Color reproduction

Here you can see a generated GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, place your mouse over any of the labels below it to see the color reproduction in that mode. Select a camera/setting combination from the 'Compared to' drop-down to comparative boxes inside each patch.

Nikon has harmonized the default image parameters across its line of 'serious' DSLRs and therefore it's not a surprise that the D700 produces color that is pretty much identical to the D3 (the slight difference you can see are down to contrast and saturation, not hue). It's also very similar to the D300 but the tone curves used in-camera mean the D300 offers slightly lighter skin tones and pastel colors than the D700.

Nikon D700 Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
StandardNeutralVividMonochrome
AdobeRGB

Artificial light White Balance

The D700's automatic white balance performance in artificial light is not exactly impressive. In fact many compact cameras do a better job. It's also fairly similar to the D300's performance which suggests Nikon opted to implement D300 (rather than D3) parameters on the D700. The built-in presets are slightly better but still far from perfect. If white balance is crucial to your photography under artificial light you'll either have to use a gray-card and fine-tune the presets or use manual white balance straightaway. The latter actually works very well and is reliable and consistent.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 11.4%, Blue: -22.7%, Poor
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red: 7.8%, Blue: -14.3%, Poor
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 6.4%, Blue: -16.2%, Poor

Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red: 5.2%, Blue: 5.4%, Average

Long Exposure noise reduction / Night shots

As we would expect in 2008 from a serious DSLR our 30 second 'night shot' exposure produced no hot pixels, even with noise reduction turned off.

Noise reduction Off Noise reduction On
ISO 200, 30 sec, F18 ISO 200, 30 sec, F18
(100% crops)

Flash

Nikon decided to integrate a flash into the D700's prism which means, due to limited space, the viewfinder is slightly smaller than the D3's (Nikon's flagship does not feature a built-in flash). An onboard-flash can come in handy in many situations though and on the D700 it does a good job. Metering is good and there is no color-cast. The D700 uses i-TTL metering for internal (and external if compatible) flash and also supports Nikon's advanced wireless flash system (Creative Lighting System).

Direct flash Direct Flash

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

From an image quality point of view the D700 does exactly what most people would have expected and produces excellent output that is very similar to the D3’s. At low sensitivities the D700’s image results are very clean, virtually noise- and artifact-free and look pleasantly ‘unprocessed’. If you prefer a crisper, more consumer-friendly look to your images there’s more than enough latitude for fine-tuning the sharpness, contrast and saturation settings – either in-camera or in post processing.

It’s probably worth mentioning that while, depending on subject and lighting, the D700’s results can be virtually indistinguishable from the D3's, the new model comes with a default tone curve that is, especially in the highlights, slightly steeper which can result in clipped highlights. You can keep this under control by adjusting the default settings but if you want to get the maximum out of the camera your best bet is, as usual, shooting RAW. The D700 offers an enormous, almost five stop RAW headroom that allows you to even pull back highlight detail that has been blown out beyond recognition.

While the D700’s output at low sensitivities certainly does not leave a lot to complain about it’s also fair to say that you can get similar results out of an APS-C SLR with a comparable resolution such as the Nikon D300. It’s at higher sensitivities (800 and above) where the D700 is at its most impressive and beats the competition in its class by a mile (or two). This is a combination of the superb light-gathering capabilities of the huge photosites on the D700’s full frame sensor and Nikon’s very sensible approach to noise reduction which is quite heavy-handed on chroma noise (color blotches) and much more lenient on luminance noise (grain).

Of course, at anything over ISO 3200 you’ll still have to accept a clearly visible deterioration in image quality but like the D3 the D700 delivers usable results up to ISO 12800 which means you can keep on shooting when light levels have dropped to a point where most other cameras would simply throw the towel.

One feature that I should probably mention in this section is the D700's Chromatic Aberration reduction function. It removes chromatic aberration in your images pretty efficiently and is the same system that is being used in the D300 and D3. If you'd like to see some samples have a look at our Nikon D3 review.