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Nikon D780 vs D850 Comparison

Optics
Video
Features
Storage & Battery

Nikon D780

nikon d780
81%

Nikon D850

nikon d850
Winner!
82%
Nikon D780
vs
Nikon D850
Price
2299
3300
Brand
Nikon
Nikon
Model
D780
D850
Released
2020
2017
Announcement Date
12/02/2020
23/08/2017
Camera Type
DSLR
DSLR
Camera Size
144 x 116 x 76 mm
146 x 124 x 79 mm
Camera Weight
850
1005
Compare

Nikon D780 vs D850 Overview

I had a Nikon D850 for a few years, and it served me well. It was and is the best DSLR on the market. And it’s the ideal camera for wildlife photography thanks to its large sensor and excellent autofocus (AF) system. However, its Achilles heel is its very slow frame rate… So what does a side-by-side Nikon D780 vs D850 comparison tell us?

The Nikon D780 is also a DSLR. But it was launched more than three years later than the Nikon D850. It’s an updated version of the D750 that benefits from some of the mirrorless features of the Z6. That makes it a kind of hybrid.

Badge
Nikon D850

Nikon D850

With excellent image quality, video and battery life, it’s still the best Nikon DSLR on the market

Nikon D850 Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Fantastic overall image quality
  • Excellent 3D continuous AF tracking
  • Sharp 4K / 30p Ultra HD video
  • Long, 1,840-shot battery life
  • Durable, weather-sealed construction
Cons
  • No customizable shooting presets
  • Slow autofocus in Live View
  • Needs an expensive XQD card
  • Rolling shutter noticeable in 4K video
  • Slow 7 fps or 9 fps with an expensive battery grip

The D780 doesn’t have the sensor size or autofocus system of the D850. But it’s lighter, better for video, and has a longer battery life. It’s a shame you can only benefit from the faster frame rate by using Live View. Normally, you get a higher continuous shooting speed by trading off sensor resolution, but not with the D780.

Nikon D780 Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Long-exposure presets
  • Plenty of autofocus (AF) points
  • Nice, uncropped 4K video capabilities
  • Dual memory card slots (UHS-II)
Cons
  • Relatively expensive
  • No built-in image stabilization
  • Noise reduction can be harsh
  • No built-in GPS

Body and Handling

There’s not much to say here. Yes, the Nikon D780 is slightly smaller in all three dimensions and a bit lighter. But that’s not a big deal.

Both are weather sealed. And they have the same diagonal-size, tilting, touch-screen LCD display. However, the D850 has a slightly higher viewfinder magnification.

The two digital cameras look almost identical. They have similar Nikon menu systems. But there are some differences in the button layout.

The Nikon D780 doesn’t have the autofocus “nubbin.” This is on the back of the Nikon D850. And the Live View button and switch are to the left of the AF-ON button on the D780. There’s also an AE-L / AF-L button just above the multi-selector.

Back view of the Nikon D780 camera
Back view of the D780

The main drive mode dial on the left of the top plate is also different. The Nikon D850 has embedded buttons for image quality, metering mode, shooting mode, and white balance.

The Nikon D780 adds an exposure mode dial with the usual options. It also lets you choose from Auto mode, two memory presets, and a special effects mode. This offers picture profiles such as Super Vivid, Selective Color, and Toy Camera Effect.

The Nikon D850 doesn’t have user presets (U1 and U2). Its inability to switch between saved shooting modes used to drive me crazy!

In general, the buttons and dials on both cameras are very responsive. So you never get the same lag as with some mirrorless models.

However, there’s no Nikon-made battery grip for the Nikon D780. You have to go to a third-party manufacturer if you want one of those. For most photographers, that’s a big downside. It limits the frame rate and battery life. Plus, it makes it harder to shoot in portrait format.

Nikon D780 vs D850 Optics

The big difference between these two cameras is in the resolution of their full frame sensors. The Nikon D850 has far more pixels and no anti-alias filter. This means much more detail in the images. DXOMARK hasn’t tested the Nikon D780. So it’s hard to find comparable figures on color depth, dynamic range, and low-light performance.

The benefit of the Nikon D780’s larger pixels and Expeed 6 advanced image processing engine is a higher ISO limit (both native and expanded).

A comparison of autofocus (AF) systems also favors the Nikon D850. It has 153 AF points (99 cross-type focus points) compared to 51 (15) on the Nikon D780.

The Nikon D850’s sensitivity is also one stop better in darker and brighter conditions. Although, the Nikon D780 wins if you switch on Low Light mode.

Live View is a different story. The Nikon D780’s 273-point On-Sensor Phase-Detect autofocus is much faster and more accurate. The Nikon D850 only has an old and slow contrast-detect system.

Both digital cameras have the F-type lens mount. So there’s no difference in the range and quality of glass. Nikon has a good selection of lenses.

Optics
Optics
77%
79%
Megapixels
25 MP
45.7 MP
Image Resolution
6048 x 4024 px
8256 x 5504 px
Sensor Type
CMOS
CMOS
Sensor Size
23.9 x 35.9 mm
23.9 x 35.9 mm
Sensor Format
Full Frame
Full Frame
Frame Rate
12 fps
7 fps
Lens Mount
Nikon F
Nikon F FX
Image Processor
Expeed 6
Expeed 5
Aspect Ratio
3:2
3:2
Minimum ISO (Native)
100
64
Maximum ISO (Native)
51200
25600
Minimum ISO (Expanded)
50
32
Maximum ISO (Expanded)
204800
102400
Minimum Shutter Speed
900 s
30 s
Maximum Shutter Speed
1/ 8000 s
1/ 8000 s
Autofocus Points
51
153
In-body Stabilization
Viewfinder Type
Optical (pentaprism)
Optical (pentaprism)

Nikon D780 vs D850 Video Performance

Both cameras can shoot 4K video. But the Nikon D780 can output 10-bit N-log over HDMI rather than 8-bit. It gives you 12 EV (Exposure Value) stops of dynamic range with an external recorder like the Ninja V. So the D780 has better video resolutions and video quality.

The D780’s hybrid autofocus system in Live View makes it more reliable for videography. And you also get Face Detection in Live View.

Video
Video
91%
70%
Video
1
1
Max Video Resolution
4K
4K
Max Video Dimensions
3840 x 2160 px
3840 x 2160 px
Max Video Frame Rate
120 p
30 p
Time-Lapse Built In
1
1
Video File Format
MPEG-4, MOV
MOV, MP4

Nikon D780 vs D850 Features and Benefits

The D780 is a smaller, lighter camera. It has a higher ISO limit, Live View Face Detection, and a faster USB-C port.

Apart from price, the Nikon D850 wins in all the other main areas. It has a higher-resolution full-frame sensor, better autofocus, and a larger viewfinder. It also offers a lower base ISO, a faster flash sync speed, and a longer shutter life expectancy. Finally, it has a flash sync port, an NFC connection, 8K time-lapse mode, and illuminated buttons.

Other than that, the two models share many different features. These include the same fast shutter speed, time-lapse sequences, face detection, and RAW support. They also offer AE bracketing, focus bracketing, focus stacking, smartphone remote control, and an anti-flicker mode.

Both have Bluetooth and wireless connection, microphone and headphone ports, and an external flash shoe. However, neither has a built-in flash or sensor-based image stabilization.

Features
Features
87%
87%
Built-in Flash
External Flash
1
1
GPS
Weather Sealing
1
1
Screen Type
TFT LCD
LCD
Touch Screen
1
1
Screen Size
3.2
3.2
Screen Resolution
2359000 dots
2359000 dots
Flip Screen
1
Live View
1
Wi-Fi
1
1
Bluetooth
1
1

Nikon D780 vs D850 Storage and Battery

Both cameras feature dual card slots. They’re handy if one memory card fails. However, the Nikon D780 only supports SD UHS-II cards. These are popular, convenient, and cheap.

But I prefer the Nikon D850’s option to use XQD cards. And a recent firmware update means you can now use fast CFexpress Type A cards, too! Speed is vital for reducing buffer lag and when you’re shooting data-hungry 4K video.

The battery of the Nikon D780 appears to last longer at first glance. However, the lack of a Nikon battery grip means you’d be better off with a Nikon D850 with the MB-D18 power pack. It houses two batteries and has duplicate controls for shooting in portrait format, which kills two birds with one stone.

Storage and Battery
Storage and Battery
97%
84%
Memory Card
SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-II compatible)
SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-II compatible), XQD
Dual Memory Card Slots
1
1
Battery Type
EN-EL15b
EN-EL15a
Battery Life
2260 shots
1840 shots
USB Charging
1
DXOMARK Scores
Sensor scores tested by DXOMARK
Overall Score
N/A
100
Portrait (Color Depth)
N/A
26.4 bits
Landscape (Dynamic Range)
N/A
14.8 EVs
Sports (Low-Light ISO)
N/A
2660
Scores
Main Features
Extra Features
Construction and Durability
Handling and Ergonomics
Value for Money
Total Score

Nikon D780 vs D850 – Our Verdict

Any Nikon D780 vs D850 comparison will tell you the Nikon D850 is the better camera. Both cameras are missing features, such as built-in flash and image stabilization.

Nikon D780 vs D850 comparison image

However, the D850 wins in every category except video capability and size. The sensor resolution and autofocus capability alone should make it an easy decision for you.

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Nikon D850

Nikon D850

With excellent image quality, video and battery life, it’s still the best Nikon DSLR on the market

But all that changes if you want a hybrid camera that lets you shoot video and stills. If that’s the deciding factor, the Nikon D780 wins. It has excellent Live View autofocus performance and 10-bit external recording.

Which one you choose depends on what you want to use it for. For wildlife photography, landscape photography, or portrait photography, the Nikon D850 is the clear winner. For videography, I’d save a bit of money and go for the Nikon D780.

Back view of the Nikon D850
Back view of the Nikon D850

What Cameras are Better than the Nikon D850?

Again, this rather depends on what kind of photographer you are. The Nikon D850 is a great camera for any genre. However, DSLR cameras can’t match the smaller and lighter mirrorless ones.

Mirrorless cameras offer faster frame rates, better autofocus, and in-body image stabilization. I recommend these four cameras if you don’t mind using an electronic viewfinder (EVF) rather than an optical viewfinder.

Sony a1

This is what I bought myself when I traded in my Nikon D850. The Sony a1 has a 50 MP full frame sensor, 30 fps RAW shooting, and a market-leading autofocus system with eye detection and subject tracking. In other words, it takes the word “trade-off” and chucks it in the trash!

Sony a1 camera body against a white background
Sony a1 camera body

Nikon Z9

This camera came out a bit too late for me. But the Nikon Z9 offers a great combination of a full frame sensor size, frame rate, and autofocus performance. The frame rate is “only” 20 fps when shooting in RAW. And you don’t get the a1’s bird-eye detection mode.

However, the main problem is that the integrated grip makes it very large and heavy. Still, this is your best option if you want to carry on using your Nikon glass.

Canon R3 or Canon R5

I can never decide between the Canon R3 and R5. So I’ll list them both!

On paper, the R3 should be the better camera by far. It has an integrated grip, Dual Pixel AF, and Eye Control AF to move the focus point with your eye. It also has a 30 fps RAW frame rate that rises to a whopping 195 fps if you don’t mind fixing the exposure and focus.

However, it only scales these heights with a 24 MP full frame sensor. And I can’t quite forgive it for that.

The R5 is lighter and has a “proper” 45 MP full frame sensor that lets you shoot 8K video. However, the RAW frame rate drops to 20 fps, the battery life halves, and you don’t get Eye Control AF or blackout-free shooting!

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