What am I doing with another DSLR? Aren’t mirrorless cameras undoubtedly the future? I think they are part of the future, because they offer certain advantages, particularly in terms of judging exposure through the EVF (electronic viewfinder). But I’ve moved towards preferring to use an OVF (optical viewfinder) over the last year principally because of speed and lack of lag, but also because I prefer to compose based on the scene in front of me, not a picture of the scene. I struggle to imagine a time when I don’t want to use a DSLR for at least a significant proportion of the time.
I know some people will rave about the ability of an EVF to show the actual exposure in the EVF and it is true that’s useful. However, not seeing the scene optically through the lens is a drawback as well, both in terms of fine control of exposure but also in terms of composition. Critics of DSLRs would point to the lack of innovation on the part of the DSLR manufacturers and the high levels of innovation in mirrorless cameras. Those critics would be partly right, things like IBIS, Foveon sensors, novel colour filter arrays and 4K video are innovative, but, a camera without a mirror is not.
Which brings me to the D750, a new camera from Nikon, a DSLR, no innovation here? Far from it. In fairness, as I noted in a recent post, Canon was here first with the wifi and GPS equipped 6D, and while I do think it was a much more innovative camera in many ways than the D600 it competed with, it suffers from poorer overall build quality and weaker dynamic range. Canon had thought more about the concept of the camera in that generation, but as seemingly ever Nikon had the better performing sensors. The D750 is a step beyond the 6D/D600 generation, with better build (though, as I’ll note later, not as good as the D810 in feel), an articulated screen, improved ergonomics, top draw autofocus and, in a first for a Nikon FX DSLR, wifi.
The ergonomics and controls owe much to both the D600 and D800 series cameras. It measures 141x113x78mm and weighs 840g with battery, being the second smallest and lightest full-frame DSLR in the current Nikon range after the Df. Although this might seem a lot, it isn’t really once you factor in that the D810 is about 1kg and although Sony’s A7 series weighs just shy of 500g with battery it needs to be remembered that in actual size there isn’t that much difference, you’ll be carrying more batteries for the A7 whereas the D750 can run all day and once a quality zoom lens is fitted you may actually appreciate the ergonomics of the D750 vs the A7. It’s also worth noting that for me, this camera will replace my (now sold) Sony A7.
At a high level there are some very impressive aspects with regard to this camera and it does little wrong. If I had to pick a weakness I would highlight the shutter speed (upper limit 1/4000) and the use of the 24 mp sensor with an AA filter.
Having enjoyed this sensor the first time around in the D600 I’m now spoiled by the D810’s resolution. A commenter on a previous post noted the pictures (largely from the D750) weren’t impressive and sometimes they do lack the “WOW” factor results from the Df and D810 have in spades. To explain, the D810 produces amazing results at base ISO that with the right lighting are simply stunningly good (both in terms of resolution and colour). Equally the Df/D4/D4S handles high ISO, colours and dynamic range at higher ISOs exceptionally well. Everywhere else though the D750 is at least very good and often impressive. Mention in despatches must also be made of the relatively fast burst speed of 6.5 frames per second, which should not be sniffed at.
The autofocus is fast and very accurate. It’s worth noting that while the number of AF points is the same as the D810, the AF area in the viewfinder is smaller. Nikon has confirmed in interviews that this is deliberate to account for the smaller overall size of the camera.
What’s really impressive is how sure and certain the AF is on moving targets and its ability to focus even in the lowest light. The camera also includes the group area AF mode seen on the D810 and D4S and it is really useful for erratically moving subjects.
The size of this camera is interesting. Aside from the mount, the body itself is thin, which allows for a deep grip. In fact it’s one of the thinnest recent F mount cameras I’ve seen, and is similar to my Nikon F6 in that regard. Here are a couple of shots showing them together:
The deep grip in turn makes this one of the most comfortable cameras to use with a normal sized lens. The recipe for this reduction in size is a switch of material for the front panel of the camera to carbon fibre reinforced plastic, which isn’t as robust as the magnesium alloy used on the D810, but is lighter and more robust than the simple plastic used on the D600/610. However, for me the camera doesn’t feel quite as well screwed together as my D810 or my Df, but I don’t think that’s a failing, it just reflects a great concept bumping up against its price point.
It’s much lighter than the D810 and has a better grip than the Df. Where the improved ergonomics don’t help you so much is with the larger lenses. There, the size, weight and robustness of the D810 are assets. That said, this is a much more comfortable camera than the Df when used with the Trinity zooms (the 14-24mm and 24-70mm in particular feel right at home on the D750) – bigger lenses are where the D810 is simply going to be more comfortable.
What this camera is great at is simply grabbing the shot in any conditions that might present themselves. That’s the combination of great autofocus and higher burst speeds. One observation I had vs the D600/610 and the D800E is that the shutter of the D750 is softer and less prone to vibration. However, the shutter of the D750 isn’t quite as good as the D810 and Df and the shutter seems a hair more prone to potentially cause vibration at lower shutter speeds. Don’t get me wrong, it is unquestionably an improvement over a D800 or a D600, but the D810 and Df have very gentle shutters which can allow sub focal length shutter speeds.
Image quality. Much has been written already on this subject by any number of commentators. I’m slightly disappointed that Nikon chose to give this camera an anti-aliasing filter. Another very useful innovation from the D810, the electronic first curtain shutter, has also been omitted on cost grounds. It leaves the comparison with the D810 in terms of resolution somewhat less close than the comparison of the D810 with another 24 mp camera, the RX1R. However, on the positive side colour is definitely improved over the D600 and D800, matching the D810 and there’s no doubt the D750 can produce cleaner images at high ISO than the D810. Unfortunately this is where it does lose out in comparison to the Df, which is cleaner and has more DR at higher ISOs. The tonality isn’t quite as good as the Df and on balance when I’m shooting people I prefer the results and colours from the Df. Equally, it isn’t quite capable of the jaw dropping resolution from the D810. I suspect if I didn’t have access to both the D810 and the Df, probably the best high and low mp sensors on the market, I would be much more impressed though.
A blog post on the D750 wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the flippy screen, a first for a full frame DSLR. It’s really useful, as I found getting myself around the Tower of London viewing the poppy display holding it above my head and shooting in Liveview. It’s also very useful for a lower field of view. If I were a news shooter I would want this a lot and don’t get me started on macro, street and video.
A second thing worth a mention is the wifi functionality of the camera, a first for a FX Nikon DSLR. I’ve been calling for this ever since I elected for performance (D600) over functionality (6D). As I said in a previous post, it’s incredibly powerful to be able to get work out quickly without recourse to a RAW converter. However, it’s fair to say this functionality needs more work. The app needs the ability to apply the same kind of edits that can be applied to Jpegs in camera (perspective, rotation, filters etc) and its biggest weakness is the inability to transfer multiple photos at full resolution.
The next weakness is something that may not bother others, that is to say the out of camera Jpegs seem a bit weak in comparison to what’s available from Fuji, Leica, Sony, Olympus and others. The colours are OK, but the results often offer the choice between soft or sharpening artefacts. The in camera RAW editing offers lots of features but lacks coherence and some key functionality, such as the ability to reduce highlights. I think this comes down to the need to pay attention to all aspects of a feature and related functionality. Now wifi is available perhaps there will be some attention to in camera RAW processing. If anyone felt my earlier results with the D750 lacked pop, it was largely down to the quality of the shots combined with the weaknesses of sharpening/clarity from either the camera or NX-D.
Which brings me to RAW converter support. This is thankfully now available. Now I’m able to tinker with the files directly in Lightroom it is possible to appreciate that given stability, the shots from the D750 are about as sharp as anyone could need. Lightroom colour seems better on the colour profiles too than with previous Nikon cameras. Most of the results on this page were processed through Lightroom and in fairness I think it does an excellent job.
So if I had to assess this camera, where would I put it? Well, I confess that my hand is up to confirm that I prefer the image quality from the Df and D810, for different reasons. The build of the D750 is doesn’t wow me, though I do think it’s a step up from the D610 and any of the Mirrorless cameras I own, including the Sony A7 it replaces for me. However, the AF system is really, really impressive. It has the best control of noise of any of the cameras I’ve used with the iterations of the most recent Sony 24mp sensor. It’s very hard to fault the ergonomics of the camera, which are impressive. About the only thing on the new A7 Mk II that I would want on the D750 is IBIS; at the end of the day class leading AF, better image quality and noise performance are more important things to me in choosing a camera.
For most people, I think this is the Nikon FX camera they should buy. It is, by any measure, a really exceptional camera. It does most things well and a lot of things really well. I expect it to sell by the bucketload if the camera buying public have some sense. It’s a camera that doesn’t lack functionality and it seems to end up in my bag more often than not. It’s definitely the camera I would take to an actual job, when I needed to nail the shot. It’s definitely a camera that can cover any subject with aplomb. It’s light and well built. But it doesn’t win in the image quality stakes and I would probably take the D810 ahead of the D750 if forced to choose 😉 . Luckily it’s a choice I don’t have to make…
Taken with my D750 and 14-24mm, Zeiss 21mm F2.8 ZF.2, 28mm F1.8G, 35mm F1.8, 50mm F1.4G, 58mm F1.4G, 70-200mm F2.8 and 70-200mm F4
The Nikon D750 is available here on Amazon UK