Nikon D750 Field Test Part I

In the hand & in the field: physical features and general shooting

By Jeremy Gray | Posted: 10/30/2014

D750 + 24-120mm f/4: 150mm, f/8, 1/30s, IS0 100, -0.7EV
(Note: This image has been edited/re-touched. Click image to see the original.)

Introduction

The Nikon D750 is Nikon's newest full-frame (FX) camera body, and it packs numerous features into a compact and lightweight form. Featuring a 24.3 megapixel sensor and Nikon's latest EXPEED 4 image processing the D750 produces excellent images across much of its ISO range (the native range is 100-12,800). The D750 also contains an improved version of the autofocus sensor found in the D810. In Nikon's ever-growing FX camera line-up, the D750 slides in between the Nikon D610 and D810 camera bodies released earlier this year. The D750 combines various specifications from both cameras, but it also offers some unique features that really shine out in the field, such as a tilting LCD and built-in Wi-Fi -- both firsts for a Nikon FX camera body.

Camera Body and Handling

The D750 feels sturdy and is comfortable to grip. The grip is noticeably deeper than the camera I primarily shoot with, a Nikon D800E. This increased depth allowed me to get a solid grip on the camera even though it's relatively small. The main command dials are easy to reach and give nice tactile feedback as adjustments are made. However, the function ('Fn') button, is not easily reached when gripping the camera. Similarly, both the 'Mode' and the 'Release Mode' dials require precision to release and adjust, which slowed me down out in the field. I found myself missing the dedicated 'Mode' button on my D800E that allows me to make quick mode adjustments with my right hand while shooting.

Moving to the bottom of the camera, I use a tripod for most of my work, so it is disappointing that the D750 is not rubberized near the tripod mount. I needed to re-tighten the tripod mount to the bottom of the camera several times, which is something I have never had to do with any of my other Nikon cameras. Additionally, to ensure that the LCD screen can tilt through its full range, I had to affix the tripod mount further forward than usual, which negatively impacted stability with my heavier lenses.

The Nikon D750 (top) has a texturized yet plastic plate surrounding the tripod mount, whereas the D810 (bottom), for example, has a grippy, rubbery-textured tripod mounting area.

Both ISO and white balance adjustments are made using buttons on the back of the camera and the camera's 3.2" display. ISO adjustments can also be viewed on the camera's top display and through the viewfinder, but WB changes are selected primarily using the rear display. Although I would prefer to make all WB adjustments using the top display, it's not big enough to show the same amount of information you find on the D800-series or D4-series. On the plus side, I found both auto ISO and auto WB to be consistently good with the D750, so I didn't need to make frequent adjustments while shooting.

The viewfinder is big and bright with an impressive 100% coverage spec. The viewfinder displays information in a bright white format and has an orange flash icon along the bottom edge, which is easy to read and I prefer this to the green I'm used to seeing. To cover the viewfinder, you have to take the rubber eye-cup off and slide in the included eyepiece cap. This solution isn't ideal for me out in the field, as there's an additional piece I have to remember to carry with me. I prefer a built-in switch to close the viewfinder. This is especially helpful when shooting in low light when Live View cannot be used and I need to look through the viewfinder frequently.

Another issue I noted when doing long exposure photography is that the D750 is not compatible with the Nikon MC-36 remote cord. I use the MC-36 for most of my night photography, so it is disappointing to me that the D750 does not have a 10-pin remote terminal. That said, the D750 is compatible with Nikon's more basic MC-DC2 remote release cord as well as the ML-3, WR-R10, and WR-1 wireless remote controllers, and has a built-in intervalometer, allowing much of the MC-36's functionality to be replaced in alternative ways.

The D750's user interface is familiar to anyone who has used a Nikon DSLR in the past. With my primary camera being a Nikon, the menu system and settings options were immediately familiar. The menu system and navigation is fine and you can register your most frequented options to the My Menu which is discussed further below.

Tilting Display

The D750 is Nikon's first FX camera with a tilting display, and this new tilting 3.2" LCD display is very useful out in the field. In my very first day shooting with the D750, I regularly found myself tilting the display to more easily make adjustments and use Live View. As a result of Live View being more versatile due to the tilting display, the camera's built-in virtual horizon is also more usable. The virtual horizon in the D750 is excellent, providing roll and pitch feedback in an intuitive and easy to read diagram.

As someone who shoots primarily landscapes while using a tripod, the tilting display is quickly becoming my favorite feature of the D750. The display itself is sharp, bright, and vibrant, even when I was shooting in bright light. When the ambient light was particularly bright, I was able to tilt the display to reduce glare. The camera also offers many fine-tuning options for the display so that you can match it to an external display, which is especially useful if you do a lot of tethered shooting or studio work. A potential downside of a tilting display is that it creates an additional place for dirt and debris to collect, particularly when shooting in difficult environments. I have had no issues with the tilting display, but it is a new aspect of the camera that requires attention and care and I would plan on cleaning this area on a regular basis.

Built-in Wi-Fi and WMU app

The D750 is also the first FX camera Nikon offers with built-in Wi-Fi. This is a nice feature to have if you want to easily download and share your images out in the field or capture images remotely. However, the Wireless Mobile Utility (WMU) app is hampered by limited shooting options. I tested the WMU app on my iOS device. To connect the D750 to an iPhone, you have to go into the camera's settings and enable Wi-Fi and then set it up as a Wi-Fi connection in the iPhone's Wi-Fi settings. After establishing the connection, you can set a password to secure the connection. Once you have the camera connected, you can utilize the iOS app to remotely capture, view, and download images. 

Taking photos remotely through the app is a cool feature. The in-app Live View has a slight delay, but it is perfectly usable for non-action photography. However, you have no remote control over the camera's settings or to make exposure adjustments -- the app serves primarily as a trigger for the shutter. You can, however, touch different areas on your iOS or Android device's display to select an area for the camera to focus, but that is the extent of your control. You can also use a self-timer through the app, which works well. One interesting and potentially useful feature that can be enabled through the app is including location data in the images, but this location data is dependent on when the actual transfer between camera and app takes place.

I liked being able to view all of the camera's images on my phone and download the files so I could easily share them online. To download the original size files you have to manually select the option as the default download size is smaller and more mobile-friendly. Transfers did not take very long, but I would not want to download a lot of original size files out in the field. Having built-in Wi-Fi also means that the camera's battery is drained quicker when viewing and sharing images over Wi-Fi. This can be avoided by attaching a Nikon WT-1 Wi-Fi transmitter, which is still fully compatible with the D750. Overall, the built in Wi-Fi is neat and functional, but it isn't something I would use regularly and would not play a major role for me in a purchasing decision.  

Without access to a remote, I used Nikon's WMU app to trigger the camera in Mirror-Up mode to ensure sharpness at a slow shutter speed.
D750 + 400mm f/2.8: 400mm, f/8, 1/15s, IS0 100, -0.7EV

(Note: This image has been edited/re-touched. Click image to see the original.)

General Shooting Experience

In conjunction with the EXPEED 4 image processing, the D750's 24.3 MP sensor is impressive. I am very satisfied with the quality of the D750's files. The sensor produces sharp images with smooth transitions. Even more impressive than the image sensor is the new Multi-Cam 3500 II autofocus sensor. The autofocus sensor is an improved version of the one found in the D810 with the ability to now autofocus down to -3EV. I will discuss the D750's autofocusing further in Part II of my Field Test, but the general takeaway is that the autofocusing is very fast and accurate, even in low light. Rated to autofocus from -3 to 20 EV, I was able to autofocus accurately in a wide range of conditions.

The D750 also boasts a great battery life, and I was able to shoot for an entire morning, even when heavily utilizing Live View and capturing some video. The camera's battery is rated at 1,230 shots, beating that of the D610 (900 shots) and D810 (1,200 shots). The D750's battery life can be extended with the optional MB-D16 battery grip, though I didn't have one of those to test.

The camera was able to autofocus on the rocks in the foreground before the sun had risen, which is impressive.
D750 + 24-120mm f/4: 75mm, f/8, 10s, IS0 100, -0.7EV

(Note: This image has been edited/re-touched. Click image to see the original.)

As I discussed above, the main and secondary command dials are well placed and easy to use. As a Nikon shooter, the controls feel familiar, and it didn't take me long to adjust to the button placement. What took more adjustment, however, is seeing less information on the camera's top display than I do on my D800E. A feature that alleviates the need for some of this adjustment is the dedicated 'i' button on the back of the camera. This gives immediate access to a customizable My Menu that allows you to quickly access your most frequently used settings. Similarly, the mode dial has U1 and U2 options that allow you to utilize programmable auto settings. While certain adjustments, like ISO, WB, and Mode are not as quick to make on the D750 as they are on my D800E, there are numerous alternative options such as the My Menu and U1 and U2 programmable settings that can compensate somewhat when out in the field.

Shooting with the Kit Lens

The kit lens offers good corner sharpness at f/8.
D750 + 24-120mm f/4: 34mm, f/8, 8s, IS0 100, -0.7EV

(Note: This image has been edited/re-touched. Click image to see the original.)

The Nikon D750 is available in a kit with the Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens. The kit lens balances nicely with the D750 body and is surprisingly compact considering its focal range and constant f/4 aperture. The lens is sharp wide open across most of its focal range and autofocuses quickly, faltering only slightly at each end of its range. The lens displays a minor vignette at 24mm, even when stopped down to f/8, but this is easily corrected in post or with the in-camera vignette correction turned on. The lens' VR is great and combined with the D750's excellent low-light performance, the 24-120 is an excellent general walk-around lens. The lens feels solid, but not too heavy, and has sturdy switches for focus and VR modes. The lens' focus ring is closer to the body than the focal length ring, which took me some getting used to, but both rings are smooth and easily fine-tuned. If the D750 is your first foray into Nikon's FX camera line, then the kit is an excellent place to start as the 24-120mm lens offers good performance across a wide range.

The kit lens performs well at 120mm and an aperture of f/4. This image shows the pleasing bokeh pattern of the lens.
D750 + 24-120mm f/4: 120mm, f/4, 1/250s, IS0 100, -0.7EV

(Note: This image has been edited/re-touched. Click image to see the original.)

Conclusion of Part I

What I like most so far:

  • The camera is small and light, but its deep grip makes the camera easy to hold
  • The new tilting display proved to be very useful in the field
  • The 'i' button provides easy access to customizable settings that might otherwise be buried in the camera's menu system
  • The image sensor is very good
  • The autofocus sensor is very fast and accurate across a wide range of lighting conditions

What I don't like so far:

  • The 'Mode' dial is slower to use than a dedicated 'Mode' button and command dial
  • No rubber around the tripod mount
  • Not being able to switch between white balance presets on the top display
  • Having to cover the viewfinder with a separate cap rather than a built-in switch
  • No 10-pin remote connector
  • Quiet Mode is not significantly quiet

Overall, I'm impressed with the D750. The D750 packs great performance into a relatively small camera body and offers a lot of customization. The sensor is excellent, and the new EXPEED 4 image processing helps make the D750 an agile camera body with great speed and low-light performance. In the second part of my Field Test I'll cover shooting in low or otherwise difficult light, the camera's overall speed, the autofocus sensor and the D750's video features and performance.

[Note: The images above have been post-processed to some degree. Click on any image to take you to a carrier page from which you can access EXIF data as well as the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. To see even more images -- all un-edited -- please visit our Nikon D750 gallery images page!]

 



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