It’s a longer story than I’ll go into here but, after having to return two faulty Nikon D610s to the dealer, I received the third one roughly a week before the brand new D750 was announced. This placed me in an instant dilemna. Keep the D610 and immediately lose a large chunk of resale value against any future upgrade or return that one, add a few hundred pounds and get the significantly better (in terms of spec anyway) Nikon D750. It was a “no brainer”. The third D610 went back and got replaced with a pre-order for the D750.
I took delivery of Nikon’s new DSLR a little less than a week after the initial release. After the D800 (my last early adoption) which proved to have the left-hand focus problem and Nikon’s much publicised D600 oil and dust spot issue, I promised myself never to be an early adopter / beta tester again. However, circumstances dictated otherwise and here it was, in my hands, the Nikon D750.
I’d read up enough on this camera to know that it had the potential to be a real winner for Nikon. New improved 24 megapixel sensor with Expeed 4 Image Processor, Improved 51-point AF system taken from the D4S/D810, all new tiltable rear screen and quite a few other new improvements on the spec list. If they had learned their lessons from the questionable Quality Control of the recent past this latest and greatest could go a long way in restoring customer confidence in Nikon which had taken quite a battering in the recent past.
Now, I’m assuming there’s going to be a flood of Nikon D750 reviews getting posted up on the net very shortly, all going into much detail (but in some cases, not much detail), technical or real world use-wise, about its performance and handling from well-respected and not so well-respected sources. A problem I see with most of the early reviews is that they’re either churned out just to generate traffic to the site, they’re sponsored by Nikon in some way or camera reviews are just part of their 9 til 5 job. I’m going to take a little more time over this article and, in doing so, I’ll leave the in-depth technical analyses to sites such as Dpreview and DXOmark. I’m not an expert in technical matters anyhow and, quite frankly, I’m more interested in getting out and taking photos than shooting test cards, blank walls at f22 and examining pixels at 200%. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t read other reviews and dismiss their usefulness. One can glean so much information these days from the well-established sites and accompanying forums before deciding to pull the trigger on, what could be, a very expensive piece of gear.
This “loosely termed” review will focus (excuse the much used pun) on my initial experiences and observations with the camera with examples from a few walkabouts over the first month of ownership. The aim is to give the reader an insight into my personal opinions and observations about the camera combined with a few of my lenses as a general use / walkabout setup. The D750, along with the Nikkor 24-85mm VR lens will be my travel solution. I also want to take along a fast prime but I’m not sure whether that will be my 50mm f1.8, 50mm f1.4 or my newest lens, the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art. The Sigma is larger and heavier by some margin than the other two but, would the slightly wider viewpoint and better IQ be worth it. I’m hoping that the process of composing this article will help me come closer to drawing a conclusion on this.
The D750 is similar in size and weight to the D610 and D7100 but, to me, it looks a little smaller. That’s probably because it has a thinner body. It feels well-built and has slightly more rubber coverage than the D610 giving previously bare plastic such as the SD card door the latex treatment. The grip is the most noticeable thing when holding the camera as it is slightly thinner and deeper. It’s all going to depend on the size of your hands whether one feels this is an improvement or not. For me, I can’t really tell one way or the other. What makes a big difference for me in terms of handling is the MB-D16 vertical grip. Essential for a firm hold in portrait orientation and providing additional battery power and extra controls, the MB-D16 is stupidly expensive at £280 but too useful to ignore. It also gives the camera a more balanced feel when using larger lenses. In the normal position, I rest it on the palm of my hand while gripping the lens between my thumb and index finger. My third finger is then ideally placed for the Fn button which is usually configured to be AF-ON when needed.
I really liked the D610’s blend of consumer and professional features, and now, even more so in the D750. Here we are with a full frame DSLR that has some internals as good if not better than the professional flagship but can be used as a “point and shoot” at the flick of the mode dial. It won’t be often, but there will be the odd occasion when I want to switch off my brain, let the camera do the work and just take photos. It’s also useful when you hand the camera over to someone else to get the obligatory non self-taken “selfie”. The one consumer feature I have reservations about though is the “Effects” mode. I’d expect this on a £300 P&S compact but, on an £1800 full frame serious enthusiast’s DSLR? Nah! On the contrary, I quite like the idea of the “Scene” modes which provide lesser mortals with guidance by auto-configuring the camera settings to suit a pre-defined scenario.
One of the best features of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 I had previous to a return to full-frame was the tilt screen. Super for low-angle shots and video. Nikon have set a precedent in including this on the D750 but, to be honest, it’s a feature of the camera that raises a couple of concerns in me. First up is robustness. The tilt screen on the Oly E-M5 felt very solid and snapped back into place very firmly. The D750’s screen does not feel as solid and appears to have a more intricate framework/mechanism holding it in place. It doesn’t snap back into position quite as solidly as the E-M5 did and the bottom edge has some free movement. I wonder whether, with time and use, this could become looser and require maintenance. It is the one part of the camera that could be the most succeptible to accidental damage. Secondly, is the question of weather resistance. When extracted, the tilt screen exposes a ribbon wire which feeds back into the main camera body. There is a very clear warning in the manual not to touch this. So, if touching it has the potential to cause malfunction, what if it got wet? Nikon claim that the D750 is weather sealed but I fail to be convinced when we get an exposed part of the camera we’re not supposed to touch.
Almost certainly a by-product of the slimmer body is the smaller top LCD. At first, this bothered me a little. Like many, I’m so used to glancing at this for a quick review of the camera settings when I’m adjusting any parameters. However, we do have the Info button that displays all the information we need on the back LCD and pressing various control buttons, for ISO as an example, brings up the screen with the relevant information. I’m getting more used to this and, to be honest, am now preferring to use it.
At the time of beginning this article, the RAW converters had not been updated for the Nikon D750. I normally always shoot in RAW but I decided to take the opportunity and play around with jpeg settings and Picture Control.
Image 1: 1/320sec, f4, ISO 3200
Image 1 is a SOOC jpeg with default settings of a naturally lit interior at ISO 3200. The in camera High ISO NR set at “Normal” does a good job here of reducing chroma noise which is much in evidence with NR turned off (see below). A little detail is lost but, hey, it’s always a compromise between noise and detail. Some are saying the NR is too aggressive but personally, I’d rather deal with a slight loss of detail in the image than it looking noisy.
High ISO Noise Reduction
It’s the beginning of Autumn here and that means one thing… colour! I’ve never bothered much with the Picture Control in my Nikons because I shoot RAW for 99% of the time but for the first walkabout I set the Picture Control to VIVID and slightly increased the contrast, clarity and saturation. Clarity is a new parameter in PC and should be a welcome addition. The following images are SOOC jpegs with no processing shot using the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens. I’m particularly impressed with the lack of CA (Chromatic Aberration) in the first image considering it was shot at f2.
The D750 is aimed at the serious enthusiast but it would seem even professionals are considering it a serious tool also. There’s no doubt that for the “Point & Shooters” who hanker for the best image quality possible without wanting to mess around with Lightroom or Photoshop afterwards, the D750 can certainly deliver. It’s a very expensive P&S camera but, if money’s not too much of an object, then you’re not going to get much better. For the professional, a D750 offers to be an ideal backup or even a primary tool for wedding photographers and the like.
What I was hoping for happened and, whilst writing this article, Adobe published the Release Candidate for ACR 8.7 which supports the Nikon D750. So, the following image samples will now be RAW conversions post processed in Adobe Photoshop CC 2014.
The new 51-point AF system is the most noticeable technological improvement over the D610. It does appears to be quicker and more responsive even than my D800E and, to date, has had no problem locking on to any subjects, even in tricky lighting conditions with any of my lenses. Early reports are suggesting the the D750’s low-light, high ISO capability is pretty awesome. So, time to check out the camera’s capability at the stated maximum ISO rating of 12,800. For this, I chose a corner of my lounge that gets the least light on a very grey and dim day. I used a 50mm f1.8 lens set at f2.8. Shutter speed was calculated at 1/125 sec.
The first image is a straight jpeg conversion of the RAW file without any processing. The second is a downsized jpeg with post processing applied.
At these screen sizes, you can’t really tell that much difference (the first image can be viewed full size). I wouldn’t hesitate to use any images shot at 12,800 ISO for display on a computer device, social media or general web use after some noise reduction and sharpening. I’m not sure I’d say the same thing if it had been the Olympus OM-D E-M5.
This will be my travel camera and, for that, another welcome addition to the feature list and another precedent for Nikon is integrated WiFi. I connected the camera to my Google Nexus with Nikon’s Wireless Mobile Utility app and checked it out. It seems to work absolutely fine at close distances for downloading images or remotely triggering the camera. It will be so useful on holiday not to have to bother with any cables for doing this. Just one thing to note here is that the WiFi Network is open by default. Using the app, you can configure the appropriate security.
The next set of photographs were taken on a walk alongside a local canal. For these I used the Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 VR. Shot in RAW and post processed as I would normally.
The third image in this series was shot hand-held at 1/2 sec shutter speed resting my arms on a fence – a testament to the very handy Vibration Reduction system of the 24-85mm. Image quality from the 24 megapixel sensor / Expeed 4 Image Processor team is as you would expect, pretty awesome but it is with the D610 and Dynamic Range just has to be as good as any DSLR on the market at the moment. Plenty of ability to recover detail from highlights/shadows in post processing.
To sum up, I’m happier for sure with this camera than I would have been with a D610. The AF system alone was worth the upgrade. With regards to my travel setup, I’ve decided that the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art will stay at home. It’s just too darned heavy and the 50mm 1.8 G will be the fast prime of choice for my foreign adventures.
However, the D750 is not perfect. Nikon have left us “wanting more” and it does make you wonder about their general marketing strategy when they appear to cripple features of the camera that are available in much older systems such as 1/8000 sec top shutter speed and 1/250 sec flash sync. I can live happily enough without them but, come on! How difficult could it have been to have just included these features?
With new Nikon D610s available for around £1300 and second-hand ones going for under £1000, there’s never been a better time for photographers to enter the world of full-frame. If you can afford a little more, the D750 represents an outstanding camera for the price. It gives image quality second to none and AF performance up there with the best. Regardless of the few minor negatives, it has to be Nikon’s best FX all-rounder to date.
- (Almost the) Smallest and lightest FX DSLR from Nikon.
- Superbly quick and responsive AF system
- Top Notch Image Quality (with good glass)
- Supreme low-light capability and High ISO performance.
- All new features such as Tilt Screen and inbuilt WiFi
- Questionable robustness and weather resistance of tilt screen.
- Too quirky “Effects” mode.
- Could have been Nikon’s finest if we’d had 1/8000 sec, 8 fps with grip (plus larger buffer), 1/250s flash sync and no AA filter. (Maybe we have to wait for the D760 next year).