Meet the New Camera

It’s the new Nikon d780. And it’s a beaut.

“But, Scalzi,” I hear you say, “Why did you choose that one when [insert your favorite recent camera] is clearly the best one?”


1. Because I like, and am used to, shooting with Nikons. Switching over to some other brand would require a bit of a learning curve, and right about now I’m not feeling like I want to do learning curves. Also, I like dSLRs, including their form factor, the optical viewfinder, and their other utility — for example, the battery on the d780 is rated for 2200 pictures, while a mirrorless camera battery craps out at about 400.

2. Because I already have a fair bit of glass that corresponds to Nikon’s dSLR line, which meant a) I didn’t have to add on the expense of new lenses, b) I could use the lenses I had to their fullest extent (i.e., not every dSLR lens is fully functional with Nikon’s mirrorless line).

3. Because Nikon pretty much stuffed the guts of its Z6 mirrorless camera into the d780, and in “liveview mode,” i.e., looking at the back panel LCD rather than through the optical viewfinder, the d780 has pretty much all the functionality of Nikon’s mirrorless line. Basically, it’s like getting two Nikon cameras — a dSLR and a mirrorless — for the price of one! And that both appeals to the utility junkie in me, and gives me a bit of time to get used to mirrorless functionality, because it seems likely that SLR cameras are going out to pasture in the next couple of camera generations.

4. The d780 had the same 24.5 megapixel resolution as the d750, which in theory I was not in love with — I was thinking I wanted at least 36 for the next camera. But then I thought about what I use the camera for and also my own storage and workflow. And in point of fact 24.5 megapixels is more than enough for what I do (especially since I’m not exactly printing out most of what I shoot), and a 24 megapixel RAW file is not so much of a monster, size-wise, that I will run out of archive space… which I might with the RAW files from Sony’s 61-megapixel shooters, as an example. Additionally, all the reviews noted that the sensor in the d780 was excellent, in terms of its functionality — great colors and sensitivity and so on. So that’s good.

5. Because I wanted it now (it’s my birthday present to myself), and while there’s a possibility that Nikon will come out with new dSLRs with bigger sensors, etc in the near-ish future, everything about this particular camera was pretty much what I wanted. So, you know, why wait?

And how are the pictures? I’m glad you asked!

They’re pretty good.

And will probably get better the more I learn how to use this particular camera. Because this time around I plan to do more with the camera than just leave it on “auto” all the time and then futz in post (although honestly that’s done pretty well for me to this point).

In any event: Here’s the new camera! I think I’m going to have fun with it.

23 Comments on “Meet the New Camera”

  1. Nice!

    I’ve been lusting after a medium format camera myself, but can’t justify the expense for hobby work.

    Enjoy it.

  2. *high five from a fellow Nikon user*
    Existing glass and ergonomics are definitely the main reasons to stick with a brand. If I pick up a Nikon, my finger naturally rests on the shutter release. It’s muscle memory and a Canon or Sony user will tell you exactly the same thing and will have trouble using another brand’s model just as I have. Quality wise, there’s very little difference across the main brands, it’s all just personal preference.
    An 8 megapixel image will print in poster size already really well, there’s absolutely no reason to go over 12.

  3. A lovely picture of your daughter. I love her hair and the light on it.

  4. That could one of the many flower pictures I’ve taken with my D90. Something about the color and the light.

  5. Awesome. A new toy (or tool, or camera, or whatever) at this point is so welcomed. Have fun with it.

  6. Unless you’re doing heavy cropping, I don’t think you’ll miss the extra megapixels. Looks like a great choice to me.

    And yeah, the writing is on the wall for DSLRs. I don’t follow Nikon too closely, but Canon has announced that they won’t be making new EF-mount lenses (the mount used by their SLRs, as opposed to their RF-mount mirrorless system) unless they see an unexpected uptick in market demand. (Paraphrased, don’t have the exact statement in front of me.)

  7. Looks like a great camera!

    (One of these days, I need to find the time to learn how to properly use the D5000 I bought–used–a few years ago. Oh well, there’s always post-retirement–which is about 20 months in the future.)

  8. “ not every dSLR lens is fully functional with Nikon’s mirrorless line)”
    I think all the f mount lenses work with the adapter, but the manual lenses are still manual.

    Nikon’s been really good about backwards compatibility.

  9. I really like the D780 – I was going to recommend the D500 before I saw you had bought one (my current and favorite camera by a mile) but honestly for the pics you take (or at least the ones you post) the D780 was probably a better choice.

    Unsolicited lens advice – the Tamron 28-300 may be the second single most useful multipurpose/travel lens I have ever owned and plays well with full frame (I say second because I switched to the 18-400 but that’s a crop sensor lens for the D500)

  10. Nice new toy :) For years I lusted mightily over the Nikon F3. Martha let me buy a new camera last year. I checked with a photographer friend for advice. I was considering the Canon Eos 7D, since I wanted a crop sensor (I do a lot of bird photography). He advised me to get the 80D instead and put my money into lenses, so I got the 80D and the Sigma 150-600 Sports lens, and then picked up a used Canon 100-400 LX (since the Sigma is too heavy for me to hand shoot much), and am I getting too much equipment now? LOL But I totally love your new toy. Nice shots of your daughter and I loved the sunset you posted on Twitter.

  11. Congrats on the new camera. With the improvements in mobile phone cameras, I’ve found that just using my phone as my primary camera works almost all of the time.

    Today when the Blue Angels did their flyover in my area, I briefly wished I had a camera with better than a 2X zoom. It’s just never been enough to make it worth my while to carry a bigger camera around with me.

  12. I think I have a question for which you may be the right sort of answerer…
    I think I’m in the similar “boat” wherein we’re not fully trained professional photographers, but have good enough equipment (mine’s merely a Canon Rebel T6, but still >> phone cam) that it would be worth some amount of intentional learning.
    A while back, I had been looking into a camera course, unfortunately, the store chain stopped offering courses (way pre-COVID-19).
    It would be interesting to hear what sort of intentional learning process you discover to, as an amateur, improve photography skills. Have you discovered an appropriate process? Could you let us know?

  13. The best advice I ever heard on how to shoot good photos was to take a lot of pictures and keep the good ones. It’s a lot easier and less expensive now than when you had to pay for film and developing.

  14. A very fine Dark Side camera. Were I a Nikonian I would probably buy this. I’m sure you will enjoy it immensely. Switching brands after decades is very difficult, so I get that completely. I recognize that Nikons are very nice cameras, but after shooting Canons for 40 years I’m no more like to switch than you. I have decided to give mirrorless a go, and am holding out for the release of the upcoming R5. I drool over its specs. Since my birthday isn’t until January I’ll have to think of another excuse. Have fun with the new camera.

  15. @Christopher Browne
    I’m in the same boat. Not a professional, but I want to be proficient and proud of my photos. In my experience it really has been just getting out and shooting. Who cares if you get some bad shots. Delete them and move onto the next thing. Post processing has been where I’ve put a lot time as it’s so easy to take a good shot and ruin it by over processing, which I have definitely done.

    There’s also some great communities on Reddit you can submit your photos to and get critiques on what you could have done better (framing, exposure, processing, etc). r/photocritique is one I’ve used quite a bit as I love the feedback I’ve gotten. You just have to know that you may not get feedback every time, but the community has been great and helped me learn. There’s also brand specific ones like r/Nikon etc.

  16. I was considering a mirrorless camera, not because it has better features or battery life, basically anything you can do with a mirrorless you can do better with a DSLR. Except for dragging it around…

    A decent DSLR with a versatile bit of glass of reasonable quality on the front tends to weigh well over a kg and has a fair old bit of bulk as well. I own a (somewhat elderly) Canon DSLR. It is, on points, the best camera I own. It doesn’t see much action because it’s a pain to carry around, it tends to want its own bag, which turns the wearer (ie, me) into a Photographer instead of just some bloke who likes to have a bit more tele on him when out hiking than a mere phone can provide. I like to take pictures of some critter without having to stand on its toes.

    The best camera is the one you have with you, so I’ve been pondering something lighter and more pocketable but still better and more directly controllable than a mere point and shoot with its tendency to take a picture anywhere between .1 and .5 seconds from now whenever I press the button. I basically want a DSLR-like camera with nice direct shutter and controls, but without all the bits that make it heavy and bulky.

    No idea if such a thing exists though.

  17. Dear John,

    Nicely explicated!

    The lens business kinda locks me down, too. I’ve got the high-end Olympus m43, which almost entirely meets my “good enough” criteria. One of the Sony full-frame mirrorless bodies wouldn’t be a bit bigger and what would eliminate that “almost.”

    I considered seriously, so I started to shop lenses Replacing my current kit with equivalents pushed into the high four figures. Or maybe it was even five. I dunno– the sticker shock was enough to keep me where I am.


    Dear Michel,

    Perhaps this will be of help.

    I’m not sure how small and light you need, but the following may satisfy, unless you absolutely detest electronic viewfinders:

    The Olympus Pen F weighs a pound and is 4.9″ (W) x 2.8″ (H) x 1.5″ (D)

    Full set of manual and automatic controls, entirely professional image quality, very good results up to ISO 1600 (it’ll go a lot higher, but I’m fussy).

    Olympus has a very decent kit zoom that isn’t too big, but for real compactness, I’d recommend the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7. It’s only 1″ deep and adds 3 oz. The whole thing’s almost pocketable (if you have a large pocket– certain a coatpocket).

    The combo is gonna set you back a penny (well, more like 120,000 of them), but such is life.

    pax / Ctein
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery
    — Digital Restorations

  18. “Because I like, and am used to, shooting with Nikons. Switching over to some other brand would require a bit of a learning curve, and right about now I’m not feeling like I want to do learning curves.”

    So then cameras aren’t like computers, or most other high tech devices, where they change the interface with every new model, and so there’s always an f’ing learning curve anyway?

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