As long as you don't need pro-sport-speed continuous-shooting performance, the D700 is quite fast -- just slightly slower than the D3 on occasion. From power on to first shot takes less than 0.2 seconds. To autofocus and shoot in good light takes 0.3 seconds, and in dim light only 0.6. Shared with the D3, that's class-leading performance. Two sequential shots take about 0.5 seconds, even with flash, like the D300. The one aspect that the D700 cedes to the competition is its 4.9fps burst rate, though it's more than adequate for most situations. If necessary, you can splash out on the battery grip -- it uses many of the same accessories as the D300 -- to bump that to a rated 8fps, which essentially turns the camera into an almost-D3.
Furthermore, with the same AF system as the D300, the D700 delivers fast, accurate focus, even in low light. Disappointingly, though, the viewfinder delivers only 95 per cent coverage -- this is odd, given that both the D3 and D300 both provide 100 per cent visibility. The D700 also lacks interchangeable focusing screens, which many of its competitors offer.
Unsurprisingly, the D700 delivers great photo quality. With a really good lens the photos are very sharp, and the camera renders excellent exposures and a broad dynamic range. Both visually and by the numbers it exhibits first-rate colour accuracy, though it seems to have somewhat glitchy automatic white balance under tungsten lights. It has a robust noise profile as well -- photos show no degradation until about ISO 6,400, and are still quite usable up to ISO 12,800, depending upon subject matter. As for ISO 25,600, they're not as bad as the Canon EOS 50D's at that level, but it's very much an emergency-only option.
The only possibly significant drawback to the Nikon D700 is its resolution. If you ascribe to the no-scaling school of printing, then the largest 300dpi print you can get out of its 12-megapixel files is a 360x240mm, and moving up to 280x400 requires 15.8 megapixels (though on an Epson at 240dpi you can cover 280x400 at 12 megapixels). Also, at that resolution, its prime competitor is the veteran and now less expensive (so old we don't have comparative performance data for it), which is still widely available despite being dropped from Canon's official product line.
(Smaller bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim light)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Compared with the 5D, the D700 has greater latitude, a better AF system, and a more modern feature set. On the other hand, Canon arguably has a more comprehensive full-frame lens lineup with more options at midrange prices. And, of course, if you want the movie capture, your full-frame options are limited to the 5D Mark II at the moment. Otherwise, the D700 is a great full-frame camera for professionals and prosumers.
Additional editing by Cristina Psomadakis