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Nikon improves the full-frame experience with the D850

Create: 08/27/2017 - 14:21
Nikon D850


  • Nikon's first full-frame DSLR to use a back-side illuminated CMOS sensor
  • Impressive 1,840-shot battery life
  • Can record 4K UHD 3,840x2,160 video

Nikon's newest full-frame digital SLR brings increased resolution and 4K video.

The Nikon D850 uses a full-frame 45.7-MP DX CMOS back-side illuminated sensor, its first DSLR to incorporate BSI technology. This model replaces the D810 in Nikon's lineup.

The sensor has an ISO range of 64-25,600, which can be extended lower to 32 and upward to 102,400. Nikon has removed the low-pass filter in front of the sensor, which should provide for sharper photos.

Nikon said the target market for this camera includes professional photographers and videographers. In its press release, Nikon touts that the camera "approaches medium format-level resolution."

“The Nikon D850 is much more than a camera, rather it’s a statement that Nikon is continuing to listen to customer needs, to innovate for the next 100 years, and bring to market a full-frame DSLR that exceeds the expectations of the professionals that rely on this caliber of camera to make a living,” Kosuke Kawaura, Nikon's director of marketing and planning, said in a press release.


Images and video are saved to SD cards. The D850 has two memory card slots, and one accepts high-speed QXD cards. Each slot can be set as the primary storage device or for saving RAW files to one card and JPGs to the other. Images can be copied between the two cards. The D850 uses Nikon's EXPEED 5, its latest in-body image-processing system.

The Nikon D850 uses the Nikon F bayonet and is fully compatible with the latest lenses that use an electromagnetic aperture, as well as older auto- and manual-focus AI lenses. However, the body is not compatible with IX lenses from Nikon's APS film cameras, nor can it mount lenses made specifically for the F3AF or non-AI optics.

This camera now has electronic aperture control, and the camera can use lenses that have a manual apreture. The D850 has a depth-of-field control on the body.

When DX (APS-C) lenses are mounted, the body automatically adjusts the view. By the way, this camera uses a true pentaprism with 0.75X viewfinder magnification.

The camera has several shooting formats, including full frame, 1.2X, APS-C, 5:4 and 1:1 square.

Autofoucs is accomplished via Nikon's Advanced Multi-CAM 20K module, which uses 9, 25, 72, or 153 point dynamic-area AF, 3D-tracking or group-area AF.


The D850 has both mechanical and electronic shutters. Both have a speed range of 1/8,000 to 30 seconds plus B. It's unusual that the top speed for the electronic shutter is the same as the manual shutter, as many cameras with an electronic shutter option have a top speed in the 1/10,000-1/30,000 range.

The electronic shutter can be used in Live View mode only, which Nikons says enables the ability to take photos in near silence.

The DS8560 can shoot as quickly as nine frames per second, but that rate drops to three frames per second when shooting Live View.

Live View is controlled via a touchscreen 3.2-inch LCD monitor that has a 170º tilt range.


For videographers, the D8750 can record 4K Ultra HD resolution at several different frame rates, as well as Full HD at up to 60 frames per second. Video recordings are limited to 29 minutes 59 seconds.

Focus peaking and zebra striping are available while shooting video.

Being a camera intended for professionals, the D850 lacks a built-in flash. It can synch with Nikon's line of Speedlights at a maximum shutter speed of 1/250 either through the camera's hot shoe or through wired synchronization or Nikon's wireless remote system.

The Nikon D850 brings one feature that has been showing up in mirrorless cameras: Focus stacking. Nikon's version allows it to shoot up to 300 photos at various focus distances. The photographer can then assemble the images into a single image, allowing it to have more than one focal point.

Battery life is very impressive. With a single EN-EL15a lithium-ion battery in place, the Nikon D850 is rated for about 1,840 shots on a single charge or can record about 70 minutes of HD video. The MB-D18 Multi Power Battery Pack can be used with either two EN-EL15 batteries or six AA batteries and extend shooting for up to 5,140 shots.

There are inputs for a microphone, headphones and USB 3.0, while output includes an HDMI Type C connector. There also is a 10-pin terminal for Nikon's wired and wireless remote control systems.

One interesting feature is the ability to turn the D850 into a slide or negative scanner, using Nikon's ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter and compatible Micro-NIKKOR lens.

The Nikon D850 is 5.8 x 4.9 x 3.1 inches (146 x 124 x 78.5 mm) and weighs 32.2 ounces (915 grams).

The camera (body only) will be available in September 2017 and will cost US$3,299.95.

About the Author

Mike Elek is a longtime journalist and was one of the original editors for The Wall Street Journal Online. He also has worked as a reporter and editor in Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Vineland, N.J.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; New York City; and Hong Kong. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He shoots with film and digital cameras.