Initial Thoughts on Why I Bought the Nikon D750

(Perspective from a photographer That also shoots video) An acquaintance asked me what I thought of my Nikon D750 so far. I don't know whether he knows that my background is mainly in still photography and that I still do plenty of still photo jobs and video is my secondary gig. So here are my first impressions from that perspective:

I haven't fully tested the D750 yet but it is quite good for still photography so far--the best full-frame stills camera I have ever owned (unless you consider the film cameras I owned in the distant past). It is hugely improved for video over the D600/D610. The improvement is in the much better image quality where moire and aliasing are almost entirely absent, the better in-camera H264 codec, and now at least a couple of video-centric exposure tools--zebra stripes and a histogram in video live-view. This camera would have been a killer in 2011 and a very good seller even in 2012. As it is, it is a sigh of relief for me that Nikon has not totally and completely ignored their potential market. They still have plenty of room to improve, but this is a very nice step.

The main thing that really motivated me to upgrade from the D600 at this point was my experience shooting a wedding a few weeks ago. It was a rainy day, the wedding was scheduled to start at 6:30 but didn't really get rolling until about 7 PM. The veranda where the wedding took place was not well lit and the sun, what little there was, dipped quickly behind the horizon. Now the D600 did pretty well in low-light in terms of still image quality. Nikon has done a nice job there. However, this was the first time I couldn't get the autofocus to work--it was hunting around like crazy. I missed a few shots. I know, I know--a good photographer would drop to manual focus mode, right? It was rough and I did manually focus part of the time, but it was very frustrating. In cases like this, you need a system that works reliably because you only get one shot at much of what transpires. I survived, but know I needed a camera that could serve me better in tough conditions like that. So the focus system was very important to me. And I am happy to report that the D750 delivers in style on that front. In my tests so far, it is quick and reliable, even when the light is nearly non-existent.

I think that 24 megapixels was a good choice on Nikon's part. Not only do I NOT NEED 36 megapixels, I don't want that many pixels because of the cost to low-light performance. The D750 appears to produce very nice stills at ISO 6400 and I have yet to push the camera that far in video, though I probably will just for grins. I don't usually shoot video like that--I prefer to light when I can, and usually for my projects I can. But I'm sure plenty of people want to know how well it holds up at high ISO in video.

I know that many "DSLR" video people are more excited about the Sony A7s than the Nikon D750 but that wasn't going to work for my photographic work - relatively slow focus, relatively few lenses to choose from, no commitment from Sony on fast zooms beyond what they already have, and a relatively immature speed light/flash system. Also, what good is a camera that can shoot at through-the-roof ISOs and see stuff that your eyes can't see if it can't focus? Of course that really only applies when shooting still photos, but still, I think it is a valid question. All of these things are important to me for wedding and event shoots. My style requires using flash, even when there's plenty of light. So it is really a matter of personal preference and the style of shooting one does.

I already have a camera that shoots 4K so that may be part of how I convinced myself that I didn't HAVE to have the A7s. I'm still trying to figure out how 4K will fit into my workflow. I have no doubts that it eventually will. I'm just not sure yet. My corporate clients certainly aren't asking for it yet and even when I offer that option, they're not yet interested. Like I said, though, I'm sure that will eventually change.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed that my reasoning didn't lead me to a mirrorless camera or something else equally as exotic from a still photographer's perspective. But I think it was the right choice for me.

In short, I think that if your main use for the camera is HD video and you like the shallow-depth-of-field look or will be shooting lots of low light footage, and want the option to hook up a 4K recorder, the A7s looks really nice. If you mainly shoot still photos and rely heavily on flash and don't need 4K video, I think the D750 is a better choice. For me, the D750 will mostly serve as my interview and B camera when it comes to video and my main camera when it comes to still photos.

One other note to put this all into perspective. I looked back and observed that in the past 12 years, I have not held on to a camera body for more than about 18 months to 2 years at a time. So it isn't as if this is the last camera I'm going to buy and that I'm at significant risk of being left on the trash heap of outdated HD video before I'm done with it. I'm sure the camera manufacturers will have some nice options by the time I'm ready to move on in 18 to 24 months. I'm rooting for Nikon to have a good mirrorless option or two. Would also like to see Blackmagic come out with something a little more self-contained and practical out-of-the-box. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I need a little more experience with this camera and then will have more in-depth info to share.