I had the glorious opportunity to play with the highly-anticipated (at least for me) upgrade from the D810, the D850. I wanted to touch on a few things, namely the hype and if one really needs this new camera. For me, absolutely I do and I'll explain why. This isn't a review of the D850, but just a few key things that I was really wondering about and needed to know before upgrading.
Hoping for Features That Directly Help Me
While waiting for the D850 announcement, I'm not ashamed to admit I was refreshing the news page a lot. I even set up a notifier for when the Nikon news page was updated I'd receive a text. The reason? I've always been a gear junkie and I always want the newest coolest hottest thing. But in this case I have an excuse. See, I shoot primarily with a Zeiss 85mm f/1.4. With precise manual focus I can accurately achieve critical focus right where I need it. I primarily do that with live view off a tripod. It's just my shooting style; it won't work for everyone but for me it does.
So I literally each day was saying: "If you just give me a D810 with focus peaking, that'll be good enough. I'll buy it." Because let's face it, the D810 is a great camera and already smokes Canon's best offering in the thing that I find more important than most other features: dynamic range. The D850 improving on that even in a slight way would put Canon two generations behind.
Focus peaking is a game changer for those that shoot manual focus lenses, mostly from a workflow perspective. Sure, we can already achieve critical focus, but it's a bit more work: live view, zoom in, pan around, shoot then next frame, click zoom, zoom again. It's not the most fun thing.
When the announcement came, it stated that the D850 had focus peaking for video (non 4K) and I was pretty excited. I figured if it had it for video, it must have it for photo. I was pleased when I finally got the camera in my hands to see that it does indeed have focus peaking for photo. You do have to switch it to manual focus for the peaking to work which makes sense as you wouldn't necessarily want that in AF mode.
There are three levels of peaking with thin, medium, and thick lines, as well as four colors for the peaking to choose from, default being red. I couldn't have been happier. There wasn't much info about this in the news documentation and understandably so since I do realize the way I shoot is certainly in the minority of the bulk of Nikon's users.
While I was messing around with that, I noticed something else I was unaware of: a split screen zoom. It's pretty interesting but I didn't play with it too much.
Another pleasant surprise was the picture quality of the live view screen itself. It seems to have a much improved frame rate and better clarity from the D810. This is another one of those things that seems like it may not be as significant as others, but when you use it all the time, it's very nice to have upgrades like that.
This was another welcomed feature and I like it, but it does have a few little quirks. A phone-like two-finger zoom is awesome for reviewing the image and checking focus. It's a tiny bit laggy to get into but very usable and I was ecstatic about that.
I was, however, disappointed to see that it does not let you zoom that way in live view to take a photo. It's only for reviewing a photo. Still, it's a very welcomed feature over the now very clunky-seeming zoom process on the D810 and prior.
Tap to focus and tap to shoot on the live view screen was pretty interesting, however I would never actually use that and it's easy to just turn that off.
Do You Really Need to Upgrade?
Well that greatly depends on how you shoot. A business-minded person would say, "Will buying this new camera make me any more money?" and the answer is likely no.
While the image quality on the D850 is outstanding, so is the D810. When it comes to a camera, everybody (myself included) always wants to have the newest latest best, but in reality the old saying of "the camera doesn't make a picture" really is true. We don't like this news because we want a tool to "do something" for us; That special lens to give us a certain look or that new camera to give us super clean images. But at the end of the day, making that awesome image is directly on us regardless of the gear. I've seen countless stunning work created on an old Canon 5D.
For me, the image quality of the D810 is already plenty sufficient for most work.
But, features that make your life easier might very well be enough to cause the upgrade. For me it does since I shoot manual focus primarily. The focus peaking is a game changer for me.
What do you think? Are there features that will make you upgrade?