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Nikon D700 review

Guest plesbit

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A number of new "full frame" SLR's have either recently arrived on the market or are on the way (full frame means the image sensor matches the size of a 35mm film frame rather than the APS-C sized cropped sensor in use in most dSLR's). One of the new FF cameras is the Nikon D700 and below is a link to a laboratory analysis of the new camera.

It is an interesting review - for those who cannot face 33 pages, use the drop down box to skip to the comparison pages where performance is measured again a number of others FF cameras like the Canon EOS5D and Sony DSLR-a900. The most interesting bit though, more so than the Canon or Sony, is the comparison with the Nikon D300. Very similar camera but using the standard APS-C sensor.

Given all the whooping that surrounds FF cameras, in particular the advent of these new ones, I find myself somewhat underwhelmed by the results. There is no doubting the quality of the shots produced by the D700 but really the APS-C sensor of the D300 is right there with it, in fact in many respects has a very slight edge. Only really if you want to ramp up the ISO settings to staggering levels does the D700 come into its own but for that you'll part with a lot more £££.

See for yourself:


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Yes, an interesting review. The market for full frame DSLRs is in a state of turmoil now that Canon are introducing the 5D Mk II at the end of November - 21 mega pixies :-D Resolution isn't everything, but it makes a big difference, especially to landscape photographers. The only reason to buy a D700 in the couple of months before the new Canon hits the streets and is properly road tested would be because you have a shedload of Nikon full frame lenses from your 35mm days and won't change brand under any circs.

I was considering buying a D3 earlier this year to upgrade from my D2X, but decided in the end that I would buy the D300 for less than half the price. Good job I did. In those far off days of May 2008 Nikon were way in front of Canon with the D300 and D3 (both of which have superb low light performance, leaving Canon standing) and with the 5D very long in the tooth. Then Nikon introduced the D700 with exactly the same sensor as the D3, and it looked like the killer blow. But then, of course, the 5D Mk II was announced last month, trumping Nikon - far more resolution for the same price as the D700, and apparently equivalent low light perfromance - and interestingly at the same time trumping Canon's own 5 grand 1DS Mk III (it would be a brave person who bought one at the moment - there must be a Mk IV on the horizon).

I'm really happy with the D300 - it's a superb camera, and streets ahead of the image quality of the D2X which cost over twice as much. My next DSLR will be full frame, some time next year. I may well change to Canon for that but keep the D300 for DX format, because all my pro quality Nikon lenses are DX (i.e. not full frame), so if I have to buy a bunch of full frame lenses changing brand won't make any cost differences. I'll see what's on the market at the time - Nikon will have to bring out a D3X soon (full frame with more resolution than the D3 - think 24 MP and about £4-5 k), but will it be any better than the Canon 5D II with its £2k body (when the street price drops after launch)?

Why full frame? Used with VERY good lenses the extra resolution gives more detail and bigger image files, saving the need to upres for stock libraries and retaining the very best image quality. It still won't reach the quality of my scanned 5x4" transparencies, which are the equivalent of 45-50 megapixels (and will certainly not stop me using 5x4), but it will be more convenient for a lot of my landscaping trips. Also makes it easier at the wide angle end (but obviously gives less reach at the zoomed in end). Generally full frame is best for landscapers and social and studio photographers, where the 1DS III and 5D are widely used by pros, and DX for sports and wildlife.


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One foot in two camps Bruce? Unthinkable! ;)

My main surprise was that the results from the APS-C Nikon D300 matched those of the FF Nikon D700 almost exactly. More detail was what I expected to see but it just wasn't there, though I do wonder about the subject matter they used. The colour printed labels on the bottles / globe are unlikely to be more than 150dpi and the paper clips / batteries are very flat in terms of detail. It would be much more useful to go out and shoot them in some interesting landscape settings but then the conditions and subjects would be slightly different for each camera tested and not a level playing field.

Do you think a few shots across Salhouse Broad might have shown up the advantage of the FF sensor? I suppose the Sony DSLR-a900 did show up the extra detail produced by a 24MP FF sensor even on the lab subjects but Sony need to sort out their high ISO performance.

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One foot in two camps Bruce? Unthinkable! ;)

Sometimes one has to be a tart Simon. But please don't quote me :oops:

There are two issues here - one is sensor size and the other is resolution (pixel numbers). The two main advantages of a full frame sensor are (i) the ability to reduce noise levels (improving all the time as technology advances, the best examples being the D3/D700 - at least until we see what the 5D mk II can do) and (ii) nicer handling - easier at the wide angle end, brighter viewfinder etc.

In terms of resolution it's generally reckoned that you won't see any difference between very hi res and normal res images until you get to about A3 in terms of printed output. Too many of us spend our time squinting at screen images at 100% magnification wondering whether it's good enough, but in reality until you start to make big prints it doesn't make any practical difference. If you view an A4 print from a 10 mpx sensor compared with one the same size from a 20+ mpx sensor, or even a 50+ mpx Hasselblad H3, you are unlikely to see any difference. Try a 20x24" print and it will be a different story!

I agree that those test images aren't great, but at least DP Review always use the same setup, so they are consistent! I would love to see some landscape image prints from a real life shootout between a D3/D700 and a 5D mk II. A lot of Nikon aficionados claim that resolution is less important than sensor quality, and that the D3 can at least equal the 1DS Mk III., but all the tests you see tend to be parochially biased!


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