This post features my real-world impression and photos taken with the Nikon D750, my opinion on it as compared to the Nikon D810 (including why I think it’s the better all-around camera–and the absolute best camera for those who are serious about Disney photography), the pros and cons of the D750, and other assorted thoughts about why I think this is the best all-around DSLR for photography at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or other Disney Parks. To that end, this isn’t a Nikon D750 review, as it’s mostly confined to how I think the camera lends itself to theme park photography.
This post has been a long time coming. I think I promised it back when I first got the camera to supplement (I think I said potentially replace at the time–that has not happened) my Nikon D810, over which I had previously gushed in my review of that camera. I originally planned a Nikon D750 review, but the camera has been out for nearly a year at this point, so that doesn’t seem necessary. There are countless reviews of it out there, many of which are far superior to what I could write.
Rather, I want to cover my impressions of the camera as they pertain to my style of photography, why I would even consider this camera replacing my Nikon D810, and why I think it’s the absolute best camera on the market for Disney photography, regardless of price.
As far as the sample photos go, I’ll scatter those throughout the post. Clicking on any of them will take you to the photo’s SmugMug page, where you can see EXIF data and that sort of thing.
I won’t bury the lede. Let’s cut right to the chase with why I think this is the best camera on the market for Disney photography…
For starters, this article discusses professional-grade DSLRs that are going to be overkill for the vast majority of Disney guests. If you’re stumbling upon this article while planning your Walt Disney World trip and are thinking maybe you’ll supplement your iPhone with a “real” camera for your next trip, this article probably isn’t for you–unless you have a lot of money and need to dispose of it quickly.
That would be the equivalent of buying a set of precision Wusthof knives just to butter some toast. (I’ll be honest, I had to Google, “really expensive cooking knives” just to find the name of that brand so I could make the analogy.)
I realize “best” is a subjective thing, and each person’s needs will be different. The assumption I’m making with my determination of best is that photographers will be using the camera for “normal” Disney subjects, like the architecture, parades, dark rides, and their families. I’m assuming that the parks aren’t going to be a backdrop for modeling shoots in a makeshift studio.
Given that, I think there are really only two categories of possibilities for best all-around Disney camera: the mirrorless Sony a7 line for those wanting to travel lighter or the latest generation of Nikon full frame DSLRs for the pack mules among us. Sorry, Canon shooters. (Hey, at least you finally got a killer ultra wide with the 11-24mm f/4 lens!)
I’m a pack mule, and the Sony lens lineup isn’t quite there for me yet, so for now that leaves me heading down the Nikon path, with the question becoming Nikon D810 or Nikon D750? While I own and regularly use both cameras, for me the Nikon D750 offers better versatility in the parks.
The biggest reason for this is its superior autofocus. The best illustration of its snappy autofocus I have is when shooting night parades. There have been a few occasions during which I have shot parades at night with both the Nikon D810 and the Nikon D750, using my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR on one body and my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on the other.
Now, I realize this is hardly a controlled experiment, as the lens also greatly impacts the autofocus speed and accuracy, but the Nikon D750 has always been the champ in these situations regardless of which lens I’ve had mounted to it, and its accuracy has been scary good.
My first time doing this, for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, I never once had the D750 hunt for focus, and it was so quick that about halfway through the parade I began worrying that it wasn’t focusing at all since I wasn’t having any issues.
My batch of photos from the Nikon D750 had accurate focus in over 90% of the images, which is absurdly good. Likewise, my first time on Peter Pan’s Flight with the camera, I came away with something like 10+ keepers. Normally, I’m pretty happy to have 1 keeper from that attraction per ride through.
The Nikon D810 is no slouch in terms of autofocus, but as a camera built for landscapes, it doesn’t do the job as well as the Nikon D750. For Disney, this is an issue since dark rides, parades, and live entertainment all test a camera’s autofocus abilities. These 3 things probably account for just under half of my photos in a given day in the parks.
On the flip side of this, for me at least, is landscapes. The Nikon D810 is better in this regard. When it comes to shooting a colorful sunset or deep blue night sky, the Nikon D810 is the best camera for the job. It has a lower base ISO for cleaner images, it captures more dynamic range, and it has better color depth.
All of this is most noticeable in post processing (especially of sunset or sunrise shots), and you have a bit more latitude with the D810 files. The Nikon D750 sensor is also excellent, but the D810 is better.
There are other differences between the two cameras (I’ll get to those), but these are the two major considerations when determining which is “best.” In weighing these two factors, I view the autofocus as more important. If I miss focus or miss a shot because I can’t grab focus quickly-enough, I don’t have a shot to use, period.
If I get a shot with slightly less post processing potential, I still have the photo, it’s just not as good as a photo I could have had. In most cases, that “lower potential” shot still has a lot of potential, and I would use that additional latitude maybe 5% of the time–at most.
While it would be nice to capture the range I need in a single raw file, these “5% shots” are easily addressed by bracketing on the D750 and using HDR.
So really, at the end of the day, there’s almost no practical disadvantage to the D750’s raw files because I can proactively compensate for the disadvantage by bracketing my exposures when photographing sunrises and sunsets.
Let’s turn to some of the other objective differences. The biggest for me is the tilt screen on the D750. I love attempting creative composition by getting low or holding the camera high, and the tilt screen makes this so much easier. When I was shooting exclusively with the D810, I found myself with my face pressed to the ground as I tried to compose shots from the pavement.
Good thing Disney Cast Members scrub the ground with magical cleaner that prevents dirt and germs…right? Otherwise, that would be pretty disgusting. 😉
Megapixel count is another big difference, with the D810 having 36 MP and the D750 having 24 MP. Although that is an objective stat, your view of those numbers will be subjective. Personally, I do not want a ton of 36 MP files (many of which are over double the size of similar shots taken at 24 MP) from Disney.
I take photos of all sorts of random junk, from cool signage to delicious cupcakes. While the ability to print a photo of a cupcake at 5′ wide is intriguing, I probably won’t be doing that anytime soon.
I’ll admit that the 36 MP is nice in theory for a huge print of that killer sunset shot of a monorail passing by Spaceship Earth as the sky lights up in colors never before seen by the human eye and a rainbow appears and Figment himself dances on that rainbow.
However, the reality is that I’ve never actually printed a single photo at a size that needed more than 24 MP. So for me, saving hard drive space is the better option.
Beyond that, there is camera size and size of the credit card bill you’ll have after purchasing the camera. The D750 is smaller in both regards, costing $2,000 as compared to $3,000 for the D810. Quite frankly, I don’t think the D750 has $1,000 less worth of features or quality than the D810.
Rather, I think it’s priced lower because it’s not a specialty tool that a specific group is willing to pay a premium for, so Nikon knows the camera simply won’t sell for $3,000. In other words, I think the D750 is a better value, and I’ll bet Nikon’s profit margin on it is lower. Not that this should be the basis for purchasing it over the D810, but it’s interesting food for thought.
There are certainly other differences from the viewfinders to WiFi to buffers to flash sync and more, but these are what I view to be the outcome determinative ones when it comes to choosing a single DSLR for photographing the Disney Parks.
Overall, I think you really cannot go wrong either way. If you choose the D81o and don’t have the D750 for comparison, you’re probably not going to think anything of the autofocus–it’s still good. If you choose the D750, you’re still buying a camera with one heck of a Sony sensor that trounces almost every other DSLR. Most of the time, I have both cameras in my bag, and call on whichever is appropriate for the situation. With this mindset, the Nikon D750 sees the vast majority of the action. The Nikon D810 is a brilliant landscape camera, and I use it almost exclusively when in National Parks or for other landscapes, but the D750 is the versatile, workhorse camera. However, if I could only choose one of the two–even if money were no issue–I would choose the Nikon D750 in an instant. I think that says it all, really.
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If you’re looking for other photography equipment recommendations or photography tips in general check out a few of my top photography blog posts. The best place to start is my Ultimate Disney Parks Photography Guide. Some additional posts you might enjoy:
Do you own the Nikon D750 or D810? What do you like and dislike about the camera? Any other considerations you might add? Any other recommendations? Share any thoughts or questions you have in the comments!