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Customer Review

53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dream come true for long-time film users!, August 20, 2008
This review is from: Nikon D700 12.1MP FX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only) (OLD MODEL) (Camera)
The Nikon D700 is exactly the digital SLR that I envisioned when I first heard that such an animal existed. After over a quarter-century of shooting film and gradually realizing the advantages digital holds for me through using a high-end point-and-shoot as an adjunct to my faithful old Nikon SLR film camera, I eagerly bought a D70s ... and was exceedingly frustrated and disappointed. My familiar old lenses responded differently (the 1.5 "multiplier effect") ... when they responded at all (a "non-CPU" lens could be mounted, but all camera exposure and metering functions were disabled, making the result disadvantageous even compared to a pre-AF film body and lens).

Not any more! Even though the D700 was primarily intended to be used with auto-focusing (AF) lenses, it also functions superbly with my non-CPU (manual focus) lenses, only losing the "shutter priority" and "program" modes (because, of course, the camera can't alter the aperture ... that's my job on any non-CPU lens) ... the D700 can even give me focusing feedback after I enter a manual lens's information into the D700's menu. I once more feel like I have good, quick control over the aspects of photography that create the character of my photographs. No more fumbling with lots of fingers over several sets of buttons to tell the camera the simplest things ... it's back to rotating the focus and aperture rings (or not, if I choose the AF lenses).

And the annoying "multiplier effect" is gone with the D700's full-frame ("FX") sensor. My 50mm lens -- my mainstay -- is now a true 50mm lens again (if you have to ask why that matters, the D700 isn't for you). I personally don't pursue wide-angle photography, but I definitely can see how those who do (and who haven't been able to afford a D3) will be doing cartwheels if they can get their hands on a D700.

The D700's viewfinder is also light years above my D70s, making everything from focusing to composition that much easier and more precise. The D700's whopping big LCD screen is also a big advantage. When in review mode, the display is large ... or, at my choice, the increased data option shrinks the thumbnail to a still-valuable size and places the data around the photo instead of over it like the D70s does.

I'm finding the grip very comfortable, and although the weight is hefty compared to any point-and-shoot, it is a well-balanced camera and that weight doesn't bother me. Being able to shoot in RAW mode is resulting in not only better end-result photos for me, but also (once I get the RAW files on my computer) much more accurate feedback on what I can improve about my technical choices ... and one of digital photography's most significant advantages is that faster feedback. Also of note for those who like working in RAW, unlike the D70, I now have the option to shoot ONLY in RAW mode, not just RAW + JPEG, and that saves valuable memory space.

My only negative comment so far is that Nikon's proprietary software (included with the D700) is necessary to download photos to one's computer. I'll adapt, but it just seems an unnecessary restriction.

Even though it's priced well under the other full frame Nikon, the D3, the D700 certainly does not come cheap. For me, it was the only affordable solution, and well worth every penny. If you spent years shooting film and count a bundle of old Nikon lenses among your close friends, the D700 is going to make you wonder if you'll ever stop grinning!

***

Update, November 21, 2008: I've had the D700 for three months now. Three months isn't a long time to evaluate durability, and I'm certainly not one of those people who shoots 1000 or more captures a week (I still have frugal film habits), but early use is one of the common timeframes for quality problems to surface. I'm certainly pleased that I've experienced no problems with the camera's function.

The D700 continues to exceed my expectations as a camera and as a true successor to my film camera. It has put the fun back into photography for me -- once set up to my preferences, the D700 stays out of my way and lets me photograph the way I have for decades, with the pleasing results I'm used to getting ... and with all the advantages of digital capture. Despite my miserly film-born habits, I've happily made enough digital images to account for almost half the camera body's purchase price if those captures were translated to film and developing.

Now that I've established a workflow (Nikon Transfer to Adobe Bridge CS3 to Photoshop CS3), having to use Nikon Transfer for downloading images is a non-issue at home. On the road, though, I'll have to wait until returning to my own computer (with the Nikon Transfer software) to see my pics, so this is still a definite limitation.

What has totally blown my mind is the D700's performance in low light. I never expected high ISO captures to be so useable, let alone what I've gotten at ISO 6400. I'm shooting in the house with ambient lighting and no flash and actually getting a high percentage of "keepers"! No longer do I shrug and say "too bad, not enough light" nor does a flash disturb my subject and alter or destroy the mood. I've also found I can capture good images at indoor events and competitions (such as llama and horse shows) without flash, making my presence a non-issue instead of a potential disruption. As a result, the D700 has given me a brand new opportunity to capture a significant segment of my world in pixels.

No, ISO 6400 image quality is not equivalent to ISO 200, nor is it often really suitable for 100% size printing or display (11.8"x17.7"). But for smaller prints and display (in the 25-50% range), it's remarkable, and certainly superior to anything I could possibly have captured with any other DSLR (besides the D3, which has the same sensor), let alone on film (because I primarily shoot nature outdoors, I never could justify loading any film higher than ISO 400 in my Nikon FE). I have never in my life had anything printed larger than 8x12 with one exception, and usually I've not even printed that large, so the limitations on the D700's ISO 6400 are minimal for me (and what it can do is still not achievable otherwise). To see some actual samples, you're welcome to go to my Flickr photostream ([...]) and search for photos tagged with Nikon D700 and ISO 6400, or just search for Nikon D700 and look at the EXIF data for the resulting photos if you prefer. Unless the photo is also tagged with "noise ninja", it has NO noise reduction (I'm from film, remember -- minimal digital post-processing skills at this time!. If you have and use noise-reduction software, you already know what further improvements can be made in the dark areas of the captures.

I do have one new quibble with the D700 -- I wish Nikon had not limited the non-CPU lens menu to only ten lenses. Because I'm coming from years of comfort with shooting manual focus lenses on film, that's what I do on the D700 ... and as a result, I've got all ten slots full! If I want to use a teleconverter (or if I acquire any other manual focus lenses), I have to re-program one or more of the slots. Hopefully Nikon will provide a firmware update to address this, although I'm not holding my breath either. Certainly a huge percentage of people love their autofocus lenses; the demand and financial return to NIkon for such an update probably isn't significant from a marketing standpoint.

I'm also finding that it would have been more logical for the Auto-ISO setting to be available through the dedicated ISO button instead of in the shooting menu. Again, a possible firmware update could address this ... if Nikon feels it's warranted. It's not impossible to work around, just less convenient than it could be. I'm not sure if other currently available DSLRs share this arrangement or not.

Initially I would have said that those people who started photography with DX format (or who converted to digital years ago) would not see any major benefit in the D700. Now I'm not so sure.

Certainly anyone who has only DX lenses would be financially impacted by also needing to purchase good full-frame lenses to actually benefit from the D700's full-frame capabilities; anyone whose preferences include telephoto and wildlife photography will also be disadvantaged by losing the "reach" that the 1.5x DX multiplier provides if they sell their current Nikon DSLR to finance a D700. (You can use DX lenses on the D700, but they use a smaller portion of the sensor, resulting in a lower MP image ... hardly a reasonable use of a $2.5K+ camera.)

However, for low ambient light photography, the D700 has no equal (other than the significantly more expensive D3). Before experiencing what the D700 can do, I said, "Well, I don't really use high ISO, so I don't need that capability." Now that I have the capability, I'm really using it, and I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Fortunately, even if the choice is not entirely clear-cut, the choices ARE there. Thank you, Nikon!!!
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 20, 2008 3:35:07 PM PDT
Lihkin says:
Hi there. One way of downloading the pictures to your machine is to go to 'My Computer' (assuming you have a PC) and then open the camera folder (which shows up as a drive). There you can simply copy and paste the pictures onto your machine.

Posted on Aug 26, 2008 10:06:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2008 10:07:58 PM PDT
RGreer says:
you need to buy Adobe Lightroom (and a mac if you don't already). Adobe RAW 4.5 supports the D700

Posted on Sep 15, 2008 2:39:24 PM PDT
T. Gabriel says:
You can read my review about the D3 on its listing. Same goes for this one since I bought both a D3 and D700 at the same time because of my migration from film.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2008 2:50:33 AM PDT
On Mac OS 10.4.11, the D700 doesn't show up on the Desktop like my Sony DSC-H1 (still in service for dirty or risky environments) and the D70s (now long gone). I do/did download from those cameras as you describe Although I haven't gotten around to installing Leopard yet (Tiger ain't broke!), I'm still hearing the it's got the same issue with the D700. Puzzles me ... but at least I have the work-around.

Posted on Oct 4, 2008 4:26:26 PM PDT
"unlike the D70, I now have the option to shoot ONLY in RAW mode, not just RAW + JPEG" - Just a small quibble, but this is factually incorrect. You most certainly can shoot RAW-only with the D70.

In reply to an earlier post on May 31, 2009 4:02:40 AM PDT
My bad. I somehow confused the fact that _I_ could not shoot in RAW only and recover the files on Mac OS9 with not being able to shoot RAW-only period. Thanks for the correction.
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