With the release of the Nikon D780, many photographers are wondering how this camera compares to its big brother, the 45 MP Nikon D850. Although it is clear that the two cameras are aimed for different needs, the D850 has been available for a while now, so it can be purchased at a very reasonable price (especially used). The D850 has also established itself as one of Nikon’s best DSLRs ever made, so why not compare it to Nikon’s latest release?
As usual, we will be running through all the technical specifications for this comparison. A detailed comparison that includes high ISO image samples will be provided in our upcoming Nikon D780 review.
|Camera Feature||Nikon D780||Nikon D850|
|Sensor Resolution||24.5 MP||45.7 MP|
|Sensor Type||BSI CMOS||BSI CMOS|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 23.9 mm||35.9 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Pixel Size||5.93µ||4.35µ|
|Low Pass Filter||Yes||No|
|Dust Reduction / Sensor Cleaning||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||6,048 x 4,024||8,256 x 5,504|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 64|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-51,200||ISO 64-25,600|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 50, 102,400-204,800||ISO 32, 51,200-102,400|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||EXPEED 5|
|Viewfinder Coverage||100%, 0.70x||100%, 0.75x|
|Storage Media||2x SD (UHS-II)||1x XQD, 1x SD (UHS-II)|
|Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter||Yes||Yes|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||7 FPS, 12 FPS in Live View (12-bit RAW)||7 FPS, 9 FPS with MB-D18|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 900 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|Shutter Durability||150,000 cycles||200,000 cycles|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/200||1/250|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||180,000-pixel RGB sensor||180,000-pixel RGB sensor|
|Highlight Weighted Metering||Yes||Yes|
|Full Aperture Metering During Live View for Stills||Yes||Yes|
|Live View Focus System||273-point On-Sensor Phase Detect||Contrast-Detect|
|Live View Eye / Face Detection||Yes||No|
|Autofocus System||Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX II with improved algorithm||Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor|
|Dedicated AF Engine||No||Yes|
|Number of AF Points||51 AF points, 15 cross-type||153 AF points, 99 cross-type|
|Detection Range (f/2 standardized)||-3 to +19 EV OVF, -6 to +17 EV LV||-4 to +20 EV|
|AF Detection||Up to f/8 (11 AF points)||Up to f/8 (15 AF points)|
|Video Maximum Record Time||20 min in 4K, 30 min in 1080p||30 min in 4K|
|Video Maximum Resolution||3840×2160 (4K) @ Up to 30p||3840×2160 (4K) @ Up to 30p|
|Video Maximum Quality||10-bit N-log over HDMI||8-bit over HDMI|
|Audio Recording||Built-in stereo microphone|
External stereo microphone (optional)
|Built-in stereo microphone|
External stereo microphone (optional)
|Highlight Display (Zebra Stripes) in Live View||Yes||Yes|
|Interval Timer Exposure Smoothing||Yes||Yes|
|Timelapse Exposure Smoothing||Yes||Yes|
|Number of Images in Timelapse / Int Timer||9,999||9,999|
|LCD Size and Type||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD Touchscreen||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD Touchscreen|
|LCD Resolution||2,359,000 dots||2,359,000 dots|
|Exposure Bracketing||2 to 9 frames||2 to 9 frames|
|Focus Shift Shooting||Yes||Yes|
|Battery||EN-EL15b Lithium-ion Battery||EN-EL15a Lithium-ion Battery|
|Battery Life||2260 shots (CIPA)||1840 shots (CIPA)|
|Battery Charger||MH-25a Quick Charger||MH-25a Quick Charger|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes|
|USB Version / Type||3.1 Type-C||3.0 Micro-B|
|Weight (Body Only, Includes Batteries and Card)||29.6 oz (840 g)||35.4 oz (1005 g)|
|Dimensions||143.5 x 115.5 x 76.0 mm||146.0 x 124.0 x 78.5 mm|
|MSRP Price||$2299 (as of article publication)||$2999 (as of article publication)|
Right off the bat, we can see that these two cameras are aimed for completely different needs – the Nikon D780 is capped at 24.5 MP, while the D850 has far more resolution at 45.7 MP. In addition, the Nikon D850 is optimized to yield maximum dynamic range with its base ISO of 64 and lacks a low-pass filter, while the D780 has a low-pass filter in order to reduce the effect of moire in images. This means that the D780 is more of a general-purpose camera, while the D850 is a specialized tool, specifically designed for landscape, architecture and studio photographers who need maximum detail and want to be able to make very large prints.
The Nikon D850 also has a much better autofocus system, thanks to its Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor, a dedicated AF engine and many more AF points (153 AF points, 99 of which are cross-type vs 51 AF points, 15 of which are cross-type). The D850 focuses better in low light as well, thanks to its -4 to +20 EV detection range (vs -3 to +19 on the D780), and it is able to utilize 15 AF points at up to f/8 (very helpful when using lenses with teleconverters), vs the D780 that uses 11 AF points.
Where the Nikon D780 shines over the D850, is when using Live View mode. Nikon was able to integrate a lot of the technology from the mirrorless Z6 camera into the D780, which brings a whole new level of live view shooting, thanks to its hybrid autofocus system. The result is much faster and more accurate focusing, as well as new face and eye detection AF features that have never been seen on Nikon DSLR cameras before.
The video features are quite comparable, but the D780 is arguably a better camera for recording 4K footage, thanks to being able to fully utilize the whole sensor without skipping, and ability to output 10-bit footage through its HDMI port (the D850 is limited to 8-bit output only).
These differences also reflect in the prices of the cameras. The Nikon D780 is priced a whopping $1,000 less than the D850 when introduced ($2,299 vs $3,299). Even though the D850 is now selling at a more reasonable price of $2,999, I suspect Nikon will reduce the price of the D780 during holidays as well in the future.
Overall, both cameras are amazing, but if you are trying to choose between the two, you have to ask yourself – do you need a general purpose camera, or a high-resolution tool to make large prints? If the answer is the former, then the D780 is the camera you should buy. If you primarily shoot landscapes, architecture or do a lot of studio work, then I would recommend the D850 instead.
Do you guys think that a D780 style PD autofocus might be available for the D850 in the future? Or are there any hardware limitations that make it physically impossible? Thanks.
I’m so much of a novice that after reading this article, I don’t know which of the two cams in better off with (I thought it would be the D780).
Looking to make a major upgrade to this level camera, primarily for nature work — insects, botanical close ups, etc, but also solemn landscape type. For that I often need to do things like count tiny parts of small insects, so I had assumed that the much higher pixel rate in the 850 made it the best choice for these fine details — but I see it mentioned only in the context of architecture and landscape. Will the detail factor be the same for for such work? (Typically either macro lens, or more commonly, best close-focusing 300mm (+/-) to get details without disturbing tiny critters.) Thoughts?
The D780 lacks a very important option.
The Nikon D780 (and the first Z-models) lack the option of a vertical grip with controls. That would be an absolute show-stopper for me, sine I often shoot in the vertical position. It was a mistake by Nikon to construct otherwise good cameras with no optional true vertical grip.
The Nikon D850 (and the Z6 II and Z7II) have the option of a true vertical grip with controls, and for anyone who often shoots in the vertical position this is very important since the ergonomics, comfort and therefore also stability during vertical shooting becomes clearly better with a vertical grip.
Hi, Nasim, thank you for all your hard work, it is really appreciated!
I’m looking for some kind of comparition for tripod shooting on 24 vs 45MB pixel sensor.
Can the same tripod take care of extra pixels or would an update in tripod weight and sturdiness be mandatory?
I currently use Manfrotto Go! carbon and find it suitable for landscape work I do.
I’m currently shooting with a d750 and shopping … Confused about the seeming contradiction between two paragraphs. “The Nikon D850 also has a much better autofocus system, thanks to its Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor, a dedicated AF engine and many more AF points” and in the next one you seem to say that the 780 had the better autofocus???
Tim, both paragraphs are true. The upper paragraph refers to both cameras being in most shooting situations, either with the optical viewfinder or the LCD, the lower paragraph refers to the D780 having more capability ONLY when in liveview mode, where the mirror is flipped up and you are viewing the image thru the processor. Not only is the light sensitivity improved due to the focus using digital data from the image rather than real data from the viewfinder, but the focussing modes are increased because it borrows new software taken from the mirrorless camera lines, where there is facial recognition, eye recongnition, and a focus spotting that covers the entire width and breadth of the image rather than a portion of the viewfinder. The replacement for the 850 will likely be able to get the same advantages, and maybe even a bios update will be offered, but currently, the 850 was released before these newer technologies could be borrowed from the Z line of mirrorless cameras, where they are developing new mirrorless AF capabilities, some of which can be used by the newer DSLR line. Hope this is understandable. Databyter
Thanks Nasim, i use your site extensively to get guidance, every time i have a photographic question, you have an answer. More power to you! Peter, Mumbai, india
I think you have mixed the specs of each other, nikon d780 does not shoot 9 fps with grip it shoots 12 fps in live view not d850, and battery life 22500 shots of nikon d780 not of d850.
Co proponujesz kupić na wesela.komunie d 780 czy d 850
No niestety przyszedł czas na zmianę aparatów używam już parę lat D3 i nie zmierzam wyjść z nikona
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