By Daniel Fishman
I class myself as a keen amateur and have been learning more about photography every day for the last couple of years. I have tried my hand at most types of photography except macro and like nothing more than transporting a landscape onto my wall at home or capturing important memories for my family and friends.
Nikon D700 Review
Having started off in photography by borrowing my brother’s D40 and then purchasing my own D5000 my look at the D700’s capabilities will focus very much on the upgrade from a small body APS-C or crop frame Nikon DSLR. My decision to upgrade was not based on a need to, I had not outgrown what my D5000 could achieve by a long way, but by a desire. I am a sucker for always wanting the best and having played around with a friends D300 the possibilities that became apparent with the ease of manual control that a more “professional” body offered was something that I instantly wanted. Having begun my research I came across the D700 and the notion of a Full Frame (FX) sensor. This appeared to offer some benefits over the Crop Frame (DX) sensor that greatly appealed to me, most notably the vastly improved performance at high ISO’s, the possibilities for shallow depth of field and extreme wide angle. But could I afford it? Should I afford it even if I could? I finally took the decision to jump straight to the D700 rather than risk having to go through all this again in a years time!
Nikon D700 First impressions
My first impressions upon opening that hallowed gold box was that this was a serious piece of kit! Compared to the mostly plastic and lightweight construction of the D5000 this felt substantial and beautifully put together. The weight was surprising at first but as soon as you attach a lens and lay your right hand around the rubberised grip it felt perfectly balanced. You find your fingers naturally gravitating towards the most useful control buttons and dials with the on/off switch, shutter release and main control wheels all obviously at your fingertips. This is one of the main reasons I originally chose Nikon kit over other brands as I found that, for me, they were much more ergonomically pleasing.
So I attached the 50mm 1.4G Nikkor that I already owned, pointed my new toy at the nearest thing of interest and …… WHACK!!! I suppose it follows that with a larger sensor comes a larger shutter and therefore a louder noise when it fires but it was still a surprise to me how much louder it was and there is no Quiet Mode like on the D5000.
Nikon D700 performance
So did my D700 do for me what I had hoped it would? As I enjoy making the most of available light the high ISO capability of the D700 has been a revelation, particularly for candid portraits or interiors where flash is prohibited. I am quite happy for casual shooting to leave the auto-ISO set to go up to 6400 without fear of unusable images. This is unthinkable on the DX camera’s that I have used. In the poorest of light at the highest ISO’s the noise reduction in camera I do find a bit heavy handed so I generally leave this off, I prefer the very fine grain to the smearing and loss of detail that this creates. On the camera’s base ISO of 200 it produces clean crisp images with plenty of detail and the 12MP resolution is more than enough for the 4x2ft print I have hanging on the wall in my Dining Room. One caveat on the subject of image quality is that I have found the quality of lens that you use is more noticeable. The FX sensor seems to push your lenses to their limit and to really make it sing you need to invest in some decent glass. Unfortunately this pushes an already high cost through the roof.
The creative possibilities made available by the use of a wide aperture prime lens on an FX sensor have allowed me to create some beautiful portraits through artistic use of a very shallow depth of field although you do run the risk of it being too shallow and missing focus. Whilst on the subject of focus, the 51-point autofocus system is another significant improvement over the D5000 although this only becomes apparent when trying to track moving subjects. The 3D continuous focus tracking locks on magically well and combined with the 5 frames per second continuous shooting rate has allowed me to photograph flying birds, footballers and Ferrari’s around Thruxton race track with ease. Although small children still provide the toughest test!
So what did it not deliver? As you probably know there is no video function but I was not using this on the D5000 and have not missed it one little bit, this is a personal opinion however and I know one person who will not buy a D700 no matter how much he wants to as it doesn’t have HD video capability. Also it uses CF not SD cards so that added to the upgrade cost.
The D700 doesn’t contain a magic potion to make anyone a better photographer, that can still only be achieved through learning and practising. What it has allowed me is the freedom to control every aspect of taking the photographs quickly, clearly and intuitively. Also if you do not like where Nikon has the buttons you can reassign almost everything to exactly how you want it, for example I have the AE/AF lock on the front function button rather than the back as I find it easier to hold whilst pressing the shutter. With the dual control wheels and full array of buttons at your fingers rather than having to dive into menus it has encouraged me to take full control of my pictures and experiment beyond what the camera thinks is the correct exposure.
Nikon D700 sample photos
- Image quality
- Low ISO ability
- Autofocus ability
- DOF control
- Ergonomic layout
- No Video
- Loud Shutter
- Doesn’t take SD
- Heavy (comparatively)
Find the cheapest Nikon D700 digital SLRs currently available