Outdoors Photography San Diego Surfing

Shooting video in the ocean with Nikon D850

Nikon D850 with 50mm prime 1.8 using Aquatech Base waterproof housing

Shooting video with the Nikon D850

While I primarily use my Nikon Z6 and Z8 cameras, I’ve held on to my Nikon D850 for two reasons:

  1. It’s still a great stills camera that can shoot video.
  2. I have a waterproof housing for it and haven’t yet purchased one for my Z8.

When the D850 came out, it was a precursor to what modern mirrorless cameras are great for: “hybrid shooters.” With the ability to capture 4K UHD and early electronic video stabilization, it offered advanced video capabilities. To that point, when the camera is in “video mode” or “live view,” the reflexive mirror (the “R” in DSLR) is flipped up, and the camera operates like a mirrorless camera.

Nikon D850 using Tamron 150-600mm zoom

More understanding to the Nikon D850 video specs

4K UHD at 30fps

The largest video file you can capture is 4K UHD, which is 8-bit video with 4-2-2 color sampling.

4K UHD simply means the frame size of the video is 3840 x 2160 pixels. To achieve this, Nikon uses pixel binning to downsample a 4K image from an 8.2K (45MP) sensor. While that does negatively affect overall video quality, it results in a much smaller video file. 4K UHD is only available up to 4K 30fps; for higher frame rates, you’ll have to go down to 1080p for up to 60fps.

Slow motion video

4x and 5x slow motion options are captured without audio and with a DX crop, which is a 1.3x crop ratio applied to the image. For slow motion, the camera captures 1080p video at 120fps. The DX crop decreases the surface area of the sensor capturing the image. I believe this is done to keep the video file size down; as you increase overall video resolution and frame rate, file size goes up exponentially.

Electronic VR

The electronic video stabilization is almost unusable do to some serious lag and is nothing like modern Nikon or Ibis systems.

Auto focus

The auto focusing only works with very slow moving subjects and when in continuous focusing mode once you are recording you are unable to electronically refocus the camera.


All in all, the Nikon D850 is an underperforming camera on paper compared to other new cameras, but if this is all you have access to, it is still more than capable of making good-looking videos. It will just be a little harder than it would be with some modern creature comforts.

Ultimately, I think the video overall looks good and holds up well to some color grading in post. While 4K is nice, it’s definitely not always necessary. Heck, most new cinema movies are distributed in 2K. While the video is compressed for any social media use, it will still be compressed again to H.264 or something close to that.

I’ve been enjoying using it because I think it’s keeping my skills sharp and making me think a little more about what I am doing. I hope you enjoyed my blog about an “outdated” camera, and if you have a D850, I hope you shoot some video with it. If you never have, go out and try it.

below are a few screen grabs from video

surf photography with nikon d 850

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