best DSLRs ever made

Editor's Choice

Our Verdict

Recent mirrorless flagships may trump it for power and video performance, but the Nikon D850 remains one of the best DSLRs that photographers can buy. Whether you're shooting weddings, landscapes, portraits, action or wildlife, the D850 won't leave you wanting. Combining impressive performance with a bomb-proof build, it's rightly regarded as a modern classic.

For

  • Potential for large and detailed images
  • Sophisticated and proven AF system
  • Large and bright viewfinder
  • 19.4MP DX crop mode
  • Epic battery life

Against

  • More expensive than D810
  • Live View focusing speed behind rivals
  • SnapBridge still clunky

The Nikon D850 is now over three years old, but if you're looking for a stills-focused DSLR, it remains one of the best you can buy.

Back in July 2017, the D850 superseded the brilliant 36.3MP Nikon D810 that was long loved by both pros and hobbyists. It certainly had big shoes to fill, but fill them it did, thanks to features like 7fps burst shooting and excellent high ISO performance.  

There's no doubt that mirrorless flagships like the Sony A7R IV have since raised performance bar again for high megapixel cameras, but the Nikon D850 is now significantly cheaper than Sony's 61MP all-rounder. 

If you're mostly focused on stills photography, and enjoy classic DSLR benefits like handling and battery life, then the Nikon D850 is a superb, versatile all-rounder. 

Watch our hands-on video below

Features

  • Full-frame CMOS sensor, 45.7MP
  • Large and bright optical viewfinder
  • 4K video capture

While the D810 retained the same 36.3MP resolution as the groundbreaking Nikon D800/D800e, it was later eclipsed by both the 50.6MP Canon EOS 5DS and 42.2MP Sony Alpha A7R II. The D850, though, got an all-new 45.7MP full-frame back-illuminated sensor (BSI), which was a hefty increase in pixels over the D810, and only marginally behind the 5DS.

Thanks to the light-collecting elements being closer to the surface of the sensor, the BSI design should deliver better low-light performance than previous sensors. Just as we've seen with the D810 (and D800e), the D850 forgoes an anti-aliasing filter, which means even more detail can be eked out of the sensor, although there is the added risk of moiré patterning. 

Nikon D850 specs

Sensor: 45.7MP full-frame CMOS

Lens mount: Nikon F

Screen: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots

Burst shooting: 7fps

Autofocus: 153-point AF

Video: 4K

Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Battery life: 1,840 shots

Weight: 1,005g

On the occasions where you don't want (or need) to shoot at the D850's full resolution, there are two reduced size options, 25.6MP and 11.4MP, recording either raw or JPEG files. We can certainly see this feature appealing to news and sports shooters who'll want to transmit images as quickly a possible to picture desks, and might have otherwise passed up the D850 in favor of the 20.8MP Nikon D5

Another trick up the D850's sleeve is the camera's DX Crop mode, in which the perimeter of the viewfinder is masked to provide a view equivalent to that of an APS-C-format DSLR. The resolution drops, as you're only using a portion of the sensor, but thanks to the D850's huge resolution you'll still be able to capture 19.4MP files – that's impressive stuff, and not far off the 20.9MP resolution of both the D500 or D7500. There's also a new 1:1 aspect ratio at 30.2MP.

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

Compared to the D500 (and, for that matter, the D5), the Nikon D850 has quite a modest ISO ceiling of 25,600, with a native base sensitivity of ISO64. This is no surprise really when you consider how densely populated the sensor is, but there is an extended sensitivity range up to an ISO equivalent of 108,400 (Hi2), while landscape photographers will be happy to learn that the D850 also has a Lo1 setting equivalent to ISO32.

The D850 sports a new 0.75x optical viewfinder – that's the largest magnification factor ever on an FX Nikon DSLR, and also a touch bigger than the 0.71x viewfinder on the 5DS. Unlike the D810, the D850 also features a tilt-angle, 3.2-inch 2,359,000-dot touchscreen. It's similar in spec to the one on the D500, but offers greater touch control, enabling you to navigate the menus as well as touch to focus, trigger the shutter and review images. 

The D850 can shoot 4K UHD video in FX format with no sensor cropping at up to 30p, allowing you to take full advantage of the field of view of your lenses. Lower-resolution video modes are also available, including Full HD footage in 60p, while 4K UHD timelapse movies can be created in-camera.

If 4K timelapse footage isn't quite enough for you, the D850 can also create a full resolution time-lapse videos in third-party software thanks to the camera's built-in intervalometer – you can now create a new folder and reset the file numbering for each timelapse sequence, and avoid the rigmarole of stripping out the desired files yourself.

The D850 drops the CompactFlash card slot that was on the D810 in favor of an XQD slot

There's also an electronic Vibration Reduction system to reduce the impact of camera shake when shooting movies handheld, and there are ports for an external microphone and audio monitoring.

The D850 drops the CompactFlash card slot that was on the D810 in favor of an XQD slot and the performance advantages that brings (although at the moment Nikon is the only manufacturer to take up this storage format on its cameras), while the SD card slot supports cards up to UHS-II. 

The D850 gets Nikon's SnapBridge connectivity for wireless transfer of images, which establishes a low-energy Bluetooth connection between the camera and your smart device. Images can then be transferred from camera to device via as you shoot at either 2MP or full resolution (though we'd avoid this with 45.4MP files), or individually if you select images on the camera. For speedier Wi-Fi transfers you can use the app to browse and select the images you desire.