Nikon D750 - Why I still use DSLR's and the 'Mirrorless Myth'

The most impressive thing about the Nikon D750 is undoubtedly the image quality. For stills and video I simply haven't seen anything better. The raw and jpg. images are sharp, clean at all the ISO's I've used so far and as ever Nikon are constantly and consistently improving what they offer photographers with regard to IQ. In terms of internet chatter, this gets little attention, certainly in the circles I move in, where the talk is all about the latest mirrorless 'fluff'. But Nikon, like Leica, concentrate on the important thing, getting the final product, the pictures, as good as possible.

And it should be no surprise that cameras, sensors and how files are captured should constantly improve. It would be more of a surprise if they didn't and I fully expect to keep on using that "This is the best I've used' phrase again and again. Because if I don't, then there isn't much point in buying new gear. And the Nikon D750, because of this and the other options it offers me has moved into the lead for my Soundimageplus Camera of the year.

Specifically, I'm impressed by the image quality for stills because Nikon have managed to get a sensor that has an AA filter to produce results that look like it hasn't got one. The acutance is just extraordinary and the level of detail I can get from the 24MP files, including when I upsize them is VERY impressive. And I'm glad to see that for the higher ISO settings, Nikon have decided to produce very clean, noise processed jpgs. but allow the raw files to retain a great deal of detail and give me the choice as to how much luminance noise I want to remove. This, of course, is in direct contrast to companies like Fuji who embed heavy noise reduction in the raw files, which is why processing X-Trans files via Photoshop and Lightroom produces such soft images. In fact I tried my D750 files in Iridient Developer and they were no sharper than via Photoshop, which is not the case with most of my other cameras.

All of this does make the general rubbishing of DSLR's from certain sections of the photographic internet all the more ridiculous, as well as being totally inaccurate. Because, in addition to all the operational advantages that Nikon DSLR's still have over MCE (Mirrorles / CSC / E.V.I.L) cameras, they also have an advantage when it comes to the files they produce. And again it would be a surprise if images created by 24MP 'full-frame' sensor weren't better than those created by a 16MP m4/3 and APS-C sensor. 

The video is equally impressive with a range of options - 1920 x 1080 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 50p) MPEG-4, H.264. No AVCHD or 'stretched' formats here. Plus a very useful FLAT setting for the footage, which I used above. It is a very neutral setting and useful for post shooting grading.


The mrrorless myth is that somehow what are described as mirrorless cameras (which is in fact everything that's not a DSLR, but is taken to mean something different) are going to take over and replace DSLR's because they are more modern, more feature rich and not the old hat, old-fashioned bulky and heavy 'dinosaurs' of the camera world that DSLR's have become. This is a myth because firstly it isn't true and top of the range DSLR's still outperform 'mirrorless' cameras, they are just as innovative, they outsell 'mirrorless' 2:1 and the sales indicate that ALL interchangeable lens camera sales are dropping proportionately, so 'mirrorless' cameras are loosing sales just as much as DSLR's. And the inroads that mirrorless cameras have made into the sales of the budget end of DSLR's seemingly isn't on the increase anymore . From every sales chart I've seen, there is no indication whatsoever that DSLR's are being replaced by a 'mirrorless' alternative. And of course there is the fact that current 'mirrorless' cameras are starting to look more and more like DSLR's anyway. Plus they work the same way (apart from the the mirror and the through the lens viewfinder) they have the same layouts, options and features and produce images and video in the same way. A radical alternative they aren't. There are smaller lighter 'mirrorless' cameras and lenses, but there are also big, heavier ones and there are also small(er) light(er) DSLR's and lenses as well.

And as far as I'm concerned there is no particular merit in a camera either having a mirror or not. My assessment of a camera and whether it's useful for me is made regardless of which genre it fits into. Currently the D750 offers me more of what I want more than any other camera currently and for me the fact that it's a DSLR is a pretty minor consideration.

Part of this is that I'm somewhat disappointed with some of the options that Sony, Fuji et al. offer me. Battery life is one I bang on about all the time, as is poor video implementation and shutter delay. Yes the D750 is somewhat heavier than most of the mirrorless options on my shelf, but not by enough to make much difference to me. In terms of how heavy the options I take out with me is, lens choice is just as important and I have a number of relatively light lenses without AF motors and built in stabilisation, so in fact the weight of the D750 outfits I'm currently using is not that different to the MCE (Mirrorless, CSC, E.V.I.L) combinations I've been using.

And I do appreciate what the DSLR design gives me. I do actually prefer optical viewfinders, probably because they are what I'm most used to, but they work better for me. I prefer the lack of shutter delay (however small) that means I get the shot I want. I like the 'big camera feel' and the fact that I don't have to constantly be making sure that I don't press the wrong button and I like the overall handling better. It's not always been that way, but it does seem that the more MCE cameras copy DSLR design, the less I like them. Because, in terms of going out and using the gear I own, my current feeling is that I'd rather use the 'real thing' rather than some copy.

And the D750 is constantly proving to me that in operational terms a DSLR is still a much faster camera than the majority of MCE's. My Nikons start up instantly and I've already written about from switched off I can get an image captured with my DF and D750 in less than a second, whereas my Sony FE cameras still take an age before they are even ready to use.*** (see below) I can go for days without charging the battery and when I need live view, the D750 isn't that much slower than my MCE options anyway. So I can turn my DSLR into a 'mirrorless' camera, but not the other way round.

Plus, of course, there is the range of lenses for my Nikons that other options just can't match. The Sony FE series is a 'full-frame' option but has none of the lenses I currently use with my Nikons. In fact I've been using those Nikon lenses on my Sony A7's for some time as I'm not impressed by what's on offer for the FE system, either in terms of lens range, quality or price. For example I'll be getting the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 very soon and that will be an incredibly useful lens for me. Sony have nothing like it, nor do they have anything comparable to my 20mm f/1.8 or the old lenses that I use. My light 28-200mm and 24-85mm zooms are useful and have no Sony equivalent and even my old battered 100mm f/2.8 series E, still beats anything I've tried from Sony at that focal length. (Oh wait, they don't have a prime lens at that focal length do they? or in fact any prime at 100mm or more) In effect the Sony lens choice restricts me as a photographer rather than expand my options.

Yes Fuji and m4/3 have better lens ranges, but with smaller sensors and less MP's. than either of my Nikons. Plus neither system has the low light high ISO capabilities of my DF and I'm pretty sure the D750 can equal or better anything Fuji X can offer me. Sony have the A7s with 12MP, but I wasn't that impressed with that camera's still image rendition and the 24MP 'full-frame' sensor in the D750 and how Nikon have chosen to process the files from it, gives me much more of what I want than any of the MCE alternatives I've been using in recent times. In the past I've constantly written that I always entertained the possibility that I would return to DSLR's if they gave me what I wanted / needed and that is now currently the case. And of course in the future if Sony, Fuji, Samsung, Panasonic or Olympus come out with something that works for me better, I would have no problem with changing again. Because as ever I choose what I use on the basis of how it 'fits' me and with no regard for the class of camera it resides in. And one final point, Nikon regard the D750 as an 'enthusiast' camera, which is interesting since I find it a good deal more professional than all the MCE cameras I've used that aspire to that description. Bottom line is, does the gear I use give me the handling and the image quality I want? And the fact is that currently, the Nikon D750 does and what's left on my rapidly emptying gear shelf doesn't.

***I actually checked this. With both my Nikon Df and D750, from switching on the camera to capturing the image on my card takes less than a second, whereas my Sony A7 II takes between 3 and 4 seconds to actually turn itself on. Add in focusing and saving the image to card and this is around 4-5 seconds from' cold'. Hardly professional spec. or anything close to it. Elvis would definitely have left the building!!