A very long term (and final) review: The Nikon D700

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Bear with me here. The Nikon D700 may be a 2008 camera, (ouch, that’s four years old? Why is he reviewing it now?) and even worse, I received it’s successor – the D800 – on 22 March. (My initial review is up, here) It’s now time to close the book on the D700 – its days as my primary workhorse are just about over; I shot my final assignment with it earlier this week. And that’s the reason why I’m reviewing it – I think I’m now qualified to pass an opinion.

Nikon’s pricing has left a gap in its FX lineup – there’s the D7000 at approximately RM3,000/US$1000; the D300s (though hardly ever bought, and arguably bettered by the D7000 in almost every way) at RM4,500/US$1500 or thereabouts; then we’re into FX territory with the D700 at RM6,300/US$2100 and the D800 at US$3000. Notice how the pricing steps up in nice increments: $500-600 gets you appreciably more camera in every increment – well, perhaps with the exception of the D300s, which is to be replaced soon.

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Kuala Lumpur dawn. Nikon D700, 28-300VR

The D700 was left in the lineup for two reasons: to clear remaining stock, and to provide an entry level option for FX upgraders. And guess what: according to every dealer I’ve spoken to, it’s still selling just as well as the day it was launched. So why does everybody think it’s obsolete? Clearly, because the successor was launched. Hell, even I’m buying one – but only because my D700 has been shot to death and is on the way out; it doesn’t make sense for me to buy another D700 when I could pay a little bit more, and offer more resolution to the clients that require it.

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Alfabeti. Nikon D700, 60/2.8 G Micro

To me, the D700 was a landmark camera: the same amazing low light performance as the flagship D3, no compromises in AF or features – anywhere – at a price that was affordable to the majority of serious amateurs, whilst being robust enough to deal with professional abuse. I had two of them at one point. It was the first camera – aside from the D3 – that I felt turned me, the photographer into the limitation, rather than the camera or the lenses. If you could see it well enough to compose, you could get a useable image. If you could aim the camera fast enough, it would focus. And it would track subjects with unerring accuracy.

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LED array. Nikon D700, 60/2.8 G Micro

And from a user’s point of view, that’s the all important question answered: yes, it’s good enough. The image quality is beyond reproach; you get 12 extremely clean, high-durability (more on that later) megapixels – which if used properly, is sufficient for any use. The resolution represents a sweet spot between diffraction limits – f27 is about where it starts to kick in – and depth of field. The large photo sites mean that you have a very high signal-to-noise ratio – coupled with high color accuracy and good dynamic range (that’s what I mean about high-durability pixels). In fact, exposed and processed with care, you can get around 13 useable stops out of the camera – which is right up against the limit of its 14 bit raw files. This does require judicious use of the highlight recover slider in ACR and a little deliberate overexposure (a stop is quite doable) – so you have to plan for it at the time of shooting. In any case, any more dynamic range looks unnatural and flat – remember, screens at best can only display 8 bits of tonal range, and even less for print.

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Seiko ‘Fifty Three Fathoms’. Nikon D700, 60/2.8 G Micro

Much has been made of the high ISO capabilities of the D3 around the time of its launch; the same holds true for the D700. It isn’t a camera that’s particularly sensitive to color temperature with regards to noise (for example, the D2H and D200 of the previous generation were, due to IR and blue-channel sensitivity issues). Properly exposed, ISO 6400 is clean, and ISO 12800 is useable. To be honest, if you need any higher ISOs than that and you’re shooting wide open with f1.4 lenses, you probably won’t even be able to see the subject well enough to compose.

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Thaipusam. Nikon D700, 85/1.4 G

Bottom line: image quality remains on par with the best of the DX cameras, even the new 16MP and 24MP ones. The latter may resolve slightly more at base ISO, but they lose out on dynamic range, edge integrity, and anytime you need to exceed ISO 800. Color accuracy is always slightly better, in my opinion. It remains to be seen if the D800 has the same pixel integrity as the D700, given the benefit of four years of development. I’m not expecting miracles due to its pixel density, however.

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BMW 320d M Sport. Nikon D700, 28-300VR

Image quality is the largest factor in the success of a camera as a tool, but usability is right up there, too. Suffice to say that Nikon has been doing this for a long time, and it shows. The ergonomics of this camera are very comfortable, even for extended use, and with larger lenses. In my mind, it balances best with something large-medium – around the size of the 85/1.4, for instance. Larger is a bit front heavy, but still comfortable. If you need more weight, or speed, there’s of course the MB-D10 battery pack – with the right batteries, 8fps is possible. (Curiously, 8fps is also possible without the battery pack if you select flash bracketing, single-shot mode, and hold down the function button to select a 9-frame burst.)

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Teatime. Nikon D700, Zeiss ZF.2 2/28 Distagon

There are a lot of nice little touches here:
- The metering mode switch is still my favorite of any camera; it’s easy to flip to spot when required, though that’s seldom because the 1005 pixel RGB meter is usually spot on. One doesn’t actually appreciate just how accurate this meter is until you use something else.
- Viewfinder blind and eyepiece lock
- The built in flash. Many people question why you’d want to have this on a professional camera, but clearly those people never work with speed lights – I do all the time, and it’s invaluable to use as a remote commander.
- My Menu.
- The ability to use the multi-selector center button to instantly zoom playback images – to check for sharpness – then toggle between the same magnified point on successive images with the command dial.
- Tethered port caps, finally. Too easy to lose the little screw in plugs on the last generation, and much too expensive to replace.
- The battery grip communicates via a series of small contacts on the base of the camera, and doesn’t require you to remove the original battery and battery door: it’s functional with them still in, and much easier to store and put on/ take off.
- Weather sealing – though I wouldn’t complain if it were fully gasketed like the single-digit cameras, it can still survive a pretty serious downpour unprotected.
- Programmable buttons. Give us more, please.
- DX crop mode – useful when you need more reach in a pinch, but will be better if there was more resolution to support it.
- AF fine tune – very, very important with fast lenses.
- Rangefinder with arrows to tell you which direction to turn the lens in; helpful for manual lenses.
- The LCD is actually good enough for you to be able to judge critical sharpness, and with experience, exposure and color.

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Bride leaving. Nikon D700, 24/1.4

But there are also things that need fixing, some of which were addressed with the D800:
- Live view is far too complicated to access – rotate drive mode dial, hit shutter. Should just be a button. (fixed)
- AUTO should be an option on the ISO selection button. (fixed)
- It’s difficult to see the entire finder with eyeglasses – really needs a higher eye point.
- DX crop mode – the masking is far from obvious.
- The focus points could be spread out more; often I still have to shift and recompose even using the extreme points. Curiously, the camera can still track subjects even if they move outside the AF points – it uses the color of the subject and the metering CCD to do this.

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Girard-Perregaux F1-047. Nikon D700, 60/2.8 G Micro

Let’s talk a bit about AF. Simply, it works. I use either single point mode, with 11 selectable points – when shooting static subjects, and then switch to 3D-tracking with 51 points on the back toggle switch when shooting action or photojournalism. Once you lock on to your subject with the center point, you can recompose and the camera will automatically track. With fast lenses, AF-C is imperative because of field curvature and small movements in either camera or subject – either situation will rob critical sharpness. AF obviously works better when shooting at 5fps because there’s more information reaching the AF sensor, so it’s easier for the camera to predict where your subject is going to go; it’s still good at 8fps, though. Same underlying 51-point CAM3500FX module as the D3-series.

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Chopard LUC. Nikon D700, 60/2.8 G Micro

Battery life is excellent. A standard EN-EL3e cell will last me a day; easily a thousand shots or more, with moderate LCD use. With the grip and EN-EL4a cell from the D3 series, you’re looking at easily 5000 or more frames – more than enough for a day of use for even the most prolific photographers. And you can still keep your EN-EL3e in the camera if you’re worried about running out of juice. Simply put, this is the longest-lasting camera that Nikon makes, period.

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Nikon D700, 16-35/4 VR

This is actually a very different review to the one I wrote in CLICK! magazine shortly after the release of the camera; I was shooting with a D3 at the time, and didn’t feel that impressed by the camera. But I think I was missing the point: the fact that I wasn’t really missing anything, either, should have been more impressive: flagship performance for almost half the price.

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GUB Marine Chronometer movement. Nikon D700, 60/2.8 G Micro

Four years later, I’ve shot nearly a hundred thousand frames between two D700s; both have performed nearly flawlessly. My primary body is throwing the occasional black frame, which suggests a sticky shutter issue. I’m loath to send it in for replacement because my camera is also quite heavily modified, which I’m afraid Nikon will undo if it appears at their workshops. At one point, I was shooting all Zeiss manual focus glass; I discovered the hard way that the viewfinder wasn’t really up to the task of focusing accurately with very fast lenses. My finder has a new screen – a Type J bright matte with micro prisms and split-prism from the F6; it doesn’t fit natively so it had to be filed down. The screen has been perfectly shimmed to be planar and perpendicular with the sensor, and the mirror zero return position and alignment adjusted for the same. Basically, as close to perfect WSYWIG as possible. I’ll probably have to go through the same process again with the D800, but I doubt I’ll bother with the focusing screen as I prefer the Nikon AFS f1.4 lenses these days.

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Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi. Nikon D700, 28-300VR

It’s time to answer the inevitable question of D700 vs D800: it’s not as clear cut as you might think. Yes, the D800 offers higher resolution and video but at the expense of per-pixel noise and demands on lenses and technique; in that sense it’s a much less forgiving camera. You’re also giving up the potential of full resolution shooting at 8fps. Ergonomically, both are good; the D800 takes a slight edge due to refined controls, however I personally find the D700 grip more comfortable. The D700 is more of a general, do-anything, go-anywhere camera, but the D800 is a specialist tool that can produce amazing results – under the right conditions.

Although both are clearly interchangeable from a function point of view, if we examine the strengths of each camera, I think the balance splits as follows.
D700 if you:
- Do not make prints beyond 2×3 ft, or use images for digital purposes only
- Shoot a lot of sport or other things that require high frame rates
- Aren’t willing to invest in the best glass or technique

D800 if you:
- Need the resolution for large prints
- Need the increased dynamic range
- Need video capability

In the meantime, my D700 goes into retirement as my backup/ high-speed body. I think I know what kind of beast it is now: the Goldilocks camera: not too big, not too small, just right, and incredibly versatile.

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The giant lightbulb illuminates. Nikon D700, 24/1.4

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Comments

  1. Amazing Article

  2. excellent review on the D700. Any plans on a review on your Nikon lenses that you have used with this? I have recently moved to a d700 from a D7000 and find my images are unsharp on my 24-70/2.8G lens.

    • Thank you. I did have some reviews in the works of the lenses I use regularly – 24/1.4, 60/2.8 G, 85/1.4 G, 28-300 – but they’ll all have to be updated post-D800, so it might be a few weeks or a month til I get around to it. Do check back regularly though!

      As for your 24-70 problem – have you tried using AF fine tune to calibrate the lens? Are you using AF-C?

      • Have started using AF-C and a fast shutter speed is working for me. I hired out the 85mm 1.4G and had some decent results with it.
        You mentioned the matrix metering mode. When photographing people do you change to spot metering and expose for their faces or still shoot in matrix mode.

        • The 85/1.4 G is an awesome lens on the D700. Just less so wide open on the D800, there’s a lot of LoCA that isn’t the consequence of camera shake. I suspect it was sub pixel width before on the D700, but due to a combination of the new micro lens array (I was told it was offset, not conventional like the D700) and resolution, we don’t seem to obtain as good results as before.

          I use matrix for everything unless I’m going manual (flash work).

  3. victor yewmeng says:

    Technically perfect macros,excellent,very good decision making review for the D700 /D800 new owners.not found in other blogs
    Thanks

  4. Pete Saunders says:

    Right on Ming! If have had the D700 since it came out. It has been my work-horse camera ever since and has shot everything I have asked it to do from crappy low light of my son’s karate tournaments to extreme light level landscapes and compelling portraits of my kids and my tattoo buddies. I have used it in mini dust storms, by the windy ocean, have dropped more than once–and it has never failed me. Of course I have had my share of sensor cleanings due to extreme use. :) The addition of the MB10 grip gave me the option of the 8fps (which I am now spoiled to), balanced the camera better, and gave me increased battery life. And, yes, my photos will never be bigger than 2×3. So, do I buy a D800 for increased resolution or keep my D700, one of the most versatile cameras for the price Nikon ever made? Since the D4 is well out of my price range, maybe the best solution would to buy the D800 for landscapes only and keep the D700 for the rest. IMO Nikon took a sideways step with the D800 instead of an upgrade to an affordable high level and versatile amateur camera in the D700.

    • Thanks Pete! You know how I feel about this one, I say D800 for landscapes (because it’s such a big part of what you do) and D700 for everything else. It didn’t become a *worse* camera just because the D800 came out – it will still continue to make images of the same quality level regardless.

  5. alan cheong says:

    MT,

    I am very intriqued by your para below :

    “My finder has a new screen – a Type J bright matte with micro prisms and split-prism from the F6; it doesn’t fit natively so it had to be filed down. The screen has been perfectly shimmed to be planar and perpendicular with the sensor, and the mirror zero return position and alignment adjusted for the same.”

    I love the split screen of the film SLR which is not found in the current crop of DSLR. Sometimes I prefer to do manual focus but find the live view rather cumbersome and prefer it with the eye to the view finder. Did you change the screen yourself? And the shimming too? Do you where I can get someone to do all this adjustments for me?

    Secondly, by setting a high value for sharpening in camera, i see a very obvious thick line around the edges of every object. do you have the same observation when you set your sharpening to +9?

    Thanks.

    alan

    • I love my Zeiss glass, which sadly is all MF – so I got the right screen and filed it down to fit myself. Shimming, too. I don’t know of anybody who can do the work locally, but I’m sure there must be a competent, qualified camera repair person somewhere who has some experience with older manual focus SLRs. As for the D800 focusing screen, the F6 one won’t fit because it’s not big enough – it drops out of the holder. I need to see if there’s an even larger one I can cut down to size.

      Hint about the sharpening: 1. it affects only raw files. 2. when you see the line, it acts a bit like focus peaking: you know you’ve nailed it – both in live view and image review. Frankly, all I use playback for is to check composition and focus – the rest like color and exposure I do on the computer.

      • Ron Sprunger says:

        Ming, this is by far the best camera analysis blog I’ve encountered (just found you today). What a thorough delight!

        Re: sharpening, are you talking about Picture Controls? Don’t you mean that it affects only JPEGs? After all, we see the imbedded JPEG in the viewfinder, not the raw.

        • Thanks Ron! Please share the blog with your other photography friends, too.

          As for sharpening – yes, I’m talking picture controls. They only affect JPEGs and the JPEG preview of the raw (either embedded or generated, I’m not sure) as seen on the LCD. I crank it up fully aware that there are haloes, but actually the haloes help you to tell if something is in critical focus or not.

  6. This blog is the most cerebral, balanced and technically impressive from everything else I have seen on the web when it comes to Nikon gear. God bless you Ming!

  7. Michael Sin says:

    Hello Ming,

    I enjoy once again your writing on D700 as I just posted some questions for you on Leica M9.
    I was thinking to upgrade to D800 from D700 or perhaps give Leica M9 a try.
    After reading your writeup on D700, I think I will just keep the D700 as a back up as well as complementing the M9 if I finally obtained it.
    I had one question for you. I noticed that you have very very sharp images with D700. I wonder if you van help me also because I wish get that crisp & tack sharp images from my D700. I am using various ZF.2 but it seems that my pictures aren’t that detailed & sharp. Can you please enlighten me?

    Michael.

    • Thanks Michael – I’d suggest you try the M9, it will open up a new shooting style for you (as well as save your back some distress!). How are you focusing your lenses? I find that achieving perfect focus is absolutely critical to image sharpness both for the M9 and the D700. My D700 has a DK17M eyepiece magnifier, split focus screen from an F6, and mirror position adjusted so that the focusing screen plane is exactly the same distance from the lens flange as the sensor – all of these things are critical.

      • Michael Sin says:

        Hello Ming,

        Thanks for your prompt attention to my mail.
        For my D700 & Zeiss combination, I am using a DK17M & a Katzeye focusing screen. I am just a beginner so I do not know how to do more technical adjustment & upgrades. I do not understand when you say about mirror position adjustment. Since my eyes aren’t that good & I will usually get lazy & just use the green dot focus assistance. I do calibrate manual focus so that it agrees with the AF green dot. Usually, I will get at least 80% keeper rate. And it depends on lens as well. 2/50 & 2/100 are a little easier than 2/35 though.

        You may visit: http://zeissimages.com/usersummary.php?uid=1741 which are just very beginner approach to photography.

        I am amazed by the clarity & crispy images that you have when you use the 85mm 1.4 & 60mm micro. That’s why I wonder how you achieve that especially for the Seiko & Thaipusam images.

        With best regards,
        Michael.

        • Basically, the purpose of the mirror is to ensure that what you see on the focusing screen through the lens is also what the sensor sees. The distance from lens flange to focusing screen (via mirror) must be the same as lens flange to sensor plane, else when the image is in focus in the finder, it won’t be on the sensor and vice versa. Hence the requirement to adjust the zero position of the mirror.

          However, you’ve probably noticed that little dot stays lit not at one precise point in the focus throw, but you can move the focus ring a bit and the camera still thinks it’s in focus – for shallow DOF lenses or shooting wide open, this can make quite a difference. The 2/50 and 2/100 are easy to focus because there’s a very clear transition between in focus and out of focus (longer focal length, reasonably fast aperture).

          All of my macro work is done with controlled lighting, which makes a huge difference. There are also some gains to be made in processing technique – not so much in the micro contrast (that’s a lens property) but more of color and macro contrast. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts – so I’m afraid you’re going to have to be not lazy if you want the kind of results I get. :P MT

      • Thanks for reply. I figure I’ll go for the 700. In Penang I can get a new D700 for RM 6,100 (some places have it for less but grey imports). I’m sure the 800 is fantastic, the extra shot discipline and large file sizes are what i don’t need though. Even shooting 12 bit compressed I think I’d face issues given that I shoot almost exclusively hand-held, low-light, no flash at concerts and catwalks. Indeed I see quite a few on the forums dropping the 800 and going back to 700s for this reason, and of course what seems to be a highly problematic AF problem!!

        I think for a good many in my position it will be a choice between the 800 and 600. I just worry about the body quality and whether the AF system will be up to scratch. We won’t know until the 600 is released whether it can truly replace the 700. I suspect not. Body likely too small. Build quality not up to the 700. Menus versus buttons etc etc. Patience would be the best way but the shop in town has a boxed and new 700 that seems to be calling me :-) I also notice that those I read about who decide the 800 is not for them are going back to the 700, not waiting for the 600 to come out, despite having another body to tide them over.

        • I have to say I’m one of those on the fence – for studio work, the 800E is unbeatable. But also having a D700 in the hangar, I’m increasingly inclined to take the D800E – partially because of the lower weight, too.

  8. Michael Sin says:

    Thank you Ming! Indeed you are very professional & knowledgeable.
    Yes, the green dot does not stay lit at one precise point unfortunately. The Katzeye will be helpful.
    Yes, I could not agree with you more that critical focus is very important to get the micro-contrast, the color rendition & the overall sharpness of an images.

    If it is not too much to ask for, may I ask you two more questions:

    1. Kindly please let us know how to test or adjust the mirror to zero position. I would love to get tack sharp images as you!!

    2. As with vaenka above, I also had the same problem with my Nikon24-70 2.8G ED. I have not touched it for a while since turning into Zeiss. Then, recently, when I shoot it again, I do not think it creates sharp images anymore. May be it is the swapping of Katzeye focusing screen or the subsequent adjustment of MF by the allen key to agree with AF; but in theory, it shouldn’t.

    Best regards,
    Michael.

    • 1. Manual focus, take a shot wide open, then do the same with live view. Use a tripod. If you can’t consistently achieve the same result, then the mirror is out of alignment. I do NOT recommend doing the adjustment yourself if you’re not familiar with the mechanics of a camera, the mirror parts are very fragile and easy to damage – to say nothing of the mirror itself and the coating. Take it to a qualified repair person.

      2. Could be the lens itself – there’s no way a Zeiss prime one stop down from maximum aperture is going to compete with a fast aperture zoom wide open. You could check your AF fine tune settings though, there’s probably going to be some improvement to be had there. MT

  9. Dimitris Glynos says:

    Ming your site and especially your “final” review of the D700 are amazing!
    I also read a lot of your Articles “On Photography” and I find your knowledge excellent and very very useful to no professional photographers like me.
    I recently upgrade from Nikon DX to D700 and every day I use it, I find how amazing this FX dSLR is! It has open my eyes!

    Best regards,
    Dimitris

    • Thank you, glad you’re enjoying the site – please do me a favor and share it with your other photography friends!

      • Dimitris Glynos says:

        I will definitely share your blog to all of my photography friends here in Greece!

        Ming I want your opinion. I have ordered the B+W UV-Haze MRC-Nano XS-Pro filter for my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, mostly to protect the front element from scratches and dust. Is it going to effect the sharpness and the T-stop of my lens on my D700?

        Thanks for your response!

        • Thanks! Any piece of glass that wasn’t part of the original optical formula will affect sharpness to some degree; you may or may not see it depending on the quality of the glass. E.g. the Leica UVIR filters I used on the M8 didn’t affect sharpness, but you did occasionally see some double reflections from the inside of the filter. I don’t use filters unless I’m shooting in a dusty or hazardous environment; the front elements of lenses are generally tougher than they look. If a filter breaks, you can be sure that the loose glass bits will definitely scratch your front element. I’d rather use the lens hood for protection instead (and that’s what I normally do).

  10. Excellent thoughts on this camera. I was wanting a D800, but really will never use the video. Nikon’s marketing is awful and creates a risk of people jumping ship out of impatience I think. Canon will pick up business with the 5 MkIII but I think I will grab a D700 while they are going!

  11. Hi Ming,

    This feature you wrote about:

    “- The ability to use the multi-selector center button to instantly zoom playback images – to check for sharpness – then toggle between the same magnified point on successive images with the command dial.”

    is one of my favorite features (on a D300). Does that D800 behave the same way? I can’t seem to find that information anywhere, and no one seems to even mention it as a feature, except you!. And thank you for an amazing review!

    Jeff

    • Thanks! And yes, it does. My favorite playback feature on any camera to let you know if you’ve nailed the focus. As far as I know, all pro Nikons have this. (so does the OM-D, incidentally.)

  12. I love your articles and gear reviews! They are so informative and it is great to read the thoughts and experiences of a real working professional. The images that are part of the article are also phenomenal. One can see what is capable in output from the different equipment. I so tire of seeing photos of someone’s cat as examples of camera output. I am so glad I found your site! Love your work!

    • Thanks Tami! Fortunately, I don’t own any cats…

      • Excellent article. Thanks. My dilemma currently (a D90 user):

        On quite a few forums you will see people say “if you can afford it get the 800″ when talking about whether to go for a 700 or 800 when buying in to FX. For some, that might be right. But the ONLY thing I’m really interested in upgrading from the D90 for is low-light performance. The other positives will mostly come by default when switching to an FX (DOF and colour rendition, IQ etc etc).

        The more I think, I realise the crux of the matter for me is that there is a price difference of $1,100 here (Penang) between the 800 and 700 and for me the 800, bearing in mind I ONLY care about low-light, doesn’t deliver $1,100 worth of low-light improvement over the 700 (ignoring downsampling etc etc). From what I read it seems the 800 is either the same or marginally better in terms of low-light unless cropping really hard, and I rarely do. I would only spend the extra $1,100 on a significant, not marginal performance in low-light over the 700. The low-light users are still waiting for their model I believe.

        I suppose the rumoured D600 COULD be it, with 24MP and a potentially better sensor than the D700 (provided it’s Sony and not Aptica!). The issue there would perhaps be how much will it cost and how many corners they may have to cut if it is to come in at $1,500 for body only. If it’s $2,000 ‘body only’ it might carry enough features perhaps not to be too ‘entry’ level compared to the 700. Otherwise I feel it really will be ‘entry’ level, an FX sensor in a small D7000 style body. That concerns me.

        I’m still sorely tempted to go for a 700 now. I have a feeling that despite being old tech it will still be a class camera and will be a massive improvement over the D90. For me the 600 would be a contender ONLY if low-light performance was significantly better than the 700 AND it wasn’t to cut back functionality and quality wise. At the price being aimed at I’m not sure it can be. A few weeks back the 700 was still a $2,700 camera ‘body only’. Is it possible the 600 can compete at $1,500 today, even with technology advances?

        I suppose that it still makes sense to wait, maybe the 700 will drop further if the 600 gets close to it performance wise. Then again, the 700 might then be very hard to get.

        • Thanks Adrian. You might as well go for a used D3 or a D700, and spend the balance on glass. I haven’t had any issues with the D700 – it’s a workhorse that just does what it’s asked, and you don’t have to be too careful with it regarding shot discipline etc (it’s very forgiving because of the huge pixel pitch). As far as I know, in KL, it’s just under RM6k new – which is more like $1900. Plenty of used ones on the various fora and at the dealers if you decide the D600 doesn’t do it for you.

      • Sorry about the above post, it seems to have jumped up a few levels to below the wrong paragraph??

        Thanks for reply. I figure I’ll go for the 700. In Penang I can get a new D700 for RM 6,100 (some places have it for less but grey imports). I’m sure the 800 is fantastic, the extra shot discipline and large file sizes are what i don’t need though. Even shooting 12 bit compressed I think I’d face issues given that I shoot almost exclusively hand-held, low-light, no flash at concerts and catwalks. Indeed I see quite a few on the forums dropping the 800 and going back to 700s for this reason, and of course what seems to be a highly problematic AF problem!!

        I think for a good many in my position it will be a choice between the 800 and 600. I just worry about the body quality and whether the AF system will be up to scratch. We won’t know until the 600 is released whether it can truly replace the 700. I suspect not. Body likely too small. Build quality not up to the 700. Menus versus buttons etc etc. Patience would be the best way but the shop in town has a boxed and new 700 that seems to be calling me I also notice that those I read about who decide the 800 is not for them are going back to the 700, not waiting for the 600 to come out, despite having another body to tide them over.

  13. Nikonxman says:

    Hi Ming, you have an amazing blog! I’m so lucky to have stumbled into it.

    I upgraded to the D300s two years ago coming off two years of using the D80. At the time, I was choosing among the D300s, the D700, and the D7000. I’m now looking for another upgrade because I don’t like D300s color rendering and how the D300s handle noise (beyond my acceptance after ISO1600). Also I am not sure if I’m due to upgrade the processor (EXPEED) that the D300s uses. Using the D300s for two years, I’ve learned that I don’t use the video feature as much. All these combined, I think the D700 is my next body upgrade. My photography career is short (3-4 years) but exponentially growing. I enjoy wedding photography the most but I’m uncertain if I should invest in an “older” camera (namely D700) now or invest in a modern camera (namely D800) to give potential clients credibility. Or wait for a D300s replacement?

    I really appreciate your time reading this and I love your blog! Terrific job!
    Nikonxman

    • Thank you! Unless you make huge prints, the D700 is more than enough camera. And you could get two of them for the price of a single D800. You also have to remember that workflow gets much slower once file sizes increase…

      • Nikonxman says:

        Thank you for your prompt response. Thank you for your suggestion. I recently bought the Sony RX100 and need to wait a little bit more to get the D700. In the meantime, I will try to rent it for a corporate event I volunteered to shoot! Amazing blog and pictures you have created. Kudos!
        Thanks again Ming.

        Nikonxman

  14. Ming,
    I have a D700 but I do not know how to use the back LED as my focusing screen when shooting. I used the viewfinder. I have a Fuji X100 that I used the LED for focuing and taking the picture. Need your expert advise. Thanks.

  15. Hi Ming, this is an excellent write up and comepletely echoes my thoughts and opinions. I’ve had the D700 for three years during which I’ve done all kinds of travel photography, portrait assignments and paid shoots with it and not once have I felt let down by this camera; it just works! It’s also robust and never gives me the feeling that it’ll break.

    I had a question about one point you’ve listed under the things that need to be fixed section, you say, “- AUTO should be an option on the ISO selection button. (fixed)”, was there a newer firmware that added this option? I use separate modes for Auto & Fixed ISO, but don’t see “Auto” listed under the ISO selection menu.

  16. M. Orbuch says:

    Fantastic review, almost bittersweet (about a mechanical device, no less…). As an amateur, i loved the D700 in which i’d put in a Katz Eye screen, making MF pretty simple. sold off the D700 over a year ago, awaiting the D800E but after handling it, I found the ergonomics really constraining (large hands, cramped pinky and ring finger). The file sizes were daunting, found out that the focusing screen was not swapable and am now left considering a used D700 for all the MF glass I love. Not sure this is the wisest expense. Without a focusing screen, my NOCT Nikkor and ZF.2 2.8/21, 1,4/35 will be nightmares to focus properly. Would do the Fujifilm XE-1, love that ergonomics and sensor look but without focus peaking, just isn’t adequate. Not crazy about the tiny NEX’s…Decisions, decisions….

  17. Robert Brake says:

    Great article! Having just bought a used D700 to step into digtal FX, (I never was comfortable with the DX interlude between film and digital) I really appreciate your taking the time to put those well thought out notes in to such a great readable form. A true review!

    I have a question on the F6 type J screen you used. I am used to various focus screens from my F days and find myself going back to MF more and more in digital. The F6 screens appear to have the Autofocus brackets fixed on the screen and in Digital bodies they appear to exist independently outside the screen. Do you have an issue with the D700 bracket patterns laying over the F6 patterns or is it something you just get used to. I like the F6 J screen and still use a number of MF lenses but I do use AF a great deal as well so don’t want to give that up either. I have access to proper tooling to cut down an F6 screen so that is not an issue but I don’t want to confuse myself with too many and overlapping brackets.

    Again, thanks for the great work.

  18. Thanks for the elaborate and in-depth review of the D700. This camera deserves it!
    I only bought my D700 a couple of months ago and coming from DX (D300s) this is a significant improvement. I never felt quite happy with the way the 300s handled color and I never got 3D the way I was used to with film or color reversal. How different the results are with the D700. Everything is more palpable, colors are very rich, noise is virtually absent. And there is depth in spades.
    I use the camera primarily with vintage MF Nikkor glass like the 25-50 f4 and 35-70 f3.5 zooms; 50 f1.2; 105 f2.5 and 300 f4.5. Color rendition with these lenses is uniform across the range with the D700. Also, everything is razor sharp when it needs to be, but without getting in-your-face the way it seemed with the D300s. Somehow these ancient lenses and the D700 make a magical combination.
    Thanks again and all the best with your excellent blog; it’s an almost super-human effort, considering the scale and depth!

    • Yes, those ‘fat pixels’ are both very forgiving of lens resolution and natural-looking, too. I still think 12MP on full frame is a sweet spot for most users; anything more demands an ever-increasing price in optical quality and shot discipline that gets very challenging and of limited returns very quickly…thanks for the compliments! Still human, I assure you – at least last time I checked.

  19. sergeylandesman says:

    HI Ming!
    How would you compare Nikon D7000 to Olympus OM-D-E5?

  20. sergeylandesman says:

    I am sorry, I meant Nikon 700?

    • Same again: I shot the two side by side on this assignment and was surprised that the OM-D was not only better, but at high ISOs, too. And that’s before you take into account the added stability afforded by the stabilizer.

      • This last comment killed it for me. There we were, talking about how unique and wonderful D700 is. Then, out of the blue, a pretty average micro 4/3 camera not only has a better picture, but beats D700 at high ISO settings too. Wow! But you know what? I don’t believe it. In fact, I know that it isn’t true. Please don’t take me wrong, but I just think that D700 is still the best digital camera out there. Of course, many modern cameras can perform wonderfully in certain lighting situations, matching or even exceeding D700, but nobody beats the D700′s pure magic when it comes to versatility and reliability (in terms of final results) of Nikon D700. Just my humble opinion.

        • Believe what you want to believe; all the better if it saves you from having to buy another camera. But after 70,000 frames with the D700, and about 50,000 with the OM-D, a good deal of both for paying clients, I’ll use whatever gets the job done. 3×5 foot prints don’t lie.

          • Oh, I agree. As a professional photographer, you only have to think of a camera as a tool. If the results it produces please the paying customer (who often has a very poor taste btw), then it all that matters. I was only trying to say that your [final] review of D700 was so wonderfully written that the Olympus bit kind of spoiled it for me. I still don’t think that there’s a true replacement for D700 out there right now. I’ve tried many new and not so new cameras and nothing does it for me quite the same way the D700 does. But then, I’m not a pro and so I’m my own paying customer, and that’s the toughest customer you can ever get ;)

            Cheers.

            • Yes and no. I still have the choice to use what works for me on my personal time, too. That said, by implying my customers have no taste I can’t help but feel perhaps you’re also somewhat implying that I’m delivering subpar results…for your information, if I’m not happy with the results, I don’t deliver them to my clients, regardless of what they might think.

              The D700 was 2007 technology. The OM-D is 2012 and five years ahead; at a pixel level, things have advanced considerably. It may not deliver the same rendering style as the full frame sensor since it’s a quarter of the size – that’s a function of physics – but there’s no reason why the underlying technology hasn’t improved. There’s no denying that today’s DX sensors are a lot better than the last generation – and so on.

  21. hi, i decided to step up from dx to fx, does it still a great camera for fx upgrader today? or D600(some D600 vs D700 reviews out there)?

  22. Great article! All hail the might D700!!!!

  23. Carlos Pizarro says:

    Hello, I recently purchased an used d700 but it didn’t come with the manual. I love the pictures that I shoot outdoors but every time i take a picture inside in low light areas the pictures are terrible. I am not a photographer even though I love photography but I don’t have the education or the experience. I am using a Nikkor 105mm f2.5AI with HS-8 Hood. What setting on the camera do recommend for indoors to get better quality photographs. Thank you for your time. & all the great info on this page.- Carlos Pizarro

  24. Loved the review, and all the questions and responses. I’m just starting out in my photography, used to shoot film, then brought a d7000 I love it but I want more, feel like I need more. I shoot kids, events, church events, portraits ect. my personal shots are nature. I was looking at a d800 but after shooting with my brothers own the files are just so big, I think that is a deal breaker for me. So I’m trying to decide between d600 or d700. A d3s could be possible but might be a little out of reach. looking for a little guidance.

  25. Paul Witzig says:

    Thanks Ming. I’ve now discovered your marvellous blog – just in time for your ‘final’ D700 review. I bought a pristine D700 a year ago and remain totally in love with the camera and the images it allows me to capture. In my case I suspect that I am the limiting factor !
    Can I ask your advice on lens storage in a dry cabinet ? I have sent away for cleaning a couple of Nikkor lenses which showed fungus on the internal elements. After cleaning can I safely store them in my dry cabinet with my other clean lenses ? Many thanks indeed ! Paul Witzig

  26. Hello! I just read your review today on Pinterest. I am upgrading from a D300S. I’ve been reading reviews for weeks and yours is fantastic. I know the 700 is old, but the more I read and talk to other photographers, I’m still considering buying the 700 over the 800. I mainly shoot portraits in studio and on location. Am I crazy to still be considering the 700?? Thanks in advance!!

  27. Dominique says:

    Very tasteful and informative from e pros perspective. I’ll definitely recommend to other photo friends!
    As you say setting up the light is crucial to photo quality but I have to ask if you have any particular technique creating your jpgs for the web? the ones in this review are amazingly sharp and yet small in size. Any advice?
    thanks again for a great article!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Thein has published his long-term review of the Nikon D700 (D-seven-hundred). This entry was posted in DSLR, nikon and tagged 35mmFF [...]

  2. [...] Thein has published his long-term review of the Nikon D700 (D-seven-hundred). No [...]

  3. [...] Nikon D700** (May 2012) – My workhorse since late 2009, and the end of the First Leica Period. Shares the incredibly versatile sensor and AF system from the D3, and delivers identical image quality and performance for almost all purposes. Capable of hitting 8fps with the battery grip and suitable power source, too. I can’t think of a better value camera today – there isn’t anything that delivers the same image quality, same usability, customizability and durability for the price. Along with the D3, the first camera where I felt that I was now the limitation in the imaging chain, and would have to progress substantially to change that. Mine has done over 70,000 actuations and remains in my arsenal for available light reportage work, and as a backup body to the D800E. Smart move by Nikon to keep in production (at least for a few months) and on sale; I would actually recommend this over the D800 if you don’t intend to print enormous (D700 files still look great at 40×60″) or require video. Save the difference in price and go buy some glass instead – and enjoy the wider choices, because the larger pixel pitch is very forgiving indeed. [...]

  4. [...] assignments or where the client doesn’t require 36MP and the associated enormous files. (My long term review of the D700 is here.) This review will be written from the point of view of a long-term D700 (100,000+ frames [...]

  5. [...] Hydrostatic ball head Gitzo GT1542 Traveller with Gitzo 1780QR head Leica M9-P Nikon D600 (backup), D700 (reportage/ low light), D800E (primary for commercial work), F2 Titan (personal work) Nikon AFS [...]

  6. [...] drybox. This is the ideal camera for manual focus lens aficionados! I have a full long-term review here, and a great many of the images on this site were shot with [...]

  7. [...] permanently fused together for the summer. Enjoy it. A nice read if you haven't seen it already: CLICK Reply With [...]

  8. […] moments and being hyper-aware of facial expressions, or edge intrusions, or context. I shot with a D700 and the AFS 85/1.4 G. the problem was, I got artistically stronger images the following year shot […]

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