The Nikon D700 is a 12.1 megapixel, full frame Digital SLR released by Nikon in July 2008. Today, we will look back on the D700. I will share with you my impressions on its image quality, performance and its impact on the world of photography.
AS A CAMERA
There’s a lot of pages with all the specs but I’ll just list a few key features. The camera has a 12.1 megapixel full frame sensor. The shutter speed range is 30 seconds to 1/8000 plus Bulb. Flash synch at 1/250. It has a native ISO range of 200-6400 plus 100-25600 via boost.
The D700 also has Live View but it’s first generation and it shows. It looks a little jittery and if you move it around there’s an apparent lag, but once on target it works fine.
The camera is capable of 5fps on its own and 8fps with optional grip. The camera uses the Nikon EN-EL3e battery.
The D700 is a pro quality DSLR and for all practical purposes is a more compact Nikon D3. There are slight differences between the D700 and D3 to be sure, but image quality is exactly the same as they both use the same sensor.
The D700 arrived on the market at a lower price than the D3, increasing its appeal and affordability to both professionals and enthusiasts alike.
In 2007, Nikon released the D3, a professional 12.1 megapixel DSLR, and its first full frame digital camera. Their previous kingpin was the D2X/D2Xs a with its 12.4 megapixel APS-C sensor.
After years of stating that they would not make a full frame DSLR, and getting their hardcore base to rally around that, Nikon surprised everyone with the release of the D3.
In my opinion, the Nikon D3 is the camera that saved Nikon and brought it back, alive and kicking butt into the second phase of the digital revolution. But that’s a topic for another review. Today, we are talking about the D700.
MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE D700
I got my first D700 in July of 2008. Rarely do I get a camera in the same month it was released. So how did I come upon the D700? Simple, just like many of you, I climbed the ladder of camera ownership!
And what does that mean? Well, before the D700 I was using a 12.3mp Nikon D300 which was released with the D3 in 2007.
I was perfectly fine with the D300. In fact, I was impressed with its performance and the fact that it was APS-C didn’t bother me. I read about Nikon’s reasoning as to to why they were not going to make a full frame camera and even though I thought they were just in denial or just making excuses for why they wouldn’t make one, I accepted it.
Then the D3 came out and I was surprised and happy they made a full frame DSLR, but I just couldn’t afford the hefty $4999 price tag, even though the price was well in line with professional cameras of the time. So I was resigned and content to stay with the D300 as I already had a full frame Canon EOS 5D Classic.
In comes the photo forums…
As I’ve said here before, I was on the forums just like you guys! Photo.net, Rangefinderforum, Fredmiranda.com, etc.
I won’t say which one, but near the end of July of 2008, I saw a fellow forum member advertise a new D700 he had just gotten and wanted to sell for whatever reason. At over $2000, it was still a hard sell for me financially, but the fellow said he was willing to take a “D300 plus cash.” Hot dog! Bang! This might be my opportunity so I PM’d the guy and since he was local, all the better.
So I go and see the guy. We had some cool camera talk, checked out the cameras, and we had a deal. I handed over the D300 plus a little cash and I walked out with a near new D700! I hate to say it, but I said to myself…wow, Samster, somehow you managed to do it again! 🙂
Anyway, the love was short lived as I used the same ladder to climb up to a D3 in 2009 when G.A.S. attacked! I sold my D700 and eventually the D3 too.
I got the D700 again in 2016 when I noticed an unusually low price online. And the prices continue to fall making this a great time to try one! If you’re interested I’ll list the trending prices down below.
In my opinion, the Nikon D700 is capable of superb image quality, especially at lower ISOs.
What I liked…
Rich colors and tones. A certain depth to the images that might be attributed to the sensor, the processing, etc. I can’t say for sure what it is, but I call it the Magic Sensor.
There’s also a pleasing balance of sharpness and smoothness to the images which make it perfect for portraits and people photography, one of my favorite forms of photography.
Of course, if you’re a landscape shooter you’d probably be better off with a higher resolution camera but you didn’t need me to tell you that! 🙂
THE MAGIC SENSOR
I call the D3/D700 sensor the “Magic Sensor” because it just seems to bring images to life. I used to think it was just the full frame sensor, but now ten years later I know it is not, or at least not exclusively a result of the sensor alone but I sure believe the full frame sensor is a factor.
There are cameras I have used in today’s world, such as the mirrorless Olympus OM-D EM-5 that also seem to provide similar, rich and colorful images despite the much smaller sensor.
So perhaps it’s a combination of sensor plus whatever processing the camera is doing to the images. Perhaps it’s just how far we have come in digital camera technology that some mirrorless cameras can achieve a full frame “look” that I have not seen in first generation mirrorless cameras.
I know what you’re thinking…it’s all in the lenses! That’s partially true, but in this case I’m not just talking about bokeh or shallow depth of field. Just the whole image, everything in it.
In these two cameras, the magic is comparable both in Jpeg and RAW.
The D700 offers speedy and accurate AF as would be expected from what is essentially a D3 in smaller form. The Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus module with 51 AF points is more than enough to handle almost anything even today, in my opinion.
The 12.1mp sensor might seem small in today’s world, but if you’re not shooting detailed landscapes or billboards for some ad campaign you’re going to be fine with the resolution. The sensor in my opinion is particularly well suited to portrait and people photography but is also well suited to street or any other kind of photography you might aspire to.
The D700 is fine with modern AF-S lenses but is also “old school” in the fact that it can drive those old AF lenses that need to be screw driven like, for example, the 85mm f/1.8 AF-D lens.
The large and clear 95% coverage viewfinder also make it a good choice for using those wonderful old AI Nikkors. Do NOT use it with Non AI lenses or you may damage the camera and/or the lenses.
Because of the superb image quality and the ability to comfortably use manual focus lenses, I view this camera today as sort of a Poor Man’s DF but without the ability to use Non AI lenses.
The Nikon D700 took the legend of the Nikon D3 to the masses and became a Camera Legend in its own right.
The D700 gave more Nikon users a chance to see what full frame digital was all about and in doing so, hooked users in with excellent imaging capabilities in a strong, robust body.
Even today in 2018, with all the full frame cameras Nikon has put out since 2008, the D700 is still highly regarded and is considered a digital camera classic.
If your goal is to capture great pictures and you’re not interested in 4K video, focus peaking, and whatever else today’s cameras offer, then the Nikon D700 will still deliver the goods and is one of the two cheapest full frame bodies you can get today.
The main alternative for the Nikon D700 is the 12.8mp Canon EOS-5D Classic. As someone who has used both extensively, I can say with confidence that you can’t go wrong with either! But if you really want me to nitpick, here’s what I have experienced with these two Camera Legend cameras.
The 5D images appear somewhat sharper, but the D700 has richer tones and colors. The D700 body is much more refined, feeling like a more mature product, as it should be for a camera from 2008 versus a camera from 2005. Autofocus is faster on the D700 as should be expected.
The D700 does better at higher ISOs. Images hold up better though I don’t mind the grit and “grain” of the 5D Classic images at IS0 3200.
At low ISOs, both cameras still deliver superb results showing that back as far as 2005 digital cameras were already awesome!
Again, if you’re invested in the Nikon system or the Canon system, that should be your main consideration and not the cameras themselves. Both cameras rock!
AVAILABILITY AND WHERE TO BUY
If you’re looking for the Nikon D700 (or the 5D Classic) this is a great time to pick one up! The D700 is plentiful on the used market so you shouldn’t have a problem getting one.
Prices for the D700 are trending now at $400-700 depending on condition, package, etc.I say just get the cheapest one you can as long as you buy from a dealer you can trust.
I’ve heard about the below $300 D700 bodies, but as of today, they are rare and most likely beater bodies. Average seems to be $450-525 USD for ones in good to excellent condition. If you’re going above $600, I would seriously consider one of the newer bodies, ie, D600, D610, or even the D3 of which prices have come down significantly in the past couple of years.
I got my latest one in 2016 for under $400. It was in cosmetically Good condition. Little did I know it had over 200K shots on it! But, knock on wood, two years later and a few thousand shots later she’s still shooting unlike my bought NEW in 2012 Olympus OM-D EM-5 which kicked the bucket last year at approximately 5K
The cheapest D700 bodies would probably be found on eBay (Direct D700 Link)
Alternatively, here’s your Canon 5D Classic link on eBay (Direct 5D Classic Link)
Another good place to find both is our trusted affiliate Here.
Thanks for reading and I’d be glad to hear from any fellow D700 owners!