Some thoughts on the D850

So, is the Nikon D850 the only camera you need?

In my opinion the answer to this question is the same as the answer to most photographic questions:  it all depends.  I do think the D850 is a great camera.  And if I could only own one current camera, it would be my choice.  But should it be your choice?  In my opinion your decision should take in hand these questions:

  • What do you do with your photographs?  By far, most images taken are either shown on a smart phone or tablet, or posted on the Web.  At these image sizes any camera works great, witness the fact that the vast majority of all images shot today were taken with a phone.
  • Do you really need all those megapixels?  Do you make large prints?  Really?  Do you make prints at all?  Do you own the computer power to process large files (and a D850 file with a few layers in Photoshop quickly swells to over a GB).
  • Are you primarily a bird and wildlife photographer?  The D5 definitely yields better high ISO performance at ISO 6400 and up, while both the D5 and D500 offer faster frame rates.  Sure, at roughly $950 you can soup up the D850 to 9 fps, but you end up with a camera that is slightly larger, and slightly heavier, than the D5.  Are weight and size considerations for you?
  • Do you see the D850 offering you more cropping possibilities?  The D500 is basically the same pixel density as the D850 at a considerably lower price.  If you’re thinking about the D850 in order to crop heavily, perhaps the D500 makes more sense, especially when you could put the difference in price toward additional lenses, or a better tripod, or a photo trip.
  • Can you give some specific reasons why getting a D850 will improve your photography?  What will it allow you to do that you cannot do with your present equipment?
  • And of course, can you afford the purchase price of the D850, along with new cards or computer drives or other additional expenses?

OK, I guess there is one more point than comes into play, which certainly did for me when I ordered the camera.  I rationalized that at my age I deserved a treat.  I’m not so young anymore (in all honesty, I’m in the “duffer” or “geezer” or “old guy” category), I’m not a car fanatic (although I love my truck and camper), nor am I a druggie or drunkard (although I do like a single malt in the evening).  So I figured I could indulge myself.  Yep, a rationalization for sure.  But I definitely like the D850!


  1. Andrew McLachlan March 16, 2018 at 4:52 pm #

    Love your common sense approach to new gear. I am still using a D800 for landscape work and love my D500 and 200-500 combination for wildlife. All of my frog photography is done with a very old Nikkor 105mm Micro lens. I see no need for me to run out and get the D850 yet 🙂

  2. Brad March 16, 2018 at 7:45 pm #

    Have been happy with the D800e I have been using for the last few years. It is the only body I have so I have been seriously considering the D850 to give me the two camera bodies I “think” I need.
    I’m a fairly straightforward landscape photographer shooting with the Nikon 24-70mm or 70-200mm. Living in the windblown region of the tallgrass prairie (Kansas) I typically never change lenses in the field. Anyway, this is going to be my excuse if I end up getting the D850 which I am fairly sure is going to happen hopefully sooner rather than later. I think you just pushed me a little closer.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this John.

  3. Satish Menon March 16, 2018 at 8:14 pm #

    John, I get this question very often from students who want to buy the latest camera without any justification. I once had someone boast to me how he just purchased the latest Canon 5DS capable of 50 megapixels. I asked him whether he made a lot of poster sized prints. He said, “No, Never”. I gave him a puzzled look and couldn’t help ask, “Why did you buy this camera?” He said, “I just love the megapixel technology”. Whatever that means. 🙂

    I am happy using my D4S, which I bought for my low light hand-held high ISO work, as well as the high fps requirements in wildlife. I am happy to keep my old D700 as a backup camera.

    Thank you for your posts,


  4. KT March 17, 2018 at 12:55 pm #

    I thought about buying an 850 to replace may 810, but I spent the money on a workshop instead. I ended up with some of the best images I’ve ever taken, so I think the workshop ended up a better investment than the 850. Maybe some day, as a gear treat, like you did…

  5. Dennis March 23, 2018 at 5:09 pm #

    Good advice. I went through that thought process before trading in my Nikon D810. I was very happy with the camera but when I saw the specs on the D850, it was a no brainer. The biggest plus for me is having the tilting LCD. Since I do mainly landscape photography, this is a plus especially when you are older and trying to get down low enough to see through the viewfinder or look at the LCD. In addition to that, the LCD is finally a touch screen. I could have gone with the D750 but there were other features that I was interested in getting like having backlit display buttons which makes it easier to see for night photography. There are many more features that were appealing to me but these two were with it. I also do my own prints as well as sell on line so higher resolution was a plus as well. And of course, I could use my existing Nikon lenses with the D850. Please do keep posting to your blog and would like to some of your more recent photos.

  6. Stefan Mokrzecki March 27, 2018 at 12:09 pm #

    For me, I have a hard time balancing the gear that I “want” against the gear that I “need”. In the end, it is all about the image and not what camera was used to get the image.
    Now, if we are missing out on images because of the gear that we are using, then that is a reason to “upgrade” that is easily justifiable.
    On another note John, many years ago I bought several of your books on nature photography which certainly inspired me to improve my technique. I have always been bit of a solo operator, however, you of all people have been my biggest inspiration.
    I will never know it all and that is what makes life interesting.