Nikon D850 vs D810: Features compared

Nikon has impressed and excited many photographers with the release of its new high-resolution D850 DSLR. But should D810 users scramble to trade in their cameras? Or are they better off sticking with the older model? 

With a 45.7MP FX-format sensor, a tilting screen and 4K video, the D850 represents Nikon’s most advanced DSLR ever, and proved to be a great way of celebrating the brand’s 100th anniversary at the camera’s recent launch.

All those cutting-edge features, however, come at a price. So, is the D850 worth the upgrade?

Nikon D850 vs D810: Sensor

The new D850 sports a 45.7MP FX-format sensor (pictured above), whereas the D810 offers a 36.3MP unit
  • Nikon D850: 45.7MP back-illuminated, full-frame sensor, no OLPF
  • Nikon D810: 36.3MP full-frame sensor, no OLPF

As mentioned above, the D850’s sensor is perhaps its biggest headline. 

The back-illuminated, FX-format CMOS sensor offers a massive 45.7MP and has no optical low-pass filter in front of it. This is more than enough to create huge prints, and also to offer photographers plenty of tolerance to crop into images without compromising on quality. 

This D850’s sensor is paired with Nikon’s powerful EXPEED 5 image processor, and the ISO range of 64–25,600 is expandable to 32 to 102,400 equivalents.

The EXPEED 4 engine found inside the D810, which has now been updated by the EXPEED 5 engine for the D850

Although the older D810 was launched back in 2014, it still offers impressive resolution. In fact, the 36.3MP sensor still beats Canon’s newest EOS 5D model, the EOS 5D Mark IV. 

The D810’s sensor also has no optical low-pass filter and is paired with the EXPEED 4 processor, with its ISO range stretching between ISO 64-12,800 as standard and with extensions to ISO 32-51,200 equivalents. 

Nikon D850 vs D810: Video

The D850 is a more serious camera for videographers than the D810, with 4K UHD recording and 120fps shooting in Full HD for slow-motion output
  • Nikon D850: 4K UHD up to 30p 
  • Nikon D810: Full HD up to 60p

Much has been made of the D850’s video specifications, and rightly so as it makes the camera as appealing to videographers as it does to stills photographers. 

The D850 can shoot 4K UHD footage (3840x2160p) at frame rates to 30fps, which is seen by many of today’s videographers as a must-have feature. The camera can also capture Full HD footage at 120fps, which can be used to create smooth slow motion sequences. 

By contrast, the D810 doesn't offer 4K recording, although it can capture Full HD footage at up to 60p. 

Both cameras have ports for HDMI cables, as well as for headphones and external mics, which means they could easily be used to record professional-quality footage, but if video is the main reason behind your buying decision, it’ll be hard to turn down the D850's 4K capabilities.

What’s more, the D850 takes creative filmmaking further as its technology can be used to produce 8K time-lapse sequences in post production. What’s more, users can extract 8MP stills from the 4K option.

Nikon D850 vs D810: Burst shooting (fps)

Both cameras can be used with battery grips to boost their burst-shooting rates
  • Nikon D850: 7fps (up to 9fps with optional grip)
  • Nikon D810: 5fps (up to 7fps with optional grip and DX crop)

For a three-year-old, full-frame DSLR that offers a beefy 36MP, the D810 is no slouch. It can fire at up to 5fps in its continuous shooting mode, and that figure rises to 7fps when the camera is used with a battery grip (in a DX crop mode). 

The new D850 does offer a slight advantage over this, with a standard maximum burst rate of 7fps, which can be increased to 9fps when the camera is used with a battery grip. 

While 7fps is perfectly decent, there’s no doubt that the faster rate of the D850 gives photographers more chance of capturing ‘that’ perfect moment, especially when shooting sports or wildlife, where timing is critical. 

Nikon D850 vs D810: AF system

The D850 uses the same Multi-CAM 20K module that offers 153 AF points in total, arranged in the above configuration
  • Nikon D850: Multi-CAM 20K, 153-point AF system, 99 cross-type points
  • Nikon D810: Multi-CAM 3500FX, 51-point AF system, 15 cross-type points

A fast continuous shooting rate needs to work in tandem with a reliable autofocus system. The D810 features a Multi-CAM 3500FX system that offers 51 AF points, including 15 cross-type points. 

By contrast, the D850 features the same high-performance. Multi-CAM 20K AF system that’s found in Nikon’s flagship D5 camera. This offers 153 AF points in total, with 99 of these being cross type and 15 providing f/8 support, which means they will still work when the lens is used with a teleconverter.

The D850 also has the ability to focus down to -4 EV with its central point, and -3EV with the others. The D810, meanwhile, has a rating down to -2EV in total, which means it's slightly less likely to find subjects in tricky conditions.