D700 with primes vs D300 with 17-55mm

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kevin_johnson|3, Jul 19, 2009.

  1. Hi all....
    I'm contemplating between the D700 with the 35mm f/2 50mm f/1.4 primes or the D300 with the 17-55 f/2.8. I was doing weddings but have pretty much changed directions. I now shoot more street, nature and family. I still do shoot the occasional wedding and do some studio work but fine art and family are my main focus. My pro's and cons are below for both cameras.
    D700 Pros-
    full frame, IQ, HI ISO capability, prism, screen size
    D700 Cons-
    size & weight, 95% framing, price, price for decent zoom is expensive
    D300 Pro's-
    price, size & weight, 100% frame coverage, focus point coverage,
    D300 Cons-
    DX sensor, HI ISO capabilities (still decent though), IQ not as good as D700
    What do you guys think? Does anyone have either camera setups? Any sugestions?
    Thanks in advance,
  2. Kevin,
    I have the D300 with 17-55 f/2.8. I'm strictly amateur. This set up is my first dslr coming from 30 years with an FE. It's an extremely capable combo. I do candids, event, nature, and street. I very rarely use the built-in flash, let alone an external flash. I keep the grip attached when using my zooms.
    I didn't feel a need to go the D700 route due to the extra cost. Even with the D300, 17-55 2.8, and grip I still get asked if I'm a pro<g>. I do leave the hood on all the time.
  3. i just got back from an art gallery in New Orleans and saw some nice HCB, Adams' prints, etc. and i'm glad to say that not once did i ever wonder what camera was used for the prints. Edouard (Edward?) the curator was so gracious in having a conversation with someone obviously not there to spend $85,000 on a print (of which there was a large selection at this price point) and himself never mentioned cameras, but photography. There was a large piece, maybe 2' x3' or so of which a new printing technique involving gold leaf and resin was printed; he mentioned that these women had used a holga in a plastic bag underwater and then printed that size.
    that being said, i have a d700, 28/3.5, 50/1.8 and should have my 85/1.4 from my local store as soon as nikon will deliver it to them. i love the setup, and i don't want to think about how much money i put into that that could have been spent on seminars, courses and other things that might have made me enjoy photography more. There will be numerous discussions here and elsewhere on the internets about this very question.
    The following posts will ask these questions in some order--
    "what do you shoot"
    "what lenses do you have"
    shun will comment that you will not benefit from a new body, despite how you are thinking
    then others will say that they have the d300, and that the high-ISO is underrated and perhaps just half a stop below that of the d700.
    then someone will bring up the two cameras pixel densities and say that the d300 can't hold a candle to the d700.
    then someone will say to go out and shoot.
    then kent in SD will give some good advice that later you will wish you had followed about primes not being as good as the fast zooms, despite common wisdom, and that you should get your lenses in order and then pick up a mint second hand body at rock bottom prices when they come down--just be prepared to wait and be ready to pounce when teh good deal comes along but don't rush it.
    either way, good luck on your photography and whichever way you end up, have fun.
  4. I think this recent thread may be of interest to you, if you haven't seen it already:
  5. I guess I'm curious why you feel a DX sensor is a "con?"
  6. I had that choice to make and went with the D300 and first rate modern zooms. I honestly think not only am I getting somewhat better image quality from that combo (especially the 17-55mm f2.8,) but it's also faster, more flexible, and I have more options. Note that I am a night photographer. I will not compromise on lens quality. I tried the older so-called primes and they just didn't deliver for me. The latest ones with modern coatings (Zeiss ZF series, Nikon 50mm f1.4 G, etc.) are reported to be a match for even the best zoom, but there's still the problem of missing fast breaking shots. And having to make lens changes in dusty outdoor conditions. I just couldn't justify spending $2,500 to gain one or one & half stops over the D300. Prices on the cameras will certainly drop. When that happens I'll re-evaluate. Meanwhile, I'm using some of the best lenses Nikon every made. No compromises.
    Kent in SD
  7. Kevin
    if you want to impress people get the primes and the D700, that seems to be the fashion. But if you want the most effective tools that don't break the bank get a D300 and a 17-55. If you had all the money in the world like it seems a lot of photonetters do, a D700 and a 24-70 would be great but the two lenses you mention and a D700 would not compare to the17-55 and D300 .
  8. I use a D700 with AIS primes, some AF-D primes and zooms. A D300 with the 17-55mm zoom will weigh a lot. Probably more than the D700 with the two primes. I like a 20mm, 35mm, 85mm kit or similiar range. If I have the time I like to use the older manaul focus lenses. It's a hobby for me and that is a personal choice for enjoyment, the main reason I have a D700. I also enjoy using rangefinders so take this with a grain of salt. Camera wise I doubt you will see much difference between the IQ with either setup unless you push print size. IMHO it depends more on how you want to work and your budget. Knock on wood but so far I have not had dirty sensor issues with all my lense changing.
  9. I had the D300 and loved it, and then I "upgraded" to the D700. At the time I thought it was an upgrade anyway. The D700 simply has brilliant image quality, but at ISO 200 you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the D300 and D700. I used the D700 for six months until I decided to sell it and go back to the D300 via the D200 (the D200 was great but the D300 is oh so much better).
    The D700 has superb high ISO performance. At ISO 200 I didn't see enough of a difference between it and the D300 to justify the cost.
    The D700 works brilliantly with Nikon primes. I also used it with the excellent Tamrom 17-35mm SP f2.8-4 zoom lens.
    The main thing I hated about the D700 was the viewfinder. For a pro camera, Nikon really made a mistake putting an amateur viewfinder on it (in terms of coverage). I was used to the D300 100% coverage and stepping down to the D700 90% coverage was a shock that I never recovered from. It slowed me down and became a real pain in the neck for me. If the D700 had the same viewfinder as the D3 I'd probably still be shooting with it.

    The D300 and the Nikon 16-85mm VR zoom is a perfect combination for me. To get the same focal length coverage on the D700 it would have to be the Nikon 24-120mm VR zoom, which isn't all that great, and it's huge compared to the small DX zoom.
    So for now, the D300 is the body for me. I am so satisfied with it I'm not planning to replace it for a few generations from now. Video is the last thing I want on a DSLR, so that won't sway me. More megapixels won't sway me.
  10. The DX sensor is hardly a con. I prefer it for sports for the extra reach.
    And the difference between IQ and ISO on both cameras is marginal as well.
  11. "if you want to impress people get the primes and the D700, that seems to be the fashion."
    That's a silly statement. I use a D700 and primes because I shoot indoor sports, sometimes without flash. Ever shot in a poorly lit gym? I need every stop of light that I can find.
  12. Street, nature, and family
    If wildlife and macro are included in your nature photography, DX is a solid choice as you get more reach / longer working distances and don't necessarily have to invest as much in glass.
    For street I think FX is much better as you can really use the high ISO capabilities for this kind of work. Also, you have more choices in fast glass at suitable focal lengths. I like to use 50mm, 60mm, 85mm, 105mm primes for street photography a lot (on FX); you can get a corresponding set on DX nowadays with the 35mm DX prime and then just add the 50/60, 85. For a wide angle prime on FX you can get the 35/2 autofocus, or one of the following manual focus lenses 35/1.4 Ai-S, 35/2 ZF, 28/2 Ai-S, 28/2.8 Ai-S, 28/2 ZF. For 28mm and wider I would avoid Nikon's AF primes but you probably don't need these for street photography. On DX for a wide you can get the 20mm f/3.5 Voigtländer which is excellent but of course, manual focus. If you need an autofocus wide angle on DX, you should go with a zoom such as the 17-55 DX (a very nice lens but a bit bulky and a bit soft at the long end).

    I just recently did several days of street photography in NYC and I mostly shot ISO 400-1600 with some 3200; the skyscrapers block the direct light but act as reflectors resulting in beautiful light but often quite low light levels. I think FX is great for this kind of work; you see the subject more clearly thanks to the bigger viewfinder and you have more options as you can make more practical use of wide apertures also, thanks to the large spacing between photosites in the D700/D3.
    For family pics, the FX sensor again is better as you get more options for shooting in different lighting situations. Also, lenses such as 85/1.4 or 1.8 give the intended angle of view and look on FX. You can of course do this with DX also, but you don't get the same groundbreaking possibilities for high quality images in low light.
    For weddings FX is clearly superior due to the low light options; in fact I would as far as suggest that DX isn't competitive unless you light everything including ceremony or only do outdoor weddings.
    Studio portraits I think can be done roughly equally on both formats; though you may get deeper tones with FX. The 17-55 is a nice portrait lens at its long end.
    Given your applications I would suggest you consider getting one of each; FX for people photography and street, and DX for that part of nature photography requiring long glass.
  13. So...
    How big do you print? If you don't print above 11 x 14 will you really see any difference?
  14. That was great, Dan.... :)
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    In view of the flood of people who want to go FX, Thom Hogan currently has a very timely write up on his home page http://www.bythom.com:
    The FX Lust. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most people lusting after FX are using excuses to justify wanting it, not showing real need ....​
    And then he goes on to discuss "Upgrade the photographer ...."

    Would you consider upgrading the photographer first and equipment second?
  16. In my opinion DX is no con and no pro, neither is FX. Based on image quality D300 and D700 are very good. I think it's time people buy bodies based on their lens need. I for instance like the Sigma 50-150 2.8 II so much, that I decided to buy another DX (D300) camera. Would I "upgrade" to D700, not only would I have to buy new lenses, but for the same reach I would be lumbering a 1.5 kg lens (80-200 or 70-200) and I know myself a little: heavy gear stays home after a while . So if you want to start building up a system first find out what lenses you realy want, than decide which body to buy. regards, Martijn
  17. For what it's worth, I could have been very happy with a 5 MP cropped version of the D700 sensor. But that was not an option.
  18. For street photography, the less obtrusive camera the better. It's hard to get people around you to be comfortable when you pull out a tank to shoot them.
  19. For landscapes with wide angle lenses, get the D700. For macro or tele work, get the D300. If you are interested in both, probably D300. Generally, ditto Ilkka.
  20. "For street photography, the less obtrusive camera the better. It's hard to get people around you to be comfortable when you pull out a tank to shoot them."
    Silly me - I've used a Crown Graphic for street photography. But I usually take time to chat with folks that I plan to shoot.
  21. I use the D3 a lot for street photography, with normal to medium tele primes. Nobody seems to mind. A huge lens like a 70-200/2.8 is another matter entirely and does tend to get people to be wary of what the photographer is doing, which is just one of the many reasons I shoot with primes. In the end you just have to find what works for you and learn to behave in a manner that doesn't upset people. I tend to prefer light late in the evening (in Finland in the summer you can easily shoot until 10pm or 11pm with FX and some fast glass) - just one of the many things you get with FX.
    FX lust? Well the D3/D700 revolutionized the kind of natural light that can be used to create high quality images. It also allows one to get great results with a lot of old pre-DX lenses available for little money today. It's not surprising that people want to hop in. Of course there are people who only shoot in bright light - for that, DX is fine. To me that would be extremely limiting. While FX bodies are expensive it's a single time investment. Even today, almost two years since introduction the D3 is still at the top in high ISO. I wouldn't be surprised if I'm still using my current FX bodies 3-4 years from now. By choosing a too small format you're choosing a limited set of lenses that work well with it, and probably never-ending upgrade cycles trying to get it up to par in low light, tonality, performance at wide apertures etc. It's pretty hard to fix what a permanent crop of >50% of the image area does to the quality of the image. I was delighted when I was able to jump away from that world.
  22. Ilkka has done an excellent job explaining why I'm about to move to a D700. I've shot a lot in low light, plan to continue doing so, and I much prefer shooting with primes than I do with zooms. I love shooting with my N80, and it isn't just because I love film.
    I actively dislike DX, and feel it isn't for me. I want a 50mm lens to be a 50mm lens. No figuring out what it converts to or anything like that. Five years from now, when it has long since been surpassed by other technology in various cameras, the D700 will still be a full frame camera. That the Canon 5D is a popular model in the used world should give a clue as to how important full frame is to some people.
  23. So lets get this right my D300 and D200 are only useable in bright light well thanks for letting me know that Ilkka
  24. here's another
  25. In view of the flood of people who want to go FX, Thom Hogan currently has a very timely write up on his home page http://www.bythom.com :​
    fyi, thom's article has moved off his frontpage. it can be found here: http://www.bythom.com/2009%20Nikon%20News.htm
    have to agree with the thomster here (though that's not hard, since he's almost always right. in fact his knowledge keeper ratio rivals that of PN's own shun cheung. but i digress...) -- you need a solid reason or three to upgrade otherwise you're just throwing money at NAS.
    i shoot a lot of club stuff where lighting is poor and flash isnt allowed and/or tolerated. i could surely use a d700 over my d300 since that extra stop of ISO buys me a faster shutter speed. but if i go for a d700, i have to rethink my entire lens strategy and maybe even carry two bodies all the time. it would be nice to use my 15mm fisheye at 15mm instead of 22.5mm where it's only semi-fishy, but all of a sudden my 30/1.4, 12-24/4, and 50-150/2.8 arent usable on my nice new camera except in DX crop mode. and i'll either have to fix the wobbly front ring on my 28-75/2.8 (took a ding -- the lens still works but not field-usable until its repaired) or (gulp!) bit the bullet on a bad-boy 24-70. then there's that missing tele range. in good light, having a 2.8 telezoom on a DX body and a wide angle or standar zoom on an FX body makes sense, but in situations where that stop of ISO is critical, i'd also need to add a 70-200 or 80-200 to take advantage of the FX sensor. so now i've not just forked over $2500 or so on a body, but at least an additonal $2500 on two more lenses just to get one stop of ISO over my current body and retain my lens set-up on DX.
    OTOH, let's say i get a refurb d300 for $1200, giving me a second body of a camera i really like, and know well, which covers most of my shooting needs. for just a little bit more than the cost of a d700--@ NYC discount--i not only get that second body, but i can also pick up a nikon 10.5 fisheye and a 85/1.4 (or maybe 180/2.8 or 135/2 ). any of those last three would help prepare me for an eventual move to FX, but without any of them, or a 70 or 80-200 as i said before, i'd essentially be paying more for less by going FX.
    so, is that extra stop of ISO really worth it? maybe not. if you can mimimize the amount of black space in a pic, the D300 can handle upwards of 1600 ISO. in fact, with that 50-150, i can zoom in tight enough to do so if i'm at the front of the stage (where i'd be with a shorter lens), and get away with what seems to be a fairly clean ISO 2500. in other words, my current set-up is good enough, i just need to think about composition more to compensate for the limitations of the d300--which arent actually that many, compared to my own limitations as a photographer...
  26. Hey Kevin,
    I have both of these camera and use them equally. I used to use a D200 and picked up a D700 so that my 17-35 would be a 17-35 again. What I didn't count on was missing the extra reach that the DX sensor gave me (I shoot mostly wildlife). Due to this, I dumped the D200, which I had relegated to backup body, and picked up a D300. Both the D300 and D700 have their benefits (and not many weaknesses). As someone else stated, I don't see the DX format as a con. In my case it's very much a positive and the reason for getting the camera in the first place. To get the same reach on an FX body, you'd have to use a 1.4 teleconverter at all times. I'd much rather shoot with a DX sensor than use the teleconverter (not that I don't use the teleconverter from time to time with my D300). I keep the wide angle 17-35 on my D700, unless I put the 70-200 or 200-400 on it when the light gets really low. The high ISO image quality is close between the two cameras, but I still don't like to push the D300 past 800, sometimes 1600, whereas I feel much better about the D700 at 1600.
    As for lenses, I prefer quality FX zooms (and sometimes not so quality zooms which can return some very good photos although might not zoom fast enough or let in enough light when you need it). I don't want to state the obvious, but you don't have to use DX lenses on a DX sensor. I use all FX lenses and can use them on either camera (which, of course, you can 't say for DX lenses, which only work to their full ability — without pixel cropping — on a DX camera).
    As for size, the D300 is a bit smaller, but it's negligible and they seem about the same to me. Good luck. They're both great options, just depends on what you shoot most.
    Oh, and one other thing. On these forums I keep seeing people talk somewhat condescendingly about how the camera doesn't matter. It's the person behind the camera and the lenses. This might have been the case in the film days when the camera was just a light box for the lens and film. Of course, the skill and knowledge and vision of the photographer and the lenses obviously matter, but now the film is the camera's sensor, making the choice of camera much more important. So when someone asks a very legitimate question about which camera to get they should be able to get some good advice that doesn't stop at "go learn how to become a better photographer."
  27. ok sean, but you have the 17-35, 70-200 and 200-400 already, so for you it's maybe more of a no-brainer to get a d700 for true wide angle on your 17-35. for others, it might be a different story if they dont have good FX glass in the bag.the other day, i saw someone with a D3 shooting with a 10.5 fisheye, which is a DX lens. a total waste of FF if you ask me. maybe that person couldnt afford a 17-35 or 14-24 after buying their camera. but they might have been better off with a d300 and tokina 11-16 or 10-17. in other words...wait for it...YMMV.
    btw, i think the OP got some good advice, the point being that getting a more expensive camera wont magically improve your technique overnight whatsoever.
  28. "if you want to impress people get the primes and the D700, that seems to be the fashion"
    yay! i am finally, for once in my life "in fashion". it feels sweet because i didn't even try!
  29. Horses for courses!!
    The D700 IS better in low light and for me it gives more freedom in choice and use of wide to short tele lenses. But for general, street or all round work a DX (D300) is great. Also DX works for long telephoto work by letting us use lighter smaller lenses for the reach we are looking for.
    My personal most used equipment for commercial work such as weddings etc is the D700 with 24-70 f2.8 and an Olympus with the 50 - 200 f2.8/3.5. I have 24 - 400mm at hand without changing lenses and the quality is superb.
    If you can own both FX and DX then as photographers we are blessed with todays camera capabilities, and versatility.
    If we are limited to one format then DX has to be the one for overall versatility, capability and value.
  30. Beautifully stated Mr Symmons
    Just so people don't think I'm some sort of Luddite, I do think there are some cases where a D700 would rule, I should think for an available light wedding photographer who makes a lot of money and when fitted with say a 24-70mm lens the D700 would be very hard to beat. My point is that for an occasional amateur photographer with a couple of old primes the D700 probably doesn't make a lot of sense over a D300, and I find it bizarre that people defend and recommend a camera just because they made the investment themselves to own one. As Mr Symmons stated it's horses for courses but when giving advice should we not take economics, the persons needs and common sense in to account.
    Cheers to everyone
  31. I have a D300 and 8 other cameras. The image quality at ISO 640 or below is absolutely stunning with the lenses I've got and use most (including the 17-35mm). I find I just don't use the focal lengths around "normal" all that much in the smaller formats. The biggest downside to DX and the biggest draw for the larger formats is that the wide side of things gets easier to see and critically compose in a bigger viewfinder. (It's sheer bliss to manually focus with my Pentax 645N and 35mm SMC-A f/3.5 ultrawide.)
    I can tolerate the DX viewfinder with telephoto, but only because the final image is so stunning and I the 200-400mm VR is even better as a 300-600mm equivalent with no additional weight gain and it remains an f/4. A well exposed ISO 1600 is entirely useable on the D300. That's huge. I think folks forget what a tremendous boost that is beyond what we had just a few short years ago. Sure, there are now cameras like the D3/700 that have faster useable ISOs, but justifying the use of it dips into the realm where the many images created to showcase it start to look gimmicky and trite.
    But if you can find and articulate a sufficient reason why you need the D700 over the D300 (concert and stage work, chapel interiors immediately come to mind) by all means, buy it. Somebody's gotta keep this economy afloat.
  32. "My point is that for an occasional amateur photographer with a couple of old primes the D700 probably doesn't make a lot of sense over a D300, and I find it bizarre that people defend and recommend a camera just because they made the investment themselves to own one."
    You've already made up your mind, and it seems that it is impossible for you to see why someone else's requirements may be different than your requirements. There are valid reasons why a D700 and a few primes make sense for some folks, and this thread already contains statements of some of those reasons.
  33. hmm, 1/2 size sensor with a zoom lens compared to a full frame 35mm with proper lenses...i'll take the d700 and the primes.
  34. Tom...
    A little simplistic perhaps? I'll take the D300 with a 17-55 DX zoom over the D700 and a crappy old 28mm f2.8 any day! Keep in mind, some of the newer zooms outperform some of the older primes (and even some of the recent primes).
    Now, today... can we let the thread die? (I'm talking to myself here...)
  35. Robert
    do you actually read the posts before you reply, please don't hate me because I think buying a $3000.00 camera and putting a $50.00 lens in front of it is not the best of ideas .
    My last word on the subject
  36. another great fountain of advice from a which body post. phenomenal.
  37. In all likelihood the equipment produced by every camera and lens manufacturer is superior to our photographic abilities.
  38. Well, I just took a 1:5 close up on my D300 using my 55/3.5 micro Nikkor that cost me fifty bucks and seriously the only non-specialist lens that I can consider upgrading to based on image quality alone is the Zeiss 50/2 makro. The price of a lens is a very poor yardstick for its performance and age is not such an obvious indicator either.
    The size and weight difference between the D700 and D300 is not a big deal. The lenses you put on your camera will affect size and weight a lot more.
  39. Wow! Things are getting heated on this forum.
    My story:
    I have a D300. I'm an "amateur". I shoot weddings and landscapes. I love my 17-55mm f/2.8. I'm glad I didn't spend the extra money for a D700.
    The end.
  40. Hi Kevin - I think you already have your answer in your post, and this has been supported by the responses given. You probably have to ask yourself how "low light" do you shoot. And since you are shooting street, nature and family - how often do those situations are in low light ? are they often enought to justify the extra $$ (including lenses)? I use both my D700 and D300 a lot but primarily depends on the assignment I'm going for. The lenses I use are FF only thus the weight does not make much of a difference (as what Oskar has pointed out). It does look like the D300 will serve your purpose (I guess) and the DX lenses will not weigh as much as the FF ones (like 24-70 or 70-200), nor as bulky, thus giving you more opportunities to "blend-in" for street shooting.
    Both are great cameras, though I prefer my D700 more.
  41. WOW.... thank you all for your help. Much much appreciated! Of coarse I'm still a little torn on which direction to go but am leaning towards the D700 with Primes. My reason is that I probably shoot wide most of the time and the FX will help me acheive this. Also, I was in a shop the other day and tested the d300 with the 17-55 lens. While the images looked great and tack sharp but did have noticable noise at ISO 400. I'd prefer to get cleaner image at ISO 400.
    Is this a trait of the D300 or did I miss some settings?
    Thanks again for all of your help
  42. Kevin,
    Here's a 100% crop of my friend's T-shirt. Granted, this is at ISO 3200 and it is grainy. There was no post processing, this is cropped from the raw original posted above.
  43. An ISO 400 photo, D300 w/17-55 f/2.8 @40mm 1/50s f/3.5 handheld, resize of raw file, no pp. Taken in available light at a little out of the way bar and grill (Big Daddy's)
  44. 100% crop of the above image. Again, no PP of the raw image other than cropping
  45. In my opinion sooner or later most of advanced DX users will switch to FX. There will be some exceptions of course (wildlife, sport photographers). I think it is not wise to invest in DX body like D300 and expensive DX Nikon lenses (17-55 f/2.8, 12-24 f/4), because in some years there will be no buyers for them. D40 and D60 users don't use such kind of lenses, D90, D200 and D300 users will switch to FX. When I'm saying FX, I don't have any special model in my mind. D700 is a superb camera, but new and better FX bodies will come soon (and the D700's price will drop). Just my opinion.
  46. I think you're going to see DX here to stay...but I could be wrong.
    Whichever way you go, I'll be totally counter-culteral and suggest that you buy it now and avoid the consumer-targeted features that will no doubt clog the D300s and D700s when introduced - "features" like video that may look good on a sell sheet but make an already crowded menu and conrol interface more crowded still.
    But hey, what do I know, I'm just a photographer... :-(

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