It wasn’t that long ago when the Nikon D3 was released. The first full frame DSLR from Nikon with never seen before low light performance and a number of other improved features that completely redefined the limitation of DSLR and how we can take photo. It also came with a big full size body and huge price tag to match it’s flagship status which keeps it out of reach for most photographers. Fortunately not long after that, Nikon released the D700, a camera with the same image sensor, autofocus system and many other features from the D3, but with a more affordable price and a smaller professional body.
A few years later, Nikon announced the D3(s)’s successor D4, they also announced the D800. In some way the D800 was the successor of the D700. They are both professional DSLR with full frame sensor without the integrated portrait grip. But one major difference between the D800 and the D700 is that the D800 has a really awesome high resolution sensor but also much slower burst rate as a result. So for photographers who want fast burst rate and don’t want a D4, they are still waiting for their real D700 replacement
And finally there is a new full frame DSLR with the model number starts with a 7, it has a lower resolution sensor (still double that of the D700) and faster burst rate, here comes the Nikon D750.
“There are a number of very important things that make the D750 a much more serious camera than its similar looking brother.”
While the model number may suggest it is the long awaited successor to the D700, the D750 comes in a enthusiast level body like the D610, not a professional body like the D700 or D800. Actually if you put the D750 next to a D610, they almost look exactly the same. A small but weather sealed body, with very similar button and dial layout. Even the image sensor is the same at 24MP resolution and both cameras have dual SD card slot, built-in flash..etc. The only obvious difference from outside is that D750 has a tilt-able LCD screen. So is the D750 just a D610 with a tiltable screen and new model number?
Absolutely not. There are a number of very important things that make the D750 a much more serious camera than its similar looking brother.
I am Nikon’s first DSLR with a tilt-able screen
Nikon said the 24MP FX sensor in the D750 is a new design even though the specs look very similar to the one on the D610. And just like the D610, the D750’s sensor also has an AA filter. It seems like Nikon only remove the AA filter on cameras with really high pixel density, 36MP on full frame and 24MP on cropped format. The ISO range is from 100-12800, expand to 50-51200. The maximum ISO is one stop higher than the D610.
Some early reviews I read say the D750 has the best high ISO performance in the whole Nikon DSLR range, better than the D4s and Df. But could that be true? The only way to find out is shoot some comparison photos myself and see
I don’t have a D610 to compare it side by side. But I do have a Df (still the king of high ISO from Nikon) and a D800 so I did a comparison test between these three cameras. All full frame sensor, one low resolution, one medium resolution and one high resolution. How do they look like when we compare them side by side?
To allow fair comparison, I’ve equalised the images to same size and all the comparison photos were resized to 16MP which is Df’s original resolution.
And below are the 100% crop from the resized images. All are from RAW with no noise reduction
(Note D800 can only go up to ISO 25600)
(Click on the image to see it at 100% size)
Looking at the 100% crops, the differences between these three full frame cameras are quite small. At ISO 12800, the Df, D800 and D750 are really very similar. Even when go up to ISO 25600 and 51200, the differences are still not dramatic but you can see a bit of red tint on the D800 photo caused by chromatic noise. The Df’s colours, contrast and details are all maintained at better level than the D750 but the D750 really isn’t bad at all even when sitting next to the lord of darkness Df.
“D750’s high ISO performance is so good that the difference between these two full frame camera (Df) is really small. So small that it would be very hard to tell under real life usage.”
So D4s/Df beating high ISO performance? Probably not. The Df and D4s are still the king of high ISO, but D750’s high ISO performance is so good that the difference between these two full frame camera is really small. So small that it would be very hard to tell under real life usage.
So the D750’s high ISO performance is really not bad at all, how about it’s low ISO performance?
At base ISO, the image is clean, just like pretty much every modern camera these days. To test how good the low ISO image really is, I tried something a bit more extreme.
“Would you have thought the original image was underexposed by 6 stops before I tell you that? 6 stop is a massive difference!”
At the beginning of the review, there is an image of an intersection I took using the D750. My regular readers know that I like to provide real life images in my reviews but some of you might wonder why I picked that photo and place it at the beginning of the review? There doesn’t seem to be anything special about that photo.
Now I tell you why, that photo was originally underexposed by 6 stops. And then I tried to recover it in post processing. And the photo I put up is the result .
Would you have thought the original image was underexposed by 6 stops before I tell you that? 6 stop is a massive difference! That photo was shot at 1/4000s but I should have shot it at 1/60s instead if i were to expose correctly .
That’s how good the D750’s image sensor is.
The Nikon D610 both uses the Multi-CAM 4800 autofocus system which has 39 autofocus point. It’s not a bad autofocus system at all. To me the biggest issue is that all the autofocus points are closely packed near the middle of the frame. And the low light autofocus performance could be a bit better.
With the release of the D750, Nikon finally bring it’s professional 51 point autofocus system to their (full frame) enthusiast body and the Multi-CAM 3500FX II autofocus system is what you’ll find on the D750. Notice the “II” at the end of the name?
“As you can see, the focus is pretty much bang on in all the photos.”
Yes this is the new mark II version which has better autofocus performance and also better low light autofocus performance. And this new autofocus system does work really good in real life. The autofocus is fast and accurate. Tracking seems to be very reliable too and the percentage of good in-focus photo is very high when you are shooting in continuous focus mode tracking moving objects.
Below is a sequence of photos took in continuous focusing mode. The photos were shot at 6.5fps with a 70-200mm lens at f/2.8.
Left is original image, right is a 100% crop of the front of the car. (Click on photo to see it at 100%) As you can see, the focus is pretty much bang on in all the photos.
the new Multi-CAM 3500FX II
“The success rate when under extreme low light is much better than the D810 and D4s and of course a lot better than the D610.”
If you have read my Df review, you might remember I’ve said that camera manufacturers really need to improve autofocus system’s low light performance to fully utilise the sensor’s amazing low light performance. The autofocus system is now the weakest link of the system when it comes to low light.
The engineers at Nikon obviously know about this as well, and the D750 can focus under really low light environment and can autofocus down to -3EV. For comparison, the Multi-CAM 4800 on D600/610/Df can only autofocus down to -1EV, the Multi-CAM 3500FX on the D4s/D810 can autofocus down to -2EV. So yes the D750 can autofocus at places one stop darker than the D4s can. The success rate when under extreme low light is much better than the D810 and D4s and of course a lot better than the D610.
Traditionally Nikon release their latest and greatest inventions on the top model camera first then make them available on lower models later on. This applies to the image sensor, metering system and also autofocus system. So I am really surprised that Nikon put this new system on the D750 first as the recently released D4s and D810 are both using the original Multi-CAM 3500FX. I would have thought the D4s with it’s excellent high ISO performance would greatly benefit from this new autofocus system. So maybe this new autofocus system was not ready back then? Anyway, the new AF system is here and wedding photographers or photojournalist who have to shoot under extremely dim environment regularly would definitely love it. I really wish my Df has this new autofocus system.
Another thing I complained in my other review is the lack of built-in Wifi in all the Nikon DSLRs. For most of the recent Nikon DSLRs, there is an optional and external wifi adaptor available, but while it’s quite small and not too expensive, you still have to attached it externally and carry it separately which is a bit of pain. The great news is, finally the D750 has the wifi built-in the camera! No need to carry that external wifi adaptor and worry about losing it anymore!
“you really should get a high speed SD card. I was using the latest Sandisk Extreme PRO 280MB/s card when doing the review.”
The D750’s burst rate is 6.5fps which makes it the second fastest full frame camera in Nikon’s current lineup. And it should be fast enough for shooting most kind of action photos. However, I am slightly disappointed about the camera’s tiny buffer size. If you are shooting with the highest quality RAW setting, the buffer size is only around 15 images, which is just over 2 seconds when shooting at highest frame rate.
Lower the output setting a bit can help the buffer size. For example, output to 12bit compressed RAW would increase the buffer size to 33 images, or 87 images if you are JPG shooter (large, fine quality).
But anyway if you do shoot a lot in continuous shooting mode, you really should get a high speed SD card. I was using the latest Sandisk Extreme PRO 280MB/s card when doing the review. The fast writing speed helped clearing the buffer as quick as possible so I don’t have to wait forever for the camera to clear it’s buffer.
“if you like to shoot at f/1.4 a lot during the middle of the day, then you might need to carry some ND filter in your pocket.”
The D750’s maximum shutter speed is 1/4000s. While it is fast enough to freeze pretty much everything, if you like to shoot at f/1.4 a lot during the middle of the day, then you might need to carry some ND filter in your pocket.
The camera’s metering system is the same as what the flagship D4s is using, the 91k 3D color matrix metering III. Metering is very consistent and reliable, you just can’t complain. The D750 also has the new highlight-weighted metering mode which is really useful when you want to preserve the highlight details, such as stage photography.
“the D750 is the Nikon camera I would use for any serious videography work.”
The D750 is the first full frame Nikon DSLR to have a tilt-able LCD screen at the back of the camera. This is not only good for taking photo at tricky camera angle but also very useful for videographers. If you are a videographer, I can tell you the video quality from the D750 is just fantastic. The footage from this camera is super clean and sharp. And unlike the D610 which has some of the more advanced video features missing, the D750 has pretty much every single video features that is available on the D810 and D4s.
You can now shoot 1080P video up to 60fps. You have all those external input/output ports, full manual control including ability to change aperture during live-view. You have the new flat picture control from the D810. And together with it’s light weight body and tillable screen, the D750 is the Nikon camera I would use for any serious videography work.
“the camera feel very secure and comfortable to hold, possibility even better than the already excellent D4s and D810.”
When I picked up the D750, I immediately noticed how comfortable the camera feels in my hands. The much deeper grip, the rubberised memory card door make the camera feel very secure and comfortable to hold, possibility even better than the already excellent D4s and D810.
The D750 uses the ENEL-15 battery, same as D600, D800, D7000 series. Battery life is very good as expected. If you are using it for photos, the battery last pretty much forever. But if you use it mainly as a video camera, then a couple of spare batteries in your camera bag is never a bad idea.
“the D750 offers you professional level performance in an enthusiast class body, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
As an enthusiast camera, there really isn’t much to complain. Build quality is good, image sensor is great. It has Nikon’s best autofocus system, metering system, 100% viewfinder, weather sealed body, latest image processor, built-in Wifi, dual card slots, tillable LCD screen and really good video recording capability. Apart from 1/4000s shutter speed limit and small buffer size, there isn’t much that set this apart from Nikon or other brand’s professional DSLRs.
If you are one of the person who has been waiting for a real D700 replacement, would you get the D750? Would you be put off by it’s enthusiast body? Would you rather Nikon increase the price of the D750 to D810 level and give you a pro body instead?
And when I’m out shooting with the D750, it does make me think about one thing. With such an amazing list of features and image quality to back up on an enthusiast camera, what will the next Nikon professional camera be like?
Anyway, we won’t see any new professional camera from Nikon for another year or two at least but in the mean time, the D750 offers you professional level performance in an enthusiast class body, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Nikon D750 + Nikon AF-S 16-35mm f/4G VR – ISO100 f/22 1/8s
Reviewer: Richard Wong
Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard
Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo and ProPhotographer magazine.
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