The Nikon D750 - a triumphant confirmation of the continuing relevance of the DSLR

There's a certain kind of photographer / writer / would be internet guru on the photographic internet, probably trying to shore up some falling income and / or the fact that clients aren't picking up the phone quite as much as they did before, who seeks to exploit the gullibility of many, by promoting MCE (Mirrorless / CSC / E.V.I.L ) cameras as the inevitable winners of some phoney war between them and DSLR's. There are even some supposed 'name' photographers who have swapped sponsorship associations with companies like Nikon and Canon for more lucrative 'arrangements' with big electronics giants like Sony, Samsung etc. to do the same thing. All of these gravitate towards the section of the photographic internet that seeks to get it's own back for years of mockery by DSLR owners for being the owners of that wimpy, handbag filler MCE gear. And an attitude has sprung up, which is just as small minded and offensive as that, which purports to promote these MCE alternatives as the future, the 'answer' and the saviour of the interchangeable lens camera market. And just as in the reverse case, it is total BS, meaningless and an insult to the intelligence of those who choose and buy their photographic gear on the basis of merit rather than current fashions. 

I've never subscribed to anything like this and in the past I may have mocked the attitude of a certain kind of DSLR owner and questioned just exactly where some of the leading DSLR manufacturers were headed, but I've never had the slightest doubt that, when they get it right, Nikon and Canon can produce some of the best photographic tools at our disposal. And other companies like Olympus with their DSLR photographers and lengthened arm ad and the awful massage for DSLR users gimmick at the Photography Show in the UK a couple of months ago, just embarrass themselves with this ridiculous nonsense, falling over themselves to achieve new lows in the ways they try to con us and pick our pockets. 

I write over and over again about the irrelevance of camera / brand 'supporters clubs,' the unnecessary and inaccurate misinformation generated in an attempt to persuade us to embrace one kind of picture creating device over another very similar one and the exaggerations, bias and yes even downright lies that come with these farcical attempts to classify photographic gear and continually post pontificating value judgements. Which often have their roots in financial benefit rather than any kind of fair assessment and genuine and honest appraisal of what is on offer to us as photographers. Like the ghastly FIFA there seems to be more interest in some of these 'internet entrepreneurs' lining their pockets rather than giving us any kind of information as to what we might find useful. Which is unfortunate since the opportunities to get our hands on what is newly released these days is diminishing as time passes. 

I've always very firmly believed that I have a responsibility to write honestly and as accurately as possible about my experiences and opinions with and about the gear I use, without seeking to promote an agenda that will benefit me financially and while sometimes I feel that I'm whistling in the wind I will continue to do so, even if it means the meagre income this blog generates lessens. Because primarily I'm a photographer and I make my living doing that and these posts and articles come into existence because I enjoy writing them and it's a nice break from the endless and often tedious workflow that a full-time stock photographer has to endure.

And I'm also someone who rejects a dogmatic approach and likes to keep an open mind about what is available to me as a working professional and photography enthusiast. It is in the light of all that I've written above that I can state that the Nikon D750 is one of the best (if not THE best) cameras I've ever used and also one of the most satisfying and enjoyable to use as well. It is as the title of this article says 'a triumphant confirmation of the continuing relevance of the DSLR' and proof to me that my catholic taste in photographic gear allows me to reap the benefits from using a wide variety of picture creating hardware and keeps me unencumbered by the need to toe any party line or attempt to push any point of view at my audience.

Here, unlike many places on the photographic internet, all things are possible and this is also a place to expect the unexpected. Because creativity and closed minds don't sit well together and embracing different solutions and seeing benefits where before I only saw flaws (and vice versa) is a philosophy I actively cultivate, unlike many of my peers who seem to make their decisions on lowest common denominator writing and a cynical attitude regarding the intelligence of their audience. Because if you want your prejudices reinforced and your purchasing decisions applauded then you've come to the wrong place. This isn't a place for certainty and opinions set in stone but a place where options can be explored and where I constantly question my own attitudes and ways of working. And if that is something that resonates with you then - welcome to my world!

This time of year, with the warm weather about to start, it's very much 'summer landscape season.' Much as I enjoy winter, autumn and spring light and the pictures I can create, commercially for me, images created in summer with sunshine sell much better than images created in other seasons. So basically this is a time when experimentation goes on the back burner and I'm out shooting as much as I can. And at this moment in time I can't think of a more appropriate and useful camera to use than the Nikon D750.

It produces sharp, clean images with a rich colour depth that have 24MP worth of resolution and detail and which can easily be upsized to cope with the most demanding of reproduction needs, With almost instant startup and image capture plus the standard long battery life that all DSLR's provide, I never miss a shot. All in all an incredibly reliable picture creating device that feels like it will work in all circumstances under all conditions. Should I want to I can 'convert it' into a mirrorless type camera with the adjustable live view screen and I was using that yesterday for some high and low level shots. For the stills I create my workflow is simple. Run the raw files through Adobe Camera raw and Photoshop which yields superb results and lets me decide how I want to process. Plus the jpgs. this camera creates are also very good indeed. No load on the noise reproduction and attempt to sharpen them back up here. Plus of course the best dynamic range on any camera I've ever owned. (Yes I think it beats the Df) The camera also shoots high quality video should I want to do that and with it's dual SD card slots when I leave for a days shooting I know that I won't have to carry any extra batteries or extra SD cards and have a self-contained super efficient camera that gets the job done with no fuss. A typical Nikon DSLR in fact.

The two lenses I used yesterday were a Nikon 20mm f/1.8G, one of my favourite ever lenses and the 55-200mm APS-C DX zoom I wrote about in my previous post. I thought I'd take the opportunity here to write more about why I use this latter lens.

Unlike other manufacturers Nikon seem to be inclined to increase the coverage of some of their DX lenses (for APS-C sensors) so that they almost cover a 'full-frame' / 35mm film size sensor. This was noticed some years ago and in response to that Nikon introduced a 1.2x crop option. In the case of the D750 this means that the 24MP full-frame image becomes a 16.7MP cropped image using this setting. As you will appreciate this is preferable to the 10.3MP option available using the standard DX crop. Below is an image showing what the 55-200mm zoom produces with this 1.2x crop.

As you can see, the 1.2x cropped image on the right has no vignetting. Indeed, the 'full-frame' image on the left has very little either and that can be easily removed in Photoshop. As outlined in yesterdays article, this is incredibly useful for me. Since I walk a fair distance most times I'm out shooting, the weight / focal length equation that the 55-200mm provides is very welcome. It's a decent lens as well, it's cheapness relating much more to it's construction (plastic mount etc.) and the number of theses that Nikon will manufacture rather it's optical quality.

I'm planning to complement this with the Nikon 18-35mm zoom, which I have on order. It's in short supply currently but I'm hoping to get one by the weekend. Again this is a lighter lens than might be expected for a 'full-frame' Nikon DSLR lens and is a reflection of many of the new lenses they have been introducing recently. Lighter and smaller and in fact not that much different to many of the MCE lenses now being released.

And it is this lens choice that is one of the reasons I like using Nikons. I have this somewhat odd selection of lenses.

  • Nikon 20mm f/1.8 G
  • Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5
  • Nikon 24-85mm
  • Nikon 28-200mm
  • Nikon 55-200mm APS-C DX
  • Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4
  • Nikon Series E 100mm f/2.8

Most of these aren't made any more and three of them are manual focus, but they serve me very well. You will of course notice that none of them have an equivalent in the Sony FE system. And Nikon do make it possible, at least with their non 'budget' cameras to use lenses from all eras and they also provide the rangefinder dot manual focusing system which makes manually focusing lenses easy, accurate and with none of the screen and EVF 'clutter' that characterises focus peaking.

I have also a pretty long history with Nikon, starting with a F4 in 1991. The list of film and digital Nikon DSLR bodies I've owned is below.

FILM

  • F4
  • F601 (x2)
  • F5 (x2)

DIGITAL

  • D2X
  • D3
  • D700
  • D90
  • D300
  • D7000
  • D5100
  • D800
  • D800E
  • D3200
  • D600
  • Df
  • D750

In fact I used Nikon more than any other brand in terms of camera bodies and I've used a lot of Nikon lenses, including via adapters on Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji, Sony, Samsung, Leica and Canon cameras. So all in all, a bit of a fanboy then!

And I have to say to say that with a few exceptions (The D2X was terrible!!) I've been very happy with everything I've used. Though ultimately it doesn't matter that much, I do like the fact that Nikon are an optical manufacturer primarily.. This isn't a camera division of a multi-national, multi-product electronics conglomerate. Though with the current economic circumstances, who knows where they will end up. It's no accident that I keep coming back to Nikon and Leica, because for me, those two brand names indicate quality, history and a commitment to photography, simply because that is where they make their money. One of the reasons that I'm not intending to invest in Samsung gear, for example, is that if they can't convince enough people buy their cameras they will just close down the camera operation and concentrate on phones, toasters, irons etc. Not so Nikon and Leica. No camera sales. No company.

It is just speculation, but I suspect that this makes Nikon try harder with their DSLR's. I'm still dubious about their reluctance to go seriously into MCE and have the Nikon 1 system as their main non-DSLR system. And I (and a lot of others I suspect) would love to see them resurrect the gorgeous S rangefinder series in some kind of 'mirrorless' form. But this is by the by. With the D750 they have produced yet another superb camera (regardless of whether it's a DSLR or not) and one that in most respects has no equal from Fuji, Sony, Samsung, Olympus or Panasonic. Because despite all the attractions of their MCE cameras (and I've certainly not been shy in writing about them) I keep coming back to Nikon DSLR's. And I have to admit that I'm bewildered by these 'old pro's' who keep writing that the future is m4/3 or Sony FE or whatever. Because, I just can't see it. When I have the time to do it, I'll be putting together a post on just exactly why I think the D750 is a far better camera for me and how I work than the Sony A7 II, which I still have, but never use and will end up on ebay before long.

So am I advocating that everybody should rush out and buy DSLR's again? No of course I'm not, because telling people what to buy (and what to think) is the exact opposite of what this blog is all about. And, of course, the very attitude that I'm criticising in this article. But I will seriously question the notion that DSLR's are dying, old-fashioned or irrelevant. They are far from that. There is also no evidence that MCE cameras will eventually replace them. And that is exactly how it should be, because who wouldn't want DSLR's to thrive after seeing what the D750 can do. Certainly not me.

The Nikon D750 a wonderful camera and it creates wonderful still images and video footage. It also does this in a way and with an efficiency and speed that no mirrorless / CSC / E.V.I.L camera I've used can match. And don't take my word for it. I'm sure, like all Nikon DSLR's cameras it will outsell it's MCE competition by some distance. An inconvenient fact if your career is wrapped up with attempting to hasten DSLR's onto their death beds. But then many who try to convince us that DSLR's are doomed, stopped being open minded, creative photographers some time ago. You can see it in their pictures and in their writing. And yes the market for buying any kind of high quality interchangeable lens system may be diminishing, but with the Nikon D750 that is in inverse proportion to the creative possibilities it opens up. And whatever people think of cameras like this and the people, like me, who use them, those of us who own and use DSLR's will have the last laugh. Because we get to use them and their detractors don't. Which is of course, their loss.