The D850 is Nikon’s latest DSLR and replaces the massively popular 36-megapixel D810, which was favoured by professional photographers since its launch in 2014. The camera sees a huge leap forward in resolution to 45.7-megapixel and also sees gain in autofocus and video specifications.
The Sony A99 II however is a camera that has arguably gone fairly under the radar since its launch in 2016. Also packed with a beefy, high-resolution sensor and impressive specs, the A99 II offers a genuine step forward for existing A-mount Sony users (using cameras like the A77 II). Yes, although cameras like Sony’s E-Mount A9 and A7SII are grabbing more headlines, it seems the A-Mount cameras are alive and well. Both these cameras share many features, but also a lot of different specifications too, so which one is right for your photography?
Both cameras offer high resolutions and impressive video specifications.
Design and ergonomics:
The D850 sports a traditionally reflex mirror design that’s built around the full-frame CMOS sensor, generating 45.7 megapixels. This makes the D850 Nikon’s highest ever resolution camera and marks a significant increase over the D810, which could ‘only’ 36-megapixels. Nikon also confirmed at the launch of the D850 that the sensor has been built by Nikon themselves, rather than being sourced from a third-party. The A99 II is actually a DSLT, and not a DSLR! This is because it’s mirror is fixed and translucent, which results in an electric viewfinder instead of an optical version and, of course, much faster shooting speeds. The Sony has a full-frame sensor serving up 42.4-megapixels, a vast amount more resolution than the 24.3 A77 II and pretty close to the Nikon.
In terms of build, both cameras are weather sealed, meaning they can be used in harsh environments. The A99 II has marginally more compact dimensions and it is also lighter at 849g, compared to the Nikon, which weighs in at 1015g. Both cameras offer dual memory card slots, with the Nikon sporting one SD and one XQD while the Sony can take two SD cards (or a Memory Stick Pro). The D850 features Nikon’s usual F mount, which means there is a huge selection of lenses available, while the A99 II uses the Sony/Minolta A Mount, although you can get an adaptor to use E-mount optics instead.
On the rear of the camera, the D850 features a 3.2-inch LCD, which is tiltable and touch-sensitive. The A99 II has a 3-inch articulated screen which isn’t touch-sensitive but does have a high 1229k-dot resolution. Inside the camera, the A99 II features built-in image stabilisation, while the Nikon relies on lenses to have Vibration Reduction (VR) technology. In terms of autofocus, the D850 borrows the high-performance 153-point AF system from Nikon’s flagship D5 DSLR, while the Sony offers a massive 399 AF points. Thanks to that fixed mirror, the A99 II can fire off a rapid 12 frames per second, while the D850 can manage 7FPS (or 9FPS when used with the battery grip).
The D850 has the larger LCD, which is also touch-sensitive.
With both cameras offering 40plus-megapixels, it’s clear these models are professional-level units capable of capturing highly impressive results. With such high-resolution, users of both cameras have the ability to print images to sizes well in excess of A3 and to also crop heavily without a compromise in image quality. When it comes to ISO, both cameras share the same expanded ISO ceiling of ISO 204800, allowing photographers to keep shooting in low light conditions. Both cameras shoot JPEG and RAW file formats and both cameras offer the option of shooting a small, medium and large file, so you don’t have to use the biggest file size if memory is running low, or your computer struggles to process large RAW files.
Both cameras have a high ISO ceiling of 204800 and can create large prints.
Along with being able to capture professional-level stills results, both the D850 and the A99 II boast impressive video specifications too. The Nikon and Sony both shoot ultra high-quality 4K footage (3840 x 2160), and both can also shoot Full HD at faster frame rates to create slow motion sequences. Both cameras offer microphone and headphone ports, making the models ideal for photographers searching for a camera that can make high-quality stills and video. Both offer a clean HDMI out option to record 4K to an external device and 8K timelapses can be created using footage in post processing.
Both cameras shoot ultra high-quality 4K video footage.
Extras and verdict:
There’s plenty more to both these cameras than high megapixels and full-frame sensors. The D850 boasts a cutting edge Focus Bracketing mode that mode that will automatically take up to 300 shots at various depths of field. These images are then merged to produce a single image with front-to-back sharpness. What’s more, the D850 has illuminated buttons, which will help photographers find the right option in low light. The A99 II has a shutter mechanism that’s rated for 300k actuations and that 5-axis stabilisation will help photographers capture sharp shots when light levels fall.
Both cameras represent significant investments, but also offer an amazing amount of features suitable for professional use. Mixing massive resolution with 4K video is a winning combination and, even better, both cameras even offer sophisticated autofocus systems and fairly decent shooting speeds, although the Sony comes out on top for this thanks to its translucent mirror design. Either camera is a solid buy and will help you achieve amazing imagery.