I would like to share a short story with you. “Some time ago, I was at home. I walked towards my computer. Ethan, my cat crosses my way between my feet and made me stumbled. By instinct I reach out my hands to avoid hitting my face with the computer’s desk. At the same time, my right hand grabs the computer’s mouse clicking the “buy it now” botton on ebay… and just like that I purchased an old but trusty Nikon D700. It was a happy accident, if you will.”
Well, maybe the things didn’t happen that way. Is what I like to tell myself to justify buying another camera for my collection. But the Nikon D700 is not just any random camera lacking merits worth to mention. It has earned itself a solid status and the respect of the “always perfectionist” photographers community. Released to the market in july of 2008, it has been out there making images for over a decade. Proving to old photographers that the D700 still deserves a place in the camera’s field and it’s becoming with time a cult camera for newer photographers, whose are slowly learning that great photo quality is not exclusive of the most recent camera gear.
Let’s explore this Nikon proposal from the past!
The trick for a good deal is when you feel like “you won” with the product that you buyed from someone else. That premise holds true if you get an excellent quality camera trading a fair amount of money in exchange. Today, you can find on Ebay D700’s bodies anywhere from $350 to $700 (priced at $2800/$3000 in 2008). I noticed the mark of $500 as the average price for the D700, but if you’re a pacient and search calmly, you may get away with a mint condition camera for less of the average price. In my case, I found a “mint condition” D700 for $400 with only 40.000 shutter actuactions. For a 150.000 rated shutter mechanism, literally at 40.000 actuactions, that shutter is barely warming up.
Great cameras like the D700 don’t drop in price because all the sudden they become useless artifacts. They low their economic value because newer cameras arrives to the market. Newer technologies are more expensive to produce, as a result they are tagged higher in cost by the camera’s manufactors. Over time, years in technical upgrades and generations of newer cameras, transform high capable dslrs like the D700 in modern gems.
02) General features:
Ok, this is the “specs part” of the review. I’ll just mention a few of them. You can read them all here: D700 specs!
* Full frame 12.1 megapixels sensor (FX).
The D700 uses the same sensor found in the Nikon D3. For many of us and for the most of the photography’s aplications, 12 megapixels is more than enough. You could print photos as big as 20 x 30 inches in size and still get good quality.
* 51 autofocus points and 5 frames per second shooting speed.
Five frames per second was highly regarded in 2008. And even today is very decent high rate of shooting — of course, there are faster cameras suited for sports and action photography — but you can get 8 frames per second with the aditional vertical grip. Personally, I only use the center point of the viewfinder and then I recompose as needed. Since I don’t shoot “sports or action”, those features aren’t important to me. But it’s worth mention for you, maybe it’s something that you can look for in a dslr.
* 200 to 6400 ISO (100 to 25600 expanded ISO values)
Well, if you’re considering the D700 for daylight photos, landscapes, studio use with speedlights, the high ISO’s maybe won’t matter that much to you. But if you are a nocturnal creature who takes photos with only the avaibable light; in the “High ISO department”, the D700 won’t dissapoint you neither. Being a full frame sensor with fewer megapixels, it means that the photocells are larger to capture more light than smaller sensors. That just means better low light performance. You can get away with useful images even at the 8000/10000 ISO mark. At 12.800 ISO, you still can get decent quality for small prints or web use. At 25.600 ISO, let’s just say “it’s there, it’s there”. I don’t want to start out a “polemic topic here”, but for what I’ve seen by personal experience, newer cameras with crop sensors (like the Fuji X-Pro2, for example) can match or even surpass the D700 in high ISO values (but not by much). Is not something negative. For a camera from 2008 that still delivers excellent high ISO files, it’s not a critique. It’s just a testament of how perfect this camera was back then and how great piece of gear it’s still today!
* Rugged magnesium-alloy construction with weather sealing.
The D700 it’s sturdy dslr. Well built and solid. That makes it heavy, though. It weigths almost one kilogram (950 grs or something). It has weather sealing, a nice feature to have especially if you live in a rainy country called Costa Rica. But hey! Protec your investment. No camera is 100% weatherproof against moisture or rain. It’s a plus feature that it’s there to help you to get away from the rain until you find some cover for your equipment. It’s not a magical shield against the elements. If you need to take photos under a torrential monsonic rainstorm, use common sense and cover your gear with a dslr’s plastic casing or an improved plastic bag.
* The shutter mechanism was desing to endure 150,000 cycles.
The D700 has a tested 150.000 cycles shutter mechanism. It doesn’t mean that your D700 will die as soon as it’s takes the 150.000th photograph. It’s just an expectation of how much the shutter could last. Some D700’s owners out there are reporting that their cameras had taken as much as 180.000, 200.000 or even more shutter actuactions. Nikon truly designed the D700 to endure. But regardless of that, if you can find a camera with a low shutter count, it will be a happier day for you!
03) Image quality:
Did I already mention that the D700 shares the same sensor found in the Nikon D3?? Oh, yes. I did it. The color tonalities coming out of that “humble 12 megapixels sensor” are simply beautiful. You really are getting premium image quality for a bargain price, it doesn’t matter if that image is only 12 megapixels. Quality don’t care about megapixels. If you use a nice prime lens and compare photos between old and modern Nikon’s, to the naked eye probably no one could guess wich photo it’s from a 10+ years old D700 and wich one is from the D850.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not against many megapixels in the camera’s sensor. The advance in technology has allow to achieve more “millions of pixels count” in every newer camera model since the begining of the digital photography. It’s actually an expected and logical evolution. But in the practical reality, 12 megapixels are more than enough for websites and social media aplications and even for decent size prints. Ask yourself: Do I print my images? How often and how big I print?? If you’re not printing, well… Then you should! At least make a small selection of photos and bring them to this tactile and visual reality of yours.
- Looking for more megapixels? Learn about the Nikon D800 here!
- Ideas for printing your photos? Have you ever heard about Saal Digital?
04) 8K video recording at 240 fps!:
Just kidding! This classic modern gem came from an era prior to the video capabilities in the dslr world.
I’ll try to keep this post simple. As a resume: 1) Fairly low price for a workhorse camera. 2) You get a highly capable dslr with a lot of features. 3) Great FX image quality. What else can you ask for?!
But is it the D700 for you??
Simple. The D700 will cover most of the photographic situations that you can think of. The rugged built and image quality it’s there! Besides, it’s quite a bargain this days. If you care about video, then forget it. This camera was designed when the dslr’s were for stills, only. If you “constantly need to crop your photos”, then a D800, D810, D850…. or even a 24 megapixels DX camera to “get the most out your focal milimeters” will be a better option for you. If “video or cropping” is not the case, don’t hesitate to get your own D700 as soon as you can!
For the things I’ve seen and the experience I have now by using different cameras and brands, if I was just about to purchased my first dslr ever, then I would buy a Nikon D700 over an expensive “entry level modern Nikon”. You get more built quality and a finest equipment for just a fraction of the cost. Then I would use the rest of the money to get a couple of beautiful prime lenses. But hey, it’s just me. In fact, the D700 is such a garbain camera nowdays, that I got a second body in great condition for just $350! Apart from my Nikon FE, the D700 it’s the only camera model that made me feel that a second unit (as a “back up” or call it whatever you want), “it’s a must have”. I’m not the wisest man on the earth, but I know that you only live once and life itself is quite short. So, don’t die wanting put your hands around a camera that you have admired for years. Treat yourself with an iconic camera.
Thanks for reading!