Digital Lifestyles Photography

Nikon D700 v. Nikon D3

In my work as a Motion Picture Still Photographer, I felt I needed the extra resolution of the full size camera sensor (23.9×36) for my posters and gallery shoots. Nikon named the full size camera sensor the FX sensor as opposed to the smaller DX sensor featured in the D60, D80, D90 and D300, and every Nikon except the D700, D3 and the now flagship D3x.

While I was reluctant to lose the 1.5 x length of all my lenses, I did regain the full wide angle of my lenses with the change to the FX sensor. DX lenses that are designed for use with all the DX line of cameras will work on both the D3 and D700, but they will crop part of the image. However, the viewfinder of the D3 and D700 shows you exactly how it will be cropped.
I purchased the D3 first, within the first couple of months after its introduction. I got the D700 when it was later released as a backup camera and put in my sound blimp.
After working with both cameras for the last year I will attempt to explain the differences
between the D3 and the D700.
Since both cameras use the same sensor, they both offer really outstanding picture quality. The resolution will astound you and the low noise levels at high ISOs are truly outstanding. While Nikon was slow in introducing the full size sensor, they hit the nail on the head when they did.
The first big difference is the price : D3 – $4995 and the D700 – $2995. However, both cameras have since come down a couple hundred dollars at most retailers.
The major differences in the workings of the camera are:

  • The D3 is a blazing 9 frames per second, which is really good at sporting events and for all kinds of action. The D700 is 5 frames per second with 8 frames a second possible with the optional MBD10 battery pack.
  • The D3 is heavier and much more durable. It’s built like a tank as they say.
  • The D3 is better sealed for dust and moisture although the D700 is fine for most instances.
  • The D3 shutter is tested for 300,000 cycles while the D700 is tested for 150,000 cycles.
  • The D3 has an electronic Virtual Horizon telling you how level the camera is compared to the actual horizon.
  • The D700 is noticeably quieter than the D3 (a definite advantage in the film industry), which I’m sure, is because of the shutter and high-powered motor of the D3.
  • The D3 offers a selectable 12 bit or 14 bit AD conversion enabling photographers to choose between a smaller file as faster operating speeds or a larger file with smoother tonal gradations at slower operating speeds. Both offer outstanding image quality.

All in all the D700 is on par with the D3 in all other categories, so if you don’t need some of the features of the D3, the D700 is a great camera and a real bargain.
Of course, now there is the newly introduced D3x to consider.
Anyone have $8,000 I can borrow?
Here are some working images from the D700 in the every day work environment:
This was a beautiful old 1959 Chevy Apache Pickup at dusk that was part of set dressing on a recent film.

This is Matt our ‘A’ Camera Operator shooting in an ATV in the middle of a cornfield in Florida.

This a Shoe Tree literally at just before dusk.

Here-a night shot- working in minimal light shot which is where the D700 excels.

This is camera operator Jimmy Lindsay shooting a Panavision HD Video Camera from high above in a Condor lift.

There you have it. I hope these few working shots will give you a little sample of the day to day difficult lighting situations which are faced by the still photographer on a movie set, and how the Nikon D700 handles the images.