The Nikon D700 digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera is a cross between the full-frame sensor (FX – 24×36mm) D3 and the small-frame sensor (DX – 16×24mm) D300. The D700 is the economy model of the D3, using the same sensor and digital electronic processing pipeline as its bigger brother, minus a few high-end features such as a built-in vertical grip and dual compact flash memory cards. The Nikon D700 is a professional camera with 12 MP.
On August 23, 2007, Nikon invited the press from around the world to Tokyo and announced two new digital SLR cameras, namely the
Almost a year later, on July 1, 2008, Nikon introduced its second FX-format DSLR in the D700. Contrary to a lot of speculations, the second FX body is not a 20+MP camera. The D700 is essentially a cross between the D3 and D300. Therefore, it can be viewed as the economy model of the D3 or the FX version of the D300. Internally the D700 shares a lot of the same electronics as the D3. However, the external controls are very much D300-like. The three of them share the same auto-focus module the Multi-CAM 3500.
The Nikon D700 can be purchased from one of our trusted merchants in the following combinations:
If you are new to digital photography, start with the photo.net guide Building a DSLR System.
High ISO Performance in Low Light|high-iso
12-bit vs. 14-bit Capture and RAW Compression|12bit-vs-14bit
Controls and Custom Settings|controls
Choosing a Lens|choosing-lenses
Compatibility with DX Lenses|dx-lens-compatibility
Compatibility with Older Lenses|compatibility-older-lenses
Nikon D700, D3, or D300?|comparison-d700-d3-d300
Compared to the Canon 5D, 5D Mark II and Sony A900|comparison-canon-sony
Key D700 Features|key-features
Where to Buy|buy
Example D700 Photographs|d700-example-photographs
Even though the D700 may be the economy model, its feature set is still extremely strong with only a few luxury items absent from those on the D3. The following list is a summary of the D3 features not available on the D700:
Similar to the D3, the D700 is fully capable for action photography. Start up time is 120 msec and shutter lag is a short 40 msec, both just like the D3. Otherwise, the D700 is every bit as suitable for demanding action and low-light photography as the D3. The D700 can capture at 5 fps native with one EN-EL3e battery inside the camera. But just like the D300, if one attaches the optional MB-D10 vertical grip/battery pack (with either an EN-EL4/EN-EL4a battery or 8 AA batteries inside), the D700 can capture at 8 fps at the full 14-bit mode, very close to the 9 fps from the D3. The good news is that unlike the D300, the D700 can capture at the full 14-bit mode without any loss of frame rate exactly like the D3, while the D300 drops to only 2.5 fps in the 14-bit mode.
On the other hand, the D700 has some advantages of its own:
The D700 uses the same Multi-CAM 3500 FX AF module as the D3, and the D300 uses a very similar Multi-CAM 3500 DX. It has a total of 51 AF points and among them 15 are cross type that are sensitive to both horizontal and vertical patterns. If you hold the camera horizontally, the 15 cross-type AF points are the ones in the center three columns, 5 to each column. Under dim light, typically the cross-type AF points perform much better. This is an AF module optimized for action photography but is less suitable for still subjects, especially in the FX format.
On the D700, the Multi-CAM 3500 can track moving subjects at 8 fps with the optional MB-D10 battery pack. My testing of the D3, D700 and D300 cameras indicates that the new AF module can track moving wildlife, birds in flight and various sports with ease. For action photography, I would rate it a step better than the auto-focus on the D2X that uses the previous generation of Nikon’s best AF module, the Multi-CAM 2000. With the D2X, roughly 80 to 90% of my surfing images are in focus. With the Multi-CAM 3500, it is quite close to 100%.
For photographing still subjects, one can select any one of the 51 AF points from the Multi-Selector pad on the back of the camera and use that to directly cover the subject in the viewfinder. Using the pad to move the selection one AF point at a time is slow. Therefore, there is an option to make only 11 AF points (out of the 51) selectable (Custom Setting a8). Additionally, if one presses on the center button of the Multi-Selection pad, it resets to the center AF point.
While the 51 AF points from the Multi-CAM 3500 cover a good portion on the D300’s DX frame, on the D700’s FX frame, which has over twice the area, the 51 AF points only cover the center 25% of the frame. Therefore, some old-fashioned AF, lock focus, and recompose may once again be necessary. In particular, if the camera is held in the portrait (vertical) orientation, there is no cross-type AF point in the top 40% of the frame, where the subject typically is. It can be a problem under indoor dim light. That is a disadvantage the D700 shares with the D3.
For photographing moving subjects, the D700 has the Dynamic AF Area option to choose a cluster of 9, 21 or all 51 AF points to track the subject (Custom Setting a3), with the center of the cluster at any one of the 51 AF points. A cluster of 9 simply represents a center AF point with a circle of 8 surrounding it to form a square. A cluster of 21 has a second layer surrounding the 9 inside.
The general rule of thumb is that the fewer AF points that are involved in deciding the focus, the less calculation the little computer inside the camera needs to make such that the faster AF will be. However, using only 9 AF points, it is rather easy for the D700 to lock onto the background when the subject briefly moves off the covered area, causing the common “back focus” problem. My experience is that using 21 AF points seems to be a better compromise. If one selects all 51 AF points, there is a further option to engage 3D tracking, where the Multi-CAM 3500 takes additional information from the 1005-pixel metering CCD inside the viewfinder into consideration. Since the metering CCD is sensitive to color, 3D tracking is designed to keep track of a subject’s movement provided that it has a different color and/or a lot of contrast from the background. My experience with this option is mixed. For smaller subjects that are covered by one or two AF points, the Multi-CAM 3500 can track the subject for a short while, but after a few AF point hops, it tends to lose track of it and latches onto something else instead. For larger subjects that can occupy 10 or 20 AF points, tracking works a lot better.
Unlike the D2X and D200 that have a Closest Subject Priority AF mode, the Multi-CAM 3500 replaces it with Auto-Area AF where it intends to automatically detect the subject. If the lens used is a D lens (including all AF-S and G lenses) that can relay focusing distance information to the camera body, the D700 has the ability to detect human faces automatically. For the new 3D tracking and face detection features, I would say there is still plenty of room for future improvement.
The D700 has a large and bright viewfinder that shows 95% of the image with a 90% frame area. For those who were familiar with the viewfinders from the 35mm-film SLR era and have been complaining about the smaller DX-format viewfinder, the good news is that the D700’s viewfinder is back to the old size. Personally, I am already quite happy with the viewfinders on the D2X, D200 and D300. While the D700’s viewfinder may be even better, it makes little difference to me.
Across the bottom of the viewfinder area is a list of essential information including focus confirmation, metering mode, exposure mode, shutter speed, aperture, sensitivity ISO setting and frame counter. The scale for over and underexposure is from -2 to +2 stops, same as most Nikon SLRs but down from the -3 to +3 on the D3. Fortunately, the scale on the top LCD remains from -3 to +3. Given the improved dynamic range on the D3 and D700, a wider scale seems helpful.
Unlike the D300, the D700 uses a D2/D3-style round viewfinder eyepiece that is removable. It also has a built-in viewfinder curtain that can block any stray light from entering into the viewfinder when there is no photographer behind the camera, thus affecting the accuracy of the meter. The viewfinder curtain also serves as a lock for the eyepiece; it has to be closed before the eyepiece can be removed. Over the years, I have lost a few eyepieces as they come loose; Nikon has finally solved that problem. The D700’s eyepiece is interchangeable with those for the D2 and D3 family cameras.
The center of the back side of the Nikon D700 is a 3-inch, 922,000-pixel (640×480, multiplied by three colors) LCD screen. The large LCD is very convenient for reviewing images and magnified details. The display can be scrolled to review exposure information (time stamp, shutter speed, aperture, ISO sensitivity, white balance, etc.), histograms, and blinking highlights.
The exposure and auto focus information on the top monochrome LCD can be duplicated onto the back LCD by pressing the dedicated “info” button. Since the back LCD has much higher resolution, it can provide additional details such as which AF point is currently active, which group of AF points is used in Dynamic AF, and the current frame rate. The D700’s LCD shows additional information on Shooting Menu and Custom Setting options selected.
Similar to most new DSLRs introduced in the last year or so, the D700 has the live view option. Instead of using the traditional optical viewfinder, the photographer can compose with a live image on the back LCD. This option is very convenient for photographing from either a high angle such as raising the camera above everybody’s head among a crowd, a low angle for macro work, as well as precise focus tuning. And if the 95% viewfinder on the D700 is a concern, live view does show 100% of the frame.
The D700 also has the Virtual Horizon feature, which debuted with the D3 a year ago. It functions the same way as a bubble level for photography or construction work. The D700 will display a circle on the back LCD, and a horizontal line indicates by how much the camera is tilted. The line’s color turns green when the camera is level. However, the Virtual Horizon is close but not quite 100% accurate. I find that most of my landscape images still require a tiny bit of rotational adjustment in Photoshop to keep the horizon absolutely level.
The D700 uses a BM-9 LCD cover, which has a notch to accommodate the round multi-selection pad on the back of the camera. Otherwise, the BM-9 is almost identical to the BM-8 for the D300. In fact, the BM-9 can be used on the D300, but the BM-8 does not quite fit the D700 because it lacks the notch.
For years, high-ISO performance was an area Nikon DSLRs were lagging behind the competition, but the D3 completely turned that around in 2007. The D700 is simply every bit as good as the D3 in this aspect due to the identical sensor and image-processing electronics between the two. ISO 1600 and 3200 are very usable under indoor, dim light conditions and even ISO 6400 is acceptable. For more information in this area, please reference Photo.net’s Nikon D3 Review and the corresponding high-ISO wedding image samples.
Such excellent high-ISO performance greatly changes my way of photographing under indoor, dim-light conditions. First of all I use a lot less flash. It now becomes possible to boost the ISO to 1600 and hand hold under existing artificial light indoors or at night. I can even stop down the lens a bit to, e.g. f/5.6 to gain some optical quality and depth of field.
14-bit capture was another new option debut with the D3 and D300. I have studied a number of otherwise identical images at both 12 and 14 bits under indoor and outdoor conditions. Other than the fact that the 14-bit image files are larger, the difference is subtle. I have a difficult time telling them apart. Under high-ISO, low light conditions, 14 bits might provide a little more details in the shadows.
On the D300, the problem is that in the 14-bit mode, it becomes a 2.5 fps camera. There is no speed penalty for the D700, which remains at 5 fps, and 8 fps with the MB-D10 in either 12 or 14 bits. The image files will be somewhat larger. Keep in mind that JPEG files are always 8 bits.
The RAW compression option has been available on Nikon DSLRs for several generations. Previously, it has always been lossy compression. Nikon has some algorithm to compress the highlight data such that the difference is not easily detectable by human vision. I have also compared a number of compressed vs. uncompressed RAW files, and I cannot observe any difference. On the D3, D700 and D300, there is now a lossless compression option, which lets you save some memory space without any loss of details.
Since memory card and disk drive prices have decreased significantly in the last few years, for D700 users, you might as well retain as much information from the camera as possible. I would stay with 14-bit captures and lossless RAW compression (or uncompressed RAW), but practically, in most situations, there is little observable difference from 12-bit captures with lossy compression.
The D700 has a built-in pop-up flash which only has limited power and cannot rotate for bounce flash. However, its main advantage is that it can serve as the commander in a Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) master to control external flashes.
Among Nikon external flashes, the best ones are the
Additionally, there is a small flash, the
Alternatively, one can mount the optional
The D700 can accept one Type I Compact Flash (CF) card that is UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access) compatible so that it can take full advantage of the high write speeds in some of the latest CF cards, such as Sandisk Extreme IV and Lexar 300x UDMA. However, it does not accept any Type II CF cards such that microdrives are incompatible.
Similar to the D300, the D700 uses one EN-EL3e battery inside the camera. The EN-EL3e is a 7.4v, 1500mAh Lithium-ion battery and an improved version from the earlier EN-EL3 and EN-EL3a. While the new EN-EL3e can be used on the older DSLRs such as the D70/D70s, the old non-e model batteries cannot be used on the D700. With a fully charged EN-EL3e, Nikon rates the life of the battery at 1000 image captures, which is a lot less than that for the D300. This number will vary, depending on your use of flash and/or image previewing on the LCD.
Similar to the D300, the D700 accepts an optional MB-D10 battery pack, which doubles as a vertical grip. With the battery pack on, the internal EN-EL3e battery may remain inside the D700 but is no longer mandatory. The MB-D10 battery pack can be powered by one of three ways:
Battery life on the D700 with only the EN-EL3e does not seem to be as good as that on the D300. While I have not used its battery to exhaustion, after about 250 NEF captures, the battery indicator loses 2 out of the 5 bars. I like to review my images on the back LCD, and I am sure that practice contributes to battery usage. But given the small size and low price for the EN-EL3e’s, carrying 1 to 2 spares around should not be a problem.
The higher-end Nikon DSLRs use a Custom Setting Menu to customize the camera for each photographer’s individual needs. The settings are grouped into four banks, A, B, C, and D. Each bank contains a complete set of customization for a type of photography or for one of several photographers who share that camera. For example, you may have Bank A for portraits, B for sports, C for landscape and D for indoor flash work.
Each bank contains six groups of settings from a to f:
Understandably, it will take some time to master all the custom settings, and most likely one will not need to use every option available. I would emphasize that if you use auto focus, you should at least be familiar with some of the group “a” options:
Note: if you choose Focus Priority for a2 and AF-ON only for a5, pressing on the shutter release will not engage AF and as long as it is not in focus, the D700’s shutter won’t fire. You may incorrectly think that your D700 is “not working.”
Another custom setting that deserves some attention is “f8,” which lets you lock the main command dial and/or the sub-command dial, depending on the exposure mode. This is an option that is not present on the D3, which has a dedicated LOCK button on top of the camera, or the D300. The catch is that in case you engage the lock unintentionally, you may thik your command dial is “broken.”
For whatever reason Nikon removed the dedicated Auto Bracketing (BKT) button from the D300, and that same design continues on the D700. Instead, the BKT button is now programmable. Unfortunately, when my D300 was new, I had accidentally engaged bracketing and I was wondering why my images from that day all had inconsistent exposures. I would watch out for this problem on the D700.
The D700’s shutter is rated for 150K actuations while the D3’s is better built for 300K actuations. However, the D700’s shutter is a lot quieter. When I was testing the D3 earlier this year, I photographed a wedding from way back on the balcony of a large church with my 200-400mm/f4 zoom lens. Unfortunately, the shutter was so loud that another photographer downstairs in the front of the church could hear every click. In fact, I was quite surprised when he commented that the timing of my captures was good. Fortunately, the D700 has a much quieter shutter. That may be an advantage for weddings and certain wildlife photography when it is important not to disturb the subjects.
For some reason, Nikon supplies a low-quality shoulder strap with the D700. It is not as well made as those for the D2X, D3 or even the D300.
Practically every Nikon F mount lens introduced since the beginning of the AI era (Auto Indexing, debut in 1977) can be mounted onto the D700. There are a few rare exceptions such as two F3AF lenses specifically made for the AF version of the F3 in the early 1980’s. Nikon DX lenses with a small image circle for DX DSLR can be used either with vignetting on the D700 or you can engage the DX crop mode so that the D700 only captures a 24×16mm DX image at 5MP.
Interestingly, Nikon is packaging the D700 with the
You can also mount Nikon DX lenses, designed for 16×24mm small-sensor DSLRs, onto the D700. Similar to the D3, the D700 has the DX-crop mode to capture a DX-size image, regardless of whether the lens mounted is DX or not. It also has the auto DX crop feature so that the D700 automatically switches to the DX-crop mode when a DX lens is mounted. (There are some compatibility issues with non-Nikon, third-party lenses that the auto-DX-crop feature does not properly engage. As a result, it engages the DX crop when some non-DX lenses are mounted and does not engage when DX lenses are mounted.)
Some DX zoom lenses can actually provide a large enough image circle to cover the entire FX frame on the long end of their zoom ranges. For example, the Nikon
Nikon has never changed the basic F mount since the original Nikon F from 1959. The D700 is fully compatible with almost all F mount lenses, both manual focus and auto focus, since Nikon introduced auto indexing (AI) in 1977, with a few rare exceptions (such as the two AF lenses specially designed for the F3 AF version). Pre-AI lenses from 1959 to 1977 must be AI converted before they can be mounted onto most modern DSLRs. Some of the early fisheye and super-wide lenses that protrude into the mirror box and require a mechanical mirror lock up also cannot be used.
Similar to the D1, D2, D3, D200 and D300 family DSLRs, the D700 has the traditional mechanical aperture setting linkage so that it can meter with manual-focus lenses that have no built-in CPU, for both center weighted and spot metering. Additionally, the D700 has a mini lens database inside. If the information for manual-focus lenses is pre-programmed into the database so that the D700 body knows what the maximum aperture is, matrix metering is also available.
The D700 is literally a cross between the D3 and D300. While the D700 is a bit larger, the external controls are almost identical to those on the D300, and the two share the same optional vertical grip with battery pack: the MB-D10. The main difference is that the D700 uses a D2/D3 style round eye piece with an eye-piece shutter. Both the D700 and D300 have a pop-up flash that can serve as a master controller in a Nikon Creative Lighting System, an AF-assist light and on-demand gridlines in the viewfinder.
Internally, the D700 is almost identical to the D3 with exactly the same sensor, image-processing electronics, and auto-focus system. The D3 can capture 9 frames/second (fps) while the D700 can capture 5 fps native or 8 fps with the MB-D10 grip and appropriate batteries. Therefore, the two are almost identical as far as their image capture capabilities are concerned. The main differences that separate them are the 100% viewfinder in the D3, dual compact-flash card system so that you can record each image into both cards simultaneously, an integrated vertical grip that uses the powerful EN-EL4e battery,
The difference between the D300 and D700 is essentially the format, DX vs. FX. If you need high ISO performance, the larger photosites in the D700 (and D3) has a clear advantage from ISO 1600 and up. Additionally, if you use a lot of wide angles and perspective control lenses such as the 24mm/f3.5 PC-E, the FX format gives you more lens choices such as the excellent wide zooms in the 14-24mm/f2.8 AF-S and 17-35mm/f2.8 AF-S. The 24mm PC-E is not all that wide on DX and there is no wider option for tilt/shift lenses.
On the other hand, if you use a lot of super telephotos, DX will give you more reach with the same lenses. For example, the
Until the D700 was announced, Canon’s 12MP EOS 5D was the only “prosumer” level FX-format DSLR (in Nikon terminology) below $3000 in the three years prior. Shortly after the D700’s introduction, Sony added the 24MP
After the introduction of the D3, most of the speculations were that Nikon’s second FX-format DSLR would be a high-pixel-count camera in the 20+MP range to compete against
In other words, the D700 is another 12MP DSLR that has state-of-the-art high ISO results that is extremely suitable for indoor wedding and event photography under dim light, although those wedding photographers who prefer the absolute safety to guard against memory card failures may prefer the dual CF slots in the D3. Just like the D3 and D300, it also has Nikon’s current best AF module in the Multi-CAM 3500, making it very suitable for action photography. However, for those who photograph action with a high frame rate, you need to add the MB-D10 battery pack to achieve 8 fps, and with the MB-D10 attached, the D700 becomes a really bulky and heavy camera, somewhat taller than the D3 around the top of the viewfinder.
In my opinion, the main advantage of the D700 is its smaller size without the MB-D10 grip, making it easier to carry around for an extended period and on hikes. It turns out to be an excellent all-purpose DSLR, but I am particularly spoiled by the fact that under low-light conditions either indoors or at night, I can just boost the ISO to 3200 or even 6400 and still can capture some good images while hand holding the camera. Its 12MP sensor should be sufficient for very large prints, but with recent introduction of
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