Body & Design

The D700, unsurprisingly, bears a strong family resemblance to both the D3 and the D300 (as shown below, save for the larger prism and some minor details it's very similar to the D300 indeed). It has the same ultra solid feel as its bigger (and smaller) brother, and the same magnesium alloy body and soft rubber grips front and back. Just like the rest of the family the D700 features oversized buttons on the rear of the camera which are easier to use when wearing gloves. We loved the build and performance of the D3, but often felt it was simply too large and heavy to carry around; the D700 puts all (well, most) of that power into a more portable but equally solid format.

There are numerous rubber gasket seals around body seams, controls and compartment doors. Nikon don't claim the camera to be waterproof but it's certainly more 'weather proof' than the average digital SLR. Remember that the camera is only as weather proof as its weakest link, this includes the lens mount and only a few of the more recent Nikkor lenses have rubber seals around the mount ring.

Side by side

Whether you see the D700 as a 'D3 mini' or a full frame D300, it's obvious that physically it has a lot more in common with the latter than with the considerably larger and heavier D3. There are, however plenty differences between the D300 and the new camera (not least the fact that the D700 is 170g (0.4 lbs) heavier). The prism and viewfinder are larger, and - though the controls are very similar to the D300 - you get the D3's multi-controller and a new INFO button (just below the AF area mode selector), which is used to bring up a more detailed information display on the main LCD.

Interestingly the D700 does away with the latch / lever for the Compact Flash compartment (a feature common to all pro-level Nikon SLRs) to make room for the new button.

D3, D300 and D700 bodies Compared

Side by side: D3 vs D700 with MB-D10

The D700 is compatible with the D300's MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pac, which can accept one EN-EL4a/4/3e or eight AA-size batteries. With the MB-D10 attached the D700 feels very much like a D3 (it's actually a fractionally taller combination) and offers high-speed continuous shooting of full size 12.1MP images at a rate of up to 8 fps (when using EN-EL4a/4 or eight AA-size batteries).

This isn't quite D3 speed, but is getting close (note that there's no 'speed up' when shooting in crop mode - 8 fps is the absolute maximum). Unless you have a real need for this ultra high speed shooting it could be argued that the D700 / MB-D10 combination is actually more versatile than a D3, giving you the option to carry a smaller lighter body when speed isn't so crucial.

In your hand

Aside from being a bit heavier and having a much bigger full frame viewfinder, the D700 handles exactly the same as the D300. This is no bad thing; as we said at the time we reviewed the D300, you really have to pick it up to appreciate how nicely it fits into your hand. The ergonomics are great and the soft rubber used on the grip ensures holding the camera steady is an easy task. The control layout is also very sensible and easy to learn; even if you've never used a Nikon DSLR before, the clear labeling and logical positioning mean you'll be shooting and discovering the D700's features very quickly, and if you are coming from the D3 or D300 you'll be right at home.

LCD Monitor

The D700 shares the D3 and D300's new large, high resolution LCD monitor. It has four times the number of dots than the 230,000 unit used on the D2X and other such cameras. For clarity, the words pixels and dots are interchanged almost randomly in specification sheets but strictly speaking we should talk of dots (these being red, green or blue sub-pixels) when referring to the figures quoted by manufacturers. The D700's LCD has 921,600 dots, 1920 columns by 480 rows, the dots are a third thinner than they are high and so each group of three dots (sub-pixels) make up one full color pixel.

This high resolution screen really has to be seen to be appreciated, it's beautifully detailed and extremely smooth in appearance because the tiny gaps between dots are too small to be seen with the eye. This extra detail is obvious in live view and playback modes where you really can see much 'more' of the image in one glance. Another difference comes when you magnify in playback as you find you don't need to magnify the image as much before you can clearly see sharpness, focus accuracy and even noise.

One other difference between the D3/D300/D700's screen and that used previously is the layout of the dots (sub-pixels), this new screen has the same layout as your computer LCD, a simple RGB layout with all rows the same ('stripe array'). The other layout used on small LCD screens is the 'delta array' which uses an RGB pattern on one row then a BRG pattern on the row below, offset by half a pixel.

Stripe array layout LCD Delta array layout LCD

Below you can see a real-life, same-size example of the difference in resolution between this new 921,600 dot screen (on the D300, but it's the same as the D3 and D700) and a more typical 230,400 dot screen (in this case on the Canon EOS 40D). Both cameras were set in play mode with the same image (note that the D300 doesn't use the whole screen in play unless you magnify), a shot was taken of each camera from the same distance (hence the screens were captured at the same magnification).

Crop from the D700/D3/D300's LCD
(1920 x 480 dots; 640 x 480 pixels)
Crop from the EOS 40D's LCD
(960 x 240 dots; 320 x 240 pixels)

Top Control Panel

Unlike the D3, the D700 has only one status / control panel display, which resides on the top plate (there's no room on the back for another). The panel has a green back light which can be illuminated by flicking the power switch to the lamp position, it's spring loaded and returns to 'ON', the back light stays on for the 'auto meter-off' time. You can also choose to have the backlight come on with any button press.

Top Control Panel

1 Flexible program indicator 15 Frames remaining / buffer / capture mode / WB rec / manual lens number
2 Shutter speed lock 16 White balance
3 Shutter speed / multi function *1 17 Intervalometer
4 Exposure compensation 18 Battery
5 Flash compensation 19 'Clock not set' indicator
6 Exposure, flash and WB-bracketing 20 MB-D10 battery
7 Color temperature 21 White balance fine tuning
8 Aperture stop 22 Flash mode
9 Aperture lock 23 Image quality
10 Aperture / brack. increment / shots per interval / Max aperture (non-CPU lenses) 24 Image size
11 Beep indicator 25 ISO / Auto ISO sensitivity
12 Multi exposure 26 Flash sync indicator
13 GPS connection 27 Exposure mode
14 Exp display / exp comp / brack. progress / tilt indicator