I received the new Nikon D750 last Monday and after spending a few days getting used to it I decided to order a second with the intention of switching from my old faithful D3s’s in favour of this new model. I’m mainly a wedding photographer but also shoot portraits and a few commercial projects here and there, so make no mistake about it, the camera has to be of a professional standard.
In this review I’m going to outline why I was looking to change from the D3s (still one of the best wedding cameras ever made), what my concerns were and what my thoughts are after shooting two weddings with the D750 exclusively.
Firstly I just want to say that I don’t pretend to be an expert, I don’t claim this review to be scientific, accurate or of interest to anyone whatsoever. Its just my own experience. On many occasions I’ll be comparing the D750 to a D3s – and whilst I know these cameras are a generation apart and aimed at different markets, for me that comparison is relevant as I’m shooting with a D3s now and am looking to switch.
For a much better review check out Ross Harvey’s review on his blog which has great comparisons and considerations by one of the UKs leading wedding photographers.
So why change when the D3s is an absolutely kick ass camera?
I love the Nikon D3s. Its built like a tank, has amazing autofocus, low light performance and I have the utmost confidence in it. But its heavy, getting old and I wanted higher resolution as I shoot primes more than zooms these days, usually the 35mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.4. At times I need to crop more than I’d like.
I’ve dabbled with the Fuji systems and whilst for me they didn’t quite work out for professional use (I possibly didn’t give a long enough adaptation period) I saw the benefits of a lighter, smaller system so wanted to explore some options whilst still having the speed of a DSLR.
The D3s is very heavy. Before now I have been using a spider holster but over the years Ive missed the clip and dropped the camera. Whilst the body has been fine the lenses have been damaged so I switch to a black rapid system. this put the weight onto my shoulders and back, not my hips as the spider. So I wanted to reduce this weight on my back.
What attracted me to the Nikon D750?
I very very nearly pushed the button on a D810 but I just didn’t need or want the huge file sizes of 36mp. When I read the spec of the D750 it seemed, on paper at least, to have advantages over the D810 in areas which were important to me. With the exception of a few points it seemed to be a better match than the D810.
- I was drawn to:
- Autofocus speed
- Autofocus in low light
- High ISO prerformance
- Tilting screen seemed useful
- Good resolution without being too high
What were my concerns with the Nikon D750 prior to its arrival?
There were a few areas that I was concerned with:
- Build quality – to me a camera is a tool. Whilst I look after my gear I don’t and won’t wrap it in cotton wool. It’ll get wet, put on the floor and bumped through regular use as a wedding camera. I shoot up to 50 weddings per year so the camera has to be built to last.
- Size – I wanted smaller but is the D750 too small to be comfortable in my hands and feel like a pro camera?
- The maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 – Whilst the D3s has a maximum shutter of 1/8000 the base ISO of the D750 is 100 as opposed to 200 of the D3s. So effectively in bright light this would mean the same result I’d rather a new camera took me forwards, not stayed the same.
- Focus points – The D3s has a good spread and having tried the D600, which had a smaller spread, I didn’t want to take a noticeable step back in this area.
Other people had highlighted the fact there is no AF-on button on the back of the camera. I rarely use back button focussing so to me this isn’t an issue so I won’t cover it any further.
Addressing those concerns
So when the camera arrived I eagerly unboxed it to have a good look at the build quality and size. Fortunately I was pleased with both. The size seemed just right and the grip feels exceptionally comfortable in my hand.
Whilst there is no way the D750 is as tough as the D3s I think it is build to last and will withstand all what I throw at it. There are a few flimsy areas namely the card slot door and the pop up flash. I’ve also found the eye-cup can come off if you use it as one of the areas to hold the camera. The titling screen may also be a weak area.
The maximum shutter speed is what it is, I wish it was faster but its not a deal breaker and will only be an issue shooting wide open in bright sunlight.
I did a terribly basic comparison with the focus point spread and found it similar to the D3s. I think the D3s was slightly better but in both my test and using it at two weddings I found the focus point to be fine for my uses.
So what was it like to use and how did it perform?
It was great! I was very comfortable using the D750, it felt god in my hand, the weight saving was much appreciated and I felt confident in the performance of the camera. With it being a smaller body there less buttons and controls on the camera itself. So you need to access menus more frequently then the D3s when wanting to change certain settings that the D3s has on the rear of the camera. This slowed me down a little but as I get used to the camera and custom settings this shouldn’t be as much of an issue.
On the two weddings i shot I had taken the D3s’ with me as back up and was expecting to use them at least a little but I didn’t get them out of my bag at all. I felt confident and comfortable with the D750’s so used them exclusively.
I missed having the shutter button on the battery grip for when shooting portrait orientation but again, I don’t intend on adding a grip so thats the way it is.
I’m very pleased with the high ISO performance. In fact I think it may be slightly better than the D3s. With the D3s I wouldn’t go past ISO 6400 but the D750 files clean up very well even at ISO 12800. So in that respect I’m over the moon.
This is at 12800 with some noise reduction applied. I’ve chosen to show a shot that has had the noise reduced as this is how we’d show our clients. Often its not how much noise is produced thats important but how well they clean up. The quality of noise helps to determine this and the D750 has great quality, almost pleasing noise.
The autofocus is fast and snappy. I couldn’t really compare to the D3s a I find they both focus as fast as could be expected but its certainly no slower.
The image quality is superb, its good to have that little extra resolution. The dynamic range and both low and high ISO seems remarkable and the files can be pushed and pulled around like you’d expect from a Nikon file. At the moment I’m having to convert the files to DNG as Lightroom doesn’t support them yet – so I look forward to the update.
The tilting screen is a great addition for those low level church shots and also when shooting the guests dancing. It’ll definitely get a fair bit of use.
Although I shoot mostly primes there are times throughout a wedding when the 70 – 200 will be used. I didn’t find the D750 to be anywhere near as comfortable or well balanced as the D3s with this long lens attached. This is to be expected and adding the battery grip later would help with this. I don’t intend on adding the battery grip as part of my reason for changing was to save size and weight.
One thing would say is that quiet shutter mode is rubbish. It shouldn’t even be there as its not really any quieter than the standard shutter mode. If they are going to have a camera with quiet mode it should be notably quieter than the standard shutter sound which its not. I don’t know if this is an issue than can be solved with a firmware update but i’m guessing not. The standard shutter is however quieter than the D3s so its a small step further – I’m more disappointed they have added a quiet mode that doesn’t work!
So all in all I’m very happy and the D750 has filled the gaps I wanted it to. Its usable, well built and produces stunning images. The size and weight saving is great, I hardly noticed the cameras with the black rapid when they had the primes attached. Being smaller makes me less conspicuous (well, maybe only a little!) and a little more agile. The D750 is very well priced, in fact quite a bargain. One battery in each camera lasted two full day weddings although they were both close to empty by the end of second day.
In terms of storage obviously these files are somewhat bigger than the D3s files. So, after reading Ross Harveys review, I decided to try using 12bit compressed. I put a 32Gb card in the camera and before changing to 12 bit compressed the display said I have around 550 shots, after changing to 12 bit it said I have around 750 shots (rough figures off the top of my head). That was good as I normally average about 1200 shots per wedding between two cameras. However, at Fridays wedding I ended up taking close to 1900 shots in total… it was a larger wedding with a lot happening and I guess I was rattling them out with my new cameras. The cards still were not showing full despite being past the estimated number… in fact it came to 45GB in total so there was still around 7GB free on each card.
Whilst it was annoying not to have an accurate reading I’m more impressed with how many high quality files I can fit on the cards. I don’t know much about using 12bit compressed. Are there any notable losses of quality, increased noise or less freedom to push and pull the files around – if anyone can drop me a message I’ll update with the answer.
Update – Here is the DNG converter. I know a few folks have had problems in this area but this one works fine http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/cameraraw8-7.html