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Compared to...

When I started working on this review a few weeks ago the Nikon D700 only had one competitor in the 'compact' full-frame DSLR market segment, the almost three years old Canon EOS 5D. Now, about a month and one Photokina later, this situation has fundamentally changed. Sony has launched the DSLR-A900 and Canon has announced the 5D Mark II, finally giving consumers a choice in this growing bracket of the market.

If you've got a stack of legacy lenses in your cupboard you're probably unlikely to change systems but for photographers who are thinking about purchasing their first DSLR or are simply not attached to any specific brand there is now much more to choose from. From a price point of view the choice could be difficult as all three models are located around the $3000 mark. Having said that the cameras have clearly been designed with slightly different photographic applications in mind.

The Nikon D700 has been optimized for speed and High ISO performance but in turn only offers the relatively moderate resolution of 12 megapixels. The Sony A900 has clearly been built with resolution in mind, offering a whopping 24 megapixels. By doing so it also takes the number one spot in the current DSLR sensor resolution ranking. It does not feature a live-view system though. We haven't had a chance yet to examine a production model of the 5D Mark II but the specs and feature list certainly look mouth-watering. The new Canon offers 21 megapixels, 3.9 frames per second and on top an HD video recording function.

Which ones out of these features and specs are most important or suitable for your style of photography you only can decide for yourself but the samples on the following pages will hopefully be helpful in the process.

In addition the the cameras in the table below we have also included a Nikon D300 which uses an APS-C sized sensor to investigate how it fares against its full-frame sibling.

Note that whilst we've included the EOS 5D Mark II in the spec comparison below, since we don't have a production quality body it isn't included in the image quality comparisons that follow. We've used the EOS 5D for now and will update the review once we've got an EOS 5D Mark II that is 'reviewable'.

Positives versus the competition

  • Highest frame rate 'compact' full frame camera (up to 8 fps with battery grip)
  • Large buffer (17 RAW frames)
  • 51 point AF with wide range of selection / grouping options and intelligent tracking
  • Live-view (versus Sony A900)
  • Chromatic aberration reduction
  • Intervalometer
  • Very flexible control system, various configurable buttons, dial operation

Negatives versus the competition

  • Lowest nominal resolution
  • No sensor shift shake reduction (versus Sony A900)
  • No video mode (versus Canon EOS 5D Mark II)
 


Nikon D700


Canon 5D


Canon 5D Mark II


Sony A900

Price (body only) $2999[check] $2,199 [check] $ 2,699 [check] $2999.99[check]
Dust removal • Self-cleaning filter
• Dust-off image
No

• Auto / Manual
• Dust Delete Data appending
• Self-cleaning sensor unit

• Static-resistant anti-dust coating
• CCD-shift dust reduction mechanism

Environmental
sealing
• Splash proof
• Dust proof
• Sealed lenses available
• Dust and Water-Proof lenses available • Dust and Water-Proof lenses available • Dust-Proof
• Moisture Proof
Sensor type CMOS CMOS CMOS CMOS
Sensor size 36 x 23.9 mm 35.8 x 23.9 mm 36 x 24 mm 35.9 x 24.0 mm
Sensor area 860 mm² 856 mm² 864 mm² 861 mm²
Pixel density 1.4 MP/cm² 1.5 MP/cm² 2.4 MP/cm² 2.9 MP/cm²
Image Stabilization Lenses only Lenses only Lenses only Sensor-Shift
Effective pixels 12.1 million 12.8 million 21.1 million 24.6 million
Image size 4256 x 2832 4368 x 2912 5616 x 3744 6048 x 4032
Live View • Yes
• Up to 1:1 pixel view
• Contrast detect AF
• Mirror flip AF
No Live View • Live TTL display
• 100% frame coverage
• Three AF modes
No Live View
Auto focus • 51 point
• 15 cross-type
• -1 to 19 EV

• 9-point TTL
• -0.5 to 18 EV
• 6 "Invisible Assist AF points"

• 9-point TTL
• -0.5 to 18 EV
• 6 "Invisible Assist AF points"

• 9-points
• Center dual cross types
• 0 to 18 EV
• 10 Assist AF points

Exp. comp. +/- 5.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 3.0 EV
Sensitivity range (boost setting) (100), 200 - 6400, (25,600 expandable) 100 - 1600 (50, 3200 expandable) 100 - 6400 (50, 12800, 25600 expandable) (100), 200 - 3200 (6400 expandable)
Shutter speed 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec
Continuous rate
(high)
5.0 fps (8.0 fps with battery grip) 3.0 fps 3.9 fps 5.0 fps
Continuous buffer • 100 JPEG Norm
• 17 RAW
• 60 JPEG
• 17 RAW
• 78 JPEG
• 13 RAW

• 105 JPEG
• 11 RAW

Built-in flash • Manual pop-up
• Guide no. 12 (ISO 100)
None None None
External flash • Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
Flash sync speed 1/250 sec (1/320 sec reduced Guide no.) 1/200 sec 1/200 sec • 1/250 sec
• 1/200 sec (with SteadyShot INSIDE on)
Storage CF I (inc. UDMA) CF I CF I & II (inc. UDMA) • CF I & II (inc. UDMA)
• Memory Stick DUO
Viewfinder • 95% coverage
• 0.72x magnification
• 96% coverage
• 0.71x magnification
• 98% coverage
• 0.71x magnification
• 100% coverage
• 0.74x magnification
LCD monitor • 3.0" TFT LCD
• 922,000 dots
• 2.5" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 921,000 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 921,600 dots
Vertical grip Yes, MB-D10 Yes, BG-E4 Yes, BG-E6 Yes, VG-C90AM
Movie Mode No No • 1920 x 1080, 30fps (HD)
• 640 x 480,30fps
No
Video output • AV Out
• HDMI
AV Out • AV Out
• HDMI
• AV Out
• HDMI
• 'PhotoTV'
Dimensions 147 x 123 x 77 mm

152 x 113 x 75 mm

152 x 114 x 75 mm

156 x 117 x 82 mm
Weight (no batt) 995 g 810 g 810 g 850 g
Weight (inc batt) 1075 g 895 g 905 g 895 g
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931
I own it
97
I want it
369
I had it
Discuss in the forums

Comments

Total comments: 9
CDNPHOTO12
By CDNPHOTO12 (4 weeks ago)

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

0 upvotes
driftnomore
By driftnomore (10 months ago)

@ 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
By zakk9 (1 week ago)

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
By driftnomore (10 months ago)

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
By MusaOmar (9 months ago)

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

2 upvotes
Jamesbond6668
By Jamesbond6668 (11 months ago)

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
By Chrysippus (10 months ago)

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
By zakk9 (10 months ago)

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
Son Of Waldo
By Son Of Waldo (Sep 24, 2013)

Excellent review!

0 upvotes
Total comments: 9