Nikon D750 Digital Camera Review
Nikon finds the missing link between pro and consumer with its D750.
Deciding on a DSLR manufacturer is like picking a political party: It can feel like there are only two choices, and it's best if you don't discuss your preference at parties. Nikon and Canon have long been the two dominant players in the DSLR game, fighting year after year to capture the hearts, minds—and wallets—of the photography world.
When it comes to DSLRs with full-frame 35mm sensors, Nikon has recently taken the strategy of simply outnumbering Canon. It has released a staggering 13 full-frame 35mm bodies since its first–the Nikon D3–back in 2007. Canon has released only five in that time, excluding the various Cinema EOS bodies. Nikon opened that gap up considerably in the past year, bringing the new D4S, the D610, the D810, and the Df to market.
The fifth body in this year's suddenly packed lineup is the Nikon D750 (MSRP $2,299.95). The D750 is designed to bridge the gap between the "entry-level" D610 and the "professional-level" D810. The D750 combines the updated 24-megapixel sensor from the D610 with the processor of the D810, sprinkling in a few video-centric nods to produce an entirely new class of camera for Nikon: a hybrid full-frame DSLR specifically designed for videographers.
Design & Handling
Carbon fiber and a tilting LCD? It's a new day for FX Nikons.
Nikon isn't known for upending the apple cart when it comes to design; if you have picked up a Nikon in the past decade, the Nikon D750 will feel instantly familiar. From a control perspective, it's practically identical to its little brother, the Nikon D610. And despite the D610 being lower down the product lineup, the D750 is actually a few millimeters smaller.
Even if you haven't shot Nikon in awhile, shooting with the D750 is like reacquainting yourself with an old friend; it's not long before it'll feel just as comfortable as it once did. As with previous Nikon bodies, the main focus is on composing your shot, as the only controls you can easily access with your right hand are aperture, shutter speed, AF/AE lock, and the shutter button. Everything else—including metering, white balance, and ISO—is shuttled off to the top left corner, requiring a second hand to operate. Longtime users will get by just fine, but it's very different from the setup used by Canon's DSLRs, or most mirrorless cameras.
Most of Nikon's tinkering has been reserved for the size, shape, and feel of the D750. The grip is deeper than the previous Nikons, but the entire body itself is a bit smaller and lighter than the D610. It is down to just 840 grams (without a lens), which leads to less fatigue when using the camera over long periods of time—rare for a full-frame body. The light weight is largely due to the adoption of a monocoque structure, which utilizes a carbon fiber composite alongside the typical magnesium alloy.
The D750 also breaks new ground by including a tilting LCD—the first FX Nikon to do so. Though tilting LCDs are vulnerable to breaking under extreme duress, they make certain kinds of shoots—particularly those on tripods or primarily concerned with video—far more palatable. It's not touch-enabled, but it's a surprising move by Nikon.
Truthfully, the changes, while more robust than we typically see from Nikon, don't add up to a fundamentally different experience. This is still a fast, accurate DSLR with a beautiful optical viewfinder, a super-fast focus system, and iffy automatic white balance: everything we've come to expect from a Nikon DSLR.
Not among Nikon's "pro" DSLRs, but as close as it gets
In discussing the D750 with Nikon representatives, it was clear that the D750 doesn't quite match their criteria for a "pro" body. Namely, the omission of options such as 1/8000s shutter speed and some more esoteric flash sync features leave the D750 more on the D610's side of the fence. However, with features shared by the flagship D4S like the 51-point focus system, metering system, and a built-in AF motor, the D750 certainly makes the line between prosumer and pro cameras more blurry than ever.
In our labs, the D750 did exceptionally well, beginning with our color accuracy test. When we shot in the standard color mode–the most accurate–we saw very little error and saturation was nearly perfect. The one issue we came across–as it is on most Nikons–is the white balance accuracy. The D750 has done little to nothing to improve the poor auto white balance system, which continues to struggle in mixed or fluorescent lighting. Either shoot in RAW then fix it in post or stick to the custom white balance.
Noise on the D750 is great thanks to the Expeed 4 processor. The base ISO range is 100-12,800, but can be boosted to 50-51,200. Performance-wise, it actually has a slight leg up on the D810 through most of the ISO range, though without the advantage of the increased resolution. If you downsample a 36-megapixel D810 image to 24 megapixels, for example, it will easily match (or exceed) the D750 in quality. In our tests noise stayed below our acceptable threshold through ISO 3200, meaning you can freely shoot up until that without worrying about losing fine detail. If you look at the chart below you can see how detail is affected further up the ISO scale.
If you are looking to capture subjects on the move, the shot-to-shot on the D750 is capable of 6.5 fps while shooting either FX or DX images. This isn't the fastest speed in the world, but it is faster than the D810 by 1.5 fps and the D610 by.5 fps. While we wouldn't necessarily recommend using this for high-speed sports, it can certainly do the job just fine. It even benefits from the trickle-down of the 51-point autofocus system and the new "Group Area AF" mode that we saw on the D4S.
Overall, Nikon's made the biggest strides when it comes to video features. We saw the same quality as we did on the D810 with the ability to shoot up to Full HD video at 1080/60p. We saw sharpness scores equal to the D810 both horizontally and vertically, falling behind newer 4K-shooting cameras, but staying strong around 625 line pairs per picture height. As far as low-light performance goes, we were able to shoot in light as low as 1 lux and still get a usably bright shot.
Add to that a full complement of manual video controls, the new flat picture profile for easy color grading, as well as the tilting LCD and you've got a highly capable full-frame video camera that should even outpoint Canon's well-regarded 5D Mark III.
From top to bottom, this is Nikon's most well-rounded FX camera.
When we looked at this year's D610 and D810, it felt like Nikon was going to mostly continue on the path it had set for itself two years ago. The D750 switches up the script, taking a camera nearly on par with the D810 and adding features that we are used to seeing in entry-level cameras. Extras such as built-in WiFi, scene modes, and a tilting LCD all complement what is otherwise a pro-grade camera.
While some pros may scoff at its inclusion, WiFi is a can't miss feature on the D750. The wireless connectivity gives you the ability to not just upload images remotely and right off the camera, but to use your smartphone (or tablet) as a remote control. This allows users to shoot from safe distances if shooting something risky or to simply get a wider view of what you are shooting while still seeing what the camera sees.
Think of Neil Leifer's classic overhead shot of Muhammad Ali after knocking out Cleveland Williams. In the film era, this was almost impossible to frame properly on site. With a WiFi enabled digital camera? This would be a breeze, even for someone without the creative spirit of Leifer.
The next big feature is the new tilt screen. These screens are invaluable when shooting tough angles for both video and still images. The D750 is equipped with a 3.2-inch 1,229k dot LCD screen that rotates 180 degrees to help capture those tough angles. While it doesn't have the full range of motion we have seen in cameras like the Sony Alpha A77, it is much better than a flat screen with no tilting options. Videographers (or astrophotographers with tripods) no longer have to kill their back bending over to check framing constantly.
Speaking of video, the video options on the D750 are top-notch, leaving it primed to be the most video-centric full-frame Nikon option yet—every bit the equal of Canon's EOS 5D Mark III. The ability to simultaneously record uncompressed and compressed 1080p footage at 60/50/30/25/24p makes it a great candidate for filmmakers and videographers, regardless of their workflow demands.
You can also manually control ISO, shutter speed, and aperture while recording, with no funky workarounds required like previous Nikon DSLRs. Zebra striping is included to help with exposure checking and the D750 also has "Flat Picture Control" which better preserves midtone detail by not enhancing contrast, letting you adjust things as you like in post. Though the full-frame aesthetic is the most appealing aspect of shooting video with the D750, you can also get a cropped shot by shooting in DX mode—lending some extra reach to your lenses. There are also dual SD card slots for cheap and easy relay recording or simple archiving.
Ports on the D750 include a stereo mini-pin jack (3.5 mm diameter), HDMI output, headphone connector, and USB. Even though it has built in stereo audio, being able to plug in an external microphone is essential for quality audio when shooting. Most DSLRs have this now, but a lot of them lack headphone jacks to monitor the audio. Though most of the full-frame Nikon DSLRs now include this, it's something that few Canon DSLRs make room for. The HDMI output is also a huge addition for video, allowing a signal to be output from HDMI to an external recorder, while it simultaneously records H.264 to one of (or both) of its dual SD memory cards.
From pros to rookies, the D750 has a little something for everyone.
In the past, users looking to upgrade from a crop-body DSLR to a full-frame camera have had to make a noticeable leap in hardware, sophistication, and price. Moving from most DX Nikons up to anything in the FX lineup often involved re-learning how to use your camera. Especially for users who grew accustomed to having helpful extras like scene modes and a full auto mode, a spartan, no-nonsense camera like the D800 could be a bridge too far.
The Nikon D600, D610, and now the D750 go a long way towards eliminating this gap, making the ramp up from DX-level Nikons to the top of the heap significantly easier. In the same stroke Nikon has also put some long-held assumptions about the difference between pro and entry-level cameras to the sword. The D750 goes so far as to include useful features like WiFi and a tilting screen, things we never thought we'd see in a full-frame Nikon. Given Nikon and Canon have a reputation for being, shall we say, stodgy with their design decisions, it's stunning to see so many nominally "entry-level" features find their way into such a high-end body.
In addition, the D750 offers many performance perks from even further up Nikon's lineup, including the 51-point AF system and new Expeed 4 processor of the D810 and D4S. Add to that the new lighter monocoque shell design, dual card slots, headphone/mic jacks, and full weather sealing and you've got an entirely new kind of hybrid DSLR that's for both pros and novices, excelling at both stills and video.
Also not hurting matters? The $2,200 Nikon D750 comes in significantly cheaper than the D810. Though you get better image quality with the D810, you'll save roughly $1,000 by opting for the D750. Altogether it makes the D750 one of the most compelling options on the market. We still prefer the D810 if photography is your exclusive priority, but if you dabble in a bit of everything the D750 is the way to go.
If you're not tied to buying a DSLR, there are many cheaper options than this. Though you don't get nearly the same lens selection without utilizing adapters, the Sony A7S and Panasonic GH4 are lighter, faster, and offer better video quality than the D750 as well as even more features. The A7S preserves the full-frame aesthetic of the D750 and can shoot noise-free video through ISO 6400, while the GH4 is small, fast, and can shoot native 4K that beats any dedicated camera on the market right now.
The D750 rounds out this group nicely. Having native access to Nikon's enviable lens lineup can't be overlooked and the D750 is a better pro-ready camera for still photography than either the A7S or the GH4. It won't be for everyone, but if you're looking for a DSLR that can do video when necessary, it's increasingly clear that you're looking for a Nikon.
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