Is the latest Nikon expert SLR a good choice for photo reportage? I went with the Nikon D780 to Venice for a short stay, I offer you a complete feedback as well as a video replay of my conference at the Nikon Plaza on the theme “Nikon D780 and reportage, a good idea? »
Nikon D780 and reporting: my conference at Nikon Plaza
I had planned this trip to Venice for a few weeks already, I’m in love with this city, and I was planning to go with the Nikon Z 6 and the NIKKOR Z 24-70 mm f/4 zoom that I’ve been using every day for several months.
A few days before departure, without any connection with this trip I hadn’t talked about, Nikon proposes me to give a conference at the Nikon Plaza about the Nikon D780. It’s tempting, but talking about such a reflex camera with pictures taken around my house, it didn’t please me too much, urban photography in the suburbs is not the most attractive. However, the idea makes its way very quickly, and I change my plan: the Nikon D780 will take the place of the Nikon Z 6 in my photo bag. Direction Venice on the theme “Nikon D780 and reportage”!
What about the zoom? My AF-S NIKKOR 24-70 mm f/2.8 is too big and heavy for such a trip, the NIKKOR Z f/4 doesn’t fit on the D780, what do I do? The 35 mm fixed ? The 50 ? No, too easy, as long as I have to change the body, I change the lens. I choose a focal length that I’m not used to using, for one good reason: breaking habits is a good idea to progress. The AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED joins my bag as well.
Here is the rerun of this conference, a version shortened to 20 minutes to get to the point and in which you will see how I treated the subject, how I used this Nikon D780 + 28 mm f/1.4 couple, the pictures I could make with it and what I thought of the camera.
To go further, I propose you a selection of photos below, with some comments on their realization.
Nikon D780 and reportage in Venice, commented pictures
Here are some of the pictures you can see in the video above, with the EXIF data and my comments. I chose these images for their visual interest but also to highlight some points about shooting and settings of the Nikon D780.
The photos are numbered, you can ask your questions about a particular photo in the comments, indicate the number.
1- Venice’s quays
Nikon D780 and report
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED: 1/250th – f/8 – ISO 560
The 28 mm is ideal in this case with a large field angle. I was making some pictures when the seagull passed by, coming from the left. A quick press on the shutter release button allowed the autofocus to lock immediately, and the large depth of field at 28mm at f/.8 aperture did the rest.
Note that this short focal length allows you to mask the crowd pressing on the docks, visible behind the gondolas to the left of the image. It is important however to keep the camera perfectly horizontal so that the perspectives remain as vertical as possible. If necessary this can be made up for in post-processing software.
2- The boat on the lagoon
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED: 1/1,000th – f/8 – ISO 100
That day it was dry but the sky was uniformly grey. The traffic on the lagoon being always important, I waited for a boat to pass close to the dock (the 28 mm favours close subjects), I chose a medium aperture for the depth of field and I set the autofocus at the predictable distance.
The only difficulty here is to adjust the exposure to prevent the sky from being burned, while keeping detail in the subject. The Nikon D780’s sensor reacted well to high and low light without my having to adjust the exposure.
3- Reflections in the channel
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED: 1/250th – f/8 – ISO 220
Too many people in the Plaza San Marco, I decide to walk along the canals to get away from the crowd. The light is there at that moment, the reflections melt in my eyes.
The autofocusing system can be easily locked on reflections, and the sensor can handle high background light levels. I took care to bend down to avoid the elusive perspectives, without falling into the water either! In post-processing I recovered the low lights in the reflections to balance the composition, nothing more.
4- Sunset on the Grand Canal
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED: 1/800th – f/8 – ISO 100
I’m not a fan of sunset photos, it’s seen and seen again and again and too little original. Here, however, I was attracted by the possible silhouette effects, this bird resting on the pole close to me, the beautiful light on the docks on the left.
Sensitivity may seem low to you at the moment, but it is not. The sun remained very bright, and I underexposed 2/3 of Ev to accentuate the silhouette effect. The autofocus is set on the pole, for the bird.
I didn’t darken any more to keep detail in the facades in the background, I barely put them back up in post-processing. Notice how the f/8 aperture is ideal to keep detail in the background, it is the one I prefer and generally gives the best results.
5- The Grand Canal by night
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED : 1/50th – f/2.2 – ISO 2.500
From the Rialto bridge, I’m wedged on the parapet of the bridge, the exposure time is still sufficient not to generate motion blur with a 28 mm. The reduced aperture allows me to limit the depth of field and not to go too high in ISO but you notice that at 28 mm the relative sharpness on the background is still important because the focusing distance is large.
Once again, the sensor was able to handle the brightness differences well, which is one of the most interesting features of this camera (just like on the Nikon Z 6 with the same sensor).
6- The Grand Canal and the Night Salute in long exposure
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED: 60 sec. – f/11 – ISO 100
This picture is taken without a tripod, I simply put the camera on the parapet of the bridge, activated the Live View mode finally usable on an SLR thanks to the Expeed 6 processor, and made several long exposure tests.
The small opening allows me to keep a maximum of detail on the dome of the Salute church, while focusing on the foreground. I was waiting for the passage of a vaporetto to fill the frame.
With 60 seconds of exposure time, it took me several tries because the boat’s passage time is shorter and I wanted to be in the right place. This one is the right one, the onboard lights contribute to the visual drag, the sensor took in high and low lights once again, I was able to monitor the countdown on the top screen, and restart from the touch screen without touching the balance of the box.
For the record, two other photographers were next to me with their tripods and endless calculations on the settings of their Olympus and Sony cameras, watching me play with the only rear touch screen of the D780 to achieve this result was quite disturbing …
7- The streets of Venice by night
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED : 1/250th – f/2 – ISO 28.800
This photo is not exceptional, but it illustrates the ability of the Nikon D780 to raise ISO.
As I was passing by this alleyway, the eye drawn to the illuminated terrace, two people arrive and I guess they will pass by my frame. I put my eye to the viewfinder, framing so as to have the reflection of the silhouettes in the window on the left, the autofocus shifts to the two people, the large aperture raises the ISO, I shoot, all in just two seconds.
The sensitivity is extreme, it’s not a picture I could shoot in very large format (it doesn’t deserve it either) but barely shattered in Lightroom, it’s only when zooming in at 100% that you notice the lack of sharpness on the brick walls. You have to admit that for ISO 28.800 it’s pretty clean.
8- The masks of the Venice carnival
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED: 1/250th – f/8 – ISO 450
This first photo allows me to illustrate the interest of the short focal length. The 28 mm wide frame, also to photograph a close-up of a costumed character, there is only one solution, to get closer. I am only a few centimeters away from the mask, the AF fixed on the eye that catches my eye. The light is there, no bright sun, no high contrast, the measure is fine.
Note that this type of very tight framing with a short focal length allows the foreground to be put forward and the background to be left out, which suits me here since there were more photographers and tourists than costumers!
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED: 1/250th – f/8 – ISO 360
This second mask image taken under the same conditions as the previous one illustrates the sensor’s ability to handle highlights. The chin and lips of the mask are very shiny, so in this case the sensor tends to underexpose the image, but here the D780 reacted well, the exposure is satisfactory over the entire image.
This camera doesn’t make better pictures, but it does make exposure much easier, an interesting capability in field reporting when you don’t have much time to think about everything.
9- The server
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED: 1/250th – f/16 – ISO 500
This server was with the clients of the tables visible in the background. His hair inevitably attracted me and I started to make some pictures, but with the 28 mm the result was not interesting. Anyway, I stay close, you never know.
Suddenly he turns around to go into his bar, behind me, sees me, comes closer, sticks his head in front of my lens, a few centimetres away. The scene lasts barely a second. I don’t think, I press, we’ll see.
The f/16 aperture allowed me to keep sharpness on the whole face as well as to have some detail in the background. The AF was focused on the center of the face, ideal. The exposure is delicate with a slightly blocked face and a very luminous sky, the camera balanced the whole, I just densified the sky to recover the blue and unclogged the face, the RAW allows this without any problem. Note the amount of details in the hair, the 28 mm f/1.4 does the job!
10- In the street
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED: 1/250th – f/8 – ISO 360
The framing is not ideal, I don’t retain this picture in the final series, but it is interesting to illustrate the ability of the Nikon D780 to get you out of tricky situations.
I was walking down this street in the opposite direction when I heard a noise behind me. I turn around and see these two people calling out to the lady, a relative obviously, disguised in her own way for the carnival. The scene attracts me, I put my eye to the viewfinder, I shoot, without thinking more than that, the whole thing takes me three seconds at the most.
The preset f/8 aperture allows me to have enough depth of field to keep sharpness in the background, on the first of the two men. The D780’s hyper-reactive autofocus stalled on the lady, the light metering balanced the whole thing, I only had to raise the brightness on the right wall to balance the whole thing. This SLR is very effective in street photography!
11- Party night in Venice
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED: 1/160th – f/1.8 – ISO 2,500
Venetians like to party during the carnival, the bars are full, the lively music participates in the popular jubilation. I’ve been walking around this place for a few minutes, there’s always something to photograph in these cases.
This young woman started dancing in front of me, as the passers-by… passed by. I fixed the AF on her face, underexposed by 2/3 of Ev to highlight the subject and not make the background too bright because of the lighting at the top of the picture. The maximum aperture allowed me to limit the rise in ISO and to keep an acceptable, though limited, exposure time.
The lack of sharpness on the subject doesn’t bother me here, it participates in the scene, makes the image more dynamic. Once again the AF was particularly fast and efficient, especially at f/1.8!
Nikon D780 + AF-S NIKKOR 28 mm f/1.4E ED : 1/80th – f/3.2 – ISO 8.000
This second image also illustrates the Nikon D780’s ability to meet your reporting needs. The scene is made up of very high lights, including street lighting and a window, and very low lights with the characters in the foreground.
I approach by visualizing both these characters, and the windows in the background with the juxtaposed couples. I frame, I trigger, I pass. People see me, of course, but it’s a party and no one has a problem with that. The man whose head appears under the U of BUSSOLA will call out to me when I pass in front of him a few seconds later, the atmosphere is good-natured.
Here the Nikon D780 has managed: focusing while the foreground is dark, exposure while the contrast is very high, raising the ISO without too much noise. It’s an image that I would have had more difficulty to make unexpectedly with previous generations of reflex cameras, because of a less permissive sensor and a slower AF.
In conclusion: Nikon D780 and reporting, a good idea?
This short stay in Venice with the Nikon D780 and the 28mm f/1.4 Nikon allowed me to break my habits, that’s what I retain above all. I had to revise my framing because I usually use a 35mm. I also had to review my way of exposing because the real image viewfinder of the hybrid allows me to manage the exposure in the viewfinder directly, this is not the case with the reflex. However, I appreciated the camera’s ability to manage focus, light metering and, most of all, to handle strong contrasts.
The Nikon D780 didn’t allow me to make more interesting pictures, it didn’t change the nature of the pictures I was able to make, but it allowed me to make them with more ease, more confidence and more freedom. This is what I expect from a camera and I must admit that I got it here.
So the answer to the original question? Nikon D780 and reportage, for me, it’s yes if you’re looking for a reactive SLR, with a sensor that manages well the strong differences in brightness. If you like optical aiming, want to use your Nikon F lenses and are looking for a versatile body, this is a good choice.
I let you react, indicate well the number of the photos if your questions concern one of them and if not, tell me what it interests you to know about this reflex.
More about the D780 on the Nikon website (I thank you for the welcome at the Plaza)