The new D700 digital SLR camera featuring a 12.1-effective megapixel Nikon FX-format sensor that measures 23.9 x 36mm, which is nearly identical to the size of 35mm film. Benefiting from Nikons legacy of imaging technology innovation, the D700 offers both advanced and professional photographers stunning image quality, accurate color reproduction and revolutionary low light performance.
Building on the immense success of the Nikon D3 professional D-SLR camera, the D700 offers pro-level performance and an extensive array of features and innovations in a comfortably nimble platform. In addition to the Nikon-original FX-format CMOS sensor, the D700 incorporates Nikon's EXPEED Image Processing System, Nikons renowned 51-point auto focus system with 3D Focus Tracking and two Live View shooting modes that allow photographers to frame a shot using the camera's three-inch high-resolution LCD monitor. The D700 also features Nikons sophisticated Scene Recognition System and a new active dust reduction system.
Nikons flagship FX and DX-format cameras, the D3 and D300 respectively, established new benchmarks for digital image quality, speed, and unmatched ISO performance. The D700 maintains this new measure with exceptional overall image quality, broad tonal range and depth, and extremely low noise throughout its native ISO range of 200 to 6400.
Nikon D700 Digital SLR Highlights
The legendary Nikon FX-Format CMOS sensor The D700s 12.1-megapixel FX-format CMOS image sensor provides exceptional image quality throughout its remarkable ISO sensitivity range. A large pixel size of 8.45 µm allows for an extremely low signal-to-noise ratio and a wide dynamic range. The 12-channel readout enables accelerated information transfer, allowing the D700 to shoot at speeds of up to eight frames per second at full resolution (using the optional MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pack) and quickly write image data onto the CompactFlash card.
The D700 offers a versatile base ISO range from 200-6400 but can be expanded to range from ISO 100 (Lo-1) to 25,600 (Hi-2) affording photographers the new-found confidence to shoot in the widest variety of lighting conditions from the brightest midday sun to dim interiors. Images previously thought to be impossible to create without complex lighting set-ups or lengthy post-processing are now captured easily and faithfully with the D700, unleashing new and diverse shooting possibilities.
Also new to the D700 is Nikons first self-cleaning system designed for the FX-format sensor. Utilizing four distinct vibration frequencies, the D700 frees image degrading dust particles from the sensors optical low-pass filter at start-up, shut-down or on demand. As an added benefit, the mirror box and entire shutter mechanism are constructed of materials that resist creating debris that can affect image purity.
Fastest speed and autofocus in its class The D700 starts up in a mere 0.12 seconds and has a nearly imperceptible shutter-lag response time of 0.40 milliseconds, making this an extraordinarily responsive tool for the demanding photographer. The D700 can record full-resolution JPEG images at an astounding five frames per second (fps), or eight fps with the optional MB-D10 battery pack for up to 100 images, or up to 17 lossless 14-bit Nikon NEF (RAW) files. To write images efficiently, the Nikon D700 is also compliant with the next-generation of high-speed UDMA CompactFlash cards that will enable recording speeds up to 35 megabytes/second.
The D700 offers one of the fastest and most accurate advanced AF systems on the market today. Nikons Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus sensor module features 51 AF points and the ability to use 3D tracking to focus and lock-on a moving subject. The 15 cross-type sensors and 36 horizontal sensors can be used individually or in groups, with the option for Single Area AF mode and Dynamic AF modes using groups of either 9, 21 or all 51 focus points. The system also features 3D Focus Tracking with automatic focus point switching that takes advantage of all 51 AF points as it uses scene color content and light information to accurately track the subject.
Intelligent features for sophisticated performance The D700 relies on a wealth of innovative Nikon technologies to help photographers create superb images. Nikons Scene Recognition System analyzes information from the 1,005-pixel RGB light sensor for use in auto exposure, auto white balance and autofocus calculations. The Scene Recognition System also assists autofocus by tracking subject position and automatically shifts the AF points used to match the subjects movement within the frame. This system also contributes to higher accuracy of auto exposure and auto white balance detection, resulting in sharp landscapes, flattering portraits and engaging action shots.
Photographers also have the option to enhance their pictures during or after capture with the Picture Control System and Active D-Lighting. Nikons Picture Control System enables users to adjust their images to pre-set parameters such as Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome that apply tweaks to image sharpening, tone compensation, brightness, overall tone and saturation. D-Lighting uses localized tone control technology to further optimize highlight and shadow detail while also maintaining natural contrast, giving photographers the ability to capture more perfectly exposed images, even in unusual lighting conditions. Active D-Lighting lets photographers choose from various intensities during capture, while a new Automatic mode also applies varying levels of D-Lighting as, and when needed, to enhance photos while shooting.
Enhanced Live View modes and viewfinder Ideal for studio, remote applications and more, Nikons Live View allows the photographer to compose the subject on the bright three-inch, TFT LCD monitor. In Handheld mode, the user is able to recompose the frame prior to actual shooting; familiar TTL phase-detection AF is activated, using all 51 AF points. Tripod mode is designed for precise focus accuracy with still subjects and tripod stabilization. It enables focal-plane contrast-detect AF on a desired point within a specific area. Remote view, focusing and shooting can also be controlled from a PC (via connection or wireless) using the optional Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 software. Additionally, the Virtual Horizon feature on the D700 can now be superimposed over the Live View monitor image to aid composition.
While using Live View to compose or review images and settings, users will appreciate the ultra-high resolution 920,000-dot VGA, three-inch TFT LCD monitor with tempered glass that provides a wide 170-degree viewing angle. The large monitor is remarkably effective when confirming the focus with enlarged playback images. The camera also outputs a video signal to an HD television using the new smaller HDMI-C standard, which is an excellent solution for workshop demonstrations or shooting tethered for clients.
Photographers will also be able to compose images easily using the wide and bright viewfinder that features an eye-level pentaprism with high refraction index and provides a 95-percent frame coverage with 0.72x magnification. Each of the 51 AF points, as well as a framing grid, can also be superimposed on the finder screen to suit the photographers personal preferences.
Rugged construction and durability High-strength magnesium alloy is used for the construction of the camera body, rear body and mirror box to create a precision platform, reduce weight and provide rugged durability. The camera is tested to stand up to the rigors of the globetrotting photographer and is weather sealed using precision O-rings where connections are made to effectively combat dust and moisture.
The shutter unit employs an assembly made of a new composite carbon fiber and Kevlar hybrid material. Tested on fully assembled cameras, the D700s shutter unit has been proven through 150,000 cycles under demanding conditions. The self-diagnostic shutter constantly monitors and maintains shutter precision to ensure peak performance.
I am making this review of the Nikon D700 from the perspective of someone who also owns a Nikon D300.
Without qualification, the Nikon D300 is a superb camera. So many superlatives have been used with the D300 that I will not repeat them here. All the superlatives used with the D300 applies equally well to the D700. I will add however that as good as the superlatives may have been with the D300, the D700 deserves a bit more.
Let me explain.
The Nikon D700 is equipped with a full frame FX sensor (36.00mm x 23.90mm). This is the same sensor used by the Nikon D3. Nikon D3 12.1MP FX Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) The D300 on the other hand uses the APS-C sensor (23.60mm x 15.80mm). Both the D700 and the D300 have about the same 12 megapixel rating (with the D300 actually slightly higher).
The D700 having a bigger sensor than the D300 but with about the same megapixel rating means that the size/pixel density of the D700 is much lower than the D300. The ratio is 1.4MP/cm2 vs 3.3MP/cm2 for the D700 and the D300 respectively. A lower ratio means lower noise and this ratio favors the D700. For the D700, this translates to lower noise in capturing the same image than when using using the D300.
The D700 lower noise level in turn translates to the D700 being able to operate at a higher ISO level than the D300. The D700 can operate as high as ISO 25,600 while the D300 can go up to ISO 6,400. It is of course quite rare to shoot at such high ISO as it will always be better to shot at a lower ISO rating. But if both the D700 and D300 were shooting at the same ISO, the D700 will have lower noise levels. Simply put, the higher ISO capability of the D700 versus the D300 indicates the higher level of performance of the D700's sensor vs the D300.
My actual use validates this theoretical advantage. I noticed that while the noise level of the D300 is very good at ISO 1600 and even 3200, the D700 consistently showed lower noise level than the D300 shooting at the same ISO setting and light condition. This is most noticeable when shooting at night with many bright lights in the periphery of the main subject.
In terms of color rendition, I have not noticed any significant differences between the D300 and the D700 in the limited time that I have been using the D700. It may be due to the fact that I have conducted my test at dusk and at night.
When using the D700, the full frame sensor means that one will not need to convert the focal length of the lens by a factor of 1.5x. So a 50mm lens will be a 50mm lens for the D700 rather than its 75mm equivalent when used with the D300.
While this may appear to be a disadvantage on the telephoto side, its gain on the wide angle side is considerable and can only be described as an eye opener. The D700 advantage in wide angle application does not just come from its wider perspective. Rather, it is how the D700 maximizes and makes full use of such excellent lens as the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 that makes buying the D700 such an eye opener.
The resulting images taken with the Nikon D700 and the Nikon 14-24mm are clearer, sharper and crisper compared to the D300 even when the focal length in the D700 is zoomed out to its equivalent in the the D300 (21mm in D700 and 14mm in D300). Vignetting is not noticeably worse even when the D700 is used with the 14-24mm glass fully open at its widest focal length (14mm, f/2.8). This is surprising considering that the D700 is now using the full lens instead of just its sweet spot in the center (which would have been to the advantage of the D300 due to its APS-C sensor).
It is not just the wide angle lens that benefited from the D700. Even the slight vignetting I noticed with my 85mm f/1.4 shot with the D300 at f/2.8 is not considerably worse in the D700. I am very surprised at this rather unexpected results as I had expected the opposite. At any rate, vignetting is easily corrected in post-processing.
Still, I should add that for corner to corner sharpness (such as in landscape photography), the D700 with its full-frame sensors will be more demanding on the lens than the D300 with its smaller APS-C sensor.
As to the physical differences between the D700 and the D300, while these two models are roughly equal in size, the D700 is slightly heavier than the D300. This is not an issue for me at all.
What tilts the balance in favor of the D700 is its view finder which is significantly brighter and better than the D300. This difference is very noticeable when switching from the D700 to the D300 and vice versa.
This much improved viewfinder however is a mixed blessing. One disadvantage that the D700 has over the D300 is that the D700 viewfinder captures only 95% of the image while the D300 viewfinder captures 100% of the image shot. So the actual image captured is slightly bigger than what appears in the D700 viewfinder. I understand that this resulted from fitting the bigger sensor from the D3 into the body size of a D300. Given the better image quality of the D700 viewfinder and the better quality of its pictures, I am willing to work with this disadvantage and simply compensate for it during actual use. But I hope that Nikon corrects this though in its next iteration of the D700.
The D700 has an advantage over the D3 as it has an integrated flash which the D3 does not have. The integrated flash is extremely useful when used with the other components of Nikon's Creative Lightning System.
The Nikon MB-D10 Battery Pack Nikon MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pack for Nikon D300 & D700 Digital SLR Cameras from the D300 fits the D700 perfectly well. This is very convenient as I can opt for a smaller and lighter package when I do not need the MB-D10 for high-speed shooting. This is one advantage that the D700 has over the D3 where the battery pack is integrated with the camera. But a D700 with an MB-D10 is bigger and heavier than a D3. And even when the D700 is equipped with an MB-D10, the D3 is still faster. This makes the D3 a better unit for sports photography.
Since I shoot mostly portrait, special events and landscape and seldom shoot sports, the D700 is perfect for my needs and I can do without the D3. The D700 lower price tag means that I can get the D700 with at least one of Nikon's professional lens.
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens
Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR II AF-S IF SWM Wide Angle Zoom Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S FX SWM Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S RF SWM Prime Wide-Angle Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Ideally, the D700 should not be used with the DX lenses. This said, it is possible to use the DX lenses with the D700. The D700 makes the switch to DX lens automatically without need to fiddle with any control. Because the DX lens covers only a section of the D700 sensor, the maximum resolution of using a DX lens on the D700 is only 5.1 megapixel. This smaller coverage is automatically delineated by a box in the D700 viewfinder. In addition to the lower resolution, the extreme two ends of a zoom lens is not usable. Within these limitations, the D700 can use DX lens and produces very good pictures albeit on a smaller resolution / file size.
The D700/FX (1.0x factor) and the D300/DX (1.5x factor) effectively doubles my lens option. For those planning to own both the D300 and the D700, it would be wise to choose a glass that would be usable with both bodies.
In closing, I consider the D700 a good complement to my D300. Except for my Nikon 18-200mm DX lens (which I bought for my Nikon D200), all my glasses and accessories for the D300 can be used with the D700 at its full resolution. I will use the D700 in those times when I need the best results shooting wide angle and/or at high ISO speed. In those times when I need the extra reach, the D300's 1.5x crop factor makes the best use of my telephoto lenses.
Edit: November 22, 2008
I continue to use both the Nikon D300 and the Nikon D700 and often bring both together whenever I go out to shoot. In those times when I just bring one camera body, I choose the D300 whenever range and higher pixel density is a major concern (bec. of the 1.5x crop factor effect on the field of view due to the smaller APS-C sensor but with resolution still at 12megapixel). The D300 is an excellent camera and its 1. Read more ›