Unfortunately it’s not all rosy. In low light, and in my dimly lit studio the autofocus struggles to lock onto the subject. In half decent light it’s fast and efficient, but, certainly with the 24-120mm f/3.5 VR lens I had for the review it was frustratingly slow at times. On a more positive note the large LCD is a real boon for checking images and is accurate for exposure, if not spot on for colour, but good enough.
When images are good, they are very good, but this is still not a perfect camera; I generally found the colours to be slightly warm, though manual white balance fixed this. The daylight and flash presets didn’t work too well with my studio lamps, but the Auto white balance did a better job. A more worrying finding that can be seen clearly in the following images is the appearance of vignetting. Again this may be due to the lens, but it’s a full frame lens so should work. On a positive note, the camera doesn’t suffer from fringing problems with that particular optic.
When analysing the pictures I also noticed a small dust spot on the images. As the dust reduction is supposed to kick in when the camera is switched on, and it was switched on and off several times, I would have hoped that it would have cleared – it didn’t. I do some retouching work for a client with a Nikon D300 and part of that involves extensive manual dust cleaning, which worries me about the efficacy of the Nikon system.
Back to the positive though and the D700 is in the main a great performer. Detail is crisp and clean, sharpness (again within the parameters of the optic used) is very good, and the tonal range within the images is beautiful. Noise is also exemplary, with no worrying noise at all until you go over ISO 6400. There is some noise at ISO 12800 and ISO 25600, but I think we can allow Nikon some slack here.
I’m sure there are some D3 and D300 owners who are cursing Nikon right now for bringing out a camera that combines the best of those two cameras for a relatively reasonable price. The three cameras should pretty much cover most people’s needs, though Nikon still requires a higher resolution model for some pro needs. The D700 covers a lot of bases, though, and for the most part does it very well. I have some reservations about the vignetting, and would be interested to hear how other users’ lenses perform, while the sometimes slow AF is also mildly frustrating. The dust reduction is a feature I have reservations about too. However, for the most part, the Nikon D700 is a joy to use and is capable of incredible results, so I’m sure it will make some lucky people very happy indeed.