The ultimate camera setup for adventure and astro-landscape photography is here…

It’s official, I pulled the trigger on a Nikon “downgrade”.  I went from a D800e to a D750.

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Nikon D750, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
Two exposures blended for very faint highlight preservation

I did this for two reasons:  First, because I feel the D750 in many ways is better suited for my day job, wedding photography.  The resolution is better suited, (lower) …the AF is great, (some say better than the D810 even, but I can’t tell, all i know is that it’s no-nonsense flagship performance, unlike the D610) …the ISO is better, (than the D810, though still roughly equal to the D610) …and last but certainly not least, the camera is much lighter for those long 12+ hour wedding days…

The other reason is, what I’d like to ramble about today: The D750, although less suited for traditional landscape photography since it has 33% fewer megapixels, …is actually better suited for what I like to do, which is 1.) shoot astro-landscapes in the middle of the night, and 2.) hike long distances with multiple cameras, for timelapse and astro-landscape purposes.

The Ultimate Landscape & Astro-Landscape Camera Setup

So, why am I telling you about this downgrade? Because I feel that although the D810 is the new flagship in Nikon’s pro (affordable) lineup, the D750 is a far more exciting camera for me. In fact, the D750’s release marks another milestone in Nikon history.

Disclaimer:

The following is an opinionated rambling that combines Nikon trivia and lots of conjecture / speculation.  It is therefore meant only for those who enjoy such miscellaneous discussions. No, I’m not talking about Nikon fanboys, I’m just talking about camera geeks in general.

A Nikon Milestone

Over the past few years, every now and then Nikon has carefully juxtaposed the release of certain camera bodies and lenses. The casual photographer, or even some alleged die-hard Nikon fans, might not notice the interesting pairing of these bodies and lenses, but the more you specialize in one area of photography, the more you’ll begin to notice.

For example, in 2007 Nikon released the D3 and the 14-24mm f/2.8 at the same time.  Separately they were each incredible milestones in Nikon’s history, and yet together they stood for something much more exciting.  In short, Nikon was thumbing its noses at Canon and the then-significant gap in Canon’s lineup: ultra-wide action sports.  At the time, Canon’s flagship action sports camera had a 1.3x crop.  Telephoto sports shooters loved this, but it left a huge gap that the Nikon D3 filled perfectly.  Furthermore, all of Canon’s ultra-wide lenses at the time were all embarrassingly soft, while the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 proved to be flawlessly sharp.

This eventually led to Canon’s dropping of both the 1D and 1Ds lineups altogether, and the beginning of the 1DX lineup.  But Nikon’s D3 + 14-24 combo had already made it’s mark…

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Nikon D3+14-24 Poster, August 2007 – Photographer: Sandro
“I don’t think there is another piece of equipment on the market
[with which] I could have gotten the shot that we got here today”
(Endorsement spiel, of course, but you get the idea…)

The Nikon D800 and D800e were similar milestones in Nikon history, aiming squarely at silencing those folks who whined incessantly about how Nikon’s entire lineup at the time was “stagnating” at 12 megapixels. Nikon thumbed its nose at Canon’s 20+ megapixel cameras (that landscape photographers were “jumping ship” to in droves) by creating a camera with a significant jump in resolution, and an even more astonishing leap forward in dynamic range.

Although these two cameras’ announcement didn’t coincide precisely with a particular lens, the 800-series Nikons came at a time when Nikon was focusing on upgrading its existing flagship lenses’ sharpness to be ready for the next generation of sensors.  For me, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR and Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR come to mind, two lenses which delighted landscape shooters for sure.  Another perfect pairing of lenses and bodies.

The Nikon D600 and D610, two of the most affordable full-frame DSLRs ever, arrived at a time when Nikon was also developing affordable yet ultra-sharp f/1.8 G primes left and right.  In rapid succession we saw the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G, the Nikon 28mm f/1.8 G, and then the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G.  In my opinion, all of these lenses were targeted directly at photographers looking to get high-resolution results from an affordable full-frame body+lens kit.  The Nikon D600->D610 oily shutter incident may be the only thing on some people’s minds today, however the f/1.8 G lens lineup has been a smash hit for Nikon.

The D750 and 20mm f/1.8 G Combination

That’s enough rambling about Nikon trivia.  Enter the new Nikon D750, and the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 G – a duo aimed squarely at what I believe to be what is rapidly becoming the next big genre of photography.  Which is that? Astro-landscape photography and timelapse photo/videography. A world in which fast (sharp) apertures and clean high ISOs reign supreme over any other camera spec.

As the reports are, well, reporting, the 20mm f/1.8 G is shaping up to be an incredible ultra-wide prime lens.  Allegedly at f/2.8, it is even comparing well against the legendary Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon, a yardstick for all other lenses in its range…

Although I haven’t gotten my hands on the 20mm f/1.8 G yet, it is on my wishlist this holiday season…  I can definitely report on the D750’s performance, however, and it’s a very good report!  It’s not summer anymore so the milky way isn’t as impressive here in the Northern Hemisphere, but from thew few clear nights I’ve been able to photograph, the results are exciting.

I’ll leave it at that.  I’m really looking forward to winter trips and adventures with the D750, and hopefully I’ll be able to add another report with the D750 and the 20mm f/1.8 G in a month or two.  Either way, it looks like Nikon has hit another home run for specialized photography applications.

If you’re on the fence about which camera to buy, as a Nikon shooter, I can highly recommend the D750 for adventurous types who want a lighter camera that can really go the distance.  (Or if you’re not as concerned about low-light autofocus or if you don’t need the flippy LCD screen, you could also do very well with the D610!) If you’re a Canon shooter, you might want to consider switching, however the 6D is still a champion of astro-landscapes too, and the 7D mk2 has a few features that are very promising for the future of a 6D mk2 or something, so I wouldn’t jump ship just yet.  (Programmable bulb exposure, anyone? Oh and Canon also finally got around to creating a built-in intervalometer!)

Happy trails,
=Matt=

750_3737-EditNikon D750, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
ISO 12800 for the sky, ISO 3200 for the foreground