The D850: Ushering in a New Era for Nikon?

On it's 100th anniversary, Nikon (pre-)announced a new camera in its professional camera line, the D850. Following the announcement that contained very vague details and nothing much visually revealing about the new camera, there has been quite a lot of mystery and anticipation surrounding this new product. Despite Nikon's tight lips, several supposed leaked photos, details, and even a presentation slideshow give us a seemingly good glimpse into what this camera may be. The Nikon fan-site, Nikon Rumors, has been closely following the news surrounding this new product for some time (click here to read NikonRumor.com's recap of the D850's rumored features).

So, what do we make of this new product and its greater significance to Nikon's future and the greater world of photography? My early speculation is that this new camera may usher in a new era for Nikon, who have shown signs of trouble since the announcement of a company-wide restructuring earlier this year. In name, the D850 is obviously a continuation of the D800-series product line, coming after the D810 and D800 before that. The D850 is rumored to have an increase in pixel count from 36 megapixels to a staggering 46 megapixels. Appearing to be more than just an average upgrade, however, the D850 camera shows some indications of innovation on Nikon's part and perhaps somewhat a merger of their various camera lines.

 Image courtesy of NikonRumors.com

 Image courtesy of NikonRumors.com

The D500 is Nikon's flagship DX-format (APSC or crop-frame) camera that is a famous among wildlife photographers, as the more compact pixels on the smaller sensor basically function to extend the zoom reach of a lens. The D850 appears to have as much in common with the D500 as it does the D810 from which it draws its name. The D850 will be a full-frame camera, however, its body design and a lot of its premium features appear to be modeled after what has been one of Nikon's biggest success stories in recent years: the D500. Like the D500, the D850 is rumored to feature a tilt touchscreen, illuminated buttons, compact body design, mixed XQD/SD card slots, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, joystick selector, and 4K video.

The D5 is the most recent in Nikon's flagship professional camera line and is a favorite among sports and action photographers, having a lower pixel counts (compared to the D800-series cameras), but featuring better high-ISO performance, fast frames per second, and large buffers. The D850 appears to be closing the gap on the D5's featured set with supposed faster frame rates and low-light performance. However, there is one place where the D850 still holds out against the D5, it has almost twice the pixel count.

 Image courtesy of NikonRumors.com

 Image courtesy of NikonRumors.com

The D850 takes its core function portrait and landscape camera with high pixel count, full-frame, prograde camera from the D800-series, but it appears to also be covering some of the territory occupied by other products in Nikon's lineup. The new camera may be a more well-rounded product than its predecessor, the D810. The faster frame rate of up to 9fps--compared to the D810's 5fps in FX--may make the D850 a contender in the sports/action photography arena. With a rumored electronic shutter (presumably in live view only), the D850 has the potential to shoot in quiet (or hopefully silent) mode, which would be a huge boon for golf photographers. That would also prove useful for event and wedding photographers, who also often shoot in quiet situations.

With such a large pixel count, the D850 makes it possible to significantly crop a full-frame image down and still maintain plenty of pixels for large prints. Add to that the fact that FX sensors naturally have more light-gathering capabilities, perhaps wildlife photographers will leave their D500s at home because the D850 embodies the best of FX and DX shooting in one body. That is all pure speculation if these rumors hold out to be true, but these are interesting considerations for photographers, especially for those that shoot many types of photography.

With that said, the new D850 is rumored to be around $3600 (body only) in the USA, which is about $300 more than its predecessor at release (the D810). At that price point, it is certainly a pro-grade camera. Perhaps Nikon is seeking to better distribute its products throughout the lineup. At the time of this writing, the D5 comes in at around $6500, the D810 at $2800, and the D500 at $1900. With the new features justifying a new, higher position in Nikon's professional camera price lineup, the D850 leaves room for the D760 (D750 replacement), which is rumored to be announced either later this year or early next year. Nikon has also hinted at an announcement about a mirrorless camera soon. Nikon seems to be holding true to its statement earlier this year that the company would be shifting its focus and efforts more towards the mid- and hi-end camera market (shortly before cancelling its DL-series camera lineup just prior to release).

 Image courtesy of NikonRumors.com

 Image courtesy of NikonRumors.com

The D850 is certainly one of the most anticipated cameras this year and already appears to be laying the groundwork as a market-defining product for the Nikon moving forward into its second century as an industry leader.

What do you think?  Are you interested in the new camera? What features do you hope it has?

Blog images courtesy of NikonRumors.com