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Nikon D850 vs. Sony A7R III: Speedy full-frame titans compared

By Marcus Wong - 30 Jan 2018

Design and Handling: Nikon D850

Nikon D850

As we mentioned in our earlier D850 review, the D850 is the first Nikon DSLR to use a backside illumination sensor. This new sensor allows it to have better noise performance at all ISO settings as incoming light is able to reach the sensor more efficiently. As a result, the camera has a native ISO range of 64-25,600 (expandable to 32-102,400) while operating at an increased resolution of 45.7MP.

It also gets the EXPEED 5 image-processing engine and the Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor module from the D5, which gives it 153 focus points with 99 cross-type sensors. This is, of course, a huge upgrade over the D810, which only had a total of 51 points; 15 of the cross-type variety. With the D850, you do also get the focus selector joystick first seen on the D500 and D5 cameras, and this allows for easier focus point selection even with the viewfinder up to your eye.

You can now use touch to navigate all the menus.

In terms of handling, it seems like Nikon has finally heard us, as they’ve finally implemented touch for the menus, meaning you can use touch to navigate the entire camera. Add to the fact that the D850 keeps the excellent layout of controls maintained since the D700, and you have a camera that’s extremely easy to use and configure.

There is a slight shift of buttons with the D850 though. Like the D500, the ISO button has been moved to the top of the camera, forcing the video recording button slightly forward. Still, most of the settings we needed to change while shooting could be accessed through either the dials and buttons, or through a few taps of the screen, so handling is certainly much improved.

The video recording button has shifted forward slightly.

On the video front, the D850 vastly improves from the D810 as it now offers 4K UHD with the option to use ISO sensitivities up to ISO 102,400 in video mode. Like the D500, the D850 also offers electronic vibration reduction when you’re shooting video, but that again restrains your capture to Full HD quality and below as it essentially crops and shifts the frame to compensate for any shake.

You do get pretty good Full HD recording in slow-motion though as it will do 120p/100p capture, which gives you x4 and x5 slow-motion video in-camera. The inclusion of Auto ISO for video mode also means that changes in brightness can now be partly handled by the camera, so the D850 is certainly a much-improved video making tool, albeit one that doesn’t have its own log format.

Electronic VR helps to stabilize video when recording handheld.

Rather, Nikon offers a Flat Picture Control feature that’s meant to feature a near-straight tone curve so the camera acquires as much information as possible.Our final note is that the camera now takes one SD card and one XQD card, so you’ll want to stock up on XQD cards if faster performance is a major concern.

For more inputs, head over to our standalone review of the Nikon D850.