Nikon D700 Review

 
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Nikon D700 Performance


Timing and Performance

Excellent speeds for a semi-pro digital SLR.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

0.4 second

Time it takes to turn on and capture a picture. (Short enough that it's hard to measure, but it did appear to be slightly slower than the D3.)

Shutdown

Not measurable

How long it takes camera to turn off before you can remove the memory card. (Oddly, faster than the D3 for some reason.)

Buffer clearing time

27 seconds after 15
14-bit RAW
+ L/F JPEGs
(11 seconds after 20 large/fine JPEGs)

Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 1GB CompactFlash card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Slower startup than the D3, but faster shutdown. Buffer clearing times are about the same, suggesting it's card write speeds that limit the process, rather than the camera's CPU capability. (The D3 has two EXPEED processors, the D700 has one, but both clear the buffer about as fast.)

 

Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

0.4 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to play

0.5 second

Time to display a large/superfine file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

0.3 second

Time to display a large/superfine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching times are very good: Interestingly, play to record and time to display large/fine images are somewhat faster than equivalent times on the D3.

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)

Full Autofocus

0.197 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture. Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro lens.

Prefocused

0.045 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Continuous AF
0.048 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects
Manual Focus
0.045 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".
Full Autofocus
Live View
Hand-Held Mode
0.573 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View "Hand-Held" (phase-detect) mode.
Prefocused
Live View
Hand-Held Mode
0.043 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button, using Live View Hand-Held (phase-detect) mode.
Focusing Time,
Lens already focused,
Live View
Tripod Mode
~1.1 seconds
Tripod Live View mode, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens (a lens with a fast focus motor). Lens begins already at proper focus setting from previous shot. (This is basically the time it takes in contrast-detect AF mode for no or small differences in focus setting with a fast lens.) Note that this is an approximate time for the AF cycle to complete, after being triggered by pressing the AF-ON button on the camera's back panel. Pressing the shutter button doesn't trigger AF operation in Tripod Mode.
Focusing Time,
Lens Defocused,
Live View
Tripod Mode
~3.5 seconds
Same as above, but lens defocused substantially (set to infinity) before focus is triggered.
Prefocused
Live View
Tripod Mode
0.524 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View "Tripod" (contrast-detect) mode. Autofocus is performed using the AF-On button, and is not included in this number.
Full Autofocus
FLASH
0.211 second
Time to capture while forcing flash to fire. (Metering pulses from flash sometimes slow shutter response.)

Shutter response is good at 0.20 second, albeit not quite as blazing as the D3's (to be expected, given the difference in price and general camera design). "Prefocusing" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure results in a lag time of only 0.045 second, very close to the D3's figure. Lag times in Live View mode are a bit slower than those for the D3, but generally fairly decent. NOTE though, that the figure shown for Live View "Tripod Mode" (contrast-detect autofocus) doesn't include the time spent focusing, which can be quite long in that mode. Focusing in Tripod mode is triggered by pressing the AF-On button, rather than by pressing the shutter button, so measuring the time required is a little tricky, and the results will be less precise than using our normal method. Even a casual observation shows why Nikon chose to call the D700's contrast-detect AF "Tripod" mode: Even with a lens having a fast focus motor, AF times can be quite long. Using the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens as an exemplary fast lens, the D700 required a bit over a second to come to focus when the lens started out already being focused on the subject. (The contrast-detect AF needs to adjust the lens slightly out of focus first, then back in again, to be able to tell that it's achieved proper focus.) When the lens started out set to infinity, it took roughly 3.5 seconds for the camera to rack down to the ~10 foot setting required for our test target.

 

Cycle Time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
14-bit RAW + Large/Fine JPEG
0.36 second

Time per shot, averaged over 17 shots. (More variation in shot to shot times than we're accustomed to seeing. Times ranged from 0.25 to 0.59 second, standard deviation was 24.5%)

Single Shot mode
14-bit RAW

0.31 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots. More consistent, ~10% variation between shots.

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.38 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots. About 7% variation between shots.

Single Shot mode
Small/Basic JPEG

0.31 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous mode
14-bit RAW +
Large Fine
JPEG

0.20 second (5.09 frames per second);
15 frames total;
27 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Continuous mode
14-bit RAW

0.20 second (5.08 frames per second);
17 frames total;
25 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Continuous mode
12-bit RAW

0.20 second (5.08 frames per second);
18 frames total;
16 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Continuous mode
Large Fine JPEG

0.20 second (5.09 frames per second);
>20 frames total;
11 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Continuous mode
Small/Basic JPEG

0.20 second (5.05 frames per second);
>20 frames total;
0.5 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Flash recycling

2.6 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 1GB CompactFlash card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Shot-to-shot cycle times in single-shot mode were quite fast, at only 0.36 second for RAW + large/fine JPEGs, which is very impressive. Large/fine JPEGs by themselves averaged out to 0.38 second per shot, while 14-bit RAW-only shots could be fired off at intervals of about 0.31 second. We questioned the slight differences between modes, as we'd normally expect RAW+JPEG to take longer than JPEG alone, but for whatever reason, there was a lot of variation in the cycle times for the RAW+JPEG case, giving a standard deviation of +/- 0.09 second, or 24.5%. We also hit some significant slowdowns after 17 shots of our very hard-to-compress noise target, indicating a worst-case buffer capacity of 17 shots for RAW+JPEG mode. In JPEG-only and RAW-only modes, the camera captured a full run of 20 shots without having to slow for buffer clearing.

Continuous speeds are also very good, our measured speeds coming in just over the camera's rated 5 frames/second. (The D700 actually managed just shy of 5.1 frames/second in most modes.) Measured buffer depths were 15 frames for 14-bit RAW+JPEG mode, 17 frames for 14-bit RAW-only, 18 frames for 12-bit RAW-only, and more than 20 frames for large/fine JPEGs. (Note that in our cycle time testing we shoot a target consisting of a fine-grained digital noise pattern, designed to be very hard to compress. This gives us worst-case buffer capacity numbers: You're likely to see greater buffer capacity when shooting more normal subjects.)

The flash took under 3 seconds to recharge after a full-power pulse, also quite fast. Excellent performance here.

 

Download speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

4,130 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, download speeds are very fast.

Bottom line, while not (nearly) rising to the heights of its predecessor the D3, the Nikon D700 is pretty fast in just about every aspect of its operation. Continuous modes are fast enough for most moving subjects, and shutter lag and cycle times are pretty fast as well. The camera does run into trouble when its AF system operates in conjunction with a forced flash firing, which may result in some missed opportunities, but overall excellent performance.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Excellent battery life for a lithium-ion design.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Lithium-ion Rechargeable Battery,
(CIPA standard)
1,000

The Nikon D700 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and ships with a charger. Although battery life is quite good, we recommend you pick up a spare battery and keep it freshly charged and on-hand for extended outings.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Nikon D700 accepts CompactFlash memory cards, and does not ship with a card.

Image Capacity with
1GB Memory Card
Fine Normal Basic TIFF RAW RAW
+ JPEG
4,256 x 2,832
Images
(Avg size)
139
7.4 MB
274
3.7 MB
500
2.0 MB
105
9.7 MB
38
26.6 MB
35
29.3 MB
Approx.
Comp.
5:1
10:1
18:1
4:1
0.8:1
-
3,184 x 2,120
Images
(Avg size)
247
4.1 MB
488
2.1 MB
900
1.1 MB
-
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
5:1
10:1
18:1
-
-
-
2,128 x 1,416
Images
(Avg size)
500
2.0 MB
1000
1.0 MB
1950
525 KB
-
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
9:1
17:1
-
-
-

The chart above shows how many FX format images can be stored on a 1GB card at various size/quality settings, as well as the approximate compression ratio. (RAW was 14-bit uncompressed and JPEGs used the "Size Priority" setting.) We strongly recommend buying a large capacity CompactFlash memory card at least a 1GB card, preferably a 4GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, especially if you plan on doing a lot of RAW shooting. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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