Still a Contender : Nikon D700 Review

Nearly 10 years ago, I traded in my Nikon D80 for the wonderful full-frame Nikon D700. For its time, it was the under priced, overpowered camera with the same guts as the flagship Nikon D3. And though the sensor has a mere 12.1 megapixels, the same count as modern cell phones, I feel this camera is still a smart purchase today.

Tech Specs

The Nikon D700 is a professional grade camera packed into a consumer grade body. I had used it for years in just about every weather condition from hot arid deserts to stormy winter mountaintops. The D700 never failed to perform. Here are the specs from this 2008 camera:

  • Mount: Nikon F-mount
  • Dimensions: 5.8 w x 4.8 h x 3.0 d in
  • Weight: 35 oz / 995 g (body only)
  • Sensor: 35 mm full-frame (36 mm x 23.9 mm), CMOS sensor
  • Total Pixels: Approx. 12.1 MP
  • Screen
    • 3″ (76 mm), VGA resolution, 307,200 pixels (921,600 dots)
    • Super Density – Wide Viewing Angle TFT-LCD
  • Live View Shooting
  • Focusing Screen: Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark VI screen with AF Brackets
  • Viewfinder: Optical pentaprism, 95% coverage
  • Light Meter: TTL 3D Color Matrix Metering II with a 1005 pixel RGB sensor
  • Metering Modes: Matrix metering, center-weighted metering, spot metering
  • Exposure Compensation: ±5 EV in increments of ?, ½, or 1 EV in increments of ?, ½, 1
  • ISO Range: 200–6400, extended mode to 100–12800, HI2 mode 25600
  • Shutter: 1/8000 to 30 sec, bulb, X-sync at 1/250 sec.
  • Flash: X-sync 1/250, Manual pop-up with button release Guide number 12/39 (ISO 100, m/ft)
  • Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS)
  • Storage Media: CompactFlash© (CF) (Type I, compliant with UDMA)
  • Image Types:
    • Compressed 12/14-bit NEF (RAW, Compressed): approx. 45-60 percent
    • Compressed 12/14-bit NEF (RAW, Lossless Compressed): approx. 60-80 percent
    • JPEG: JPEG-Baseline Compliant; can be selected from Size Priority and Optimal Quality
    • TIFF (RGB)
    • Uncompressed 12/14-bit NEF (RAW)
Nikon D700 – RAW File

Nikon D700 in the Hand

The Nikon D700 takes on the traditional DSLR form and is really comfortable in the hand. Having spent a great deal of time with this camera walking in the city, climbing mountains, and so forth, I’ve never found the weight an issue. I also used the MB-D10 Multi-Power Battery Pack to have the grip and extra shooting controls while vertical/portrait shooting. I highly recommend it, especially if you shoot portrait, as it’s a great addition in the field or in the studio and the camera as a whole balances out really nice with either primes or zooms mounted.

Control Placement

Button placement is really good for me, especially as I have been through a large portion of the Nikon F(ilm) & D(igital) series bodies. The left side dial quickly adjusts shutter shooting options of single [S],continuous high-speed [CH] (5 fps), continuous low-speed [CL] (4 fps), live view [LV], self-timer, and mirror lock-up [MUP] and has large top-mounted buttons for quick access to ISO, WB, and QUAL.

Also, the commonly used AF-ON and AE/AF lock are easily reached with the right hand thumb, just beyond the rear main command dial. The later is also used for quick selecting of metering mode (matrix metering, center-weighted metering, spot metering). Exposure mode and exposure comp and just behind the shutter release. Again, a very comfortable spot in my daily use.

Finder and Rear Screen

The Nikon D700 finder has a 0.72x SLR-type with fixed eye-level pentaprism with 95% coverage and an 18mm eyepoint. The diopter adjusts from -3 to + 1m and has plenty of relief for use with glasses. The focusing screen used is the Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark VI screen with AF Brackets. Focusing has always been quite easy with this system. When using manual lenses, the finder also gives the “green light” response when in focus.


The rear screen is a 3.0-inch (76 mm), VGA resolution, 307,200 pixels (921,600 dots) super density wide viewing angle (170 -degree) TFT-LCD monitor. Commonly used buttons are placed to either side of the screen for accessing the camera’s menus, live view use, and image playback.

Nikon D700 Sensor

The full-frame D700 has a 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor powered by a  Nikon EXPEED image processor. When used as a full-frame (FX), the large image size is 4,256 x 2,832 pixels. When used in DX mode, the large images are 2,784 x 1,848 pixels.

Though this sensor is 10 years old, quality coming out of it continues to be quite good.  Above is an unedited image taken at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, CO and the sensor handles both highlights and shadows well. There is plenty of information in the RAW files to meet my needs when doing any kind of post-production.

The sensor has a base ISO of 200 – 6400 which is expandable to 100 –  25,600 and offers long exposure and high ISO noise reduction.

Files are saved as either uncompressed 12/14-bit NEF RAW, compressed 12/14-bit NEF (compressed and lossless compressed), TIFF (RGB), and JPG to Type I CompactFlash© (CF).


Shutter speeds on the Nikon range from a fast 1/8000 second to 30” and bulb. The image above demonstrates stopping a humming bird in its tracks at 1/8000. It offers a flash sync speed of 1/250 second and makes a wonderful studio camera with the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS). Continuous shooting maxes out at 5 fps when used in CH mode.


Paired with any of Nikon’s AF glass, the autofocus system of the D700 is still quite good. Thanks to the Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus sensor module, there are several selectable autofocus points: 9, 21, 51 and 51 (3D-tracking). Selectable modes are Auto, Continuous-servo (C), Manual, Manual (M) with electronic rangefinder, and Single-servo AF (S). The system has a detection range: EV -1 to EV +19. The autofocus fine-tune system allows you to record values for up to 12 user selected lenses.

The Files

I find that I am still pleased with the images coming off this Nikon D700. There is still plenty of information coming off the sensor to give pleasing images, even by today’s standards.

With the Nikon F-mount giving the continued ability to work with every Nikon lens made (both AF+MF) this is still an amazing camera to have as part of your working kit. So, what kind of files can be pulled from a 10-year old 12.1 megapixel camera? Here’s a variety of locations and times showing off the performance.





  1. All true. When I think about these guys running after millions of pixels because they always look for the highest sharpness ever (the new fashion), same guys who have never printed a single shot. By the way, if they had already printed, they would know that they don’t need millions of pixels (unless one wants to print 1m x 1m in native resolution and size).
    They’re consumers, not photographers, that’s why they always look for the last toy that won’t make them improve…

  2. Back when I took my D-70 to some magnificent sites I would get home and linger over the computer, fascinated by the image on the monitor. I wished the camera could do a little more and via imaging and extrapolation I decided I really needed a full frame 12 Mp camera to get the images I imagined.
    Along came the D700 so I got one, and was really fascinated by the images, and could print bigger too. I took it all kinds of places in all kinds of weather. I shot in rail yards and parks and neighborhoods in bitter cold. I shot in barns, storm drains and forests in sweltering heat and humidity. I ruined the eyepiece shutter by sweating profusely on the viewfinder for a whole summer.
    The only time it did not work was right at freezing, 32 degrees. It would give me the flashing “E” until it warmed up or got colder. I bought another as a backup and it did the same thing. Other than that, it has been totally dependable.

  3. My D700 has been my primary camera since 2009. I’ve thought about upgrading to the 800 series but haven’t done so yet.

  4. Still worth buying in 2018?

    1. I for one, believe so… in fact I just bought one this afternoon that looks to be in excellent shape and has fewer than 5000 clicks. As soon as I receive it, looking forward to then buying some glass that doesn’t cost a fortune because it’s trying to resolve a 36 megapixel image….

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