Nikon D700

Posted by Scott

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In case you haven’t heard, the long rumored full-frame 12.1MP Nikon D700 is now official. It’s sports it’s older brother the D3’s vaunted CMOS FX/DX sensor but in a smaller form factor and with a smaller price tag. In regards to the price, however, the word "smaller" is a relative term. In the case of the D700 it equates to roughly $3000 USD (as opposed to $5000 for a D3). As a hobbyist that’s a pretty had price point to justify so I don’t think I’ll be ditching my D80 just yet (as much as I’d like to).

When I was in Bangkok I had the chance to try out a D3 with a fixed focus 50mm lens and it was pure bliss. The thing had almost no noise even at ridiculously high ISO’s and it could acquire focus and blast off frames faster than I could comprehend; it sounded like a silenced machine gun when you held down the shutter release. The knowledge that I can have that kind of performance for $2000 less and won’t have to lug around the nearly 3lb. weight of the D3 body makes the 700 pretty hard to resist. It’s supposedly available but none of the usual online outlets have it in stock. Has anyone managed to use / buy one? If so, what do you think?

26 Comments Leave A Comment


Rob McDougall says:

August 6, 2008 at 3:53 am

This may sound stupid coming from a Canon 400D owner, but I tried the D80 and it felt a bit like a toy… Which put me off. Not really sure why.

I’ve never really had the chance to try a high end camera body of any brand, but low-noise ISO really appeals to me… I wonder if the Canon range is similar, or whether I’ll have to sell all my Canon lenses now :P


PT says:

August 6, 2008 at 3:59 am

I want to buy one, but that isn’t the same as bought one. *sigh*

You should post more photography Scott.


Justin says:

August 6, 2008 at 6:22 am

I was an assistant for a wedding shoot over the weekend where the main photographer had a just bought a D700, and I got to play with it. Oh man.

It’s pretty much exactly as described: a D3 in a D300 body for $2000 less. Most of the “missing” features from the D3 aren’t deal-breakers, and the ISO performance is just out-of-this-world. Firing off ISO3200 shots inside a chapel with no visible noise is game-changing. The other benefit is it being a full-frame camera, and the 5:4 ratio 12mpx sensor has larger pixels that soak up more light and detail with wide-angle lenses. The difference is notable, but of course you have to part ways with your DX lenses (in DX crop mode the D700 turns into a 6mpx camera) so that’s an additional expense.

All in all I don’t think a hobbyist could ever justify the camera. The nice thing about the D700 is that the D300’s price will go down, and that would be a nice upgrade for you if you ever felt the need Scott. A stop or two better ISO performance, and the 51-point AF system is magical.

Also, Thom Hogan just leaked the new D90 specs, but it mainly looks like a marginal mpx bump with oddly enough video capability? Not too attractive to me.


Lee says:

August 6, 2008 at 6:53 am

I agree with PT, I’d love to see more photography Scott! Not that I don’t love your blog, and subscribe, and read it religiously already :)

I’m getting into photography and am currently enjoying my pentax k100d (6mp) with a 50mm prime (old manual focus with aperture ring)

The D700 sounds fantastic, but at this stage, assuming I had the cash, I’d still opt for a Leica M8 instead. Neither would make my photography any better though, I’ve still got a lot to learn :)

But seriously, unless you are a professional planning on doing huge prints for a gallery or some such there’s really no need for it. Even 6mp cameras offers perfect picture quality at 12×16″ and a 51-point AF system??? Seriously unnecessary.

Noiseless ISO3200 sounds nice though.


Phil says:

August 6, 2008 at 7:34 am

I have a D40 as I’m just getting into photography, but if had a much higher budget I’d be all over the D700. To me it hits that sweet spot in terms of features and form factor. The D3 is amazing, but just too large of a camera for me for it to be practical. The fact that the D700 is full frame and has the same noise handling abilities as the D3 and at a cheaper price, it’s a no brainer.


Justin says:

August 6, 2008 at 8:11 am

>Even 6mp cameras offers perfect picture quality at 12×16″ and a 51-point AF system??? Seriously unnecessary.

Depends on your definition of perfect. At 300dpi, 6mp will give you a 7.1″x9.5″ print, so really 8×10 is the upper limit of high quality prints. Going up to 12″x16″ I’d put that in the “acceptable” range, but few people really need prints that size.

Potential print size really is the wrong metric to consider with megapixels–the real advantage is extra room to crop. If you have a 6mp landscape-oriented shot that you crop to a tight portrait your resolution might have went down to 2-3mp which is definitely going to limit your ability to make larger prints. 12mp is nice because you can crop about whatever you want and still stay in the 6-8mp range and that’s its only utility to me (not making poster-sized prints =)

Don’t knock the AF system until you’ve tried it. Your pentax (like the D80)
has an 11-point system, which works great, but there are two major advantages to a larger-point focus system:

1.) Metering is generally biased to the active focus point, so more precise focus choices generally mean more consistent exposure. The “focus and recompose” approach might mean you get good focus b/c you picked an object at the same distance, but not always good exposure.

2.) When shooting moving subjects you either pick your focus zone manually (AF-S) or you allow the camera to continuously refocus as the shutter is depressed (AF-C). Having more focus points available means that focus tracking will be more responsive and accurate and you’ll get consistently better shots with less effort. The D300 has a 3D tracking option for 51-point AF as well.

You technically only “need” one focus point to take a shot, but additional AF points make your job easier and increase the quality of your photography so I wouldn’t write it off. For me I don’t use 51-point all the time, but when I do it’s nice to just concentrate on the composition and let the camera nail the focus.


Benjamin Reece says:

August 6, 2008 at 8:25 am

I shoot with an Sony A100- decent first SLR- my dad shoots with a A700- and I can tell you, the CMOS sensor makes it a WHOLE other level.

That to me is the primary advantage that this camera – CCD is a hobbyist feature.

Funny though, because of my video 35mm adapter, I am investing in Nikon lenses.

Time to pony up to the D700- need to find a commercial justification :)

Thanks for the blog post, did you edit the pictures to give it more of a muted feel? The whites seem dark.

Sorry if this is random, I am a little drunk.


yann+ says:

August 6, 2008 at 8:27 am

Another D80 user here.. having the same dilemma but.. I just can’t afford all the proper lenses afterward. As long as I’m not making a living out of it, the D80 & my 4 lenses will just have to do (+ some post production tricks :)
aLL the best & enJoya+


joshua says:

August 6, 2008 at 9:56 am

But have you seen the new Kodak disposables at 7-Eleven? Insane!!!

OK seriously, the D700 looks incredible… and way out of my league.


Leigh says:

August 7, 2008 at 1:12 am

@ Rob McDougall
The Canon 5D is a very low noise full frame DSLR, so I’d consider that to, as it is at a similar (slightly lower) price point if you’re in the market for something that’s still $2500. Hopefully, Canon will announce the it’s successor, the 7D at Photokina in September. Specs here


George says:

August 7, 2008 at 4:47 am

Im looking forward to the full frame price war which seems to be around the corner. Im using a 350D and have some great glass for it but often wish I didnt have to take into account the crop factor and could use the lens at its intended length……

7D looks amazing but Im a little sceptical of the truth of that post after reading the rest of the thread.


Ryan says:

August 7, 2008 at 4:23 pm

The Nikon D700 does seem like overkill if you are just a hobbyist. I am just getting my feet wet with dslrs and picked up a used Canon 20d and paired it with a 50mm lens.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds in terms of technology. There are rumors bubbling up that the camera manufacturers may do away with cropped ssnsors and just put out full frame sensor cameras.


Matt H says:

August 28, 2008 at 2:21 pm

With the risk of turning this too much off topic…

Im just about to by the Nikon d40x. Whats peoples opinion on that compared to the D80? The price for the d40x seems very reasonable and for someone like myself who is not a serious or pro photographer I guess this would be a good one to get.
How is the ISO on this model?
Any really bad points anyone wishes to make on the d40x?