Nikon D850: 'first impressions' review from the Great Bear Rainforest

Started Sep 28, 2017 | User reviews thread
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LifeNature Junior Member • Posts: 46
Nikon D850: 'first impressions' review from the Great Bear Rainforest

About two weeks ago I had the opportunity to obtain a D850 from my local retailer after telling them I was really keen to try it out on an upcoming trip to the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada. Not sure if that was the convincing factor, but they did give (let me buy) a copy just in time, in addition to the MB-D18 battery pack to get to that promised 9 frames/second.

On my 'review menu' were: ability to focus in poor light, resolution, dynamic range at low and high ISOs (low ISO DR for combination of darks and lights; high ISOs for dark bears in low light), frames/sec., editing ease, colour correctness, processing speed etc.

With my Nikon 600mm f/4E FL attached, my expectations were pretty high. I shot mostly hand-held, and often at shutter speeds above 1/1000 s., which meant I mostly used VR 'Sport' on my 600mm; a topic which I posted earlier on DPReview (Reflections on the new Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4 E FL).

Some of the conclusions so far:

Dynamic range both at low and high ISOs is just great. Other sites are starting to post on this as well; very little noise until ISO 6400 and certainly easy to manage in your favourite editing software (I use Nik in Photoshop long as it works I guess as our friends from Google have stopped development, different topic...). Shadows which I felt were lost or highlights seemingly blown, are recovered just fine. Very nice.

Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/4, 1/1250 s., ISO 720, -0.7 exp. comp.

Colour/white balance: similar story as with the D500: just comes out perfect with ViewNX-i (I don't like NX-D too much as it takes ages on my MacBook). ACR doesn't understand the D850 RAW info and the colours are just horrible. I'm therefore exporting from ViewNX-i to one or more TIFFs (different exposure) and import into PS.

Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/4, 1/1250 s., ISO 500, +0.3 exp. comp.

Resolution and fps: this is THE winning feature of Nikon's new toy. It truly fires at 9 fps (I tested without the battery pack and it was indeed going from 9 to 7 fps) and with those 46 MP (45.7) you can crop as much as you like (within limits off course). You get the frames, and you get the pixels, and when you're going through your images it's amazing how much detail you have in each of the shots in your (9 fps) series. The result: better chance to find your winning shot and better chance to get your image to where you want it.

So what are the caveats (as there always are)?

First, and something known with the D800/810 series as well: I quickly noticed I had to increase my shutter speed to get really tack sharp images. The images were often sharp, but not 100%, tack sharp. It seemed to help when I increased my shutter speed from let's say 1/800 s. to 1/1250 or 1/1600 s. (I try to avoid 1/1000 due to the VR sample frequency; see link above on my topic posted earlier on DPReview). Off course it didn't help that I was hand-holding my D850/600mm set on a rocky river boat... but with my D4S it would have been a different story (i.e. shutter speed). So what this effectively means is that Nikon will have to change its VR design if the sensors are going to go up on pixels. Or release full frame mirrorless cameras with perfect sensor stabilisation (fingers crossed).

Then those 46MP files... so now that I have a D850, I have to buy a new computer as well. My current MacBook Pro (not the slowest on earth) is taking ages to process a 46MP file (D500/D750 files are no problem). And if I make a couple of changes that's about it: I can wait minutes for something to happen. While I have no evidence whatsoever, I have a 6th sense telling me the new MacBooks (capped at 16 GB max. internal memory) might not suffice either, which means I have to wait for Apple to invent a new computing architecture or get a Windows one. Not keen on both...

To end on a more positive note: the D850 sensor (size & quality) is something else. While I will try the 8K time-lapse feature (I did record 4K time-lapse @ 30 fps and it took me ages), a night-time shot of the galaxy showed me just what those 46 million pixels are able to produce. A (at least) pixel for each star/galaxy out there... quite a bit different from our human eye.

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G on Nikon D850, f/2.8, 20 s., ISO 320

Other images and reflections can be found on my personal blog. For my next review I'll include a comparison between the D4S, D500, and D850 - quite relevant as I have sort of come to the conclusion I may not need the D4S anymore (or D5 for that matter) now that Nikon has released the D850.

Comments and feedback welcome!

Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/4, 1/1250 s., ISO 1600, -0.7 exp. comp.

Nikon D850
45 megapixels • 3.2 screen • Full frame sensor
Announced: Jul 25, 2017
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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm F4E FL ED VR Nikon D4S Nikon D5 Nikon D500 Nikon D850
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