The Nikon D780 vs D750, what’s different, which should you buy, and what about the Nikon Z6 and Z6 mk2?
Released in 2020, the Nikon D780 is an enhanced version of 2014’s Nikon D750 and features the technology and sensor found in the Z6 mirrorless camera. As a result, the D780 has an optical viewfinder and native compatibility with F-mount lenses. And, via live view only, the Z6’s 4K video, on-screen exposure preview, and eye-detect autofocus.
Of course, it’s not cheap being a Z6 and a D750, and as you might expect, the D780 costs more than either. So should you buy a Nikon D780 or save your cash and buy a Z6 or D750 instead. Jump to Conclusion | Buy Nikon D780
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What is the Nikon D780
The Nikon D780 is a tough, weather-sealed Nikon DSLR featuring the full-frame 24-megapixel BSI sensor found in Nikon’s Z6. Learn how image sensors work
Whilst shooting through the optical viewfinder, the Nikon D780 shoots at 7 frames per second using an enhanced version of the Nikon D750’s 51 point autofocus system. Being a DLSR, the Nikon D780 will shoot more than 2000 photos before the battery runs dry.
Alternatively, you can disable the optical viewfinder and switch to Liveview (using the rear screen). In live view, the Nikon D780’s burst rate improves to 12 frames per second, and you have access to ‘mirrorless’ perks such as exposure preview, eye-detect autofocus, and silent shooting.
Thanks to the new sensor, the Nikon D780 is the first Nikon DSLR to feature decent video-based autofocus and delivers modern-day specifications such as 4K30p and 10-Bit N-Log capture for superior grading.
In other words, the Nikon D780 is a very good video camera and easily the best video DSLR Nikon has ever made.
Nikon D780 vs Nikon D750
Physically, it’s hard to tell the Nikon D780 and D750 apart. Although both cameras share a similar button layout, the D780 gains dedicated AF-On and ISO buttons (both customizable options on the D750).
Despite the D780 being a heavier camera, it lacks the in-built flash of its predecessor.
Both camera’s feel great to use and are built like tanks.
Although both cameras feature 24-megapixel full-frame sensors, the Nikon D780’s is backside-illuminated (BSI). As a result, the Nikon D780’s sensor has a one-stop advantage over the Nikon D750. Or in other words, photos look a little cleaner at higher ISOs. Learn about stops in photography.
When shooting through the optical viewfinder, the Nikon D780 shoots at 7 frames per second versus the Nikon D750’s 6.5. And whilst the Nikon D750’s buffer slowed after shooting 14 photos (Raw), the Nikon D780 can chug-out more than 50.
In addition, the Nikon D780 features modern-day luxuries such as wireless image transfer (snap bridge), GPS, and a high-resolution touch screen for swiping through your photos. Although the older Nikon D750 features wireless image transfer and remote capture, it’s not at all good.
However, the Nikon D780’s advantages over the D750 becomes apparent when you disable the optical viewfinder and switch to shooting in live view.
Whilst the Nikon D750 combined 1080p footage and awful autofocus, the Nikon D780 captures 4K30p with excellent, eye-detect autofocus.
For stills, using live view improves the burst rate to 12fps, offers silent shooting, and delivers frame-wide autofocus coverage with face and eye-detect.
Nikon D780 vs D750 Summary
As can be seen, the Nikon D780 takes the best aspects of the still-excellent D750 and adds a little speed and a few modern perks. Should you still buy a Nikon D750
However, the Nikon D780 shows its true colors when you lift the mirror and switch it to its Z6-inspired live view. While the D780’s live view clearly exceeds the capabilities of the old D750, it also exceeds the capabilities of the D780 when shooting through the optical viewfinder.
As soon as you return the D780 from LiveView to the optical viewfinder, you lose access to video, silent shooting, and exposure preview. Furthermore, continuous shooting slows, autofocus coverage shrinks, and you can kiss goodbye to Eye-AF.
For some, switching from live view back to the optical viewfinder will feel like stepping back in time. And if you do crave the Nikon D780 for its Z6 functionality, you could just buy the smaller, lighter, and cheaper Nikon Z6
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Nikon D780 vs Nikon Z6
Whilst the D780 is only a Z6 in live view, the Z6 is a Z6 whether you use the rear screen or its excellent electronic viewfinder.
Furthermore, the cheaper, smaller, and lighter Nikon Z6 features in-body image stabilization for smoother video and camera shake-free photos. How to avoid camera shake
When released, the case for buying Nikon D780 was partly based on the Z6’s shortcomings. At release, the Z6 and Z7 suffered awkward and unreliable autofocus systems. And while the D780 and other Nikon DSLRs provide the security of two card slots, the Z6 and Z7 have one.
Today, the Z6/7’s autofocus has been vastly improved thanks to a series of firmware updates,. And while the Nikon Z6 will always have a single card slot, the newer Z6mk2 features two.
Even so, no Z camera offers the organic appeal of an optical viewfinder. Nor does any come close to matching the Nikon D780’s compatibility with AF-D (and older) F mount lenses.
Therefore, to keep using your F-mounts lenses whilst dabbling in video, the Nikon D780 could be your best option.
However, the Nikon D780 will never, ever, be compatible with Nikon’s growing line-up of Z lenses. And so far, Nikon’s Z lenses have proven superior to their F-Mount equivalents. So while the Nikon D780 enables you to keep your old lenses going – it will not drive Nikon’s latest technologies.
Should you buy a Nikon D780?
The D780 operates as two cameras, giving it two different personalities.
Traditional, video-indifferent photographers looking for a DSLR-style shooting experience will enjoy the D780. Yet, they would also enjoy the cheaper and very capable Nikon D750. See Nikon D750 review for 2020
On the other hand, photographers looking for contemporary features will get better value from the Nikon Z6. Even though the Nikon D780 has some Z features, the Z6 is smaller, cheaper, and has in-built image stabilization. Although the Z6 won’t drive older F-mount lenses, it will drive newer AF-S and AF-P lenses just fine (via the FtZ adapter) and the latest Z mount lenses.
And that leaves the people in the middle. The traditionalist, optical viewfinder loving, DSLR owner with a bag of F-mount glass looking to record decent video between shooting stills. If this sounds like you, the Nikon D780 is the only sensible choice out there.