Nikon D700 Digital Camera Review$2,999.99
Nikon D700 DSLR Digital Camera Review.
In size, shape and general layout, the D700 is a close cousin to the D300. Both are chunky SLRs as opposed to the bulkier, more rectangular style of the Nikon D3 or Canon EOS 1D Mark III. Here’s the Tale of the Tape for the D700 versus the D300:
The body is made of magnesium alloy and tightly sealed against the elements. As shown in the photos below, we shot with the Nikkor 24-120mm VR lens that’s being offered as part of a $3,599 bundle (the body alone sells for $2,999.99).
The layout of the D700 will be comfortably familiar to Nikon shooters. On the left top, the on/off/shutter controls, exposure compensation and MODE controls are positioned on a platform that slopes downward from the top – we’ll look at these more closely below. Beneath this platform is the sub-command dial, and beneath that the trademark Nikon red badge.
In a vertical row, directly to the left of the lens, are (from top to bottom) the auto focus assist illuminator (which also serves as a self-timer lamp and red-eye reduction lamp), the depth-of-field preview button and a programmable function button, marked by a barely noticeable "Fn" in white ink.
The lens mount sits on a platform raised slightly from the camera body. The platform curves smoothly at the top to merge into the pentaprism housing, which protrudes forward over the lens. The top of the pentaprism housing is taken up by a pop-up flash, the front is emblazoned with the Nikon name embossed in white.
The lens alignment indicator is embossed into the raised lens mount platform at about 2 o’clock. Below it and to the right, on a step-down platform still raised from the main camera body, is the lens release button. Finally, at the top of the right side of the camera body, is the D700 name in white ink. Below this are two covered connectors: the uppermost is the flash sync terminal, the lower a ten-pin remote control connection. The front of the focus mode selector can be seen at the bottom, and below that the gold-toned FX badge trumpeting the camera’s full-frame sensor.
The programmable function button to the left of the lens mount lets you
reach your most frequently used features without navigating menus.
The most prominent feature of the camera back, of course, is the 3" (76mm) LCD panel, boasting an impressive 920,000 dot resolution – our pictures looked deceptively good as we reviewed them right after hitting the shutter, because the display is so much sharper than we’re used to. The "Nikon" name appears in silver below the LCD screen.
The camera comes with a clear plastic LCD-screen cover preinstalled. It clicks into place with tabs at top and bottom. While you’ll probably remove this cover for indoor shooting, we found it clear enough to leave in place when shooting in less welcoming environments, with very little visual obstruction.
The barrage of back panel buttons begins at the top left, inset below screen level, with the Play button (marked with the familiar VCR-style icon) and the trashcan-emblazoned Delete key. An additional red text label points out the role of the delete key, in combination with the MODE button, as a memory card formatting shortcut.
A five-button column flanks the LCD screen on the left. From top to bottom, they are:
- Protect (the key icon), which also brings up on-screen help (hence the question mark)
Thumbnail (the checkerboard icon) / Playback zoom out (the magnifying glass with a minus sign)
Playback zoom in (the magnifying glass with a plus sign)
The optical viewfinder above the screen is flanked on the left with a small switch that toggles a built-in shutter to cover the eyepiece. The eyepiece itself is surrounded by a round rubber eyepiece that unscrews easily for replacement with any of several optional accessory eyepieces, if you prefer. A diopter adjustment control, with a range from -3 to +1m-1, is mounted on the side of the viewfinder.
To the right of the viewfinder is the circular metering mode selector control, which clicks cleanly into place as it’s rotated between Spot, 3D Color Matrix II and Center-weighted settings. The auto exposure / auto focus lock button is positioned in the center of the metering mode control. A dedicated auto focus-on button (AF-ON) is positioned to its right. And completing this left-to-right lineup is the main command dial.
A relatively small, round multi-selector pivoting controller is located to the right of the screen. In the middle of this control is a button that generally, but not always, mimics the function of the OK button. Surrounding the multi-selector is the rotating focus selector lock, with the open position indicated by a single white dot and the locked position by the letter L.
The focus area selector lever, below the multi-selector cluster, clicks between Single-point auto focus, Dynamic area auto focus and Auto-area focus. The button labeled "Info" brings up an extensive information readout display on the LCD panel during shooting. A second press provides quick access to change several of the displayed settings. To the side of the Info button is a small light labeled "CF" which indicates write activity to the CompactFlash card.
There’s a textured, rubber grip pad sculpted into the space between the controls and the rightmost side of the camera back. This surface is useful enough when holding the camera horizontally, but really proves its worth when you pivot the D70 to portrait mode, and the camera’s weight against your thumb makes the extra friction afforded by that textured strip extremely welcome.
There's no shortage of controls here, but labels are clear
and most buttons serve a single purpose.
Left Side* (6.50) *On the left side of the viewfinder hump is a small black button, barely visible, that triggers the pop-up flash. Below this is the flash adjustment button. Hold it down and rotate the main command dial to change flash modes, or rotate the sub command dial to adjust flash intensity. It’s fortunate that this button is likely to be used only rarely because, out of nearly three dozen individual controls festooning the D70 body, this is the only one we found badly positioned and difficult to manipulate. The rubber cover over the flash sync terminal protrudes to the side of the flash adjustment button, preventing the user from comfortably keeping the button depressed.
Below the control cluster on the top left of the camera is a rugged metal camera strap connector. Below this is a large tight-fitting rubber door with a hinge tab that seems sturdy enough for extended use and a prominent surrounding ridge to keep out moisture in hostile environments. Inside this compartment are connections for HDMI output, composite video output, mini USB and DC power input.
The rubber cover protecting the input/output ports fits snugly.
The right side camera strap lug is mounted higher than the corresponding connector on the left, but in day-to-day use this didn’t have any noticeable impact on camera balance. The side panel holds the CompactFlash card slot, beneath a ridged cover that slides back with a quick push of the thumb, then springs open. Unlike the D300, there is no lever to lock this door, but given its position on the camera body, it seems unlikely the door will be opened accidentally.
*Nikon opted not to include a locking lever for the CompactFlash compartment.
The cluster of buttons and the rotating control that surrounds them to the left of the viewfinder hump places many of the most frequently changed settings in a position where they‘re easily manipulated with the left thumb and index finger, leaving your strong right hand to hold this admittedly heavy camera securely (lefties, it’s time to build up those right-arm muscles). The three top buttons are QUAL (image quality), WB (white balance) and ISO. In each case, you hold down the button with your left index finger and adjust the setting by rotating the main- and sub-command dials with your right hand. The surrounding dial includes settings for shooting mode (single-shot, continuous low-speed, continuous high-speed, live view, self-timer and mirror up modes). There’s a small round locking button at the front right of this dial to prevent accidental changes.
On top of the viewfinder hump is an industry-standard ISO 518 hot-shoe connector. This sits behind the pop-up flash.
One feature that continues to distinguish high-end digital SLRs from low-cost models is the monochrome LCD readout on the top of the camera. For the D700 this control panel display indicates exposure mode, image size, image quality, shutter speed and aperture settings, battery level, remaining exposures and white balance setting while shooting, and the number of remaining exposures even when the camera is off. This display can be illuminated briefly by rotating the power switch beyond the ON position.
That power switch is located at the top front of the protruding grip, surrounding the black shutter button. The MODE button lets users switch shooting mode between Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and Manual modes by holding it down and turning the main command dial. To its right is the exposure compensation button. The green dot beside the exposure compensation button indicates its part in the two-button combination (with the similarly flagged QUAL button on the left side) to reset multiple shooting default values.
*Dual control dials front and back make even complex settings
adjustments a speedy proposition.*
On the left side of the camera bottom, beneath the grip, is the battery compartment door, which yields easily to a fingernail press. There is no tab or device to hold the battery in place: open the door and be prepared to catch it as it falls. There's a rubber connector cover securely fitted to the right of the battery door. Prying it open reveals the connectors for the optional MB-D10 battery pack.
The tripod mount is metal, centered under the lens and surrounded by a textured rubber surface to help avoid slippage when mounted on a tripod.
Non-slip surfaces here help secure the camera when tripod-mounted.