Nikon D700 camera user experience report
Part two: Ergonomics and handling

Ergonomics and handling of the Nikon D700 are first rate. I no longer posses the F100 but my tactile memory tells me that the D700 is very close to my favourite Nikon film body. The D700 is rather on the large side but I find that its shape and size are perfectly balanced—a smaller size probably would not inspire confidence as the camera does and bigger dimensions would make handling of the camera awkward (I had a chance to handle a Nikon D3 and felt that its size was way beyond my comfort zone).

I do not see this mentioned very often but one should consider handling of a camera in combination with the lenses that he intends to use it with. Obviously, a large lens on a biggish camera is going to make a hefty combination and vise versa; however, it is the middle ground where things are not so clear cut. In the past my standard digital set up was a Nikon D70s with the 18–70DX zoom mounted on it. This is normally considered a fairly manageable kit and one would expect to lose some of the compactness and suitability for general walk–around purposes when moving to a noticeably larger camera such as the D700. Recently, however, I have mainly been using fixed–focal–length (also known as "prime") lenses and I was quite surprised how well the D700 handles with one of the smaller–sized lenses mounted on it. For one thing, the combination of the D700 and, say, a AF 35mm f/2D or a AF 85mm f/1.8D feels noticeably more comfortable and reassuring around your neck and upon your shoulder than that of a Nikon D70s with a prosumer zoom attached to it.

If you have used a Nikon DSLR camera in the past you will feel at home with the D700 right from the start. Indeed, I started shooting with the camera as soon as it was in my hands—the familiarity was almost uncanny. There, however, are several things that are new, peculiar or have been changed; among them, I would like to mention the following:

  • Unlike the D3 and the D300, the D700 boasts an INFO button at the back of the camera that allows showing shooting information on the back LCD display as well as changing ten key shooting parameters through it. This allows quicker access to some of the crucial settings that are changed frequently and is very handy when shooting from a tripod.

  • You will read elsewhere that handling and appearance of the D700 is very similar to that of the D300. One aspect that differentiates the look of the D700, though, is the use of the classic round viewfinder eyepiece. Technically speaking, it adds an inbuilt viewfinder shutter that is used to block stray light and avoid its potential influence on metering accuracy; aesthetically, it is an important element of the design that connects with the Nikon tradition and adds to the pride of ownership.

  • Unlike the D3 and the D300, the covers of the flash sync terminal and the ten–pin remote terminal are round and completely separated. Aesthetically, this might be considered a step backwards by some; from the standpoint of handling, however, this certainly is an improvement.

  • The multi selector at the back of the camera boasts a center button—this minor addition has solved a major handling nuance.

  • The D700 uses a simple slide–to–open memory card cover that does not have a cover latch. This design feels less robust and, while I doubt that it is likely to present any problems, its quality does not seem to be on par with the rest of camera.

  • Connector cover on the side of the camera is a one (fairly large) piece design that, very strangely, does not seem to remain in place as firmly as I would expect it too. Moving the camera in and out of my fairly tightly packed camera bag I find it accidentally opened often enough to make me raise my brows.

  • The top panel LCD display still does not show current ISO setting. For me, ISO is as important a parameter as shutter speed and aperture and I want to know its current value without having to look into the viewfinder or press the INFO button.

  • The viewfinder of the D700 offers 95% coverage. It might seem at first that the 5% difference is insignificant but when you look at what actually is captured you will be quite surprised to find that the seemingly meager 5% translates into a sizable portion of image area. This apparently has to do with the fact that the camera boasts a sensor cleaning mechanism and a built–in flash and they all had to be crammed into very limited space. Whereas I greatly appreciate the sensor cleaning mechanism, I personally would readily trade the built–in flash for a higher percentage viewfinder coverage and/or better eye relief. For those who use relatively contemplative shooting approaches and need to have 100% coverage, Live View is the workaround.

  • The D700 (and the D300 for that matter) has two dedicated buttons for flash control—one for flash pop–up and one for flash mode/compensation. Generally speaking, dedicated buttons provide direct access to important functions and work much better than modal ones. In case of flash control of the D700, however, I am not sure that this is the case—in my opinion, addition of the extra button solved a problem that did not exist in the first place and only added to the complexity of the camera's operation.

Part one: Introduction and background

Part two: Ergonomics and handling

Part three: Image quality

Part four: Resolution (12MP vs. medium format film)

Part five: Miscellaneous notes and conclusion