Best 4K Nikon DSLR? D850 review for filmmakers

The Nikon D850 is a full frame DSLR with a 45.7 megapixels sensor. The camera can shoot video up to 30 frames per second in Ultra HD and 120p in Full HD. We have tested the camera for two weeks and you can watch the video review below in 4K UHD:

The camera has different picture profiles including a flat one that can be further adjusted to lower the contrast, saturation and sharpness. The video files can be recorded in MOV and MP4 with a color depth of 8-bit 4:2:0. Even when using an external recorder the camera can only output a 4:2:2 8-bit video signal via HDMI and not 10-bit. Nonetheless there are no major issues when color correcting the flat footage.

Nikon D850 body

What I like about the look of the 4K footage is the slight softness which I definitely prefer over digitally oversharpened footage that many cameras produce which also gives it a bit more of a filmic look. Even though the 4K video looks great the 1080p footage looks a bit too soft, almost blurry. So even if you’re only finishing your video in HD I recommend shooting in 4K and downscaling it to get a nice, crispy image. The 120p slow motion footage looks okay but very soft and noisy in the shadows. It’s useable but I wouldn’t mix it with 4K footage.

Even though the D850 is an FX full frame camera it can also record video with the DX crop of 1.5 times which I found to be quite useful when using a lens like the 24-70mm to be able to zoom in more without needing to change lenses.

Even though the camera is clearly made for pro photographers Nikon included some useful features for filmmakers such as focus peaking, zebra, focus magnifier which can be adjusted and changed on the camera’s touch screen. Manual audio control, a 3.5mm microphone input and a headphone jack are also available so that you can listen to what you are actually recording. It also has an internal video stabilization mode but it only works when shooting in 1080p. The D850 also has continuous auto focus in video mode but to be honest it’s rather disappointing. The recording time is limited to 30 minutes in one take like most other DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

D850 video setup with the Rode VideoMic Pro on top

The ISO reaches from 64 to 25.600. I actually found the low ISO of 64 to be useful for bright outdoor shoots especially when shooting wide open. The high ISO noise performance is good but when shooting video with a flat picture profile there is quite some noise visible above ISO 6.400 is dark areas of the image.

Sunset filming in Frankfurt with the D850

We shoot a lot of timelapse projects so the 4K timelapse mode which saves a video file without needing to do any editing, comes in quite handy. But the really impressive timelapse mode is the one that captures raw photos with more than 8 thousand pixels. The sequence needs to be edited in post but it’s definitely worth it. I personally prefer capturing raw timelapses anyway because I can get much more out of the images in post. And even if you are only finishing in 4K it gives you great flexibility to crop, zoom and animate the sequences thanks to the high resolution.

8K timelapse menu

The screen can be tilted and also has a touch function which for example allows you to touch an area on the screen that should be in focus. The camera’s built quality is great and the buttons are easy to access. One thing that I noticed once again after having used mostly mirrorless cameras in the past few years, is the huge size of body and lenses which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but something to keep in mind besides all the internal tech and features. It’s definitely a fantastic stills camera but not a small one.

Nikkor 24-70mm F/2.8 on the D850

The D850 is the first Nikon DSLR that overall can keep up with the competition when it comes to recording video so it’s a good choice for everyone who already owns Nikon lenses. But if you haven’t heavily invested in Nikkor glass it’s hard to recommend a DSLR over a mirrorless these days for capturing video, but it always comes down to personal preferences and considering it’s a DSLR it’s pretty good.

You can purchase the Nikon D850 camera by clicking HERE!

Written by Moritz Janisch on June 22, 2018

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