Program mode exposure

Program mode is automatic exposure, that is the camera chooses the correct aperture and shutter speed. On the D700 you have the extra option of rolling the shift dial to scroll through the other alternative exposures, for example:

Default chosen exposure for a particular situation is 1/8s @ F3.7, the camera offers the following alternatives:

1/8s @ F3.7
1/9.5s @ F3.4
1/11s @ F3.1
1/13s @ F2.8
1/15s @ F2.6
1/18s @ F2.4
1/22s @ F2.2

This is extremely useful for controlling exposure without having to go into shutter or aperture priority.

Shutter Priority

Shutter priority is where you designate the shutter speed and the camera calculates the best aperture, if the exposure is outside of the cameras range (either over or under exposing) the shutter speed will flash on the LCD screen. For more read my digital photography glossary.

It's worth pointing out that the D700 offers a huge range of shutter speeds all the way from 8 seconds (full manual mode only) to 1/2000s.

Aperture Priority

Aperture priority is where you designate the aperture and the camera calculates the best shutter speed, if the exposure is outside of the cameras range (either over or under exposing) the aperture will flash on the LCD screen. However used properly Aperture Priority can be invaluable as it has a direct effect on depth of field (the distance in front and behind the focal point which will be in focus when taking the shot). Example of aperture priority (simple example F8 produces more depth of field than F2.2) - for more read my digital photography glossary:

F2.2, 1/215s @ ISO200
(narrow depth of field)
F8.0, 1/15s @ ISO200
(greater depth of field)

Full Manual

Full Manual mode is where you have control over both the Shutter Speed and Aperture, this can be especially useful where you wish to override the camera, set exposure for a special effect or "lock" the exposure at a particular setting for (say) an animation or panorama. The example below (pretty poor example of full manual control, admittedly) was taken with manual focus (AF wouldn't lock in such low light) and a manual exposure of 1/3s, F2.6 @ ISO100 (Using the manual exposure I actually bracketed about 5 shots at slightly different exposure settings and selcted this one later).

Full manual night shot

Note: you need to use full manual mode for shutter speeds slower than 1/8s.

Manual White Balance (WB Hold)

Indoor Whitebalance

"Hold" White Balance (preset from the white wall behind the subject)

Manual white balanace (called WB Hold on the D700) is a feature normally only found on high-end professional digital cameras, it allows for those circumstances where either the camera is tricked into picking the wrong white balance or one of the preset white balance modes still doesn't produce a pure white. On the D700 the WB Hold feature is not only easy to use but produces excellent and accurate "white point".

You simply select WB HOLD from the white balance menu and then just aim the camera at either a white object (wall / snow etc.) or a gray card and hold the WB button found on the front of the camera (under your finger) a few seconds later the white balance (should) adjust and you can shoot away. To reset the whitebalance just press the WB button again... bliss!

In the example above the image on the left was taken with Indoor white balance (not quite enough for the incandescent light behind the subject) and the image on the right was taken after manually setting the white balance against the white wall.

Manual Focus

At last! The D700 was the first prosumer digicam to offer manual focus, not only that but in a true sense, with a focus ring on the lens giving users complete control over the full range of focus (unlike other so-called manual focuses which only allow a preset few distances... bah!). However, the D700s manual focus did come under a little critisism from users for a couple of reasons: If you have the dioptric setting on the eyepiece slightly out (easily done) your eyes can focus through the lens and an object which lookes perfectly focused may later turn out not to be so (again this is more a criticism of the focus surface in the viewfinder). The second point is that the manual focus on the D700 is "fly by wire" that is the ring is not mechanically attached to the focus system within the lens but rather that movement of the focus ring is translated into a change of focus...

That said, I didn't have a problem using manual focus on the D700 and found it especially useful in circumstances where either (a) the camera had problems focusing (low light / poor contrast) or (b) where I was taking several shots in quick succession at the same focal distance (just set the focus and snap away circumstances).

The other useful feature of the manual focus dial is using it as a focus lock after the auto focus has locked.. wait for the green light then flip the dial to MF and you've got a focus lock for sequential shooting.

Internal Flash

The 700s internal flash is both controlled and powerful, and performed as expected, no burn out or pasty skin tones.

Taken from a distance of about 10 feet, manual focus in a pitch black room, you can see slight drop-off at the outer edges but overall good performance. Again, pitch black room, manual focus, very good flash measurement no burn out.

Skin tone test, taken from about 1.5ft away, fairly good although it's a little blue.

Again, another "close flash" test, no burn out.

The D700 really shines with external flashes (I won't pretend to be a studio flash expert!), the shot below was taken with an OLD Olympus flash which I just popped onto the hotshoe, did the WB Flash adjustment and went shooting...