Nikon D700 : preview

hands-on preview: Nikon D700

Nikon D700 ... 1/125th @ f3.5 @ 32oo ISO.
[ click on the image to see a 100% crop ]

The Nikon D700 camera (B&H) and Nikon SB-900 speedlight (B&H), were released today, to my great anticipation. I expected to see D3 quality images in a body about the size of the D300, and accessibly priced for what it delivers.

This evening I drove in to Manhattan so I could roam around Times Square to test the low-light capabilities of this camera. This after all is what the D3 is renowned for, and the D700 promises to deliver the same image quality.  Outside Toys’R’Us, there was a line of Star Wars fans waiting for a pre-release party of the new Star Wars movie to start, and a few of them graciously posed for me – most impressively of all, a Darth Maul look-alike.  (I composed the photograph so that the ferris-wheel inside the shop radiates outward behind him to make for an even more striking portrait.)

The image you see there was taken with only the available light in Times Square.  And fair enough, the place is flooded at night with light from the numerous billboards – but I was able to get this image at 1/125th @ f3.5 .. which are ‘easy’ settings to use, but this was at an incredible 3200 ISO.  Click on the image to see a 100% crop of the area around his eyes to see the high-ISO noise performance.  This is from the straight-out-of-camera JPG.  I am impressed!

16 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 2Thomas says

    WOW! Thats really awesome ISO 3200!!!! I’m really impressed. Great! If I wouldn’t have bought my D300… this would be my new one :/

  2. 3David Dalziel says

    Today is a great day. I also picked up the new D700. I’ve only taken snaps with it so far though but it will get a full work out next week when the Edinburgh Fringe kicks off.

    I’m a bit miffed at having to upgrade to NX2 which is another £79 on top of the extra battery and grip.

    I’ve shot a few indoor portraits at high ISO’s and I am very impressed.

    That’s a great portrait you have posted and I’ll check back to read your thoughts when you have posted a full review.



  3. 4Caroline Ghetes says

    Wow, Neil! You are an absolute inspiration to me. I don’t know how you find the time to do all of the workshops you do and the weddings you shoot and still find time to update this blog as often as you do with the most useful information of an other blogs I stalk ; ) Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us photographers. I know I appreciate it a lot. This posting has made my decision very easy. I was debating between the D3 and the D700. And now I’ve decided. D700 it is!

  4. 5Richard Selby says

    Wow! The iso performance is stellar, outstanding shot. I’m glad to hear your impressed. I like my D300 very much but this just raised the bar to a new level.

    How do you like the SB900?

    Now I wonder what Canon is cooking up?

  5. 6 says

    Richard …

    For me, the SB-900 improves so much on the SB-800 that it was an automatic upgrade.

    I’ll post a review in the next week or two.

    Neil vN.

  6. 7Stephen says

    I bought a D300 two days before Nikon announced the D700. I have bad timing.

    I do not see much graininess in the 100% photo you took. That is impressive low-light sensitivity of the camera. I guess the Canon 5D is dethroned? And of course, your composition is excellent as usual.

    I am also curious how the SB-900 works. I was interested in replacing my SB-600 with it, so I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on it.

  7. 8Stephen says

    I forgot to ask this. Where is the brightest relevant tone in this image for purposes of exposure metering? Other than the subject’s eyeballs, there is not much relevant white in the photograph.

    I typically have trouble trying to figure where I should meter when it comes to subjects that do not have white. Thanks.

  8. 9 says


    In this case there isn’t a predominant tone that is white, so using the histogram as I’ve explained elsewhere, wouldn’t really work. But there are other methods in achieving accurate exposure.

    In this case, simply zeroing the needle in manual exposure mode did the trick. With the mix of brighter tones and darker tones, and the use of matrix metering, the camera metered correctly. (I would’ve had the same exposure if I had used an automatic metering mode.)

    Neil vN.

  9. 10Stephen says

    Hi Neil,
    Thanks for the reply.

    I’ve been using your histogram method on subjects that do not have white in them. I was interpreting your notes literally when you mentioned “brightest relevant tone,” so I always targeted the brightest dominant color in the subject, but the resulting photographs always had colors that were slightly off.

    Now that I think about it, your histogram method was based on the concept of aligning white correctly in the zone system (that spectrum you printed in your tutorial papers you gave me). I guess that when I meter off something other than white, I end up shifting the white in that spectrum, so that makes the entire image look off.

    More practice for me!

  10. 11 says

    That is very impressive.

    I was wandering around Time Square that same night. I wonder if I saw you? I always notice photographers when I’m out and about. Were you wearing grey, perchance?

    I was too lazy to bring my big camera, so my brothers got shots of the Star Wars peeps with my point and shoot.

    My flashy, noisy picture of the same event is here:
    (Yes, that’s my husband… )

  11. 14 says

    Adam … I am loving the camera even more now. I’ll be so bold to say that right now there is no better camera on the market than the Nikon D700 if you look at quality vs cost.

    Neil vN

  12. 15Zach says

    Neil, your professional expertise would help me here.
    I’m thinking about buying a D700 or the 70-200 2.8G VR II as my
    next equipment purchase. I’m working with a D60 and the 24-70 2.8G
    (love it!!) as of now. Should i continue to concentrate on more lenses
    or a better camera since these 2 items are around the same price?

    I appreciate your input!

  13. 16 says

    Zach .. that’s a tough choice.
    Both of those items – the D700 and the 70-200mm f2.8 zoom will change your photography, and what you’d be able to achieve.

    The one which will have the most immediate impact though, would be the lens, in my opinion.

    While the D700 will open a whole new world to you with clean high ISO settings, the telephoto zoom will allow you to reach subjects you couldn’t before.

    Neil vN

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