The $360 question: Is Nikon's newest 35mm SLR worth the bump up from the N65?
Are you an "entry-level photo enthusiast?" That's the category Nikon has identified as the target audience for its new N75: a bit more advanced than a point-and-shooter, but a bit less advanced than the die-hard SLR type.
With due respect to the niche carvers at Nikon, the N75 is a camera clearly aimed at providing something for almost everybody, from total tyro through pro wannabe. Let's explore this fundamental question: Can this jack-of-all-trades prove master of most?
What are the goods?
First, a review of the obvious points of the N75. The camera body is a direct descendant of the highly rated (and still in production) N65, Nikon's most successful foray to date into the entry-level SLR category (owned for a long time by the Canon EOS Rebels). While the N75 is marginally smaller and lighter than the N65, it shares the same chassis, film drive, and basic control layout. Like the N65, it can accept Nikon G-series lenses (which lack mechanical aperture control) as well as virtually all Nikon CPU-type lenses. The N75 then adds these upgrades:
•Meter pattern: 25 segments in its Matrix metering pattern, versus the N65's six.
•Autofocusing switch: A three-way switch plus jog dial on the back of the N75 alternates between autofocus modes and focusing points with a flick of the thumb-considerably easier than the N65's clumsy button-plus-dial AF switching.
•AF-point indication: The focusing point chosen by either the camera or the user is highlighted in black directly on the focusing screen, and, in dim conditions, will illuminate in red. (The N65 uses small LCD icons below the screen.)
•Flash metering: The N75 uses 3D MultiSensor Balanced Fill-Flash (five-segment) as opposed to the plain Matrix Balanced Fill-Flash of the N65. Translation: The N75 takes subject distance into the equation for better foreground/background exposure balance. It also reads reflectivity of the scene with a monitor preflash, which helps adjust for very light or very dark flash-illuminated subjects.
•Continuous motor wind: Available in all modes, vs. solely in action mode in the N65. (The N65's action framing rate, though, is a zippy 2.5 fps; the N75's, 1.5 fps. Go figure.)
•Spotmeters: You can spotmeter at any of the five indicated focusing points.
•LCD panel illuminator
•Prewinding: We're not sure if it's an upgrade, but the N75 draws the full length of film out on loading, protecting the exposed film as it winds back into the cassette.
•Vertical grip/battery pack: An optional accessory for the N75 allows use of four AA batteries of any type.
•Glass prism: Yup, a pentaprism instead of the N65's mirror prism. It's needed for the AF-point indications.
•Custom functions: 12 in all, if you like this sort of thing.
Quite a list! To some, it even puts the N75 squarely in competition with the N80, Nikon's next model up the ladder. But the N80, among other things, has a more sophisticated AF system that can "hand off" from one sensor to another as a subject moves across the frame.
Our field test findings
If you like the handling of the N65, you'll like the N75's even more. The contoured grip places your index finger nicely on the shutter button, and lines up your thumb right behind the command dial. The rear AF switches are within easy reach of your thumb. Holding the camera vertically is just as easy.