Although the Nikon D850 and Nikon Z6 are very different cameras, they are both full-frame options from Nikon that came out around the same time. Maybe you’re wondering which one is the right choice for you. If so, read on! (Note that this comparison is between the D850 and the original Nikon Z6, not a later model in the Z6 series.)
Nikon D850 vs Nikon Z6 Specifications Comparison
|Camera Feature||Nikon D850||Nikon Z6|
|Announced||July 2017||August 2018|
|Sensor Type||BSI CMOS||BSI CMOS|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 5||EXPEED 6|
|Resolution||45.7 MP||24.5 MP|
|Sensor Dimensions||35.9 x 23.9 mm (Full Frame)||36.0 x 24.0 mm (Full Frame)|
|Sensor Pixel Size||4.35µ||5.94µ|
|Low Pass Filter||No||Yes|
|IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization)||No||Yes|
|Base ISO||ISO 64||ISO 100|
|Max Native ISO||ISO 25,600||ISO 51,200|
|Extended ISOs||ISO 32-102,400||ISO 50-204,800|
|High-Resolution Sensor Shift||No||No|
|Focus Stack Bracketing||Yes||Yes|
|Fastest Shutter Speed||1/8000||1/8000|
|Longest Shutter Speed||30 seconds||900 seconds|
|Continuous Shooting (Mechanical Shutter)||7 FPS||12 FPS|
|Continuous Shooting (Electronic Shutter)||7 FPS||12 FPS|
|Notes for High FPS Shooting||Up to 9 FPS with MB-D18 grip||None|
|Buffer Size (Raw)||200 frames (7 FPS)||43 frames (12 FPS)|
|Autofocus System||Phase Detect||Hybrid PDAF|
|Low-Light AF Sensitivity (f/2 Lens, ISO 100)||-4 EV||-6 EV|
|Standard Flash Sync Speed||1/250||1/200|
|Maximum Video Bit Depth (Internal)||8 bits||8 bits|
|Maximum Video Bit Depth (External)||8 bits||10 (12 with paid upgrade)|
|Raw Video||No||No (Yes, externally, with paid upgrade)|
|4K Maximum Framerate||30 FPS||30 FPS|
|1080P Maximum Framerate||120 FPS||120 FPS|
|Additional Video Crop Factor||No||No|
|Chroma Subsampling||4:2:0, 4:2:2 (External)||4:2:0, 4:2:2 (External)|
|Video Recording Limit||30 min||30 min|
Physical and Other Features
|Slot 1 Type||CFExpress Type B||CFExpress Type B|
|Slot 2 Type||SD (UHS-II)||N/A|
|Rear LCD Size (Diagonal)||3.2 in||3.2 in|
|Rear LCD Resolution||2.36 million dots||2.1 million dots|
|Articulating LCD||Single Axis||Single Axis|
|Viewfinder||Pentaprism / OVF||EVF|
|Viewfinder Resolution||N/A||3.69 million dots|
|USB Type||Type A 3.0||Type C 3.1|
|Battery Life (Viewfinder)||1840 frames||310 frames|
|Battery Life (Rear LCD)||N/A1||380 frames|
|Weight (Body Only w/ Battery + Card)||1005 g (2.22 lbs.)||675 g (1.49 lbs.)|
|Dimensions (LxHxD)||146 x 124 x 79 mm (5.7 x 4.9 x 3.1″)||134 x 101 x 83 mm (5.3 x 4.0 x 3.2″)2|
|MSRP, Body Only||$3000 (Check Current Price)||$2000 (Check Current Price)|
|Used Prices||Nikon D850 Used Prices||Nikon Z6 Used Prices|
|1Not specified by Nikon|
|2The Nikon Z6’s official dimensions do not include the depth of the protruding viewfinder. To match the typical standards today, 15mm were added to the Z6’s depth measurement in this table.|
This is a pretty fascinating comparison, since the strengths and weaknesses of the two cameras are so different! But each one does have its strengths and weaknesses. The D850 is a much larger and heavier professional beast with a 45 megapixel sensor. Meanwhile, the Z6 has some more modern features and a much smaller form factor, but targets a more midrange area of the market.
The biggest difference between the two cameras is image quality. With a 45 megapixel sensor and a base ISO of 64, the Nikon D850 is definitely the way to go for tripod-based photography where you want maximum fidelity of the scene. The Z6’s 24 megapixel sensor is hardly bad – and at high ISOs, it definitely starts to shine – but the D850’s sensor is frankly a higher-quality sensor for most situations.
Then there’s the question of autofocus and high-speed photography performance. On paper, the Nikon Z6 may seem to win this comparison. It has more autofocus points and can shoot at 12 FPS rather than 7 FPS. But in practice, the Nikon D850 is definitely the better choice for fast action photography. The D850’s buffer size is much larger, and in practice, the 153-point phase-detect autofocus system can track fast-moving subjects far better than the Z6’s AF system. This isn’t something that is reflected in the spec sheet, but having used these two cameras side by side, the D850 definitely wins in that department.
Where the Nikon Z6 comes out ahead is in its more modern and streamlined design. It has in-body image stabilization, a faster processor, better video features, and a much more portable build. Not to mention the price – especially on the used market, you can find the Nikon Z6 for less than half the price of the D850. If you don’t need 45 megapixels or a blazing-fast autofocus system, the Z6 is definitely the more logical choice.
Summary and Recommendations
For many genres of photography, it’s not a question of which camera is better – the D850 is clearly ahead for anything tripod-based, like landscape photography, architecture, cityscape photography, and similar. It would also be my choice for sports and wildlife photography, partly because of the better autofocus system and partly because you can crop more easily with a 45 megapixel sensor.
Meanwhile, the Nikon Z6 is the better choice for travel photography because of its small size and in-body image stabilization (great for shooting handheld). The excellent high ISO performance means that the image quality differences start to disappear between these two cameras in low light – even favoring the Z6 if it gets especially dark. And for videography, the Z6 definitely wins thanks to its smaller size, in-body image stabilization, and optional raw video via a $200 firmware update.
What does the Nikon D850 offer over the Nikon Z6?
- 1.87 times more megapixels (45.7MP vs 24.5MP)
- Two card slots, which is better for redundancy and backup
- Better battery life when using the viewfinder, with approximately 1530 more shots according to CIPA measurements
What does the Nikon Z6 offer over the Nikon D850?
- Lighter weight (330g lighter or about 1.5 times lighter)
- Much lower price, costing $1000 less—you could get a second camera!
- In-body image stabilization, allowing for easier handheld photography even with non-stabilized lenses
Questions? Go to our forum, where you can start a conversation and talk to photographers about these two cameras!