Nikon D780 Review: The Heir Apparent?

Nikon D780 Review: The Heir Apparent?
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Nikon D780

9.2

Image Quality

9.5/10

Video Performance

9.2/10

Portability

9.0/10

Value For Money

9.0/10

Lens Support

9.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent Image Quality
  • Excellent Video Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • High ISO performance
  • Excellent Battery Life

Cons

  • Lack of IBIS
  • Two AF Modes

The Nikon D780 Review

Let’s face it, it’s not easy replacing a Legend. Because that is what the Nikon D750 is. It remains one of the most balanced DSLRs from Nikon and is a firm favorite of many professionals, including me. Despite being released in 2014, which makes it around a few decades old in the camera tech age, the Nikon D750 delivers simply astounding image quality and value for money. It was a pro-level camera in an advanced enthusiast body and price and delivered pro-level performance. Now to replace such a high-performance beast isn’t easy. Its replacement has some pretty big shoes to fill.

The only way Nikon could make a better camera than the D750 was through a process of hybridization. Implementing tech from the Mirrorless Z series of cameras and improving on the existing D750, updating algorithms and tweaking a few things here and there. The result is the Nikon D780, a camera that improves on what was already great and adds a few missing ingredients to spice it up.

Nikon D780 Specs

  • 24.5MP BSI CMOS full-frame sensor with on-sensor phase detection
  • 7 fps shooting (12 fps in 12-bit electronic shutter mode)
  • 4K capture up to 30p (full width of the sensor)
  • 51-point AF module supported by 180,000-pixel RGB metering sensor
  • 273 point on-sensor PDAF in live view (sensitive to -4 EV)
  • 3.2″, 2.36M-dot touchscreen
  • Shutter range 900 – 1/8000 sec
  • 10-bit video output over HDMI
  • 2260 shots per charge with the viewfinder
  • Dual UHS-II SD card slots
  • Snapbridge Bluetooth & Wi-Fi system (with Raw and video transfer)

Let’s see a small feature comparison between the Nikon D750 vs D780

Nikon D750Nikon D780
24MP Sensor24.5MP Sensor
ISO 100-12800 (Expands to 50-51200)ISO 100-51200
3.2″ Tilting Screen3.2″ Tilting Screen
No Touch InputTouch Screen
Optical (pentaprism) viewfinderOptical (pentaprism) viewfinder
6.5 fps continuous Shooting12 fps continuous shooting (e-shutter)
FHD Video Capture4K/FHD Video Capture
1.2k Dots Screen2.35K Dots Screen
1/4000s Max Shutter Speed1/8000s Max Shutter Speed
1230 shots CIPA Rating2260 Shots CIPA Rating

Now, let’s take a look at the actual performance.

Nikon D780 Features

The Nikon D780 has improved on some of the features of the D750. Take, for example, the shutter speed. It reaches up to 1/8000s as compared to the previous 1/4000s. Also, it’s possible to shoot with a maximum controlled duration of 900 seconds. The mechanical burst speed shows a marginal improvement from 6.5fps to 7fps. The metering sensor has exactly double the potential of the one used previously on the D750. The video features are more at par with the times and essentially the same as what the Z6 has.

There is now a new 24.5MP BSI CMOS sensor, upgraded to feature the all updates that matter today. Most importantly there is dual gain technology integrated, this improves high ISO low light performance significantly.

The sensor features faster readout, allowing 4K footage at up to 30p from the full width of the sensor. It also improves burst speeds to 12fps using the electronic shutter.

The Nikon D780 uses the same 51 points AF module. The metering sensor, however, is derived from the one used in the D5 with 180000 pixels. The AF algorithms are also the same as the D5 and provide very sophisticated subject tracking.

There is a significant improvement in Live View performance thanks to the implementation of Z6 derived features. Live View in the D750 was primary contrast-based and the D780 features an on-sensor phase-detection system. This greatly improves the number of AF points to 273 across 90% of the frame. Eye detect AF system is available and it can now focus down to -4EV or -6EV in the Low Light AF mode.

Nikon D780 Ergonomics

The D780 retains the same basic ergonomics of the D750. The grip is a little shallower, but otherwise, there is no major difference. Some of the buttons have been moved around, and the pop-up flash is now missing which is really unfortunate. This does help with the weather sealing, however, you will require a Speedlight or a wireless module to trigger lights.

The screen is now a touch screen and tilts exactly the same way as the one on the D750. One big disappointment, however, is that the screen cannot be used as a touchpad for focusing when using the viewfinder. Even the Z6 and Z7 don’t have this feature.

D780
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Nikon D780 Video Performance

The Nikon D750 features FHD/60p which was excellent in its day and is still not a bad capability. But 4K video is considered something of a base requirement nowadays and at the price point, it just is a must-have. Therefore the D780 features oversampled 4K at 30/25/24p with zero crop factor or FHD at up to 120p.

The Z6 derived Live View AF further augments video performance. There is excellent subject tracking and Eye AF. The D780 offers both mic and headphone sockets, focus peaking and 10-bit HDMI output. The D780 allows N-Log footage which allows grading in post or Hybrid Log-Gamma which is ready to use format for HDR TVs.

The D780 supports in-camera time-lapse. It uses images taken at intervals to deliver video at 120fps. This provides a smooth time-lapse and also ensures access to RAW images comprising the time-lapse.

The D780 supports focus shift features found on both the Z6 and the D850. It takes a series of shots (up to 300) with a slight focus shift between each. These can then be combined in a processing software to provide images with excellent depth of field.

Also, the camera has separate exposure settings for video and stills. This allows you to quickly move from stills mode to movie mode without having to worry about changing your setting every time.

The D780 combines with the ES-2 Negative digitizer for digitizing film negatives.

Nikon D780 Battery

nikon battery
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The D780 uses the EN-EL15b battery which is rated at over 2260 shots per charge (Viewfinder shooting) No number has been released for Live View shooting. The battery supports USB-C charging. The package includes the MH-25a battery charger.

Nikon D780 Menu

nikon D780 Menu
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The D780 has the same menu system as the other Nikon DSLRs. Menu options are tabbed and color-coded for easier navigation. There is the standard customizable My Menu option which allows you to store your favorite functions.

Nikon D780 Image Quality

The image quality of the D780 is excellent with excellent dynamic range, beautifully captured details and excellent high ISO performance. The performance out of the box is excellent with detailed JPEGs and excellent color reproduction.

The RAW image quality is excellent. Noise levels at high ISO is slightly better than the D750 which was already a class-leading camera in that matter. Default JPEG noise reduction can be a tad aggressive. We recommend switching high ISO noise reduction from ‘normal’ to ‘low’.

The D780 has an excellent dynamic range. You can easily push RAW images shot at low ISO over six stops to reveal all the details. This will allow you to capture highlights by underexposing by several stops and then grade the image later to reveal all.

Nikon D780 Autofocus

d780
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51 point AF system-Viewfinder AF

The Nikon D780 has 2 AF systems in place. One for viewfinder shooting and the other for Live View Shooting. They both work well however there are some differences.

Eye Detect is not available through the viewfinder. It is however available via the Live View mode. Our usage also showed that subject tracking through the viewfinder is a bit better as compared to the live view mode. Live View mode offers more AF points as compared to Viewfinder mode.

The Viewfinder mode offers the familiar 51 point AF system, however with updated algorithms and a much better RGB metering sensor. All points are sensitive down to -3EV.

The Live View mode is basically lifted right out of the Z6 and offers 273 AF points. This is a massive improvement as compared to the D750 as it only featured a contrast-detect system.

The other thing that Nikon could have implemented from the Z6 is the IBIS which could have been a fantastic bonus for this system. It is highly recommended that a tripod is used for shooting stills. The 7fps continuous viewfinder shooting and 12fps in live view is pretty impressive, but the buffer capacity of 68 lossless compressed 14-bit raw files or 100 JPEGs is even more impressive.

Conclusion

The Nikon D780 is an excellent camera. The image quality is excellent. Video Performance is excellent with some lovely oversampled 4K. The dynamic range on the RAW files is superb and high ISO performance improves on the already excellent performance on the D750.

The D780 is solidly built and has excellent weather sealing. AF performance is great in both modes, although you do have to get used to its quirks.

But can we call the D780 the proper successor to the D750?

In many ways it is. As a DSLR it features a lot of mirrorless tech and implements it well. And it will have to do so in order to top the D750. It has to be an amalgamation of technologies when you have to replace something which already excels at what it does. You have to think outside the box and Nikon has done it, throwing together what they had in the pantry to create the D780.

The force is strong with this one.

Nikon D780 Price

The Nikon D780 will be available in late January for a suggested retail price (SRP) 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.

                     

Nikon D780 Competitors

If shooting stills is your primary requirement, the Nikon D750 itself is an excellent choice. In the hands of even a fairly competent shooter, the D750 can work wonders and save you quite a lot of money. The performance difference on the stills front isn’t really that much. But if Video is the primary requirement then the D780 outpaces the D750.

Check the Nikon D750 review here

                     

There is also the Nikon Z6. It has excellent video performance and the IBIS helps. The latest firmware updates have really improved AF performance and added a host of features. Also, it’s priced really well.

Check the Nikon Z6 review here

                     

The other relevant competitor is Sony A7III. It’s well featured and performs extremely well in most situations. The dynamic range is comparable, the build quality is not quite as good as the Nikon, but AF performance is slightly better. If your preference is the DSLR format, the D780 is the best pick right now.

                       

Related,

Nikon Z6 Review here

Nikon Z6 vs Nikon Z50 main differences here

Nikon Z50 Review here

Nikon D750 Review here

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