The Nikon D850 contains one of the most highly regarded sensors on the market today, and Nikon has touted the fact that it was designed entirely by Nikon and not simply an off-the-shelf sensor. But in case you were wondering who its manufactured by, a new report has now concluded that it’s a Sony-made sensor.
ChipMod also tells NikonRumors that the characteristics of the sensor are typical of Sony-made sensors, but that the sensor is clearly different from the sensors found in Sony’s a7 II and a7 III mirrorless cameras.
This seems to confirm the fact that Nikon designed the D850’s sensor and had Sony manufacture it to Nikon’s specifications.
The Nikon D850 received a score of 100 over at DxOMark, the highest mark ever achieved by a full-frame DSLR (and tied with the mirrorless Sony a7R III). If ChipMod’s analysis is correct, then Sony-manufactured sensors are the two highest quality sensors ever made for 35mm full frame cameras.
Sony reportedly keeps its best sensor designs for its own cameras, but it appears that a Nikon-designed (Sony-manufactured) sensor has now matched the quality of Sony’s best.
Update on 6/16/18: DPReview sheds some additional light on the matter:
[T]his news confirms what Sony told us about the way its semiconductor company deals with external clients: other companies can commission Sony Semiconductor to make them a sensor and can include their own intellectual property in the design, without that information (or the rights to use it) being available to Sony’s camera division. Hence the D850 features the BSI and dual gain designs that Sony uses in many of its own cameras but is also able to provide an ISO 64 mode that allows the Nikon to rival some of the latest medium format cameras, but that Sony cameras don’t offer.