Nikon D850 vs Z6 II
The Nikon D850 and the Nikon Z6 II are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in July 2017 and October 2020. The D850 is a DSLR, while the Z6 II is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D850 has a resolution of 45.4 megapixels, whereas the Z6 II provides 24.3 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D850 and the Nikon Z6 II? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The physical size and weight of the Nikon D850 and the Nikon Z6 II 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.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon Z6 II is notably smaller (25 percent) than the Nikon D850. Moreover, the Z6 II is markedly lighter (30 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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
Concerning battery life, the D850 gets 1840 shots out of its EN-EL15a battery, while the Z6 II can take 410 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15c power pack. The power pack in the Z6 II can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Nikon D850||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|2.||Nikon Z6 II||134 mm||101 mm||70 mm||705 g||410||Y||Oct 2020||1,999|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|4.||Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|6.||Fujifilm X-T4||135 mm||93 mm||64 mm||607 g||500||Y||Feb 2020||1,699|
|7.||Nikon D780||144 mm||116 mm||76 mm||840 g||2260||Y||Jan 2020||2,299|
|8.||Nikon Z5||134 mm||101 mm||67 mm||675 g||470||Y||Jul 2020||1,399|
|9.||Nikon Z6||134 mm||101 mm||67 mm||675 g||310||Y||Aug 2018||1,999|
|10.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|11.||Nikon D500||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|12.||Nikon D810||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||980 g||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299|
|13.||Nikon Df||144 mm||110 mm||67 mm||760 g||1400||Y||Nov 2013||2,749|
|14.||Nikon D610||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|15.||Nikon D800||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999|
|16.||Nikon D800E||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299|
|17.||Olympus E-M1 III||134 mm||91 mm||69 mm||580 g||420||Y||Feb 2020||1,799|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The Z6 II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 39 percent) than the D850, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with BSI-CMOS (Backside Illuminated Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the D850 offers a higher resolution of 45.4 megapixels, compared with 24.3 MP of the Z6 II. This megapixels advantage translates into a 37 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the D850 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 5.94μm for the Z6 II). Moreover, it should be noted that the Z6 II is much more recent (by 3 years and 2 months) than the D850, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of individual pixels. 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.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D850 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D850 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 41.3 x 27.5 inches or 104.9 x 69.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 33 x 22 inches or 83.9 x 55.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 27.5 x 18.3 inches or 69.9 x 46.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon Z6 II are 30.2 x 20.1 inches or 76.8 x 51.1 cm for good quality, 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 40.9 cm for very good quality, and 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Z6 II has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Nikon D850 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 64 to ISO 25600, which can be extended to ISO 32-102400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon Z6 II are ISO 100 to ISO 51200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-204800.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
| DXO |
|1.||Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|2.||Nikon Z6 II||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|4.||Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|7.||Nikon D780||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Nikon Z5||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|9.||Nikon Z6||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||25.3||14.3||3299||95|
|10.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|12.||Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|13.||Nikon Df||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||none||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|14.||Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|15.||Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|16.||Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|17.||Olympus E-M1 III||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the Z6 II provides a faster frame rate than the D850. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/60p, while the D850 is limited to 4K/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the Z6 II has an electronic viewfinder (3690k dots), while the D850 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the Z6 II has a higher magnification than the one of the D850 (0.80x vs 0.75x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D850, the Nikon Z6 II, and comparable cameras.
|2.||Nikon Z6 II||3690||Y||3.2||2100||tilting||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||Y|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|17.||Olympus E-M1 III||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
One feature that differentiates the Z6 II and the D850 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The Z6 II reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the D850 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the Z6 II is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Nikon D850 and the Nikon Z6 II both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The D850 writes its imaging data to SDHC or XQD cards, while the Z6 II uses CFexpress or SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. Both cameras support UHS-II cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D850 and Nikon Z6 II and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|2.||Nikon Z6 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Olympus E-M1 III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||-||Y|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D850 (unlike the Z6 II) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D850 and the Z6 II are recent models that are part of the current product line-up. The D850 replaced the earlier Nikon D810, while the Z6 II followed on from the Nikon Z6. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D850 better than the Nikon Z6 II or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D850:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (45.4 vs 24.3MP) with a 37% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 2100k dots).
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1840 versus 410) on a single battery charge.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in July 2017).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon Z6 II:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (4K/60p versus 4K/30p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.80x vs 0.75x).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (134x101mm vs 146x124mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 300g or 30 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (39 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D850 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the Z6 II is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 8 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. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D850 and the Nikon Z6 II place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D850 or the Z6 II perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Nikon D850||4.5/5||+ +||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|2.||Nikon Z6 II||4.5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2020||1,999|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||4.5/5||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|4.||Canon 5DS||..||+||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||5/5||+||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|6.||Fujifilm X-T4||5/5||+ +||..||5/5||5/5||Feb 2020||1,699|
|7.||Nikon D780||5/5||..||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2020||2,299|
|8.||Nikon Z5||4/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jul 2020||1,399|
|9.||Nikon Z6||5/5||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2018||1,999|
|10.||Nikon D5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|11.||Nikon D500||5/5||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|12.||Nikon D810||5/5||..||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299|
|13.||Nikon Df||4/5||..||81/100||4/5||4/5||Nov 2013||2,749|
|14.||Nikon D610||4/5||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|15.||Nikon D800||5/5||+ +||82/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999|
|16.||Nikon D800E||..||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299|
|17.||Olympus E-M1 III||5/5||..||83/100||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2020||1,799|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Nikon D850 vs Nikon Z6 II
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D850||Nikon Z6 II|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Nikon Z mount lenses|
|Launch Date||July 2017||October 2020|
|Launch Price||USD 3,299||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D850||Nikon Z6 II|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 23.9 mm||35.9 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||858.01 mm2||858.01 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.1 mm||43.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||45.4 Megapixels||24.3 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||8256 x 5504 pixels||6048 x 4024 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.35 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.30 MP/cm2||2.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||4K/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||64 - 25,600 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||32 - 102,400 ISO||50 - 204,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 5||DUAL EXPEED 6|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||100||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||26.4||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||14.8||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||2660||..|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D850||Nikon Z6 II|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||3690k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||2359k dots||2100k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D850||Nikon Z6 II|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||9 shutter flaps/s||14 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||200 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/8000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC or XQD cards||CFexpress or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-II||UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D850||Nikon Z6 II|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 3.2|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||NFC built-in||no NFC|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D850||Nikon Z6 II|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||1840 shots per charge||410 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
146 x 124 x 79 mm
(5.7 x 4.9 x 3.1 in)
134 x 101 x 70 mm
(5.3 x 4.0 x 2.8 in)
|Camera Weight||1005 g (35.5 oz)||705 g (24.9 oz)|
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