Photography News Issue 49

Camera test 35

Photography News | Issue 49 |

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Performance: ISO

Original image

ISO 200

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12,800

The D850 is the first Nikon DSLR with a BSI sensor for a good quality high ISO performance. The ISO 100 exposure of this evening scene was 2secs at f/8. No noise reduction was applied at either the capture or editing stages and the Raws were processed through Adobe Camera Raw. Image quality, you won’t be surprised to know, was very impressive. Noise starts to appear at ISO 400 – you need to look very closely though – and was more evident at ISO 800 but levels were still low. I’d happily use ISO 1600 for critical results and while noise was visible the impact on the resolution of fine detail was minimal. From ISO 3200 noise is more obvious and still good enough for big prints and from ISO 6400 colour noise is very evident in the shadows and fine detail suffers, but still the D850 turns in a sound high ISO performance. Speaking of the live view silent shutter, this is a very useful feature when the click-clack of the normal shutter is an issue and can be used with the shutter button as normal as well as touch AF. Of course, very usefully it saves wear and tear on the reflex mirror/mechanical shutter, which is said to be durable for 2000,000 cycles. If you regularly shoot 300 focus shift shots or do lots of interval timer shooting, the silent shutter is the way to go and of course has the benefit of vibration- free release too. The D850, considering its high pixel count, offers a very useful 7fps continuous shooting speed at full resolution. That can be increased further to 9fps with the optional MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery grip which sells for £369. I did a couple of shoot tests with the two media options on offer with the D850, XQD and SD. The odds are you already have a stash of SD cards but perhaps no XQD cards. If this is you, then you need to buy an XQD card or two if you like the insurance

In the time it takes to swap cameras over, I took a set of ISO shots using a D810, processed them in ACR and then compared them on-screen at the same image size, ie. the D850 shots at 100% and the D810 at 112%. Both cameras were very good up to ISO 1600, but you can see the D850 has more colour noise than the D810, which is neutral. Fine detail and saturation from both DSLRs stayed at a high level even at ISO 3200 but at ISO 6400 the D850’s colour noise didn’t look too good and the blacks started to lose density. By the time you get to ISO 12,800 the colour noise from the D850 is very evident and the neutral noise from the D810 is preferable. To sum up, the D850 has a very good noise performance but the higher pixel density, despite the use of a BSI sensor, has resulted in more colour noise compared with its lower-resolution brother.

ISO 25,600

ISO 51,200

ISO 102,400

D810 ISO 3200

D810 ISO 12,800

By the time you get to ISO 12,800 the colour noise from the D850 is very evident and the neutral noise from the D810 is preferable

Above images The D850 turns in an impressive high ISO performance and you can get great images at ISO 3200, especially with some noise reduction in processing. Beyond that speed, the D850’s noise, however, is more colourful than the D810’s which is a small minus point.

Above images The D850 has a couple of design changes compared with the D800/810, the most notable being the ISO button placed right next to the shutter release and the mode control going to the cluster on the left of the top-plate. There’s also a new function button, Fn2, on the left.

button for another 100 Raws with the camera keeping that 4fps pace and I think it could have carried on for longer. The record light went out after four seconds. The D850 is certainly fast enough for most users – and this is with full size Raws. Shooting smaller Raws seemed to give a couple of extra shots before the camera slowed down.

Should longer full speed bursts be needed, going for fine JPEGs gave me 77 shots at 7fps. With Raw and JPEG Fine , I got 24 shots at 7fps before slowing down to 3fps. Repeating the process with a Lexar SD 32GB 440MB/s 2000x card, I got 28 shots before the D850 slowed to about 3fps for about 60

shots. Again, I think the camera could have continued at this pace. The record light with the SD card went out after six seconds. It does show that if you want the fastest continuous shooting performance you need an XQD card, but it is also the case that if your photography is more sedate then a fast SD card will do very nicely.

of shooting to two separate cards. It is pity there is no dual SD (or XQD) body option. Shooting in the continuous high setting using a Lexar 32GB 440MB/s 2993x XQD card, I got 45 14-bit lossless compressed Raws before the camera took a pause for breath and then continued at around 4fps. I kept my finger down on the

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