Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon D700
Resolution: 12.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(36.0mm x 23.9mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 200 - 6400
Extended ISO: 100 - 25,600
Shutter: 1/8000 - 30 sec
Dimensions: 5.8 x 4.8 x 3.0 in.
(147 x 123 x 77 mm)
Weight: 38.6 oz (1,095 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $3,000
Availability: 07/2008
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon D700 specifications

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5.0 out of 5.0

Nikon D700 Review

Reviewed by Shawn Barnett and Dave Etchells
Hands-on Preview: 07/01/08
Review Posted: 08/13/08

Keeping stride after last year's stunning announcements of the D300 and full-frame D3 digital SLRs, Nikon now has a full-frame digital SLR for pros, semi-pros, and well-heeled enthusiasts: the Nikon D700.

The Nikon D700 is mostly an amalgam of the D300 and D3, actually borrowing more features from the D3 than the D300; but the overall look and feel is more D300 than D3. That the controls match the D300 more makes perfect sense, because the D700 is a logical upgrade path for serious photographers already invested in a D200 or D300.

The 12.1-megapixel, FX (full-frame) sensor is taken directly from the Nikon D3 digital SLR camera, with the same 8.45-micron pixel pitch and 12-channel data readout. As a result, the D700 has the D3's renowned image quality at high ISO, but in a smaller, more affordable form factor. Like the D3, ISO ranges from 200 to 6,400, with Lo 1 (100), Hi 1 (12,800), and Hi 2 (25,600). We've noted a few differences in overall performance from the D3's images, however, with a little better control over red saturation, and detail in the JPEGs that resembles what you get from well-processed NEF files from the D3.

Other major features include the Virtual Horizon Indicator from the D3 (which is now active in Live View mode as well), the 51-point AF system with 3D tracking, and the two Live View modes (Handheld and Tripod). The 3-inch LCD has 920,000 pixels, for the same excellent photo preview and detailed Live View as the D3 and D300.

The D300's Integrated Dust Reduction made it into the full-frame D700 as well. Nikon said that the technology missed the D3 because it just wasn't ready before production began.

Though it's a full-frame camera, the Nikon D700's shutter mechanism can deliver up to five frames per second, and adding the MB-D10 battery grip that was originally made for the D300 will also raise the frame rate to eight frames per second (see the action sequence on the Gallery tab). The shutter mechanism of the D300 is rated at 150,000 cycles.

The Nikon D700's Expeed processor is also the same as the Nikon D3, if not a newer version, so there are no frame-rate bottlenecks when it comes to 12-bit vs 14-bit A/D (Analog to digital) conversion, as there is on the Nikon D300.

The Nikon D700's magnesium alloy body is sealed and feels like a rock, just like its predecessors; and a new accessory attaches to seal the connection between the camera and the new SB-900 flash. A new information display on the rear LCD augments the monochrome LCD status display on the top deck. The new display includes onscreen hot buttons similar to the Nikon D80, which allow quick access to commonly changed functions without having to find a button or delve into the menu; helpful when the camera is mounted high on a tripod.

Combining the best of the D300 with the excellence of the D3 is a masterstroke that's sure to attract a lot of sales. Coming in at $2,999.99, $300 less than the Canon 5D's initial retail price, the Nikon D700 is sure to sell well. The D700 is also available bundled with the Nikkor 24-120mm VR lens, for about $3,599.


Nikon D700 User Report

by Shawn Barnett

As if having two of the hottest and best performing digital SLRs weren't enough, Nikon is shipping a camera that combines the best of both cameras into one: the Nikon D700. Though I called the Nikon D300 the "build-it-yourself D3," the Nikon D700 brings you a lot closer to that goal, with the ability to add not only the D3's faster frame rate to your camera, but you start out with the D3's exact 12.1, full-frame, high-sensitivity CMOS sensor. According to Nikon, that includes the 12-channel readout for faster image acquisition.

The bulk of the story is that the D700 is a lot like a D300 with a full-frame sensor, and that's pretty much how it shot in the field. The only major difference I experienced when shooting the D700 was that the lens's 24mm setting produced an image that looked like it was shot at 24mm: more like the one I used to get back in the days of 35mm film SLRs. That's a welcome change.

I also appreciate the Nikon D700's viewfinder blackout speed, which seems quite a bit faster than the Canon 5D's rather sluggish performance. The duration of shutter sound is also a lot shorter on the D700, attracting less attention than the 5D's long, slow mirror slap and winding sound.

Nikon D700 Look and Feel

Though the Nikon D700 feels and shoots almost identically to the D300, one major feature stands out as different: the pentaprism housing. It's a lot taller to allow for the larger pentaprism inside. The bulging shape looks strange at first, but now that I've used the D700 for a bit, the D300's pentaprism housing looks small relative to the wide, tall body. Pros considering the D700 will be pleased that the camera has a built-in flash that can control two flash groups, just like the other semi-pro cameras in the line; it's a pity, though, that they didn't include that third group for full versatility. The grip on the Nikon D700 is a little bigger front-to-back than the D300's, perhaps a little wider, and the indent for the fingers is more concave than the D300 as well.

Weight is about 2.4 pounds (1,095g) with the battery and card, and dimensions are 5.8 x 4.8 x 3 inches (147 x 123 x 77mm).

The other two minor differences on the Nikon D700's front is another redesign of the Flash Sync and Remote Terminal covers (top right), and the addition of the gold FX badge from the Nikon D3.

The soft corner taper just below the FX logo is retained from the D300, making a softer point for the palm as your fingers reach for the lens controls. This is also required to maintain compatibility with the battery grip. I also appreciate the slight finger-grip upper left of the FX logo; it's not new, but is helpful when looking at the rear LCD.

Here on the back of the Nikon D700, the differences become more obvious, as does the merger of the D3 and D300. Starting from the top, the optical viewfinder is a lot larger, looking more like the viewfinder on the D3, complete with a large internal shutter to close the viewfinder opening when using Live View mode or when metering on a tripod. The diopter wheel, though smaller than the D3's, is still mounted perpendicular to the back, rather than parallel on the D300. The larger viewfinder has also pushed the AE-L/AF-L button and the AF-ON buttons over a tad, and the graphics for the metering mode switch are now above this button/switch, instead of on the left as on the D300. The aggressive thumbgrip ridge on the other two SLRs has been reduced a bit (a welcome change for me, because the other grips tended to put a strain on my thumb after a day of shooting).

The Nikon D700 also inherits the rear multi-controller from the D3. Though I've always found the D300's multi-controller a pleasure to use for navigation, properly centering it to press down to confirm selections requires too much attention; the D700's center button makes it harder to press the entire controller in the wrong direction when you're really trying to press it down.

Nikon omitted the memory card door release lever to make room for the dedicated Info button. The Nikon D700's new rear status display, similar to the display on the Nikon D40, required its own button, so it was moved from its former position, which it shared with the Protect button just beneath the Menu button (marked with a key symbol). The memory card read/write lamp is now located just to the right of the Info button. Naturally, with the CF door lever gone, the D700 had to borrow the door design from the Nikon D80. A quick pull to the rear releases the door to spring open toward the camera's front. Though existing D200, D300, and D3 owners might object to the lack of a lever or other mechanism, D80, D40, D60, and Canon digital SLR owners will feel right at home with the design (might that, too, be by design?).

A plastic screen cover is still included with the Nikon D700, but is not shown here. The LCD itself is reinforced with tempered glass, as was the case with the D300 and D3.

The top deck is mostly unchanged, except that the Status display is taller and narrower than other recent Nikon digital SLRs, and it shows less information overall, dropping the AF Area, Flash value lock, and Comment indicators, as well as the Shooting and Custom Menu bank indicators.

The Nikon D700's bottom shows the battery door, the tripod socket, and the battery pack contacts, covered by a removable rubber door (this door nestles in a socket on the MB-D10 battery pack for safe keeping).

Nikon D700 Build

The D700 has a strong magnesium alloy body for a rock-solid feel and rugged protection for the internal components. It is sealed to keep dust and moisture out, and the optional battery grip is built of the same material.

Though the body is fully sealed against moisture, once you pop up the built-in flash you've broken the seal and opened the casing to moisture, according to Nikon. If your shooting will include outdoor flash work in any weather, Nikon advises you use the new SB-900 external flash and the optional Water Guards to seal the connection between flash and body to avoid shorts there as well.

The Nikon D700 is a bit bigger than its predecessor, but not bad for those used to a semi-pro digital SLR camera. The D700's more abrupt angles, while still round and comfortable, lend to the overall feel of a metal machine, compared to Canon's decidedly contoured, organic look.

Rear Status display. The new rear display shows a lot more information at a glance, and is called up by the new Info button. Most of the elements missing from the top Status LCD reappear here.

Info button. Press the Info button a second time to bring up the onscreen menu for commonly accessed items. Pressing the navigator's central button takes you straight to the menu for each item. (For more screenshots, see the Modes & Menus subtab)

Controls. They've changed a little, but the controls on the Nikon D700 are excellent, with plenty of buttons dedicated to oft-used functions. I like the changes, which include a better multi-controller arrangement from the D3, and the addition of the Info button, which brings up a new rear status display. The Quality, White Balance, and ISO buttons are where they should be on the top deck, where you can press them and make the setting on the top Status LCD by turning the Main command dial. The Mode and EV-compensation buttons are also on top, behind the shutter release. Having the power switch around the shutter button has always appealed to me, because if you've turned the camera off (which I do by habit), you can just flip it on without taking your eye from the viewfinder or your hand off the grip.

Viewfinder. The Nikon D700's viewfinder looks a lot like the D3's, with the same internal shutter to block stray light, but it has the rounded AF points of the D300 (the D3's are square), and it lacks the D3's manual metering scale on the right side of the viewfinder. Though it is big and bright, the D700's viewfinder shows only 95% of the frame area, and is limited to 0.72x magnification.

The big, round viewfinder opening makes it easy to get your eye in close so you can see the entire frame, and though I had to touch my glasses to the rubber guard, it was pretty comfortable. The diopter adjustment wheel allows settings from -3 to +1.

LCD. The Nikon D700 has the same high-resolution LCD as its counterparts. Those 920,000 pixels give you a very sharp view of what you've captured, and make checking focus that much more accurate. There's nothing new about the Nikon D700's LCD display, but it sure is nice to use.

The LCD has a 170 degree viewing angle, and offers a 100% view, whether you're looking at captured images or framing in Live View mode. The Nikon D700 includes a protective screen cover, but its main glass is said to be quite scratch-resistant.

Leveling. Keeping your horizon straight is made easier with the Virtual Horizon Indicator in Live View mode.

Virtual Horizon Indicator. One of the few features that is truly new on the Nikon D700 is its Virtual Horizon Indicator (VHI) in Live View mode. (The Nikon D3 didn't have the VHI feature in Live View originally; you could only see the indicator on the rear LCD when using the optical viewfinder. The feature was added just days after the Nikon D700 was announced.) Set the D700 to Live View and scroll through the display options with the up and down arrows. Once you've reached the right screen, the camera presents you with a virtual display that's similar to the horizon indicators on airplanes. When you get the horizon just right, the horizontal line lights up green. It works pretty well, and can help straighten out a common photographic problem.

Though this is better than just having the VHI on the rear LCD, it should be superimposed in the optical viewfinder for those of us less prone to use Live View for important shots; a tall order, to be sure, but it would be valuable. Regardless, it's useful as a tripod leveling tool, where you can use the LCD to lock it in and shoot however you like.

Nikon D700 Autofocus

The Nikon D700 also has the new MultiCam 3500FX autofocus module introduced on the D300, a 51-point sensor array that includes 15 cross-type points, sensitive to both horizontal and vertical lines, and 35 horizontal AF points. The Multi-CAM system can be set to five modes on the Nikon D700, including 9-area, 21-area, 51-area, and 51-area with 3D tracking.

The Scene Recognition System enhances subject tracking by merging data from the AF sensor and the 1,005-area Color Matrix Metering II sensor. With this extra information, the AF system can better select and track a subject, even when it leaves the AF area. A red car moving toward the camera could conceivably be tracked from one side of the frame to the other, tracked more accurately through the AF zone.

Though I thought the pre-release Nikon D700 I shot with seemed faster than a D300 when in Auto-area AF, the shipping version does not seem faster at all. That's a shame, because that particular aspect of the D300 needed improving. It's not really as important to me, however, because I prefer to use a single AF point most of the time, and that is plenty fast on both cameras.

AF Fine-tuning. Like its predecessors, the Nikon D700 has the new AF Fine-tune capability, which allows the camera to store adjustments for up to 12 lenses. Precise as they are, many lenses have a tendency to focus in front of or behind a subject, and the Fine-tuning feature allows you to compensate for this tendency. Though you can indicate a serial number with the fine-tune setting, the camera will only recognize one lens for each lens type, so owners of two of the same type will need to match the serial number to the camera body to make sure that the AF Fine-tune setting is right for the attached lens.

Auto Active D-Lighting. D-Lighting is a popular post-processing feature in Nikon cameras. It's a quick software process that attempts to overcome underexposed images, and bring detail out of shadows. It's seen as a solution to a number of common problems, including backlit images where fill lighting could have been applied, but wasn't. It works well enough that many of us have been persuaded to leave it on most of the time, and the Nikon D700 makes taking that tactic a little more reassuring with Auto Active D-Lighting. Set this mode, and the camera will look at each image and make an intelligent decision based on the dynamic range of the image which of the three Active D-Lighting levels to use, or whether to use it at all.

Vignette Control. Another interesting feature on the Nikon D700 is Vignette Control, a new algorithm with three levels that attempts to reduce the effects of corner shading with certain lenses. Designed for G and D Nikkor lenses, not DX or PC lenses, users can choose from High, Normal, Low, and Off for this setting. You can't see the results in Live View, nor can the Vignette Control be applied to multiple exposures. If you know your lens tends to vignette, you might want to turn on this feature.

Nikon D700 Sensor

The Nikon D700's 12.1 megapixel full-frame, 35mm-sized CMOS image sensor. Measuring 36 x 23.9mm, the sensor size is not the exact dimension of a 35mm frame, which measures 36x24mm; but I'm sure most people won't worry about a tenth of a millimeter. The size of the largest image is 4,256 x 2,832, and the pixel size is 8.45 microns. This is very near the pixel size of the 12.8-megapixel Canon EOS 5D, which is 8.2 microns.

The sensor has a 12-channel readout, which allows it to move data off the sensor at a blistering pace of eight frames per second, nearly equal to that of the Nikon D3's nine frames per second. The Nikon D700 lacks the 5:4 crop mode found on the D3, however, which is handy for times when you know you're going to be outputting 8x10-inch prints.

Nikon D700 Live View

The Live View modes on the Nikon D700 come in essentially unchanged, save for the already mentioned Virtual Horizon Indicator. There are two modes, Hand-held and Tripod mode. Hand-held mode uses the traditional method of dropping the mirror to focus with the camera's phase-detect autofocus array. Tripod mode employs a contrast-detect algorithm on the data being clocked off the sensor, working more like a regular digicam. Unfortunately, the Nikon D700 is very slow at this job, so that's why it's called Tripod mode: the camera needs a very stable image to perform its calculations accurately. Be warned that though Live View is a handy feature for off-angle and tripod shooting, it is too slow to be used as your main mode of focusing and shooting with the Nikon D700, regardless of the mode chosen.

You can control the Nikon D700 from a computer remotely with the optional Camera Control Pro software, receiving a Live View image from the camera. You can focus, adjust settings, and fire, all from the computer, via cable or WiFi connection, with the optional WiFi adapter.

Battery boost: When using most AA batteries or the big (expensive) battery from the D3, the Nikon D700 gets quite a speed boost, up to eight frames per second.

Shutter. The Nikon D700 is capable of five frames-per-second (fps), and up to eight fps when used with the MB-D10 Multi-Power battery pack. Nikon says the shutter lag is 40 milliseconds, and expected shutter life is 150,000 cycles.

The Nikon D700 can capture over 100 JPEG images, about 23 lossless NEF 12-bit images, and about 20 14-bit lossless NEF images without pausing to clear the buffer. Switching between these modes does not slow the capture rate, as it does on the Nikon D300.

Quiet and well-behaved shutters are the Nikon standard, and the D700 follows suit. It does seem like it takes a little longer to move that bigger mirror, but viewfinder blackout time didn't seem to be too long, something I lament when shooting with the full-frame Canon 5D.

Processor. The Nikon D700 uses the same Expeed processor as the Nikon D3, if not an upgraded one, we're told, which should give the D700 greater speed than the D300. It also enables such impressive features as the Scene Recognition System, in-camera Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction, and Active D-Lighting.

Scene Recognition System. Nikon's Scene Recognition System in the D700 is identical to the one introduced last year. SRS does a more complete analysis of the image area than the old Matrix metering did, improving white balance, focus tracking, and exposure. One of its chief benefits is highlight analysis, which is designed to prevent blown highlights in common situations by adjusting the tone curve to compensate.

Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction. The Nikon D700 has the power, thanks to the EXPEED processing system, to analyze each image after capture and fix the chromatic aberration before saving the JPEG file. Results that we've seen from the D3 are quite impressive, and the D700 seems to work just as well. See the Optics tab for more on this subject.

Picture Control. Nikon has standardized their Picture Control system so that camera settings for tone, saturation, brightness, and sharpening can be set and ported to other Nikon digital SLRs, currently limited to the D700, D300, and D3.

Battery. The Nikon D700 uses an EN-EL3e battery, which will drive it through 1,000 shots on a single charge. That's enough that I seldom had to think about recharging the Nikon D700's battery. If I noticed the battery levels were down a few bars, I had plenty of time to wait until the end of the day to recharge the battery.

The optional MB-D10 Multi-Power Battery Pack adds three frames per second (with the higher-capacity EN-EL4a lithium-ion battery or AA cells installed), taking the D700 to 8 frames per second, probably its most enticing feature. But it also allows a battery to be kept in the camera body to take over when the battery grip's supply is depleted. Other designs use a tower that goes up into the battery compartment, which prevents you from leaving in a backup battery, and introduces a few problems, including packing an L-shaped grip in a camera bag when it's not in use. The MB-D10 is easier to use, and packs well.

WiFi. The WT-4A wireless transmitter announced last year is compatible with the D700, D300, and D3, providing support for wired LAN (10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX), and 802.11a/b/g. A Live View image can be transmitted to a computer via wire or wireless using the optional Camera Control Pro 2 software.

Dust cleaning. The D700 has a dust cleaning system that the D3 does not have; it's the same dust reduction system found on the D300, though it's larger to cover the full-frame sensor. They're careful to call it a "reduction" system, which is admirable, because we haven't seen a single system that actually keeps all dust off the sensor. "Four different resonance frequencies vibrate the optical low pass filter," according to Nikon. Even if it works only a little, it's a good feature to have, especially on a full-frame camera, whose larger surface area can collect more dust.


Size comparisons: Nikon D700 vs Canon EOS 5D

Tall vs Stout: The Nikon D700's not quite as wide as the Canon EOS 5D, but it certainly is taller. Both full-frame designs are more than a handful. That's great for stability, but not for casual vacation shooting.


Size comparisons: Nikon D700 vs Nikon D300

Stretch: Not just the pentaprism is higher on the Nikon D700, the lens mount is a little higher too. Height of the D700 is 4.8 inches (123mm) and weight is 2.4 pounds (1,095g), while the D300 is 4.5 inches (114mm) high and weighs 2.06 pounds (936g), both with card and battery.


Size comparisons: Nikon D700 vs Nikon D3

Tall and slim: Compared to the Nikon D3, the Nikon D700 is taller than the D3 with the MB-D10 battery grip, but slimmer overall. With eight AA Energizer Lithiums loaded, the combo is 3.29 pounds (1,494.2g) and with eight AA Sanyo Eneloop batteries loaded it's 3.49 pounds (1,585.5g). The combo is also about 6.57 inches (167mm) tall. The Nikon D3 with its standard lithium-ion battery weighs 3.09 pounds (1,405g), and measures 6.18 inches (157mm) high. So there are some height and weight savings to be gained with that extra $2,000.


Nikon D700 Image Quality

You'll find our extensive analysis of the Nikon D700's image performance on the Optics and Exposure tabs above, but I can summarize it here. Overall, the Nikon D700 performs as well as the Nikon D3, with a few tweaks that make the camera more favorable for enthusiast users at the default settings.

Color saturation at the default setting is pretty close to accurate, pumping only the blues and reds a little; quite a bit less than the Nikon D3 did, surprisingly. Auto white balance left the incandescent scene a little yellow, though that's pretty standard for nearly all digital SLR cameras we've tested.

Resolution was quite high from the Nikon D700, but just a little soft at 100% onscreen. Most camera companies set the defaults a little on the soft side so enthusiasts and pros are left with something to tweak on the computer later, where sharpening algorithms are a little better than the in-camera sharpening. Here's another area where the D700 actually surpassed the D3 in its handling of fine detail. See our JPEG vs RAW Comparison to see how much more detail you can get when shooting RAW. File sizes between the two formats, by the way, average from 4.5 to 6.5MB for JPEGs and 14 to 25MB for RAW files. (Stock up on those big Gig cards and hard drives, folks.)

The full range of ISO performance is stunning. You generally get better sharpness at ISO 200 than at ISO 100, which is one reason it's not an official ISO setting (it's called L1.0). Images look nearly the same for most subjects from ISO 100 to ISO 3,200, and they only get what we'd normally call "bad" at ISO 25,600 (H2.0). Just awesome.

Incidentally, you can choose to set the ISO range to full stops, 1/3 stops, and 1/2 stops for greater exposure control.


Low ISO comparisons: Nikon D700 vs Canon EOS 5D

ISO 200: The top image is a 100 percent crop from the Canon 5D at ISO 200, to match the Nikon D700's ISO 200 shot (the 5D is actually capable of a "real" ISO 100). Here you can see that the Nikon D700 image is a little softer than the Canon image; unfortunately, I think this 5D test shot had the sharpening set a little high, so this comparison is of limited value. Suffice it to say that both cameras are very smooth at ISO 200, and produce excellent detail. (Remember, too, that these are crops from camera JPEG files; both cameras are capable of more than you see here.)


High ISO comparisons: Nikon D700 vs Canon EOS 5D

ISO 3,200: The top image is the Canon 5D's ISO 3,200 performance, which is quite good in its own right. Below that is the Nikon D700's ISO 3,200 performance. The Nikon image is smoother, and though some of the detail in the bright areas is softer, it's important to note that the D700 image is nearly free of chroma noise. Normally we point out that you trade chroma noise for anti-noise softening in the Canon vs Nikon comparison, but the Nikon image is remarkably smooth, and sharpens very well with Photoshop's Unsharp Mask tool At this point, the Nikon hasn't tapped out its high-ISO capabilities, with three more stops above ISO 3,200 to explore.


Nikon D700 Field Test

Active D-Lighting. It's subtle, but you can see more inside the windows of this restaurant with Active D-Lighting on (the bottom image); though some of the tonal detail is lost, especially in the signs on the wall inside.

Shooting with the Nikon D700 was natural and easy. I've been shooting a lot with the D300 since my review, so I'm familiar with the interface. I should be careful to point out that the Nikon D700 is not a camera for amateurs, with a complex and detailed menu system, and a thick, 444-page manual. The Nikon D700 is also heavy, weighing 2.2 pounds without a lens, and 4.6 pounds (2,092g) with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens I've used for most of these shots. Most casual photographers would be happier with a lighter digital SLR design.

Functionally, the Nikon D700 is very much like the Nikon D300, with most of the controls in the same places. The exceptions I've already mentioned, but include the addition of the Info button, the new OK button in the center of the Multi-selector, and the lack of a CF card door release. The control layout and overall design is nearly perfect, with all the most-used controls readily available. The new Info button and Status screen really did help changing some other items I wanted to explore, especially the new Auto Active D-Lighting.

I tried all four of the Active D-Lighting settings in bright daylight, and definitely found differences in how Auto handled the scene, depending on the subject. The high-resolution screen showed the differences quite clearly, even in the bright light, as did the histogram. One shot of a storefront with a darkened interior showed more apparent detail inside; tweaking levels after capture revealed less detail, of course, because Active D-Lighting had already processed the shadows to show better detail at the captured exposure. That's the risk you take using this kind of processing on your JPEG images; but it serves as a good tool if you're already shooting RAW for insurance.

Mantle shots. Covering the range from ISO 200 to 26,500, these shots illustrate how slowly resolution falls off as you increase ISO. It's pretty impressive. See the Gallery section for more.

Wandering into a very old War Memorial building, I tested the ISO range on the fireplace, whose mantle had a listing of men who had died in the war. Portions of a bookshelf were just adjacent on the left, with dark leather covers embossed with metallic letters, which I also included in the shot. The series is remarkable. At ISO 200, the small, affordable, full-frame 24-120mm VR lens performed admirably handheld, maintaining sharpness at 42mm and 1/10 second. ISO 400 looks identical to 200. Here I should mention that on the leather books the only words I can read from the given distance are "Long Island" in probably 18 point type, and "1959" and "1960," in maybe 30 point type. The numbers on the small mantle clock are clearly visible, and all the names on the plaque are quite legible.

To put it simply, the big letters on the plaque are quite smooth from ISO 200 to 3,200. They start to get a little fuzzy first at 6,400, but even that's not bad. ISO 8,000 gains in grain a bit, as does 12,800, but it's still better than most digital SLRs at ISO 3,200. ISO 12,600 starts to gain random chroma noise and softness, but it handles printing up to 8x10. Pretty incredible.

The numbers on the clock are quite sharp up to ISO 3,200, and only a little bit soft at 8,000.

The numbers and letters on the books, which are dark and in shadow, are clear up to ISO 1,600. They get soft, but are still legible at ISO 3,200, and the Long Island title is illegible at 6,400. The numbers are too soft to read reliably at 12,600.

These are very small elements in these images, as the image itself covers floor to ceiling of this eight or nine-foot-high wall. As I said, remarkable.

TV light. Shooting in the light of the television yields an almost over-exposed shot at ISO 25,600. 1/13 second, f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. (And yes, those are two broken arms.)

As I did with the Nikon D300, I shot a few frames of one of my kids in light from the television at ISO 25,600. I could barely confirm focus visually in this light, and the AF-assist lamp on the D700 only just made it around the 24-70mm f/2.8G lens with the hood in place (something I only noticed after taking the shots), but the shots are astounding. The Nikon D700 reached into near darkness and pulled this shot right out as if it were daylight. There are red spots in the shadows, and fine hair is a blur, but you can also count the eyelashes and see the texture of the red cast. The Nikon D700, like the D3, opens up opportunities you don't normally have. This shot was handheld, by the way.

Before my son had his accident, I asked him to help me demonstrate how the Nikon MB-D10 battery grip improves the D700's frame rate. I loaded it with six AA Energizer Lithium batteries to get the extra voltage necessary and caught him jumping into the pool several times. It's not the most exciting sequence, but it does illustrate just how many frames you catch at eight frames per second. It takes less than two seconds to jump into a pool. You won't get nearly this many images from a three or five-frame-per-second camera. (No arms were broken in the making of this sequence.)

The Nikon D700's full autofocus shutter lag is quite fast in single point AF mode, taking only 0.197 second with our test lens. Naturally, this time will vary depending on the lens and aperture setting, but that's a very fast time.

Functionally, the Nikon D700 performs very much like a Nikon D300, so there's not much more to say. It's excellent, smartly designed, and built well.

Analysis. I think any photographer with experience would fall in love with the Nikon D700. There's something to be said for having a 24mm lens work like a 24mm lens again, and the extremely high ISO setting available on this fine digital SLR make once-unthinkable images as easy as a press of the ISO button and a twist of the Main command dial. If you've ever laboriously push-processed film to ISO 3,200 and marveled that you got anything at all (usually a grainy mush), you'll understand the pleasure of getting such high quality in near darkness from the Nikon D700.

If I had to describe the ideal digital SLR to turn my head and meet the needs of most photographers, I would describe the Nikon D700. I enjoyed my time with the Nikon D700 enough that I want one. I use a lot of cameras every year, and there are just a few I would like to own, with the more affordable Nikon D300 near the top of that list. But what I really want is a Nikon D700.


Nikon D700 Basic Features

  • Full-frame, 12.1-megapixel, 36 x 23.9mm, CMOS sensor with output pixel dimensions of 4,256 x 2,832
  • Nikon F-mount
  • Large optical viewfinder
  • 3.0-inch LCD with 920,000 pixels, 170 degree viewing angle
  • ISO range of 100 to 25,600
  • Shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/8,000 second
  • Compact Flash Type I, UDMA compatible
  • Lithium-ion battery EN-EL3e
  • Dimensions: 5.8 x 4.8 x 3 inches (147 x 123 x 77mm)
  • Weight: 35.1 ounces (995g)
  • Price: $3,000


Nikon D700 Special Features

  • Live View mode with two AF modes: Hand-held and Tripod
  • Virtual horizon indicator helps level the camera
  • Integrated dust reduction
  • 51-point AF system with 3-D tracking
  • Built-in pop-up flash with 24mm FX and 16mm DX coverage, serves as commander of two flash groups
  • 150,000 cycle shutter mechanism
  • GPS support
  • Type C Mini HDMI connector
  • Shutter closes viewfinder to avoid light leaks
  • Active D-Lighting, now includes an Automatic mode
  • AF Fine-tune capability
  • Frame rate increases with MB-D10 battery grip and right combination of batteries
  • Magnesium alloy body
  • Weather sealing
  • Rear panel LCD status display with onscreen menu
  • Scene Recognition system improves AF tracking and White Balance control
  • Lateral chromatic aberration correction
  • Picture Control System
  • Optional WiFi transmitter


In the Box

Included in the box with the D700 are the following items:

  • Nikon D700 body with body cap, eyepiece cap, eyecup, hot shoe, and LCD monitor covers
  • EN-EL3e lithium-ion battery
  • MH-18a quick charger
  • Neck strap
  • UC-E4 USB cable
  • EG-D100 video cable
  • Nikon Software Suite CD-ROM
  • User's Manual and Quick Guide
  • Registration kit


Recommended Accessories

  • Lens (none is included with the Nikon D700)
  • Large capacity CF memory cards
  • Camera case for protection
  • Accessory lenses
  • Accessory flash: SB-600, SB-800, SB-900
  • Extra battery


Nikon D700 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Rugged construction with magnesium alloy body and full environmental sealing
  • Gorgeous, high-resolution 3-inch LCD
  • Fast 5 fps continuous shooting, with a deep buffer
  • Optional battery grip improves performance to 8 fps
  • High resolution with excellent detail
  • Superb print quality
  • Effective, automatic chromatic aberration correction for JPEGs
  • 51-point AF with 15 cross-type sensors (though see Con about AF speed)
  • Very good high ISO performance, with ISOs as high as 25,600
  • Adjustable high-ISO noise reduction settings
  • True RAW files (no additional processing applied by the camera)
  • 14-bit A/D
  • 14-bit RAW mode does not slow burst rate as it does on Nikon D300
  • AF fine-tuning for up to 12 lenses
  • Large, bright optical viewfinder with near 100% coverage
  • Two Live View modes for framing with LCD
  • Virtual Horizon Indicator overlay in Live View
  • Intuitive user interface and great ergonomics
  • New Info screen has virtual menu for specific functions
  • Active D-lighting improves shadow detail while maintaining highlights in JPEGs, includes new Auto mode
  • Very good exposure accuracy
  • Spot meter follows active focus point
  • Scene Recognition System works very well
  • Standardized Picture Control system
  • Dust reduction system
  • Excellent battery life (CIPA: 1,000 shots)
  • Enormous range of custom settings, very customizable
  • Supports Nikon Creative Lighting System, camera can control two remote groups, plus its own onboard strobe
  • HDMI port for high-definition viewing
  • GPS data recording with optional accessories
  • Optional WiFi transmitter
  • UDMA CompactFlash support
  • Extensive in-camera retouching
  • Selectable RAW file compression
  • Vignette control reduces lens shading
  • Compatible with just about every F-mount lens made after 1977
  • 51-point Auto-area AF mode a bit slow for a camera of this caliber
  • JPEGs are a little soft straight from the camera, but respond well to post-processing
  • Auto white balance handles incandescent lighting poorly
  • Deep menu system (but hey, with so many functions and options, what else can you do?)
  • No in-body Image Stabilization system
  • Some software optional that other manufacturers include free (i.e.: remote control)
  • No full-Auto mode (we list this more as a warning than an actual disadvantage)
  • Priced outside of many budgets
  • Big and heavy


Nikon has done it again, producing a market-leading digital SLR that sets a new standard for image quality and ISO performance. Stacked up against its nearest competitor, the three-year-old Canon 5D, the Nikon D700 wins in high ISO performance and overall camera features. The 12.8-megapixel 5D, for its part, may hold a slight lead in overall image tonal quality, but that kind of quality is indeed found only in the eye of the beholder, and the Nikon D700 can be tweaked to reproduce much of that performance.

The Nikon D700's list of pluses is overwhelming. Easily the greatest advantage offered by this $3,000 digital SLR is the ability to shoot usable photos in ridiculously low light. Press photographers are the obvious beneficiaries, where newsprint reproduction won't even reveal noise artifacts from shots at 12,800; and we as image consumers will start seeing more available light photography everywhere. Though the initial price is still high, the Nikon D700 produces images of the same quality, if not better, than the Nikon D3. Even looking closely at images produced in low light, ISO 3,200 images are not far removed from ISO 200 images.

Investing in a full-frame camera that offers such high image quality is smart if you have the available funds, and buying a camera whose frame rate you can upgrade from five to eight with a $239 battery grip purchase is just gravy. Add that Nikon is producing some of the finest full-frame glass that the market's ever seen, with the 14-24mm f/2.8G and 24-70mm f/2.8G as examples, and the Nikon D700 becomes a camera with some obsolescence-resistance built in. Higher resolutions will come, but the D700's 12.1-megapixel sensor delivers category-leading performance that is unsurpassed by anything on the market.

The Nikon D700 is well-built, with such superb features and a nimble, smart interface. It is adaptable to most any kind of photography, and thanks to its full-frame sensor, works with lenses in a way that photographers familiar with 35mm film will find comfortable and familiar. Nikon D200 and D300 users will likewise feel right at home, and users of competing designs will quickly adapt to the D700's interface. The Nikon D700 earns a five-star Dave's Pick, as one of the finest digital SLR cameras ever produced.


Note: Be sure to see the Modes & Menus section for just about every screen available on the D700, and see the Optics, Exposure, and Performance tabs for more thorough analysis of the Nikon D700.


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