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Nikon D850 - key features review

April 14, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

It was just a matter of time, but once Nikon announced the D850, I knew at some point I just had to get one.  I got mine about three weeks ago.  I traded in my D810 and sold my nice stereo system to take some of the bite out of the upgrade cost.

I won't cover any of the technical features as there are a ton of excellent reviews on the internet that do a great job of it.  But I will say, they all seem to be true.  Sum it up to say, it's one great camera.

Before you go out an get one, let me tell you about some of the potential hidden costs that surprised me a bit.  

(1) This camera upgrades the memory cards needed.  It has two card slots. One for an XQD card.  The advantage of this card is that its very fast and can handle the very large RAW files of this camera.  The other slot is for SD card.  Its recommended you use the UHS-II format.  You can use a regular SD card but it you use burst mode, you'll likely have buffering issues as well as a longer download time into your computer.  Both of these cards are a lot more expensive than the regular SD cards. Sony pretty much is the only provider of the XQD cards currently.  You'll have to wait a couple of weeks to get them as every retailer has them on backorder.  Given the expense, I will no longer keep my cards as a final backup source but have to rely on my external hard drive backup process.

(2)  The battery grip of the D810 will not fit.  You'll need to get the MDB-18 grip.  So add another $400 there if you want the grip.  Also, if you want to achieve the 9fps rate, you'll have to use the battery grip or you'll only 7fps without it.

(3) Then, of course, you will need new tripod plates if you use them.  I use the Really Right Stuff plates so I got their new L-plate for the D850.  Its a beast and is price accordingly at $200.

(4) Since the Nikon removed the pop-up flash from the D850, you'll likely need to get a radio trigger to fire your flashes.  You still can use a camera mounted flash to use Nikon's CLS system but most photographers recommend going the radio trigger route to avoid the limitations of the line-of-sight limitations on their optical system.  I bought the Phottix Odin II TTL transmitter and receivers.  Again, this will mean additional cost if you want to use off camera flash.

(5) Contrary to the camera's hype, I do not seem to be getting better battery life.  It actually seems to drain batteries faster.  While I haven't been out for a full days' outing yet, I don't think one battery will be enough.  I plan to bring three batteries in total for a full day's shooting.  There are contradicting reviews on battery life on different forums.

(6) With the largest RAW file size, you'll be going through more memory cards.  For me, I will likely need to buy two new 5TB hard drives once my current drives fill up this year.  This is bound to happen.  It will just happen sooner with these large files.

But besides these factors, its a beautiful camera. There are so many improvements to the D850.  I'll cover some of the ones I really like so far.

(1)  Higher resolution.  A huge 45.7MP sensor.  Enough said.

​​​​​​​(2)  Focus peaking.  If you set your lens and the camera to manual focus and use Live View, you are able to see areas of focus outlined in red (or 3 other colors you can use). This will be very good for getting totally sharp focus throughout your photos. For macros, you won't have to guess what parts are in focus.  You can take a series of shots, placing the focus where you want it and stack the resulting photos in post processing.  For landscapes, you can do the same thing.  I'll likely use it for getting a sharp focus on the foreground, middle and background.  Can't wait to really start testing it.

(3)  Focus shift.  Here you let the camera take a series of different photos (up to 100) are varying focal points to later be stacked in post processing.  This automates the process.  This will be a great too for macro photography.  You also have the option of placing the resulting photos in their own folder so you don't have to remember the first and last frames of the sequence.

(4)  9 frames per second if you use the Nikon MBD-18 battery grip.  I don't do a lot of high speed photography but its there if you need it.

(5) 4K video.  Look at other web reviews for this area but its suppose to be fantastic.

(6)  Much better live view.  The screen has great resolution for using live view.  On my old D810, I didn't even bother with live view to shoot.  Just not clear enough.  Well, problem solved.  You also have the ability to use the touch screen for selecting your focus point.  There are more options on live view that I'm still exploring but I will likely use live view much more with this camera.

(7)  Touch screen.  Nikon has caught up with mirrorless cameras with the touch screen.  It works well.  Its nice flipping through menus or photos with a simple swipe.

(8)  New location for ISO button.  From the left side dial, they moved the ISO button to near the shutter so its easier to adjust all the elements of the exposure triangle with your right hand.  I'll have to train my muscle memory with the change but it will be better.

(9) Easy exposure compensation.  Before I knew about this I was bummed out since the normal exposure compensation button by the shutter release has been made more flush with the camera body.  Therefore its not as easy to feel where it is and push.  But then I found out about easy exposure compensation.  If you are in aperture priority mode, you can use the rear dial to change the exposure compensation.  Really easy.

(10) Flip screen.  A great addition.  Solid construction.  Can fully tilt down or up.  This will be great for getting low to the ground or when you want to raise your tripod to shoot from a higher vantage point.  I do wish it could move right and left.  Oh well.

(11) Multiple raw format sizes.  You can select from one of three RAW file sizes.  From small (11.4MP), medium (25.6MP) to large (45.7MP).

Those are the main features I like.  I'm sure I'll be finding many more as I explore the camera and go out on some photo outings.  But if you can bear the additional cost, I don't think you'll be disappointed.  Let me know if you have any questions.


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