When it was released in 2017, the Nikon D850 could be considered the alpha and the omega of the SLR photography world. It represented almost every advancement ever made for cameras with swinging mirrors. But are there still reasons to buy one of these, or any DSLR, in 2021?
If you’re YouTuber and photographer Adrian Alford, that’s a definite yes. If you’re the rest of us, that’s a solid maybe, I’d say. Alford makes some good points in the DSLR column, but to play devil’s advocate, some of it is not always the case. Let’s start with price.
While in Australia, where Alford is filming from, there’s a price difference between the Nikon mirrorless and DSLR models, the D850 goes for the same price as the Z 7II, which is $2996. But that number isn’t quite what it seems. What sets the D850 and the Z 7 II mirrorless apart is the lenses. You’ll get very similar performance out of a premium Nikon 24-70mm lens, but in the Z-mount, it will cost you $200 more than the recent DSLR F-mount version, the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR lens. But then again, the almost $2,300 is the only option you have for a Z-mount, whereas if you step one version back in the F-mount, you can get the non-stabilized AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens for just under $1,600. Or a refurbished one for $1,200. That kind of saving is nothing to sneeze at, especially since even at two generations behind, the G version of the lens is extremely sharp and extremely versatile even in 2021. So while the cost of the bodies may be the same, Alford’s point about money stands when you add up the cost of lenses or adapters to use old lenses on mirrorless bodies.
That does all tie into Alford’s point about a large back catalog of lenses being available for the F-mount. The F-mount has been around for decades, and so while some of the older lenses don’t hold up on the newest sensors, there are still plenty of used and older models that do. That sensor is another plus for the D850, as Alford mentions that the sensor is still the same as the one as the new Z models and holds up even today.
That said, two of the things that I always find odd in the mirrorless versus DSLR debate are the points about battery life and autofocus. For one, the addition of eye-autofocus in almost every mirrorless camera out there these days instantly push them to the top of the pile for me, but even in Alford’s use case of wildlife photography, the accuracy of focusing directly off the sensor in a mirrorless camera and not having to worry about micro-adjusting lenses is fantastic. I can’t tell you how much of my life was wasted doing that.
And as for battery life, while it’s slightly worse on a mirrorless camera, I’ve still been able to get through all-day shoots on my Canon EOS R and still have some juice to spare, even in cold temperatures. Maybe not as much as a DSLR would have left, but it still gets me through the day. This wasn’t the case a few years back with the extremely tiny batteries on Micro Four Thirds cameras I had, but times have changed.
Much of what Alford says about the D850 can really apply to any DSLR out there. So it’s 2021, what’s your choice, mirrorless or DSLR? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.