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A review of the Nikon D700 by a Nikon D300 owner,
This review is from: Nikon D700 12.1MP FX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only) (OLD MODEL) (Camera)
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 1.5x factor is very handy when I need to reach out with a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom or with my 180mm f/2.8 prime without need of using a teleconverter. For almost every other instance, including portrait, landscape and low light photography however, I find myself reaching out for the D700.
After over 3 and a half months of use, I can safely say that the color depth of the D700 is significantly much better than the D300. The range of colors, the color details, the varying shade of colors, and the dynamic range that the D700 is capable of capturing is considerably better and richer than what the D300 is capable of. This advantage is best appreciated when taking portrait and landscape photos. The difference in dynamic range is specially noticeable when shooting at higher ISO settings as noise imposes considerable limits on the dynamic range possible. The D700 is clearly better than the D300 on dynamic range at high ISO settings.
One other difference I should mention between the D300 and the D700 is the difference that the sensor size has on effective depth of field. The bigger the sensor, the shallower the depth of field while the smaller the sensor, the greater the depth of field. Point and shoot cameras with minuscule-sized sensor often have the greatest depth of field.
The D700, having a bigger full-frame sensor, has a shallower depth of field than the D300 (which has the smaller APS-C sensor) at the same aperture setting given the same equivalent lens focal length. The difference in the effective depth of field is about one stop. At the same equivalent focal length, the equivalent depth of field of a D700 at f/2.0 would be a D300 at f/1.4.
The shallower depth of field of the D700 would be an advantage to a user who would like to isolate a subject and blur the background. The deeper depth of field of the D300 would be an advantage to a user who would like to keep several subjects at difference distances in focus. I use the D700 where I need to isolate a subject, blur the background, and get the best bokeh. This effect is most noticeable when shooting at wide open apertures from f/1.4 to f/2.8. This, plus the color advantage of the D700, makes the D700 my preferred body for shooting portraits.
Finally, one difference I notice between the D700 and the D300 is that the D700 has a better damped shutter release button. I find that it is easier to release the shutter in the D700 than in the D300. This makes a big difference when shooting at low shutter speeds.
With the D800 finally available, I thought I'd share my analysis on the D700 vs the D800
Factors that works 2 ways: Higher resolution
= greater details
= but requires higher memory card capacity
= but requires higher storage capacity
= but requires more RAM and faster CPU and better graphics card
Improvements in the D800 over the D700 other than sensor resolution
1. 100% Viewfinder
2. Better AF
3. Better metering
4. Better WB
5. HD Video
6. Improved dynamic range
7. Improved color
8. Superior live view functions
9. Bigger 3.2" LCD screen
9. Improved ergonomics and now with more buttons
10. Lighter in weight by 95 grams
11. Higher capacity battery
12. Extra SDHC slot and support
13. USB 3.0
Disadvantage of D800 vs D700 other than sensor resolution
1. 5fps vs 8fps on FX using battery pack
2. Higher resolution requires slightly higher shutter speed to shoot handheld to achieve the same corner/border acuity.
3. Higher resolution requires the best lenses to get good results, specially at side & corners
4. Higher resolution means lens diffraction occurs earlier at f/9 instead of f/13 with D700 (if more DOF needed)
5. Optional MB-D12 battery pack for D800 is priced almost double the optional MB-D10 battery pack for D700
The D800 is not a true D700-replacement in that it does not use the D4 sensor. Except for a slower frame-rate however, the D800 outperforms the D700 in all respects. I have placed an order for a D4 and also added an order for a D800E. I will however still be keeping my D700.
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Showing 1-10 of 89 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 2, 2008, 12:41:19 PM PDT
B. D. Weimer says:
Have you found the D700 to have better resolution than the D300? I am thinking it would be better for 11 x 14 and larger prints.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 2, 2008, 5:41:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 8, 2008, 11:20:01 PM PDT
The resolution of the D700 and the D300 (as well as the Nikon D3) are the same at approximately 12 megapixel. This is currently the maximum for Nikon DSLRs. This is more than sufficient for printing at 11" x 14".
A larger megapixel size is not necessarily better as it can be noisier. This is most specially true as bigger and bigger file sizes are crammed and derived from a small sensor.
All things being equal, a specified sensor size with a smaller megapixel rating will produce better results than the same sensor with a large megapixel rating. To produce acceptable results, very good software and a more advanced electronics will be needed to derive a higher resolution (more megapixel) from the same sensor while avoiding the additional noise.
A camera with a bigger sensor but rated at the same megapixel rating will always produce better results than the a camera with a smaller sensor with the same megapixel rating. This is why not even the best 35mm digital SLRs from Nikon and Canon will hold a candle when pitted against the medium format DSLRs which have much bigger sensors than the full frame 35mm or APS-C (crop) DSLRs even if the megapixel rating among them are about even.
What makes the D700 better is that it has a considerably bigger sensor than the D300 with the same 12 megapixel resolution. This theoretically would make the the D700 images sharper, richer, deeper and quieter than the D300. My limited use of the D700 thus far seems to validate this theory.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2008, 2:38:47 PM PDT
T. Clark says:
"All things being equal, a specified sensor size with a smaller megapixel rating will produce better results than the same sensor with a large megapixel rating. To produce acceptable results, very good software and a more advanced electronics will be needed to derive a higher resolution (more megapixel) from the same sensor while avoiding the additional noise."
The larger megapixel sensor will produce images that require less magnification for a relatively large print (or image) compared to the much higher magnification needed by the smaller megapixel sensor. Thus noise will be magnified more on the smaller sensor than the larger sensor. Quality is relative to the size print (or image) you're making in addition to sensor size and megapixel count.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 21, 2008, 12:16:49 PM PDT
Joe M. says:
Although this seems intuitive, it's not accurate. On the same size sensor, the one with less pixels (lower pixel density) has lower noise.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 24, 2008, 7:37:27 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 24, 2008, 8:54:01 AM PDT
Willie Sanford says:
I am ready to foot the bill on a d700 but will have to use DX lenses on it for awhile. I separate resolution from image quality so the 5mp files don't bother me. Now that said, and ergonomics aside, how do the d700 DX mode shots compare with the ones from your d300 from a pure Image Quality point of view? (Both RAW and Jpeg)
Posted on Aug 26, 2008, 9:57:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2008, 9:59:43 PM PDT
Brian D. Pratt says:
Great review! You are making me want to make the switch. If I didn't have $10k in Canon lenses this is the body that would make me switch! I can only hope Canon comes back with a replacement for the 5D to compete with this monster D700. For the first time ever, I envy Nikon users. The new Canon 50D looks sweet, but not compelling enough to ditch my 40D or Xsi (backup body).
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 27, 2008, 3:38:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 27, 2008, 4:04:08 AM PDT
I have not had much chance to test the D700 using DX lens as I have 14 other lenses that are FX capable.
But reading your request, I did some test shots using my Nikon 18-200mm DX lens under difficult low light conditions from wide, medium and telephoto focal length. The D700 performed significantly better then the D300 in terms of lower noise, deeper color and better tonal quality. This is specially notable at medium and low telephoto focal lengths. The test was conducted using the RAW+ JPEG Fine setting.
The test also made me think I should not totally disregard the very versatile (though optically average) Nikon 18-200mm DX lens for use with my D700 for those rare times when I absolutely can bring only one lens with me if I am willing to accept the lower resolution of using a DX lens on an FX body.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 27, 2008, 3:59:27 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 31, 2008, 7:56:23 AM PDT
I am certain that Canon will release a very much improved successor to the Canon 5D. I have a very healthy respect for this older full frame DSLR from Canon. The new features of the 50D will no doubt be incorporated into the new successor of the Canon 5D. I also have no doubt that this new 5D successor will be a good match against the D700. And this is good as competition will benefit us in the long run as these manufacturers compete for our business.
This high opinion on Canon's ability to design good cameras comes from my long time experience as a Canon film SLR user. But despite many years of using Canon and my high respect for Canon's abilities, I nonetheless made a switch to Nikon.
Canon's approach to lens made me switch to Nikon.
Unlike Nikon where almost all film SLR lenses are usable with Nikon's DSLRs, the earlier Canon pre-DSLR lenses could not be used with the Canon DSLRs. I had a very big collection of Canon lenses which were suddenly rendered of little value. I was disappointed that Canon choose to ignore its film SLR followers when designing its DSLRs. It obviously was possible to design the newer DSLR to be compatible with its film SLR lenses as Nikon very well showed.
I still had to buy new lenses when I shifted to Nikon. But the range, selection and prices of Nikon DSLR lenses were much wider and varied than Canon DSLR lenses. I could buy Nikon's fantastic new lenses (like its 14-24mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8) even as I helped myself to some fantastic buys from Nikon's older but optically perfect prime lens from its film SLRs days. This made me decide to shift to Nikon.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2008, 9:14:40 PM PDT
The new Canon EOS 5D Mark II replaces the Canon 5D, and directly competes with the Nikon D700: both are full-frame DSLR's, both cost about $2700, but the Canon 5D Mark II has a 21-megapixel sensor which should give higher resolution than the 12-megapixel Nikon D700. If you have $10K in Canon lenses - and they are full-frame lenses - the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is the obvious choice (it has just been announced, in October 2008).
Posted on Oct 27, 2008, 11:55:01 AM PDT
bill humphries says:
Just to clarify about the "reach" being longer with the DX camera. This doesn't actually change the reach, but the "angle of view". It basically crops the image, so then you see less area than you would on a FX sensor. To your eye, this would appear to zoom in on the image, since you are seeing less area around the image.
Having said that, the d300 is capturing as many pixels in the smaller area as the d700 is capturing in the larger area, so it is better to use the DX sensor to capture the "cropped" image, rather than cropping the full-size image in Photoshop.
Did that make any sense?