The Nikon D780 is a 24 megapixel DSLR capable of shooting 12 frames per second in live view and uncropped 4K video at 30 FPS. It brings many of the newest live view features from the mirrorless Nikon Z6 to a Nikon DSLR for the first time, including on-sensor phase-detection pixels. Nikon both announced and began shipping the D780 DSLR in January of 2020.
As the third in a series of very impressive Nikon DSLRs – specifically, the D700 and D750 – Nikon had big shoes to fill with the D780. Both of its predecessors were excellent cameras, and still are great cameras today (even the D700 with “just” 12 megapixels).
In fact, after the D750 came out, Nasim wrote an article calling it Nikon’s best DSLR ever. Even today it remains one of the best values for the money of any camera on the used market.
But would you believe that the Nikon D750 is well over five years old? Nikon announced it in September of 2014, a lifetime ago for a tech product. That’s a departure from Nikon’s usual 2-3 year gap between mid-to-upper-range DSLR releases. Yet, despite that gap, the brand new D780 is superficially similar to the D750 in quite a number of ways.
While that’s partly just a testament to the D750’s quality, it is true that Nikon didn’t change many of the “headline” specifications between the two cameras, either. Both have 24-megapixel sensors, 51-point autofocus systems, and similar body design. The newer D780 even gets eliminates some useful features from the D750 – specifically, no built-in flash or vertical grip contacts – which has raised a bit of concern among Nikon shooters. What has Nikon been doing all this time? Cutting costs?
Perhaps. But now that I’ve spent significant time testing this camera, my takeaway is that the D780 has many more improvements than the headline specifications suggest. The newer version isn’t a complete overhaul, but it’s certainly closer to the difference between the Nikon D800 and D810 (a meaningful, if occasionally subtle upgrade) instead of the D600 and D610 (basically the same camera).
And again, the Nikon D750 has been one of our favorite DSLRs at Photography Life for years. Nikon had set itself a very high bar for the D780, yet still managed to make some serious improvements.
So, what exactly does the D780 bring to the table? Here’s a list of its specifications:
Nikon D780 Specifications
- Sensor Resolution: 24.5 MP
- Sensor Type: BSI CMOS
- Sensor Size: 35.9 × 23.9mm
- Sensor Pixel Size: 5.93 µ
- Optical Low Pass Filter: Yes
- In-Body Image Stabilization: No
- Image Size: 6048 × 4024
- Image Processor: EXPEED 6
- Viewfinder Type / Coverage: Pentaprism / 100%
- Viewfinder Magnification: 0.70x
- Built-in Flash: No
- Flash Sync Speed: 1/200 second
- Storage Media: 2× SD, UHS-II Compatible
- Continuous Shooting Speed: 7 FPS mechanical shutter, 12 FPS silent mode in Live View (12-bit RAW)
- Buffer Capacity: 68 shots (14-bit lossless compressed RAW)
- Electronic Shutter: Yes
- Shutter Speed Range: 1/8000 to 900 seconds
- Shutter Durability: 150,000 cycles
- Exposure Metering Sensor: 180,000-pixel RGB sensor
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-51,200
- Boosted ISO Sensitivity: ISO 50; 102,400-204,800
- Focus System: Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX II with improved algorithm
- Focusing Points: 51 points, 15 cross-type
- On Sensor Phase Detection in Live View: Yes
- AF Detection Range (f/2 standardized): -3 to +19 EV viewfinder; -6 to +17 EV live view
- Flicker Detection: Yes
- Video Maximum Resolution: 4K up to 30 FPS, 1080p up to 120 FPS
- 4K Video Type: Full sensor width (oversampled), no crop
- Video Maximum Quality: 10-bit N-log over HDMI
- LCD Type: 3.2″ Tilting 2,359,000-dot Touchscreen
- Wi-Fi / Bluetooth: Yes
- Battery Life: 2260 Shots (CIPA)
- Weight: 840 g (29.6 oz), body only (includes batteries and card)
- Dimensions: 143.5 × 115.5 × 76.0 mm (5.6 × 4.5 × 3.0 inches)
- MSRP (Body Only): $2300 (Check Current Price)
I’ll do a full comparison between the D780 and the previous D750 later in this review, but for now I want to point out a few of the big changes.
First, everything on the video side of things is completely new. The D780 shoots very high quality video – oversampled 4K with no crop, as well as 1080p video at 120 FPS. Not to mention 10-bit N-Log capabilities when shooting over HDMI. At the time of this article’s publication, the D780 is Nikon’s best DSLR for video (though the upcoming D6 is likely to at least match it). Only the Z6 and Z7 mirrorless cameras have slightly better video features overall, thanks to their in-body image stabilization and electronic viewfinder.
Beyond the video side of things, you may notice a couple other intriguing specifications in the list above. One of the more notable ones is the shutter speed range, which maxes out at a whopping 900 seconds (15 minutes). Aside from specialized astrophotography DSLRs, it’s simply unheard of to have such long pre-programmed manual shutter speeds. This is an exciting and useful addition on Nikon’s part.
You also might have seen that the 51-point autofocus system comes with the qualification of an “improved algorithm.” What does this mean, and how well does it actually work? Surprisingly well – but I’ll get to that later.
For now, let’s take a look at the D780’s construction and handling on the next page of this review: