The Nikon D780 Is an Exceptional Camera for Certain Photographers Due to Its All-Around Capabilities
The launch of Nikon’s most recent DSLR, the D780, has largely flown under the radar because it occurred in the middle of a wave of mirrorless cameras. On the other hand, it may be just what the doctor prescribed for certain photographers.
In a previous article, I discussed the reasons why the D780 and Nikon’s continued production of traditional DSLRs was a good move for the company in spite of the growing prominence of mirrorless cameras. This was done in response to the question, “Why does Nikon continue to produce traditional DSLRs?”
Instead of attempting to establish a case for the superiority of DSLRs versus mirrorless cameras, the purpose of this essay was to highlight the commercial rationale for continuing to invest in the “old” platform. Mirrorless cameras have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Personally, I have both single-lens reflex cameras and mirrorless cameras in my collection. On paper, my mirrorless cameras are years and even decades ahead of their competition. But in reality, I just sometimes make use of them for my professional duties. It is not because they lack the ability to perform technically.
Simply said, I don’t enjoy using electronic viewfinders because of the subject matter that I photograph and, more significantly, because of the way that I prefer to photograph and interact with the people that I photograph. I have no problem with people taking photos while walking about or shooting for fun. On the other hand, once my financial stability is at stake and I have a strong desire to produce something truly remarkable, I invariably choose to work with a DSLR. This is a completely subjective opinion and in no way is it meant as a criticism of mirrorless cameras.
It’s simply that when I stare at a mini-TV screen instead of the actual subject through an optical viewfinder, I feel less connected to what I’m photographing and less in tune with the present moment than when I look at the actual thing directly. Because of this, I am unable to take use of any of the real benefits of electronic viewfinders, such as the ability to preview your exposure or focus that extends to the outside of the frame. This is because my primary goal of connecting with my subject is being hindered.
I am going to say this one more. When it comes to taking serious photographs, I find that using a DSLR provides me with the best results. This is not a technical assessment in any way. However, as I’ve discovered a long time ago, the most advanced technology in the world isn’t worth a hill of beans if it doesn’t work for me when I put it into action. It’s possible that my shooting needs are completely different from yours.
However, when it comes to video, I find that mirrorless cameras are far more effective than their DSLR counterparts. When I am taking still photographs, I have my face firmly pushed against the back of the camera. I do this in an effort to shut out everything else in the world except for what is visible in the viewfinder of the camera. I am searching for that one ideal unique moment.
When I was shooting video, on the other hand, I almost never looked through the viewfinder. When I did, it was almost always to compose the shot. In its place, I would nearly always shoot video through the use of a live view or an external monitor. For this reason, I find that the exposure previews and TV screen presentations offered by mirrorless cameras make a great deal more sense to me in this particular setting.
When it comes to capturing motion, the camera makers have also included a great deal of video-related innovations in their mirrorless lines of cameras, frequently leaving their classic DSLRs in the dust.
Because I serve my customers with both still images and moving footage, this means I virtually always need to take two separate camera setups with me wherever I go. One to represent motion, and one to represent stillness. It’s hardly the end of the world, especially considering that I usually go to most sets with a sufficient number of bags and cases to demand their own skycap service.
But there are undoubtedly occasions when I would want to be able to travel light and pack all I need into one body. This is especially the case while working with a limited budget or on personal projects. This is possible with mirrorless cameras.
However, due to the fact that I do not take pleasure in making use of electronic viewfinders, this indicates that I will have to make concessions with regard to the experience of taking still photographs in order to accommodate video recording. Or, if I decide to carry only my DSLR camera, it implies that there will be additional things to think about as well as some restrictions placed on my ability to record video.
The Nikon D780 has arrived. Some DSLR users have referred to it as somewhat of a “gateway drug” to help ease them into the transition to mirrorless cameras. The only way I can describe it is as the photographic version of a mullet hairstyle. I just couldn’t help myself.
The celebration will be in the rear, but the business will be in the front. In this particular instance, though, the D780 provides all of the features that I desire in a mirrorless camera on the back side, while also providing all of the capabilities that I seek in a DSLR camera on the front side.
Keeping all of this in mind, I decided to put the brand-new Nikon D780 through its paces and conduct a few tests. My goal was to test how well the D780 would perform as my primary camera for a whole month, shooting everything from stills to motion, and determining whether or not it has the capabilities necessary to complete the job. I didn’t leave the house without it in my bag.
I used it as a street camera when I was out and about, and I took landscape photographs while I was trekking in the woods. I brought it with me on vacation. I put it to use in the production of some impromptu video footage. In addition to that, I utilized it to create a few videos for my blog. The only thing left to do was to have a professional photographer photograph a subject while using it. Then the coronavirus struck the population.
It is possible that you have spent the past three months restricted to your house as a result of stay-at-home orders. However, depending on where you are when you are reading this, it is also possible that you have not. Since I’ve been living in this apartment in Los Angeles, neither I nor my models have had much exposure to natural light during the past few months.
As a result, it became more impossible to organize a large-scale shoot with cast and crew because none of the aforementioned individuals were permitted to be under one roof at the same time. My first aim was to use the camera for one month, but that quickly expanded into using it for three months before our governor opened up just enough of the city for me to slip out and perform a socially distant picture and video shoot with my buddy Marquis.
Because the camera was a loan, I had to wait until only last week to finally be able to wrap it up and send it back. By that time, I had far more experience and perspective on the camera than even I had counted on having.
Because of this, I will be able to present a much more in-depth evaluation than I would have been able to in just one month; as a result, this review will be a really extensive one. You may bypass the rest of the article and go straight to the summary if you want the condensed version, sometimes known as the CliffsNotes edition.
Continue reading if you are thinking about buying a D780 and want to know all there is to know about it, even the nitty-gritty details.
When I first started looking into all of this, the overall issue that I needed an answer to was whether or not this camera is the only one that individuals who love optical viewfinders, like myself, would ever actually need to handle the responsibilities of a working photographer. Now, this is what I have discovered.
When Compared to the Nikon D850 and D750, the Shooting Experience
If you have been shooting with Nikon DSLRs for as long as I have, you will find that the experience of shooting stills with the D780 is quite similar to what you are used to. Even though I already had expertise with the D850 and D750, I had no trouble picking up the D780 and getting it up and running. Nikon DSLRs are a little like trumpets. When you’ve mastered one instrument, you can pretty much play any other instrument and be able to compose a melody with it.
The D750 serves as the inspiration for the body. It is a little bit heavier, but you won’t even notice the difference. My inexplicable inability to correctly connect a camera strap without harming myself led me to make the decision to use the D780 that I was borrowing without a strap for the duration of the trial period.
My hand never really grew fatigued despite the fact that I took a lot of pictures while walking about the city with a camera in my hand for a number of long days while wearing my size 12 high heels with the camera strapped to my chest. The comfortable grip of the DSLR allowed the camera to cradle perfectly in my hand without putting a great deal of pressure on my fingers, which surely would have been the wise thing to do had I gone with the neck strap rather than the other option.
As I was saying before, one of the things that appeal to me most about photography is the ability to bring the viewfinder up to one’s eye, let the rest of the world go silent, and focus just on the feeling of being in the frame with the subject of the shot. I am very conscious of the fact that, to some readers, this may come off as a bit vague and ambiguous. For me, though, making that connection while looking through the camera is almost like having a mystical experience.
My energy is fusing with the topic that is currently in front of me, and the result is a brief link. The end outcome is practically an afterthought when you think about it. I just want to be there, in that precise moment, and have a camera that allows me to experience the moment and mark it when I press down on the shutter button. That’s all I want. The D780 unquestionably satisfies that experience expectation.
Artist’s rendition of him or herself. This is what it looks like to withdraw from social interaction.
When it comes to image quality, you won’t be able to see much of a difference between the 24.5-megapixel sensor found in the D780 and the 24.3-megapixel sensor found in the D750. If taking still photographs is your specialty and shooting video is more of an afterthought for you, it is possible that you would be better off sticking with the D750 that you already have or purchasing a new one right now at a steep discount rather than investing in the D780.
The quality of the stills will, for the most part, remain unchanged. This is less of a criticism of the D780 and more of a compliment to the D750, whose picture quality is on par with pretty much every 24 MP sensor that is now available on the market.
The D750 really offers a few benefits over the D780 in a few different areas. To begin, it features a flash that pops up on demand. For me, I never use a pop-up flash, with the exception of the extremely few occasions when I am working with a Nikon Speedlight and require the flash to trigger the Speedlight while working in commander mode. However, a significant number of individuals make use of the pop-up and will miss having it on the D780.
The capability of the Fn and Pv buttons located on the front of the D780 camera to be assigned to a variety of focusing settings is something that I do not like about the camera. One of the most useful and time-saving features of my Nikon D850 and D750 cameras is the ability to set several focusing modes to separate buttons on the back of the camera.
Therefore, as an illustration, I will configure my camera so that the AF button on the rear will be set to the 25-point dynamic focusing mode. However, I will reassign one of the other buttons such that it focuses on a specific location when it is pressed. And another will be designated as the 51-point autofocus system. Or 3D autofocus, or anything else for that matter.
Because this feature is available, I can rapidly switch between different focusing modes based on the scene I’m shooting without having to enter the settings menu. The D780 does not come equipped with this feature for an unknown reason. It’s possible that a new firmware update may resolve the issue.
This very slight annoyance is, of course, more than compensated for by the fact that I can now switch between the still mode and the video mode practically with the touch of a button. When I press one button, just one button, I am immediately able to begin shooting video with the mirrorless Z 6 and all of its sophisticated features.
When I first started getting back into producing more hybrid video work a couple of years ago, one of the things that most irritated me about the process was that going from stills to video forced me to continuously alter my settings. When I was working rapidly, which is often my mode of operation, I would frequently forget to alter one or two settings, which would result in the following take or series of photographs being ruined.
In most cases, the problem was that the photographer failed to remember to adjust the shutter speed while switching between shooting stills and motion. This problem is remedied by the Nikon D780, which stores all of my video settings internally and remembers them even when I switch between DSLR stills mode and mirrorless video mode. Everything I set, from my aperture to my white balance to my color profile, is stored in its memory.
When I originally acquired the D780, the first thing I did was set up my own personal preferences in the camera. For me, this consists of one typical group of settings for “walkaround” shooting with natural light and another set of settings entirely for using the flash.
On the camera, I assign these to the U1 and U2 settings (or more in the four menu bank system on the D850). In addition, I adjusted the D780’s fundamental video settings to correspond with what I anticipate utilizing the vast majority of the time. Although these things are subject to change, the main beginning points for natural light still photography, flash photography, and videography that I utilize nearly always as my foundation is as follows:
Then, once I had programmed those things into my U1 and U2 settings on the D780, all I needed to do was pick one or two based on what I was shooting and start taking stills through the optical viewfinder. After that, all I needed to do was hit one button and I would be automatically taken to a live view Z 6 with full-time autofocus to cover the scene in the video.
When I press the button once again, I am brought directly back to the settings that I prefer to use for still photography, and I am immediately ready to capture more photographs without having to make any more adjustments.
It is tremendously handy and enables me to complete one hundred percent of my work in the manner in which I want to carry it out, without requiring me to ever pick up another camera.
Why Not Just Purchase a Z 6 Instead?
Therefore, it is not surprising that a good number of readers who read this post would ask why it is not more rational to simply get a Z 6. And there is some justification for asking such questions. The video capabilities that were inherited from the Z 6 are, after all, the primary reason why the D780 is superior to both the D750 and the D850. In point of fact, the Z 6 adds to that by providing the possibility of upgrading to a raw video process as an available option.
This feature is not included in the D780, and I am unsure whether there are any plans to include it in a future release or even if there are any plans to include it at all. Even though it is one of my favorite features of the D780, the ability to swiftly switch between shooting stills and motion video is something that was also carried over by its mirrorless relatives.
When you make the investment in the new mirrorless system, you will be able to make use of both the older F-mount lenses by way of an adapter and the more recent Z-mount lenses in their original form. It is likely that research and development in the future will focus on the Z-mount. This indicates that over the course of time, you may end up with glass that is slightly superior.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that F-mount glass is very good; it will take Nikon decades to develop a range of Z-mount lenses that can compete in terms of breadth with their F-mount collection, and the question of whether Z-mount glass is incrementally sharper may lend itself more to debates in online photography communities than to actual client effects in the real world.
There are a variety of hypotheses that attempt to explain why the bulk of Nikon consumers has not yet transitioned to using mirrorless cameras. Many people refer to the massive install base of F-mount lenses for existing DSLR users. They also point out that established photographers are not in a hurry to invest in new lenses.
Even while the FTZ adapter works like a charm, moving to a mirrorless camera system almost certainly will need the purchase of brand-new lenses at some time in the future. According to all reports, the focus acquisition and performance while using the adapter is virtually comparable to the native performance when using Z-mount glass; nevertheless, there are additional factors to take into account.
Because it has a native F-mount, the Nikon D780 is a better choice than the Nikon Z 6 because you won’t have to pay extra money for an adapter to use F-mount lenses with it. However, one thing that I did notice while shooting video with the D780 and F-mount lenses is that the focusing process on all of my current F-mount lenses is rather noisy. This makes perfect sense given that they were not designed to be video lenses from the beginning.
If, on the other hand, you want to record both video and audio using the built-in microphone, you will very quickly become aware of the sound of the autofocus adjusting itself while it is playing back the recording. Even with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, I hardly ever utilize the microphone that is built into the device. On the other hand, if you were in a scenario in which all you wanted to do was capture background noise with the camera itself, you should probably go with the manual focus mode.
When I asked a buddy who also uses adapted lenses on his Z 6 if he has the same issue, he confirmed that he does. All of this leads me to believe that if shooting video with the Z 6 was your major objective, you would probably end up buying Z glass in the end regardless of whether you used it or not because the focusing mechanics on the Z 6 are designed with video in mind more than still photography.
Despite the fact that I have a strong predilection for DSLRs, I am well aware that the proportion of the market occupied by mirrorless cameras will continue to rise. This sense of impending doom is frequently mirrored in vloggers and camera reviewers openly questioning why anybody would buy a D780 instead of a Z 6, especially considering that the D780 presently retails for $2,300, but the Z 6 can be bought for approximately $500 or $600 less.
Why would you spend more for a camera that, on paper, appears to have fewer new features? Why would you do that? The solution seems obvious to me at this point. Newer additions are not necessarily better features for the workflow of each and every unique user. That in itself does not imply that one method of operation is superior to another. It simply implies that there is no one size that is appropriate for everyone. Therefore, the reason why someone would pay an additional $500 is crystal clear in my mind. They are allocating additional funds to purchase the optical viewfinder.
I am aware that this may seem absurd to some photographers, particularly those who have grown attached to their electronic viewfinders or who have never owned a camera that did not include an electronic viewfinder.
However, for some photographers, like myself, the requirement to look through an electronic viewfinder rather than an optical one is not so much a gain as it is an aggravation that must be endured in order to obtain the other capabilities. I am aware that this is entirely a matter of one’s own preference.
Nevertheless, this also applies to purchasing one camera over another. You shouldn’t buy a camera based on what someone else thinks about how well it fits your shooting style; instead, you should buy a camera based on how well it fits your shooting style. That includes the one I have.
My preference for optical viewfinders is based on a number of factors. To begin, and as was said previously, I find that seeing through a lens rather than at a computer screen is more comfortable for me. I make it a point to glance at the digital readouts of electronic devices as little as possible, whether I’m using a camera or a mobile phone. In addition to the fact that I’m getting older, the fact that I primarily photograph athletes in action is another reason why I prefer optical viewfinders.
Even though I’m not a professional sports photographer, I have a lot of the same requirements. My ability to time a subject’s quick motions is of the utmost importance to me. A seemingly insignificant change, such as hooking the leg of a runner at an angle of 90 degrees rather than 89 degrees, might have a significant impact on the outcome of the race for me. It is certainly feasible to achieve this degree of micro-precision with an electronic viewfinder; but, I find that it is a great deal simpler to do so when I am able to look directly at the thing that I am photographing, as opposed to a digital depiction of the image.
When using an optical viewfinder, there is no electronic viewfinder (EVF) latency to consider and very little blackout to be concerned about. It is simply more convenient. Even while mirrorless EVFs have gone a long way, they are still not up to par when it comes to shooting sports and other types of activities that take place in a fast-paced environment.
And although innovations such as eye focusing and facial identification help mirrorless cameras stand out from the competition in terms of autofocus, they also remove the photographer from the decision-making process a significant amount of the time. When photographing subjects that are generally steady, like portraits, I think that approach is helpful.
However, I have found that the tried-and-true Nikon 153-point focusing system in my DSLR produces far better results when I am photographing athletes who are moving quickly or unpredictably.
These are only a few of the reasons why I personally prefer to use an optical viewfinder, but I’m sure that other photographers would have their own unique set of arguments. Obviously, there are those who like electronic viewfinders over optical viewfinders, and they may have a list of reasons for their preference.
It’s all a question of personal preference, which is why the D780 strikes the optimum balance for photographers like me, but might not be the best choice for another sort of photographer entirely.
The Rebuttal to the Argument
Because I can only base my view on my own experience, I will continually use terms such as “photographers like me” throughout this post. This is because I want to offer you the most honest perspective possible, thus I can only base my opinion on my own experiences. And for photographers like myself, I can think of a lot of reasons why someone might select this camera over the Z 6; it just seems like a better option overall. Having said that, I am also able to present a fairly compelling argument for why one might select the Z 6 instead.
The cost-benefit analysis of how you intend to use the product or service would be the first step in the process. Existing Nikon photographers who need to shoot video in addition to their still work would be the ideal customers for the D780. These photographers would already have a significant number of F-mount lenses in their collection.
Someone who already owns a D750 and is contemplating whether or not to upgrade for the additional video benefits will be the most likely person to purchase the new model, just as I am.
Now, let’s take a look at the figures in relation to what it is that you are gaining by using them. I’m going to use myself as an example once more. My primary piece of equipment for my professional photography is a Nikon D850, and I use a Nikon D750 as both my backup camera and my personal walkaround camera.
Both of these cameras are primarily designed for still photography, but I also have cinema cameras and mirrorless cameras that can perform the majority of the tasks associated with the video. Due to the fact that both the cinema cameras and the mirrorless cameras come from different manufacturers, I need to purchase additional lenses and accessory sets in addition to my Nikon equipment.
If I were to get a D780, it would be so that I could carry it in the same bag as my D850, and use it both for recording video and as a backup camera for the D850, which would mostly be used for still photography.
If I had a Nikon D780, I would be able to combine the features of my D750 and the smaller mirrorless cameras that I use into a single body. As a result, I would have less equipment to carry with me at all times and would be better prepared in the event that an unanticipated video request arises while I am out and about and I forgot to bring along my separate video bag.
Because I hadn’t planned on shooting any video at all when I started the shoot with Marquis but was forced to make a last-minute adjustment, this particular scenario ended up playing out in real life throughout the shoot.
Because the D780 and my D850 utilize the same lenses and accessories, I would not have to worry about carrying numerous sets of lenses with me on integrated projects as I do today because the D780 uses the same lenses as my D850. To summarize, I was able to reduce the amount of gear I carried while maintaining the same level of protection in both stationary and mobile settings.
On the left is a D780. On the right is a D750.
In order to acquire the camera, I would either have to shell out $2,300 to buy it brand new so that it could join the D850 and D750 in the bag, or I would have to trade in my D750, which is in pristine condition, in order to make up the difference in price. That implies that the overall costs of acquiring a D780 would be around $1800 (including the discount for trading in my current Nikon body), and the end result would be that I would have two Nikon bodies, a D850 and a D780. Not bad. Easy to carry, functional, and adequate for my requirements.
On the other hand, there is another possibility. It would cost approximately $1,800 to buy a brand new Z 6 with the FTZ adapter already included in the package. The difference between that and purchasing a brand-new D780 is only approximately $500. On the other hand, used Z 6 cameras can be purchased for around $1,500, which includes the adaptor so that you save even more money (or brand new Z 6 cameras can be purchased for $1,600 as part of Nikon’s current sale).
On the other hand, if everything went according to that plan, I would wind up owning three cameras rather than two, specifically the D850, the D750, and the Z 6. I would also have even better video capabilities, as the Z 6 is capable of recording raw footage. This would be a significant improvement. It’s true that if I used the Z 6, I wouldn’t have an optical viewfinder.
However, in this case, I would have two major DSLRs, both of which have optical viewfinders. Additionally, the Z 6 camera would practically just be utilized for recording video, which makes the viewfinder a somewhat less crucial component for me.
In any case, I would be able to keep using the F-mount glass that I already have, which would eliminate the need for me to bring about different sets of lenses. Both would bring me closer to achieving my professional goals.
Both options would require an expenditure of roughly the same amount of money, but one could make the case that the investment in the Z 6 would be worth more in the long run since I would end up with a greater number of capabilities and cameras. Therefore, would it be more prudent to get a Z 6 rather than a D780?
After reading all of that, what choice do you recommend that you make? The quick conclusion is going to be as follows.
- If you like optical viewfinders and are primarily concerned with still images, an alternative to a
- afterthought, then depending on the resolution you want, acquire either a D750 or a D850.
- Those who like electronic viewfinders and who are primarily concerned with video and still images are candidates for an
- Perhaps, you should get a Z 6 instead.
- If you have a preference for optical viewfinders, if you need to capture stills and video, if you are interested in
- if you’re already familiar with Nikon’s environment and you want a camera with 24 megapixels, your best bet is the
Nikon has supplied three fantastic choices, and choosing any one of them would be a mistake. It’s
only a question of personal choice. If, on the other hand, you are a photographer who favors the
additional connection with your topic that is provided by an optical viewfinder while you are
shooting stills, but over the D750, anybody who wants to amp up their video game should consider the
Simply said, the D780 is a camera that gives you the ability to accomplish anything.