D700 vs D300

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by james_dunbar, Feb 25, 2010.

  1. I am a wildlife photographer mostly specialising in macros and I am researching buying a new camera to replace my D50. Either a D300 or a D700.
    High performance in low light levels and the ability to shoot in difficult, high contrast, conditions are very important to me. However I do tend to shoot alot of birds and other wildlife that (obviously) tends to be most comfortable when I am far away.
    My question is: In the opinions of this forum is the improved image quality that I get from having a full frame sensor worth the compromise in telephoto effect?

    All the lenses that I currently use are designed for full frame sensors so that is not an issue.
     
  2. What lenses do you have now, and what lenses would you be contemplating, should you switch to the larger format?

    EDIT: Sorry, I didn't see the small print on the tail of your post, above. But it actually still matters ... because even though you have all FX-friendly lenses, you're still looking at very different behavior.
     
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Once you start talking about wildlife and especially birds, I would get the D300 or better yet, the D300S with video capability. You need reach for wildlife.
     
  4. The Nikon D700 has the same sensor that Nikon D3. There is capacity for high isos. So my recommendation is the D700
     
  5. wildlife? DX. every time. Makes all your lenses longer than FX. What lenses do you have?
     
  6. I'm in a similar dilemma, wanting to replace my D200. I also shoot landscapes and would buy a 16-35mm to replace my 12-24mm DX lens on the D700. Big bucks. What I really need is one of each, a D300 and a D700. But it gets worse because I figure both those models could be getting replaced w/in the year. So I'm going to wait and see, and save my $$$ in the meantime.
     
  7. "the improved image quality that I get from having a full frame sensor"
    I think a lot of people would beg to differ...
     
  8. I would also recommend the D300s. The D700 will not offer the zoom performance. The D300 can shoot very clean images at ISO 1600, and even ISO 3200 is superb. The D700 is already nearly two years old and will most likely be replaced this year with the same technology that went into the D3s.
     
  9. So the real question is aside from the many features/benefits the D700 has over the D300, is a 6mp cropped D700 image as good as a 12mp D300 image. I tested the D300 full frame image to a cropped D3 image under numerous shooting conditions and found virtually no difference. Here is one series of test shots I did at ISO 3200 which includes the full frame and an extensive crops made for comparison. The D3 crop is on the bottom:
    http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=859843#
    (original shot, ISO 3200, 80-400mm @400mm, f8, 1/125, SB-800)
    If money is not an issue, I would recommend you go with the D700.
     
  10. "...a 6mp cropped D700 image as good as a 12mp D300 image..."​
    Elliot, those claims might be credible if you'd back them up with unaltered original photos with EXIF data intact. It's impossible to verify your claims based on those composite images.
    A thorough description of your resampling process would also help so that others could attempt to duplicate your results and judge for themselves whether these claims are credible.
    You could attach full resolution, unaltered files to a discussion forum thread or host them off-site, since unfortunately photo.net portfolio spaces do not accommodate maximum resolution JPEGs (the limit is something like 1500 pixels in either dimension or 3 MB).
     
  11. If you have gobs of disposable income get the best camera money can buy...but if you are like most of us mere mortals at some pt. the law of "diminishing returns" comes into play. Forget numbers and specifications, megapixels,ISO and all the rest of it. In the end, will paying the premium for FX raise your photography by the same factor? In other words, will paying 50% more money for a D700 allow you take images that are perceptibly 50% better? .. Unless you make your living taking pictures...and the type of photography you shoot (studio, fine art etc) requires the advantages of FX...then go with the D300. I too just made the upgrade from a D50 last weekend. My decision was between the D90 and the D300. I chose the D300 because I like to shoot sports and wildlife and I wanted higher FPS and the extra pixel density for cropping out action shots for larger prints. I wouldn't even say that the D300 takes better pictures than my D50 outright. It just gives me more versatility and better on-body controls.
     
  12. d300 for wildlife, d700 for high-ISO. if you shoot more wildlife than high-ISO go for the d300.
     
  13. I have both the D300 and the D700; I use the D700 for landscape, wide angle, and portraiture / low light, and mainly the D300 for macro since I don't get into extreme telephoto (not that I wouldn't, but the long glass gets into serious money). These guys have all made valid points and in all things photographic what really matters is what you find to be true for your own way. If you only had enough money to support one or the other you would have to make do with what was available and it would be good...something to think about.
     
  14. I agree with Shun. D700 won't give you much advantage.
    Kent in SD
     
  15. For the uses you indicate, I think the D300 makes much more sense. Apart from the reasons alreayd given, another nice thing with birds in flight: D300 has AF sensors nearly all over the frame, on the D700 they're much more concentrated in the middle. To me, the D300 wins there since it can track moving items for a "longer period". But it depends also a bit on how you work.
    Also, due to the DX crop, with macro you should have a bit of an advantage (extra reach while keeping the DoF of the original focal length), though diffraction effects also kicks in a bit earlier.
    And with the D50 you are already used to the DX crop, and especially for wildlife you may be disappointed to find the loss of reach of your longer lenses when you move to FX. I know I would :)
     
  16. mostly specialising in macros​
    D700, better high ISO capabilities, faster shutter speed at same aperture. Furthermore all lenses are FX too.
     
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I agree with Shun. D700 won't give you much advantage.​
    Kent, that wasn't exactly what I said.
    For shooting wildlife, FX will give you a pretty serious disadvantage. After using my D100 and D2X for several years, when I picked up the D3 for the first time back in early 2008, the loss of the crop factor was very apparent. Today, some of the world's best known wildlife photographers stay with DX for that very reason. For example, in April last year I took a seminar with Frans Lanting, arguably the best wildlife photographer in the world and certainly one of the very best, and he was using a D300 himself: http://www.photo.net/nature-photography-forum/00TCtL
    Incidentally, for wildlife photography, we typically don't use high ISO that often. Wildlife are usually not indoors. As long as you have a f4, f5.6 lens, if you need to go beyond ISO 400, 800, it means the light is too poor to get great results. If you shoot at night, you'll need artificial lighting.
     
  18. Lex, good points. My testing was done about 1 1/2 years ago just before I sold my D300 so I cannot recreate and repost results. As far as testing procedure, I took a shot with the D300, then, using the same lens, set the D3 to DX mode and framed the shot per the D300's image. The D3 shot was upsized in Photoshop using the program's default settings. Perhaps someone who has both cameras can perform a similar test and post the results to confirm or refute mine.
    Whether one gives better IQ over the other is a matter of opinion (when it comes to resolution difference). It is certainly a fact that the D700/D3 high ISO capabilities are superior to that of the D300. When shooting above ISO 1000, I would rather have a 6mp D700/D3 image over the higher resolution D300 counterpart.
    "D300 has AF sensors nearly all over the frame, on the D700 they're much more concentrated in the middle. To me, the D300 wins there since it can track moving items for a "longer period". " Yes this is true. But, the AF processing power of the D3 (I assume the D700 is the same as the D3 - someone correct me if I am incorrect in this assumption) is noticeably faster so you can actually more accurately track moving subjects with the D3/D700 cameras. You can actually use the 51pt 3D reasonably well with the D3 where I found it too slow and unusable on the D300 except for slow moving subjects. Additionally, the size of the AF area is identical between the D300 and D3/D700 cameras so this is really a non-issue.
    The original poster states "High performance in low light levels and the ability to shoot in difficult, high contrast, conditions are very important to me. However I do tend to shoot alot of birds and other wildlife that (obviously) tends to be most comfortable when I am far away." The high ISO performance of the D700 is noticeably improved over the D300. The AF performance of the D700 over the D300 is also improved (again, I make this comment based on the D3's AF performance which I believe is identical to the D700's).
    Which body should he go with? Based on his criteria, I think the choice is an easy one. But I will add that I have yet to read of anyone disappointed with the performance of the D300. I was certainly satisfied with mine. Is a very low ISO 12mp image from the D300 'better' than a low ISO 6mp DX crop from the D700? Yes, without a doubt.
     
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Elliot, I find your test images totally unsharp. As a result, any difference between 5MP and 12MP is completely blurred. I am afraid that the only thing you have demonstrated is that it is completely possible to produce unsharp images with an expensive camera such as the D3.
    Otherwise, with good technique, a decent lens, and any subject with fine details, it should be very easy to demonstrate the difference between a 5MP DX crop from a D3/D700 and the entire frame from a D300/D300S. That is precisely why a lot of great wildlife photographers prefer DX.
     
  20. In my opinion, this really depends what type of wild life photography the OP is referring to; for example.. if you're in a typical tropical forest in South East Asia (eg. elephants, monkeys, etc), with tall tropical trees and very thick undergrowth/plantation, then the situation is quite dark / shadows, and not very ideal for photography.
    And many times also, these animals are not like those in the zoo, waiting for photos to be taken of them. Instead, we have to wait for the animals to come out for food, or going home to their nest place. And the timing may not be ideal for photography, eg. early morning or in the evening when it's getting dark.
    For this reason the D700/D3 ISO capability is favourable. You will also need a telephoto lens like 300mm or 400mm f/2.8, and if you need something longer reach like 500 f/4, then higher ISO will be required.
    Situation will defer if you're shooting wild life (eg. giraffes) in bright sunlight on the fields of Africa, for example.
     
  21. If required, I shoot my D300 at iso1600 for wildlife, keep in mind I'm an amateur, I use these as my desktop backgrounds not for publishing or whatever :D
    http://wolfbrother.blogspot.com/2009/08/speechless.html
    In normal non-wildlife use nowadays, I push my D200/D300 to HI-1 as and when required to get non-blurry photos. I'm probably getting old and not pixel peeping enough lol. Bottom line, proper exposure == very usable pictures.
    Regards,
    Alvin
     
  22. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    if you're in a typical tropical forest in South East Asia (eg. elephants, monkeys, etc), with tall tropical trees and very thick undergrowth/plantation, then the situation is quite dark / shadows, and not very ideal for photography.​
    Typically under those situations, people use flash. There are a number of products to concentrate the light from an SB-800, SB-900 so cover subjects from a distance. Take a look my link on Frans Lanting's seminar; I included an image of him working in the field.
    One issue people keep ignoring is that the high-ISO capability from the D3/D700 is merely 1 extra stop over the D300/D300S. There is a non-trivial difference but it is not a huge difference and it is mainly from ISO 1600 and up. Even the D3S, which provide yet another stop, is not panacea.
    If you are an indoor photographer or you shoot night sports, there are plenty of occasions that high ISO is required, and flash may not be allowed. Wildlife photographers should mainly be using the base ISO and perhaps 1 or 2 stops above that the majority of the time.
     
  23. I also just upgraded from the D50 to a D300s. Just arrived this week!
     
  24. Just as a counter-point for those are pointing towards the D300 direction, I wonder why Art Wolf continues to use the FF cameras for his nature works, including birds and wildlife.
     
  25. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I wonder why Art Wolf continues to use the FF cameras for his nature works, including birds and wildlife.​
    Arthur, I am afraid that only Arthur (I mean Art) Wolfe can answer that question. The last time I saw Art Wolfe was some 11 years ago in late 1998. At the time he had just switched from Nikon to Canon. (I had a long conversation with him about that.) Keep in mind that Canon never had an APS-C sensor DSLR similar to the D300/D300S until just a few months ago, namely the 7D. Since its introduction, the 7D has been very popular among wildlife photographers that use Canon.
     
  26. James, as you can see there are strong arguments either way. It comes down to a personal choice. I like full-frame cameras, personally, but I'm a relatively large person with large hands and I had plenty of full-frame compatible lenses left over from my F100. Even so, I have considered purchasing a DX camera (perhaps a D90) to carry for the extra reach when it's warranted. My D700 is far superior to my old D200, but they're also from two generations of technology. The D300s is a far better camera than the D200, and it also enables you to shoot video and use two memory cards simultaneously - very useful features in my humble opinion.
    Hopefully, you can spend some time with both cameras before you have to make a purchase decision.
     
  27. I have both cameras. If I were a wildlife photographer, I would go with the D300.
     
  28. "Just as a counter-point for those are pointing towards the D300 direction, I wonder why Art Wolf continues to use the FF cameras for his nature works, including birds and wildlife." Pretty simple answer, he makes a lot of money doing what he does and can afford the best lenses Nikon has to offer so he really doesn't need a D300 for the longer reach. Nikon also gives him a lot of equipment to use and pays him to use it. If James or any of us had that kind of gig, I think we would all get a D3S or D3X and get the long tellies to go along with it.
     
  29. I am afraid that the only thing you have demonstrated is that it is completely possible to produce unsharp images with an expensive camera such as the D3.​
    ouch.
    as for myself, i wonder about the wisdom of shooting both cameras at ISO 3200, where the D3 has a clear advantage. i would think at lower ISOs the differences would only be apparent if printing extra large.
     
  30. DX Please. No brainer! Shun has said it ALLLLLL every point needed to make, wildlife = outdoors = great lighting = no need for high ISO etc.. D300s gives that awesome range no brainer. I use a D3, D3s, and I have my D300 always handy for a sports shot that's out of reach of the FX sensors.. the crop makes no sense when all you want is reach, in fact when shooting sports I tend to have a mid-range zoom on the D3s and a telephoto on the D300 so as to be sure to take advantage of that extra boost in range whenever I can. My events tend to be outdoors so I can happily say that not only would a D80 give me the ISO I need, but the D300 is easily more than enough ;).
    Not a question about money, it's all just mathematics.
    Dave
     
  31. And one more advantage of a D300 or D300s over a D700 is that the D300(s) have a 100% viewfinder like a D3(s). The D700 does not. Once you use a DSLR with a 100% viewfinder, you won't want to use one with anything less.
     
  32. Shun: Using flash in the dark does help (at times, depends on what the subject)... but flash is not the ultimate solution itself. There are plenty of obstacles along the way, and shadows can be problematic. How far can a flash go anyway? You can't make the jungle into a studio. Maybe in the zoo, you can.
    You can bring as many artificial lighting equipments into the wild life (depends how much you can afford to pay ppl to help you carry / protect your equipments) but in the jungle, mobility is another issue to consider. Don't forget, photography equipments are not the only things you want to carry with you in the wildlife.
    Animals in general, don't like flash. They don't behave NATURALLY when flash is used. You can probably try, but it's probably a one-off shot, before they begin to behave unnaturally to protect their herd/family, run away, or even charge back and attack you.
    DX has some advantages, but FX also has its place. The OP has not mentioned in detail, what type of wild life he intends to shoot besides birds. Is it worms, insects, wild cats, lions or elephants or frogs? Wild life photographers normally bring both DX & FX with them.
     
  33. Agreed DX for wildlife - you never seem to have enough reach.
    Having said that, for anything else full frame is so nice - and in use I find the D3 for instance to be on a different planet to the D300s - don't know why, it's just so much nicer to use.
    Steve
     
  34. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Kiatchun, just about every good wildlife photographer uses flash in jungles. I suggest you do some research on this subject.
    And I'll repeat again, the D700 merely gives you one extra stop of high ISO results over the D300. I have both cameras and have also tested the D3S, which gives you yet another stop, but even with the D3S you'll still need to use flash when the quality of available light is too poor.
    I in fact use both formats. However, in this case the OP needs to choose between the D300 and D700. But once the OP mentions birds, the choice becomes obvious.
     
  35. I have both. For wildlife go for the D300. You need the 1/2X multiplier.
     
  36. Shun said:
    Keep in mind that Canon never had an APS-C sensor DSLR similar to the D300/D300S until just a few months ago, namely the 7D. Since its introduction, the 7D has been very popular among wildlife photographers that use Canon.​
    Correct me if I am wrong but I thought every other EOS DSLR are cropped sensors except the 1Ds and 5D, albeit they may not be exactly APS-C size.
     
  37. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Arthur, all Canon DSLRs except for the 1D, 1DS and 5D series use APS-C size sensors. I used the term APS-C instead of DX on purpose since the Canon sensor for those cameras is slightly smaller than 16x24mm for Nikon. The Canon 1.6x and Nikon 1.5x are all considered APS-C formats.
    My point was that prior to the 7D, which was introduced in the fall of 2009, Canon never had any APS-C sensor DSLR that could achieve 8 frames/sec and with Canon's top-of-the-line AF. Therefore serious sports and wildlife photographers tend to use 1D and 1DS series cameras. The addition of the 7D has somewhat changed the picture though. I noticed that a lot of wildlife photographers using Canon are now using the 7D, confirming that a lot of people prefer the samll sensor for wildlife photography.
     
  38. Thank you all for your advice. You all have been most helpful. I think I will go with the D300 all things considered.
     
  39. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    James, we are glad to help. Would you consider a D300S instead of a D300? I think video capability and dual memory cards are desirable advantages to have.
     
  40. Yeah I was going to go for the D300s. Keep me from getting new memory cards.
     

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