The D700 ($2999, body only) is Nikon's midrange, full-frame
digital SLR. It
takes everything that's great about the $4500 D3, and puts it into a midsize
body that's not much larger than the D300. The D700's main competitors include
the new Canon EOS-5D Mark II and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A900, both of which cost
about the same.
Some of the highlights on the D700 include:
- 12.1 effective Megapixel, full-frame FX format CMOS sensor
- Supports for all Nikkor lenses, with most having
no focal length conversion ratio; DX lenses will have a 1.5X crop factor
and the camera will shoot at a lower resolution
- Weather-sealed, magnesium alloy body, with dust reduction
- Ultra-high resolution 3-inch LCD display with live view
- 51-point autofocus system
- ISO range of 200 - 6400, expandable to 100 - 25600
- Six different RAW formats
- Continuous shooting at 5 fps without the battery
grip, and 8 fps with it
- Handy virtual horizon feature
- HDMI output
Sounds pretty nice, eh? Keep reading to see how the
D700 performs -- our review starts now!
in the Box?
The D700 will be available in two kits. You can buy it in
a body-only configuration ($2999), or along with a 24 - 120 mm VR lens
($3599). Here's what you'll find in the box for both of those kits:
- The 12.1 effective Megapixel Nikon D700 camera body
- F3.5 - 5.6, 24 - 120 mm Nikkor VR lens [lens
- EN-EL3e lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Body cap
- LCD cover
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- Video cable
- CD-ROM featuring
Nikon Software Suite
- 443 page camera
If you purchase the lens kit, then you'll be ready to start
taking photos right away. The 24 - 120 mm kit lens is good, but not great (it
had more corner blurriness than I would've expected). Full frame cameras tend
to push lenses pretty hard, so you'll need some serious glass to get the most
out of the D700. If you attach a "regular" (non-DX) lens to the camera,
then you won't have any focal length conversion ratio to deal with. You can
use DX-format lenses too, though the resolution will drop to 5 Megapixel, and
a 1.5X focal length conversion ratio will become a factor.
Like all D-SLRs, there's no memory card in the D700's box,
so you'll need to pick one up (if you don't have one already). The D700 uses
CompactFlash cards (Type I only), and I'd recommend a 2GB card to start
with. The camera supports UDMA cards, so if you want maximum performance, it's
worth picking up one of those.
The D700 uses the same EN-EL3e lithium-ion battery as several
other Nikon SLRs. This battery packs 11.1 Wh of energy,
which is on the higher end of the spectrum. Here's how that translates into
||Battery life, live view off
|Canon EOS-5D Mk II
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A900
Battery life numbers are provided
by the manufacturer
As you can see, the D700 is the battery life king in the midrange,
full-frame D-SLR category. And, should you want more juice, you can use the
battery grip that I'll describe in a moment.
I should point out two things about the proprietary batteries
used by the D700 and all the other cameras in the table above. For one, they're
expensive -- an extra EN-EL3e will set you back at
least $30. Second, unless you're using the optional battery grip (described
below), you can't use an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day when
your rechargeable dies.
The D700 with its optional battery grip; image courtesy of Nikon USA
Speaking of the battery grip, here
it is. It's called the MB-D10, and it can hold a
number of different batteries. Straight out of the
box, it can hold an additional EN-EL3e, or eight
AA batteries. By purchasing the BL-3 battery chamber
cover, you can also use the EN-EL4a battery, which
is almost twice as powerful as an EN-EL3e. In other
words, with an EN-EL3e in the camera and an EN-EL4a
in the grip, you can take a whopping 2900 shots without
recharging -- nice! As you'd expect, the battery
grip also gives you additional controls for shooting
in the portrait orientation.
But wait, there's more. If you've got the EN-EL4a battery
in the grip, the continuous shooting speed on the D700 increases from 5 to
8 frames per second.
When it's time to charge the EN-EL3e battery, just pop it
into the included charger. It takes around 2 1/4 hours for the battery to fully
charge. This isn't one of those handy charges that plugs right into the wall
-- you must use a power cable.
As is the case with all digital SLRs, the D700 has a plethora
of optional accessories available. I've compiled some of them into this table:
||The D700 supports nearly all Nikon F-mount
lenses; do note that DX-format lenses will have a 1.5X focal
length conversion ratio
|Get more flash power and less chance of
redeye with these Speedlights.
|Wired remote control
|The MC-30 is a basic shutter release button
attached to a 85 cm cable; the MC-36 offers a backlit screen,
shutter release lock, and a timer
|Wireless remote control
||Another expensive way to take photos without
||Get at least twice the battery life, faster
continuous shooting, and extra controls for portrait shooting
|Battery chamber cover
||Allows you to use the EN-EL4a battery in
the battery grip
||Power your camera without draining the
|Wireless file transmitter
||Allows the camera to connect to a wireless
or ethernet network; requires its own power source, whether
its a battery or a AC adapter
||Increases the viewfinder magnification
||Lets you look into the viewfinder from
a 90 degree angle; you can also enlarge the view by 2X
|* Prices were accurate at time of publication
An impressive (if not expensive) list, and there are plenty
more accessories available, believe me.
Nikon includes a pair of software programs along with the D700. The first is Nikon Transfer, which you'll use to transfer photos from the camera to your Mac or PC. You select which photos are to be transferred, where they're going, and you're done. You can also select a backup location for your photos, just in case something goes horribly wrong.
Once that's done, you'll find yourself in Nikon ViewNX, which you can use for organizing and sharing photos. Here you can the usual thumbnail view, and you can assign photos to various categories, or give them "star" ratings. ViewNX lets you see the focus point used on a photo, listen to voice memos, and convert RAW images to JPEGs.
ViewNX has very basic RAW editing capabilities. You can adjust the exposure compensation, white balance, sharpness, contrast, highlights and shadows, and D-Lighting. You can also change the Picture Control setting, if you wish (more on that later). The annoying thing is that you have to do all this while looking at the thumbnail image, which isn't terribly helpful.
Nikon's solution for RAW editing is known as Capture NX2 (priced from $150). This software lets you tons of RAW properties, including white balance, exposure, tone curve, the Picture Control setting, saturation/sharpness/contrast, noise reduction, and vignette control (to name but a few things). Capture NX2's unique U-Point Technology lets you select a spot in the image that you want to retouch, select the radius of the area that will be affected, and then adjust things like brightness, contrast, saturation, noise reduction, and D-Lighting for that area. You can also "paint" these same things onto selected areas of a photo. It's a unique approach to photo editing that, while not for everyone, is pretty powerful.
Another option for editing RAW files is using Adobe Photoshop CS3 or CS4 -- just make sure your Camera Raw plug-in is up-to-date!
So what is RAW, anyway? The RAW image format (Nikon calls it NEF) stores unprocessed data from the camera's sensor. Because of this, you can adjust all kinds of image properties without degrading the quality of the image. So, if you botched the white balance, you can change it in your RAW editor, with no ill effects. It's almost like getting a second chance to take a photo. Since the bundled software hardly lets you do anything, you'll want to pick up a better RAW editor to really take advantage of the format.
The downsides of the RAW format are that 1) the file sizes are significantly larger than JPEGs, 2) camera performance can be slower, and 3) you must post-process each image on your computer in order to convert it to a standard image format.
Camera Control Pro 2
Live view in Camera Control Pro 2 (even the "virtual horizon" is available!)
Another option software product for the D700 is Nikon Camera Control Pro 2, which costs a whopping $153 (it's included for free with Canon D-SLRs). As its name implies, Camera Control Pro lets you control the D700 from your Mac or PC over the USB connection. When you take a photo, it goes straight to your computer. Most of the camera's settings are adjustable and, as you can see, live view is available too.
Nikon includes the camera equivalent of War and Peace with
the D700. Covering almost 450 pages, the manual covers the camera in detail,
and that's good news, since it's a complex piece of equipment. I also appreciate
the "Q and A index" at the front of the book, which helps you quickly find
answers to common questions. Documentation for the bundled software is installed
onto your computer.
Though its nowhere near as large as its more expensive sibling (the
D3), the Nikon D700 is still a bulky, heavy camera. And that's not a bad thing
-- you wouldn't this $3000 camera body to feel cheap or plasticky. The D700
has a magnesium alloy frame, and it feels very sturdy in your hands. The body
is sealed against dust and moisture, so it'll hold up in pretty extreme conditions.
The D700 has a good-sized right hand grip, though the camera's
heft means that you'll want to support the lens, as well. If there's one camera
that's the model of "button clutter", it's the D700. There are buttons,
dials, and switches scattered on three sides of the camera. In other words,
it's not for the faint of heart -- so be prepared to read the manual.
Alright, here's how the D700 compares to its two competitors
in terms of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
|Canon EOS-5D Mark II
||6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0 in.
||81 cu in.
||810 g |
||5.8 x 4.8 x 3.0 in.
||83.5 cu in.
||995 g |
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A900
||6.2 x 4.6 x 3.3 in.
||94.1 cu in.
||850 g |