Nikon D850 vs Z7ii and which is the better camera?

nikon D850 vs z7ii

Nikon D850 vs Z7ii and is mirrorless really dead?

It has taken me well over a year to write this Nikon D850 vs Z7ii review and for a very good reason, I honestly couldn’t decide for a long time which one was better and why. In the end I decided on one and it certainly was the right decision not just for me but for my photography also.

On my very first commercial photoshoot with the Z7ii I abandonded it half way through the shoot and went back to my trusty D850 (more on this later). I left it on the shelf for three months while I took my D810 as a back up camera to my D850. A few months later I went back to my Z7ii again to really not only compare them but to give the Z7ii a serious try. That was 8 months ago now!

So which one is better? On paper that would appear to be an easy decision to make but often times what’s on paper doesn’t translate into real world use. This was a prime example of that sadly… 

Often times you have to try a product for months to really see the differences in a multiple of scenarios to truly see the difference between them and that was the case with the D850 vs Z7ii.

Let’s first have a quick look at the D850 and then advantages of the Z7ii and also the issues with the Z7ii and how I managed to choose between the two of them.

You can read on to find out more or watch my D850 vs Z7ii video below if you like.

Nikon D850

The Nikon D850 has to be the best all-round DSLR ever made. It does it all and with the greatest of ease… Apart from sports and wildlife photography of course where you might need more then 7 frames per second (or 9 frames per second with the camera grip) it’s capable of, otherwise this camera is a pure beast.

I have used my D850 on hundreds of commercial shoots and fashion shoots over the years where it not only performed beautifully but also felt so good to hand hold for 6 to 8 hours at a time. It was my partner in crime on so many landscape and seascape photoshoots and has helped me produce some of my best work, even shooting straight into the setting sun was no trouble to this camera with its incredible dynamic range.

My D850 has proven itself time and time again to be an incredibly capable and reliable camera that I not only trusted but relied on.

I have no hesitation in recommending the D850 today to anyone very serious about their photography, which is staggering considering it was release in September 2017 and yet here I am today writing an article comparing it to the latest Nikon Mirrorless camera.

If you are sensing I have a very deep love for my D850 then you are right, I absolutely love it which is a bit strange as I never had that connection to my D810 or any of the other Nikon cameras I have owned.

This is where the pressure comes on the Z7ii now, whatever replaces my D850 will have to be something very special indeed. No scratch that, it will have to be incredibly special to replace my D850.

D850 VS Z7ii Review

Nikon D850 vs Z7ii my first thoughts using them.

I was so excited when my Z7ii arrived I was positively bursting to get the box open and get the Z7ii in my hands but when I did the very first thing to hit me was disappointment.

The very first thing you will notice when you first pick up a z7ii is that it’s no D850 and for a few different reasons, firstly it’s smaller and secondly it’s lighter and then we get to the build quality which in all honesty just seems like a cheap version of a baby D850.

Stick with me on this as I kind of found a solution to that which I will get to later…

Now I know a lot of people love the smaller size and weight of the Z7ii and in ways I do too as lets face it who wants to be carrying a heavy camera around.

The serious issue for me was as soon as I held the Z7ii I just didn’t like it, I loved the grip on my D850 and this was just so different. 

The Z7ii grip was just too small and my small finger kept slipping off the bottom of the grip, the bottom of the camera was also digging into the palm of my hand and it all just felt a bit… well, not cheap but the overall build quality just didn’t feel like it was the new D850.

Now that bugged me for a while until I found a solution a few months later thankfully. I went off and bought a SmallRig L Bracket which thankfully added more length or height to the grip of the camera and solved the issue for me.

The second point I mentioned was the weight difference and again that’s great but when you are using a good zoom lens like the 24-70 F2.8 on the D850 there was a lovely balance to the setup, with the z7ii and the same lens it just didn’t feel as balanced.

The other point about the extra weight is I always felt it helped to get rid of those micro jitters or shakes you can get with lightweight gear. I think that’s being incredibly harsh on the Z7ii though.

The L-Bracket when fitted added a small bit more weight and helped bring back that balance again with it’s added weight.

Funnily it also helped make the camera feel a lot more solid and robust which I know might seem a bit crazy, it could just be my subconcious thinking the camera was now protected on both sides. 

Nikon D850 vs Z7ii picture quality

There is as far as I am concerned no difference in the picture quality of these cameras as both cameras uses practically the same 46mp backlit sensor. Both sensors scored 100 out of 100 on the DXOMark sensor test making them both the best of the best as regards sensor performance.

For the real techy people out there interestingly the Nikon D850 came out slightly better than the Nikon Z7ii in the tests (nothing in it really) with the D850 “Offering outstanding dynamic range of 14.8 EV and colour depth of 26.4 bit at base ISO” and the Nikon Z7ii “Offering outstanding dynamic range of 14.7 EV and colour depth of 26.3 bit at base ISO”. So don’t expect to see any serious differences between the two of them in dynamic range, High ISO performance or image sharpness.

D850 vs Z7ii camera sensor

My first Nikon Z7ii Photoshoot didn’t go well.

The very first I used my Z7ii on didn’t go well and after seeing the results at lunch time which was halfway through an 8 hour commercial shoot I immediately went back to my D850 again mid shoot.

I would normally shoot anywhere from 500 to 700 photographs on these shoots, depending on the clients requirements, the number of models and products to be shot. 

With my D850 I just knew out of 700 photographs there might be one or maybe two out of focus shots and it was usually my fault the shots were out of focus.

With the Z7ii the photoshoot all seemed to be going great until we hit lunch time and I started to review, upload and backup the shots. I was more than shocked to find out that out of nearly 300 shots I had taken 17 of them were clearly out of focus. I immediately reverted to my D850, we reshot the missed focus shots and continued the shoot with the reliable D850. 

Out of the remaining 300 plus shots from that shoot not a single shot was out of focus on the D850.

Now to be fair these shoots are all shot with studio lights designed to kill off ambient lighting. The low light level was obviously far more of an issue for the Z7ii than it was for the D850 which just powered through with no issues.

The Z7ii is great for landscape shoots or while taking photographs in normal lighting conditions, the Z7ii was very close to the D850 in those situations and the miss ratio was very closer thankfully.

As you can imagine I didn’t use the Z7ii for a good bit after that experience until one day I decided I needed to get my head around this issue and sure enough I did, the focus system on the Z7ii is very different to the D850 and when you learn how to use it it’s nearly as good then.

Even today I still miss the reliability of my D850’s focus though but I have learned to work with the Z7ii and it out shines the D850 in a lot of other ways which we will get to now.

Nikon D850 vs Z7ii

D850 vs Z7ii features and why one of them is better.

While there is practically nothing to choose between these two photography cameras there are still some nice little differences between. There is a reason I personally choose one over the other the other but I will nearly quarantee you it’s not for the reason you are thinking of…

Video performance is way better on the Z7ii so if you are a hybrid shooter this could be a big one for you.

Mirrorless cameras have way more autofocus points so again the Z7ii is the clear winner here.

The Z7ii extended shutter speed modes which basically means you can extend your shutter speeds past the 30 second limit and go all the way up to 15 minutes.

Animal and Eye AF with a faster processor on board means another win for the Z7ii.

Faster Burst rate on the Z7ii

The ability to be able to see your exposure through the viewfinder before you actually take the shot on the Z7ii is a nice little touch for complex scenes.

Focus peaking when using the Viewfinder on the Z7ii is very handy when using manual lenses or just for when you want to use manual focus.

The Video functionality and quality on the Z7ii is far superior to the D850.

The Z7ii has five stops of IBIS on Z lenses built in (3 stops on F mount lenses).

All of these features are great and add a little bit more to the attraction of the Z7ii over the D850 but let me explain why I really choose the Z7ii over the D850.

Nikon D850 vs Z7ii winner

Why the Z7ii is better than the D850.

Yes, I am now using the Z7ii and my D850 has been sitting on my shelf for months and I have finally decided to sell my D850.

I have adapted to the Z7ii focusing system and learned to use the slightly different focusing system on the Z7ii and let’s just say it is nearly as good as the D850 now (nearly, but not there yet in low light).

Now you might well be thinking it’s one of the minor reasons above that have caused the shift over to the Z7ii but it’s not it’s not even the combination of them all.

What I personally see as the real advantage of the Z7ii over the D850 has nothing to do with the camera itself…. The Z mount lenses are the key to my move.

It’s only when you use them that you realise how good they are.

Nikon D850 vs Z7ii and their lenses

Z-mount or F-mount lenses and which is better?

Using your F-mount lenses on a D850 or on a Z7ii will again give you the same results, the FTZ adaptor works perfectly on the Z7ii and doesn’t introduce any issues or flaws in your image quality.

The big difference here though is the image quality you will get from the Z mount optics, my F-mount 24-70 F2.8 is nowhere near as good as my Z24-70 F2.8 and the same goes for 70-200mm and my Z-mount primes are just pin sharp.

It was this difference that made me swap to the Z7ii and since then I have been extremely happy with the camera. I am still using that L Bracket though as without it the camera just bugs me.

In saying all that it’s really handy when I am travelling I can just pop off the L Bracket and my camera is smaller and lighter again. So this system is the best of both worlds I suppose.

So if you are struggling to choose between the D850 and the Z7ii then I hope this helped you and also do yourself a favour and go extend your camera grip with an L Bracket.

See you out there,