Nikon shooters have always had great choice when it comes to cameras and many photographers have progressed up the ladder, starting with either an entry-level DSLR like the D3200, one of Nikon’s well-specced bridge cameras or even one of the ill-fated Nikon 1 mirrorless options.
But now Nikon has got super serious with its first generation of full-frame mirrorless cameras (the Z7 and Z6), Nikon shooters have got an even bigger choice to make. So, should Nikon shooters looking to upgrade their kit go for the new flagship Z7 mirrorless camera or should they stay with DSLR and plump for the acclaimed D850 – a camera that has done so much to get Nikon back to being a serious player in the market? Well, to help make this decision, let’s compare the all-important specifications.
Design and build:
The D850 was launched back in August 2017 and the DSLR is built around a full-frame CMOS sensor that delivers 45.7-megapixels of resolution. The sensor has no AA (Anti Aliasing) filter, which means it should deliver sharper images at the increased risk of moire. The D850 uses the standard Nikon F mount, meaning there is a huge range of lenses to pick from, built by both Nikon and a range of third-party manufacturers, including Tamron and Sigma. With a 3.2-inch touch-sensitive LCD that features a tilting design to help setup awkward high/low compositions, the DSLR features an optical viewfinder and boasts weather-sealing , making it suitable for professional use.
Launched a year later in August 2018 was the Z7 – arguably Nikon’s most important camera in years. The first generation full-frame mirrorless camera actually delivers the same resolution (45.7-megapixels) as the D850, but has no mirror and is built around the new Z-mount. Although this new mount has its own range of lenses, Nikon shooters can still use their F-mount optics via an adaptor. The Z7 also offers a 3.2-inch tilting touch-sensitive LCD but the first big difference between the two cameras is the size and weight. The bulky D850 tips the scales at 1050g, while the more compact Z7 weighs in at just 675g – a huge difference that would be further magnified if you were carrying around the camera all day. There’s a size difference too, with the D850 measuring 146x124x79mm compared to the smaller Z7 (134x101x68mm).
One of the hallmarks of mirrorless cameras is that they typically have much faster continuous shooting rates when compared to DSLRs, so it’s interesting that the Z7 offers 9 frames per second (FPS) and the D850 is very closely behind at 7 FPS. In fact, pair the D850 with its battery grip and the burst rate increases to match the Z7’s 9 frames per second. Another difference is the viewfinder setup, while the D850’s is optical, the Z7 sports an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with 3690k-dot resolution. What’s more, the D850 offers two card slots (1xXQD, 1x SD), while the Z7 only has the one XQD slot, so if you are an existing Nikon user who has spent money buying up SD cards, you’ll have go buy some new media for the Z7.
There’s also some key areas where the newer technology packed in to the Z7 clearly wins out. When it comes to focus points, although the D850 can offer a very admirable 153, the Z7 surges ahead offering 493. What’s more, the Z7 boasts an In Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) system, while D850 users will have to rely on their lenses being stabilised.
|Nikon D850||Nikon Z7|
|Burst rate||7 FPS||9 FPS|
Both cameras are more than capable of producing not just professional-level imagery, but premium image quality that is at the very top of what’s available in the market. Both cameras can produce maximum image sizes of 8,256×5,504 pixels, meaning photographers will be able to make huge prints or, alternatively, be able to crop in intensively without overly compromising quality.
Interestingly, both cameras also have the same ISO ranges, offering ISO 64 -25,600, which can be expanded up to 102,400 so neither camera should present a problem when shooting in low light situations. Because both cameras produce such big files, if you are trading up from a more entry-level cameras, be aware that you’ll need to buy more/bigger memory cards, but also need a computer that can handle the larger RAW files.
Both the Z7 and D850 are closely matched when it comes to video and the good news is that both cameras can record ultra high-quality 4K footage up to 30p, making either camera genuinely viable options for working videographers. What’s more, Full HD can be captured at 60p and the Z7 and D850 feature a Full HD 5x fast frame rate mode to create epic slow motion sequences. Each camera has built-in headphone and external mic ports so enhanced audio can be both monitored and recorded, too.
Extra features and verdict:
There’s a huge amount of features where the D850 and Z7 are evenly matched, yet there’s also plenty of key areas that separate the two models. One of the most important areas is battery life, where the two cameras are at either end of the spectrum. The D850 is an absolute machine that just keeps shooting – in fact, it can manage 1840 shots on one full charge. However, the Z7 is limited to 330 images per charge – although it should be said that many photographers have reported achieving far higher and this is just the figure stated in the specifications.
Each camera also has additional features that are well worth mentioning; the D850 includes a flash sync port, illuminated buttons and a focus stacking mode, while the Z7 has access to insanely fast optics, such as the forthcoming 58mm f/0.95 and of course has that impressive IBIS system. It’s likely photographers who are thinking over moving up to a full-frame Nikon will make a decision based on their individual needs. Street photographers will appreciate the lighter form factor of the Z7, and also its IBIS system to keep shots steady when you can’t use a tripod.
Landscape photographers are likely to edge towards the D850 thanks to that insanely efficient battery, and comfortable handgrip. That said, portrait shooters and videographers are likely to be more split in their decision, but the good news is that both the D850 and the Z7 are excellent cameras that can help professional photographers make more of their imagery.