Nikon D700 Digital SLR Camera
At a Glance
The Nikon D700 ($2500 body only; $3600 with a 24mm-to-120mm VR lens) digital SLR camera walks the walk of professional gear. Though it's the less-beefy sibling of the pro-level Nikon D3, the D700 features many of the great capabilities of that model--only at a lower price, and in a smaller package.
Chief among its notable features: The D700 has a full-frame sensor, which means you can achieve true wide-angle shots and won't experience the "crop" or multiplication factor you get with the Nikon D60 or D90 models. A 24mm lens will truly give you all 24mm, as opposed to the effective 36mm you'd get from that same focal length on a D90 (with the exception of Nikon DX lenses, which quote focal lengths for the DX bodies, like the D60 and the D90).
The D700 also offers lightning-quick autofocus and exposure, and many advanced options in addition to full-auto and program modes. It has a staggering ISO range, going all the way to 25600; at ISOs up to 6400, my test images looked great.
Though the D700 does not offer the rapid burst speed of the more expensive D3 (5 frames per second in burst mode, versus the D3's 8 fps), and though it has a smaller viewfinder, professionals will still want to compare the two. With a street price starting at about $2500 for the body only, the D700 costs about $1800 less than the D3--and it weighs half a pound less, too.
Unlike the D3, the D700 has a built-in flash, which I found was a nice bonus when I was knocking around taking snapshots. Of course, needs change in the studio or in an event setting, where external lighting, or at least a more powerful flash, is called for. For those environments, the D700 provides a hot shoe and a socket for an external flash cord. Like the D3 and the Nikon D300, the D700 has integrated sensor cleaning, as well as a handy and easy-to-use 1:1 live view for checking focus on its LCD.
The D700's solid, weather-sealed magnesium-alloy body is ergonomically sound, providing good balance in the hand thanks to its grip and the positioning of the controls on the back. There you'll find a bright, 920,000-dot (VGA), 3-inch LCD screen, plus a toggle switch and various menu buttons. As you might expect, the exposure dials are situated near the thumb and forefinger, and the Mode and ISO buttons, the two I use most frequently, are on top; the pop-up flash has a dedicated button, as well. Nikon's menus are typically comprehensive and fairly intuitive to navigate, and that holds true with this model. All of the usual settings are present, including white balance, image quality, bracketing and metering modes, and custom controls.
In my hands-on test shots across the ISO range and in a variety of lighting settings, the D700 produced high-quality output. Occasionally a photo had a blown-out highlight or two, but I was shooting RAW files and was able to regain detail in those areas using Adobe Camera Raw. High-contrast edges showed little, if any, chromatic aberration; when noise set in, it took on a quite nice, filmlike quality. Images exhibited a grainy look, but almost no color noise. For me, that held true through ISO 6400. Naturally, the noise increased as the ISOs rose, but my night shots looked remarkably like film compared with the output of other digital cameras, which often produce pictures with high chromatic noise.
The D700 doesn't dazzle with megapixels, and that might be a stumbling block for some shoppers. With 12 megapixels on a full-frame sensor, however, it does give you outstanding image quality across the ISO board. Other cameras, such as the Sony Alpha DSLR-A900, offer close to twice the resolution but less graceful noise-handling. It's a tough call to make if you're not already invested in one system or another. But with the D700, you can shoot in the morning and still be hitting the trigger at twilight--a degree of versatility that may just be worth the high price of entry, especially if you're already committed to the Nikon system.