Disclaimer: I am not a professional so don't expect nuggets of wisdom dispensed here. This isn't technically a review either but rather simply the shooting experience with the D750 from my POV as an enthusiast and based on my preferences & needs. All camera related products mentioned were purchased by me for personal use. Full-sized pics (along with EXIF) for this write-up can be found in the three Nikon D750 Albums on my flickr page.
PREAMBLE I have enjoyed photography dating back to the film days of my youth and have been engaged in it on/off (but mostly off) for the past few decades. My first DSLR was an EOS D60 after the mass exodus from film and I shelved my EOS3 (which I still have) but re-used the EF 28-135 IS USM. This was during the days when manufacturers were still touting megapixels as the sole important spec for digital cameras which I naively bought into thus was amazed at the quality that was produced with "just" 6MP. (shot w/D60 hand-held at awkward angle with close-up filter so not the sharpest…)
Being a gear head, I've yearned for a FF Canon DSLR for a while (beginning with the original EOS 5D, then the Mk II and most recently the Mk III) but I simply couldn't justify the cost of one especially factoring in nice glass and the fact that I wasn't a pro. So I stuck with bridge cameras (Canon S3 IS & Panny FZ-150) as well as various P&S (Sony DSC-T1/DSC-T9/RX-100 & Panny LX-5).
They served my purposes well for taking family pics, trips, the occasional events & mostly what I've been doing a lot of which was predominantly low-key photography and videography of gadgets I reviewed. I was pretty satisfied with the results and given the D60 was bulky and heavy to carry around and thus not getting much use, I sold it.
In my heart though, the desire for a FF DSLR was never extinguished...
I got involved with my church's AV team and started to do a bit of shooting but was often dismayed by the results of shots in poor lighting conditions (w/the FZ-150). I started looking into DSLR's again and still recalling fondly the Canon products I've used and the acclaims of the 5D3 I wanted one bad but then the D800/800E with its 36MP launched and having still not been weaned off the MP lies, I was instantly smitten. Never mind that I wasn't planning on producing billboard sized print outs, I NEEDED 36MP! You can imagine my dismay when I found out the price and being roughly in the same league as the 5D3, again I had to really work on justifying the purchase.
To make a long story short (unless the inability to "pass" G.A.S. due to paralysis by overanalysis is of interest to you…) despite a brief flirtation with M43's (again arguing against the weight and size of a DSLR), I ended up acquiring a D7100 paired with a Sigma 17-70 C. Having spent so much time taking pics using screens with live WYSIWYG previews, I had to reacquaint myself with shooting through a viewfinder again as well as learning to use a DSLR with its multitude of menus, buttons and customizations possible. It was much harder to get shots the way I had with non-DSLR's and in spite of the learning curve and some less than stellar results initially, I was determined to stick with it.
The low-light shots from the 7100 at church were certainly a few notches above the FZ-150 but still not quite where I wanted them to be in consideration that I wasn't keen on doing a lot of PP. Therefor I eventually sold it to my bro-in-law and got a D600 (loved the D7100 though…). The reduced noise (especially of the purple variety) in Hi-ISO shots was certainly worth it as evidenced by these low-light SOOC JPG's comparo test I performed: D7100 vs. D600 vs. 6D
However, despite liking the Nikon layout and results, I was still drawn to the stellar low-noise SOOC JPG's from the pro photographer at church who was shooting with various Canon bodies (5D Mk 2 & 3 as well as 1D X). Thus When the 6D was released I did a bit of research and based on various results (with Hi-ISO noise being a primary consideration) and being satisfied with what I saw on DPR's comparison tool, I picked up a kit w/the 24-105 lens with the ultimate goal of deciding whether I'd choose Nikon or Canon for my shooting needs.
The 6D's pics SOOC were certainly cleaner but I just liked the look and feel of the images from the D600 better. I also preferred the configuration of the camera and controls as well and found it fit my shooting preferences better. In the end, after spending extensive time with both, I feel one really can't go wrong with either of these phenomenal cameras but it was going to be Nikon for me.
Enter the D750
When the D750 was announced, there were multiple factors that drew me to it, namely: improved noise on Hi-ISO shots, tilting higher-resolution screen, built-in WiFi, one touch zoom preview, deeper grip & improved AF. Given I’m no stranger to early adoption, I elected to pick one up and decide if it’d be a worthy upgrade over my D600, I’m glad I did…
(the perfect comeback when someone tells you to go fly a kite)
A couple (close family friends) was having their pre-wedding pics taken so I tagged along to help out, partake in some shots and to take some pics as well. I made sure to clear this with the pro’s they hired with the assurance I’d be in the distance and not get in their way. With that in mind, while I could’ve used the Tamron 70-300, I wanted a faster lens so I picked up a Tamron 70-200 VC USD (this happens to be the perfect FL range for my shooting needs in church). I figured this would be wide enough at the distances I’d be keeping and allow me to zoom in enough to get some portrait type shots. I received it the weekend before the shoot so didn’t really have much time to play around with it but did manage to shoot one session with it for the final group dedication play at church and I was very impressed with the new Highlight-Weighted Spot metering. While this scene was shot with different cameras, lenses, and composition, the lighting condition was the same:
I focused on the face and as you can see, the D600 (L) still overexposed slightly while the D750 (R) did a great job of not blowing highlights. Both are SOOC JPG’s (D750 shot cropped and straightened).
After reviewing the other pics for focus, I felt some shots were a bit off but of course it could’ve been due to technique vs. the gear so I decided against doing any fine-tuning.
On the day of the shoot, I brought along the D750 paired with the 70-200 and the D600 as back-up with the 70-300 attached. I also brought along the 50mm 1.4D & 24-85 and SB-700 although I didn’t get to use the latter since I didn’t want to bother the pro’s on the shoot. Given the weight was already substantial I didn’t bring along the MB-D16 (review here). Short of a test shot at the beginning, the D600 never left the bag…
The Lord blessed us with temps near 70F and nice overcast skies (no harsh direct sunlight). IMO, it really couldn’t have been a better day to shoot outdoors. =D>
(was going to use this as their sign-in board but was informed they no longer use that...)
Majority of shots were in Av, Portrait (Sharpening @ 8, Saturation +1), Auto ISO (I think I left Min Shutter at 200 since I forgot to check on this), RAW + JPG fine (optimal quality), Auto D-Lighting off. Metering varied (although mostly with Highlight-Weighted Spot) as did the WB (mostly custom). These JPG’s were PP’d in LR4 (haven’t had chance to touch the RAW’s yet). Given I was the third photographer, the majority of these shots were “candid” since their attention was on the pro's (where it should’ve been).
NOTE: Given this section is re: focus after all, I've elected not to sharpen any of the JPG's in this section in PP.
I'm a little old-school when it comes to focusing in that I'm used to using the single center FP to focus/recompose (translation - I've been too lazy to explore the other focusing features yet). I did attempt to use the group points but found given the distances (overall) and the shallow DOF shooting wide-open, I got more consistency (and confidence) going old-school:
I briefly played with AF-C [3D] but found it a little erratic so didn't really bother with it but do find it intriguing and plan on spending more time with it in the future. Here’s a series using that:
As can be seen, the last two shots are back-focused. I know these pics are a little small but they are linked to the full-size ones along with EXIF info.
One area which I think it might be well suited for is BIF in high-contrast situations, in which case, I didn’t try that but used AF-S instead thus failing miserably in these shots:
Hence I resorted to BNIF [Birds not in flight]:
Nailed it! Y|^_^|z
I thought I saw this gull drop something on top of a building and figured it was trying to crack a shell or something so I only had moments to capture these when it came back into view thus didn't switch out of AF-S [S].
I read a post citing concerns re: the D750’s AF-C’s inability to track a subject coming towards the camera so I shot these two series as a test. This first set is pretty much straight on at the camera (using AF-C [S]) and I affectionately dub it: Why are the balloons following me?
As mentioned, I forgot to check the Min. Shutter speed so it was left at 200. I believe this coupled with shooting wide open @ 2.8 caused the pics to not be as crisp as they could’ve been but I feel the results were still pretty good.
I had no issues with the buffer for this set and while every single shot might not be tack sharp, I feel they would be decent with some sharpness applied in PP. I don’t really shoot much action/sports, so this isn’t a huge deal for me personally but understandably it is to some.
As for the Tamron 70-200, I never felt the VR interfered with a shot, this lens is just downright responsive, focused fast and in conjunction with the D750, did well in dim areas (especially in the unedited SOOC JPG under the boardwalk which roughly simulates what I saw [shot further down below]).
Overall, I was pretty pleased with the way the camera/lens combo performed especially considering:
- I wasn’t focusing on technique (like I have any to begin with…
- I ingest caffeine like fishes drink water
- the beach shots were on sand where I didn’t really have a stable platform
Given the high-contrast situation between the bride and groom but in special consideration of the bride’s dress vs. her skin tone, I shot the majority of the pics with Highlight-weighted metering since I was planning on focusing on her eyes/face the majority of the time.
While reviewing the images, they looked to be properly exposed but I think that setting the screen brightness to +5 (as I was reviewing under sunlight) gave the pics a false boost in exposure, however, I’ll need to investigate this more as time allows. I think this is where having the Auto screen brightness may have helped as I might've noticed this in the shots while under the boardwalk. In the end though, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t fix in PP.
While the pro's were using flash, for this set, I didn't so as not to interfere. Here's an SOOC unedited shot under the boardwalk:
While these were corrected for exposure in PP:
I started off in Auto WB during broad daylight:
but resorted to manual once we were in the shade. Since I forgot my gray card, I used the bride's dress to set manual WB. I think it worked pretty well until the evening shots on the rocks where it was a little cool, but again, nothing that couldn't be corrected in PP and as a matter of fact used to create a certain mood:
Before I learned any PP skills, I've always tried to get the shot just right and shunned PP since I felt it was like "cheating" but I came to the realization that PP helps one achieve an artistic expression that isn't always possible with just photography skills alone. I've done minor PP using Windows Essentials in the past and while it’s a great program for simple edits, it's fairly limited. Despite having owned LR4 for a while, it wasn't until this shoot that I decided to start learning it in earnest and I gotta say, it's really opened up a new realm for me. Since I'm new to it, I don't have a particular style so I'm just having fun experimenting:
(Mwa ha ha ha - no one will see me hiding behind you!)
My heart sank while reviewing the shot above on my screen at home when I saw the black spots. Those can’t be oil spots can they? Can’t be... since it was shot wide open and I was quickly assured it wasn’t since I didn’t see this on any other shots but was miffed as to what it could be. It wasn’t until this shot that I concluded it was likely sea-gulls that were bokeh’d to black blobs:
I left both of these SOOC and untouched as a reference for the other shots that were PP’d.
HANDLING & COMFORT
At 3.24lbs, the Tamron 70-200 VC USD is a beast of a lens but I didn’t feel it was unwieldy on the D750 due to the deeper grip; in which case, it is truly a difference maker with the added weight up front. On the D600, my middle finger bears the burden of supporting most of the weight since there is only enough clearance to get the tips of the ring and pinkie fingers on it whereas with the D750, the first bend of the ring and pinkie fingers nestles nicely around the ridge on the grip giving better leverage overall:
L: D750 | R: D600
Based on the one hour shoot at church & the six plus hours during the wedding shots I didn’t feel as much fatigue with the D750/70-200 combo vs. previous usage with the D600/70-300. I do still prefer the grip/shutter location on the 6D the best as it's more aligned with one's natural grip (especially when using a DSLR hand grip/strap)
In terms of the control layout, it’s stayed the same overall with the main difference being some juggling around of the buttons but another key differentiator for me here is the ability to instantly zoom in to 100% (with additional choices for 50% or 200%). This was something I missed dearly switching from the D7100 to D600. However, it goes beyond simply this one function as it further allows one to also customize different actions for the OK button while in Shooting mode (which the D600 only had) and during Live view mode as well (via f1):
These are the little things that aren’t widely publicized but that can potentially have a huge impact to one’s shooting style/work flow. Of course, I believe this is something they can easily include in the D600 with a F/W upgrade but I won’t be holding my breath on that…
As for the display, I find the D750’s screen to be brighter and crisper. One thing about the D600’s screen that I disliked is that it’s always had a slightly warmer tone to it. I shot the screens for each using fixed values and Custom WB:
L: D750 | R: D600
However, one thing missing on the D750 which I actually found useful on the D600 is the Auto function for the screen brightness but on the plus side they have now included the ability to customize the Monitor color balance ins case you felt the colors weren’t accurate on the screen for whatever reason, you can further tweak it:
Again, these are the nice little touches that aren’t readily apparent when one is considering the differences between the two cameras. It might not be a huge deal to some but can be for others.
While the top LCD has indeed shrunk the digits are larger overall and all the most critical information (at least the ones that frequently change) are all there: Shutter, Aperture, ISO, Metering mode, card slot and shots remaining & battery life:
The Image Quality (now back screen only), Autofocus selection (reuses ISO & shots remaining slots on top panel) and the WB (combo of back screen & top panel) are still all easily accessible. For my shooting style, these are not things I change as frequently so it hasn’t been an issue that they’re not constantly displayed. The school of less is more has been well executed here IMO and I never felt hindered or impeded during the entire pre-wedding pics shoot.
A nice touch was the transition to a light blue colored read out in the viewfinder that I feel is a little more legible:
L: D750 | R: D600
Last but not least, I haven’t really used the screen as much as I thought I would. Beyond reviewing for focus, I rarely shoot in LiveView but on the occasions where I’ve had to use it, it’s come in very handy especially for videography. The WiFi did come in handy when we hit the restaurant and we reviewed the pics on my iPad.
I used the EN-EL15 from the D600 so it’s not brand new (manufactured in 2012) but in spite of that, I felt the performance was quite good. At the end of the shoot, there was 33% remaining with 723 shots taken. As previously mentioned, I didn’t use flash so as not to interfere with the pro’s but I did have the monitor set at +5.
Storage was handled by two Sony 32GB 90MB/s cards but I didn’t fill one up despite shooting in RAW (14-bit Lossless compressed) + JPG Fine (optimal quality):
28.4GB used and 1.54GB free
The top LCD indicated I could take 413 shots at start but I ended up with 716 on the card with the LCD reading 21 shots left. There were also 3 movies @ 285MB total.
AT THE END OF THE DAY...
While I still have much to learn, my friends and I were pretty pleased with the results. Partaking in this shoot provided me a great learning experience with the camera, shooting outdoors under dynamic lighting conditions and finally PP in LR4.
While reviewing the pics, I asked myself, could I have not shot these on the D600 instead? My conclusion is that I certainly could have but perhaps certain shots may not have come out the way they did (metering) or not at all (focus), but one key thing that is indisputable is the feeling that I had shooting with the D750 that is in one word: FUN!
In the end, the D600 is still one amazing camera but as I have cited throughout the experiences I’ve shared in this article, it’s the little things (or not so little for me at least) that really stood out; the deeper grip, the one-click zoom, the brighter/crisper screen, that Highlight Weighted metering, the improved focusing, etc.. These are the difference makers for me personally but to re-emphasize it was a fun and memorable day.
After all the pixel peeping, reading reviews, agonizing over test charts, it was great to just get out and shoot!
Hopefully you have enjoyed reading this and maybe found some of it useful.
P.S. Yes, the D750 can take dog shots too (sorry cat owners, I didn't see any on this shoot (=^.^= ):
|SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |