For the first time in a looonnngg time, I made a big camera purchase. I don’t make it a habit to post about gear, but it’s what the people want! (One for me, one for thee)
I bought a Nikon D850, upgrading from a Nikon D800, and while I haven’t shot it with it professionally yet, I’m pretty pumped about what it’s offering me in comparison to my old body. And yes, it’s a DSLR, which I keep getting questions about. Why, if we are now in a mirrorless revolution, would I spend so much money on a new DSLR?
Why not mirrorless?
Mirrorless is a pretty amazing technology, and I have certainly toyed with the idea of switching to Sony (which seems like the cool kid on the block right now). The idea of electronic viewfinders, smaller bodies, and no moving parts seems pretty attractive. It’s hard to deny that it’s the future. I also happened to pick a time where suddenly, all the major camera companies have come out with their response to Sony’s mirrorless full-frame systems: Nikon with the Z6 and Z7 and Canon with the EOS R, and here I am buying an almost two year old model, the Nikon D850.
This is all nit-picky stuff at the end of the day, I could probably get along fine with any of these cameras, so I don’t see one as losing me money compared to the other (which is kinda why I don’t like talking about gear too often, because it’s usually pretty inconsequential). All I know, is that I needed an alternative to using the D800 full-time, because while I love that camera, it was starting to cause some on the job anxiety with its sluggishness.
I shot with the powerhouse D800 for just about 5 years, and when I got it, I wasn’t shooting in the way I shoot today. I was mostly tri-pod shooting, whether it be real-estate, art reproduction, product, or studio type stuff. When I started to shoot more events and weddings a couple years ago, I began to see the cracks. Now that I shoot weddings and in-the-field portraits most of the time, the D800 was really becoming a pain. The image quality is perfect and still is ahead of any camera on the market (the Nikon D850 image quality is essentially the same), but the autofocus system is a nightmare and it likes to lock up after 6 shots. Earlier this year, I borrowed a friend’s Nikon D600 (A lower end full frame) for a wedding and almost preferred using it because it was lighter on it’s feet than “Big Papa” as I like to call the D800.
What I admired about the D800 was the build quality; it is a tank. I dropped it down some stairs at a wedding I was shooting a while back, and it was totally fine. (My Sigma Art 24mm 1.4 has a nice dent in it though) It’s hefty and easy for me to hold, while also having the buttons in all the right places. When I’ve held mirrorless cameras on the market, they just feel kinda fragile and honestly, too tiny. I know photographers that have taken their Sony A7 rIII out in the field and it overheats or gets rained on and that’s an issue. I never worry about the D800s durability in any way whatsoever.
Also battery: I can usually shoot around 1500 photos (or more sometimes) on one battery with the D800, and supposedly 2000 with the D850. In fact, I’ve shot an entire wedding once on a battery that was only 3/4 full. I always carry a couple spares, but sometimes I never have to break them out. From what I’ve seen of mirrorless cameras, the battery can’t hold up to that quite yet (I’m curious about the new Nikon and Canon ones though)
I suppose I just don’t want to jump on the first mirrorless train because these companies learn over time and fix little issues and nitpicks. I bought the Nikon D800 when it came out, and the autofocus issues prompted them to release a D810 shortly after. Every issue i’ve had with the D800 has been addressed and more in the D850: It has the D5’s autofocus, shoots super fast, RAW file size options, better video, flip screen, focus peaking, and more that I’ve really been itching for after using the D800 so long.
Basically, I got the Nikon D850 because it’s a fully-formed product developed over time by learning from mistakes. It’s about as perfect of a camera for what I shoot as you can get, and mirrorless will get there soon I’m sure, but I’m gonna wait another few years. This will probably be the last DSLR I purchase as my main camera, because I’m sure the Z10 or maybe an entirely different brand and system will blow my mind and come out with something better than the D850.
I’m taking the D850 on our cross-country trip here soon, so I may write something more comprehensive about it after that. In the meantime, watch this space! We’re moving from Chattanooga, TN after living here for 8 years and re-locating to Greenville, SC! I’ll be doing this photography thing full-time and once I get out of this weird transition phase I’ve been in for the past few months, I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled programming (which I feel like I haven’t been back to in quite some time).
For now, go subscribe to my weekly podcast, Out of Focus! The first full episode came out this past week, and I’m getting ready to release the next one in the next few days!