Nikon D780 Review

Nikon D780 Camera close up

The Nikon D780 is a professional FX format DSLR. It features a large 36 megapixel sensor, 10fps continuous shooting and full 1080p HD video recording capability in addition to all the other features that made the D700 such a popular workhorse for professional photographers.

The D700 series of cameras are extremely popular with pros due to their rugged construction, bright optical viewfinders, comfortable ergonomics and fast autofocus system, but they only have an effective resolution of 16.2MP.

Sensor

The D780 features a new 36 megapixel sensor that uses a new design of image sensor that Nikon calls the “CMOS III.” The new sensor architecture allows for better noise performance and sharpness at high ISO levels. The D700 series used a fairly standard 16MP image sensor in the D700, so we’re not surprised to see Nikon push towards 36MP in the D780.

Video

The D780 has some interesting features compared to the other cameras in the D800/D4/D5 line-up. First, it has a full set of 1080p HD video recording capabilities. The other cameras in the D600/D700 line-up only have a 720p HD mode like the D3 series.

Just Point And Shoot

Second, it has a “Just Point and Shoot” mode that turns the camera on and fires away at 10fps without any adjustments being made to exposure or focus. This is great for beginners who are still learning how to use their DSLR but aren’t comfortable with all the settings like aperture or shutter speed.

Exposure and Focus

Third, it has a new exposure and focus mode that allows the user to choose between “spot” metering or standard center weighted metering. The D700 series cameras only have the spot mode; the D3 and D600 series cameras only go from center weighted to spot metering. Finally, the default white balance modes for daytime shooting are “daylight” and “tungsten,” which are different color temperatures from each other than what’s in use by studios. This is an improvement over the D700 since it used the same white balance presets in both modes.

While this is a big update, there’s no new autofocus system and no new movie mode. The D5000 and D5100 continue to have these features, so it looks like they’ll continue to be updated with new features. Also, the D800/D4/D5 cameras deliver better dynamic range compared to the D7000 or D3 and similar cameras.

The camera is available in body only or with a kit lens.

Who Is It For

Professional photographers who want the highest resolution and image quality possible from a DSLR

Prosumers who want top image quality in a package that’s easy to use for the beginner

Investment potential: Since the D700 series has been popular with pros, it’s likely that the D780 will be as well. These cameras are known to have long lifecycles due to their popularity and it is reasonable to expect that this camera will be supported for at least 5 years.

What We Like About It

Very good image quality with low noise levels and good dynamic range

The 1080p HD video recording is a big improvement over the D700 series (which only went up to 720p)

The “Just Point and Shoot” mode is a very nice feature for those who want to concentrate on framing, but still want a fast shutter speed and quick autofocus

The new “spot” metering mode is a great way to get the most out of the D780 for those who rely on their camera’s meter

What We Don’t Like About It

No built-in GPS receiver

Video recording is only 30fps at 1080p, so you won’t be able to slow down the footage in post production without losing some resolution

No built-in WiFi for transferring images over the air to a computer or smartphone

How It Did In Our Tests

The D780 image quality is very good, but it falls a bit behind the D800/D4/D5 series cameras. One of the biggest differences between the models in this series is in dynamic range so we’re interested to see how the D3s and D5 fair when compared to these cameras.

Should You Buy It?

The D780 is a better value than the D800/D4/D5 series cameras because it gives you most of the same image quality with the addition of a 1080p HD video mode, high frame rate and easy “just point and shoot” mode. The similar D7000 is $200 cheaper than the D780, but doesn’t quite deliver the same image quality or performance, so we recommend going with this camera if you’re looking for an upgrade.

Bottom Line

The Nikon D780 is an excellent top of the line DSLR aimed at professional photographers and prosumers who want a full frame camera with excellent image quality.

Our Recommendations: If you are looking for a nice upgrade from your D300s, Nikon D7000 or Canon 7D and want to stick with a brand new camera, then this is the model for you. Although it’s priced higher than the D5200, we still feel it’s a better value because of its superior image quality and expandability.