Nikon D700 FX 12.1MP Digital SLR Camera Review @ ModSynergy.com
It was back around 2009 that I had the chance at reviewing Nikon's D300 digital SLR. The D300 was a professional grade DX format camera and was Nikon's highest performing DX camera in their lineup, and remains in that same position today in 2012, though with a updated moniker, called the D300S.
I talked about how the Nikon DX format represents a big chunk of Nikon’s DSLR camera sales in my D300 review. One of the simplest reasons that this still holds true today is because of the affordability factor. The current DSLR landscape is ultra competitive across all DSLR makers who are offering an entry-level offering, and there are so many to choose from that it's a difficult decision. It's a tricky situation because when you purchase a DSLR for the first time (you may have upgraded from a point and shoot), you are really investing in a system. That system could be from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc. This system involves accessories in the form of lenses, flash guns, and much more for your upgrade path. Some manufactures offer more than others, depending on how long they've been in the business of cameras, while others are just starting out and you may not have a large selection to choose from. Ultimately it's your decision whether you want to invest in a system, or maybe you have enough to try multiple offerings.
Another way the DSLR market has been competitive is by playing the mega-pixel game. Some folks have no clue what to look for, manufactures know this, and take advantage of playing this game. Some push the reasoning that if the mega-pixel count is higher, the camera must be better. This game is played endlessly even in the point and shoot arena where you see these tiny cameras that have 8, 10, 12, 14, or even 18 mega-pixels. Is really having 16 mega-pixels make a particular product better than the other?
I would say the better indicator of a quality product is it's camera sensor. The general rule of thumb is the larger the camera sensor, the better the actual camera is. There's only so much information that a smaller sensor can take in, and provide in terms of image quality, noise in low light, and performance, that having more mega-pixels is useless because it doesn't determine these things, all it gives you is a larger photo size. But what is the use of a larger photo size if the quality of the image is subpar?
Today all of that is going to change as we have gotten our hands on a full-frame sensor. Nikon calls their full-frame sensor the FX format, and their smaller APS-C sensor the DX format. It'll be interesting to see how a full-frame sensor performs as we have already reviewed offerings that have smaller sensors throughout the almost 10-years we've been on the Internet. From the tiny, point and shoot, four-thirds and APS-C sized sensors, our newest Nikon D700 DSLR camera review will allow us to complete this progression and give us that full perspective in the form of a full-frame sensor.
Currently all DSLR cameras use a sensor that falls under three categories. These categories have relation to film formats we've used in the past. From biggest to smallest is full frame, APS-C, and Four-Thirds. Point and shoots and cell phones have even smaller sensors to work with depending on the product size.
The size of a full-frame sensor is the same size as a 35mm film frame, that is 35mm wide. The size of an APS-C sensor (the most commonly used sensor format among consumer DSLR) is close to 25mm wide, and lastly Four-Thirds is about 17mm wide, or about 30% less in size compared to the APS-C sensor. By knowing the size of the sensor, you have to understand a term called “crop factor”. Crop factor is the ratio between the imaging area offered compared to the imaging area offered on a 35mm full frame format.
Think of three rectangles representing the full frame, APS-C and Four-Thirds sensors. If we imagine the full-frame rectangle being the largest rectangle of 35mm, notice how APS-C and Four-Thirds does not fill the whole 35mm frame. This means if you compare cameras that utilize full-frame, APS-C and Four-Thirds, and place each lens at the focal length of 15mm, you’ll notice among all three cameras that the distance of 15mm is actually different between each sensor class, even though they are at the same focal length of 15mm. You may be standing in the same spot, but each sensor see's something different.
Using this example, we can see one advantage that using a smaller sensor can give you. Their crop factors can actually give your lens more reach (more bokeh too), however on the flipside; crop factor can actually work against you when using your lens at wide angles. And remember when I said the general rule of thumb is the larger the sensor, the better the image quality, and better control of noise, low light performance, well all that still matters.
The Nikon D700 is a professional-grade FX (full-frame) format DSLR with 12.1-megapixel at hand, and is completely different than anything I've reviewed up to this point. The MSRP for a Nikon D700 body is $2699.95USD or $2499.95CAD. The D700 positions itself above the Nikon D300S in the product lineup and could be seen as the entry-level model in the FX format lineup, however, I doubt there's nothing entry-level about it. I have no prior experience to a full-frame based DSLR camera, so I go into this review with a clean slate and non-biased perspective.
About Nikon (from Nikon.com)
Nikon is the world leader in digital imaging, precision optics and photo imaging technology and is globally recognized for setting new standards in product design and performance. The unique strength of the Nikon brand is attributable to the company’s unwavering commitment to quality, performance, technology and innovation. Nikon Inc. markets and distributes consumer and professional digital SLR cameras, NIKKOR optics, Nikon 1 and COOLPIX digital cameras, Speedlights and system accessories.
About Nikon (pulled from Wikipedia)
“Nikon Corporation (株式会社ニコン Kabushiki-gaisha Nikon), also known as Nikon or Nikon Corp., is a multinational corporation headquartered in Tokyo, Japan specializing in optics and imaging. Its products include cameras, binoculars, microscopes, measurement instruments, and the steppers used in the photolithography steps of semiconductor fabrication. It was founded in 1917 as Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha (日本光学工業株式会社 "Japan Optical Industries Corporation"); the company was renamed Nikon Corporation, after its cameras, in 1988.”
I pulled this quote from Wikipedia because it reflects more of what I wanted to share about Nikon than what was on Nikon’s own website. Truth be told, Nikon has been in business for a long time in the business of optics and imaging. They have been churning out cameras for decades, have extensive experience and have one of the most abundant supply of lenses to choose from (from past to present). What is amazing is that these old lenses can still work on today’s Nikon DSLRs provided that the DSLR has an internal motor to drive the lens.
Nikon D700 Product Overview
Power that Empowers
Handling agility fused with Nikon’s 12.1-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor, assures professional image quality with low-noise, high-ISO performance.
Nikon D700 Product Features
Nikon's original 12.1-megapixel FX-format (23.9 x 36mm) CMOS sensor: Teamed with Nikon's exclusive EXPEED digital image processing, the D700 delivers breathtakingly rich image quality.
Continuous shooting up to 5 frames per second: Shoot at up to 8 frames per second with the optional MB-D10 Multi-power Battery Pack.
Two Live View shooting modes: Choose from hand-held or tripod modes to suit shooting requirements.
Fast, accurate 51-point AF with 3D Focus Tracking: Exacting autofocus precision, plus three Dynamic AF modes.
1,005-Pixel 3D Colour Matrix Metering II: Legendary Nikon exposure accuracy aided by an onboard database of over 30,000 images.
Nikon Picture Control settings: Advanced colour control with 9 customizable settings and 4 preset options allow fine tuning of image appearance preferences.
Broad ISO sensitivity up to 6400 and incredibly low noise: Super low-noise performance from 200-6400 ISO, with the added versatility of Lo-1 (100 ISO) Hi-1 (12,800 ISO) and Hi-2 (25,600 ISO).
Three-Inch, super-density 921,000-dot VGA colour monitor: High resolution with
Rugged magnesium-alloy construction: Along with extensive dust and moisture protection and a durable shutter mechanism tested to 150,000 cycles, the D700 merges pro D-SLR performance with expanded agility.
Dynamic Integrated Dust Reduction System: Effective quad-frequency, ultrasonic sensor cleaning minimizes image degrading dust particles.
Nikon's exclusive Scene Recognition System: SRS further extends auto-exposure intelligence while also advancing white-balance detection and autofocus performance.
Active D-Lighting with NEW Auto mode: Unique three-phase dynamic control to capture previously lost details in shadows and highlights while maintaining normalized contrast.
Nikon D700 Product Specifications
Looking at the specifications, it looks very good on paper (it has HDMI) but there’s one thing I missed when reading. There is no built-in mechanical image stabilization in the body. Anyway you look at this, it’s a disadvantage compared to other cameras that have this attribute when paired with a long focal length lens. Thankfully you can obtain image stabilization by purchasing a Nikon lens with the “VR” designation which stands for Vibration Reduction.
Unfortunately if you have a non-VR lens, you’ll just have to live without image stabilization as you already have. Although, you might just be able to get away with it because the Nikon D700 offers an amazing array of ISO speed settings one can utilize. If you don't have a long reaching zoom lens, you probably won't care about this.
When you purchase the Nikon D700 for $2699.95USD or $2499.95CAD, that price is for the body alone. This doesn't account for the lens you will be able to use and choose from. For anybody purchasing a Nikon D700, you'll already likely have your own set of lenses that you will use, so purchasing only the body makes sense. The D700 is capable of using a wide array of Nikon lenses, both old and current generations. It's also capable of using Nikon's FX format based lenses or DX format based lenses, though if using a DX lens on a FX body, the image size will be lower to account for the crop factor differences.
For this review of the Nikon D700 full-frame DSLR camera, Nikon was nice enough to let me choose a lens and Speedlight to test with the camera. It wasn't my first choice, but I decided to have the D700 bundled with the (at the time available to review) Nikkor AF-S 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR lens. This lens has already been discontinued from production since 2010, so I won't really talk much about it. It's a decent lens but there are much better and faster options to be had for the price. The only good thing was the flexibility of being used as an all-around lens because of the focal length available to use.
I should have tried to obtain a faster lens, especially for an indoor wedding, I had to up the ISO and shutter speed but sometimes the end result was a little blur. My first choice was to actually have bundled the $1899.95USD Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens, but that was not available to test, a shame really. I chose the SB-900 Speedlite to test with the camera as well, previously with my D300 review, I had taken a look at the SB-600 Speedlight, so it will be interesting to see and feel the differences.
It just so happens that during this review of the Nikon D700, I had the chance to really put the D700 through its paces and test it in a real-world scenario, an actual wedding. This is something that isn't too far off of what this camera is actually meant to be used for according to description on the Nikon D700 product web page. A wedding is something the Nikon D700 would see very often in the hands of a professional. Though I wouldn't call myself a professional in any sense, I figure this amateur could at least see what the Nikon D700 is capable of. Check out the results of the Nikon D700 in the wedding I covered later on in this review.
The Nikon D700 comes in a large rectangular box with the typical Nikon design language in the form of a gold colored design, almost like a gold bar. Most Nikon lenses and accessories come in this same type of corrugated packaging. Around the box contains the D700 logo in large visible letters and also embossed at the very top. The traditional yellow Nikon logo is located on the top left part of the box in different areas. Product features and information are located on the side ends of the box along with the contents of what is inside.
Opening the box you are presented with the following items...
The bundle that comes with the Nikon D700 is quite nice and comes with a good number of items, one particularly that could have easily been charged upon you as an extra accessory, in the form of the LCD monitor cover. The instruction manual booklets that come with the camera is pretty thick and will consume a good number of reading hours in your leisure because the D700 has an extensive array of features that few will be able to grasp and fully utilize.
Lastly, the charger that comes with the D700 is actually the same exact charger that came with my old Nikon D50 released 7-years ago in 2005. I have been using this same charger for 7-years without any problems, so it goes to show you that the MH-18a charger is a high quality product. The saying, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, definitely holds true in this case. The only difference is the battery that comes with the camera is newer and has three contacts instead of two, relaying more information on battery state to the camera.
The only thing I feel could have been thrown in was an HDMI cable, as the D700 has ability of being displayed on an HDTV. Nikon only gives you a composite video cable. I'd like to mention the use of non-proprietary standard for the USB cable, meaning it will be easier to locate and replace if needed.
Purchasing a DSLR is never enough as you have to make room to purchase a memory card amongst other items and accessories if you choose to do so. When you purchase a professional-level camera like the D700, memory choice is now more important than ever to take advantage of the speed capabilities of the D700. This type of camera does not use SD cards, but rather the CompactFlash variant because these rugged cards offer faster performance, needed in such a camera as the D700 because it offers 5fps continuous shooting standard, and up to 8fps if shot with the optional MB-D10 Multi-power battery pack. Factor in the resolution of the full-frame sensor, you will need a fast memory card if you would like to take advantage of the speed. If you don't frequently shoot continuously and don't really fill up the buffer, you may get away with purchasing a slower CF card.
Let me talk about the Nikon EN-EL3e rechargeable Li-ion battery that is supplied with the D700. It’s basically the same battery I have with my D50, except it has three battery contacts instead of two on my D50 battery. The middle battery contact is for communication between camera and battery, providing better battery management. Knowing anything from my D50, battery life should be very long. This is also the same exact battery that comes with the D300. Here is an quote from my Nikon D300 review regarding battery life. I experience equally as staggering battery life on the D700...
"I went to the 2009 Canadian International Autoshow with the D300 and one battery. It was an all-day outing and I was not sure if the battery would last the whole day. Boy was I dead wrong. I had taken 5GB worth of photos (JPEG fine) and by the end of the day the battery life was still only at 47% left. That is staggering that it could go on for more! Bar none this was the best battery life I ever experienced, it was much longer than my D50. I know my D50 can take over 1000 shots but the battery is almost empty by then. To think that the D300 took around 900 photos and had 47% of its battery life left while I used the LCD and some on-board flash in the process? That’s insane.
I've reviewed many cameras on ModSynergy and I've held many DSLR cameras in my hands throughout the years, some small, some large. The Nikon D700 is easily the largest camera I've held in my hands to date, though it's only a tiny bit larger than the Olympus E-3 (5.6 x 4.6 x 2.9 in) and the Nikon D300 (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in). The D700 dimensions is measured at 5.8 x 4.8 x 3.0 inches making the height and depth of the camera the only real differences between the other two comparisons. If we are speaking about body weight, the Nikon is easily the heaviest DSLR camera I've held in my hands.
Only taking into account the camera body, the Nikon D700 weighs in at 995g (that is 2.19lbs), the Nikon D300 825g, and the Olympus E-3 810g. Factor in the 670g Nikkor AF-S 24-120mm camera lens I am reviewing on this camera, the battery and memory card, the camera can easily scale in at close to 4lbs. This is not taking into account accessories like a flashgun, or vertical grip that can be mounted onto the camera. As I stated before in the beginning, I put the Nikon D700 through its paces in a wedding, and after a number of hours I could really begin to feel the weight of the camera. Obviously I needed a rest during different periods.
The Nikon D700 is built like a tank. I seem to always mention this about Nikon DSLRs. In the case of the D700, its body is constructed out of magnesium alloy and is sealed from the environment with O-rings to prevent liquids and dust from seeping in. Magnesium is used for the exterior cover, rear body, and mirror box to reduce weight and give it proven rugged durability. The actual shutter unit inside the camera is also protected. The shutter blades are made of a hybrid material integrating both carbon fiber and Kevlar to give the D700 a shutter life of 150,000 cycles under all conditions.
Camera Body Overview
Let's look at the front of the Nikon D700. You're first drawn to the signature red triangle that differentiates a Nikon from the crowd, the gold FX logo on the lower right hand corner, the Nikon and D700 logos. You after realize that the front of the camera is covered by a generous amount of rubber grip. There is lots of space available for your hands to grip, while your fingers will fall into the ridge for more support. From right of the red triangle we can spot the single AF-assist illuminator/self-timer lamp/red-eye reduction lamp, depth-of-field preview button, Fn button, body cap, focus-mode selector on the bottom right, lens release button, ten-pin remote terminal (covered with a rubber boot), flash sync terminal (covered with a rubber boot), flash pop-up button, and built-in flash.
From left to right we see a release mode dial and release mode dial lock release. This dial lets you choose between S (single frame), CL (continuous low), CH (continuous high), Lv (Live View), self-timer, and Mup (mirror-up) modes. On top of this release mode dial contains 3 more buttons, a QUAL button (image quality/size), WB button (white balance), and ISO button.
In the middle we see the accessory shoe cover that covers the portion that your external flash unit will slot into, and the integrated pop-up internal flash unit. To the right we find an LCD control panel that allows you to visually change modes, settings, and control shutter and aperture functions, the focal plane mark symbol, the exposure compensation/two-button reset button, Mode button (exposure mode/format button), shutter release button, and power switch (off/on/LCD backlight illumination).
On opposite ends of the camera there is a single eyelet for the camera strap.
On this side we have the plastic memory card slot cover. Open the spring loaded cover and you are presented the single slot for Type I CompactFlash memory cards, and the eject button.
On this end lays the large rubberized flap cover which covers the HDMI mini-pin connector, video connector, USB connector, and DC-IN connector.
The bottom contains the battery-chamber cover with its locking latch mechanism, the contact cover for optional MB-D10 battery pack, dead center of the lens is the metal tripod socket, and stickers containing product information, identification, and safety symbols.
This is where just about everything happens, so there are a plethora of buttons with multiple functions and capabilities. Also round back here is the super density 170-degree wide viewing angle TFT-LCD display that has a resolution of an impressive 921,000 dots for the 3.0-inch display.
Let us start from the trash can button counter-clockwise. First we have the trash can delete/format button, playback button, MENU button, protect/help button, thumbnail/playback zoom out button, playback zoom in button, OK button, LCD monitor cover, INFO (information display/quick settings) button, memory card access lamp LED, AF-area mode selector, focus selector lock, multi selector directional pad/dial with center button, main command dial, AF-ON button, AE/AF lock button, metering selector, Diopter adjustment control dial for the optical viewfinder, the actual viewfinder, viewfinder eyepiece, and the eyepiece shutter lever lock.
More detailed information can be viewed in the Nikon D700 manual located here: http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/dslr/D700_en.pdf
The conventional optical viewfinder is a joy to use largely in part because it provides a large area to work with. I find with my old Nikon D50, the viewfinder is too small and I really need to position my eye to look inside. With the D700, it's just big so I don't really have any issues. Unlike the D300 which gives 100% viewfinder frame coverage, the D700 only offers 95% frame coverage and a little bit less viewfinder magnification (0.72x). In reality, it doesn't differ as much and I have had no issues because the upgrade is significant over the old D50 I am used to.
The viewfinder is bright and framing subjects is easy, and when paired with the up to 51 AF points focus area on screen, provides much needed precision and intricacies in order to focus on a specific area. I come from a Nikon D50 that has only 5 focus points on the screen. With the D700 you can have up to 51 AF points on screen to use. Sometimes when using my D50, I have a hard time on focusing on areas outside of the those 5 focus points, sometimes I need to focus on the edge, or in between the focus points but I can't. With the D700, I don't have such issues at all because you can manually select where to focus, and the 51 focusable area point is very wide.
General Impressions - The 3.0" Super Density TFT-LCD Display
In terms of resolution, the LCD screen that is on the D700 is the same unit that Nikon uses for their even higher-end DSLRs. So you are getting the best of the best of what Nikon has to offer at this time. It contains a resolution of 921,000-dot resolution making it amongst the best you'll see in the industry. Having such a beautiful display makes the camera more useful when reviewing and editing images in the camera because if the LCD shows you fine and true details, you can judge correctly what you're doing wrong, what you're doing correct, what you can change, and more. Images on the D700 look crisp, detailed, fine, and colors are true renditions. Zooming in allows you to see and check for blurs, colors, giving you a full idea of what you just captured.
Never have I been so impressed at just roaming around the menu's and viewing photos. The resolution is top notch and is unbelievably better than others I've seen in the past. It's bright and can easily be used in bright sunny daylight conditions, hard for some others to do. The wide viewing angle ensures that what you are seeing on screen is accurate as possible. The only disadvantage you have is the inability of detaching the LCD and having it swivel and move around to be able to shoot from different angles.
General Impressions - Nikon SB-900 External Flash Speedlight
The SB-900 at the time of testing was Nikon's highest performing and rated Speedlight. This external flash remains the higher end of Speedlight's being offered by Nikon. It's also easily the most expensive coming in at an easy $500 and offers a host of features and so it better have been good. And yes indeed it was more than I expected, and I did not even touch its full capabilities.
One of the first things I noticed over the SB-600 was that it was certainly a larger unit. Also that the SB-900 has an integrated white color bounce card aside from the integrated diffuser, SB-600 does not have this extra addition. The pouch seems tougher, doesn't look as generic as the one bundled with the SB-600 (it has the SB-900 model number written on it with the Nikon logo), and contains a lower compartment that contains a few extra items that include the stand, one dome diffuser, and one clear diffuser for use with the included color filters. The color filters are used match the color of the flash to your surrounding ambient light, or you can use it to creatively style your photos.
Performance wise over the SB-600, the SB-900 has better recycling performance, longer zoom range capability, obviously a higher guide number (34m/111.5 ft. @ ISO 100/35mm head position), an LCD screen with a somewhat complex menu system (now navigation is through a dial system), and better autofocus capabilities to work in tandem with the 51 AF focus points that the D700 supports so the precision is even on a better scale. Also not on the SB-600 is a PC sync terminal which the SB-900 has in order to be the output to trigger other external flash units you may have, along with other functions related to the CLS system.
Surprisingly on a high end DSLR such as the Nikon D700, it contains a built-in flash. That surprises me because I feel professionals and enthusiasts using the D700 would use an external flash unit more often than not. However, once I read more I found out that you can use the built-in flash to wirelessly trigger an external Speedlite like the SB-900 off the camera. But I guess it's good that they decided to include an integrated unit. The guide number of the flash is 17/56 m/ft @ ISO 200. Exposure is nailed correct just about every time in conjunction with the very good autofocus system.
Among Nikon DSLR's, the menu system is virtually almost the same with the only differences of supported features and capabilities changing for model to model. Navigation wise the menu system is exactly the same for good reason, the Nikon system just works beautifully. So I was used to navigating in this style of a menu. Now with the D700, I suggest you really read the manual because there are options in the D700 which you may not even know what it is for. Your thumb will be on the directional pad/dial and the center button is the select/OK button.
One of your left fingers will be selecting a button if needed on the left side of the camera. The good thing about this menu is that if you're not sure about a certain setting, simply press the ? button and it will give you a brief description regarding the option. There are a number of sub-menus that include the Playback Menu, Custom Setting Menu, Setup Menu, Retouch Menu and more. In the Custom Setting Menu you will obviously find there is a plethora of options you can adjust to your liking and that the menus goes very deep since there are so many things to choose from.
In the Retouch Menu, there are a good number of in-camera editing options you can make use of. You can retouch any photos you've taken immediately (no need for Photoshop). You can add Nikon D-Lighting effects (brightens shadows -- read more about D-Lighting in my D60/D300 reviews), reduce and remove red-eye, trim or crop your photo, create black and white monochrome photos, use skylight or warm filter effects, change the color balance, and create an image overlay where you can combine two RAW photos into one.
Feature Set (Brief Look)
I suggest you download the Nikon D700 manual off the Nikon website to see a full list of features and an overview of the menu system. There's just so many options that it would be impossible to go through them here. I will go through a brief look at just some of the options available in only the shooting menu, don't get me started on the Custom Setup Menu, that is insane.
In your shooting menu bank you have the option of having four banks that you can customize. They are named A, B, C, and D. I find this easy to use and useful because you can customize each bank for a specific situation.
As I already stated something about the Retouch Menu above, I won't say anything else.
You are able to change the Image Area on the D700 for use with FX based lenses and DX based lenses. Using DX based lenses, the crop mode will be in effect and the resolution will be lower. FX format will use an image area size of 36x24m, while DX will be 24x16. When looking into the viewfinder you may find that it will give you a visual indication of the two modes by making the outside rectangle darker than the center when in DX mode.
Image quality options you can choose from the following file types: NEF (RAW), TIFF (RGB), JPEG fine, JPEG normal, JPEG basic, NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine, NEF (RAW) + JPEG normal and NEF (RAW) + JPEG basic.
Image sizes available in FX format image area size are: Large (4256x2832), Medium (3184x2120), and Small (2128x1416).
Image sizes available in DX format image area size are: Large (2784x1848), Medium (2080x1384), and Small (1392x920).
Focus Mode options available are: Single-servo AF, Continuous-servo AF, and Manual.
AF-Area Mode options available are: Single-point AF, Dynamic-area AF, and Auto-area AF.
For Dynamic-area AF you are able to choose from 9 points, 21 points, 51 points, and 51 points with 3D-tracking.
ISO modes available depend on the ISO sensitivity step value selected in the menu. For a 1 step ISO sensitivity selection you have these ISO options to choose from: Lo 1, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, Hi 1, and Hi 2. Hi 1 and Hi 2 are equivalent to ISO 12,800 and ISO 25,600!
Metering wise you can select from the following to determine how the camera sets the exposure: 3D color matrix II, Center-weighted, and Spot metering.
Exposure modes vary in the D700 and you are able to choose from: Programmed Auto, Shutter-priority auto, aperture-priority auto, and manual.
In front of the camera there is a Depth-of-Field Preview button. Press and hold the depth-of-field preview button. The lens will be stopped down to the aperture value selected by the camera (modes e and f) or the value chosen by the user (modes g and h), allowing depth of field to be previewed in the viewfinder.
There are a number of white balance options available to choose from: Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent (sodium-vapor lamps, warm-white fluorescent, white fluorescent, cool-white fluorescent, day white fluorescent, daylight fluorescent, high temp. mercury-vapor), Direct sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, Choose color temperature (2500-10000K), and Preset manual.
I suggest you download the Nikon D700 manual off the Nikon website to see a full list of features and an overview of the menu system.
If you've read my other reviews on DSLR's with this feature, you would know that I am not a big fan of Live View, but more and more DSLRs are coming out with this feature. A DSLR is simply not a point and shoot digital camera, if a person wanted this ability, they would have gone out and got one. But I have to live with what the people want in today's DSLRs.
In the release mode dial you can change to Lv to jump into Live View mode. Now the LCD will turn on and be able to frame objects on the screen as opposed to normally doing so using the optical viewfinder. You have ability to use aids such as grids and a virtual horizon feature to keep things straight. I did not see a live histogram in Live View mode. I just find the whole Live View thing clunky and disconnected in a way that puts me off. You frame your objects on screen and then when you press the shutter, the LCD shuts off and the camera takes the photo the way it normally does, but the process is much quicker if you had just used the optical viewfinder in the first place.
The only two ways I would feel I would possibly use Live View is if the LCD screen was detachable and was allowed to move in angles never seen before, that would make Live View more useful in my opinion.
The second way Live View does and could help if you're not good at this skill, is manually focusing your lens. If you have a manual lens connected to the camera, you can make use of the Live View mode, and the D700's sharp LCD screen by using it to verify if you are focusing on your subjects correctly, and if the focus is sharp being focused where you want it to be. In this case, Live View could be useful.
DSLR Performance - How does it perform overall?
Let's skip all the formalities. The Nikon D700 is a beast of a camera. It's a sure winner.
After I shot a wedding with the Nikon D700, it convinced me that my next upgrade to my 7-year old Nikon D50 DX DSLR will have to be a full-frame based camera such as the Nikon D700! Now I want one so bad, but I will run my Nikon D50 till it dies before upgrading, something that may not happen for a while.
Exactly just as I said in my Nikon D300 review, there are no words to give justice to the Nikon D700 because it's just completely jaw-dropping bloody excellent. The whole package is top-notch including the picture quality. I don't know how they do it, but Nikon's noise algorithms are famous for a reason. Noise in photos are just super clean and low-light performance is absolutely stellar.
Now you can take photos at ISO 6400 and not be worried at the noise. Speaking from a perspective of an indoor church (not the best lighting) and not outdoors, from ISO 100 all the way to ISO 6400, photos are fully usable with zero worries. ISO 3200 is when you start to notice noise entering photos, but it's very useable and details are still very high. ISO 6400 comes around and details remain at a high standard, and noise still shouldn't be much of an issue.
It's when you hit Hi 1 and Hi 2 modes (equivalent to ISO 12800 and 25600) that you begin to notice that the details are degrading, and it might not be wise to use. However, I have to admit that even at ISO 12800 and 25600, it is still better than my old Nikon D50 at ISO 3200, which says tons about the advancements they have made possible in 7-years. Just the fact that you have that much flexibility is fantastic. Outdoors in the daylight, you will have none such issues as I experienced in a not that bright church setting. Using ISO 100 and 200 outdoors is just a treat to behold.
I talked a lot earlier on about the 51-point autofocus system that is offered on the Nikon D700. Coming from a Nikon D50 that has only 5-points AF, 51 really makes a world of a difference because it allows you to dial in on accuracy and allows you to focus where you want to focus without having to move or shift the whole camera. 51-points AF allows me to select where I want to focus and not have to shift the camera lens to focus within the 5-points square. The AF system is just really fast and snappy. It locks on super quick to subjects and it never really gets it wrong, the only time it gets a tiny bit slower is under really dark conditions.
Food for Thought
Not performance related but I am peeved that when you purchase an expensive Nikon D700 costing $2499.95 MSRP Canadian dollars, you don't get a copy of Nikon's Capture NX 2 software to make full usage of the camera. They expect you to pony up an extra $250 dollars for the software. I think that Nikon should include a full version copy of this software for any high-end DSLR that they sell.
Yes the D700 does have built-in dust sensor mechanism. No the D700 does not have two memory card slots, which would have been cool.
Too bad I can't use the same battery on my D50 on the D700 because of the third contact on the battery. It still uses the same exact charger though.
If you are thinking about upgrading from an old Nikon DX DSLR to a full-frame on like the D700, you're going to have to start investing in full-frame compatible lenses and stop buying DX lenses, something I need to stop doing immediately. Because the DX format is a cropped based sensor, the resolution decreases when put on the D700. I may as well sell all my DX lenses now and prepare for the future.
I don't have my usual tests here that cycle through ISO, sharpness, saturation, the usual things that present comparisons between in-camera features and settings because I really just used the Nikon D700 for a wedding and nothing else. I do have some sample photos of before, during and after the wedding though. These are full size originals that have not been altered in any way. There is a high ISO shot, shots in not the best lighting conditions, dynamic range sample, a few using the SB-900 Speedlite, and just general photos displaying what this D700 is capable of. Be sure to check the properties of the photos for more information.
The Nikon D700 is a full-frame sensor based DSLR camera that comes in the physical body size of the APS-C Nikon D300, I think that's quite an achievement to be able to fit in that big of a sensor inside something that isn't too far off from the D300. I was thrilled with the D300 when I reviewed it because it basically maxed out what is possible with such a sized sensor, even though incremental improvements have already been made to make the D300 better.
I am even more impressed with the Nikon D700. It's left a lasting impression on me till this day. It was a joy of using the D700 in such a situation that it's meant for in terms of a wedding scenario. I now know why it's targeted for such a duty. It offers excellent high ISO sensitivity performance that is crucial for low-lighting conditions, something affecting many churches, and it really keeps details at a high standard. It's also quite fast in continuous shooting modes if needed, and is able to shoot up to 8fps with an optional battery pack, 5fps without. Sure it's no D300 (can shoot between 6-8fps), but the D700 isn't meant for sports photography, the D300 would be better for that because it's it can shoot faster continuously and being a cropped sensor means you can get closer to the game.
The Nikon D700 easily earns our Editor's Choice Award rating!