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Nikon D850 versus Nikon D800

The Nikon D850 and the Nikon D800 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in July 2017 and February 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D850 has a resolution of 45.4 megapixel, whereas the D800 provides 36.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D850 vs Nikon D800

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D850 and the Nikon D800 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D850 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D850 vs Nikon D800
Compare D850 versus D800 top
Compare D850 and D800 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D850 and the Nikon D800are of equal size. However, the D800 is slightly lighter (0 percent) than the D850. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D850 gets 1840 shots out of its EN-EL15a battery, while the D800 can take 900 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D850» 146 mm 124 mm 79 mm 1005 g 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Nikon D800« 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Nikon D5« » 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D500« » 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D810« » 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D610« » 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D600« » 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i Nikon D600
Nikon D800E« » 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D700« » 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Sony A99 II« » 143 mm 104 mm 76 mm 849 g 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II

Any camera purchase will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D800 was somewhat cheaper (by 9 percent) than the D850 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D850 vs Nikon D800

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D850 and Nikon D800 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the Nikon D850 offers a higher resolution of 45.4 megapixel, compared with 36.2 MP of the Nikon D800. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 4.88μm for the D800). However, it should be noted that the D850 is much more recent (by 5 years and 5 months) than the D800, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D850 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

D850 versus D800 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the D850 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the D800 (overall score 5 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.1 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV in additional dynamic range, 0.1 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Nikon D850» Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100Nikon D850
Nikon D800« Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395Nikon D800
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397Nikon D810
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989Nikon Df
Nikon D600« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094Nikon D600
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996Nikon D800E
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700
Sony A99 II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.4231792Sony A99 II

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the D850 provides a higher video resolution than the D800. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the D800 is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D850 vs Nikon D800

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D850 and the D800 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D850 and Nikon D800 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Nikon D850»optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n Nikon D850
Nikon D800«optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D810
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n Nikon Df
Nikon D600« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 Y n Nikon D600
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800E
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700
Sony A99 II« »2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 12.0 n Y Sony A99 II

The D850 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D800 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D800 was succeeded by the Nikon D810.

Review summary: Nikon D850 vs Nikon D800

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D850 or the Nikon D800 – has the upper hand? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D850:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (45.4 vs 36.2MP) with a 12% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.1 bits more color depth).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 921k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1840 versus 900) on a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 5 months of technical progress since the D800 launch.


Advantages of the Nikon D800:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2012).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 is the clear winner of the match-up (11 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

D850 11:03 D800

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D850 or the D800 handle or perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D850»HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Nikon D800«HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D600« »HiRec87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i Nikon D600
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Sony A99 II« »-85/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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