Body & Camera Features

The D850 will present no great surprises for D810 shooters: but the addition of a dedicated AF point joystick is likely to be welcome.

The D850's body is primarily made from magnesium alloy and fairly closely resembles the D810. The newer model gains a D750-style flip up/down cradle for its rear screen, which is not only much higher in resolution but also touch sensitive. Unlike the D5 and D500, this touch sensitivity can be used in live view mode and for navigating menus, as well as for in playback mode.

The camera's grip has been reworked, making it more comfortable than the D810 when holding the camera for long periods or with heavy lens combinations.

The most obvious visual difference between the cameras is a different viewfinder hump, with the new camera having no built-in flash. Instead, strobe users will have to make do with the flash sync socket or purchase the WR- radio control trigger set (the WR-A10, WR-R10 and WR-T10 that allow remote triggering of the camera or remote control of radio compatible flashguns such as the Speedlight SB-5000).

Nikon says that the removal of the onboard flash allows the D850 to be better weather-sealed than the D810, since there are fewer seams on the top of the camera to protect against moisture ingress.

Autofocus hardware

As with the Nikon D5, the D850 has a 153-point AF system featuring 99 cross-type points. The central AF point is rated as working in light as low as -4EV, with the rest still active at -3EV (and, since the metering sensor is meant to work down to this level too, it may still be possible to use the camera's 3D tracking mode in these very low light conditions). Fifteen of the camera's AF points clustered near the center of the frame will work with lens + teleconverter combinations with maximum apertures of just F8, which should make it useful for pursuits such as birding.

This Multi-Cam 20K AF system, like the D5's, offers a good degree of frame coverage for a full frame camera: 30% wider than on the D810, the company says. The move from the D810's 91,000-pixel metering sensor to the D5's 180,000-pixel chip should improve subject recognition. This and the inclusion of a dedicated AF processor means the D850 should be a match for the D5, which can keep AF points on a moving subject even in continuous shooting, rather than subject tracking performance dropping noticeably during bursts, as the D810's did.

So far as we can tell, the only significant difference between the D850's AF system and the D5's is the viewfinder display. The D5 has an organic electro-luminescent display layer that allows it to light the active AF points as they change in 3D tracking mode, the D850 has an LCD layer on which the points only light up when they're manually moved or when focus is initiated or acquired.

Viewfinder

The removal of the camera's built-in flash frees up room for a new viewfinder, so magnification is able to leap from 0.7x to 0.75x which is the largest optical viewfinder on any Nikon DSLR. The larger finder, which features a new condenser lens and an aspherical element in the design, retains a reasonable (17mm) eye point, we're told, so the whole scene should be visible even for most glasses wearers.