Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon D780
Resolution: 24.50 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(35.9mm x 23.9mm)
Kit Lens: 5.00x zoom
24-120mm
(24-120mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 51,200
Extended ISO: 50 - 204,800
Shutter: 1/8000 - 900 sec
Max Aperture: 4.0 (kit lens)
Dimensions: 5.6 x 4.5 x 3.0 in.
(144 x 116 x 76 mm)
Weight: 29.6 oz (840 g)
Availability: 01/2020
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon D780 specifications
24.50
Megapixels
Nikon F 35mm
size sensor
image of Nikon D780
Front side of Nikon D780 digital camera Front side of Nikon D780 digital camera Front side of Nikon D780 digital camera Front side of Nikon D780 digital camera Front side of Nikon D780 digital camera

Nikon D780 Review -- Now Shooting!

by William Brawley and Jeremy Gray
Preview posted: 01/06/2020

Updates:
02/03/2020: First Shots sample images added
07/02/2020: 10 Minute Review Video & Gallery Images added
08/17/2020: Field Test added

 

 

10 Minute Review: The Nikon D780 shows that DSLRs still have a lot to offer
- by Jeremy Gray

 

• • •

 

Nikon D780 Field Test

The D780 shows that Nikon's DSLR cameras continue to offer great all-around performance

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 08/17/2020

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/1000s, ISO 4500.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

The Nikon D750 was the first camera I Field Tested for Imaging Resource back in 2014. Nearly six years later, its successor, the D780, has finally arrived.

A lot has changed in the photo industry since 2014. Mirrorless has achieved an increasingly larger market share. Nikon itself has joined the mirrorless fray with its Z system (not counting the earlier 1 Series). Nonetheless, Nikon has continued to push forward with new DSLR cameras and F mount lenses. After all, there's a lot to like about the DSLR shooting experience.

Nikon 24-120mm f/4G lens at 75mm, f/8, 1/500s, ISO 560.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon D780 Key Features and Specs

  • 24.5-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS full-frame image sensor
  • Native ISO range of 100-51,200 can be expanded up to ISO 204,800
  • EXPEED 6 image processor
  • Up to 7 frames per second continuous shooting speeds when using mechanical shutter
  • 51-point autofocus system when using the viewfinder
  • 273-point Hybrid AF system for Live View and video
  • 4K UHD video at up to 30p
  • Full HD slow-motion video
  • Weather-resistant construction
  • Redesigned camera body and grip design
  • 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen display
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • $2,300 MSRP for camera body only, also available as a kit
Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 180.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Camera Body and Handling: A well-designed DSLR

While I enjoy using Nikon's Z6 and Z7 full frame mirrorless cameras, there is something to be said for the larger grip on Nikon's DSLR cameras. The D780 is larger and heavier overall than its mirrorless counterparts, but at just under 30 ounces (840 grams), it is not overly heavy. Further, the deep, redesigned grip makes the D780 comfortable to hold.

The D780 looks a lot like other Nikon DSLR cameras. Its front grip is refined and offers a nice grip.

With respect to control layout, this is an area of strength for the D780. It has dedicated ISO, exposure compensation and movie record buttons located within easy reach of the shutter release. Having these important controls within easy reach while shooting is very useful. An aspect of the camera I don't like, however, is that both the shooting mode and drive mode dials require you to hold down a button to rotate them. This can slow you down while shooting.

Moving to the rear of the camera, the 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen is something of a mixed bag. It is sharp and the touchscreen functionality works well, but the display is difficult to see in bright light. You can use the tilting mechanism to somewhat help with glare, but overall, I still found the display somewhat difficult to use in sunlight.

The back of the camera is well designed. While I do wish that it had a joystick dedicated to moving the autofocus point, the directional pad and touchscreen work well.

The D780's optical viewfinder works well. It offers a 0.7x magnification ratio, which is a good amount, although not quite as nice as the 0.75x magnification on the Nikon D850's optical viewfinder. Still, the image is clear and the text surrounding the image area is very easy to read while shooting.

Overall, the D780 is an intelligently designed camera. It feels good in the hands, buttons are in convenient, easy-to-reach locations, and the body is rugged and ready to handle nearly any weather.

Image Quality: D780's 24.5MP sensor produces high-quality images

The D780's 24.5-megapixel image sensor produces very good images. The resolution of the D780's files can't match what you get with the higher-megapixel D850, but for many users, the D780 packs plenty of punch.

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/1000s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/1000s, ISO 100.
100 percent crop of the above image. This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

At higher ISO settings, the D780 continues to perform very well. The sensor captures images with good detail and not a lot of noise. The grain that is visible is often consistent in color and size, so it is not distracting. Even up to ISO 12,800, the D780 produces good-quality files.

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/640s, ISO 12800.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

The D780 captures images with excellent color as well. I am particularly impressed by Nikon's treatment of greens, which bodes well for me as a landscape and nature photographer. Overall, the D780's image quality ranges from very good to excellent.

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/1000s, ISO 160.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon D780 delivers positive shooting experience

Autofocus: A tale of two autofocus areas

The Nikon D780's autofocus performance is good overall. The camera utilizes a 51-point AF system when shooting through the viewfinder. Further, of these 51 AF points, 15 are cross-type, which helps with focus speed and accuracy in challenging situations.

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/1000s, ISO 6400.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

When using the viewfinder, the autofocus is quick and accurate. However, a negative issue is that the AF area doesn't cover a large portion of the image area. This is particularly problematic when trying to track a moving subject through the frame or when focusing on a subject near an edge of the frame.

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/800s, ISO 1100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

When using Live View, the D780 has 273 on-sensor phase-detect AF points -- a similar AF system to that of the Z6 mirrorless camera. While I found the autofocus performance through the viewfinder to be faster and more accurate, Live View autofocus is quite good. AF when using Live View has a particularly big advantage over viewfinder AF: much better frame coverage.

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/800s, ISO 800.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

In general, subject tracking and continuous autofocus performance are both good. Through the viewfinder, if you can keep the subject within the AF area, which isn't always easy, the camera does a great job with maintaining focus. When using Live View, the continuous autofocus performance is not as quick nor as reliable, especially in low light, but the subject tracking is decent. There is also eye-detection when using Live View, which is a nice inclusion.

Overall, the D780's autofocus performance is good. The largest drawback for me is the limited AF point coverage when using the viewfinder, but the camera's overall speed and accuracy while shooting, even in difficult conditions, is quite impressive.

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/800s, ISO 400.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Performance: The D780 is an agile camera

Powered by its EXPEED 6 image processor, the D780 can capture images quickly. It captures full-resolution raw images at 7 fps when using the mechanical shutter. You can record images even quicker when using the electronic shutter in silent photography mode or when using Live View. In these use cases, when recording 12-bit raw images, the D780 can shoot at 12 fps. If you are recording 14-bit raw images, the speed decreases to 8 fps.

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/800s, ISO 280.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Battery life is still a strong point for DSLR cameras relative to mirrorless cameras, due in large part to not needing to display a live image in the viewfinder. While an electronic viewfinder has numerous advantages, energy efficiency is not among them. The D780 has fantastic battery life. It is rated for 2,260 images per charge, and my personal experience certainly lines up with this. You can easily shoot all day with a single battery in most cases.

Video: Good 4K UHD video overall with some nice features

The D780 is one of Nikon's best DSLR cameras for shooting video. It records good-looking 4K UHD video at 24, 25 and 30p framerates. Further, the 273-point Hybrid autofocus does a good job in most cases, particularly in good light. In lower light, the autofocus performance drops off a bit. However, video quality remains good at higher ISO settings.

Nikon D780 Video: Cut from Nikon D780 10-Minute Review
Download Original (664.9 MB .MP4 File)

The D780 offers other nice video features, including slow-motion video at 4x and 5x speeds in Full HD resolution. Additional features include N-Log and HDR (HLG) recording formats and an option for recording with timecode.

There aren't many weak points with the D780's video performance, but some users may find the 20-minute cap for high-quality video clips to be problematic. Further, the autofocus and image stabilization performance, while good, are not quite up to the level of the Z6 camera in my experience.

Nikon D780 Field Test Summary

Another solid all-around DSLR from Nikon

What I like most about the Nikon D780:

  • Well-designed, rugged camera body
  • Good image quality across a wide range of ISO settings
  • Impressive autofocus system overall
  • Solid video recording capabilities
Nikon 24-120mm f/4G lens at 24mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 180.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

What I dislike about the Nikon D780:

  • Autofocus area is small when using the viewfinder
  • Live View autofocus can sometimes struggle in low light
  • Some of the best features are limited to Live View use, such as hybrid AF and eye-detect autofocus

The Nikon D780 is another great DSLR camera from Nikon. It offers many nice features and captures high-quality images and video. The camera delivers strong performance across the board. If a new DSLR is what you want, the Nikon D780 is a great option.

Nikon 300mm f/4E lens at f/4, 1/800s, ISO 1400.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

 

• • •

 

Nikon D780 Product Overview

by William Brawley

While Nikon continues to push forward with their new Z-series of mirrorless cameras and lenses, the camera maker nevertheless remains committed to DSLRs, as evidenced by their latest unveiling: a successor to the wildly popular D750 full-frame DSLR. The new Nikon D780 maintains that familiar design and ergonomics of the D750 as well as some niceties from the D850, but it also brings over some excellent features from the mirrorless Z6 camera, such as its 24MP sensor with 273 phase-detect pixels, Eye-detect AF, 4K UHD video and 10-bit N-log output.

The new Nikon D780 in fact seems like a real hybrid camera, even more so than the multimedia-heavy D750. Though on the outside, the camera looks and likely feels very similar to its predecessor, the vastly improved Live View performance and shooting features -- not to mention the more advanced video capabilities -- will undoubtedly be welcomed improvements for long-time Nikon DSLRs owners looking to finally upgrade.

Let's dive in to get the full lay of the land on the updated Nikon D780 full-frame DSLR...

Key Features and Specs

  • Updated 24.5-megapixel full-frame backside illuminated sensor
  • EXPEED 6 image processor
  • Native ISO range of 100-51200; expandable to 204800
  • Similar Live View features as Nikon Z6
  • 273 on-chip phase-detect sensors with Face/Eye tracking AF
  • OVF focusing: 51-point AF system with D5 algorithms
  • Updated shutter: 900s up to 1/8000s
  • 7fps continuous burst; 12fps with Silent Shooting in Live View
  • 4K video up to 30p; Full HD up to 120fps
  • 10-bit N-Log
  • 4K in-camera timelapse creation
  • USB-C in-camera charging
  • 2x UHS-II SD cards
  • Tilting 3.2-inch touchscreen
  • Weather-sealed construction
  • Retail price: $2,299.95 body-only; $2,799.95 kit with 24- 120mm f/4G ED VR lens

Design & Build Quality

As the product photos will attest, the exterior design of the Nikon D780 looks vastly similar to the previous D750. The overall size and shape, as well as the general button and control layout, remain largely unchanged, which should make the D780 familiar territory for long-time Nikon DSLR owners.

The D780 maintains that classic Nikon DSLR design with smooth contouring, a deep handgrip and the characteristic red accent market. Much like with the D750, the new models keeps its robust, weather-sealed build quality with durable hybrid construction comprising a magnesium alloy chassis, metal lens mount and a carbon fiber-reinforced front panel. In simpler terms, it looks to be yet another solid offering from Nikon in the build quality department.

One of the notable changes to the camera's design is the removal of the built-in popup flash, which Nikon stated was done to improve the camera's weather sealing. Though many professional-oriented DSLRs, such as the D5 and D850, tend to lack a pop-up flash, it's a very handy feature to have in a pinch when a little illumination is needed for a shot. Of course, the camera features a hotshoe for mounting an external flash, and the D780 is compatible with Nikon's Creative Lighting System.

On the top deck of the camera, once again, there are no drastic changes to speak of. The mode dial -- though simplified slightly with a few fewer options -- sits to the left of the viewfinder, while the helpful info panel display sits to the right. Nikon has, however, added a dedicated ISO button directly behind the shutter release button, mimicking the button arrangement on the popular D850.

Moving to the back of the camera, the design of the tilting LCD panel remains the same as on the D750. However, Nikon has upgraded the rear display with touchscreen functionality and increased the 3.2-inch display resolution to 2359K-dots -- up from 1229K dots on the D750's screen.

The button layout on the rear of the camera undergoes a few tweaks, with the Live View (still/video) toggle switch moved up to the right of the viewfinder, the AE-L/AF-L button shifting downwards near the top corner of the rear LCD, and the "info" button taking the place of the "i" button altogether at the bottom of the column of buttons on the left side of the camera.

Image Quality & Shooting Features

At the heart of the camera is an updated 24.3-megapixel full-frame BSI CMOS image sensor paired with Nikon's latest-generation EXPEED 6 image processor (up from the EXPEED 4 chip of the D750). Despite similarities in still image resolution compared to the predecessor, the sensor inside the D780 is, in fact, different in that it also features a 273 on-chip phase-detect autofocus sensor, making this the first Nikon DSLR to offer phase-detection AF in Live View, and quite an exciting upgrade.

The sensor inside the D780 is likely the same 24MP chip powering the Z6 full-frame mirrorless camera, and as such, this new DSLR sports many of the same Live View shooting features, which we'll discuss more further down.

In terms of stills shooting performance, the D780 offers an updated, more expansive ISO range, with a native range of ISO 100 up to ISO 51,200, whereas the D750 topped-out at a native high ISO of just 12,800. The D780 offers further sensitivity expansion down to a low ISO of 50 and all the way up to ISO 204,800 for extreme low-light shooting such as surveillance.

The camera also features an updated shutter mechanism that allows for faster shutter speeds, up from 1/4000s to 1/8000s. Additionally, borrowing a feature from the astrophotography-specific D810a, slow shutter speed performance has also been significantly improved, allowing you to shoot long exposure shots down to a crazy-long 900s (15 minutes)!

When it comes to speed and performance, the D780 isn't the fastest game in town, but it's no slouch either, offering faster burst shooting over its predecessor. With the mechanical shutter, the D780 can shoot full-resolution images at up to 7fps (up from 6.5fps), though if you switch to Live View and enable Silent Shooting (i.e. electronic shutter), you can shoot at up to 12fps (at 12-bit RAW; 8fps with 14-bit RAW).

While Nikon's specs make no mention of buffer depth or clearing times, we expect better buffer performance than the predecessor, given the updated image processor and faster UHS-II SD support. The D750's buffer filled rather quickly with 14-bit RAW files at just 14 frames, whereas the EXPEED 6-powered Z6 camera ranges around 30-40 frames with various 14-bit RAW file types (and with faster burst rates, too).

In additional to straight image capture, the Nikon D780 offers a range of specialty shooting and in-camera image processing features. As with most cameras, there are a variety of JPEG image effects and creative control options and presets, letting you dial-in the look of your shots without need for computer post-processing. Unlike previous models, however, the D780 has six special effects that also allow for simultaneous RAW capture, giving you an unprocessed image in addition to the JPEG. Along with standard in-camera RAW processing, you're then free to tweak and re-process your shot with a different look or effect.

For macro, product and landscape photography, the D780 now includes focus stacking similar to the D850. Allowing for up to 300 individual frames, you then combine the images to create composite photos with deeper depths of field. As with the D850, you still need to use third-party desktop imaging software to combine and composite the focus stacked image, as it can't be done in-camera.

There have also been improvements to timelapse shooting and multiple exposure shooting. You can now create 4K timelapse movies in-camera using a batch of still images. With the built-in interval timer mode, you can also save out individual frames as well as go back and select a range of sequential image files from which to create your timelapse movie. Similarly, the updated multiple exposure shooting mode lets you go back and browse through your memory card and select non-sequential shots to combine in-camera. You no longer have to shoot sequential shots for multiple exposure images.

Autofocus

One of the significant new features of the Nikon D780 is the updated sensor with on-chip phase detect -- a first for a Nikon DSLR. As mentioned, the camera uses the same 273-point hybrid AF focusing system from the Nikon Z6 for Live View shooting, providing AF coverage across approximately 90% of the image sensor. The Live View AF system incorporates phase-detection AF, allowing for fast and smooth AF performance for both stills and video. Additionally, the use of the Z6's AF system allows the D780 to also offer Face and Eye-Detection AF tracking, in both stills and video shooting.

For optical viewfinder shooters, the Nikon D780 maintains a similar 51-point AF system as in the D750. However, Nikon says they've updated the AF algorithm with the one from the flagship D5. The OVF focusing system offers 15 cross-type AF points and uses an updated 180K-pixel Advanced Scene Recognition System for better exposure and color reproduction. According to Nikon, the OVF focusing system is rated down to -4EV, allowing for excellent low-light focusing capabilities.

Video

In addition to vastly improved Live View autofocusing, the D780 is also kitted with a healthy array of high-end video features borrowed from the Z6 mirrorless camera. The D780 captures 4K UHD (3804 x 2160) video at up to 30p (25p and 24p also) using the full width of the sensor and with full pixel readout. Additionally, the camera captures Full HD at up to 120fps for excellent slow-motion shooting.

Video recording time is unfortunately not unlimited, with sustained video recording capped at 20 minutes for the highest quality setting and 29 min 59 sec for normal quality. The camera records video in MOV format with H.264/MPEG-4 compression and Linear PCM audio.

For high-end shooting and additional video workflow support, the D780 can capture 10-bit video with N-Log or HDR (HLG, Hybrid Log-Gamma) video support out via the HDMI connection. Other video features include focus peaking, highlight display (stripes), time code support, and in-camera slow-motion and timelapse movie creation.

Battery, Connectivity & Storage

Using the EN-EL15b rechargeable Li-ion battery, the Nikon D780 is CIPA-rated to 2260 shots per charge, which is significantly better than the predecessor. Furthermore, the camera includes a SuperSpeed USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port with support for in-camera charging, giving you the option to charge the camera without the need for a standalone battery pack charger. The camera provides a Type C mini-HDMI port and SnapBridge wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low-Energy connectivity.

For storage, the camera gains a nice upgrade over the predecessor, offering dual UHS-II SD card slots.

Pricing & Availability

The Nikon D780 will be available in late January for a suggested retail price of $2,299.95 for the body-only configuration, and $2,799.95 for single-lens kit configuration with the AF-S NIKKOR 24- 120mm f/4G ED VR lens. Stay tuned for much more to come once we receive a sample in our lab!

 

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