My Comparison of the Nikon D850 VS D500
I’m going to say right up front, this is not going to be a technical, this camera does this, that and the other post. This is my humble opinion, and my comparison of the Nikon D850 VS D500 in side by side shooting. But if your not a photographer, this may not be the most interesting post for you.
I have owned a D500 for 3 years, and it’s my exclusive camera. I have always liked it for wildlife, which is mostly what I shoot. But, knowing the limitations on this camera compared to the 45 MP D850 has had me wanting to upgrade. I was lucky a couple weeks ago to have a new friend loan me his D850. Knowing we were headed to Whitewater to photograph the cranes, he offered and I happily accepted the opportunity to borrow his camera. My very first time shooting the D850 though, was at Madera canyon. We were lucky enough to find the elegant trogan, and it was a good first time out with the camera.
This was shot at 380mm with my Tamron 150-600 G2. This image is seriously cropped.
This is the original.
Both of these are right out of the camera. The detail at such a heavy crop is amazing, and one reason I like the D850.
I also shot this cute squirrel in Madera with the 850. 600mm, and a fairly heavy crop on this image too.
We were at Whitewater for a week, and I really wanted to compare the 2 cameras. The best crane action with them flying away in the mornings happened before the sun was even up. I have a full size sturdy tripod that I used, and my Tamron lens, and I always shoot in manual with auto ISO.
I’ve heard that the 850 is great in a low light, high ISO situation and I put that to the test. These images are right out of the camera, with no editing, and are quite noisy. I did try some Lightroom noise reduction, but the images are very soft.
150mm F5.6 1/200 ISO 1600
420mm f/6 1/125 ISO 4500
As the light would come up, the ISO would drop and the noise was of course decreasing.
600mm f/6.3 1/200 ISO 500
These two images are perfect examples of comparing the two cameras. I shot the first image with the D850, then switched to the D500 and shot with the same settings. The ISO shifted because of the difference with the focal length between the crop and full sensor.
460mm f/6.3 1/800 ISO 640
460mm f/6.3 1/800 ISO 400
D500 320mm f/5.6 1/60 ISO 500
D850 550mm f/6.3 1/200 ISO 400
Early mornings were definitely better with the 850. I felt more comfortable keeping my shutter speed higher, and also the ISO. I guess I thought it would be some super duper high ISO machine with little to no noise. But even with the noise, it was still better than what can be handled by the 500.
Of course perfect light, and perfect situations are always the best. So I did the same type of experimenting throughout the day with both cameras.
D850 shot at 600mm and cropped pretty heavy. Again the detail is still there. Gotta love those 45 MP’s.
D500 at 550mm and heavy crop. The D500 is good at detail too, but I don’t think it’s quite as good.
D850 500mm and really heavy crop. It was cloudy when this was taken, but the camera still got the detail nicely.
The Sub-Selector was programmed to switch to 3d tracking when pushed. I have never used this focus mode before, relying instead on back button focus and the tracking there. So when this redtail hawk signaled he was about ready to fly, I pushed the Sub-Selector and locked onto the hawk.
He took off and I hit the shutter button. Like I said, this was my first and one and only time using this focus mode. I felt it did a pretty good job, although it clearly slipped off my main focus point. Maybe with practice I could perfect this more.
As far as birds in flight go, if that was my main reason for going out, I would take the D500. It’s just faster, and I feel does a better job.
D500 300mm f/8 1/1000 ISO 100
D850 460mm f/6.3 1/1600 ISO 160
I did get better results with birds in flight and the D850 if I could keep the shutter speed much higher. But all the birds in flight I got and really nailed focus were taken with the D500. See the images in my last post for examples.
These are just a few other photos taken over the week.
D500 600mm F/8 1/1600 ISO 220
D500 420mm f/8 1/1600 ISO 220
D850 420mm f/6.3 1/2000 ISO 250
I used the 850 in the early mornings to shoot video, knowing that the low light capability was better. Video function was the same as my D500, so that was nice.
I’m so glad I had the chance to do a real side by side comparison like this. Although now I really want the D850. Lol. I think for photographing the wild horses it would be amazing, and I like the idea that I could print larger than I do right now. To be able to do 4ft x 5ft, or bigger, mixed media pieces would be a game changer.
One thing of note with the D850, because the RAW files are huge I filled up a 64gb XQD card pretty fast. There is an SD slot for backup, same as the D500, which is nice. Although, with the shutter being slower on the D850, 7fps VS 10fps on the D500 I don’t think I took as many photos overall. The D850 is slightly bigger than the D500 too. Not enough to really notice, I didn’t think anyway.
I really wish that Nikon would catch up with Sony and Canon in the mirrorless world, because that’s what I would get if I could. I’m too invested in Nikon lenses, and I have zero desire to learn another camera operating system. So, in the mean time my next purchase will be a D850 and I think with both cameras I could cover about any shooting situation.