In the week just gone, I had the fortune to upgrade my main camera body. The new D850 is, in a word - extraordinary. I've only shot 3 jobs on it so far, but I've been very impressed. The first things I've noticed:
- The new rear screen being tilt and touch is a great upgrade
- The first Non-Sony sensor in 10 years*, and it's better than the best Sony available(!)
- The new auto focus performance is blow away
- XQD cards are hilariously faster than anything I've used before
- the new hand grip is the best I've felt on a DSLR
On the other hand, I feel a little sad. I think this may well be the last professional Nikon DSLR I own. It was Over 3 years ago that the D810 was released. 3 years from now? I expect to be firmly in the Phase One or Fuji GFX 100Mp+ camp**. We're hitting the limits of what you can do in the 35mm sensor world, and even the best technology can't best light physics. Even Nikon have announced full frame mirrorless this year. Not compact and fun, but a full frame, professional mirrorless line***.
This might not be just the last Pro DSLR I own, it might be the swan song of the high resolution Nikon DLSR - period. If you look at the D850, it's rocking the highest resolution sensor Nikon has ever used, and is shooting at a frame rate close to that of their Flagship sports camera. "No single camera can do everything" - except, now? It kinda can.
The D850 is a pull all the stops camera body. It smells a lot like a Hail Mary pass to keep the Yen flowing until their mirrorless line is ready to go. The FPS of a sports camera, resolution that beats a medium format Fuji GFX body, full weather sealing (sorry Sony), and a lens selection for every photographic application in the world. In fact, Nikon made the camera body heavier as they increased the amount of magnesium, replacing even more parts that were previously polycarbonate (plastic). This is what 100 years of making cameras amounts to, and its pretty great.
Except one problem - (or 2, maybe)
Problem 1: DSLRs are no longer the favoured imaging device. Mirrorless cameras have clearly become the preferred option. It's not even a debate anymore. No, they don't address every need a photographer may have, but they do address most.
Problem 2: Digital Medium Format just became attainable for thousands of Pro-Photographers. Fuji, Hasselblad and, I predict, Phase One all stand to make a lot of coin in the next few years as Pro Photographers like myself move into the Medium format world, or down into Mirrorless.
Like it or not, Niche photographic applications doesn't keep companies afloat. Hasselblad can attest to that, they're now a Chinese subsidiary, owned by the makers of DJI drones.
There's 3 things I need for my photography - High resolution, High Dynamic Range, and access to specialist lenses. Today, the D850 is the perfect workhorse camera, but I note that it's likely the last of the great Nikon DSLRs. Nikon will move their research, lens design and energy into professional mirrorless [where the money is], and keep the sports shooters on side as long as possible with revs to the D5, but landscape, architectural and product photographers (Hi!) will be almost forced to move on to the bigger sensors of the Danes, Swedes and maybe Fuji.
Whatever happens, the next 3 years will be a very interesting time for Nikon shooters.
*TowerJazz, an Israeli Co. who also makes sensors for Leica is behind the sensor in the D850
**What, you thought the Fuji line was going to stay content at 50Mp? 2018 is going to bring 100Mp bodies to the masses.
***Some may say too little too late, I'd be hesitant to write Nikon off that quickly.