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Vignetting & Light Falloff

Vignetting and light falloff aren't something we would normally test in our digital SLR reviews, primarily because cropped sensor digital SLR's and don't exhibit much falloff. With full frame sensors, however, there's a far more real risk of corner shadowing (especially with wider lenses), though it's unusual for it to be an issue in everyday photography.

Technically vignetting refers to a darkening of the corners of the frame due to a physical obstruction such as the rim of the lens barrel or a filter, light falloff refers to a reduction in the amount of light reaching the far corners of the frame due to the angle of incidence of the light reaching there. Light falloff is sometimes referred to as cos4 vignetting. In this section of the review we will refer to this effect as falloff for simplicity (and more likely accuracy) however it could well be either or both vignetting / light falloff.

The D700 offers the same Vignetting Correction option as the D3 (since the v1.1 firmware upgrade). It offers a fairly effective four level Vignetting Correction option (Off, Low, Normal, High) which uses masking to brighten up the corners of JPEGs in-camera. This functionality has also been added to the latest version of CaptureNX.

Testing


Measurement Areas
We aim the camera at a white wall (about 0.5 m away) which is evenly lit by two soft boxes (producing about 10 EV across the entire wall), and a heavy diffuser placed over the front of the lens. For this test we then took a sequence of shots at maximum aperture and at different Vignetting Control settings.

These images are then processed by our own analysis software which derives an average luminance (Lum) for the four corners of the frame (5% each) as well as the center (10%), the corners are averaged and the difference between this and the center of the frame is recorded. This value can then be plotted (see graphs below) as a representation of the approximate amount of falloff.

Hence falloff of -30% would mean that if the luminance center of the frame was at exactly 100% (pure white) the average luminance of the corners would be 70%. Anything more than -20% may well be visible in everyday shots, although this depends on the framing of the shot and the exposure.

Range of falloff

The chart below demonstrates the difference that these figures above can make, we took the blank wall luminance value of 75 (about 190,190,190 RGB) as our normal level. Remember that these patches are solid and the actual effect of shading is a softer gradual roll-off which would never be so obvious. The thumbnails are created by breaking the fall off into the same bands for clarity, so the same comment applies to them.

Vignetting Correction test results

As mentioned above the D700's Vignetting Control feature is identical to the D3's (with firmware v1.1). Vignetting Control offers four levels (Off, Low, Normal and High) and is applied to camera TIFFs and JPEGs. Capture NX2 offers a vignetting control slider with a -100 to +200 range that is similar to the tool in Adobe Camera Raw.

There are a few lenses that aren't compatible with this new feature (the 14mm f2.8 and 16mm f2.8 fisheyes, 20-35mm f2.8 D, 24-85mm f2.8-4.0 D and all DX and PC Nikkors), though this is presumably simply because they produce way too much vignetting to safely correct using masking.

The D3 was the first Nikon to come with this feature and we've examined its capabilities quite extensively in our Nikon D3 review. Therefore for the purposes of this review we've tested Vignetting Control only at maximum aperture (this is where vignetting or falloff is most likely to occur) on two lenses - the Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 and the Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8. The results are very similar to what we saw on the D3. The system does a pretty good job of reducing corner shadowing. This means you can shoot at - or near - maximum aperture on most lenses if you use the high setting.

Nikon warns in its documentation that 'Depending on the scene, shooting conditions, and type of lens, TIFF and JPEG images may exhibit unevenness or variations in peripheral brightness, while Custom Picture Controls and Nikon Picture Controls that have been modified from default settings may not produce the desired effect. Take test shots and view the results in the monitor'. So if you intend to make use of it on a regular basis we'd suggest you do some testing with your own lenses at the various settings to ascertain the optimal setting for your needs.

Lenses: AF-S 14-24mm F2.8 G and 24-70mm F2.8 D

Vignetting Correction Settings thumbnails (14-24mm at F2.8)

 

AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 G
@ 14mm F2.8

AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 G
@ 24mm F2.8

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Vignetting Correction Settings thumbnails (24-70mm at maximum aperture)

 

AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8
@ 24mm F2.8

AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8
@ 70mm F2.8

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Comments

Total comments: 10
CDNPHOTO12

I Just Got A D700 For A Replacement For My D200, £854 With 3,000 Actuations. From WEX Photographic.

1 upvote
driftnomore

@ zakk9:

what is it with telephoto long lenses,btw.

@chrisippus:

i guess that would be a good buy,with only under 1700 shutter count,lens and the battery grip. had it been here in my place,i'm gonna get it.

0 upvotes
zakk9

No problem with long telephoto lenses, and I expressed myself a bit clumsily. What I meant was that a crop sensor, like the one in the D300 (which I also have) gives more reach at the same pixel count. The D300/700 combination is very convenient, since the two cameras share more or less the same body and use the same CF cards, batteries and vertical grip.

0 upvotes
driftnomore

does anyone here know the shutter actuation of the d700? i'm considering buying a used one with 39,000 shutter count for 900 euros.is it a good buy for a 39k count?

2 upvotes
MusaOmar

I think they are rated for 150,000.. So 39k is not that bad. Just bought one with 38K for $1300

2 upvotes
Jamesbond6668

I've used this camera for many photo shoots for over 2 years and still have it as my backup camera. (My main one is the D4). If you don't care about video, this is the camera for you! Much better than the D600 and probably very similar to the D800 (though the D800 has way too large image files for most shooters.). The images from the D700 with the right Nikkor lenses will keep you very happy for many years! (I only switched to the D4 for it's low light ability and faster shooting speed.)

1 upvote
Chrysippus

I have been looking for a replacement camera for my D40 and in my research discovered the D700. I can now get a used one in perfect condition with less than 1700 shots taken plus grip and lens (waiting to hear which lens) for 890 Euros. Would you say this is a better option than a Fuji X-E1 or Olympus OM-D E-M5 in terms of usability and image quality? I am looking for a camera to take stock photos with.

0 upvotes
zakk9

The D700 is an excellent camera if you don't need video or long telephoto lenses. It's particularly ideal if you want to use wide aperture primes and play with shallow depth of field. When it comes to image quality, it's a 5 year old camera, and many of the smaller sensors approach the once unique qualities of the D700 (I use a Panasonic GH3 in addition to the D700 myself). There are no obvious choices, and it mostly boils down to the user experience. Do you prefer an OVF or an EVF? Are you ok with a camera that is twice as heavy? The rational choices nowadays are probably a mirrorless camera, but the D700 is a classic. They are all good :)

2 upvotes
Lyndzihardy

I have just brought a D700, please can someone help with the mind field of lenses!! do I need FX lenses?
Thanks in advance

0 upvotes
Son Of Waldo

Excellent review!

0 upvotes
Total comments: 10