Nikon D750: Thoughts From a Fashion & Portrait Photographer (Updated)

December 09, 2015  •  2 Comments

Summary

When shooting primarily fashion and fashion portraiture, the Nikon D750 is mostly good, occasionally bad, but never ugly. I think it is a fine mid-range, general purpose camera that many photographers, including wedding and perhaps some sports photographers, would appreciate. 

Here are a couple of my favorite images shot with the D750. 

Background

Anyone considering a purchase of Nikon’s newest full-frame Digital SLR, the D750, will find no shortage of reviews on photography blogs, vendor websites, and in professional publications. Many of the reviews take a highly technical approach, while others focus on utility for specific contexts. Regardless of the approach undertaken by the respective authors of the reviews, there appears to be a general consensus that the D750 is by and large a very good general use camera for photography enthusiasts and professionals. 

Among the greatest strengths often mentioned in reviews are the following:

1. Excellent low-light capability (good ISO range and limited noise when shooting in low light settings)
2. Remarkable focusing system that’s similar to its much more expensive sibling, the D4s
3. Diminutive size and light weight make it ideal for extended usage
4. Generally good image quality with images that are relatively sharp out of camera
5. Price, Price, Price - As far as full frame cameras go, the price point is good

The apparent shortcomings of the D750 are also mentioned in several of the reviews:

1. A redesigned hotshoe that creates failure of several mainstream triggers and speedlights 
2. Serious issues with moire when shooting at some angles, even with the best lenses
3. Shading issues in some parts of images - a matter Nikon has attempted to address
4. Artificial limitations on how the built-in WiFi can be used
5. Buttons have shared functions (unlike its larger siblings) creating some ergonomic issues 

My Context

I have been shooting fashion and portraiture for well over a decade. Several years ago, I made the transition from Canon to Nikon. My last Canon body was the original 5D. Since then, my cameras have included the D300/300s (crop sensor), D700 (my primary bodies for several years), the D610 (a very short lived stint), and the D800 and D810 (my current primary bodies). Today, I shoot with the D810 for most fashion projects. My decision to add the D750 as a backup body was in part precipitated by my desire for a smaller form factor and slightly lower pixel density than the D810. I was clear when purchasing the D750 that it was not going to be my primary camera for shooting fashion. 

Once the camera arrived, however, I thought it would be appropriate to determine if it could  in fact be more than my backup. I shot exclusively with it for about 3 weeks in studio, on location, and in varied light settings to have a rounded perspective on its capabilities. But to be clear, I am not a wedding photographer or landscape photographer. While I occasionally shoot weddings and landscapes, those are not my primary interest. Rather, my focus is on fashion and fashion portraiture. Yet, I imagine my thoughts would have some relevance for other shooting contexts/genres as well.

Here are a couple more of my favorite images shot with the D750

What I Like About the D750 

Dynamic Range: Since I shoot primarily fashion, I do most of my work with strobes. Of course, depending on what look the client or I wish to achieve, I use a light meter to create specific ratios of ambient vs light from the strobes. Precision lighting is important to me. But with the D750, I’ve been tempted to do some fashion portraiture with ambient light only. It functions extremely well in most low light situations. And given its dynamic range, recovery of highlights and shadows in Adobe Lightroom, Capture One Pro, and DxO Optics Pro is all but a breeze. 

Autofocus: Simply put, the autofocus on the Nikon D750 is outstanding. In circumstances where my D810 hunts to lock in the focus, the D750 finds it quickly, allowing me to capture sharp, in-focus images 99% of the time. As you could imagine, it’s a photographer’s dream come true, particularly for a $2,000 non-professional body. 

Built-in WiFi: I am also fond of the fact that the D750 has built-in WiFi. When shooting on location, tethering has always been problematic. I’ve tried a number of wired solutions that often fell short. With the built in WiFi, I am able to use a delightful iOS app called Shuttersnitch to wirelessly tether to my iPad when shooting on location. WiFi is a great utility in such cases, and being able to wirelessly tether to my iPad Air, and transfer JPEGs copies of my raw files is very useful for getting feedback from stylists, models, and assistants. 

Tilting Screen: The adjustable LCD on the back of the D750 is simply delightful when using LiveView and shooting at lower angles. Not having to lie on the ground in contorted positions like the twenty-something year old photographers are apt to do, is a God send. Placing the camera low for those cinematic fashion shots and simply looking down to the tilted screen is a good thing. 

Size and Weight: While I have always enjoyed the heft of the larger bodies like my D800 and D810 (sometimes with an added battery grip), I was surprised how much I learned to appreciate the smaller size and light weight of the D750. I shot with it for several hours and didn’t feel the strain I am accustomed to feeling after a full day of shooting. 

What I Do Not Like About the D750

Moire: I was unpleasantly surprised that for a camera with an anti-aliasing filter, moire on the D750 can be horrible. I photographed an elected official recently. He was wearing, as you will notice in the image below, a patterned suit.  Yet, as you can see, it is quite visible. Even with the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR II, the moire was very apparent. And it was not easy to remove in post processing. This image is the result of much effort to fix the moire problem. This is a veritable “no no” for fashion photography, and is one of the reasons the D750 is a backup body, not a primary one for me. 

Shutter Speed: The fastest shutter speed at which one can shoot the D750 is 1/4000. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this as a minor issue. The difference between 1/4000 and 1/8000 (the latter being typical of professional bodies) is one full stop. In practical terms, a shutter speed of 1/4000 lets in twice as much light as 1/8000. When shooting fashion in direct sunlight and relying on high speed sync, that one stop makes a significant difference. Since I shoot fashion on location, often in bright sunlight, this issue is significant enough where the D750 could not be my primary body. 

Eyecup: It’s amazing how easy it is for the eyecup on the D750 to simply slide off and disappear. Sometimes, simply placing the camera in the bag causes the eyecup to slide out. This has occurred often enough to be an irritant. I understand that Nikon did not want to put the more expensive fixed eyecup of the professional bodies in this camera, but they certainly could have done better. Ultimately, this does not affect image quality, and falls more in the realm of what irritates. 

Missing/Shared Buttons: Given the smaller size of the D750 body, in comparison with the larger bodies, some compromises in terms of number of buttons were apparently made. There is not, for example, a dedicated AF-ON button on the rear of the camera. Of course, one could (as I have done) remapped the AE-L/AE-F button for back button focusing. Other functions like ISO and White Balance do not have dedicated buttons either. In the world of professional photographer, dedicated buttons help with ergonomics and easy work flow. With these functions sharing buttons with other functions, more time and a little more effort is required to make changes. Again, one can remap buttons. But this is a compromise. For this reason also, I would not make the D750 a primary body for shooting fashion. 

Final Thoughts

I have no regrets about adding the D750 to my bag. I purchased it with a clear understanding of the limitations in my shooting context. The fact is, I still enjoy using it, particularly for general portraiture. I think it renders skin tones well, an provide images that the average client would enjoy. For shooting primarily fashion and fashion related portraiture, the Nikon D750 is mostly good, occasionally bad, but never ugly. I think it is a fine mid-range, general purpose camera that many photographers, including wedding and perhaps some sports photographers, would appreciate. 

 

** UPDATE - December 27, 2015 **

 

The decision to do a brief update on my thoughts about the Nikon D750 was precipitated by the realization that my initial writeup did not reflect a couple specific emergent issues with which I became familiar after extended field use (8 weeks). The issues are specifically related to exposure and white balance. An important caveat to add here is that these are not likely to be of concern if shooting with two D750 bodies, or with one of the crop sensor bodies like the D7200. Specifically it relates to differences that become readily apparent if, like me, you shoot with the high megapixel Nikon bodies - the D810 and the D800. 

The Issue with Exposure

It is not uncommon for different cameras to have slight variations in exposure, even when shooting in manual mode. Exposure accuracy is important to me. So apart from the TTL metering I sometimes use when shooting with the Profoto B1 system, I depend on an incident meter to ensure accuracy. I have, for example, metered a scene for 1/200, f/5.6, ISO 100 in the studio. While my Nikon D810 rendered the image perfectly at those settings, my colleague’s Canon EOS 5Ds was somewhat underexposed. Of course, the meter can be calibrated to accommodate the variations in the two systems. 

What surprised me, however, is that the D750 would often render the images 2/3 to 1 full stop under what the D810 would render at the same metered setting. My surprise is not that there is a variation, but that it is so significant, and that it comes from the same manufacturer. For me as a fashion shooter, what this means is that I cannot mix shots from the two cameras in the same project without looking out for the exposure variations. When combined with the next issue, it is even more important. 

The Issue with White Balance

Cameras, particularly the modern DSLRs, are built based on certain standards. International Standards Organization (ISO) settings, borrowed from the days of film, are uniform. ISO 200 doubles the exposure of ISO 100. Similarly, ISO 1600 doubles the exposure of ISO 800. White balance is also standards based, and is measured in kelvins. For example, 5500 (+ or - 500) is typically considered daylight. Ultimately, when shooting in raw format, this isn’t terribly important, as white balance could easily be adjusted in post processing. Generally speaking, I shoot most images at about 5000 kelvins, and make adjustments in post processing. 

During a recent project, I decided to shoot some of the images wth the D750. Since I was tethered to Capture One Pro 9 on a MacBook Pro, I was able to see immediately how the images appeared. I wasn’t terribly concerned about the bluish hue, even though at 5000 kelvins, the images should have appeared warmer. I simply said I would make the adjustment in post processing. 

Once I was back at my main cataloging and editing machine, I looked at the images in Capture One Pro and in Adobe Lightroom. Once I adjusted - by the numbers - the white balance was woefully off. I compared images shot with the D810 at the very same settings, including white balance, made similar adjustments, and the color correction was on point. Of course I use only color calibrated displays to ensure accuracy. 

Perhaps it’s My Copy

I assumed for a moment that perhaps there is some sort of calibration issue with my copy. But I recently spoke with a friend and colleague who is a wedding photographer on the Eastern Caribbean island of Tobago. Like me, he recently purchased a D750. However, his primary body is a D800. He wrote an early morning message to me a couple days ago expressing concern that something may be off with his D750. He had not noticed the white balance issue in his shooting setting, but he was concerned that there was a significant difference in exposure when he shot with his D750 and D800. He lamented that all manual settings on both cameras were the same. All lighting was the same.  It was so significant that he could not utilize his regular batch editing processes, since that would leave many of the wedding images noticeably underexposed. 

What Does It All Mean? 

In my previous thoughts about the D750, I indicated that it is a very good general use camera. And friends who are wedding photographers laud its low-light capabilities. For me however, it could not be a primary body for the type of shooting I do. If you use two camera bodies, I suspect 2 copies of the D750 would work fine for the typical shooter. From all indications the exposure and white balance are similar on the D7200 as well. If, like me, your primary body is a D810 or D800, the D750 can only function as an adequate backup camera if the two cameras are not used interchangeably for a single critical commercial or fashion project. Of course, you can always go through a collection, isolate the images produced by each camera, and adjust them separately. In a busy workflow environment that is simply a time consuming effort that may not be worthwhile. 

My recommendation is that if you shoot fashion and commercial work, two D810 bodies would be a better direction to take than one D810 and one D750. Both cameras are good, but in the interest of consistency, I recommend going with the two higher pixel bodies. If you have more basic production needs, where the high pixel count is overkill, then two D750 bodies will certainly do the job.

Here are a few more of my favorite images shot with the  D750 Images 

About me

I am David Fraser, a university academic, photographer, and techie. I have been a photographer for roughly 15 years, and have shot across the US, the Eastern Caribbean, and South America. Today, I shoot primarily fashion and portraiture. I live and work in Eastern Contra Costa County. 


Comments

Mario(non-registered)
Hi can you send me your d750 camera setting by email?
Fran(non-registered)
Hello from Spain! Very very good review! My english is not very good but I understood almost everything. I am not a profesional photographer but I am thinking to buy a d750. I have now a d5000. I take pictures for a fashion blog (from my gf). I want to go for a better camera, and I am considering d750 or d610. D800 is out of my badget. Any way, very good review.
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