• Nikon D750 Review

    After my previous review on the Barbie Cam, I had some less than positive feedback from people that felt they wanted conventional camera reviews and that the Barbie cam wasn’t suitable for their requirements. Obviously some of the introverted photographers here felt that they would be awkwardly popular carrying a camera that stands out like the Barbie Cam, unusual for iPhone owners who try to get their phones on the first day, but obviously we have a more conservative photographic audience than expected.

    In line with keeping the readers happy, today, we’re looking at a more conventional camera, the Nikon D750, supposedly the latest and greatest in camera and sensor technology, the holy grail of full frame DSLR technology. DPReview, a reputable camera site, went as far as to “almost” call the sensor magic due to the massive dynamic range but they quickly backtracked on their statement saying it was simply very good technology. I’m more in favour of calling it magic when it’s something I don’t understand because it saves me having to explain how it works but that’s separate topic altogether. Anyway, if you want to know why it isn't really magic, look at their high end full frame shootout, otherwise, from here on in the article we will simply say it's magic.



    Introduction

    For those who don’t know, the D750 is the latest full frame DSLR from Nikon. If you don’t know what a full frame DSLR is, or you are wondering why anyone would want to buy half a frame camera, this review probably isn’t for you, so my suggestion is to save your money, go to a respectable retailer and buy something called a “mirrorless” which will be more than adequate for your requirements.

    A D700 replacement has been a long time coming having been released in 2009. At the time of its release, it was revolutionary, a full frame camera in a smaller body and with noise levels similar to its big brother pro body, the D3. That was 5 years ago, and 5 years in technology land is a life time…I mean 5 years ago people still thought Blackberry would bounce back. Many thought the Nikon D800 was the replacement when it arrived but the low frame rate and high capacity sensor caused some confusion from Nikon users (who like Canon users, are easily confused). With the D750 taking the same naming convention as the D7* series, it seemed natural to assume that the D700 replacement had finally arrived. Why didn't Nikon simply call it the D710 like the naming conventions for their other cameras like the D610 and D810? My guess is because the D750 isn't an incremental upgrade on the D700, it's a completely new camera, so they didn't want to confuse users. Instead, they created more confusion because now users aren't actually sure if the D610 will be discontinued due to the dust issues and what the positioning of this camera is. I'm expecting Nikon to name their next full frame the XG1 just confuse people as well.

    Coming from the D700, many may focus on the negatives and class the D750 as a downgrade because of the specs. The dedicated AF-On button is gone and the metering switch on the rear has disappeared along with the autofocus selection options. You lose the 8.5fps for a more sedate 6.5fps along with losing 1/8000th shutter speed. The body is smaller and feels less robust due to the lighter weight. You also lose the option for custom settings. Yes, on the surface it feels like a downgrade but a lot of this has been blown out of proportion. The reality is the majority of these won't affect photographers and can be addressed in some way or another. Complaints about the max shutter moving from 1/8000th on the D700 to 1/4000th on the D750 are largely mute when you consider that the D750 uses ISO100 instead of ISO200 found on the D700 so the outcome is actually the same for using f/1.4 in bright light unless you actually need 1/8000th. It doesn't match the 1/8000th at ISO100 of the D810 but it's also A$1000 cheaper so if it was simply a 24MP version of the D810 with a better autofocus system and less noise, would it really be selling for $1000 cheaper and if so, who would be buying the D810?



    Construction

    My first impressions of the D750 is that the construction seemed subpar compared to the D700. I believe that at the time this was just a perception of construction quality and not necessarily a true reflection because having come from the D700, the D750 felt lighter and smaller and lighter and smaller normally equates to cheaper. I have limited knowledge of internal camera construction, no access to testing equipment and having not won the lotto, I'm not prepared to test them through a drop test. I know the D750 has less metal which makes it lighter and thinner than my D700 but given the modern day use of materials, the lack of weight may not be bad because the artificial materials these days are stronger and more robust than they used to be. Mirrorless fanatics have been touting the advantages of smaller and lighter cameras for ages so is it any surprise to see the high end models benefiting from the same treatment? Suck on that mirrorless users! Just kidding, don't suck on it, its weather proof but I don't know if the saliva classifies as weather.

    Having used it for a little while now and getting over the previous size and weight shock that distorted my earlier perceptions, it's now easier to look at the camera for what it is and I can attest to the fact that the quality of the camera is very good. If I look at the camera components, on the surface, construction all seems top notch. Initially the grip felt fairly small, but as I've used it more, I've started to realise that the entire shape of the grip has been vastly improved and it fits the hand quite nicely. The camera has a very solid feel and with the grip, the size of the camera (with battery grip) is perfect for me. I think without the battery grip this wouldn't work for me but I have big hands so this shouldn't be a concern for everyone.



    The autofocus system

    The autofocus system on the D750 take a bit of getting used but the usability may depend on the model of camera you're coming from and/or what your knowledge of AF systems is like. Coming from the D700, the D750 focus system seems a little more complex and cumbersome at first, but it's actually easy to use once you understand it as it allows you to access settings previously found in my custom settings straight from the camera body. I.e. the switch between 9, 21, 51 and 3D which were previously stored in a custom setting. This has eliminated my requirement for the custom sport setting I used which is great.

    I'm not going to go into the technicalities of how it works, but I do like the fact that it provided suitable options for both beginners and advanced users alike. If I compare it to the D700, it would be far easier to give this to my wife without having to give her a 20 minute lesson.



    For advanced users, it's very impressive. Low light focus is incredible. I tested it in near darkness at Princes Pier and it was focus on stuff I couldn't see. The jokes running around about it seeing in the dark aren't far from the truth.

    As far as sports and action goes, I've only been able to test them on my kids, but I'm of the opinion that a 2yr old and 4yr old are about as difficult and unpredictable to track as an AFL player. 3D tracking does work well for young kids although you're not guaranteed to focus on eye if you're using a shallow DOF but for sports like kitesurfing I find the 9 or 21 point works best as the 3D tracking is confused by the reflections on the water. Whether the D750 is better at dealing with these reflections is a different question as 3D tracking generally requires high contrast but I'll try to provide feedback once I have done more extensive testing on sports.

    For generally everyday use which doesn't require lightning fast AF, this should more than adequately meet requirements.

    I did some testing with the automatic focus area and it is good at picking up faces so it's worth experimenting for certain situations to see whether this is going to be helpful. It's not going to work for everything but it's not bad all things considered or for every day point and shoot scenarios.

    As far as settings go, if I was to recommend a settings for users they would be as follows:

    1. Beginner with no intention of learning - Stick to scene modes
    2. Beginner wanting to learn and improve skill - If you're not using AF-On, Watch an instructional on the AF-On, learn to use it and switch to AFC only on the rear dial. Start with Auto on the front dial and switch to the other settings as you get used to it.
    3. Experienced - AFC only with appropriate settings for the front dial as per your requirements.

    Is the AF system on the D750 perfect? Unfortunately not. The AF points don't cover as much of the frame as I would like which seems to be one of the complaints from most of the reviewers. Obviously the removal of the AF-On button has been confusing to a lot of Pro's but given you can AE/AL, it's not the end of the world.

    Shooting experience

    I'm not qualified to give you a technical breakdown of the sensor, so if you want the technical run down on the dynamic range, pixel density and a whole heap of stuff that probably won't make you a better photographer, go forth and seek this information but you won't find it here. These are simply my thoughts on what it's like to shoot with.

    Coming from the D700, there isn't much to dislike about the sensor. The D700 is 5 years old so one would expect this to blow it out the water. Obviously I'd like a sensor that creates noise free files at ISO400000 and shoots at full resolution at 24fps when needed but we have to look within the realms of today's technology.

    I'm one of those people who likes 24MP as a sensor size. It's a little more forgiving than the 36MP sensors (camera shake at low shutter) and you don't need to upgrade your home machine to a super computer just to edit the raw files. I couldn't imagine try to piece together a panoramic with 10 files from a D810, I know it's possible but it's got to make it feel like you're torturing your poor machine. The D750 files are within the realms of reasonable editing file sizes (20MB RAW Files) and whilst it may not seem that different to a D810, the reality is the files of the D810 are nearly twice the size, 40.7MB (75MB uncompressed RAW if you shoot that) vs 26.9MB if you look at the file size comparison on photographylife. If you end up converting to tiff for editing in photoshop, you'll see photo sizes skyrocket to 100MB+ for the D810 vs 65MB for the D750. That's enough Yes, you can select the compressed RAW to gain valuable megabytes but unfortunately you lose detail in the shadows as a result. I'm inclined to believe that it's best to shoot at the highest possible quality and if you're worried about storage space, buy bigger cards. Incidentally, if you think I'm contradicting the statement by saying up your file size but 36MP isn't necessary, I'm simply saying that the quality of the data in the raw files and the ability to recover shadows is important, not the resolution.



    There has been a lot of talk about how good the noise levels on this camera. Granted it's not going to take over sales from the D4s, but the noise levels are still pretty reasonable given the price range. Whilst initial reports say that it's better than the D810, I don't have a D810 to compare with and my guess is that they are two very different cameras so I don't see any D810 users jumping ship. I think they would be complementary cameras to have though and if I could afford another body, I'd probably trade my D700 in for a D810 and keep both so I have the larger sensor for the odd occasion when I need it.

    ISO12800 is still good but isn't what I qualify as print quality. You could throw it on Facebook and still wow friends or print lower res versions for small frames at home. ISO25600 would still be usable for Facebook while ISO51200 is useless for anything but a mugshot to identify a criminal. Personally, I'd be inclined to lock the ISO to 12800 as a max because you can still get away with noise reduction and pull out high ISO's if you really need them.

    You would have seen the comments about the magical sensor from DPReview and one of those areas that it shines is the ability to recover information from shadows. I can pull 5 stops out of the shadows with minimal noise and that's an impressive feat for any camera. Why would you need 5 stops? Trying take a photo of a person when you are facing into the sun and you can expose for the background, produce a silhouette and pull back the silhouette into a normal picture like you were shooting with flash.

    There are couple of really neat items hidden away in the D750 which I really like. Some examples of this are the Auto option in the minimum shutterspeed settings for ISO. On my old camera, you'd set up a minimum shutter speed and that was it. With the D750, you can setup auto and it will adjust the minimum based on the focal length. I.e. at 200mm you'd need a higher minimum shutter speed than at 24mm so the camera adjust accordingly. I think it starts at 1/30 as the minimum and then lifts. The new highlight metering is also a great additional along with the Easy ISO which allows you to use the spare dial in A and S modes for ISO control.

    The shutter release on this is much quieter than my D700 even in standard mode. The quiet mode is slightly softer but being someone who doesn't need the quiet shutter, I don't have much use for it although I may at some point.

    Obviously one of the big selling points with the D750 is the screen which can be positioned in a number of ways. For video this is obviously fairly important but I don't think the still photographers are going to be whooping over this one. I've had an opportunity to try it once or twice and it does help where the camera is positioned in a way that you can get to the view finder (close to the ground on wet grass) or elevated at the 2m full height of a tripod for a landscape, but the autofocus in live view isn't as good so I would be limited this use of this to scenarios where there is no alternative.

    Battery Grip

    As usual, Nikon charged more than the annual salary of a person in a 3rd world country for their battery grip. Some things never change. If it's a problem for you, buy 3rd party or go overseas before the GST laws change. The actually grip itself is good quality, and looks like a bit of a shape change from previous years. It feels more solidly attached to the camera than the D700 grip but that may just be the wear and tear on my current grip that has made it looser over a period of time.

    There is no frame rate increase. 6.5fps may be adequate for most users, but it's a little surprising given what Nikon has done in the past. The battery grip only takes 6 AA's instead of the 8 I am accustomed to with the D700. That may have something to do with the reduced frame rate (or maybe concerns about eating into the D4s market)



    The weight with the grip is still fairly reasonable, I think the D700 adds a bit more weight. I tend to run the grip with the camera empty to save me having to remove the grip constantly to replace the battery in the camera. I generally run the standard battery in the grip and carry a spare battery. I'll carry the spare tray with AA's in the spare grip tray if I know it's going to be a long day but with the camera rated over 1000 shots on the standard battery, I'm guessing I won't be using the AA grip much, particularly if it doesn't add frame rate.

    For D810 users who are considering the D750 (as a replacement or to complement it), you'll be happy to know the D750 uses exactly the same battery.

    Usability

    The D750 is odd in the sense that it has a lot of consumer based options on it which I am not accustomed to with the D700 and haven't seen since I sold my D50. It's a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it. I'm generally at the losing end of having decent photos, probably exaggerated by my looks, or lack thereof which could be classified on somewhere of the opposite extreme of Brad Pitt but I do look good after 12 glasses of wine. Looks aside, when I did hand my D700 to my wife, I had a P&S custom setting, and even then, she'd push the wrong button and get the focal point wrong so I have a lot of great photos of me where I am not in focus. (Some might argue that might have been her intention). With the D750, I can use the consumer modes and she has no excuse. I'm not 100% sure why they included them, given the D6* series has them and would be considered their entry level to full frame but it is what it is. Obviously this isn't the only consumer based feature, there is HDR and a couple of other things but most of these are slightly more hidden away.

    Aside from the consumer based features, I think usability on the camera has definitely improved. Maybe it helps that I come from pro body, but the entire setup seems pretty user friendly and similar to other models I've encountered. It's very Nikon. As is usually the case, the more capable the body, the more the user is likely to be confused by the settings if they're a novice but I think Nikon have done a good job in how they have structured everything. Things like autofocus are always going to be a little confusing to new users but the scenes should help with that initially.



    Conclusion

    I posted Dpreview's comments about the camera to show I'm not the only one who is impressed and I don't think there is any doubt that this is an extremely good camera. Having not been near the dark side (Canon) recently, I can't vouch for it being better than the competition but things will always swap between Nikon and Canon. I don't think any of them rules a camera category for an extended period. Whilst the D750 is very good, I don't think believe anyone will be switching brands if they have an investment in pro glass, but those who are on the fence are always swayed by these things if they are looking to buy into a new brand. I also don't think many D800 or D810 users will switch unless they are specifically looking for a smaller body. I don't think there is enough of a difference to the AF or ISO to warrant changing.



    This is the kind of camera that is a jack of all trades and it suits beginners and pros alike. There really isn't that much to fault on it. Sure, it may be missing some of the Pro layouts but are these really showstoppers or are they specifications you're trying to convince yourself are showstoppers to make you feel good about your existing camera? Given the small size of the camera, this trade off seems worthwhile because its as small as a lot of the DX bodies. There will be a lot of questions from buyers on whether to buy the D750 or D810 and I guess that's a good problem to have. If you're wondering which to buy, you're probably not the only one, I think even some of the top Pro's may be asking that question. With Pro layouts missing, you'd expect the natural choice of pros to shift to the D810 but even photographers like Ryan Brenizer are picking the D750 over the D810 which should tell you something.

    Here are a couple of sample shots from the camera. Bear in mind I am not a professional so this isn't as good as it gets, this is as good as I get.



















    Disclaimer - This is a casual review coming from an enthusiastic amateur photographer. If you want professional grade reviews, there are better sites to get them from. The only thing I can guarantee you is that I didn't get kickbacks from anyone to do this review (although I am open to them, Nikon, feel free to send me Nikon ED glass in return for changing my review). If you suddenly see a change to the review that proclaims that the camera is now responsible for creating world peace, solving the middle east crisis, reducing the Australian budget deficit, making politicians into honest individuals, or anything that seems similarly unrealistic along with a Nikon 400mm f/2.8 or 800mm f/5.6 appearing in my forum signature, I've succumbed to temptation. I'm only human.
  • Dropdown

  • New Forum Posts

    GrahameR

    Heeeelp! Which cheap (~$500) used Mac laptop for backpacking (i.e. small & light)?

    Hi, on the road I have been using a 10" iPad with bluetooth keyboard and case. It is a great set up but as I will be doing more editing and writing

    GrahameR Yesterday, 06:21 PM Go to last post