Which is the better choice for a photographer who wants to elevate their practice to the next level: the Nikon D850 or the Nikon D810? Pulled from Nikon’s highly respected D800 range, both cameras boast top-of-the-line hardware and a rugged yet elegant design.
Sometimes a redesign makes a stronger, sleeker, and more sophisticated camera—but sometimes the only thing that changes is the price tag. Read on to learn more about these two, decidedly not entry-level, outstanding professional quality DSLR cameras and find out whether the Nikon D850 was worth the wait.
Nikon D850 vs D810 Side-by-side Comparison
|Nikon D850||Nikon D810|
|Best For||Wallet Watchers||Performance Geeks|
|Price||See Price on Amazon||See Price on Amazon|
|Processor||EXPEED 5||EXPEED 4|
|ISO Range||64 — 25,600||64 — 12,800|
|LCD Screen Resolution||2,359,000 dots||1,229,000 dots|
|Dimensions||146 x 124 x 79mm||146 x 123 x 82mm|
|Battery Life||1840 shots||1200 shots|
Here’s what we cover in the review:
When you’re deciding between two mechanically similar DSLRs, sensor quality is often the definitive factor. The size and quality of the sensor make a dramatic difference in the way a camera renders light, detail, and color in your images.
The Nikon D850’s sensor is, for lack of a better word, a beast. Nikon bulked up its image capture capabilities significantly, equipping the D850 with a 45.7 megapixel CMOS BSI sensor that handily outstrips the D810’s 36.3 megapixels. The sensors are almost exactly the same size, but the D850 will always outshine its competitor in terms of image quality, clarity, and vibrancy.
The D850’s powerful sensor doesn’t just produce better still images; it’s also a blessing for DSLR videographers. Its upgraded hardware can shoot 4K video in 24, 25, and 30 frames per second. Those are excellent stats from a camera that Nikon doesn’t even market heavily to the videography market.
However, don’t let those impressive numbers fool you into thinking that the D810 can’t keep up. It regrettably won’t shoot in 4K, but produces wonderfully crisp and dynamic videos in 1080p at 24, 30, or even 60 frames per second. Despite its age and slightly outdated hardware, the Nikon D810 is still a dependable, powerful tool for budding videographers.
If you enjoy getting experimental with your videos, then the D850 puts many more creative tools at your disposal. Test your compositional skills by shooting snazzy slow-motion video, then push the envelope even further with cool 8K time-lapse montages.
Ergonomics and Comfort
Usability often doesn’t get the attention it deserves during a camera redesign. That results in unhelpful features—or even downright awful ones.
They stick around for a handful of iterations. Thankfully, Nikon didn’t make that mistake when redesigning this range of cameras.
The Nikon D850 uses a sturdy yet low-profile joystick. It allows you to toggle between settings and focus points.
This standby is borrowed from Nikon’s more expensive DSLR cameras. It makes it easy to scroll through image options without bruising your thumb beyond repair.
To the left of the LCD screen on the D850, you’ll find a “Function 2” button. That can be assigned to any menu items, from white balance to shooting mode.
There’s also a dedicated ISO button in close range. These clever features mean no more trawling through menus to locate the setting you use the most often. That effectively streamlines your workflow and sharpens your reaction times.
The D850 implements a few more inventive usability fixtures. Those include illuminated buttons and a stickier handgrip.
Once you find yourself shooting on location for hours or staying at the studio late into the night, you’ll gain a fuller appreciation for how helpful these kinds of features can be.
A brilliant, functional LCD screen is important. It can spell the difference between an outstanding camera and a lackluster one.
The D810 and D850 look similar on the surface. Both have a 3.2-inch TFT-LCD screen. They have a high resolution and a tough, durable design. That’s where the differences end, however.
In terms of screen quality and clarity, the D850 is light years ahead of its closest competitor. Its LCD screen boasts 2,359,000 dots. That is a different universe than the D810’s 1,229,000 dots.
It also incorporates touch-sensitive technology. Like Nikon’s high-end models, its rebooted screen tilts and swivels to give you an excellent view. That is the case matter where you’re standing.
Touchscreens revolutionized the way we shoot both stills and video. With the D850, you can pinch to zoom and swipe to view.
You can resolve your focus with just a tap of your finger. It’s the ultimate ease-of-use feature.
Autofocus and Connectivity
Even some modern point-and-shoot cameras come equipped with WiFi connectivity as standard, but this handy feature doesn’t make an appearance on the Nikon D810.
The D850 does allow you to connect devices through WiFi, Bluetooth, and Near Field Communication, a requirement for photographers who travel frequently and build makeshift studios away from home. Downloading a free app gives you the option to control your camera remotely with your smartphone or tablet.
When it comes to autofocus, the Nikon D850 resides in a different universe. It boasts 153 autofocus points, 99 of which are cross-type, to the Nikon D810’s 51 focus points and 15 cross-type points. That means it’s quicker when locking focus, more powerful when swapping between subjects, and more flexible when selecting a focus area.
Everyone needs some extra help handling tricky lighting conditions, whether it’s a late-night wildlife shoot or a dimly lit wedding reception. A DSLR camera’s ability to cope with terrible lighting often makes the difference between the goods and the greats. The Nikon D810 has a decent ISO range for its price point, shooting from ISO 64 to 12,800—although quality will obviously suffer the further you push that range.
The D850 has made some improvements, retaining the bottom end of that ISO range but pushing the upper number to ISO 25,600. This extra room gives you the flexibility to shoot confidently in more daring locations and with more unpredictable lighting environments. The D850 does ditch its onboard flash to make room for other features, though, so you’ll need to explore further off-camera lighting options in order to keep your images clean and crisp.
When all is said and done, this decision basically makes itself. The Nikon D850 surpasses the D810 in almost every category, from ISO range and wireless capabilities to usability features and autofocus system. These two cameras tend to be priced similarly, and have equally great D800 lens options. So, there’s no reason to opt for the outdated Nikon D810 when you could enjoy its far superior relative.Back to Top
Every time I see a promo offering me a chance to “trade up” from my D810 to a D850, at a reasonably affordable exchange price, I end up being left wondering why?
Yes the sensor in the D850 offers a slightly better image quality – but unless I start printing huge prints, I’ll scarcely notice.
Yes it has a tilt screen – but not a particularly versatile one, miles behind other brands, and no better than my D500. Oh – and my nose is kind of out of joint over that one – because it was such an obvious feature to put on the D810.
And then there’s the hassle & expense of all the other things, like an L-bracket; memory cards & card holders; and so on – all of which increase the cost of trading up by several hundred dollars in aggregate.
Somehow, in the end, I keep coming back to this – why bother?
With regard to the pricing of the D810 which makes it out of reach to enthusiasts on a budget, you have to remember that until the D5 and D850 launched, this camera was the top, flagship model. It is and was aimed at professional users and those enthusiasts who were prepared to get one, whatever the price. The price of many two year old cars is SIX times the price of a NEW D810 body. That is not fantastically expensive at all. There are other full frame models for enthusiasts on a budget, and sometimes, to get a product that is a cut above the rest, you simply have to accept that research and development is much more costly, and the returns are far less than those of a budget model due to raw numbers of cameras sold. I guess a thousand D3300 get sold for every two D810’s. Same applies to the D850 which is even more highly developed. I think you have to bite the bullet if you are a real enthusiast, and there is the used market too, there are plenty of mint condition D810’s out there if you look hard enough. Brilliant camera, love it, get one if you can.
Excellent comment. Thanks, Ross!
I concur! Excellent comment. I am purchasing a mint D810 today (Jan 22, 2019) for $1,350. A rather good deal if you ask me!