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 -- First Impressions

by William Brawley
Preview posted: 01/06/2020

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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