The DSLR isn't dead: Nikon's new D780 makes smart changes to a market-leading camera range

Nikon's new D780 makes smart changes to a market-leading camera range
(Image credit: Nikon)

While Nikon may seem to be concentrating all its efforts on its new mirrorless range of cameras, there's still plenty of life left in its DSLR models. To prove that point, Nikon's just taken the wraps off the D780: a full-frame DSLR with a mouthwatering set of features perfect for the enthusiast photographer looking to upgrade. It'll be available on January 23, 2020.

This latest model is the successor to the D750 - a DSLR that was launched back in 2014 - and still a camera we recommend today in our best DSLR camera guide. That's all going to change at the end of the month, as the new D780 trumps it in pretty much every area.

The resolution might remain the same, but the 24.5MP full-frame CMOS is a much more sophisticated design that's been borrowed from Nikon's Z6 mirrorless - another camera that we're big fans of, and the current top pick in our best mirrorless camera guide. This sees the D780 enjoy on-sensor 273-point phase-detection AF, which in normal speak means that focusing speeds in Live View (when using the rear display and not the viewfinder) should be substantially quicker than on the D750, and on par with its mirrorless stablemate, the Z6. This also means that the D780 enjoys Eye Detect AF that sees the camera automatically focus on, and track, a subject's eye. Clever stuff. 

When using the optical viewfinder to compose and shoot you have Nikon's tried and tested 51-point AF system that now enjoys the higher-resolution metering sensor and algorithms from the flagship D5. 

Fast shooting and 4K video

The D780 can shoot at a pretty fast 7fps (frames per second) when tracking a subject and using continuous AF, but this can be increased to 12fps when shooting in Live View and using the D780's silent shutter mode. Need even more speed? 30fps is possible, but you'll have to sacrifice some resolution, with the D780 outputting 8MP files in this mode.

The D750's Full HD video capabilities were looking a little tired compared to rivals, so the good news is that the D780 can shoot in 4K using the full width of the sensor. If you fancy some super slo-mo video capture, the D780 can shoot at 120fps in Full HD too.

What else do you need to know? There's a hi-res 3.2-inch touchscreen at the rear to complement the large and bright optical viewfinder, while the D780 features two SD card slots.

Nikon's kept the ergonomics of the D780 pretty much unchanged from the D750 and this is a good thing as the outgoing model was pretty much on point in this department. There have been some tweaks though, including a dedicated AF-On button and the removal of the small built-in flash. We saw this with the D850 and while some will miss this handy feature, it does make the camera easier to weather seal. As well as being weather sealed, the D780 benefits from a durable magnesium alloy chassis.

Finally, battery life and this is an area where the D780 blows its mirrorless rivals out of the water with 2260 shots per charge. This is solely using the viewfinder, so this is likely to drop when you switch to using the rear screen to shoot. 

The Nikon D780 will be available from 23 January for $2,299 / £2,199, or $2,799 / £2,619 with the AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR kit lens.

Phil Hall
TTR Contributor

Phil is a photography and auto enthusiast who currently works as Editor of HeyCar. He has worked as Photography Editor on our sister site, TechRadar, and was briefly on the Top Ten Reviews team from 2019 to 2020 where he was responsible for commissioning, managing some members of the team, and writing news about cars and cameras.