The Nikon D700 has the same remarkable image quality that the Nikon D3 has, but in a smaller more affordable camera. This makes sit an excellent alternative to the top-rated Nikon D3. And of course the multitude of camera settings and custom settings make the D700 a camera which can be configured in a highly personal way, depending on your shooting style and needs.
Here is an overview of my preferences for the D700, and the settings that I changed immediately upon getting the camera out of the box.
Display mode – Highlights enabled.
It is absolutely essential to have the highlights enabled as part of an exposure metering method.
Image Review – On
I need all my cameras to have a unique file name. It makes post-production workflow simpler if the images already have a unique name directly out of the camera.
Image Quality - RAW
Simply put, JPG isn’t an option for me. While there are some photographers who would argue the entire RAW vs JPG debate, it really is a trivial one, since the answer is RAW.
NEF (RAW) recording
- Lossless compressed RAW
- 12-bit depth
I chose 12-bit depth over 14 bits (for now), even though some tests (such as this thoughtful consideration by Bob Johnson) show that using 14 bits give slightly better shadow detail.
- custom function a8 – AF point selection
I constantly flip between the 51 point and 11 point selection, although I most often keep the camera to 11 points selection.
- change main / sub
After so many years of shooting with Canon D-SLRs, I have a hard time adapting to having the shutter dial on the rear, and the aperture on the front. So for more instinctive shooting habits right now, I have the shutter dial and aperture dials swapped around from the Nikon default.
- Lock mirror up for cleaning
- Battery info
- World time
These are just general house-keeping settings that I like having grouped together.
Custom Settings Menu:
a1 .. AF-C priority selection
AF-C is the Continuous Focusing mode, where the shutter can be tripped whether the subject is in focus or not, ie, Release Priority. With this setting, you can turn AF-C into Focus Priority.
default : Release button (ie, FPS is maintained),
my preference : default
With this custom setting the photographer now has a very powerful option – to change the usual behaviour of AF-C mode in only tripping the shutter when the subject is in focus. Although I’m not sure that is how most photographers would want to use Continuous Focusing, I find it reassuring that the camera will only trip once the subject is in focus.
more info on Nikon focusing modes – Nikon D300 / D700 / D3
a3 .. Dynamic AF area
With this setting the number of AF points can be selected.
default : 9 points,
my preference : 51 points (3D-tracking).
The 51 point, 3-D tracking mode works amazingly well in tracking moving objects when shooting in AF-C (servo mode), and setting the Auto Focus mode to Dynamic Area (the center selection).
more info on Nikon focusing modes – Nikon D300 / D700 / D3
a8 .. AF point selection
This option allows you to choose either 51 or 11 AF points for manual focus-point selection.
default : 51 points,
my preference : both.
I flip between the two selections, so have this custom function accessible in the My Menu option.
a9 .. Built-in AF assist illuminator
This option controls whether the auto-focus assist light comes on in low light to help auto-focus latch onto the subject.
default : ON,
my preference : OFF.
The bright lamp light can be annoying and intrusive at inopportune moments, so I keep it switched off.
b1 .. ISO sensitivity step value – 1/3rd stop increments
b2 .. EV steps for exposure control – 1/3rd stop increments
b3 .. Exposure comp / fine tune – 1/3rd stop increments
Keeping your exposure controls in 1/3rd stop increments allow for finer tuning of exposure.
c4 .. Monitor Off
With this setting you control how long the LCD display stays up.
default : 20 secs,
my preference : 1 min.
I’m an incorrigible chimper. I like seeing what I just photographed, and also, the histogram and blinking highlights are indispensable tools. Therefore I *need* to chimp. Having a much longer LCD display time helps.
d1 .. Beep
This controls how loud / soft the camera beeps … or not, when acquiring focus or when using the self-timer. It is also used for a low shutter speed warning.
default : high,
my preference : off.
Personal preference again, but I prefer my camera to be quiet.
d8 .. LCD illumination
This option controls whether the LCD lights up only when the power switch is rotated to the lamp position, or when any button is pressed.
default : Off
my preference : On
I most often work in dim areas, and I want to be able to read my LCD without having to precisely select the Lamp button. With this function selected, the LCD will light up whenever I hit any of the D700 camera controls. It just makes it easier for me when the LCD lights up as soon as I handle the camera – then it doesn’t become an extra control that I have to push.
e1 .. Flash sync speed
This option controls whether Auto FP (High-Speed Flash Sync) is automatically enabled for shutter speeds over max sync speed.
default : 1/250th
my preference : 1/250th Auto FP
I do know that the flash’s range is halved by going into Auto FP mode, and therefore stay at 1/250th or below if I need the most output from my speedlight. But I also like the option of not hitting that ceiling of 1/250th if for some reason I need to go to a higher shutter speed while using an on-camera speedlight.
e3 .. Flash control for built-in flash
This option controls which mode the built-in flash will use.
default : TTL
my recommendation : Commander mode.
Your decision here will rest on whether you need your built-in flash as the main flash or fill-flash (and then TTL would usually make the most sense), or whether you want to use the strobe as the Commander strobe to control a Slave flashgun (a remotely triggered SB-600 / SB-800).
My recommendation would be to keep it to the Commander mode. Since the built-in flash is about the worst kind of way to use flash, you really should be using a larger external strobe to give you more options in using flash.
With the built-in flash set to Commander mode, you can use your external Nikon strobe, and when you need wireless TTL flash, you can simply remove your Nikon Speedlight and you are immediately set to control the Nikon Speedlight in Commander mode.
f2 .. Multi selector center button
With this custom function, the operation of the center button of the multi-selector is defined for the Shooting Mode and Playback Mode.
Shooting Mode :
default : Select center AF point,
my preference : default
I like the default here over the other choice (Illuminate AF area), since this allows me to instantly re-select the center autofocus sensor if I have been using another focusing sensor instead.
Playback Mode :
default : Thumbnail on/off,
my preference : Zoom on/off.
I really like to be able to see a higher magnification of the image. And with the way the joystick works of the multi-selector, it is easy enough to move to any part of the image. Sweet!
f5 .. Assign FUNC. button
This option allows a variety of functions to be assigned to the FUNC button. It is in settings like this, that helps make the D700 shine as a powerful tool for the photographer.
FUNC button press
- default : none
- my preference : Flash Off (the Speedlight is disabled
This setting is entirely personal preference, since there are a variety of options here that could be put to great use by different photographers. I like the idea of instantaneously being able to disable the flash by pressing the FUNC button, instead of having to pull my eye away from the viewfinder to switch the Speedlight off.
f6 .. Assign preview button
With this control, you set what the action that preview button will perform. It has a similar set of possibilities as the FUNC button.
Preview button press
- my preference : Spot-metering
f7 .. Assign AE-L / AF-L button
Similarly here, with this button you set whether the AE-L / AF-L button performs the default function of locking exposure and focus, or any of the other options, similar to that of the FUNC button.
My preference would be to keep this button purely as a Focus Lock (AF-L) button, since I only shoot in manual exposure mode. Also, since focusing and exposure have nothing to do with each other, these two functions shouldn’t really be assigned to the same button.
I now use this button to disable my flash. Originally I used the Func button, but it gave me an akward hold on the camera when I used my ring finger to keep the button in. Much easier for me now is to use the AE-L / AF-L button to disable the flash.
f11 .. No memory card ?
This option disables the shutter release if there is no CF card.
default : Enable release,
my recommendation : Release locked.
Changing away from default makes a lot of sense. You really don’t want to get in to a situation where you think you are capturing images, but in fact aren’t. Of course, if you shoot tethered, this might be an option for you.
f12 .. Reverse indicators
With this custom setting, the direction of the exposure meter display in the camera can be changed.
default: + —0— -
my preference: - —0— +
This has long bugged me that the Nikon metering displays are non-intuitive about their direction. I know the intention is that the metering display shows the way the controls should be turned, but it still makes more sense to have the + on the right-hand side for display. That’s the way we are trained to see an increase, or a plus.