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Nikon D3 vs D700

Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
edited December 2010 in Nikon
Danny Wilson asked:

I would like to get your opinion on full frame Nikon camera bodies. I'm currently shooting with Nikon D700 in my wedding and other commercial work. I'm wanting to add another full frame body, should I go with another D700 or make the jump to the D3? Could you please offer up some guidance for a faithful follower of your blog and work?

Best wishes!

Danny Wilson


  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Tough call.

    I started with the D700 (when I jumped from the Canon 1D mk 3), but I found it didn't drive the Nikon 85mm f1.4D fast enough. Certainly not as fast as the Canon 1D mk3 drove the Canon 85mm f1.2 II lens. The Canon 85mm is supposed to be this slow-focusing lens, but it smoked the Nikon 85mm f1.4D on the D700 body. That is because the Nikon 85mm f1.4D is the older screw-drive AF lens.

    So I felt compelled to get a Nikon D3 just for that. Then I was getting confused in the positioning of the ISO and WB buttons between the D700 and D3. So I upgraded my D700 for another D3.

    And I was / am happy with the two D3 bodies.

    Then one's shutter died and I had to get a backup body really quick ... and I settled again for a D700 ... and felt frustrated enough to exchange it for a D3 again.

    Ultimately, it is dependent on what you are used to, and what you like.

    The D700 has several advantages to the D3.

    - self-cleaning sensor
    I hate cleaning the sensor of my cameras. And I had to do it noticeably less with the cameras that had self-cleaning sensors.

    - better positioning of the controller button & joystick when you add the grip.
    The D700 grip (MB-D10) makes the entire camera heavier than the D3, but you get better positioning of the controller button and joystick. With the D3 you can't reach it when you have your camera in a vertical position.

    - popup flash
    OK, I never used my pop-up flash on my D700 bodies. I know you can use it as a TTL flash controller, but still think it is too annoying popping that direct little flash in your subject's face. I'd much rather use an SU-800 or bounce an SB-900. But still, you could count the pop-up flash as a bonus on the D700.

    Finally .. I think if you're used to the D700, then get another D700. Same ergonomics as your current camera.
  • If
    you think the popup flash is annoying and popping that direct little flash in your subject's face.than you can put a Nikon SG-3 IR in front of your popup flash and only the infrared light for the TTL flash controller get thru and not the annoying flash light.
  • Neil makes a great point about control layout on different cameras. If you're carrying two different cameras on a job, and they have very different controls, it's easy to confuse yourself during high pressure moments. My very strong preference is to stick with one model of camera on a job.

    If you're doing weddings, you owe it to yourself and your clients to have redundancy in your systems. So, adding a 2nd camera is a very, very good idea.

    One thing I'd add to Neil's list of considerations is the dual CF slot in the D3 and D3s. Mirroring your shots across the two cards adds another layer of redundancy. Though I've never had a card go bad on me in the middle of a shoot, it can happen.

    I also use a Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket and keep my CF card pairs next to each other until I get to my computer. I'll then take the "A" cards out of the Pocket Rocket and set the Pocket Rocket with the "B" cards aside. I don't touch the "B" cards until I know I've ingested my pictures from the "A" cards, made a local back up, and verified that my BackBlaze backup is done. Even then, I'll usually keep the "B" cards untouched until after we deliver the pictures to the bride. We have smaller CF cards that we can use for projects in between weddings.

    In a former life, I used to architect large data management systems, so data redundancy is part of my DNA. Whether through hardware failure or human error, the opportunity for data loss is more real than we care to dwell on. I use a pair of RAIDs on my computer (internal and external on my Mac Pro), so having mirroring in the D3 simply fits my world view of data integrity.

    As a solo operator, though, I'd do as Neil suggests and get another D700 (though I'd use smaller, say 4GB, cards to prevent significant data loss). If you could swing it, a pair of D3s would be ideal. Factory refurbs can save you some money.

  • Hello everyone!

    Thanks for the great feedback! This was the exactly the kind of dialogue I was hoping to receive.
  • I think it depends on moolah a lot too - I am not in a position where I can afford even two secondhand D3's. So I am planning on getting two D700s and using my current D300s as a back up and then next year, I will get two D3s and retire the D700s to backup bodies.

    I agree with Kepano about having the same model cameras on a shoot. I work with two cameras at once to avoid changing lenses and at one stage I attempted a 5d and a 5d Mach II and it just takes those extra few seconds to readjust to the controls. Often you don't have those extra seconds!!

    Why do they insist on using S in the model names? Makes it so hard to decide if you are talking about plural D300 or a D300s model. I have the latter, btw.
  • Has anyone made a noise comparison at high ISO between the D700 and the D3s?
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Kevin .. you are going to loooove this site.
    They have an incredible way to compare images between different cameras:


    (It actually convinced me I NEED a Sony NEX-5 ... if only I had the spare cash.)
  • Excellent site! must have taken a lot of work to get all the images done!
    Thanks! The Sony looks good for its size!
  • From the imaging-resource site I could not tell the difference between the D3 and the D700. Could someone else see a difference?
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited January 2011
    It's the same sensor in both cameras.
  • Another benefit that comes to mind is redundancy for other system failures, especially on location.
    Neil, I understand your position with flashing clients in the face with the pop-up. But if your SU-800 dies (batteries, age, drop of water, whatever goes wrong with electronics) on a D3, you're done until you go get a new part, switch bodies, whatever. If it dies and you're on a D700, you switch to built-in commander mode. If you have pre-set set your channels and levels to match the SU-800, you keep shooting. You don't even change flashes or flash groups.... you pop up the built in and a second later you're shooting again.
    What's that worth to you when she's walking down the aisle with her new husband, or he's putting the cake in her mouth?
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    I have more than one speedlight. If one dies, I use another.
    Crucial times, I have two camera bodies (with a speedlight each) on me.
    I honestly can't say I have ever regretted the D3 not having a pop-up flash.
  • I have been re reading this thread because I was going to pick up a new D700 this Monday as I am making the move from DX to full frame but I now have a dilema. I went in to see the guy in my favourite camera shop as I had told him I was after D700 and a few new lenses a couple weeks back and he gave me some good prices and said he would see if he could do a little better when I decided to order. I go in today and he shows me a D3 that is on consignment and has less than 5000 frames on it. It appears practically brand new and IMO 5000 frames isn't much more than a good days work so I consider it as good as new. Now here in Australia I can pick a new D700 up for $2800 AUS, and the asking price for this D3 is $3500. Any opinions on whether this is a better option?

    I'll just give my reasons for wanting the D3 over the D700, shutter on the D3 is rated at 300k cycles which is double the D700 and it has dual card slots. Those are big ones for me. I already have a battery grip that will fit the D700 but the D3 is lighter than a D700 with battery grip attached and the D3 has a 100% vf. I also like the stronger screw drive Neil mentions for my 85 f1.8 but I suppose the only downside for me is no sensor cleaning on the D3. I don't care about the pop up flash issue because I have backups and also don't like firing the pop up as a commander, I use radio transmitters or an sb900 bounced or directed at my off camera flash to trigger that. the D3 is definately winning out in my mind for the extra dollars and I am proabably going to call him in the morning (its after hours here now) and tell him I'll take it.

    I would appreciate your thoughts if possible please Neil, as you have 2 of the D3's and put them to great use. I considered the D3s but its over double the price of 2x D700's here in Australia ($6200) and I would rather wait to see what Nikon does next regarding the D700 (D800?) or a price drop on the D3s before filling my boots completely. I am going to use my current D300s as a back up until then.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    I must admit that I REALLY like the dual slots for CF cards.

    I now have two 32Gb cards in each of my D3 bodies.
    This way I can shoot RAW + RAW.
    If a card should ever fail, I have the back-up card with RAW files.
    (Paranoia is a good thing when it comes to digital workflow.)

    Personally, if the difference in price was only $700 ... I'd be swayed towards the D3
  • Yeah the dual slots are the thing that are driving me toward the D3 the most. I am doing weddings and at least the D300 I'm currently using has CF and SD slots and I use the second slot as a backup.
  • Just an update, I went with the D3 about a week ago and I'm so glad I did, I feel much beter having the dual slots. The only thing I miss is the self cleaning sensor.

    I also picked up the 70-200 VRII and paired with the D3 it is a formidable combination. I see what Neil is saying about gear for tricky work like the wedding processional. I thought I was pretty good at getting focus on moving subjects but having the right gear increases the number of keepers you get considerably. The focusing and VR capabilities of that combo are lethal and this set up can almost see in the dark, I am so impressed.

    Anyone thinking of making the move from a DX format like the D300 to the D3 should just go for it, you will love the extra freedom and the shots you can pull off. I haven't bothered with any tests but for well exposed shots it seems the D3 has about the same noise levels at 1600 iso as the D300 has at about 400.

    Can you tell I have fallen for this camera lol.
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