While Nikon continues to push forward with their new Z-series of mirrorless cameras and lenses, the camera maker, even so, remains committed to DSLRs, as evidenced by their latest unveiling: a successor to the wildly popular D750 full-frame DSLR. The new Nikon D780 maintains the familiar design and ergonomics of the D750 along with some niceties from the Nikon D850, but it also brings over some superb features from the mirrorless Z6 camera, such as its 24MP sensor with 273 phase-detect pixels, Eye-detect AF, 4K UHD video and 10-bit N-log output.
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Nikon D780: Price
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The brand new Nikon D780 seems like a genuine hybrid camera, even more so than the multimedia-heavy D750. Though on the outside, the camera looks and likely feels very similar to its predecessor, the vastly improved Live View performance and shooting features — not to mention the more advanced video capabilities — will undoubtedly be welcomed improvements for long-time Nikon DSLRs owners looking to upgrade finally.
Let’s dive in to get the full lay of the land on the updated Nikon D780 full-frame DSLR…
Nikon D780: Key Features and Specs
- Updated 24.5-megapixel full-frame backside illuminated sensor
- EXPEED 6 image processor
- Native ISO range of 100-51200; expandable to 204800
- Similar Live View features as Nikon Z6
- 273 on-chip phase-detect sensors with Face/Eye tracking AF
- OVF focusing: 51-point AF system with D5 algorithms
- Updated shutter: 900s up to 1/8000s
- 7fps continuous burst; 12fps with Silent Shooting in Live View
- 4K video up to 30p; Full HD up to 120fps
- 10-bit N-Log
- 4K in-camera time-lapse creation
- USB-C in-camera charging
- 2x UHS-II SD cards
- Tilting 3.2-inch touchscreen
- Weather-sealed construction
Nikon D780: Design & Build Quality
As the product photos will attest, the exterior design of the Nikon D780 looks vastly similar to the previous D750. The overall size and shape, and also the general button and control layout, remain mostly unchanged, which should make the D780 familiar territory for long-time Nikon DSLR owners.
The D780 maintains that classic Nikon DSLR design with smooth contouring, a deep handgrip, and the characteristic red accent market. Much like with the D750, the new models keep its robust, weather-sealed build quality with durable hybrid construction comprising a magnesium alloy chassis, metal lens mount, and a carbon fiber-reinforced front panel. In simpler terms, it looks to be just one more solid offering from Nikon in the construction department.
One of the notable changes to the camera’s design is the removal of the built-in pop-up flash, which Nikon stated was done to improve the camera’s weather sealing. Though many professional-oriented DSLRs, such as the D5 and D850, tend to lack a pop-up flash, it’s a very convenient feature to have got in a pinch whenever a little illumination is needed for a shot. Of course, the camera features a hot shoe for mounting an external flash, and the D780 is compatible with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System.
On the top deck of the camera, once again, there are no drastic adjustments to speak of. The mode dial — through simplified slightly with a few fewer options — sits to the left of the viewfinder, while the helpful details panel display sits to the right. Nikon provides, however, added a dedicated ISO button directly behind the shutter release button, mimicking the button arrangement on the popular D850.
Nikon D780: Image Quality & Shooting Features
At the heart of the camera is an updated 24.3-megapixel full-frame BSI CMOS image sensor paired with Nikon’s latest-generation EXPEED 6 image processor (up from the EXPEED 4 chip of the D750). Despite similarities in still image resolution compared to the predecessor, the sensor within the D780 is, actually, different in that it also includes a 273 on-chip phase-detect autofocus sensor, making this the initial Nikon DSLR to offer phase-detection AF in Live View, and quite an exciting upgrade.
The sensor in the D780 is likely the same 24MP chip powering the Z6 full-frame mirrorless camera, and as such, this new DSLR sports many of the same Live View shooting features, which we’ll discuss more further down.
In terms of stills shooting performance, the D780 offers an updated, more expansive ISO range, with a native range of ISO 100 up to ISO 51,200, whereas the D750 topped-out at a native high ISO of just 12,800. The D780 offers further sensitivity expansion down to a low ISO of 50 and up to ISO 204,800 for extreme low-light shooting, such for example surveillance.
The camera also features an updated shutter mechanism that allows for faster shutter speeds, up from 1/4000s to 1/8000s. Additionally, borrowing a feature from the astrophotography-specific D810a, slow shutter speed performance has also been significantly improved, allowing you to shoot long exposure shots right down to a crazy-long 900s (a quarter-hour)!
When it comes to speed and performance, the D780 isn’t the fastest game in town, but it’s no slouch either, offering faster burst shooting over its predecessor. With the mechanical shutter, the D780 can shoot full-resolution images at up to 7fps (up from 6.5fps), though if you switch to Live View and enable Silent Shooting (i.e., electronic shutter), you can shoot at up to 12fps (at 12-bit RAW; 8fps with 14-bit RAW).
Nikon D780: Autofocus
Among the significant brand-new features of the Nikon D780 may be the updated sensor with on-chip phase detect — a first for a Nikon DSLR. As mentioned, the camera uses the same 273-point hybrid AF focusing system from the Nikon Z6 for Live View shooting, providing AF coverage across approximately 90% of the image sensor. The Live View AF system incorporates phase-detection AF, allowing for fast and smooth AF performance for both stills and video. Additionally, the use of the Z6’s AF system allows the D780 to also offer Face and Eye-Detection AF tracking, in both stills and video shooting.
For optical viewfinder shooters, the Nikon D780 maintains a similar 51-point AF system as in the D750. However, Nikon says they’ve updated the AF algorithm with the one from the flagship D5. The OVF focusing system offers 15 cross-type AF points and uses an updated 180K-pixel Advanced Scene Recognition System for better exposure and color reproduction. According to Nikon, the OVF focusing system is rated down to -4EV, enabling exceptional low-light focusing capabilities.
Nikon D780: Video
In addition to greatly improved Live View autofocusing, the D780 is also kitted with a healthy array of high-end video features borrowed from the Z6 mirrorless camera. The D780 captures 4K UHD (3804 x 2160) video at up to 30p (25p and 24p also) using the entire width of the sensor and with full pixel readout. Additionally, the camera captures Full HD at up to 120fps for excellent slow-motion shooting.
Video recording time is sadly not unlimited, with sustained video recording capped at 20 minutes for the highest quality setting and 29 min 59 sec for standard quality. The camera records video in MOV format with H.264/MPEG-4 compression and Linear PCM audio.
For high-end shooting and additional video workflow support, the D780 can capture 10-bit video with N-Log or HDR (HLG, Hybrid Log-Gamma) video support out via the HDMI connection. Other video features include focus peaking, highlight display (stripes), time code support, and in-camera slow-motion and timelapse movie creation.
Nikon D780: Battery, Connectivity & Storage
Using the EN-EL15b rechargeable Li-ion battery, the Nikon D780 is usually CIPA-rated to 2260 shots per charge, which is considerably better than the predecessor. Furthermore, the camera includes a SuperSpeed USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port with support for in-camera charging, giving you the option to charge the camera without the need for a standalone battery pack charger. The camera provides a Type C mini-HDMI port and SnapBridge wireless connectivity with wifi and Bluetooth Low-Energy connectivity.
For storage, the camera gains a nice upgrade over the predecessor, offering dual UHS-II SD card slots.
Nikon D780: Conclusion
The Nikon D780 is a DSLR with a 24 Megapixel full-frame sensor, uncropped 4k video with autofocus, 7fps burst shooting through the optical viewfinder, and a tilting touchscreen. Nikon’s not saying for sure, but the D780 almost certainly adopts the sensor from the Z6 mirrorless camera. As such, it shoots 24 Megapixel images with a full-frame sensor, films uncropped 4k video at 24, 25 or 30p (with a 10-bit option over HDMI), supports 1080 up to 120p for slow motion, and features confident embedded phase-detect autofocus with face and eye detection in Live View. So while the photo resolution may end up being the same as the D750, the video quality can be much improved, and the autofocus for both movies and Live View is a huge step-up.
The optical viewfinder employs the same 51-point AF system as the D750, but now coupled with the more capable metering sensor from the D5 which promises better tracking in addition to a more confident evaluation of the exposure. Completing the upgrades are Dual UHS-II card slots, USB-charging, a touchscreen that angles vertically, SnapBridge wireless with wifi and Bluetooth, and the fastest shutter of 1/8000. However, D750 owners may lament the loss of the pop-up flash. Ultimately the D780 is undoubtedly all about refreshing one of Nikon’s most popular full-frame DSLRs with the live view and movie benefits of the mirrorless Z6 while retaining a DSLR optical viewfinder and native F-mount capability. As such, it’s a solid offering, although do compare closely with the Nikon Z6 mirrorless, which may not have got dual slots but usually is cheaper and provides a native Z-mount along with F-mount support via an adapter.