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Test driving the Nikon D700 (N02_1025-1)

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posted by Tom Kielick Photography - Updated Profile alias Tom Kielick on Monday 15th of November 2021 03:44:29 PM

Or “Can a photographer find digital happiness in 2021 when using a camera released in 2008?” Recently I broke one of my strictest rules for buying camera gear. I purchased a used Nikon D700 FX body, a piece of equipment I did not have a specific need for. It did not address a problem that my current DX gear could not handle nor offer me additional capabilities I could not achieve with the equipment I have. I’ve always been a DX format photographer. Long ago I made the decision to stick to DX bodies; gear was generally smaller, lighter and cheaper and the DX magnification factor (1.5x) helped with many of the subjects I was shooting. I was happy with my 12MP D300s camera and eventually bought a second body. When I needed an action camera for low light indoor volleyball I bought a D500 which is a truly remarkable image maker. When one of my beloved D300s bodies died I wondered what to do with my extensive collection of CF cards, RRS L brackets, EN-EL3e and EN-EL4a batteries and MB-D10 battery grip. I seriously considered purchase of a D3s body but at around $1000 used I could not justify purchase of an expensive camera body that could not be repaired when it died. When MPB offered a D700 for $375 I jumped on the deal and bought it. My “new” used camera arrived in 3 days well packed in a very sturdy, very heavy duty cardboard box padded with paper filler. The camera itself was packaged in a No Name generic camera box nestled inside. I was surprised to discover my purchase also included a brand new D700 branded neck strap and User Guide, items typically stripped out and offered for sale separately. FAVORABLE IMPRESSIONS: This is a professional grade camera in all ways. It is built like a tank, has extensive weather sealing and is designed with a full complement of switches, buttons and controls to activate or change most of the things a serious photographer might want to adjust quickly. No menu surfing here! I programmed the FN button to bring up the first item on My Menu (Auto ISO); I programmed the DOF Preview button to activate Auto Bracketing; I set the AE/AF Lock button to switch to Spot Metering mode. 12 MP is sufficient for most of my needs and a single 32GB CF card holds 1500+ RAW files! IQ seems good at ISO 3200 and acceptable to the ISO 5000 – 6400 level (YMMV), about 1 – 2 EV better than my D300s bodies which crapped out above ISO 1600, again, pretty much as expected. The viewfinder is big and bright and includes a viewfinder shutter to block extraneous light from entering and giving an incorrect exposure when shooting on a tripod. Nice. AF is fast, even in low light. With my MB-D10 and professional grade EN-EL4a batteries I get a decent 8 fps, good for sports and other action. There is an apparent loss of about 1 stop of Depth of Field when shooting with the D700 over a DX body resulting in shallower DOF and better image isolation from the background. This was expected. My 12-24mm f/4 DX zoom works fine when limited to 18-24mm. The Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5 – 4.5 G ED AF-S VR ($275 used) makes a good starter FX lens for this body when you are watching costs. NEGATIVE IMPRESSIONS: The master Power On switch is stiff and somewhat difficult to turn. I would call it a sample defect but have read several other reviews that mentioned this little quirk. The shutter and mirror actuations are loud; I mean LOUD. The sound they make for each exposure is a very solid KERCHUNK, much louder than my D500 for example. This is definitely not the best camera for remaining quiet and unnoticed. There is no Video capability. I knew that in advance but since I don’t use my DSLRs to shoot video it was not a big issue. Live View is kludgy and requires a couple of steps to activate – there is no single LV switch to change viewing modes. I haven’t really tried to use it yet but it is definitely not as quick and simple as more modern Nikons. There is no in-camera RAW conversion feature in the menu system. Sometimes I like to make a quick JPEG from an NEF file and was surprised to find it missing in the D700. Batteries and CF cards are no longer common among other camera bodies creating a logistic challenge to shooting with other camera models. OVERALL: One word sums up my thoughts on the D700 in 2021: VALUE The Nikon D700 is a totally professional camera available at rock bottom prices that is still capable of delivering top quality results for most photographic situations. While I feel that my DX format D500 beats it for most all categories (AF speed, IQ, high ISO, FPS, etc.) I think that photographers wanting to build a Nikon FX system for either business or pleasure will find it a good starter camera at a very affordable price. For the price of a plastic consumer D3xxx, D5xxx or even one of the D7xxx bodies, you get a solid camera that will take a beating and keep on shooting. I think it would be very useful for landscapes, nature, portraits, products, weddings and family events. With the MB-D10 and upgraded battery you can easily use it for action sports if you have the right lenses. It can be the foundation of your professional level kit and then serve as backup when you can afford to step up to a D750/780 or 8xx series body. I think I will keep mine and have some fun shooting with it. STROBIST INFO: I used a single Vivitar 283 flash mounted high and behind the D700 set at 1/16 power and triggered with a Yongnuo RF-603N. I used a piece of cardboard to make a 6” snoot to focus the light to a narrow spot and skimmed it over the top of the subject camera. A large white sheet of foam core was used camera left to bounce light back on to the front of the subject. Finally, I lowered the shutter speed so that a small LED penlight could be used to highlight the D700 badge on the body (which had been left in shadow).

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  • Published 07.06.22
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