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Nikon D750 review:Nikon D750 isn't cheap, but offers a great full-frame value

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The Good The Nikon D750 delivers the best photo quality and continuous-shooting performance in its price class, along with a nicely well-rounded feature set.

The Bad Nikon's Wi-Fi implementation is weak and some of the other features could be executed a little better. Plus Live View performance is sad.

The Bottom Line It's not the cheapest camera in its class, but the Nikon D750 delivers an excellent combination of quality, performance and features for its price.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 9

As the long-awaited sucessor to the six-year-old D700 , the Nikon D750 delivers admirably. While its $2,300 price tag (£1,800/approximately AU$2,600) inhabits the upper reaches for many enthusiasts, it's a perfect camera for people who are picky about their photographs, who need better high-sensitivity quality than you can get with one of the less-expensive full-frame options or an APS-C-based dSLR, and who need speed for action shooting. Plus, it's a solid option for pros looking for a good value.

The camera comes in a couple of official kit configurations. The $3,000 bundle with the 24-120mm f3.5-5.6 lens is the only Nikon-approved kit in the US, but a 24-85mm f3.5-5.6 kit will also be available in the UK and possibly Australia (I couldn't find any available options with prices at the time this review was published, however).

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The D750 will be sold with the 24-120mm lens in the US, plus additional kits with the 24-85mm f3.5-5.6 lens in the UK and possibly Australia. Sarah Tew/CNET

Image quality

Nikon really does a nice job on photo quality. The D750 has an excellent noise profile for both stills and video, and it produces significantly cleaner raw images than the Sony A99 does as ISO sensitivity increases -- unsurprising, since the latter is two years old and its image processing doesn't benefit from a couple years of fine tuning. I like the more neutral white balance of the Sony's default profile, though; Nikon's is just a hair shifted toward red/blue. And while the D810 maintains sharpness and tonal range better across the sensitivity range, for about $1,000 less the D750's photo quality stands up pretty well against the D810's.

JPEGs from the D750 look exceptionally clean up through ISO 1600, where a tiny bit of detail degradation begins in the in-focus areas. At ISO 3200, you can start to see some mushiness develop in the focused areas, and noise-reduction artifacts appear in the out-of-focus areas. Dynamic range displays visible decreases around ISO 3200 as well, with some clipping in low-key areas and loss of tonal distinctions in high-key areas. There's also a slight color shift between ISO 50 (Low) and ISO 100. However, I was happy with the JPEGs as high as ISO 6400 -- though that's dependent upon lighting and scene content -- and had ISO 12800 raw files that I could work with comfortably.

Movie quality looks great, even in low light, though as with the stills you start to lose tonal range about ISO 3200. Nevertheless, best quality video looks sharp, with few visible artifacts, and up to ISO 3200 there's practically no noise sparkle. I suggest switching from the default Picture Control for shooting video, though, unless you like your blacks crushed and your whites blown, even in good light.

Analysis samples

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ISO examples up to ISO 6400. I didn't even bother displaying ISO 50 (Lo) or ISO 200 - ISO 800; they look identical to ISO 100. ISO 1600 is the first setting where I began to see any detail degradation. Lori Grunin/CNET
nikon-d750-high-iso.png
While I wouldn't call the upper ISO sensitivity settings clean, under the right circumstances even ISO 51200 is usable. Lori Grunin/CNET
nikon-d750-color.png
Color Lori Grunin/CNET
nikon-d750-pictures-styles.png
The default Standard Picture Style vs. Neutral. You can see that at its default setting it boosts saturation and contrast to the point where you start to lose shadow detail. Lori Grunin/CNET

Performance

Note: We recently updated our testing setup; though the methodology is similar the lighting conditions are not, so the results aren't comparable with previous testing. We're slowly retesting some important older products, and until we have comparable results we will not be posting performance charts.

In both lab and field testing, the D750's shooting performance fared typically for this class of camera; however, it's still really slow in Live View, and there are annoying hitches when accessing some settings.

It takes less than 0.2-second to power on, focus and shoot. Even then the bottleneck is the power switch, since you have to turn it on and press the shutter with the same finger. Single-shot performance is roughly what you'd expect for the money. In both bright and dim conditions (down to about 3 EV), time to focus and shoot runs just under 0.4-second; actual speed is a bit faster than that, since the kit lens tends to drive a little slowly. And while I didn't time it, focus down to -1 EV was is sufficiently fast and accurate as well. Both raw and JPEG take about 0.2-second between consecutive shots.

The camera excels when it comes to continuous-shooting performance, however. It bursts about 6.6fps for highest-quality JPEGs (not even the default of Normal quality) with a buffer well beyond my 30 test shots -- I got bored after 70. That sets a new high for its price class. While raw burst flies at an even faster 7fps, that's only for about 15 shots. After that it drops, though to a still-respectable 4.6fps. It manages about 10 raw+JPEG shots before slowing a lot.

Equally important, the autofocus seems reasonably able to keep up with the continuous shooting; my hit rate of usable shots using the new Group AF was significantly better than Nikon's various tracking options, partly because in those modes you have no real control over the actual focus points it uses. (Your mileage may vary depending upon your personal shooting quirks, of course.) I do miss an option for expanded-point AF, though, which essentially uses a single focus point and only expands to a group of points for support. The single-point autofocus mode is quite accurate and quick.

Unfortunately, the D750's Live View performance remains locked in the doldrums, taking about 1.5 seconds to focus and shoot under optimal conditions.

There's also some sluggishness bringing up screen-based options. For instance, using the back LCD view to change the ISO sensitivity (the only way to see it when the camera's set on a tripod at eye level), I frequently experienced long waits. This is something that Nikon should be able to address in a firmware update, though.

Design and features

With just a couple of small exceptions, the design of the D750 has a streamlined shooting design, a comfortable, high-quality build and an almost spot-on set of features. The body incorporates magnesium alloy for the rear and top cover, but uses lighter carbon fiber for the front chassis and cover. Physically it bears a striking resemblance to the D610 , with comparable weather sealing to the D810.

The design is a useful cross between the consumer and pro models. It has a deep grip with a rubberized section on the back that is perfectly sized for my hands, for whatever that's worth. In the front, accessible via the fingers of your right hand, are two programmable buttons, while the left side has the flash popup/compensation button, bracketing button and manual focus/autofocus switch, with the button that brings up autofocus mode selections. As you'd expect in this class of camera, there are front and back adjustment dials.

On the top left sit a lockable mode and release-mode dials, similar to the D610. In addition to the usual manual, semimanual and automatic modes, there's an Effects mode with a handful of basics: Night Vision (high ISO sensitivity monochrome), Color Sketch, miniature, selective color, silhouette, high key and low key. It also offers a pair of saved user settings slots on the dial.

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The two SD card slots come in handy. Sarah Tew/CNET

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