Adventures in photography

In this article I will be explaining why Nikon D750 is awesome, why full-frame is awesome and why D750 is sometimes misunderstood as it occupies a strange place in between “pro” and “consumer” camera categories (which is a sweet spot for me).

I’ve been playing around with photography for about 4-5 years now. I’m by no means a pro, but I’ve tried a small collection of cameras and quite an array of lenses. Cameras I’ve used include:

  • Nikon D80 (crop APS-C)
  • Nikon D3300 (crop APS-C)
  • Nikon D750 (Full-frame)
  • Sony RX 10 Mk II (so-called “1 inch”)
  • Nikon D850 (Full-frame)
  • Canon EOS R6 (Full-frame mirrorless)
  • Nikon D810 (Full-frame)

Coupled with these cameras were wildly varying types of lenses: from crappy kit zooms with f/3.5 to wide aperture primes to extremely expensive tele-zooms such as Nikon’s 70-200 f/2.8 VR to el. cheapo 3rd party zooms and extremely wide-angle (14mm FF) lenses and fish-eye…

It all started as “something to do while walking in the forest” and a way to transmit the beauty and magic I see in the nature. I never intended to become a “pro”, neither have I ever pretended to be one. Despite that, I used fully manual modes and shot RAW from the very start. I just wanted maximum control and something to do, something to engage in. For this purpose my first camera was just fine: used Nikon D80 (APS-C sensor) camera with kit zoom lens. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it did the job and gave me just enough freedom to play around. Later on I really started feeling the constraints of limited ISO capabilities of it since low-light ability was quite important to me. This led to me purchasing much newer D3300 — also crop sensor camera, but with much higher effective ISO numbers. It really felt like an upgrade, but I didn’t experience a real “quantum jump” in image quality and overall experience until I upgraded to full-frame D750 — now that was a completelly different world… Awesome pictures, unmatched low-light capabilities, great dynamic range, nice and shallow DoF, very comfortable size and weight, expressive freedom afforded by articulating display — everything in already familliar form/package. This particular camera served me really well, better than any other camera I’ve tried. I’ve taken it with me almost everywhere I went: it got thrown in the river, it got some morning dew outside the tent, it took pictures in -23 degrees celsius, it got smacked face down on steel stairs from 2 meters high… And never failed on me.

But being under the influence of one of my moods one day I decided I want to try something new, something simpler, something that would get me the result (finished JPEG) faster with less mucking around. I decided to sell D750 and got myself Sony RX 10 Mk II. And these two cameras are worlds apart… Don’t get me wrong, Sony RX10 Mk II is a great camera for what it is, especially for video, but it’s a completelly different category, and it shows. Pictures look and feel a bit more like froma a smartphone camera. Sure, it can beat any smartphone camera on the market when used correctly, but it’s nowhere near the awesomeness that is full-frame DSLR. Also, my D750 was a (semi-)professional, no-nonsense, single-purpose device dedicated to one task and doing that task (taking pictures) perfectly. Sony RX 10 Mk II, on the other hand, while supposed to be “simpler” for a non-professional consumer, was overcomplicated where there are no need for complications: for example, using an internal database for storing pictures on SD card, which means you can’t delete pictures or format memory card using your computer or camera would complain and perform long “recovery” procedures. Nikon just uses a simple folder of pictures — as simple and effective as it gets. Also, the battery life… While D750 battery life is incredible (used it all day, 9 hours of continuous shooting on a single charge, tousands of pictures) Sony’s battery life is abysmal by comparison (few hours at best, or about few hundred pictures).

So after using Sony RX 10 Mk II for some time I realized my msitake… While it is awesome device for what it is, it’s just not for me. I long for the full-frame freedom: that “fresh breath” you can only get from a large, high-quality sensor paired with wide aperture prime lens, or extremely good zoom lens, or (especially) wide-angle lens. There’s just nothing else like it. And the build quality of full-frame DSLR camera itself, the ergonomics, the feeling of reliability, the “no-nonsense” attitude… That is why I am going back to Nikon D750. I’ve contemplated about an “upgrade” — opting for either Nikon D810, D850 or even going full-blown crazy bananas and picking up medium-format (“cheap” one from Pentax). But no, I realized that Nikon D750 is a “golden middle” — absolutely perfect balance of features, quality, freedom, reliability and price. It’s not “full PRO” by Nikon’s standards, but it’s not really a “consumer” camera, either. Some so-called pros criticize it for this very reason, but I think that’s bullshit — if you want “full pro”, you go buy something like D810 or even D4/D5, there’s no point to complain that D750 does not fit strictly into either pro or consumer categories. In fact, that might be it’s biggest advantage — perfect camera for people (like me) who want something “in between”. And in my opinion, D750 fits this “in between” niche absolutely perfectly in all aspects, including it’s features, performance, reliability and price.

Later on I’ve tried Nikon D850 and was amazed by it’s picture quality, especially the dynamic range of light/color…

After that I’ve got myself Canon EOS R6 and was finally convinced that mirrorless cameras can be as good as DSLRs, as this was really the first mirrorless camera that did not make me want to go back to DSLR for one reason or another.

Then I also tried Nikon D810, which is basically older version of D850, but without electronic shutter, lower burst rate and lower resolution. I don’t want high resolution sensors, I would much rather deal with 20-24 megapickles in post than insane 45mpx. Other than that, I really don’t see a big difference between D850 and D810 for my use cases, except for the articulating screen which can be really useful taking pictures in extreme angles. Well, and maybe electronic shutter for when you want to be silent or save the mechanical shutter from wearing out.