August 9, 2008

Nikon D700 v. D3

 

Nikon recently started shipping the D700. This is a direct competitor to Canon’s 5D. But how does it stack up against its older brother, the D3?

Having had the D3 for a few weeks I was very familiar with its capabilities and looked forward to the D700. I wasn’t disappointed.

The D700 is $2000 less than the D3. What are the differences?

Where it counts – there’s no real difference between the two cameras. The image quality is identical since both cameras share the same sensor 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, Expeed processor and autofocus.

In side-by-side comparison tests, I can’t tell any difference at all in image quality. But there is a difference when it comes to features and ergonomics. Surprisingly, the D700 has some features not found on the D3.

Here are some features available on the D700, but not the D3.

Built-in Flash

Nikon D700 has a Built-in Flash (iTTL, G.No 17/ISO 200)

Function Buttons

The function button on the D700 has been expanded compared to D3. All the menu items can be assigned to the function button on the D700, but not the D3.

Dust Reduction

D700 features a sensor shake dust reduction (this is my biggest gripe with the D3. I don’t understand why Nikon would make automatic sensor cleaning available in consumer bodies but not its flagship camera.)

Weight

The D700 is lighter and smaller, weighing 995g compared to the D3 at 1240g. As someone who has to watch how much he carries into the field, the lighter weight of the D700 is an advantage to me.

Here are some of the features available on the D3, but not the D700.

Viewfinder

The D3 offers a 100% / 0.7x magnification viewfinder. The D700 only offers 95% coverage, 0.72x magnification. This means that using the D700, there will always be slightly more information in your final image than you are able to see in the viewfinder.

Aspect Ratio

The D3’offers a 5:4 aspect ratio option and the D700 does not.

Burst Rate

The D3 is faster with 9 fps (11 fps without AF). The D700 (without additional accessories) is 5 fps.

Shutter life

The D3 has twice the expected shutter life at 300,000 cycles compared with 150,000 cycles on the D700.

Memory Slots

The D3 has two CF card slots compared to one for the D700.

Note Taking

The D3 has a microphone and speaker for note taking; the D700 does not.

Focus Screens

The D3 supports interchangeable focusing screens while the D700 does not.

Display

The D3 has a slightly different viewfinder display. The ocus points aren’t marked by large black rectangles on the D3 (they are on the D700), and the D3 in DX mode “masks out” the unused area; the D700 just shows a rectangle. Also, there’s no room for the D3’s rear information panel on the D700, so most of this information has been moved to the top LCD.

CONCLUSION

Which camera is better? I can’t say. That’s going to be up to each individual photographer’s needs. If you shoot sports or other faster moving action for a living (or hope to make a living at same) then you might lean toward the D3. The faster burst speed, larger buffer capacity, dual CF cards and longer shutter life will all be important.

If you’re a wedding, portrait or nature photographer, it’s very likely you can be happy with the D700 (although the lack of a 100% viewfinder will be off-putting to some nature photographers.)

The amazing fact here is that Nikon has released a new camera which is very close in function to its flagship body at a price that’s $2000 less. I hope this is a sign of things to come from all camera manufacturers.

For the first time I can remember in my photo career, I have a backup body that costs significantly less than my primary body, and still delivers the same image quality.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 39 Comments

  1. A good comparison between the two.

    It really shows how cameras are developing really quickly.

    Reply
  2. A good comparison between the two.

    It really shows how cameras are developing really quickly.

    Reply
  3. Scott, a great comparison. I sincerely hope you are right in that this will be a foreshadow to the way DSLRs are priced in the future. It gives me hope that maybe the D80 will be upgraded (D90 probably?) to better specs compared to the D300. I’m waiting until September to decided on my first DSLR purchase (XSI,40D, or D90) I’m also hoping for the rumored video capability.

    It is nice of Nikon to have all the “best” functionality of the D3 sensor to be in the D700 while not charging an arm and a leg for it.

    -Chris

    Reply
  4. Scott, a great comparison. I sincerely hope you are right in that this will be a foreshadow to the way DSLRs are priced in the future. It gives me hope that maybe the D80 will be upgraded (D90 probably?) to better specs compared to the D300. I’m waiting until September to decided on my first DSLR purchase (XSI,40D, or D90) I’m also hoping for the rumored video capability.

    It is nice of Nikon to have all the “best” functionality of the D3 sensor to be in the D700 while not charging an arm and a leg for it.

    -Chris

    Reply
  5. The viewfinder thing almost seems like it could be helpful. There are many occasions when I get the image “too tight” and wish I had backed up just a bit! ;)

    Overall the D700 looks amazing! Hard to believe that some minor differences can account for a $2k price difference. It’s on my shopping-list … definitely going to be my next upgrade.

    Reply
  6. The viewfinder thing almost seems like it could be helpful. There are many occasions when I get the image “too tight” and wish I had backed up just a bit! ;)

    Overall the D700 looks amazing! Hard to believe that some minor differences can account for a $2k price difference. It’s on my shopping-list … definitely going to be my next upgrade.

    Reply
  7. Scott,
    The reason they didn’t put the dust cleaning system on the D3 is because the viewfinder covers almost 100% whereas it’s at about 95% on the D700. The heck I can’t remember the exact numbers, but this is why: the D3 viewfinder covers a larger size than the D700. This is according to a French Nikon rep video on youtube.

    Reply
  8. Scott,
    The reason they didn’t put the dust cleaning system on the D3 is because the viewfinder covers almost 100% whereas it’s at about 95% on the D700. The heck I can’t remember the exact numbers, but this is why: the D3 viewfinder covers a larger size than the D700. This is according to a French Nikon rep video on youtube.

    Reply
  9. “The amazing fact here is that Nikon has released a new camera which is very close in function to its flagship body at a price that’s $2000 less. I hope this is a sign of things to come from all camera manufacturers.”

    It’s really nothing new. Canon did that 3 years ago with the 5D. I think it shows that the market is maturing, and manufacturers cannot afford to hold out from bringing new improvements to the market, otherwise their customers will go elsewhere. In Canon’s case (3 years ago), those customers that couldn’t afford the full-frame 1Ds Mk II might have decided to jump ship since they can buy a crop body from any manufacturer. And today, in Nikon’s case, those who couldn’t afford to buy the D3 might have been tempted to jump at the 5D, even though it is “old technology”.

    All this competition is really good for us, the customers. And it’s getting better! :)

    Reply
  10. “The amazing fact here is that Nikon has released a new camera which is very close in function to its flagship body at a price that’s $2000 less. I hope this is a sign of things to come from all camera manufacturers.”

    It’s really nothing new. Canon did that 3 years ago with the 5D. I think it shows that the market is maturing, and manufacturers cannot afford to hold out from bringing new improvements to the market, otherwise their customers will go elsewhere. In Canon’s case (3 years ago), those customers that couldn’t afford the full-frame 1Ds Mk II might have decided to jump ship since they can buy a crop body from any manufacturer. And today, in Nikon’s case, those who couldn’t afford to buy the D3 might have been tempted to jump at the 5D, even though it is “old technology”.

    All this competition is really good for us, the customers. And it’s getting better! :)

    Reply
  11. I am thrilled to be able to buy a D700. But one thing disturbs me: The D700 effectively costs twice the price of the D300. Does anyone think the D700 costs twice as much to manufacture?
    As wonderful as the D700 is, I think it may be a bit overpriced. Could Nikon sell it for a price closer to the D300? Will they, sooner than we think?

    Reply
  12. Very nice comparison Scott. I just sold my Canon stuff and picked up a D700. Very pleased with it so far. Prices are dropping faster than ever. The D700 is already well below what I paid for it ($3000 plus shipping). Best Buy had a 10% off coupon which brought it to $2700, and Circuit City dropped the price to $2800 (though both of those charge tax). Meanwhile, the price for mint, low mileage, used D3 bodies has come down to around the $4000 mark. Regards, Amin

    Reply
  13. Very nice comparison Scott. I just sold my Canon stuff and picked up a D700. Very pleased with it so far. Prices are dropping faster than ever. The D700 is already well below what I paid for it ($3000 plus shipping). Best Buy had a 10% off coupon which brought it to $2700, and Circuit City dropped the price to $2800 (though both of those charge tax). Meanwhile, the price for mint, low mileage, used D3 bodies has come down to around the $4000 mark. Regards, Amin

    Reply
  14. I think you hit the nail on the head there, Scott: “For the first time I can remember in my photo career, I have a backup body that costs significantly less than my primary body, and still delivers the same image quality.” That is very significant. Makes you wonder how Canon will respond.

    I have a D40, and am extremely happy with it…in fact, I don’t use it much anymore. The D40 inspired me to try other forms of photography, and I’ve been using Polaroids, medium format TLRs, and a Nikon EM more than my D40.

    Reply
  15. I think you hit the nail on the head there, Scott: “For the first time I can remember in my photo career, I have a backup body that costs significantly less than my primary body, and still delivers the same image quality.” That is very significant. Makes you wonder how Canon will respond.

    I have a D40, and am extremely happy with it…in fact, I don’t use it much anymore. The D40 inspired me to try other forms of photography, and I’ve been using Polaroids, medium format TLRs, and a Nikon EM more than my D40.

    Reply
  16. aw come on guys …. a comparison between al the flagship cameras is so due.. i would love to see my Olympus E-3 whip nikon and canon in specs.. wee..

    Reply
  17. aw come on guys …. a comparison between al the flagship cameras is so due.. i would love to see my Olympus E-3 whip nikon and canon in specs.. wee..

    Reply
  18. I have both a D300 and D700. I have played with the D3 but my exposure was limited.

    I dislike using flash and found that I had too much noise inside with the D300. When the D700 came out I snapped one up and have not looked back. I will sell the D300 in a bit.

    I had tried the D3 but 5K seemed a little much. I also have the MB-D10 so I can use it on both cameras.

    The D300 is 99% in the view finder and the D700 is 95%. I do not find that a big deal. I can always use live view to get 100%. The D3 is faster but when I put on the drive I get 8 fps and more battery life. I live the flexibility of using the MB-D10 or not.

    IMO the biggest real difference is the weight and extra CF slot. Also with the new buffer add-on that could make another area that the professional (esp. for sports) weight in towards the D3. Either way we are so lucky to have such great choices.

    Reply
  19. I have both a D300 and D700. I have played with the D3 but my exposure was limited.

    I dislike using flash and found that I had too much noise inside with the D300. When the D700 came out I snapped one up and have not looked back. I will sell the D300 in a bit.

    I had tried the D3 but 5K seemed a little much. I also have the MB-D10 so I can use it on both cameras.

    The D300 is 99% in the view finder and the D700 is 95%. I do not find that a big deal. I can always use live view to get 100%. The D3 is faster but when I put on the drive I get 8 fps and more battery life. I live the flexibility of using the MB-D10 or not.

    IMO the biggest real difference is the weight and extra CF slot. Also with the new buffer add-on that could make another area that the professional (esp. for sports) weight in towards the D3. Either way we are so lucky to have such great choices.

    Reply
  20. Great comparison Scott!

    I too have both the D300 and D700 (along with D100 and D200). With each new version of the Dx00 models, there have been huge improvements over the previous model. I have had the D700 for about 3 weeks now and I too have not looked back. My D300 will become a backup body to my D700. The best part is being able to interchange the MB-D10 with both bodies. I think the MB-D10 is a must. It gives you a better feel on the camera, much longer battery life, and bumps the frame rate to 8 fps! After moving to an FX sensor, I doubt I will go back to DX for anything.

    Reply
  21. Scott,
    The D700 is tempting but I want to wait for the 5D Mark II to see what’s it’s like. I’m into more sharpness and detail as I often blow parts of my photos up. Many seem to think that the larger the pixels on the sensor are, the better. But, the larger the pixels are, the more detail will fall in between them. I hope Canon finds a way to combine sharpness with improved low noise performance and a higher dynamic range. That kind of a camera would beat anything on the market today, even the D3. Scott, then you could switch right back. Too bad you sold your Canon lenses though!

    Reply
  22. Scott,
    The D700 is tempting but I want to wait for the 5D Mark II to see what’s it’s like. I’m into more sharpness and detail as I often blow parts of my photos up. Many seem to think that the larger the pixels on the sensor are, the better. But, the larger the pixels are, the more detail will fall in between them. I hope Canon finds a way to combine sharpness with improved low noise performance and a higher dynamic range. That kind of a camera would beat anything on the market today, even the D3. Scott, then you could switch right back. Too bad you sold your Canon lenses though!

    Reply
  23. Nice review from a man who knows his stuff. I still want to spend a little time with it before I purchase, but it’s nice to get some positive feedback based on those fantastic stats.

    @Petri, I don’t think Scott will be upset if Canon strike back hard with a 5D Mark II. I think, like the rest of us, he will be happy. It means we are progressing. It means the technology at our finger tips is getting better and more useful. It means competition which equals better prices and more developments. WE all win. I think Scott has explained many times why it was the right time for him to switch. By all means, I hope you keep buying Canon. If they have no customers, they won’t develop their technologies and then Nikon will have one less (Goliath) competitor to battle against.

    Reply
  24. Nice review from a man who knows his stuff. I still want to spend a little time with it before I purchase, but it’s nice to get some positive feedback based on those fantastic stats.

    @Petri, I don’t think Scott will be upset if Canon strike back hard with a 5D Mark II. I think, like the rest of us, he will be happy. It means we are progressing. It means the technology at our finger tips is getting better and more useful. It means competition which equals better prices and more developments. WE all win. I think Scott has explained many times why it was the right time for him to switch. By all means, I hope you keep buying Canon. If they have no customers, they won’t develop their technologies and then Nikon will have one less (Goliath) competitor to battle against.

    Reply
  25. Thanks for the comparison. For someone who likes to hike out a ways to their photographic locations the D700’s smaller size and lighter weight is a perfect fit.

    Reply
  26. Thanks for the comparison. For someone who likes to hike out a ways to their photographic locations the D700’s smaller size and lighter weight is a perfect fit.

    Reply
  27. [...] August 9TWIP Photo compares and contrasts the D700 feature set with the D3 feature set. And be sure to check their four-paragraph conclusion [...]

    Reply
  28. Looks like my piggy bank is going to be dedicated to getting a D700 before the decade is out….the next decade, that is.

    Reply
  29. Looks like my piggy bank is going to be dedicated to getting a D700 before the decade is out….the next decade, that is.

    Reply
  30. While I think it’s fantastic that you’re able to get the features of the D700 at it’s price point, I think Nikon was a bit irresponsible in releasing it this early.

    Most professional photographers do not expect to pay for the entire cost of the camera. Cameras are instead resold after they are used, recouping a considerable portion of the investment. Canon 1Ds MKII cameras still sell for $5,000+ in good condition 4 years after being released. That is a loss of about 45% of the value. If lightly used D3’s are already being priced at $4,000 and Nikon continues on this rapid-develop-release cycle we’ll probably see D3’s selling for around $1500 in the same 4 years. That’s a loss of 70% from the original price.

    I think a lot of D300 users feel a bit raw about it as well. I know I would, considering Nikon’s history of long periods of time between the D100, D200, and the D300. I’m sure it will put a bit of added pressure on Canon to make sure the 5DmkII performs superbly, which we can’t complain about.

    On second hand, maybe Nikon is just trying to secure some additional footing before the 5DmkII comes out and the D300 looks antiquated. We’ll have to see where it goes!

    Reply
  31. While I think it’s fantastic that you’re able to get the features of the D700 at it’s price point, I think Nikon was a bit irresponsible in releasing it this early.

    Most professional photographers do not expect to pay for the entire cost of the camera. Cameras are instead resold after they are used, recouping a considerable portion of the investment. Canon 1Ds MKII cameras still sell for $5,000+ in good condition 4 years after being released. That is a loss of about 45% of the value. If lightly used D3’s are already being priced at $4,000 and Nikon continues on this rapid-develop-release cycle we’ll probably see D3’s selling for around $1500 in the same 4 years. That’s a loss of 70% from the original price.

    I think a lot of D300 users feel a bit raw about it as well. I know I would, considering Nikon’s history of long periods of time between the D100, D200, and the D300. I’m sure it will put a bit of added pressure on Canon to make sure the 5DmkII performs superbly, which we can’t complain about.

    On second hand, maybe Nikon is just trying to secure some additional footing before the 5DmkII comes out and the D300 looks antiquated. We’ll have to see where it goes!

    Reply
  32. Great comparison. My only gripe is the cost. Consider the following:

    – D700 retails in Canada for @ 3299.00
    – Battery grip for D700 (MB-D1) is @ $250.00
    – D700 uses different charger for the battery grip @ $70.00
    – extra battery for grip @ 70.00

    This really amounts to @$3700

    The D3 retails for @5200.00 in Canada
    – no extra charger needed
    – built in grip
    – extra battery included
    – 150,000 cycles more

    This means after you factor everything in, the D700 is @ 1500.00 less than the D3 (which really means twice the longevity). As great as the D700 is, it is overpriced based on the straight-up features available and shutter-life. You’d be better to bite the bullet and save your money for a D3 body.

    Reply
  33. Great comparison. My only gripe is the cost. Consider the following:

    – D700 retails in Canada for @ 3299.00
    – Battery grip for D700 (MB-D1) is @ $250.00
    – D700 uses different charger for the battery grip @ $70.00
    – extra battery for grip @ 70.00

    This really amounts to @$3700

    The D3 retails for @5200.00 in Canada
    – no extra charger needed
    – built in grip
    – extra battery included
    – 150,000 cycles more

    This means after you factor everything in, the D700 is @ 1500.00 less than the D3 (which really means twice the longevity). As great as the D700 is, it is overpriced based on the straight-up features available and shutter-life. You’d be better to bite the bullet and save your money for a D3 body.

    Reply
  34. I have both the D3 and D700. I took both to Disney World and ended up using the D700 more because of its lighter weight. The pictures were great. The built in flash is convenient for those times that you need some fill flash.

    Reply
  35. I have both the D3 and D700. I took both to Disney World and ended up using the D700 more because of its lighter weight. The pictures were great. The built in flash is convenient for those times that you need some fill flash.

    Reply
  36. I am imagine that the ISO and noise performance is equivalent across both cameras?

    Reply
  37. I am imagine that the ISO and noise performance is equivalent across both cameras?

    Reply
  38. [...] written about the D700. While it’s coming, we haven’t yet posted anything substantial on the 5D MK II because [...]

    Reply
  39. [...] written about the D700. While it’s coming, we haven’t yet posted anything substantial on the 5D MK II because [...]

    Reply

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