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  • Andrew JK Tan

Nikon D850 - A day at the Bird Park

It wasn't that great a day weather wise but I was anxious to exercise the Nikon D850 with the Nikkor 80-400mm f4.5/5.6. I really wanted to see what I could produce with this practical and hand-holdable combo at the Jurong Bird Park.

All the images that I will be sharing were all captured in a single 5 hours session. Photographing birds at the Bird Park may sound easy to some but I find that the park is a very realistic location to photograph birds in a similarly challenging environment.

Equipment used

1. Nikon D850

2. Nikkor 80-400mm f4.5/5.6 telephoto zoom


1. All images captured in JPEG FINE file format

2. No flash fired

3. No tripod or monopod used

4. All images were post processed with Photoshop CC using my regular workflow

5. Nikon D850 was set to DX mode to get up to 600mm angle of view when required

6. AF area mode was either set to Single (S) or Group Area mode

7. Burst mode at 7 FPS

8. Manual exposure mode

9. Matrix metering mode

10. AF-C priority set to Release-Focus priority

Before I share my favorite images from the session, let me share again how good the Nikon D850 JPEG FINE file really is. My logic is simple, show the capability of the camera using worst case conditions i.e. using the JPEG FINE file format. It this format is able to provide me with the final image quality that I expect imagine what the D850 RAW file format can achieve.

A) Dynamic Range and Robustness of the JPEG FINE file format

This first image shows how the original JPEG FINE file was exposed. It was close to 2 stops underexposed.

ISO800, 1/800s, f5.6, 480mm focal length, D850 set to 1.2x crop mode (31.5MP)

ISO800, 1/800s, f5.6, 480mm focal length, D850 at 1.2x crop mode

A 500% magnification screen shot of above image

A 500% magnification screen shot the the same image but this time post processed using Photoshop CC's Camera Raw Filter. You can see the grain after the shadow details recovery. Remember this is at 500% magnification.

Now after a single noise reduction pass using my favorite noise reduction software NEAT IMAGE.

You can now see a significantly "cleaner" file after the noise reduction pass with very minimal details loss. Some small detail areas have become a tiny tad softer.

This next image is the FINAL version of the Gray Heron image. This final image was produced using a simple Camera Raw filter adjustment to reveal more shadow details and at the same time protecting the highlights and midtones. In addition, I applied my crop and resizing process to get a slightly larger subject with no loss in details all the while maintaining a 31.5MP resolution as in the original 2 stops underexposed file above.

Lastly a 500% magnification screen shot of the final version.

Hope the above series of commentary and images give you a good idea of how good and robust the D850's JPEG FINE file really is. Like I mentioned above , I am super confident that if I photographed the same scene using the RAW file format of the D850, I would probably produce a slightly better final image.

B) Summary of my overall experience of the Nikon D850 photographing birds of all sizes

1. Very happy with the overall handling and response

2. Continuous AF tracking kept up with birds in flight (refer to images below)

3. As I have mentioned above, dynamic range was excellent

4. Impressed with the overall details and tones captured

5. Honestly even if I used my D500 or even a D5, I doubt that I could get significantly better images from today's session.

Now all I need is the MB-D18 battery to get up to 9 FPS, not that it will improve my photography that much but it will probably make me feel better to have a faster sounding DSLR when photographing next to my D500 and D5 friends.

Sharing my favorite images from today's session

1. ISO800 , 1/800s, f5.6 , 600mm , Pelican portrait

2. ISO800 , 1/800s, f5.6 , 480mm , Greater Flamingos

3. ISO1600 , 1/640s, f5.6 , 480mm , Gray Crowned Crane

4. ISO800 , 1/500s, f5.6 , 600mm , Helmeted Guinea Fowl

5. ISO1600 , 1/400s, f5.6 , 600mm, Helmeted Guinea Fowl

6. ISO1600 , 1/320s, f5.6 , 380mm, Peahen

7. ISO1600 , 1/320s, f5.6 , 380mm, Peahen

8. ISO800 , 1/640s, f5.6 , 600mm , Red Crested Cardinal aka "Angry Bird"

9. ISO500 , 1/800s, f5.6 , 400mm, Night Heron with catch

10. ISO500 , 1/800s, f5.6 , 400mm , Night Heron with catch

11. ISO400 , 1/1250s, f5.3 , 200mm

12. ISO800 , 1/640s, f5.0 , 135mm

13. ISO800 , 1/640s, f5.3 , 230mm , Pelicans with their heads in the water to feed , through glass

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