Saturday, September 27, 2014

Nikon D750 Review

Nikon D750 with AF-S 24-120 f/4 VR

  1. The D750 is not an outright action camera.
  2. It is also far better than an entry-level FX camer.
  3. It doesn't solve DX users needs

... With those points out of the way, it's fair to say that the D750 is an extremely capable camera in its own right. Nikon threw the proverbial kitchen sink into the D710. Except for the full metal body and "pro-level" control layout of the D810, the list of features not on this camera is fairly short. Though it's "another 24mp camera" the D750 has broader market appeal than the D810 and ticks off more of the check boxes that enthusiasts watch for than the D610. In other words, it's not as much of an "action camera" as people had hoped for, but it is ostensibly being set up to be a big part of Nikon's FX lineup. In that sense, the D750 is like the middle part of a restaurant menu; it's the option that they think most people will pick. It looks affordable next to the premium option, but it brings in more money that the value option that they hope you will steer away from.

Update 1: Jan 2015: A few words about the flare issue that seems to affect some early units. 
Update 2: Jan 2015: Nikon issues repair advisory

For an extended discussion of the marketing implications of the D750, go to the first impressions post.

Build and Design



Partial Carbon Fiber Frame


The D750 uses carbon fiber composite for the front portion the body, with a magnesium alloy frame for the top and back of the camera. This type of construction is similar to that used in the D610 and D7100. The carbon composite that the D750 uses is ostensibly the same as that used on the D3300 and D5300, which make sense as it also comes out of the same facility in Thailand. This isn't traditional woven and layered carbon fiber used in snowboards and F-1 cars; it's a composite of plastic and amorphous carbon fibers that lends itself better to mass production. Not only is the material lighter and stronger than the previous polycarbonate composites, its rigidity allows for more leeway in arranging internal mounting points. In case you are wondering, a partial metal frame does not necessarily mean that the D750 is less durable than the D810. There were a number of users who experienced D800 frame damage due to dropped cameras. In such cases, the force of impact is transmitted from the ground to the lens, through the lens mount, into the frame and into a weaker portion near the back of the camera. In other words, excessive rigidity is not necessarily the best engineering solution. On the D750 and the D610, the use of a composite material on the front means that the front of the camera has a greater degree of elasticity to dissipate the shock of an impact. Why then, the metal frame at the top and rear of the camera? The LCD panels. Since these are glass, it seems that Nikon has "allocated" the metal for these parts of the camera so that the frame doesn't "twist" around the glass in the LCD displays. You want the front of the camera to have some give, given that it's the part of the camera that has a higher chance of being in jeopardy, but you want to back part of the camera to be rigid, because the LCD displays can't tolerate as much deformation.

Holding Comfort


Left to Right: D810, D750 and D610

In your hands, the D750 has a tactile impression that is different from the other Nikon FX cameras. Thanks to its partial carbon fiber construction, the camera is quite light for its size. It is also slim, too, if any full frame DSLR can be called "slim." Front to back, the camera is even trimmer than the D610. A big contributing factor to the feeling of slimness is the re-profiled front grip. Unlike the the transition between the D800 to D810, where the grip profile became rounder, the grip on the D750 is slimmer but gives the feeling of protruding forward more than on either the D610 or the D810. This is because the thickness of the rest of the camera body has been reduced, giving the fingers of your right hand more space to curl around the grip/battery chamber.

Nikon D750 with AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR

In practice, the D750 feels like its makers intended it to handle lighter lenses in the way that the D810 feels like it was re-profiled to better cope with the f/2.8 "trinity" lenses. The light weight of the camera is deceptive; though the connection to the lens is solid, it feels out of place on the 70-200VR. Conversely, you ordinarily don't think of Nikon FX cameras as "street" or "travel" cameras but the D750 paired with the AF-S 35mm f/1.8G ED FX lens would be a potent and portable combination.

Left to Right: D810, D750 and D610

In all honesty, some will find the D610 to be a more comfortable camera to use over an extended period of time. If there is a problem with the D750 it is that its holding comfort relies too much on the the increased finger curl-space and unfortunately takes a step backward on the front lip (the red "swoosh") where your middle finger hooks onto the front of the camera. This lip is very prominent on the D7100, D610 and D810, but on the D750 the profile of the lip is more rounded. Though it isn't quite as bad, the shape is uncomfortably close to that used on the D7000 where the lip doesn't provide enough of a shelf for your finger to hook onto. The same goes for the laterally lip of the thumb rest on the back of the D750; it isn't quite as prominent as on the D610 or D810. The deeper finger curl space makes up for this; so when you are shooting with lighter lenses for a shorter period of time, the D750 is still a comfortable camera to use for most.

Tactile Feedback


The lightness of the D70 requires a bit of re-tuning of expectations. Because of the reduction in weight, the camera feels less substantial than its FX siblings, but because of the composite construction, that is not necessarily the case. The tactile impressions of the buttons and switchgear aren't quite up the standards of the D810, but the difference isn't overt. An example of this is the AF mode selector swtich/button on the lower portion of the left side of the camera. This button works the same way on all of Nikon's enthusiast DX and FX DSLR's. The selector button was given some texture on the D810, and this change is carried forward to the D750. The switch looks similar between the D810 and the D750, but there's something about the resistance and tactile feedback that feels a bit "better" on the D810. The same goes for the front and rear command dials. These controls are the bread and butter of Nikon's control layout; even though they feel like the same dials, the turning resistance feels ever so "higher" in quality on the D810. The root of the problem isn't in the camera, but in user expectations. It's difficult to know if your mind is playing tricks on you because it is a (substantially) less expensive camera or if it is really the case. Logic tells you that it doesn't make sense for a company to use two different grades of what is essentially the same component, but part of you wants to look for where the cost cutting might have occurred to keep the cost down.

Flip-Out LCD Screen



The LCD flip-out screen is a modified version of the 1.2 million dot screen used on the D810. The display is crisp and bright, and for a display that is intended to be viewed head-on it does have a wide usable viewing angle. However, the screen only tilts up or down. Compared to similar screens on the mirrorless cameras the mechanism doesn't appear terribly "aesthetic" when the screen is flipped out.... the frame is inelegant and the data cable is somewhat more exposed than with other flip-out mechanisms. However, the hinge mechanism is strong enough for you to dangle the camera from if you just hold the LCD...and by "dangle" I mean "shake the camera violently", because that was how one of Nikon's people demonstrated the soundness of the assembly to me. It's not something I would be willing to try myself, but it was enough to convince me to not give the mechanism a second thought.

The D750's articulating LCD frame.

What's striking about the screen is that the inclusion of the articulating LCD mechanism comes at a time when the overall body of the camera has shrunk. This took a bit of engineering. Though it's a welcome functional inclusion, the D750's interpretation of the flip-out screen is not as useful as it is on fully articulated screens like that found on the D5300. What's so important about a forward facing LCD display? Think "aspiring YouTube star" and you'll have your answer. The fact that the LCD doesn't flip out in the same way as the D5300 was a deliberate choice on Nikon's part, as that would have meant altering how the traditional column of buttons on the left side of the camera operate.

Overall Operation




Using the D750 will be old hat for anybody who has spend some time with a Nikon camera. There aren't too many surprises, and if you've used the D7100 or D610, you will be at home on the D750. There is a switch-up in how the QUAL and white balance controls work, though. These controls work on the press-and twirl principle, but when you press the buttons for these two controls, the information is now displayed on the rear display instead of the top LCD. This will bring some consternation to Nikon purists, but in exchange for the relocation, the white balance display not only shows the auto/preset values, it takes advantage of the larger screen real estate and adds a Kelvin scale. ISO control still works in the traditional manner with the value displayed on the top of the camera.

Though it shares some things with the D810, one thing that apparently did not carry over was the shutter mechanism. The D750 shutter sound is quite pedestrian compared to the soft click of the D810; not horrible but merely adequate if you've had a chance to use the more professional camera. The rated shutter lifecyle of the D750 is 150,000 articulations, where as the D810 is rated to 200,000. To put this into perspective, the D700 shutter was also rated at 150,000. If you want durability, that would be the D4s at 400,000 clicks.

Ports and Connectivity


As with the D7100 and the D610, the D750 has dual SD card slots instead of a SD slot mated with a compact flash slot like the D810.


Ports and connectivity are again, like the D610, meaning that the D750 uses the consumer-grade remote releases. Not depicted: mercifully, the D750 has an infrared port and is compatible with the cheap and plentiful ML-L3 remote. 


Battery



On surprise with the D750 is that the EN-EL15 battery inserts "sideways" into the bottom of the camera. Though it reduces the front-to-back depth of the camera, it does take up more space sideways. This signals a bit of a re-jiggering of the arrangement of the internal components. Without cracking open the camera, it's difficult to guess what's going on in the "dead space" in the part of the grip in front of the battery chamber; ostensibly some circuitry has been relocated there. If you are paying attention, re-configuring the battery door also means that a new battery grip is needed.  That would be the MB-D16, which can add another EN-EL15 or 6 AA batteries. Quite frankly, the new battery door position makes changing the battery on the D750 a pain, as the required hand position does not lend itself to speedy changes.

Autofocus


The D750 uses the 51-point MULTI-CAM 3500 unit also seen in the D810 and D4s. Though it is the same technology, the performance is not quite the same. With Nikon cameras, the AF lock acquisition speeds and tracking performance generally improve as you rise through the model range. In other words, Nikon is using more computational horsepower in the D4s AF than they are in the D7100's. For the D750, the AF performance is reliable and appropriate for the camera's mission. The 51-point unit is a bit more reliable in achieving accurate focus lock than the 39-point unit used in the D610, and tends to work better in low light situations.

One change that was instituted on the D810 that carries over to the D750 is in how the focus points are depicted. When you select the focus mode you still get the traditional box array, but once you have chose a dynamic AF mode, the display is now different. Only the active AF point in the center of the group is displayed as a box; the outer points are now represented as dots.

AF-C, 9-Point mode


Why this change? Mostly because Nikon's documentation of their AF system is a bit lacking. Even with seasoned photographers it is possible to misunderstand how the system worked. The representation in the D750 and D810 gives a better visual depiction of what is actually going on. With the dynamic area modes (9, 21 and 51-points) the AF point at the center of the group is still the main focusing point. When you go to the larger point-groupings, you are not increasing the camera's ability to predict side-to-side motion, you are actually effectively increasing the size of the AF detection area. Think of the AF area groups as bulls-eyes; the center is the "hot" part of the AF target while the edges are less sensitive. In other words, if you use a larger area-group, you are increasing the sensitivity of the AF system, but you are decreasing the specificity of its results. Sometimes this is necessary when you have a highly erratic moving subject, but for moderately fast moving subjects, 3D-tracking is the only mode that truly tracks motion side-to-side.

(For a more detailed and hopefully easier read on how Nikon's AF system works, go to this post.)

The D750 also inherits the Group Area mode from the D4s. When selected, this is represented as a cross-hatch in the viewfinder. Unlike the other area modes, Group Area works in both AF-S mode and AF-C mode. In AF-S mode, it acts like a "closest priority" mode. Compared to single point, it tends to give higher priority to things that are closer to the camera. In AF-C mode, it works brilliantly for tracking subjects that move in a linear motion towards and away from the camera. How is this different from 9-point mode? Group Mode in AF-C again tends to priority things that are in closer to the camera. If you take a picture of a dog running towards you, Group Area mode will keep with the dog while 9-point will have a higher chance of landing the focus behind the moving dog. Even though it's the last option on the AF dial, Group Area mode is easily one of the most remarkable upgrades to the AF system in quite some time. With a fast-focusing lens, the camera will be able to land in-focus shots of things that are moving very quickly. The caveat is that Group Area mode is not a side-to-side tracking mode like 3D-tracking; in order to land focus, you must keep the AF point on the moving subject while you are panning with it.

WiFi


WiFi is built in to the D750, a first for Nikon's FX cameras. The functionality of the mobile app (free for iOS and Android) is fairly basic; you can do picture transfers and you you can stream live view and use your mobile device as a remote shutter. WiFi is off by default; you must turn it on from the menu, and the initial factory setting is for an unsecured connection, which can be changed.

WiFi Menu
Nikon D750 streaming live view to Nexus 7 tablet

Liveview steaming is not particularly quick, but it is interesting to use if you can take advantage of a tablet's larger screen size. As a means of remotely triggering the camera, it is functional, but the traditional methods are quicker and more reliable.

Video


Speaking of live view, the D750 can do something that the D610 can't: change aperture during live view. This also means that you can change aperture with G-type lenses during video recording as well. Video quality if fairly good and the output is fairly resistant to rolling shutter at moderate pan speeds. Here is an example of the power aperture feature during video.



Image Quality


(For an in-depth look at the D750 compared to the D810 and Df at high ISO, go here.)

It goes without saying that Nikon, along with all of the other camera companies, will find a way to tune the output of each successive generation so that the image quality has a better subjective appearance than the last. Most of this happens with the in-camera JPEG engine, as image quality improvements derived from hardware are expensive to accomplish. As per usual, Nikon is claiming that this the D750 uses a new sensor so that you don't think that they are recycling the one used on the D600 and D610.

That said, the JPEG quality from the EXPEED 4 generation, as seen in the D810, is actually quite pleasing. In days past, JPEG rendering was something of an afterthought on high end cameras, as the assumption was that serious users would be shooting RAW. That may be true, but a large number of high end camera purchasers aren't professionals and even for those who are; a RAW-based workflow isn't necessarily the best thing if you have a high volume of images that you need to deliver in a short amount of time. There is also one other obvious  (and embarrassing) reason why JPEG quality matters to Nikon's high end cameras in 2014: the loss of Capture NX2. Okay, for many people that isn't such a great loss, but CNX2 did have some unique technologies that Nikon lost when Nik software was acquired by Google. The replacement, Capture NX-D, is basically a re-skinned version of SilkyPix. It's not an ideal situation, but it would be much worse for Nikon at the end of 2014 if the JPEG quality wasn't visually pleasing given that their users don't have great native RAW editing options. Cue great majority of people who are going to skip straight to Adobe Lightroom regardless of the lack of ability to read the encrypted part of the NEF files.

General Image Noise and Dynamic Range


The following is an ad hoc demonstration of the camera's JPEG output quality through the ISO range. Pay attention to the legibility of the soda bottles for detail retention (or lack thereof) as the ISO value rises, speckling in the broad colour patches for overall image noise, as well as the harshness of the reflections and shadows as dynamic range decreases. These samples are not directly comparable to similar samples found elsewhere in this blog because of variable ambient lighting conditions. This set of samples was shot with the Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f/4 VR at 24mm and f/8; high ISO noise reduction was turned off. The area of the complete image frame that is covered by the pop refrigerators is approximately the size of the an AF point indicator box in the viewfinder. Click on images for 100% crop view.

ISO 100
ISO 800
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 12800
Hi 1.0 (1/3200s)
Hi 2.0 (1/4000s)

Image quality at ISO 100 is outstandingly detailed and crisp. ISO 6400 is the last level before nosie becomes excessively intrusive. Hi 1.0 is usable in an emergency if you are willing to apply a large amount of post processing; Hi 2.0 is pretty much a fiction and should not be used if at all possible.

If you compare the D750 against the D610, there is a visual difference between the two cameras  at high ISO. At ISO 6400, both cameras produce reasonably detailed JPEG images, but there is noticeably less chroma noise in the D750. Typically, people like to express the difference as "1/2 stop better.. etc" but it isn't as simple as that. If you do a straight up comparison of the D750's ISO 12,800 images versus the D610's ISO 6400 shots, the D610 will win by virtue of that the fact that less noise suppression is being applied. The difference narrows considerably when you compare RAW files from each camera. However, the D750 does show less chroma noise even with NEF files, even if the difference is very slight. You will see the difference in the deep blacks and shadows, even up to the midtones. There is hardly any meaningful difference in the highlights.

In other words, we are still at the same level of usability with full frame as we were  a year ago; ISO 6400 seems to be the acceptable limit for casual, care-free shooting before image noise becomes intrusive. Going higher up the scale results in noticeable degradation in image quality. The difference is that even though the practical limit is the same between the D610 and the D750, the D750 images look better, if only slightly. As always, it isn't just about the amount of image noise that is present in the picture, but also the quality of the noise.

There is a sentiment that the sensors in the Df and the D750 were wrongly placed, that the Df should have gotten the 24mp sensor and that the D750 should have gotten the 16mp to make it a true high-speed camera. That might make sense, but even if the D750 doesn't hit the lofty high ISO cleanliness of the Df, it's not by any means inferior as there is a tangible benefit in better lower ISO dynamic range and overall detail.

Fixed Pattern Noise


Most of what we perceive as image noise is predominately shot noise, which is the result of the quantum nature of light. This component of the image noise is truly random in nature and has a fine texture.
On modern image sensors, the noise from the circuitry gives a much smaller contribution. (Click on the following samples for 100% crop view.)

Read noise is the contribution from drawing data off of the sensor. You can capture it with a pure-dark exposure at the shortest possible shutter speed. For all intents and purposes, there is hardly a trace of it visible at low ISO. Low read-noise is closely associated with high dynamic range at low ISO levels. Here is an ISO 100 exposure pushed 10 stops to better visualize the "texture" of what the D750's purest black is like. The evenness of the texture is one indication of how prone the camera is to "banding" in deep shadows.

ISO 100, 1/4000s, 10 EV push

Dark current noise is the interference associated with the innate nature of the circuitry itself. It tends to give a courser texture to the noise than either shot noise or read noise. Here is a 1s exposure at high ISO, again, pushed to extremes in order to visualize the texture.

ISO 12800, 1s, 8 EV push

Even though the texture is more course, the distribution is fairly even across the image frame. Here is a night-sky type of exposure, ISO 6400 at 30s. The first is the unaltered exposure; it's mostly black but you can make out some specs. Nothing that long exposure noise reduction wouldn't be able to handle were it turned on.

ISO 6400, 30s
Here's the same image crop, but pushed 6EV to better visualize what's going on under the hood, so to speak. This is in keeping with the subjective appearance of the D750's image noise; it is better than the D610 and there do appear to have been some some changes made to the hardware to accomplish this.

ISO 6400, 30s 6 EV push

Comparisons  (ISO 6400)


The following were shot at 24mm, f8 and ISO 6400 with spot metering. Note the different interpretations of exposure each camera is performing. Click for 100% crop view.


Nikon D750, 1/800s
Nikon D610, 1/320s
Canon 5D Mark III, 1/320s
Nikon D810, 1/1000s

There aren't many conclusions that can be drawn from this set of images, even though they were all shot in the same way. If anything, it does show the importance of equalizing exposure when comparing cameras. Note that the D610 and the Canon 5D Mark III are metering the scene very brightly and at the obvious expense of creating harsh highlights on the bottles. The D750 meters more like the D810 and of the three samples is probably the most accurate rendition of how the scene would look to the naked eye. Some of the reason for the difference may come down to the metering arrays. The D610 uses a 2,016 pixel array and the Canon uses a dual-layer 63-zone array, whereas the D750 and the D810 use a high resolution 91,000 pixel array to meter exposure.

Between the D610, D750, D810 and 5D Mark III, there is not much difference in terms of how the ISO sensitivities work. For any given ISO and aperture value, the cameras will all give the same shutter speed with the exception of the D750, which tends to given shutters speeds 1/3 of an EV shorter than the rest of the pack.

Pricing


Historically, camera makers have used a product line pricing curve that rises exponentially as you progress towards the premium/professional end of the scale. The beginning of the curve has a gentle rise so that the something can be had for the very price conscious, whereas the end of the curve rises steeply for the smaller number of users who value performance over price. Here is how things have changed over time. The first table is how the "classic" Nikon pricing curve used to work (in U.S. dollars), followed by a listing of the current price progression. The final column in each table are the prices normalized to 2014 dollars after inflation is accounted for.

Camera Launch Date Launch Price Price in 2014 Dollars




D90 2008 $1,000 $1,105
D7000 2010 $1,199 $1,308
D300 2008 $1,799 $1,987
D700 2008 $2,999 $3,313
D3 2008 $4,999 $5,523








Camera Launch Date Launch Price Price in 2014 Dollars




D7100 2013 $1,200 $1,225
D610 2014 $1,999 $1,999
D750 2014 $2,300 $2,300
Df 2013 $2,750 $2,808
D800 2012 $3,000 $3,108
D810 2014 $3,300 $3,300
D4s 2014 $6,500 $6,500


Simply put, Nikon used to have a simple and progressive price structure. The new price curve is similar, but is shifted upwards and has more data points. There were some obvious gaps to the old curve, such as in the stretch between the D300/D300s to the D700, but for the most part, it was understandable. Post-tsunami, Nikon is is now grappling with a contracting camera market. They want to shift as many customers as possible up the price curve, but in order to do so, they need to increase product differentiation. This is also the reason why Mercedes, BMW and Audi have have seemingly endless variations of their high end models; even the wealthy are price-sensitive, it's just that they're spending cutoff points are much higher than the average consumer. Also note that the normalized price difference between the D610 and D750 is not that much more than the D300's launch price. Here's a visual depiction of the old and new Nikon prices curves:


As you can see, the price curve of the newer model lineup is slightly higher than the old one, indicating higher overall average prices. Where this is occurring is right where the D750 resides; in the market space that used to be occupied by the D300 and D300s sits the D610, but at a higher price.Yes, pro-DX and consumer-FX are two different crowds, but neither Canon nor Nikon have been willing to place such models at near-identical prices. The current Canon product lineup looks like this:


Camera Launch Date Launch Price Price in 2014 Dollars




70D 2013 $1,199 $1,224
7D Mark II 2014 $1,799 $1,799
6D 2013 $2,099 $2,143
5D Mark III 2012 $3,499 $3,625
1D X 2011 $6,799 $7,189

Note the discontinuity between Canon pricing and Nikon pricing. Generally, if you pay more for a Nikon camera, the features become more professionally oriented, with the Df being something of an outlier. In the Canon universe, there's a bit of an overlap with pro and consumer versions of crop and full frame cameras. The cross-over point in the Canon line-up occurs between the 6D and the 7D Mark II; as of late 2014, these two cameras are effectively selling at the same price as the 6D is an older camera that is the recipient of manufacturer's rebates whereas the 7D Mark II sells a full price just after launch. However this two cameras draw very different user groups; a the 6D is an upgrade in image quality for the 7D crowd, but it's a big downgrade in terms of performance and handling. If a 7D users wants to maintain  the ergonomics that he or she is used to, it's a big jump to the 5D Mark III.

These are two competing philosophies at work. The D750 arrived at Photokina 2014 in place of a hoped for pro-DX camera, and it has semi-pro-ish features at a price to try to lure consumers upwards to FX. The Canon lineup is a bit more segregated than the Nikon lineup, which works like an upwards sliding-scale. Which approach is correct? This is the big question of 2014, and nobody really knows the answer. Normally Canon and Nikon  shadow each other closely in terms of marketing, but the D750 is another sign that the companies are diverging on how to maintain profitability as the camera market continues to contract.

Comparisons


D300 User


Tough call, but not because of the logical of the situation but because of the emotional baggage that Nikon has saddled on this user group. The logical choice of camera that is close-ish to what the D300 did is the D7100, even if it is a step down in handling and build quality. The future as Nikon sees it favours FX; jumping to the D750 means keeping up with the Jones and all of the FX lenses that Nikon has been keen to roll out. However, a large portion of this group is into wildlife photography, and in this case a jump to FX is not necessarily conducive as it effectively shortens the magnification of your lenses. If that is the case, there is no other way around it; if you want pixel density and long lenses, the D7100 is your camera, small butter and all.

D7000/D7100 User


Two choices: Either the D610 or the D750. Both are designed to be easy for DX users to step up to. It's no coincidence that the D750 bears a strong resemblance to the D7100. Which one you choose depends on how willing you are to go up the food chain. The D610 will be for users who are looking for "more" but not the "best." The D750 will be for those D7xxx shooters looking to upgrade to "more" because they are doing more with their photography, either in paid work or in more challenging shooting conditions. As time goes by the price gap between the D610 and the D750 will widen, but truth be told, the difference between the two is a small portion of the total expense of moving to a full-frame system. Though there is a price difference, it is worth it to save for the D750 as you would then be getting an upgrade in both image quality and handling.

D600/D610 User: 


Even if you have a D600, you have a relatively new camera. Even though the D750 is more "pro" than the D600 or D610, it's not big enough of a change to justify another camera purchase over $2000. Though the D750 is better all around, in many ways, it is like a generational upgrade to the D610, and as the saying goes, you get more value for your money when you skip at least one generation before your next purchase. Long story short, if you shoot primarily landscapes or portraits, the additional benefits of the D750 are minimal.


D700 User: 


Yep, this is your camera to buy, but it's not the same as the one that you are using. Wonder why the model designation is "D750" instead of "D620"? That's because Nikon has historically had a lot of success with sevens; think D70, D700 and D7000. If you think that's silly, what are the chances that Nikon will use the name "Coolpix B" for some future camera? In every way, the D750 is an upgrade for anybody who is still using a D700... except that it's not a pro-body style. No full metal body, consumer button layout, camera limited in niggling little ways like the 1/4000s max shutter speed.... Though there is quite a bit of push-back to the notion, the true successor to the D700 was the D800; the D750 is a downmarket camera that has the benefit of newer technology.

D800/D810 User: 


You are most likely shooting at a level beyond the scope of this blog, but even then, the virtues of the D750 as a backup camera to the D810 speak for themselves. 

Canon User:


On paper, the D750 looks like a credible Canon 5D Mark III competitor. It really isn't; just as the price would suggest, it slots between the 6D and the 5D Mark III.  The Nikon D750 is a downgrade from the 5D Mark III in terms of build quality and autofocus performance, though it is better in terms of still photo image quality. Both cameras with their respective kit lenses will be similarly priced, though the advantage goes slightly to Nikon as the AF-S 24-120mm f/4 VR is for the most part a sharper lens than the Canon EF 24-105L. For those who depending on their Canon's for professional videography, the D750 is unconvincing; it's good but it's not enough to justify switching gear setup. The D750 can do 60 fps full 1080p, where as the Canon tops out at 30 fps. However, the specs are not directly comparable between the two cameras, as Nikon rates the D750 at 54 Mbps maximum logical, whereas the 5DmIII is All-I at 91MBps or IPB at 31 MBps. In actual practice, the difference in video quality is not solely determined by the spec numbers, as there are also differences in encoding (which are beyond the scope of this blog at present.) Traditionally, Canon video output tends to have less moirĂ© and aliasing issues than Nikon cameras due to the way that the data is read off the Canon sensors. That isn't to say that you can't do professional quality video with the Nikon; that's something of a myth due to the large numbers of Canon-based video crews. In fact, the higher lower ISO dynamic range is a definite plus for the D750, and in general, the Nikon output is slightly crisper-looking coming out of the camera. However, if the D750 is a 5DmIII competitor, it's a competitor for new users, not existing ones; there isn't enough to justify a switch for most users.

Veiled Lens Flare Issue


Update 1,  January 2015: Some early D750 units exhibited a phenomenon where a dark band would occur across flare in the upper portion of the image frame. It's caused by a variance in the AF module mounting height; on some units, the edge of the autofocus module sits just high-enough that it can shade flare in such a way as to create an abrupt cutoff in the flare pattern. This is a phenomenon that doesn't seem to affect all units, and is actually quite difficult to reproduce because it only occurs with strongly back-lit subjects where the light is situated at a relatively narrow angle. Pointing the camera straight into a bright light source won't do it, the light has to be situated just a bit off-frame and coming in a very specific angle. The dark band can be mitigated by using a lens hood or by shading the lens with your hand, and can be completely avoided if you shoot the scene with the camera upside-down and right the image in post-processing.

Of course, this is no help if you are deliberately trying to invoke lens flare as a picture element (creative portraiture, hipster photographer, etc..) It's definitely a bug, not a quirk.... for one thing, bug's are fixable. It's an annoyance, but not a catastrophic one... and Nikon seems to have learned their lesson from the D600 saga by acknowledging the issue early. If it seems as though Nikon has been bug prone with their camera launches, it certainly is the case, though this and the D810 long exposure noise issue are extremely minor, both in scope and severity when you consider the troublesome issues that the D800 left-side AF alignment and D600 debris issues were. If you are looking at a D750, the flare issue should not be the deciding factor on whether or not to purchase one.

Update 2,  January 2015:  Nikon issued a repair advisory on January 9th, 2015:

"To users of the Nikon D750 digital SLR camera    
Thank you for choosing Nikon for your photographic needs.

On December 29, 2014, we announced that we were looking into measures to address the issue reported by some users, namely that when photographing scenes in which an extremely bright light source, such as the sun or high-intensity lighting, is positioned near the top edge of the frame, flare with an unnatural shape sometimes occurs in images captured with the D750 digital SLR camera.

To correct this issue, Nikon will inspect and service, at no cost, the camera’s light-shielding components and adjust the AF sensor position.  We plan to initiate this service at the end of January and will announce further details, including instructions for requesting servicing, shortly.

Please direct inquiries regarding this matter to Nikon Customer Relations by phone at 1-800-Nikon US (1-800-645-6687), 9AM–8PM EST, Monday to Friday (closed certain holidays) or online here.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this issue may have caused, and ask for your continued patience and understanding.

Once again, thank you for choosing Nikon for your photographic needs."

For the most part, this is a quick end to a problem that affected a limited number of people in limited circumstances. This is not to belittle the problem for people who were genuinely affected by it, but the problem falls more along the lines of "it shouldn't have happened" rather than "people were hurt by it." Nikon has obviously learned a thing or two since the D600 saga and has acted as quickly as you would expect an organization of this size to operate. From past experience, Nikon seemed quick to act with the D810 long-exposure white spot issue; once a fix was announced retail units were quickly updated.

Concluding Thoughts


Nikon really wants to sell you a full-frame DSLR. The D750 is a fine camera in its own right, but it feels like Nikon is onto it's second do-over of the D600. If the D600 hadn't been such a public relations disaster, the D610 as we know it would never have happened. In other words, the D750 is in many ways the real "D610"... the camera that Nikon would have brought out all along. In many ways, it feels like the upgrade from the D7000 to the D7100... it's the same formula, but with better features and components.

From a price/performance perspective, the D750 is obviously  the "value play" of the FX lineup. It's a good portion of the D80/D810's performance, but without the hulking price tag and the pesky extra 12mp to clog your computer's hard drive. If this were a movie somebody would probably be saying "Stop trying to make affordable FX happen. It's not going to happen." Nikon doesn't seem to be heeding that admonition, and if you ignore the baggage of the past two years, the D750 is the camera that many people have been waiting for, just not in the way that they expected.






With many thanks to Broadway Camera.

5 comments:

  1. Great review. Had a question regarding the tilt screen, how durable is it in different weather condition ? Did you face any issues with it ?
    http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3743870 – it appears that Nikon has issued some guidelines in using it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't get to use it outdoors. In dry weather, the mechanism is very tight for a flip screen of its type... there is some resistance to pulling the screen out. But as I mentioned, I felt that the cable seemed to be more exposed than in other designs, and I guess that has manifested for some people. Under most circumstances, I would say that if you can resist the urge to poke at it, then it will be fine. I can see instances where a camera drop with the screen fully-extended could lead to trouble. If you rarely use the flip screen, then it will most likely not be a problem. My personal take is that I wouldn't use the flip screen in heavy rain or a windy day at the beach, but that wouldn't stop me from using the camera in those conditions.


      Delete
  2. The video bit rate for the D750; 1080 at 60p, high quality, is 42 Mb/s, not 24 Mb/s. Normal quality bit rate at 1080 60p is 24 Mb/s. So the D750's bit rate is higher than the 5D III. I found this bit rate listed in my D750's owners manual, where did you find your info?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a straight up goof on my part; was probably still thinking in about the D800 when I wrote that. That paragraph could have been better worded, which is has been. (Updated)

      Delete
  3. The 54mbps figure in Nikon's specs is related to the wireless connection (ieee 802.11).

    ReplyDelete