Earlier this year, I published a long wishlist of features that I would like to see on the Nikon D820. Since Nikon decided to skip this model number and jump directly to D850, I figured it was time to revisit that article with more realistic goals and features many of us would be willing to upgrade our D810 DSLRs for. I think as a large community of Nikon shooters, we should do our best to reach out to Nikon directly and put in our requests, so that the company knows what its dedicated user base expects from the future generations of their cameras.
Table of Contents
At this point, it is hard to say what resolution the sensor on the Nikon D850 is going to be, but considering how proud Nikon seems to be of this upcoming announcement, I expect the D850 to have more than 36 MP of resolution. The biggest question is whose sensor is the D850 going to have? If Nikon decides to go with a Sony sensor, it will most likely be the same 42 MP sensor we have previously seen on the Sony A7R II. Anything higher means either a Nikon-developed sensor or some other sensor we have not yet seen on the market. No matter what route Nikon takes, I hope the new sensor is going to have similar or better dynamic range as the Nikon D810 (I am hoping for ISO 64 or lower). Anything significantly less would be a potential deal breaker for many, including myself. I would welcome a 42 MP BSI sensor with higher dynamic range and high ISO performance than the D810!
D5 Autofocus System
Considering that the Nikon D500 and the D5 have a newer, more versatile AF system with a whopping 153 focus points, I really hope that Nikon implements the same AF system on the upcoming Nikon D850. With a very fast AF system capable of focusing even in extremely low-light situations, the D850 should do very nicely in any shooting environments.
Live View Split-Screen Display Zoom Enhancement
When shooting landscapes and architecture, many of us have to calculate hyperfocal distance in order to get the entire scene look sharp. While the process is not very difficult, whenever calculation of distances is involved, there is always a chance for error. With the introduction of the D810, Nikon gave us a wonderful feature called “Split-Screen Display Zoom”, which allows one to get extremely accurate results in regards to calculating the best hyperfocal distance. In Live View mode, the screen is split into two halves and one can look at two areas of the frame independently and rotate the focusing ring in order to get both areas as sharp as possible while zoomed in:
I personally found it incredibly useful, as it leaves no room for error – one can really nail focus with this feature. However, there is one huge drawback to the way Nikon implemented the Split-Screen Display Zoom – it only allows for simultaneous vertical movement of the zoomed in area, which makes this feature only useful for shooting in vertical orientation. As soon as you switch to horizontal orientation, you can no longer look at both the foreground and the background at the same time! Nikon should really address this problem by allowing one to move the focused area independently of each other. This should have been addressed via a firmware update on the D810, but I really hope that Nikon fixes the issue on the upcoming Nikon D820.
Nikon typically only gives us illuminated buttons on top-of-the-line DSLRs like the Nikon D5, but how many of us shoot with such cameras at night? In fact, I bet most D800/D810 users need this feature more than the D5 shooters do, simply because of the type of photography they are engaged in. Action / Wildlife photographers wrap up their shooting at night, whereas night time is when astrophotographers come out to photograph those stunning Milky Way shots:
So why not add illuminated buttons to the Nikon D850? Far more people would benefit from such a feature, particularly when shooting in very dim environments. Nikon did it on the D500, so it is time to copy this feature to the Nikon D850.
Fixed sRAW Implementation
When Nikon introduced sRAW initially, many of us got excited about the feature. Thinking about not only potential space savings in some situations, but also about the different options we could have when shooting with a high resolution camera like the D810, it seemed like a wonderful option. However, after we looked deeper into the sRAW format, it turned out to be more of a marketing gimmick, with larger than desired file sizes, cooked / lossy data and other problems. Does this mean that sRAW is doomed forever? It does not have to be – Nikon could make sRAW very useful by reworking it completely. If one could shoot at 42 MP in full resolution, 24 MP in medium resolution (mRAW) and say 12-16 MP in low resolution (sRAW), but with real pixel binning to reduce noise levels in images and reduce their physical size, how awesome would that be? And please, no stripping of important data! We do not want to see 8-bit, 10-bit or 11-bit implementations of sRAW – all data should be preserved, which means storage of data in full 14+ bit lossless. This way, we do not have to worry about posterization and other related artifacts, as we had previously seen on Sony mirrorless cameras:
I would love to have a built-in GPS on the upcoming Nikon D850. When traveling to remote areas, it would be wonderful to know exactly where I captured images, so that I could share that information with others and potentially come back to the same location later, which I could do with accurate GPS coordinates. Sadly, Nikon has been pushing external GPS units, which are very impractical to carry around and use in the field, as they have to be connected via a wire to the camera to work. GPS is a very important feature for landscape and travel photographers and Nikon should include an integrated GPS chip in the upcoming D850. If Canon was able to do it on the 5D Mark IV, it should be a no-brainer for Nikon to offer this feature.
Built-in, Working WiFi
The same goes for WiFi – Nikon should integrate a built-in WiFi chip on the D850! And not of the practically useless Snapbridge type we have seen on the Nikon D500, which did not even have an iOS app ready after the product already hit the market, but something that works seamlessly well with a number of different platforms. One should be able to easily copy images from the camera into a mobile device and use an app to be able to remotely control the camera.
Fix EFCS So That It Works Properly
I love the fact that the Nikon D810 has an Electronic First Curtain Shutter (EFCS). In fact, that’s the #1 reason why I personally decided to move up to the D810 from my D800E, as I wanted to be able to completely eliminate camera shake caused by the camera shutter mechanism (which is often worse than the mirror slap). Despite the fact that EFCS is a wonderful and truly useful feature, the fact that it only works in some modes like Mirror-Up is puzzling. Why couldn’t Nikon make EFCS work in other modes such as live view? With live view, the mirror is already raised and the shutter is open, so why the camera needs to close its shutter before capturing an image is beyond me. Nikon should seriously fix this flaw in the upcoming D850.
Silent Shooting Mode with EFCS
While at it, why not give us a truly “Silent Shooting Mode” with an electronic shutter? Wedding photographers would love to have such a feature, particularly when shooting in churches, allowing them to capture moments without any shutter release sound. Sure, there would be limitations to such a feature when shooting movement, but if one understands the limitations, they would be able to take advantage of such features when needed.
Tilting, Touchscreen LCD and Pinch Zoom
A tilting screen on any digital camera is a very nice feature to have, because of the ability to capture both stills and video at odd angles, something that is much harder to achieve with a fixed LCD screen. Traditionally, tilting screens have been used on non-weather sealed point-and-shoot and entry-level DSLRs, so when the same feature started appearing on higher-end DSLRs, some photographers resisted the idea, making assumptions that a tilting LCD screen would compromise both weather sealing and build quality of the cameras. In reality, that’s certainly not the case – as we have seen by now, professional-level full-frame cameras like the Pentax K-1 feature tilting LCD screens without compromising on anything.
My Nikon D750s feature a tilting LCD as well and so far I have not had a single problem with this feature, after shooting both video and stills for many months. So there is no reason to exclude a tilting screen from high-end DSLRs like the Nikon D850! It would be nice if Nikon made the tilting angles a bit more versatile though, perhaps similar to what Pentax has done, but even the same tilting screen from the D750 would be good enough to start with.
This one is certainly not a priority for most stills shooters, but considering that every major camera announcement puts 4K in the headline, it would make sense for Nikon to feature 4K video recording on the Nikon D850. If Nikon can do it right, but giving us 4K at 30+ fps, uncompressed HDMI output, zebra and S-Log features, it would make the D850 a highly desirable camera among not only photographers, but also videographers. Even if one shoots 1080p video exclusively, being able to shoot at 4K opens up a lot of opportunities to increase video quality – one can downsample 4K footage to 1080p in order to yield crisp video footage. The advantage is similar to shooting with a high-resolution camera.
On-Sensor Phase Detection Pixels
When compared to mirrorless cameras, DSLRs use phase detection AF system that is located on the bottom chamber of the camera, as explained in our article on how phase detection autofocus works. Because of this, DSLRs can have potential accuracy issues with focusing, especially when lenses or even worse, camera AF system are not properly calibrated. We have written a detailed article on how to calibrate lenses and as you may already know, the process can be both overwhelming and frustrating, especially for beginners.
Why not integrate phase detection pixels on the camera sensor directly, as mirrorless camera manufacturers have been doing? This may not sound like a good idea for a DSLR, as the camera would have to be in live view mode to make use of such a feature, but it does present a few advantages. First, it allows the camera to focus much quicker than contrast detection AF in live view mode, which can be very useful for shooting video. Canon has been integrating on-sensor phase detection for this reason alone in its current generation DSLRs. Second, once phase detection sensors are located in two places, the camera can potentially take advantage of the two. Why not use the on-sensor phase detection to calibrate the camera AF module and lenses? Sensor is what actually captures images, so it would make sense to use the same plane of focus for accurate calibration of the AF system. Third, if Nikon implemented on-sensor phase detection, it would allow the company to improve the AF speed and accuracy of the system for the future mirrorless systems Nikon might be working on. Lastly, combining intelligence of the sensor output with on-sensor phase detection allows for many focusing opportunities, including face / eye / smile detection, etc, which are currently not possible with traditional phase-detection AF systems found on DSLRs.
Automated AF Fine Tune / Enhancement
We have already seen Nikon’s attempt at automating AF fine tune on the D500, but I feel like this could be improved even further. We know that lens calibration only works for specific distances and focal lengths, so calibration is not as simple as we would like it to be. Nikon should give us the ability to store AF fine tune for each focal length on zoom lenses and allow calibration of different subject distances. But it would be a nightmare if we had to do it manually – Nikon should help us automate the process, by giving us a good guidance system that tells us where to move and what focal length to change to during the calibration process. Images are taken, evaluated and re-taken to get the best out of each focal length and distance. If Nikon can do it, it will greatly enhance the AF system precision and keep DSLR shooters from having to send gear back to Nikon. Ideally, Nikon should allow lens calibration using a simple USB dock, similar to what Sigma has been doing on its latest generation lenses. Combine that with the automated AF Fine Tune feature and we will end all focusing frustrations in the field.
Dual XQD or Dual SD Option
Nikon should seriously consider moving away from CF cards completely. We already know that CF is not fast enough for the D5, so why continue giving us a single CF and a single SD card slot? I love being able to use two SD memory cards on my D750 – I don’t need to worry about carrying two different memory card types with me when traveling. That’s not the case with my D810 – if I want to shoot to two cards, I have to use one CF and one SD card, which is a nuisance. I would rather have either two CF or two SD cards. Better yet, give us the ability to choose between dual XQD and dual SD option on the D850. In fact, why not make it easy to swap out memory card modules? Nikon could make the D850 semi-modular this way and sell dual XQD, dual SD and even dual CF option for those who have a bunch of CF cards they want to use.
Built-in Radio Transmitter
I would love Nikon to include a built-in radio transmitter on the Nikon D850 to control the SB-5000 speedlight. This would make a lot of photographers happy, since we would not have to invest in a separate accessory to trigger speedlights.
Lighter and More Compact Body
If Nikon can pack all of the above into a smaller and more compact body without compromising anything, it would be an amazing achievement.
What other features would you like to see on the upcoming Nikon D850? Please share your thoughts below, but keep in mind that the features you request should be realistic to implement!