An 8K DSLR camera is now affordable to the consumer / pro-sumer market with the release of the Nikon D850 DLSR Camera. This is the cheapest 8K camera, retailing for under $3,500. This price includes just the body, so expect to spend at least as much for lenses and accessories as for the 8K Nikon camera. Canon has been working on their 8K EOS Camera to compete with the Nikon D850, but so far Canon hasn’t brought this out of the development stage. In this review, we’ll focus on the Nikon D850 and update it as more 8K cameras become available.
For comparison, the professional 8K cameras from RED can start at around $30,000 for the “Epic-W“. Although, with a recent announcement for a joint development deal with Foxconn, the price could come down to the $10,000 to $20,000 range in the next 2 years.
A little background on what is 8K:
8K resolution is currently the highest resolution with regard to the number of horizontal pixels in both digital television and digital cinematography. 8K UHD (Ultra High Definition), also called “4320p”, has a line resolution of 7680 × 4320 (horizontal x vertical). This equates to 33.2 megapixels per image or frame. The “8K” term comes from there being nearly eight thousand pixels (e.g., the 7680 number) in the horizontal.
The next highest resolution standard is 4K UHD is made up of 3840 × 2160 (H x V), which is about 8 megapixels per image. Below that, is the most common “1080p” which has 1920 x 1080 (H x V) lines of resolution, and about 2.1 megapixels per image.
This means that in the same area on your screen or sensor, the 8K UHD has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 4K UHD, and sixteen times the number of pixels of 1080p.
Here’s a quick visual from Nikon on how the various resolutions compare:
Now on to the camera….
Nikon D850 – A week of shooting
If you have use a Nikon camera, you’ll be familiar with the controls and basic functions of the D850. But with this 8K camera, there is just more. More pre-set functions to get a great shot without having to adjust for lighting conditions, depth of field or subject matter. There are also more functions to customize how to capture a shot. And more options in the manual settings if you want full control over every aspect of the image.
The camera has a good feel, with a nice grip when you hold it. It’s built with rugged magnesium alloy and carbon fiber materials, so I didn’t worry to much about casually damaging this expensive piece of equipment.
The size if not too large as to be an issue, and doesn’t feel like it’s getting in the way of taking pictures.
As for the weight, at a little over 2 pounds it wasn’t a problem to take this on a hike up a mountain trail or a bike ride on the beach. It was easy to hold for shooting lots of videos, as well as taking candid photos at a birthday party.
The screen doesn’t accidentally register as a “touch” when brushed with my nose or cheek. This is sometimes an annoyance with other touch screens on different cameras. That the screen tilts out for easier viewing, or when framing a shot when on a tri-pod is a nice bonus.
A week really isn’t enough time to get to all the features, nor to explore the real power of this camera. But it is enough time to know I want to own a D850! The images are crisp, the time-lapse capture is amazing and the audio / video for creating home movies / special event is fantastic.
Nikon D850 – Where to buy
First, let’s address the price and availability. We use Amazon for our spot-pricing and availability information since they tend to have stock even when the local camera stores do not. Keep in mind that with consumer goods, especially leading edge technology like 8K cameras, there can be price fluctuations as well as different deals / packages.
You can also test out the camera / lenses by renting at most major camera shops. Expect to pay from $150 to $200 per week for a complete kit.
The Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body retails for a little over $3K . To be clear, this is only the BODY without any lenses.
This camera has been in high demand since it’s release, and the “body only” sales have been brisk. Sometimes the only way to get the body is to purchase bundled with lenses and other accessories. Even then, it may take 2 to 4 weeks to get this one.
The Nikon D850 Filmmaker’s Kit
- Three Lenses – NIKKOR f/1.8 lenses (20mm, 35mm, 80mm) matched for FX-format (these retail for about $795, $195, $475) with foam-insert carry case
- External Recording Monitor – Atomos Ninja Flame
which is ideal for 4K UHD full frame output via HDMI (retail for $795)
- Wired Microphone – ME-1 Stereo Mic
connects to the camera body hot-shoe (retails for $135)
- Bluetooth Microphone – 2 of the ME-W1 Wireless Mic
(retails for $218) can capture audio from up to 164 feet away
- Battery – One extra EN-EL15a Li-Ion battery (retails for $62)
Nikon promotes the D850 as “the next stage in evolution for high-resolution photography”.
The D850 doesn’t simply surpass the incredible image quality of the D810, with 45.7 effective megapixels and ISO sensitivity from 64-25600. It pairs these with a new level of versatile and uncompromising performance, including continuous shooting speeds of 7 fps (up to 9 fps with the optional MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack*1) and the 153-point AF system used in the flagship D5.
It’s the first Nikon FX-format DSLR camera to offer full-frame 4K UHD video, while time-lapse shooters can create high-resolution sequences even under extremely low light. From landscape to commercial sports, wedding and fashion photography, as well as multimedia shooting, the D850 lets you create astounding images that meet the strictest professional requirements.
Nikon D850 – Image Sensor
The heart of the camera is the sensor. This is where the light is captured to create the image. The larger the sensor, and the better the manufacturing technology, will determine the quality of the photograph.
The “FX-Format” terminology in DSLR means this is a “full frame” capture sensor, which at 36mm x 24mm closely approximates the actual size of a 35mm film negative size. Compare this with the smaller “DX-Format”, which is 24mm x 16mm.
The back-side illuminated (BSI) CMOS image sensor (which has a built-in “No Optical Low Pass Filter”), measures 35.9 x 23.9 mm has a total pixel count of 46.89 million.
This gets slightly reduced to an effective pixel count of 45.7 million. This gives a frame coverage of approximately 100% for both the horizontal and vertical line counts.
Another way to think of this is how many pixels are capture per image based on selecting a RAW “Large”, “Medium” or “Small” setting:
- Large – 8256 x 5504 = 45.4 million pixels
- Medium – 6192 x 4128 = 25.6 million pixels
- Small – 4128 x 2752 = 11.4 million pixels
Another plus, with such a dense array of pixels, there’s virtually no risk of moiré patterning in your images.
Nikon D850 – Video / Movies
While the still picture capture is impressive, the D850 really shines when it comes to taking video. All of the standard formats for video frame size (pixels) and frame rate are supported, with the exception of full motion 8K video:
- 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD); 30p (progressive), 25p, 24p
- 1920 x 1080; 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p
- 1280 x 720; 60p, 50p
- 1920 x 1080 (slow-mo); 30p x4, 25p x4, 24p x5
Note: The actual frame rates for 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p are 59.94, 50, 29.97, 25 and 23.976 fps respectively; quality selection available at all sizes except 3840 x 2160 (when quality is fixed at high) and 1920 x 1080 slow-mo (when quality is fixed at “normal”)
Note that the 4K UHD video in 30p, 25p, and 24p uncropped can be captured in either MOV or MP4 encoding, AND simultaneously uncompressed (HDMI 2.0).
For stunning imagery, you can record slow motion video with up to 120 frames-per-second (fps) in 1080p; or 4K Ultra HD video recording, slow motion up to 120 fps at 1080p.
A first for a consumer camera, the D850 records 8K time-lapse movies by shooting sequences of up to 9,999 full-size stills (and in total quiet with the “Silent Live View Mode”). Using the D850’s Interval Timer Mode allows you to capture over 8K-size images with exquisite detail for time-lapse movie6 creation (e.g., “8K6”).
Nikon D850 – Processing
The processor takes care of all the mechanical controls for the shutter, anti-vibration / anti-shake, and more. Add on to that the ability to automatically track / center your subjects, even when moving fast; and white balancing, light exposure, etc.
Consider: 7 frames per second (fps) continuous shooting for up to 51 raw images (14-bit lossless raw). The buffer capacity jumps to 170 shots in 12-bit lossless raw. You can further boost this to shoot 9 fps with optional battery grip and larger EN-EL18 battery.
The electronics also handle the in-camera editing software and the LCD (3.2-inch tilting TFT, with 2.359 million dots with touchscreen).
Back to those bits coming from the sensor. You have a number of ways to store these.
Available File Formats
- NEF (RAW): 12 or 14 bit (lossless compressed, compressed or uncompressed); large, medium and small available (medium and small images are recorded at a bit depth of 12 bits using lossless compression)
- TIFF (RGB)
- JPEG: JPEG-Baseline compliant with fine (approx. 1 : 4), normal (approx. 1 : 8) or basic (approx. 1 : 16) compression; optimal quality compression available
- NEF (RAW)+JPEG: Single photograph recorded in both NEF (RAW) and JPEG formats
Nikon D850 – Memory
It’s worth noting that you’ll need to store all of these fantastic high resolution videos and still images someplace. To keep it simple with round numbers, plan for a maximum of 50MB per image and 1GB per minute of video. Note that each movie (max time of 29m 59s) will be recorded across up to 8 files of up to 4 GB each.
So where does all this go? The D850 has two card slots, 1 for Media XQD and 1 for SD (Secure Digital)
Dual card slots Either card can be used for primary or backup storage or for separate storage of NEF (RAW) and JPEG images; pictures can be copied between cards
These accept UHS-II compliant SDHC and SDXC memory cards.
After a photo shoot, you may want to transfer all of the images to an external portable hard drive. Seagate made the top of our recent review with a $50 1TB going up to a $130 5TB. Take a look: Best 1TB Portable External Hard Drive for under $50
- Dimensions: Approx. 5.8 x 4.9 x 3.1 in. (W x H x D) / 146 x 124 x 78.5 mm (W x H x D)
- Weight (camera body only): Approx. 2 lb 0.3 oz / 915 g
- Weight (battery and XQD memory card): Approx. 3.2 oz / 90 g
- Battery: 1900mAh, 7.0V Rechargeable Li-Ion20, Up to approx. 1840 still images
- Sensitivity: ISO 64 (expandable down to ISO 32); Shoot in low light to -4 EV
- Autofocus: 153 focus points, 99 cross-type sensors and a dedicated AF processor
- Do Not Disturb: Turn on Silent Photography in Live View and capture without sound or mechanical vibration.
- In Mode 1, shoot for up to 6 FPS continuous at 45.7 MP.
- In Mode 2, shoot approx. 8.6-megapixel pictures in DX image area at approx. 30 FPS for up to 3 seconds
- Locked-on Subject Tracking: Nikon’s exclusive AF engine uses parallel processing with a sequence control microcomputer to realize high AF performance for fast-moving subjects even during high-speed shooting
Nikon D850 – Buy It
Get your order in now on for either the Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body or go all out for the Nikon D850 Filmmaker’s Kit. This will be your favorite for years to come!