The Nikon D700 is Nikon’s first affordable full-frame (FX) camera, with 12 megapixels and amazing low light performance. I have been shooting with the Nikon D700 for the past three years, and I’m not sure why it took me so long to write a review of my favorite camera… I guess I focused so much on testing new lenses and cameras, that the gear I use every day for my photography has been just sitting at the end of my long “to-do” list. I am thinking of reversing the list right now, starting from the bottom and writing about other gear that I currently use and used in days gone by and share my subjective opinion about it.
What this means is that unlike most DSLRs, where the effective focal length of your lenses increases by 1.5 or 1.6x, there is no focal length magnification, so a 28mm lens on the D700 behaves exactly like a 28mm zoom lens on film.
Nikon D700 Specifications
- 12MP – Full-frame CMOS Sensor
- ISO 200 – 6400( expands to 100-25600)
- 3 Fixed Type Screen
- Optical (pentaprism) viewfinder
- 5 fps continuous shooting
- No Video Mode
- 1074g. 147 x 123 x 77 mm
- Weather-Sealed Body
Nikon D700: Price
Check Out: Best Full-Frame Cameras
Nikon D700: An Excellent Camera
On a smaller format camera, like the D300, a 28mm lens becomes a 42mm (equivalent) because the sensor is smaller. The D3 is a pretty amazing camera. And the great thing about the D700 is that shares the same sensor, and many of exactly the same features. The D700’s ultra high-resolution 920,000 dot 3in LCD screen and 12 million pixel CMOS sensor have been proven in the D3, and the D700 can shoot at ISO speeds spanning an incredible ISO 100-25,600.
Alright, image quality at ISO 25,600 is nothing much to shout about, but if you’ve selected such a high ISO setting it’s because you have to get a shot, and if you need to get a shot, any shot is better than none at all.
Nikon D700: Performance
In 3D tracking mode, the D700 can actually follow a moving subject across the frame based on what colour it is. And in 51-point AF mode, the camera is programmed to look out for skin tones and facial features, making the focusing system as close to infallible as you’ll find on any other DSLR. Even in extremely low light, the D700 doesn’t skip a beat, thanks to 15 super-sensitive cross-type AF sensors in the middle of the frame.
So what can’t the D700 do? The answer is a predictable ‘not much’. Not only does the rock-solid build quality and large, bright viewfinder make it a pleasure to use, it turns out excellent images at ISO settings that would make other cameras blush.
If we were in the mood to nitpick we would complain that 12 million pixels is starting to look a little bit limited, when the 14 million pixel Pentax K20D can be picked up for around a quarter of the cost of a D700.
But if an extra few million pixels meant a decrease in high-ISO performance, we’ll vote for 12 million. In fact, the only problem of any consequence that we have with the D700 will be its price.
Therefore, the fact that the RAW files from the new Nikons are so much better than those from my Nikon D700 is largely irrelevant to me. After applying my adjustments in post, only an expert at Nikon could tell the files apart, and even he would have a hard time without peeking at the EXIF data. In addition, I’ll never need the memory card munching 80mb RAW documents from the D800, a camera which is (for the time being at least), reserved solely for studio work and landscape photography.
Nikon D700: Memory
In practice there isn’t much difference between 12 and 14 bit raw, and selecting 12 bit frees up a bit more space on the card for more pictures.
You’ll need all the memory capacity that you can get with the D700, because the massive file sizes mean that average-sized memory cards won’t last very long at all.
In its normal ‘body only’ configuration the D700 can shoot at five frames per second, but add the optional MB-D10 grip (which also fits the D300) and continuous shooting up to 8fps is possible.
Such a fast frame rate is useless if the camera’s focusing can’t keep up, but fortunately the D700 shares its 51-point AF system with the D3 and D300. Why is this fortunate?
Well, this AF system is the best we have ever used, and knocks spots off anything else on the market.
Nikon D700: Screen
Speaking of extreme situations, the D700 is rated ‘professional’ by Nikon, and as such, it’s one hell of a tough camera.
Every button and seam on the D700 is protected against water and dust, including the flash and the memory card door. That means that wherever you find yourself, in whatever kind of weather, the camera will probably give up the ghost long after you have. Which is comforting, right?
So you’ve just come back from a war zone, or a natural disaster, but were the pictures worth the trip? Yes. Image quality in the D700’s ‘comfort area’ of ISO 200-6400 is extremely high.
Along with the more expensive D3, the D700 is just about the only camera with which we would feel confident about shooting at ISO 1600+. In raw mode, images taken at settings up to ISO 6400 can be cleaned up very easily, making these ultra-high configurations genuinely usable.
The D700 features two raw modes, 14 bit and 12 bit. Shooting 14-bit raw files basically just guarantees more tonal data in the image, which should ensure smoother tones and greater latitude for extreme levels adjustments in the finished image.
Nikon D700: Key Features
- 12.1-megapixel full-frame sensor (8.45µm pixel pitch)
- Image Sensor Cleaning (vibration) *
- ISO 200 – 6400 (with boost up to ISO 25600 and down to ISO 100)
- Also supports DX lenses, viewfinder automatically masks (5.1 megapixels with DX lens)
- 14-bit A/D conversion, 12 channel readout
- Same ultra-fast startup and shutter lag as D3
- Nikon EXPEED image processor (Capture NX processing and NR algorithms, lower power)
- New Kevlar/carbon fiber composite shutter with 150,000 exposure durability *
- Multi-CAM3500FX Auto Focus sensor (51-point, 15 cross-type, more vertical coverage)
- Auto-focus tracking by color (using information from 1005-pixel AE sensor)
- 95% coverage, 0.72x magnification viewfinder *
- Auto-focus calibration (fine-tuning), fixed body or up to 20 separate lens settings
- Scene Recognition System (uses AE sensor, AF sensor)
- Picture Control image parameter presets
- 5 frames per second continuous with auto-focus tracking*
- Optional MB-D10 Battery Pack (same as D300), increases burst rate to 8 fps *
- UDMA compatible single CF card slot *
- 3.0″ 922,000 pixel LCD monitor
- Live View with either phase detect (mirror up/down) or contrast-detect Auto Focus
- Virtual horizon indicates if the camera is level (like an aircraft cockpit display)
- HDMI HD video output
- ‘Active D-Lighting’ (adjusts metering as well as applying D-Lighting curve)
- Detailed ‘Control Panel’ type display on the LCD monitor, changes color in darkness
- Magnesium alloy body with connections and buttons sealed against moisture
- Improved Info display on the main screen *
- Smaller, lighter body *
- Built-in iTTL flash (G.No 17 / ISO 200)
- No rear information panel (new info display on main LCD)
- D700 doesn’t have the D3’s 5:4 aspect ratio option
- 95% coverage, 0.72x viewfinder (D3: 100% / 0.7x)
- Focus screen DX mode now indicated with a rectangle rather than shaded area
- Lower burst rate (5.0 fps / 8.0 fps with optional MB-D10)
- 100 frames maximum in continuous shooting mode
- Smaller battery (EN-EL3e)
- Optional battery grip (MB-D10, same as D300)
- Expanded Function button options (can assign any camera menu item)
- Live View can be assigned to FUNC, AE-L or Preview buttons (allowing LV + different drive modes)
- Virtual Horizon can be overlaid on Live View preview image
- Different shutter (150,000 cycle rating – same as D300)
- Image Sensor cleaning (‘sensor shake’ dust reduction)
- Single CF slot (D3 has two)
- Minor menu and control differences (control layout is almost identical to D300)
Nikon D700: Conclusion
The specs show the camera to be a worthy model with the Nikon name. I wouldn’t go to say they’ve pushed boundaries with this camera, but it’s still a step in the right direction. The D3 and D300 have helped Nikon regain the number one spot with over 50% share of the market. They are already 20% ahead of forecasts for this year so hopefully, the D700 will help them maintain this position.
If nothing else it makes the Nikon FX-format more affordable and available for the masses. With an RRP of £1999.99 (body only), it still keeps the D3 in the top pro league at £800 more. Looking at the numbering of the digital camera, it looks like Nikon is releasing this model as a go-between for the D300 and the D3 which isn’t a bad thing. After all, years ago Canon released the EOS 50e because photographers wanted eye control focus from the EOS 5 but didn’t want to pay the same price. The Nikon D700 appears to be a similar release with features of the D3 but in a somewhat clipped format. It shows that Nikon is listening to the users and developing gear to suit what people want which is something that Nikon is usually, quite rightly, very proud of.