The Latest & Greatest: Nikon D850

Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go. I am decidedly not a gear-head. I never do reviews of photo equipment in which I delve into performance curves, charts and statistics, most of which I believe is entirely besides the point.

What I want to know - and what I try to tell my readers - is does the darned thing work as it should under the conditions we will experience in the field. Note my emphasis here.

In any event, this is just a first impressions blog. I’ll have a more detailed review after I’ve had a few months of shooting experience with it under widely divergent field conditions.

In the Hand

I just received my Nikon D850 last week. First the physical characteristics; when I picked up the D850 I immediately noticed that it feels great in the hand. The grip is sculpted better than in the D810 for a firmer hand hold. In fact, for the past five days I haven’t yet located the UpStrap I removed from my D810, so I’ve had to shoot without a strap. I never feel as if the camera will fall out of my hands. Not only is the grip sculpted, but the materials used to coat the camera gives it a non-slip grip.

If you already own a D810 or D800, you will automatically adjust to the D850. There is nothing revolutionary about the 850, more like evolutionary. The ISO button is now a stand-alone on the upper right side of the camera, which I really like.

The addition of a function button on the left hand rear column of buttons is appreciated as well, so we now have an extra, easy to access customized function button.

New with the D850 is a rear touch screen. Just inputting my copyright info turned the chore into a breeze rather than a frustration. However, see Negatives below

I also love the focus toggle button which allows one to move thye focus point quickly with the thumb (see negatives, below)

I saved the best physical change for last. The 850 has an articulating screen. Finally. Landscape shooters will really appreciate that addition. However, why on Earth Nikon did not engineer it to articulate in the vertical direction is beyond me. My medium format Fuji GFX articulates in both directions. Why is it that Nikon is always a day late and a dollar short?

Functional Things

Just a few functional issues before I run. The increased 7 frames per second rate is welcome for those of us who shoot wildlife. I’m really looking forward to making use of that frame rate when I lead two safaris in Tanzania and Uganda in June 2018.

Focus acquisition with the D850 is lightning fast and highly accurate, even in poor lighting conditions. I see an immediate, if subtle, increase in dynamic range, very welcome even though the D810 was quite good. Coupled with the 45MP sensor, I find the D850 files to be very pleasing, even more so than the D810, which itself was a huge improvement over the D700 or even the D800, in my opinion.

I did try out the built-in focus stacking. It works very well, sets up easily and does a reputable job.

The like the thought put into the button placement and to the on-screen info that can be customized. Since I have been shooting Nikon professionally for decades, I have to say that the D850 fits like a pair of gloves. New gloves, that is, meaning I have to get a bit more experience with it before I declare them comfortable.

Negatives

I do have a few negatives that I’ve bumped into in just a few short days. The most frustrating one is the focus screen. On my Fuji GFX, I can move the focus point to anywhere on the screen. Not so with my D850. The D850 still retains that middle of the screen swath of focus points that is incredibly frustrating, especially when I switch from my Fuji system to my D850. I have been railing about this to Nikon for years.

I already mentioned the fact that the articulating screen does not incorporate vertical tilting. Come on, Nikon!

Another “bug” is that the touch screen only works with some functions. Why not finish the job? How about a software upgrade ASAP?

Summary

If you are already a Nikon user, then the D850 is a worthy successor to the D810. However, if you already have a D810, you should not feel any urge to upgrade. I’m not convinced the $3,300 price tag is worth it.

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