Lights, camera, action: Nikon launches D850

Nikon Australia ‘went bigly’ this week with the D850 launch event. It invited photographers from around Australia to Sydney for an exclusive hands-on experience with the hot new camera.

The launch took place at The Venue, Alexandria, a huge warehouse space converted for events and functions.

It was a slick, high production event – a ‘dying art’ in PR and marketing, and these days a rare occurrence for the photo industry.

The room was dimly-lit and sections of the warehouse were cordoned off with black curtains. Projections throughout the venue covered the walls with photos of, and captured by, the D850.

Some members of the audience – primarily photographers – weren’t entirely sure how they scored an invite, or what to expect!

There were about 50 guests. It was a warm up for the next day – the space was opened up to retailers and Nikon fans and drew a much larger audience.

Firstly, a formal presentation took place. Nikon Australia marketing manager, John Young, welcomed the guests and introduced to the stage master photographer and Nikon ambassador, Rocco Ancora.

Ancora, a wedding and fashion specialist, spent three days testing the 45.7-megapixel camera. He showed how the impressive specs translated into real world usage.
Ancora compared the D850 with the D810 and D5 – both cameras in his kit.

The D810’s big sensor makes it an ideal fit for landscape, wedding and portrait photographers, while the D5 has a fast, sharp autofocus system making it attractive to sports photographers.

The D850, the successor to the three-year old D810, is an entirely new camera – rather than a re-iterated body with upgraded features.

The D850 balances aspects of both the D850 and D5, while having added new features.

It weighs 1KG, slightly heavier than the D810 and almost 500 grams lighter than the heavyweight D5.

The D850 is priced at $5400, nearly $2000 more expensive than the D810 but around $4000 cheaper than the D5.

It has significantly wider ISO capabilities than the D810, reaching 25,600, and a new image processor allows it to be pushed to high ISO levels without creating too much noise. Ancora showed a number of JPEG images he captured to demonstrate this, adding; ‘but imagine when processing the RAW images!’

The D850 can capture 7fps, and a maximum of 51 frames in a single burst.

It has the same lauded 153-point autofocus system featured in the D5.

With a stacked new backside illuminated CMOS sensor, which Nikon designed (but didn’t necessarily manufacture) in-house, it’s arguably the company’s most appealing ‘all-round’ high-end camera.

Through Ancora’s presentation, and the proceedings that followed, Nikon’s message is that the camera is a workhorse. It’s built for photographers shooting every situation, rather appealing to a particular style or genre.

This has also been the key marketing message plugged by Nikon in the lead up to the launch.

‘The fun begins’
Once Ancora concluded his assessment of the camera, the curtains in the warehouse were drawn back to reveal three D850 demo areas covering a spread of photography genres – landscape, fashion and portrait, and sports.

Photographers were encouraged to test the camera with a range of FX lenses, taking photos of everything and anything in the building.

This photo clearly wasn’t taken on a D850.

One corner featured a night sky, projected by monitors, along with trees to emulate a low light landscape.

Landscape photographer Luke Austin, along with Nikon representatives, were on hand to assist photographers with any queries. The ergonomics of the camera are slightly different to other Nikon models, but this won’t present a steep learning curve to those familiar with the D5 or D810.

A fashion runway with models allowed attendees to test the camera’s portraiture capabilities.

The final area had two Kendo fighters, a Japanese martial art which has contestants wear armour and battle with bamboo sticks, put on a show.

Photographers could use the D850, along with a range of other Nikon DSLRs like the D5 and D7500, to capture the fast-paced action – obviously to show how the cameras performs in the sports arena.

While the event was packaged as the launch of the D850, it also served as a celebration for Nikon’s 100th birthday.

A large range of Nikon cameras were on show, some of which dated back to the good ol’ days of analog.

The D850 has broken a narrative plagued by undesirable episodes over the last 12 months for Nikon.

The company was hit by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes, which also impacted Sony’s sensor manufacturing plant; it scrapped the DL line of high-end compact cameras prior to release; and sales have been slow for KeyMission action cams, likely due to the action cam fad fading. This has resulted in Nikon Japan reporting an ‘extraordinary loss’ for the last nine months of 2016.

With the D850 in the market, things are looking much brighter. Hopefully Nikon can continueon this trajectory – it has released one of the finest cameras of the year.

This is proven by the D850 completing selling out, an enviable problem for the company. Pre-orders are apparently backed up for months due to ‘overwhelming demand’, John Young told ProCounter.

Unfortunately, that means customers will have to wait in line.

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