Workflow Special: Stepping It Up

In the stills world, one can argue that Nikon is the gold standard in the industry, with professional photographers coveting their camera bodies and Nikkor lenses. In terms of their sensors, Nikon currently occupies six of the top 10 positions in the DxOMark.com sensor ratings scale, which is based on performance in color depth, dynamic range, low-light ISO, etc.

But in the DSLR filmmaking world, Nikon has lagged behind Canon, and with the arrival of high-quality mirrorless cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and the Sony a7S, they’re facing an uphill battle. This is disappointing because Nikon was actually the first camera manufacturer to release a video-enabled DSLR with the D90 back in 2008.

But this year, Nikon released two cameras that are creating a stir within the low-budget filmmaking community. The FX-format D810 DSLR has a 36.3-megapixel sensor that can capture 60p full HD movies. Its little brother, the 24.4-megapixel D750, was announced a few months later. Nikon loaned me a D750 to test, along with an AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm ƒ/2.8G ED lens. For manual shooting, Elite Brands loaned me the new Rokinon 50mm T1.5 Cine DS lens.

FLAT

STANDARD
Perhaps the best feature on the Nikon D750 is its new Flat picture profile, which will provide the least amount of contrast and the right amount of saturation.

D750 Key Features
• Contains a new 24.4-megapixel, FX-format CMOS sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor
• Can capture 1080/60p, 30p and 24p
• Expanded ISO range of 100-12,800 (Hi2 mode can go up to 51,200), with an anti-aliasing filter to reduce the amount of moiré
• 51-point autofocus system covers the entire frame
• Tilting LCD monitor supports both low- and high-angle shooting
• Built-in WiFi function lets you perform image transfer and remote shooting from mobile devices

What’s unique about the D750 (as well as the D810) compared to other DSLRs is that you’re able to alternate between both FX and DX format. DX, which is similar to APS-C, is the smaller format (24x16mm), while FX is Nikon’s full-frame format (24x36mm). As you would guess, the FX format has better low-light shooting capabilities, less noise and more shallow depth of field. As with APS-C, there’s a 1.5x crop factor while shooting with a DX sensor, so if you need more telephoto range, DX is the format for you.

In terms of the camera body, the D750 is lighter (26.5 ounces, body only) than the D810 (31 ounces) and Canon EOS 5D Mark III (30.3 ounces). Operating handheld, the D750 has a very solid feel, and I like the positioning of the movie record button, which is next to the shutter release. The first thing you need to get used to is that Nikon lenses focus in the opposite direction of other DSLR and professional cine lenses, so if you’re a previous Canon shooter, it takes a little adjustment.

I haven’t shot video with a Nikon camera in some time, but was super-impressed with the low-light capabilities. Images looked pretty clean in low light at ISO 12,800, although it would be unfair to compare it with a Sony a7S, which has a base ISO at 3200 in S-Log and captures near-noiseless images, even at over ISO 25,000. Due to its anti-aliasing filter, moiré was minimal and comparable to the 5D Mark III.

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