Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nikon D700

Last year I was telling you how the Nikon D300 was the deal of the century as with very little money you could get a superlative camera. As I guessed back then, the Nikon D300 continues to still be an incredible camera, that is not yet replaced. Sure, you can get a D7000 or D7100 and have somewhat better image quality at high ISO, but the bodies are different. And for professional photographers, sometimes image quality is secondary if not tertiary in our priority list.

Well, whatever I said about the D300 also applies to the Nikon D700 today. There have been so many full frame bodies by Nikon lately, that the price of the D700 has fallen to low levels. It's a screaming deal. One, I simply could not bypass. And after two weeks of use, including a demanding professional assignment, here are my findings. You will notice there are plenty of similarities with the D300.

+ superb customization and options/features
+ incredible image quality compared to DX, particularly at higher ISO
+ superb value, you get "a lot of" camera for your money

- a very complex camera, clearly not for people who don't want to spend time on learning it
- no video (if you're one of those modernists who care about fluff like this)
- FX lenses can be expensive (although, depending on your individual needs, you can find some great cheap ones)

At ISO 1800, the D700 is as clean or cleaner than the D300 at ISO 800. Especially in deep shadows, the difference is incredible

Intended Users

Great for:
  • advanced users who need a photographer's camera with a lot of customization
  • portraits, particularly in available light. Compared to my D300, the D700 offers better image quality and smoother skin tones (thanks to increased dynamic range) at over a stop higher ISO
  • pros who need a reliable assignment camera

Not for:
  • people who want to use cameras in auto mode - there is no auto mode(s) in this camera
  • people not willing to spend time and effort to learn their camera
  • tele work, particularly when there's plenty of light. It's not that it's bad in any way, just that the DX has the upper hand there.

Final Verdict
Just like the D300, the D700 is a true photographer's camera; a reliable professional workhorse that will get you the job done. The full frame sensor does make a difference, particularly in lower light. But there is a significant price penalty to pay. Not considering any lens purchases (remember, FX lenses can be much more expensive), the D700 is double or more the price of a D300. You must ask yourself whether you truly need what it offers. My instinctive answer is this (and I know it might create some controversy): if you take available light portraits for a living, get it. If not, the D300 is more than fine.

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