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GEAR TESTS: Nikon D850 FX Full Frame DSLR Underwater Camera Review

Jim Decker

Jim Decker

CEO: Backscatter Underwater Video & Photo


I've been shooting the Nikon D850 since the new year and it has quickly become my favorite photo camera of all time for a number of reasons.

First, the image quality is stunning. The colors are spot on. With the ability to natively shoot ISO 64, the dynamic range is incredible. Resolution of 46 megapixels makes this the best camera for making large high quality prints or giving lots of latitude for cropping. Editing in Lightroom allows a ton of leeway to brighten shadows with little to no noise, and to bring back detail in borderline overexposed highlights, even if the highlight warning was blinking on the back of the camera.

Second, the autofocus system is the best I have seen in a DSLR. The 3D focus tracking and accuracy has changed the way I shoot. The 3D autofocus will track your subject through the frame until you stop focusing and require a new subject. This was especially helpful on our shark dive, where sharks are constantly changing distances and focus needs to be continuously updated.

Third, the speed of shooting is much faster than the D810, which was a lot slower even though it was processing 10MP less. While sports photographers might need more speed, 7 frames per second and a deep image buffer is all the underwater shooter will need in 99% of most underwater shooting situations.

While this is my top choice for a photo camera, and the video capability has been massively improved over previous Nikon models, it still falls a little short in the video department. 

There are some things to cheer about in the video department. The D850 will shoot 4K video from the full width of the sensor, but also has a crop option to shoot a DX portion of the sensor at 4K giving a bit of zoom range to the Nikon 8-15mm lens and more reproduction ration for macro. Executing a manual white balance at depth is now possible up to 50 feet deep, but fails at anything much deeper than that.

The downsides are no meter available in video mode, and colors at depth approaching 50 feet will need a bit of work in post. Canon is still the best choice for anyone who is a serious video shooter due to its industry superior manual white balance execution at depth.

However, if you are looking to the BEST photo camera around today, the Nikon D850 is absolutely the best tool to get the job done.

Robin Dodd




When it comes to shooting stills, look no further than the Nikon D850. With the most dynamic range AND resolution out of just about every camera at the 2018 Digital Shootout, the D850 was easily the king of the still shot. I love taking advantage of the full frame sensor and 8-15mm fisheye zoom lens. When set to 8mm you are able to shoot full circular images. This may be a novelty to some shooters, but I am very fond of this style and like the way it forces me to think about composition in a less-than-traditional way. It also helps create a very dramatic split shot! The continuous focus mode along with the 3D intelligent focus tracking meant that even when shooting fast-moving sharks, the D850 was able to fire quickly and accurately track focus no matter what direction or distance the subject decided to head in. Out of several hundreds of shark exposures, every single one was in focus and tack sharp right where I wanted it to be. Out of all the DSLRs out there right now, the D850 is the one I'll take when I want the highest probability of success in almost any shooting situation.