Body and handling

The array of buttons down the left is broadly unchanged, but the Stills/Movie switch and Live View button have moved next to the viewfinder and there's a dedicated AF-On button.

The D780's ergonomics are largely unchanged, compared with its predecessor, which is clearly a good thing, given how well polished the D750 was.

Key takeaways:

  • Gains a dedicated AF-ON button
  • Tilting screen is now touch-sensitive, but the flash has been eliminated
  • No contacts for portrait orientation controls on a battery grip
  • Snapbridge combines Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to give a flexible connection to smart devices
  • Battery can be charged over USB-C

In-depth

The D780 gains an additional button on its back face, giving it a dedicated AF-On button, so you no longer need to re-configure the AFL/AEL button to gain this function. The video/stills switch, which has the live view button at its center, has also been moved to a more prominent position, to reflect its greater usability and hence its presumed more frequent usage.

Touchscreen

Like its predecessor, the D780 has a 3.2" rear screen, mounted on a fairly hefty tilt up/down cradle. Unlike the D750, the screen is touch-sensitive.

This function can be used for accessing menus, zooming and swiping between images in playback and for AF point control and shutter release in live view mode. What it can't be used for, though, is touchpad control of the AF point when the camera is to your eye. It's a feature that most other brands now offer, but Nikon appears to have abandoned, after trialing it in the D5500 and D5600.

No built-in flash

The biggest physical change to the camera, and the one likely to cause the greatest upset to D750 users thinking of upgrading, is the decision to build the D780 with no internal flash unit.

This makes it easier to weather seal the camera, Nikon says, and also brings it into line with the D850, but means you'll need to mount a Speedlight, commander module or wireless radio frequency module on the camera.

There are no contacts on the camera's base, either. In this respect, it's like the Z6: there may be an option to add a two-battery grip at some point in the future, but it won't have duplicate controls for portrait orientation shooting.

Video integration

One thing we've been really impressed with in recent Nikon cameras is how well thought-out their video mode is. The camera retains separate exposure settings for stills and video modes, meaning you don't have to furiously scroll from the fast shutter speeds needed to freeze action in stills mode, to the slow shutter speeds needed to give a smooth look to your video.

But they go far beyond this. If you want your stills and video to match, you can carry all the settings over, but if you want to do things differently (in terms of color mode or white balance, for instance), you can specify different values for movie mode. You can also set up a different version of the camera's 'i' function menu for movie shooting and even define the camera's custom buttons differently.

This makes it unusually quick and easy to jump from the optimal stills setup to your preferred movie settings, without having to constantly reconfigure. This is likely to be a huge usability benefit to anyone who dabbles in both disciplines.

Snapbridge Wi-Fi system

We weren't big fans of the first version of Snapbridge (it wasn't very reliable and meant you could only use the Wi-Fi with Nikon's app), but it's improved significantly since that point. As always, it uses a constant Bluetooth connection to control interactions between an Apple or Android smart device and the camera. It works comparatively seamlessly, and lets you transfer Raw files and videos from the camera, as well as JPEGs.

You have the choice whether to auto send 2MP versions of your images, to only transfer the images you've pre-selected in-camera, or to manually transfer images one at a time.

Battery life

The D780 promises an impressive level of battery endurance, when shot through the viewfinder. It will charge over its USB-C socket if you use it in the more battery-intensive live view mode.

The D780 utilizes the same EN-EL15b battery as the full-frame Z models. The camera is back-compatible with older versions of the EN-EL15 battery but you'll need at least an 'a' variant to get full battery life and the latest 'b' variant if you want to charge over the camera's USB-C socket.

Battery life is rated to an impressive 2260 shots per charge for viewfinder shooting. No figure has yet been given for live view mode (somewhere around the Z6's 380 shots per charge seems a reasonable assumption).

It's normal to get many more shots than these ratings imply, of course. The viewfinder figure is high enough that you'll essentially never need to worry about charging, while a rating of approximately 350 shots per charge would still give you a decent amount of flexibility for a day's committed shooting or a more casual weekend of shots, before you needed to start thinking about where your USB-C lead is.

An MH-25a external battery charger is provided, making it easy to keep a spare battery topped-up, if you do find yourself taking a lot of shots in live view.