Nikon’s new D850 DSLR features an entirely Nikon designed sensor

Aug 25, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Nikon’s new D850 DSLR features an entirely Nikon designed sensor

Aug 25, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One of the biggest pieces of D850 speculation floating around the Internet the last few days seems to be about the sensor. Specifically, who makes it. And no, it’s not Sony. Nikon have actually designed their own sensor for the D850, according to a Q&A session with Imaging Resource. Nikon also promise some pretty significant performance improvements.

This isn’t the first time Nikon have developed their own sensor. Although, many of their past cameras have used Sony and a few Toshiba sensors. But it a Nikon designed sensor is a first for the D8x0 line. The D800 and D810 both contain a 36MP Sony made sensor suspected to be the same one as that in the original Sony A7R.

While Nikon contracts with a silicon foundry to actually manufacture the chips, Nikon confirmed that the D850’s sensor is entirely their own design, vs. an off-the-shelf unit from a sensor manufacturer.

Imaging Resource

They don’t appear to say why Nikon chose to design their own sensor this time around, but I suspect it may be a combination of factors. First, Sony don’t want to keep licensing out their sensors now they’ve got a major foothold in the camera market. The second is possibly that Nikon want to try to separate themselves a little more from Sony since the Sony A9 has now come to challenge the dominance of the Nikon D5 (and Canon 1DX II).

The new Nikon designed sensor also presents a nikon first. It’s the first backside illuminated sensor in Nikon’s DSLR lineup. Typically these have been shown to improve low light performance. But that doesn’t appear to be Nikon’s justification. Their reasoning is simply that it offers more flexibility for wiring the thing up. This flexibility allows them to achieve the high speeds they were after. 7fps (9 with the grip) on a camera that shoots almost 46MP? Yeah, I’d say they need that speed.

They also say that will increase the ISO noise performance by about a stop, as well as increased dynamic range despite the higher pixel count. We’ll have to wait until these start turning up in the wild, though, until we know for sure.

It’s an interesting Q&A with some great insights into the D850’s development and purpose. Well, worth heading on over to Imaging Resource to read the full thing.

[via Imaging Resource]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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12 responses to “Nikon’s new D850 DSLR features an entirely Nikon designed sensor”

  1. Will Bartels Avatar
    Will Bartels

    But that shutter though…

    1. Kevin Kerfoot Avatar
      Kevin Kerfoot

      Hopefully Nikon steps up their quality control, especially on the consumer cameras.

      1. North Polar Avatar
        North Polar

        The D750 was the last camera to use that shutter module. There haven’t been any recalls on the modules for other cameras as far as I know since then. The D7200, 800, 810, 7500, 500, etc use a completely different design of shutter assembly.

        Mostly because the D750 had a 1/4000 actuation, while the rest have a 1/8000 if memory serves.

    2. Tommy Botello Avatar
      Tommy Botello

      But that ruggedness and extreme weather durability though…

  2. Enne See Avatar
    Enne See

    Is it possible for the new D850 to be a true game changer? Let us hope so. But then again only time will tell.

  3. Kevin Kerfoot Avatar
    Kevin Kerfoot

    It’s good news since Sony is now a competitor and no longer just a supplier. Sony has decided to keep their best sensor designs for Sony products, so I’m glad to see that Nikon has returned to sensor design.

  4. Calvin Go Avatar
    Calvin Go

    I really hope this camera makes a big dent on canon’s market share, canon has been refusing to innovate and has been giving add ons in small amounts, scared that their DSLR will cannibalize their video cams… they don’t think about the growing number of hybrid users that don’t have the big budget of their video cams

    Sony has started giving out good hybrid mirrorless, Panasonic with their GH5, now nikon, really hope this will wake up canon if not time to switch back to nikon

    1. Daris Fox Avatar
      Daris Fox

      Canon is focusing more on their lenses to take advantage of high resolution sensors and producing unique lenses. I’ve yet to anyone else do that other than rehashing their bodies. Also despite the prognostications of doom and gloom over Canon’s future they’re still one of the best selling cameras on the market.

      The main problem for this camera, least for new owners, is the amount of RAM/processing power that’s required. That’s on top of the storage requirements.

      1. North Polar Avatar
        North Polar

        Not as much as you’d think, honestly. I crunch large image files on a i3 dual core with 16gb ram and a decent graphics card. The trick is having a good graphics card that can handle the graphics side though. My computer is ~7 years old and despite taking a bit of time to process, can still knock out panoramas 50k pixels wide without undue strain.

        For storage, we’re in the days that you can pick up a WD 4tb drive for $125 at Walmart as well.

        1. Daris Fox Avatar
          Daris Fox

          Try multi-layer PSDs, I’ve used upwards of 32Gb RAM on editing high megapixel RAWs when it’s required for client work (retouching).

          In addition, relying on a single hard drive is begging for a failure, you’re looking at Tb of data especially if you’re producing 64-128Gb per session. Ideally you should be looking at remote storage + NAS (such as two NAS solutions mirrored).

          1. North Polar Avatar
            North Polar

            I usually run a minimum of 5-6 layers, but have gone up to 20+ on .psd files after importing from raw (nef) without any heavy system stress. Then again, I offload most of the work to my GPU, so my system usage only hits 60-70% with 70% memory usage.

            Ideal? No. Workable with large files, yes. Especially if you know how to work and tweak the OS.

            Never said that a single drive is the ideal backup solution, just that drive space is getting cheaper and cheaper. Hell, a friend of mine built a 24gb raid 5 array for under $800 a month ago using WD RED drives.

            Storage is getting cheaper, so buy what you can and create duplicates at minimum. But it is getting cheap enough to run your own RAID + offsite copies with services or manually.

            Personally, I have my all of my backups on 5 different drives, including off site in case of housefire, power surge, whatever. But I’m running 11tb of storage currently.

  5. Trevor Staff Avatar
    Trevor Staff

    Well, well.