The myth of upgrading from D300 --> D700

Started Aug 4, 2009 | Discussions thread
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Antoine Palade
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The myth of upgrading from D300 --> D700
Aug 4, 2009

This post is intended as a feedback for those of you thinking about upgrading from a D300 to a D700. I did such an upgrade myself not that long ago, before selling the D700 and going back to the D300. The D700 is an amazing camera, so this is not about putting the D700 down.

The D700 is not the next step-up from the D300

What I mean is this: do not get a D700 only because "you're ready to move up to FF". Many people see the D700 as the natural upgrade to go to from the D300. I did. This is not the case.

The D700 will not give you better image quality/better exposure or metering than the D300. I found these to be absolutely identical to the D300. This applies even more so to the D300s because it has identical Auto D-Lighting setting as the D700, although in practice I didn't find the Auto setting to be noticeably better than the 'Normal" setting I use on on the D300. Besides, talk of upcoming firmware upgrade to the D300 in line with the D300s might negate this difference anyway.

What the D700 will give you is better high ISO performance . That's it. It's no small feat - high ISO performance is desirable - but be clear that this - high ISO performance - is the main only advantage of the D700 over the D300. This is why you'd get the D700 (high ISO performance), and not because you're ready to move up to FF .

If you're shooting a lot of high ISO pictures on your D300, say at 3200 ISO, and you wished that you'd get cleaner results, then by all means, get the D700. As a comparison, I find that on the D300 the useable high-ISO limit is, for my taste, around 1600-2000 ISO. I find 3200 ISO too noisy. On the D700, I found the high-ISO ceiling (i.e. useable) to be between 3200-4000 ISO. Depending on the lighting, this high limit on the D700 could be stretched to 5000 ISO, but that's the exception. I would consider 4000 ISO the useable limit on the D700.

Once you move-up to the D700, you commit yourself to a totally different photo-taking experience . In other words:

1. You commit yourself to "pro" lenses. This might not be the case for everyone, and many people will be happy to use older Nikkor lenses that they might already have, or buy through ebay, such as an used 80-200 f2.8. For me, though, getting the D700 meant getting the best Nikkors I could afford in order to match them with the quality of the D700, which meant the 24-70 f2.8 and the 70-200 f2.8.

And committing yourself to such lenses means that you're spending serious money on your hobby. Good for you if you can, but me, it certainly dawned on me that I was suddenly spending that much cash on a hobby (of course, all this matters not if you're a pro and making an income out of shooting). Case in point: I was looking at getting an ultra-wide lens. Basically, on the D700, this means only the Nikkor 14-24 f2.8. Yes, there are others, but not that many, the Sigma 12-24 being the other alternative. So the Nikkor 14-24 was, really, the only choice here, also for image-quality reasons. However, getting a 14-24 Nikkor is an expensive proposition. Just make sure you're ready for that, and know that once you're getting a D700 you're on the road to spending quite a bit of cash on pro lenses.

2. You loose the telephoto advantage -the 1.5x crop - from the D300 DX format. I found that on the D700, the 70-200 f2.8 became a different lens. What used to be a great portrait AND telephoto lens on the D300 was now only a portrait lens (albeit a versatile one). But, certainly, 200 mm is not enough telephoto on FF, whereas 300mm (from the 1.5x DX factor) was ok. So, that means that you got to look at longer telephoto lenses to make up for what you lost in reach by going FF. Yes, you can get some great f2.8 telephotos from Nikkor, but my comment made in point #1 above about price applies. A Nikkor 200-400 or 300mm or 400mm are no cheap lenses. Only exception might be the Nikkor 70-300. However, I find that 300mm is not that greater a reach from 200mm to be worth it. I think that you really got to go longer, which brings back the expense issue.

3. The other difference in shooting experience when you move-up to D700 is that you got to be ready to carry a few lenses with you. The nature of pro lenses (if that's what you're going for) is quality, but not necessarily versatility. So to cover what might have taken 2 lenses on your D300, you might have to carry now a bagful, and they're heavy! Which brings me to the next point:

4. You loose portability - the walkabout "feel" - when you move-up to the D700. I found that when I had the D300 I was much more inclined to take my D300 and 18-200 with me everywhere I went because they weren't too massive. It "felt" ok to carry them around. But when I moved up to the D700, I became much more self-aware of what I was carrying. A D700 is physically larger and heavier than the D300, and the 24-70 or 70-200 are way larger and heavier as well than normal DX lenses. The result was that I just was not carrying my D700 around as much as I wanted. Shooting/taking photos had become an "event", in other words, you go out specifically to shoot photos, whereas before I was out and about and taking my camera with me, just in case. It's a different experience, not as spontaneous as I liked it, and that was one of the reasons for me to go back to the D300.

Enough ranting. I'm sure there are other points, but, hey, it's late Please don't take my comments as a criticism of the D700. As I said above, it's a great, great camera. It's just that it's not for everybody, and it's not a camera you just move-up to . I hope that if you're thinking about upgrading from a D300 to the D700, my comments will help you a little.

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