Recently I had an incredible opportunity to hang out with someone whom I have admired in the world of photography for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately I must leave you in the dark about exactly who it is (Hint, it’s a Nikon Ambassador), but something important that came out of the conversation was this particular individuals thought that the New Nikon D750 having the same autofocus system that the Nikon D4 or D4s cameras has would have the same Autofocus performance. I’m not going to lie, the possibility of a $2300 camera that equals the autofocus performance of my $6500 Nikon D4s is simultaneously exciting and disheartening. I did after all pay $6500 for the D4s, so if it’s just as good should I sell it and buy three D750’s instead? It’s complicated, but to illustrate my answers I took the Nikon D750 on a sports assignment with me. Not a set up event, but an actual sporting events coverage assignment that I had for USA Today at the University of Notre Dame.
(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 24-70F2.8N@70mm. 1/40th@F4. Shot after my assignment while on the way to the car. Wish I had a tripod with me, but I didn’t)
One of my contracts since leaving the Indianapolis Star is with USA Today shooting sporting events. I’ve always loved shooting sports and this was a great addition to the other projects I work on since it allows me to mix my schedule up a bit. This year I haven’t shot anywhere near as many sporting events as last year, but that’s ok as I haven’t exactly been sitting around at home either. That said, basketball season usually has me floating around to quite a few different places and teams. When the D750 experiment came up thanks to my friends at Roberts Camera, I could think of no better way to truly test the metal of the Nikon D750’s autofocus than a bonified sporting event. In this case, the NCAA Basketball game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the Coppin State Eagles.
(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 200-400F4VR@300mm. 1/640th@F4)
So before we get going. I need to explain a few things. First off, I was not paid to do this review by Nikon or Roberts Camera. I was paid by USA Today to shoot the images as news coverage, and the images were not photoshopped other than some cropping or basic color correction and brightness depending. Secondly this is NOT a full review of the Nikon D750. There are lots of really neat features that this camera has that I won’t even talk about. Things like the WiFi or the tilting screen? Didn’t even try them. What is important? It’s sheer functionality. Can someone get a D750 and take it out to a high speed fast paced event and rely on it? How does it indeed compare to the D4s that Nikon sells for almost three times the price?
(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 200-400F4VR@350mm. 1/640th@F4)
My theory for shooting basketball is to primarily use two bodies alternating. (I do have a third body at the ready, but it rarely gets used during the game; it just has a wide angle on it for “just in case”). The bodies and lenses I generally shoot Basketball with are the Nikon D4 with the Nikon 200-400F4VR lens attached for the far end of the court, and the Nikon D4s with the Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2 for the close end of the court. It’s a pretty potent Combo. I dig it. I generally put my faster camera on the closer end of the combo because it’s more difficult to keep up with the stuff moving very quickly so close. The closer the action, the faster it moves. So while this particular Nikon Ambassador has been my Photography idol for a long time, I wasn’t quite ready to throw caution to the wind on a paid job so I mounted the Nikon D750 to my Nikon 200-400F4VR and started shooting. My theory was simple. The theory was that if the camera couldn’t keep up I would just put the D4 back on the lens and be done with it. But then something interesting happened.
(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 200-400F4@400mm. 1/640th@F4)
Not only did I use the D75o the whole game, but by the end of the game the 70-200 was on it shooting the close end of the court. No kidding. Why did I put it on to shoot the close end of the court? Because like the D4s I normally use, it didn’t even flinch at the action through the long glass. Now with the 70-200? Same thing. I was easily able to shoot almost as I do with the D4 or D4s. The images were incredibly sharp and clean, and honestly other than having a different resolution it was otherwise unknown that I was using a different camera than normal; which for a $2300 camera is kind of astonishing if I do say so myself.
I just said I was able to shoot almost as I do with the D4 or D4s. That’s correct. You may ask, if the images were as sharp and the camera was keeping up then why would I say almost? This is easy. The Nikon D750 is a $2300 camera and it feels like it. The Camera is smaller than the D800 or D810 without it’s grip, and very much smaller than the Nikon D4 or D4s (which has the grip built in). It also as more of a Hybrid interface than any other Nikon camera I have used to date. Hybrid interface meaning that it’s definitely a bridge between the interface on the Entry Level Nikon D3200, and the Nikon D800 in terms of buttons and setting changes. There is a small LCD on the top of the D750, but the back screen lights up with pertinent information when you are changing settings as opposed to forcing you to decipher the information on the tiny upper one. It’s an interesting system and I’m not against it as it provides quite a bit more information (like very intricate white balance info), but in some cases I think it’s a bit overkill as I found it not as fast as changing settings on my D800 or D4s. The camera’s small size does have it’s advantages though. For example, the D750 can easily fit into my Nikon 200-400 soft case while attached to the lens. This is something my D800 and D4 bodies can NOT do.
(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@105mm. 1/800th@3200ISO)
Something else I noticed about the D750 is that the viewfinder information wasn’t the normal Nikon green which strangely enough; I really liked. I’m not sure why exactly, but it seemed easier to look at I suppose. The camera’s autofocus was fantastic, and it was incredibly responsive. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t have put it on my short end shooting basketball. The body was a bit small for my liking, but it was incredibly capable. Is this a camera that I would trade my D4s for? Nope. While it matched the Autofocus Accuracy, it did not match the D4 or D4s in general Professional standards. Examples of things that the D750 did not match in terms of the D4 and D4s are little things like the backlit buttons on the back, or even things like the having the option to use the function button to set the Aperture and Shutter lock. (Things that football shooters use pretty regularly to keep from changing the shutter and aperture of their cameras as they run up and down the field). The other complaint that I have is that the Autofocus Points are closer together inside of the viewfinder. I didn’t find that it made a difference when shooting horizontally, but when shooting vertically I often found that things would easily move outside the AF point’s cluster, which was annoying. This could be me just complaining about nothing, or it could be something. Take it as you will. I would venture to guess without any research, that the points are about 10% closer together, which means there is 10% more frame without focus point coverage than my D4s, or D800.
(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 200-400F4VR@220mm. 1/640@220mm.)
Overall though, I am very greatly impressed with Nikon’s D750. I would not hesitate in the least to carry one into almost any job on any day. It’s still not enough for me as a full time pro to replace my D4s over, but if you’re someone who is looking for that next step up, or a first step into Full Frame the D750 is a huge win. If you’ve got a D600 or D610 this is also the case in terms of an upgrade. The 24 megapixel files were great, and the camera was incredible responsive. If you’re the photographer that’s been waiting for the Long awaited D700 replacement but aren’t quite sure this is that, then let me reassure you. THIS IS IT. It’s an incredible camera for an incredible value and should not be overlooked by enthusiasts or pro’s alike. To say I was impressed is modest. I was blown away, and can see the direction that Nikon is moving with it’s next bodies. When the D5 comes out I can only imagine what it’ll be like after handling this thing now. If they can put this much technology into a $2300 camera, imagine what they will be able to do with their normal Pro Budget. More Soon.
If you’re looking to buy one, make sure you check them out with my friends at Roberts Camera here in Indy. Call, email or phone. They are there for you, and will answer questions! (including unrelated ones)