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Nikon D780 Tested To The Limits Review - Performance

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Nikon D780 Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.


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Nikon D780 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Colour reproduction is very pleasing, with excellent skin tones, and good levels of saturation straight out of the camera. For more "pop" the Vivid colour setting can be used.

Portraits – using the optical viewfinder, the camera has face detection, however, in a portrait shoot we found this wasn’t always reliable in terms of getting the focus correct (on the eyes), and also wasn’t particularly reliable in getting the exposure correct (for the subjects face), most likely due to the subject falling outside of the focus area. Switching to live view, we were able to benefit from face and eye detection focus, and this worked flawlessly, as well as correctly set the exposure for the subjects face.

For the most part, exposure is reliable, although there can be a slight difference between the exposure when using the optical viewfinder and live-view modes, with the live-view exposure being more accurate, and requiring less monitoring (and subsequent adjustment). D-Lighting can be used to boost shadow areas in the image, although we kept this on the low setting for these photos. The camera offers excellent dynamic range, with great results in the JPEG images. If additional recovery of shadow detail (or highlights) is necessary then the raw files give additional possibilities, and can easily be adjusted in-camera.

The camera offers a built-in HDR shooting mode, with the camera using the electronic shutter to take a number of shots and combine the image(s) in-camera. Care needs to be taken to ensure your subject or the scene isn't moving otherwise you can end up with a blurred image. The camera gives the option to save the original raw files, and this means you can go back to the original shot should your JPEG not turn out how you had hoped.

Built-in raw processing can be very handy to quickly correct an exposure mistake (particularly if you've dialled in -0.7 exposure compensation and then taken a series of photos with this mistakenly left on), and you can even select multiple images and process them all at the same time.



Nikon D780 Lens test images

Lens Performance - We used the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR lens, the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens, and the AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens, and found that they all performed very well with the D780. For a more detailed analysis of these lenses, feel free to click the links, and have a look at our full reviews.

We particularly liked the 70-200mm f/4G, and it's relatively compact and lightweight size and excellent handling made it particularly enjoyable to use. It also made for a versatile portrait lens. Flare was very rarely seen, but we did manage to capture it in one or two of our shots (out of about 2000), so have included an example above. There are vignette correction, diffraction compensation and auto distortion control options to automatically correct lens distortion.

Detail and resolution captured by the camera are impressive, with pleasing results straight from the camera, particularly in terms of sharpness, when using these lenses. We didn't feel the need to process the images for additional sharpness, although there are options built-in to the camera if you wanted to adjust the settings. The built-in Vibration Reduction (VR) helped keep shots stable and improved the view through the viewfinder.

In very low-light, the standard AF system struggled, and photographing something like the Aurora Borealis is likely to be darker than any current camera can automatically focus on, so that manual focus was required. In other lighting conditions focus was excellent.



Nikon D780 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The camera offers an extended ISO range, with speeds down to ISO50 available, albeit with reduced dynamic range recorded. Noise performance is excellent from ISO100 all the way up to ISO3200. It's not until ISO6400 that we start to see a slight drop in fine detail, with a further drop in detail at ISO12800. Noise performance and control at these ISO speeds remains excellent, with generally low levels of noise, and a "fine grain" look to noise that is visible. Noise becomes more visible at ISO25600 but the camera still produces usable images. At ISO51200 there is a drop in colour saturation, and you may not want to use these images without further processing (or resizing). ISO102400 (Hi1) and above show the highest levels of noise, as well as a visibly processed image so these settings may be best avoided. There are High ISO NR (Noise Reduction) options of High, Normal, Low, and Off. We took these on the default setting of Normal.

The D780 gives noticeably improved noise performance compared to the D750, with much better detail at higher ISO speeds (ISO3200-6400), and higher ISO speeds (ISO12800-ISO25600 and beyond) are vastly improved compared in comparison.



Nikon D780 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) has options for Auto (Keep white), Auto (Keep overall atmosphere), Auto (Keep warm), and you can access these using the menu system or more quickly using the rear i / function button and the on-screen controls. Auto white balance gives a warm result under tungsten (incandescent) lighting, with the "White" option giving a slightly more neutral result. The AWB Warm option gives a much warmer image. The tungsten preset also gives a warm result, so for more accurate whites (and particularly product shots), you may need to use manual white balance. AWB performance under fluorescent lighting is reasonable, with the fluorescent preset giving a slight colour cast. AWB outdoors, in natural lighting is excellent.


Video - The D780 offers uncropped 4K UHD video recording, at frame rates up to 30fps, with 25 and 24fps also available. You can record FullHD video at speeds up to 120fps. Focus uses the on-sensor phase-detection and performed very well. You can use ISO speeds from ISO100 all the way up to ISO204800 (Hi2).

For stabilisation, you can use a lens with Vibration Reduction (VR) built-in, and there is also an option for electronic vibration reduction which can be switch on/off in the menus. Both options help keep video more stable, but neither is perfect and for better results, you'll need to use a tripod or look into additional stabilisations options, whether that's a gimbal or post-processing (and stabilisation in editing software).

Video quality possible is excellent, with high levels of detail captured in the 4K footage we recorded. One thing to be aware of is the amount of noise recorded by the internal microphones in windy conditions. There are options for wind reduction (on/off), and the camera supports Timecode. There are headphone and microphone sockets on the side, plus HDMI out.

You can watch additional videos on the ePHOTOzine YouTube Channel.



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Photographs taken using the Nikon D780

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andybebbs 14 642 1 England
19 Feb 2020 7:11AM
why you would leave the flash off this model is a really poor decision.Sad
kaz84 2
19 Feb 2020 2:19PM
Sounds like an evolution rather than revolution ... i.e not an update for d750 users but an option for new FF entrants. Did you test for shutter shock? If so what were your findings? If not, why?
joshwa Plus
11 927 1 United Kingdom
19 Feb 2020 3:01PM
Hi Kaz84, we took over 2,500 photos and didn't notice it as an issue, with the camera on standard settings.
kaz84 2
19 Feb 2020 8:27PM

Quote:Hi Kaz84, we took over 2,500 photos and didn't notice it as an issue, with the camera on standard settings.

Thank you for responding. I will try to find the speed/focal combination shots in your gallery. A couple of early adopter colleagues are reporting shutter shock at 1/10 - 1/40 sec, 200mm and f/3.5 (nautical & civil twilight landscapes). Obviously one can increase the "ISO" increase the shutter speed.

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