First Look and Review of the Nikon D850

I was really excited to see that Nikon announced the much-anticipated upgrade to their large-megapixel line of DSLR cameras. As of this writing, the Nikon D850 appears to be sold out in many stores, so I wanted a chance to be able to check it out before I committed to buying it. I went to Borrowlenses and rented it for the weekend. I want to share my observations as well as image samples with you!

Nikon D850 and Image Blur

The D850 has a 45.7 megapixel, backside-illuminated full frame sensor, which I think will produce images with some incredible detail. That said, with something that big in terms of megapixels, you’ll have to consider how much storage will impact your overall workflow – from memory cards as well as the processing on your computer. Jumping to the D810 caused me to rethink my storage options, so you know 45+ megapixels will have some additional impact.

The Nikon D850 has a back-side illuminated sensor that achieves extraordinary image quality, enhanced light gathering efficiency, faster data readout, and truer color.

This can also affect how you shoot with the camera. As a general rule of thumb, most cameras will be prone to a little bit of blur when shooting slower than the focal length of the lens. For example, if you’re shooting at 200mm, you wouldn’t want to shoot anything slower than 1/200th of a second without some stabilization. When I first moved to shooting a camera with 36MP, I noticed that this general rule needed to be tweaked a little bit more. At 45MP, you are really going to want to consider keeping the camera as steady as possible when you’re shooting at slower shutter speeds. Make sure you exercise good technique: elbows in, lean against something sturdy, and use image stabilization if possible. Keeping these simple things in mind, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing shots.

Nikon D850’s 3 RAW Modes, ISO, and Focus


Taken with the Nikon D850 and a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens at f/11 and ISO 400 with a 3 second exposure.

One of the things I’m excited about on the D850 is the ability to not have to shoot with the full 45.7MP if you don’t need to. The camera can be switched to a Medium Raw Format that’s about 25.5MP and a Small Format of 11.3MP. The upside? You can shoot at the full resolution at 7 frames per second, which is amazingly fast considering how much data you are pulling in. I personally am welcoming the option of being able to shoot at 45MP when I need it but switching down to 11MP when I don’t need that much size. Think, for an example, a wedding. Your main ceremony and portraits could get the larger size while you can reserve the smaller size for things like the reception.

The other standout features on the D850 is the the ISO and focus. Native ISO is from 64 all the way to 25,600. Being able to shoot that low could give you an extra stop to be able to shoot at a shallower depth of field in brighter light.

Nikon D850 Sample ISO Image 25600

Taken with the Nikon D850 and a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens at 1/30th of a second, f/11, and ISO 25,600.

The ISO range is about double of what you would expect out of something like the D810. You can shoot the D850 at 25,600 ISO and get as clean a shot as a D810 produces at 12,800. In other words, you get a huge reduction in noise. Having that extra ISO performance is going to be a boon for photographers who need to shoot in low light.

Additionally, the D850 has 153 focus points with 99 cross-type sensors, it offers 130% more coverage than the D810, and can find focus at about four stops under normal exposure to lock in that shot in super dark scenarios.

Silent Mode, LCD Touchscreen, and Video


Taken with the Nikon D850 and a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens at 1/125th of a second, f/5.6, and ISO 100.

The ISO and focus performance go incredibly well with another killer feature on this camera: silent mode. Hearing a shutter click when there’s no noise around can be really off-putting. Switch the camera into Live View and use Silent Photography Mode to shoot at 6 FPS in total silence. No more awkward looks at a wedding or dance recital. You’re getting great images at incredible ISOs and no one has to hear about it! For shots that require you to place the camera in weird positions, you also have a tilting touchscreen LCD. Settings buttons illuminate for easy shooting at night.

Videographers will also love key features, like 4K at 30 FPS and slow motion shooting at at 1080p. Also enjoy Touch to Focus and Focus Peaking right on the LCD – with zero crop factor. You can even do 4K UHD time-lapses in-camera, as well as 8K time-lapses using the interval timer.

Download Sample Files For the Nikon D850


Taken with the Nikon D850 and a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II lens at 1/250th of a second, f/5.6, and ISO 400.

While these are some of the standout features of the D850, there are plenty of other things to get excited about: view modes, in-camera HDR, cool picture controls, and SnapBridge, which lets you see the pictures you take right on your phone. Nikon included some of the best features of their other cameras on top of all the new features.

Nikon D850 Overview of Sample Downloads

Download sample imagery from the D850 (for personal and educational use only).

Download sample pictures to get an overall feel for the camera. Keep in mind that the files are big, so the download is almost 1GB in size. Be sure your software is fully updated before trying to view these NEF (RAW) files. These will give you an idea for how the files look out of camera. You be able to see how much latitude you have in the RAW files for processing.

Click here to download the D850 sample images. (867MB)

I’m happy to get some time to play with the D850 and see if it works with my workflow. Blog posts can only give you part of the picture as to whether you should purchase one. To me, the only way to get fully informed is to kick the tires for yourself. Give yourself the time and images you need to confirm if this is the camera for you. As of this writing, the Nikon D850 is available to rent for as little as $125 (retails $3,299).

RC is the founder of First Shot School, an award winning photographer and author of the best selling books Get Your Photography On the Web , The HDR Book, and The Enthusiast's Guide to Lightroom. He worked as Director of Content and Education for Kelby Media Group and host of the popular podcasts Photography Tips and Tricks and The Grid. A sought after public speaker, he has held training seminars around the world and has served as guest instructor for the Digital Landscape Workshop Series with Moose Peterson, Advanced Flash Photography at Jade Mountain with Joe McNally, and His Light workshops with famed landscape photographer Bill Fortney.

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