The Nikon D850 [initial impressions – micro-review].

“The Nikon D850 represents the first digital camera in 10 years that finally has me switching from Leica back to Nikon.  Without hesitation.”

—Peter | Prosophos

Nikon has certainly been on a successful roll over the past 18 months.  They got it right with the APS-C (crop) sensor D500 (a camera that just works) and the 105mm f/1.4 and 28mm f/1.4 lenses.

And now they’ve done it again with the D850.

That’s all you need to know… but I feel compelled to say more.

As many of you are aware, I’ve been a Leica rangefinder photographer for the last 10 years, shooting with both Leica M8 and M9 bodies.  During this time, I’ve made several attempts to go back to DSLRs, for many reasons including Leica‘s tenuous grasp of modern electronics, corroding CCD sensors, SD card incompatibilities, drifting rangefinder focus, loosening strap lugs, unique Tomato Face™ sensor technology, overheating cameras, disengaging ISO dials, etc., etc., etc.  Need I say more?  However,  DSLRs have always come up short with respect to image quality and even autofocus (for f/1.4 lenses anyway — I’m looking at you D810… which is a camera that arguably has comparable image quality, but what is the point when at f/1.4 imprecise focusing often creates blurry images?).  Moreover, I prefer photographing with rangefinders so they are always at an advantage for my attention over their DSLR brethren.  However…

The Nikon D850 represents the first digital camera in 10 years that finally has me switching from Leica back to Nikon.  Without hesitation.

Paired with one of the newer Nikon prime lenses, the D850 image quality is the best I’ve seen in the 35mm digital format, and I’m saying this even though so far I’ve been limited to working with JPGs.  I can’t wait to coax more out of the RAW files once Lightroom is updated to handle them.

And like its little brother the D500, the D850 gets every detail right:  a beautiful viewfinder, accurate autofocus, superior build quality (it is seriously impressive), a just-right grip, illuminated buttons, true-to-life colours out of the sensor, accurate white balance, etc. (I can go on and on.)  More importantly, it blends all of these attributes together in a seamless manner and just gets out of the way when photographing and this is what matters most to me.

At this point, I know I will be criticized for my outright gushing over the D850.  But keep in mind that I buy my own gear and do not receive compensation from any of the camera manufacturers, so my opinion is mine alone.

As is always the case, your needs/wants will likely differ from mine.  For my own use, however, the D850 will be my full frame digital camera of choice for the foreseeable future.




9 thoughts on “The Nikon D850 [initial impressions – micro-review].

  1. Gage Caudell says:

    Not surprised with the move. I know you really enjoy the D500. I’ve shot with Nikon in the past and they really do make good camera. My only problem is size in regards to portability. That is where Leica M system and mirrorless camera’s shine. Look forward to seeing more post.

  2. PhotoMatrix says:

    I thought it was the D850… I actually had a quick play with it (5 mins only) in a shop and it felt weird after so many years without a DSLR. I am happy that you found a digital camera that captures the world they way you see it and hopefully inspires you to use it more, even in the dark winter! How do you cope with the size of it? Do you find it easy to carry it with you while you have your coffee etc? Also, I notice some slight redness in the skins but it may be my browser/monitor. Are you happy with the skin tones? Thanks, K

  3. Still using my D800 must see how the D850 compares, thank for sharing

  4. I am enjoying my D850. So far very impressed with the image quality especially the High ISO. I have used my Sigma Art 50 f 1.4, my Nikon 85 mm f 1.4 G, and Nikon 14-24 f 2.8G. I sold my Nikon 24-70 f 2.8G because I thought it was a little too soft wide open on my D800E. It was perfect on the D700. Do you have a 24-70 f 2.8 lens and if so which one. I have been shooting mainly with a Sony A7R2 and a Leica SL for the last 2 years. Not sure I can give up the EVF. I thought I would give Nikon one last try because of the many wonderful lenses available for it.

  5. Well, you know what they say – a change is as good as a holiday! 🙂 I’m not sure who would criticise someone for liking this or that technology, although it must be said that Leica and Apple fans do get a little bit of flack. Probably inspired by jealousy.

    I’ve used almost every kind of camera, and I think it does help to have this kind of experience. But I have yet to try a view camera, so maybe that’s my next step.

    And, uh, maybe Nikon has finally made a camera that can compete with a Leica S2? 😉

  6. FWIW I am a Nikon fan – but that’s for their 35mm camera bodies. I am currently tempted by a black F with Photomic head. Must… resist…

  7. I have a D850 currently making its way to me via the post. I feel reassured that you are happy with yours. While I will use the 4K video feature as my 2nd camera to pay the bills it is the stills quality that I can imagine enjoying the most

  8. David says:

    Ah, well that renders my last comment useless.

    I want to love the D850 and/or D810 There is just something about the colour and tonality that doesn’t grab me. I don’t recall a time I’ve seen a shot that I’ve thought – YES! (that is for it’s aesthetic alone) That yes feeling is a feeling I get a lot from Leica and from film and from medium format.

    But I’m so tired of Leica’s continual dramas, really as a company they are quite useless and getting worse, seemingly, and I’ve had enough of them. If Leica was a woman, she’d be deadly. Bewitchingly orgeous but pyscho, on again off again. So I find myself trying to love the D850, but…it’s not happening yet. Please, let it happen!

  9. Lucy says:

    The Nikon look, It leaves me cold as does Sony. Honestly I would love to like them but not once has an image from these cameras made me feel good. Leica cameras are harder to use and expensive, I just wish there was an alternative that matched their beautiful rendering.

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