Compared to the Sony a7R II
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Compared to the Sony a7R II

Compared to Sony's a7R II, the D850 is likely to be more satisfying as a strictly stills camera. It's tougher, offers vastly better battery life, slightly higher resolution, probably better dynamic range at base ISO, and ergonomically it's more refined. While it lacks in-camera stabilization, features like illuminated controls and touch-sensitivity are the kind of little extras that will, I suspect, end up being hugely appreciated by some photographers.

For a stills-oriented user the D850 is probably the smarter option

The a7R II is a superior video camera, and as such a better hybrid camera, but for a strictly stills-oriented user the D850 is probably the smarter option. I don't want to get too deep into the thorny question of lenses, but it's also worth considering that while Sony's E-mount is relatively new, the D850 is fully compatible with a huge number of high-quality AF and manual focus lenses, going back decades.

The newer Sony a9 is more competitive when it comes to core stills photography performance, but of course at a much lower resolution.

Points in the D850's favor:

  • (Slightly) higher resolution
  • Wider dynamic range (at ISO 64)
  • Tougher, more durable build
  • Touch-sensitive rear LCD
  • Illuminated controls
  • Much better battery life
  • Wider range of compatible lenses

Points in the a7R II's favor:

  • Better video specification
  • In-camera image stabilization
  • On-sensor PDAF in live view and movie modes
  • Smaller, lighter body