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Review: Nikon D850

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No camera is perfect, but the Nikon D850 is a very, very good, well-rounded, high-performance, full frame DSLR.If you’re a sports, action, concert, wildlife, landscape photographer requiring extra-high image quality, commensurate with high performance mechanics, the D850 is worth serious consideration.

The D850’s auto-focus outperforms most other Nikons, and though the company claims that it shares an autofocus with the flagship D5, when it comes to action and speed, the D5 is nearly singular in it superior autofocus capabilities — however the D850 doesn’t need to beat the D5 to still be a genuinely solid final candidate, particularly in the Nikon universe.

By way of a laundry list of impressive items this camera checks off: a highest of all Nikons 46.7 MP BSI CMOS full-frame image sensor, rugged magnesium alloy shell with weatherproofing, sealed buttons, dials and switches. 4K video, an impressive ISO range, a Multi-CAM 20K autofocus system offering 153 autofocus points and 99 sensitive cross-type points for adaptability between portrait and landscape — and the autofocus sensitivity in darkness isn’t bad either, though this camera certainly tracks better in ample light. That said, as far as other Nikons go, its -4 EV beats out the old D810’s -2 EV. This quiet beast also shoots a solid 7 fps, or 9 fps with optional battery back, and that’s double the D810’s and or the D800’s 4-5fps,

As for the sensor, rather than licensing from Sony, Nikon designed this one their selves, — which you’d absolutely expect for a 100th anniversary year model from this legend, and the back-illuminated BSI CMOS is also a company-first, and a substantive, measurable upgrade in image quality over its predecessors. At 45.7 MP – up from the D810’s 36.3 MP – the D850 is great for gallery photographers who like to enlarge their work. The D850 also boasts a solid ISO range and a low base, its native sensitivity spanning from 64 to 25,600, and going as low as the equivalent of 32 and high as 102,400 with boosted sensitivity. For photographers who love shallow depth of field, that super low ISO will come in handy for better bokeh.

Video operates well across the ISO range, and the D850 also provides full auto ISO with exposure compensation when shooting in manual mode, which puts the camera in control of manipulating sensitivity by adhering to your brightness presets. The D850 is also the first Nikon to shoot in 4K, and it shows. It only offers focus peaking and digital stabilization in 1080 mode, though there are a few nifty features like an in-camera time-lapse option. Nikon regulars are coming into the D850 with lower video expectations and aren’t likely to be discouraged because the real story here is image quality.

The ergonomics and overall design of the D850 are much improved, albeit requiring a “who moved the furniture?” learning curve for some Nikon regulars, while the tilting, touch-screen LCD monitor will free-up some shooters in estimable ways. The wi-fi and (debate-starting) Snapbridge cover essential bases, though oddly (to our minds), Nikon did not include a built-in GPS for this durable, go-anywhere workhorse, so landscape and travel photographers will need to purchase an external GP-1A GPS adapter.

Ultimately, Nikon put a great deal of thought into this generalist camera. It falls a bit short with video, and doesn’t quite live up to the hype of its autofocus, but it’s still a solid choice for Nikon photographers looking to upgrade and a worthwhile consideration for anyone seeking a rugged, high-performance, versatile DSLR.

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