In the Dark with the New Nikon D850

Nikon D850 with NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8 lens

ISO 25,600 with 45.7 megapixels? No problem!
Earlier in August I had the incredible opportunity to run around with a pair of Nikon D850 bodies, testing them out day and night along the coast of Maine and New Brunswick. This shot is from the cliffs of Grand Manan.
The Nikon D850 is the successor to the D810, but it’s quite an upgrade! The sensor is backlit, and from my experience that plus the Expeed 5 processor in the D850 provide amazing results for high ISO images at night. At 20 seconds, f/2.8, 14mm, and ISO 25,600 the results are great and using some noise reduction goes a long ways. I also did some star stacking of 10 shots at 10 seconds each at ISO 26,000 and then stacked with Starry Landscape Stacker (Mac only but it can be done manually in Photoshop) to produce pinpoint stars and a very clean sky.
The flip-up LCD screen and illuminated buttons are very nice additions and make shooting low and/or in the dark easier. I also used the flip-out screen when shooting with the tripod a bit high, I could swing the LCD out and down a bit for easier viewing. And it’s a full touch screen LCD, making picking a focus point in live view and zipping around 100% previews pretty easy.
This shot consists of 3 exposures blended for depth of field and low noise. All shots are taken with the Nikon D850 and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens @ 14mm. The sky is 1 shot at ISO 25,600 for 20 seconds, and the foreground is made of 2 exposures, 1 at ISO 1600 and f/4 for 60 seconds during blue hour to get the very very close shrubs in focus, and 1 at ISO 1600 and f/2.8 for 16 minutes in complete darkness for the background cliffs and water. I didn’t use a blue hour shot for the background cliffs and water because I find the blue hour shots result in harsher shadows than really exist in total darkness, and I wanted the Milky Way reflection in the water and in the right spot to match the Milky Way in the sky, which means that in situations like this I have to take a foreground exposure (at least for the water) generally right before/after taking sky shots.
Stay tuned for some more posts and articles with this camera!
You can learn more about my Milky Way editing techniques through my video tutorials for sale on my website,
This entry was posted in astrophotography, landscape astrophotography, Milky Way, Nikon, Nikon D850.


  1. Stan Burman September 21, 2017 at 4:11 am #

    Thanks for posting this welcome info on the D850. I’m really looking forward to doing some Milky Way photography with the D850, but I’m being picky and waiting tor the MB-D18 and a Lightroom update so I don’t have to fiddle with dng files.

  2. Paul Caldwell October 18, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    Since you have used both the D810A and now the D850 for night work, do you find the D810A cleaner than the D850? And which would prefer overall.

    Thank you
    Paul Caldwelll

    • Adam Woodworth October 24, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

      I haven’t been able to do much direct head-to-head testing but so far it looks like the D850 performs at least as well as the D810A with high ISO noise in long exposures in the dark. If you’re looking for a single camera than the D850 is the way to go, as the D810A will have a red cast in daytime shots.

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