Prominent camera lab DXOMark gives Nikon’s D850 a sky-high score

Nikon’s 100th year in business is also bringing an equivalent score for their latest high-end DSLR — the Nikon D850 is now the first full-frame DSLR to earn a score of 100 from DxOMark, the third-party company using software to analyze just how good a camera sensor is.

The Nikon D850 boasts a 45.7-megapixel sensor with top shooting speeds between 7 and 9 fps — and now a category-leading score of 100 from DxO software, a number our real-world Nikon D850 review would agree with. DxOMark is crediting the D850’s backlit design and absence of an optical low pass filter with the camera’s high score. A backlit sensor places all the hardware behind the sensor, allowing more light to reach the surface and in turn creating better low light performance, more dynamic range and lower noise levels at high ISOs. While backlit is becoming more common, the D850 is the first full-frame sensor from Nikon to use this design.

DxOMark says that the D850 earned a score of 100 because of both the color and dynamic range coming from the sensor. For color, which DxOMark calls the portrait score, the D850 is comparable to the pricier D5 in printed photos, with the D5 having a slight edge viewing photos on a monitor.

DxOMark gave the D850 a dynamic range of 14.8 EV at the base ISO, a score that helps measure the differences between the lightest and darkest areas of an image and the range of light the camera is capable of capturing without using editing techniques. As ISO increases, the D850 has about a one-stop advantage over the older D810, the testing company says. The D850’s dynamic range compares closely with the Sony A7R II and both cameras score about one stop better than the Canon 5DS.

DxOMark says the D850’s ISO score isn’t quite as impressive as the color and dynamic range, though still respectable up to ISO 3200 without editing and beyond that with noise reduction in post-production. Since noise tends to increase as resolution increases, the lower ISO score isn’t too surprising.

The scores from the D850 are so good, in fact, that DxOMark says the camera is on par with medium format, and in some cases, better than a few medium format models. “Offering outstanding dynamic range of 14.8 EV and color depth of 26.4 bit at base ISO, combined with its massive 45.7Mp resolution, the D850 is a mouthwatering prospect for landscape, studio, portrait, as well as high-end editorial or advertising photographers who are  seeking top-notch image quality for large-scale reproduction and display,” DxOMark’s Paul Carroll wrote.

DxOMark scores aren’t percentages, so the 100 points for the DxO isn’t a “perfect” score despite now leading the category. The highest score from the company went to the Red Helium 8K cinema camera earlier in 2017 with a score of 108, while (on a different scale than the dedicated cameras, the Google Pixel 2 earned a 98, suggesting 2017 is proving to be an excellent year for camera sensors.

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