In the first part of this article, I wrote about the camera I've used most in 2017 – the Leica M10. In Part 2, I want to write about a camera that I've used very little. In fact, aside from bringing it to my eye and playing around with the reviewable sample that came into our office earlier this year, I've barely even managed to get my hands on it.

That camera is the Nikon D850. Undeniably one of the most important products of 2017 (and in terms of traffic, definitely among the most popular on DPReview) the D850 is an impressive DSLR by any measure.

The Nikon D810 is one of our favorite DSLRs of the past several years

It used to be the case that if you wanted high-resolution stills, you had to make do with a relatively slow camera. And conversely, if you wanted high-speed capture and ultra-long battery life, you had to drop $5000-6000 on a pro-grade camera that didn't have the pixel-count required for really demanding applications. The Nikon D810 is one of our favorite DSLRs of the past several years, but its excellent resolution and unrivaled dynamic range at ISO 64 came at the expense of relatively slow continuous shooting, and (somewhat mysteriously) poor low-light autofocus performance compared to the flagship D5.

The D850's wide dynamic range at its low ISO sensitivity settings enables shots like these (taken at ISO 125) which contain detail and true color everywhere from the deepest shadows to the highlight areas. Shot from a moving vehicle (hence the slightly softness at very close examination), this image is a great illustration of the D850's versatility.

Photo by Carey Rose

On paper, the D850 offers the best of both worlds, and in practice, it generally lives up to its potential. A pixel count of 47MP almost matches the Canon EOS 5DS/R for resolution, while a maximum frame-rate of 9fps with an accessory grip and D5 battery means that in terms of speed, it's not far off Canon and Nikon's flagship pro-grade DSLRs (albeit for an additional premium of $1000). The D850's 153-point AF system is lifted from the D5, and while the D5 has the edge when it comes to tracking (possibly thanks to its greater on-board data processing power) the D850 generally performs well, and definitely outperforms its nearest competition. In low light, the contrast between the D850's autofocus performance and that of its predecessor is pretty stark.

The D850's large, bright finder is a beautiful thing

I've been shooting with a Nikon D810 for several years as my primary camera, and there isn't a single area of its feature set which Nikon has not upgraded in the D850. Even the viewfinder experience has been improved; the D850's large, bright finder is a beautiful thing. So why haven't I spent more time with it?

Can you see this too? OK, good.

Photo by Carey Rose

The short, boring answer is that I've been kept busy with other projects (and other cameras) and unsurprisingly given its performance, the D850 is also in pretty high demand among our writers when it comes to weekend photography trips and events. But there's another reason.

I've called the D810 and 24-120mm F4 combination 'boringly capable' in articles on DPReview in the past and I really meant it. While obviously there are things that a constant-aperture F4 zoom can't do, that lens, attached to the D810, lets me do pretty much everything I need to – from quick grab shots on the street to architectural and landscape studies. When the 24-120mm can't cut it (distortion can be an issue in some situations, for example, and it's a bit limiting in poor light) I switch for my 35mm and 50mm primes.

I know that if I grab the D850 for a weekend I will probably end up wanting one

While the D850 is clearly greatly improved over the D810, I've never had a reason to curse its predecessor, or wish for much in the way of improvement. If I still shot live music regularly I might feel compelled to spend the extra money just for backlit controls and improved low-light AF, but I don't, so I won't.

At least for now, my D810 is as 'boringly capable' as it always was. In all honestly, I know that if I grab the D850 for a weekend and shoot a few hundred frames with it I will probably end up really wanting one – and not having $3000 burning a hole in my pocket, or a third kidney, I can't afford to do that right now.

I don't know who these people are, but they've spent more time in close proximity to the D850 than me.

Photo by Carey Rose

So I don't own one (even though I'd like to), and I've barely used it. I didn't take any of the pictures in this article, or in the gallery linked below. Then why on earth is the D850 one of my two picks for the best gear of 2017? Well, just look at it, for heaven's sake. It's such a good camera. I mean seriously, it's hard to imagine how much more advanced a DSLR could be. For all of the improvements that have been made in mirrorless cameras over the past few years, the D850 still offers a combination of power, image quality, and luxurious handling (including that gorgeous viewfinder) which is hard to argue with.

I say 'hard to argue with' rather than impossible, because I'm sure that some people will still argue about it (feel free to jump to the comments), but this is my article and I can write what I want. In my opinion, for all of the doom and gloom spoken about the company in the past couple of years, the D850 proves one essential fact: Nikon knows how to make great cameras.

Nikon D850 Sample Gallery