Nikon has just launched the D780 at CES 2020, a follow-up to the Nikon D750 of 2014. Similarly situated at the more accessible end of the full-frame DSLR offerings, the D780 seems to be the culmination of lessons learnt by Nikon on the Z series mirrorless cameras.
While on the surface, the D780 seems like an incremental update to the D750 with an identical pixel count and overall form factor, many of the changes are beneath the hood. Sharing the same 24-megapixel backside illuminated (BSI) sensor as the one found on the Z6, the D780 stands to gain from its new dual gain sensor design.
This enables dual sensor readout modes: one delivering maximum dynamic range, and another with a higher sensor gain for better performance with higher ISOs.
Another improvement we can expect from the new sensor design is a faster readout, which also impacts video performance with 4K UHD readout at 30p from across the whole full-frame sensor, along with a maximum of 12 fps of continuous shooting (electronic shutter) in 12-bit Raw.
Like the sensor, the autofocus system is an identical 51-point module as the D750 from half a decade ago. However, it borrows the RGB metering sensor and AF algorithms from the D5 for improved autofocus, especially when tracking moving subjects.
Over the D750, the D780 also boasts shutter speeds a stop faster at 1/8000 over the 1/4000 limit of its predecessor. For astrophotographers, the D780 offers up to 900 seconds of exposure.
Nikon’s Z6 also yielded improvements in the D780’s live view department. This includes a 273-point phase detection AF system with 90% frame coverage that goes down to -4EV extendable to -6EV in low light AF mode.
However, continuous shooting in live view is limited to 3 frames per second, which can be increased by switching to electronic shutter at 8 fps (14-bit RAW) or 12 fps (12-bit RAW) in exchange for risk of banding and distortion.
In terms of storage, the D780 supports dual UHS-II SD cards – compared to the single XQD card slots on both the Z6 and Z7 mirrorless cameras.
In addition to full-sensor readout 4K UHD shooting at 30 fps, the D780 delivers 1080p video at 120 fps, improving slow-motion performance when compared to the 60fps 1080p video on the D750.
These improved video specs also benefit from the improved on-sensor autofocus system that offers subject tracking, along with a touchscreen, focus peaking, N-Log and HLG for HDR compatibility.
I/O on the Nikon D780 includes dual 3.5mm sockets for mic and headphones, along with HDMI that supports 10-bit output. It also offers USB-C for charging.
The Nikon D780 also improves on weather sealing, although Nikon had to remove the onboard flash to implement it.
On top of the hardware and under-the-hood improvements are other genre-specific improvements. Multi-exposure shooting is possible after the fact with the possibility to superimpose previously-taken photos in playback.
In addition to the time-lapse movie mode, the D780 now offers an interval timer shooting mode that acts as an intervalometer, allowing for retention of RAW files and greater control.
It also offers the focus-stacking mode brought over from the D850, which fires off up to 300 images over a range of focus points. The resultant images can then be processed in post for landscape and macro applications.