The Nikon D750 – Is It The Best Wedding DSLR Ever?
Nikon D750, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, FotoPro C5C Tripod
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Whenever I test a hot new camera that is purporting to be a qualified (let alone superior) replacement for the camera I am currently using, or did use for many years, there is this one special test I like to attempt. Basically it goes something like this: “How does it feel to get accustomed to the new camera, and then suddenly switch back to the old one?”
I’m a full-time wedding photographer, so usually what I do is shoot 3-5+ weddings with the new camera, get it dialed in exactly how I like, then after shooting half a day with the newer camera I force myself put it away and grab the older camera to finish the job.
How does the experience feel? Are there any bell/whistle features on the new camera that I actually miss? Or is it the same back-of-my-hand workhorse camera? Then, (later on the computer) is the difference in image quality going to affect how I shoot, or what I can deliver to my clients?
For example, I performed this test when doing my review of the Nikon D810. I swapped out the D810 and D800e a few times during a multi-day Hindu wedding, and honestly, it was very hard to tell which camera I was shooting with. Once or twice I didn’t even realize I was using the D800e again instead of the D810; there was barely a difference in both functionality and image results! I therefore was forced to conclude that even though a new buyer ought to go for the superior D810, if they could afford it, anyone who already owned a D800e should probably just sit tight and enjoy their already awesome camera. (And last, but not least in my book, a used D800/e makes a very good buy, especially since they’re dropping below $2,000 here and there!)
The D750 versus the D700
D700 die-hards have all been cursing at the Nikon D750 for looking more like a D610 than a D810, and leaving out key sports-related features. However, the more I use the D750 for weddings and portraits, the more I realize this is just the new design of their semi-pro cameras. Sorry, D700 lovers, but this actually makes the D750 a superior camera in many ways.
The Nikon D750 loses a circular eyecup and top-left settings buttons, but gains the widely popular U1 and U2 custom settings modes, a “Qc” mode that is actually quiet, and an articulated LCD screen. A fair trade, in my opinion!
So, how did the D750 fare against my Nikon D800e, and my D700? In short, the D750 blows the D700 out of the water, and gives the whole 800-series a run for its money in many respects, while actually beating it in others.
Keep in mind that my D700 has been relegated to backup duty for a whole season now, and I’ve been shooting with a D800e in the meantime. Anyways, when I “downgraded” from the D800e to the D750 I must admit that I did miss a few of the 800-series flagship-style features. The circular eyecup and viewfinder shutter is nice. The size of the “joypad” is a bit smaller on the D750, and the AF points are just a smidge more centralized. However, these were all things I got over quickly, or didn’t mind putting up with. They were not deal-breakers. And the image quality? The D750 won me over completely. (Keep in mind that for weddings, 24 MP is actually more practical than 36!)
At ISO 100, the dynamic range of these NEF files is staggering, in fact, so much so that you have to be careful not to go too far! I’ve had to re-teach myself that not all shadows should be dug up entirely, images benefit from having a little bit of moody contrast.
I’d never encourage another photographer to shoot “sloppy” and under-expose everything they shoot, however when an emergency arises it’s good to know the cushion is there.
Reverse Psychology: What Does the D700 Feel Like After Using the D750?
So, back to that test I did. Just how “tried and true” does the D700 still feel? I’ll be blunt: after shooting half a wedding with the D750, the moment I picked up the D700, it felt like a chunky old dinosaur. The D750’s amazing grip design, lighter weight, plus a couple new functions, have already totally spoiled me, after just a few weddings. (Okay, a dozen? It was a busy year!)
To me, the D700’s grip now feels like it’s been over-inflated. It’s packed on a few pounds, and not in a healthy, hefty, cushion-y way. I’ve got pretty big hands, too, and I’ve been happy the D700 and D300, etc. style grip for almost a decade now, so the fact that I’ve found something better says a lot. Also, for what it’s worth, out of the dozens of professional wedding photographers I’ve heard from, all but one of them have absolutely raved about the D750’s new grip design.
The D700 is still a solid workhorse, with all the right switches, functions, power, and reliable focusing. Any wedding photographer would be lucky to have one in their bag. Still, the D750 just seems to run laps around it when it comes to new functionality, customization, and overall shooting comfort.
D750 Key Advantages Over D700
1.) Right-handed ISO control
With the addition of the REC button, Nikon now allows you to re-program this button to change your ISO quickly with your right index finger and thumb, instead of having to remove your left hand from supporting your camera to reach up to the dedicated ISO button on left-hand top/back. The D750 is not the only camera to have this REC button ISO control, of course; this feature has been available since a firmware update brought it to the D800 / D800e, and probably a few other flagship cameras. Either way, once you get used to this customization, any other camera is annoying to use if you change your ISO a lot.
2.) Face-detection scrolling during image playback zoom
Another feature that I’ve already talked about in my D810 review, this feature single-handedly won me over to the next generation of Nikon pro / semi-pro DSLRs. Once you get used to seeing every face in a group photo at 100% within 1 second of clicking the shot, anything less just makes portraiture seem painfully slow.
3.) The usability of ISO 6400
New cameras have claimed to offer a noticeable improvement in high ISO capability. However, ever since the D700, I’ve been “stuck” at ISO 3200 as my ceiling of acceptable image quality. I’ve avoided ISO 6400 about the same on the Nikon D810 and D610, plus the Canon 5D Mark III. The Canon 6D and Nikon Df are the only cameras I’ll use more freely at 6400, but neither of them had the AF power to be my main camera; they always just served as general candid work cameras.
The D750 has changed that. ISO 6400 is still a little “dull” looking compared to ISO 3200, however the noise levels and detail retention are enough that I do, in fact, use it more.
I’m not going to lie, I would have been a little happier if Nikon had put the Df sensor in the D750, if ONLY for the purpose of high ISO performance, but the difference is probably mainly in my head.
4.) Pleasantly lightweight body
While many pros talk about how they like hefty cameras and loved the heft of a D700 with a vertical grip, plenty of others are jumping ship left and right to the Sony A7-series of mirrorless cameras. Clearly, full-sized DSLRs could stand to shed a few ounces without their entire target market throwing a fit.
Simply put, the D750 makes me stop caring about switching to mirrorless, at least for weight reasons. Especially with the ultra-light f/1.8 G primes that Nikon has been delivering lately, a series of primes that Sony has repeatedly stated they have no interest in developing yet.
5.) Did Nikon finally figure out better grip rubber?
Nikon has been notorious for making cameras that have amazing grip rubber….that falls off every 6 months. Canon grip rubber, by comparison, never had this problem, but only because it was much harder, almost plastic, and felt almost slippery if you had sweaty fingers / palms.
On the D750, something seems to be different. I’ve only been using mine for a few months, not the usual 6-12 that it takes for grip rubber to fall off a heavily-used camera (in humid and/or warm weather). However, something already feels and looks different, especially on the memory card door. It looks like Nikon has figured out a better type of rubber, or a better way of securing it to the camera. I’ll report back if this changes after a full season of wedding photography, but so far I’m very excited by the thought of not needing gaffers tape to hold my camera together!
D750 Disadvantages Compared to D700
Few of the following issues apply to what I do personally, but to not list them would be unfair to many folks who do strongly value these things:
1.) No More 8 FPS boost with V-grip
For me, the difference between 6.5 and 8 FPS is no spilt milk worth crying over, but I know that certain action sports photographers really loved the D700 as the only affordable option for getting to 8 FPS full-frame. The D700 and D750 both have decent (but not jaw-dropping) buffers, however the D700’s meager 12 MP files, especially in 12-bit compressed RAW, could put a buffer to very good use. In short, it’s only a problem if you’re VERY serious about sports, and even then, only if you “spray and pray.” Plus, you can always use 1.2x or 1.5x crop mode to reduce your megapixels and use your buffer less, if you’re shooting telephoto sports.
3.) Unsafe QUAL button placement
On pro Nikons, the QUAL (image quality) buttons are positioned relatively safely. On the D750, as with its siblings the D610 and D7100, the QUAL button is on the back of the camera, smack-dab in between the WB and ISO buttons. This is just a recipe for disaster since I use both of those other settings a lot. Thankfully, re-programming the REC button to control ISO has dramatically reduced my risk of accidentally bumping my camera from RAW to JPG, since it’s the setting I change without taking my eye away from the viewfinder.
I wish Nikon would update their cameras to allow “settings lockdown” for image quality (and other things) in a menu somewhere.
4.) Annoying “for dummies” LCD interface
Another hand-me-down feature on the D750 that makes you feel like you’re using a camera designed for those recently upgrading from a D5300 or something is the unavoidably helpful LCD interface. It turns itself on whenever you change your ISO or white balance, like a beginner camera, which is not only a little annoying, but also hinders operation of functions like the REC button ISO control. Nikon ought to fix that in firmware, if they want pros to think the D750 is an option they’re supposed to consider.
5.) Lesser AF point spread
Horizontally, the AF points reach out far enough, but vertically, they’re a bit restrictive. However, when I’m shooting really active stuff and I want an off-center AF point, I just bump the camera into 1.2x crop mode and it gives me plenty of AF point spread.
4.) No separate buttons for AF-L/AE-L and AF-ON
Many action sports shooters may use both of these buttons, however, I don’t so this is another thing I’m doing OK without. It is one of the major strikes against the D750 though.
5.) 1/4000 sec shutter speed limit and 1/200 sec. flash sync limit
This is another major strike against the D750 for some veteran sports shooters, however I must be quick to point out that from an overall exposure standpoint, compared to the D700, this is a moot point since its own base ISO was 200. The D750’s base ISO of 100 actually gives you the same exposure ability at 1/4000 sec, and even better flash sync ability at 1/200.
6.) The lack of a PC sync port
The last thing wedding and action photographers have argued to be a major shortcoming on the D750 is the lack of a PC sync port for external flash control, and I must admit I was very concerned at first.
However, the minute I tried a work-around (a PC port adapter that connects to your hotshoe), I realized something: Over the years, I’ve actually spent a few hundred dollars repairing damaged PC sync ports on my Nikon D700’s, and now the only thing that would break is a $7 adapter. All of a sudden, I feel pretty dumb about the whole thing!
What About The Flare?
Okay, nay-sayers and anti-fanboys, what about that horrible issue that everyone is freaking out about? To be honest, I have an “affected” D750 and I haven’t ever had a problem in real-world shooting conditions. Sure, it might be an issue for a select few photographers who just love flare THAT much, but that just doesn’t apply to 95% of photographers out there. Besides, Nikon seems to have already solved it, and is offering a free fix even to grey market owners here in the USA, which is very impressive in my opinion. So, in other words, the issue doesn’t even come close to stopping the D750 from remaining my absolute favorite camera in the world to photograph a wedding with.
Conclusion: The D750 Indeed Replaces the D700….For Most
I gotta admit, as a full-time professional wedding photojournalist and low-light action photographer, I un-ashamedly participated in all the discussions (OK, arguments) about Nikon’s legendary D700, and whether or not a true successor would ever arrive.
The D800 had too many megapixels and was too slow. The D600 was too “prosumer” and had inadequate autofocus. The Df, well, it was indeed a perfect wedding camera….for hipsters who thought looking retro was worth multiple compromises in functionality and versatility.
Enter the D750. Let’s be honest, it’s the camera the D610 should have been. However, with D4s autofocus and some other new features thrown in, it becomes another milestone for Nikon.
Nikon D750, Nikon 20mm f/1.8 G, SLR Lounge Preset System
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By naming it the D750 instead of “D650,” Nikon is clearly speaking to all the whiners: D700 lovers, this is IT. This is what the continuation of the D700 series will look like; in fact, it may be what all semi-pro cameras below $3,000 look like, period. Any other full-frame camera in this price range can be expected to look very similar, as well as a Nikon D7200 if rumors are true.
So let’s face it: A D810-like body is never going to get a 24 MP sensor. Actually it already has one, in 1.2x crop mode. More importantly, a D810-like isn’t body going to get a 16 MP sensor either. Or if it ever happens, it won’t cost $2300. In fact, the only camera I think may still be remotely possible is a DX D400, a D810-like body with Nikon’s latest 24 MP DX sensor. Although at this point I think that a DX version of the D750 is much more likely: a D7200.
So if you were waiting for a D4s sensor in a D810 body, with ~8 FPS and a huge buffer, now is the time to give up that dream. Pick up a Nikon D750, or a Nikon D810, or whichever camera you think is right for you, and go take pictures! Even if that mythical camera does come out some day, a D750 still deserves a place in the bag of any wedding or portrait photographer.
D750 Versus….Everything Else
So, I’ve concluded that the D750 is better for weddings than the D700 ever was, and is also better than the D800 or D810, with caveats. But what about the other camera makers?
The only DSLR that could come close to the D750 would be a properly executed Canon 5D Mark IV. The Canon 6D has great image quality, but lacks the AF power to be a truly well-rounded workhorse. The Canon 5D Mark III is a very powerful workhorse, but Nikon pulls ahead in the specific genre of weddings and portraits for a handful of reasons.
A Canon (or any other) DSLR that wants to really knock the D750 off its pedestal would have to offer the same breakthroughs that Nikon has begun offering recently: insane base-ISO dynamic range, uncanny low-light AF, face-detection during image playback zooming, in-camera crop modes that can turn a prime into a zoom, and the kill-flash custom function for creative low-light shots, plus a few other small details that I think really set the D750 apart.
In other words, people have been saying “it’s a matter of preference” for years, and sure, Canon and other companies do make amazing cameras. However when I tally up the real-world benefits and drawbacks of each camera on the market, the D750 wins by a margin that any wedding or portrait photographer will find hard to ignore…