Conclusion

One of the areas still showing growth in the otherwise struggling camera market are full-frame interchangeable lens cameras. Up until recently, Canon and Nikon were the only games in town, with Sony shaking things up with its Alpha 7 mirrorless cameras in 2013. All three manufacturers have brought the price down on their full-frame cameras, with the hope of enticing photographers to move up from Four Thirds and APS-C models.

Nikon's latest midrange full-frame camera is the 24 megapixel D750, which is at the same level as the aging Canon EOS 6D and Sony's recently announced Alpha 7 II. The D750 is essentially a lower resolution, less expensive version of Nikon's D810 but if actually offers quite a bit more, including a better autofocus system, faster burst mode, tilting LCD, and built-in Wi-Fi. The major trade-offs are build quality/durability and resolution. If that sounds like an impressive camera to you, then you're absolutely right.

Pros

  • Excellent photo quality
  • Superb AF system with subject/face recognition and tracking
  • Reliably focuses down to -3EV
  • Impressive amount of dynamic range
  • Competes with class-leaders in high ISO performance
  • Spot metering linked to AF point
  • Useful 3.2" tilting LCD
  • Large optical viewfinder with easy-to-see shooting data
  • Small, lightweight full frame body with deep, ergonomic grip
  • Best-in-class burst mode
  • 1080/60p video with uncompressed HDMI output
  • Flat Picture Control captures wide dynamic range for photo/video post-processing
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Dual SD card slots

Cons

  • Limited buffer capacity affects continuous shooting
  • Narrow focus point layout compared to D810
  • Limited number of cross-type AF points
  • Max shutter speed of 1/4000s
  • Tends to slightly overexpose (though easy workaround exists)
  • Slow AF in live view
  • Smartphone app offers nearly no camera control
  • Mushy 8-way controller on rear

Handling

The D750 offers a user experience that will be quite familiar to current owners of Nikon DSLRs, especially higher-end models. Those who are new to the system may find the controls a bit intimidating at first, with a ton of buttons, dials, and switches scattered on nearly every side of the body. Some of the buttons and switches feel a bit out of reach, especially those on the left half of the camera. The good news is that more accessible buttons can be customized to handle those functions that aren't that easy to reach.

While not as robustly sealed as the D810, the D750 is still sealed against the elements and well-constructed. The grip is excellent - it's deep and easy to hold whether your hands are large or small. The only thing that doesn't feel quite right is the eight-way controller on the rear of body, which feels mushy, as it does on most of Nikon's other DSLRs. Photos can be composed via a large optical viewfinder (the same size as on its big brother) with easy-to-read shooting information provided by an OLED layer. The 3.2" tilting LCD comes in especially handy for both video and tripod shooting.

Big Beef Harbor, Seabeck, WA. ISO 100, 1/100 sec, f/5, 31mm. Converted from Raw: exposure +15, highlights -83, shadows +78, whites +24, vibrance -10, saturation +2, tone curve (lights +6, shadows -30), oranges +33.

While it gets very little billing in Nikon's own marketing material, the D750 (like the D810) has very impressive focus tracking capabilities. The combination of a 91,000 pixel metering system and 51-point autofocus system not only allow the D750 to track subjects from fore-to-aft, but also from left-to-right, up-and-down. If something cuts in front of whatever's being tracked, the D750 will (by default) almost never jump away from its target (and there's a setting that allows you to bias this). The camera also has face detection when shooting with the viewfinder, which gives people priority over closer subjects. Low light shooters will be pleased to hear that all 51 of the D750's focus points still work well down to -3EV.

Two less impressive things about the AF system is the relatively narrow spread of focus points and the how few of them are cross-type when compared to its peers.

The D750 is the first Nikon full-frame camera with built-in Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, Nikon's Wi-Fi implementation pales in comparing to what Sony offers on its full-frame mirrorless cameras. Using Nikon's Wireless Mobile Utility app (which refuses to close on Android phones) you can transfer photos from the D750, but the ability to control it is very limited. Support for NFC (near-field communication) would've been nice, as well.

Image Quality

No one will argue about the D750's image quality - it's excellent. The Sony-designed sensor in the D750 produces high resolution images with very little noise and an exceptional amount of dynamic range. Noise levels are very low, even at the highest sensitivities. As shown in our studio test scene and sample gallery, the D750 keeps noise levels very low all the way to the top of its range. Low-contrast detail does get smudged at the highest sensitivities in JPEGs, which can be remedied by switching to Raw.

Glasshouse, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, WA. ISO 100, 1/100 sec, f/5, 31mm

One of the other high-points on the D750 is its expansive dynamic range. If you just point the camera and your subject, the resulting photo will look pretty good, though the D750 tends to overexpose by about 1/3-stop (which is easy to get around by micro-adjusting the metering system). What's really impressive is what the camera can do when you expose for the highlights and let everything else go dark. So much is captured in the shadows that you can brighten them to the desired level with very little increase in noise.

Lest anyone forget, Nikon also bills the D750 as an 'HD-SLR', which means that the camera has a full suite of video recording and output features. You can record video at 1080/60p and 24p (and everywhere in-between) with manual exposure and audio controls. The D750 supports Auto ISO when recording video, allowing you to maintain the desired aperture and shutter speed while using exposure compensation to adjust brightness.

A new 'flat' Picture Control captures video (and stills) with high DR and low contrast, allowing for easier grading in post-production. A 'power aperture' feature allows you to adjust the aperture while recording video,, which allows for smooth transitions when rack focusing. The D750 can also output uncompressed 4:2:2 video over HDMI.  As for the quality, we were quite impressed, as was our friend Andrew Reid over at EOSHD. Colors look good, there's no major artifacting, and rolling shutter is minimal.

Pt. Mugu, near Malibu, CA. ISO 100, 1/640 sec, f/6.3, 70mm.

The Competition

Photographers shopping for a semi-professional full-frame camera have three price levels to choose from. The Nikon D610 and Sony a7 make up the entry-level group, with the Canon EOS 6D, Nikon D750, and Sony a7 II in the middle. At the top sit the Canon EOS 5D Mk III and Nikon D810.

The D750 has numerous advantages over the D610 in terms of autofocus and metering, LCD design, video, and more. The two Sony's are mirrorless cameras, which won't have the focus tracking abilities of a DSLR, but both the a7 and a7 II are much more compact and have high-end video features (though Sony has very few full-frame lenses at this point).

Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, WA. ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/3.2, 66mm.

The main competitor to the D750 is Canon's EOS 6D. The 6D's biggest advantage is its price - $800 less than the D750 when this review was published (though that gap will close over time) - and its wider ISO range and built-in GPS. The D750 cleans up in nearly every other respect.

Moving up to the Canon EOS 5D III and Nikon D810 will cost you another $700 or more and give you more durable bodies, a larger - albeit not necessarily better quality - ISO range and, in the case of the D810, considerably higher resolution (and perhaps a tad bit more dynamic range). As mentioned earlier, the D750 offers a lot a features that the D810 does not, so those who don't need the 36MP resolution can put the savings toward a lens, instead. The EOS 5D III is a nice enough camera, but its sensor and AF systems are behind the times, so unless you have a large collection of Canon lenses, the D750 will fit you better.

The Final Word

It's not often that we review a camera that does nearly everything right. The Nikon D750 is one of those cameras, due in large part to its top-notch sensor and autofocus system. It also wins points for its responsive (but buffer-limited) continuous shooting mode and video quality. While it has a few flaws, they're minor and won't affect the majority of photographers. Given just how good the D750, it should come as no surprise that it's earned our top award.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Nikon D750
Category: Mid Range Full Frame Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The D750 is an exceptional full-frame DSLR that deserves to appeal to enthusiasts and many professionals alike. It offers excellent image quality, an advanced autofocus system, fast continuous shooting, and a host of video features. The only real downsides are limited buffer capacity, slow live view AF, and poor camera control from a smartphone.
Good for
Wedding/action photographers, video enthusiasts
Not so good for
Frequent live view users, those seeking robust camera control from smartphones
90%
Overall score

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