When it comes to still photography, digital has all but won the argument. It’s more convenient, almost instantaneous and, if you exclude the cost of needing to update your equipment every two and a half minutes, far cheaper than silver. In fact, it really only has one problem, it simply doesn’t look like film. Or at least it didn’t until a year or so ago, when Nikon released their much lauded D3, which, to my eyes (with or without the sunglasses) was the first small format digital camera to produce results that genuinely looked as if they could have been shot on film.
The thing was, it cost over three grand, was physically a little on the large side and lacked sensor cleaning (a major oversight in pretty much everyone’s view). Nevertheless, Nikon’s first ‘full frame’ sensor camera, with its top ISO equivalent of 6400, that exhibited less noise than the equivalent grain in a push processed ISO 3200 film, and which was extendable to a jaw dropping 12,800; its top shooting speed of 9 Frames Per Second (FPS) and its numerous other innovations, considerably raised the bar. As a result it was a massive international hit amongst pro photographers and pundits alike.
Now Nikon look set to repeat this success with their latest progeny, the D700. Hitting the shelves as you read this, with a price tag of just under 2000 GBP, it is billed as their first ‘affordable’ full frame sensor camera. The bastard love child of the D3 and the D300, it takes the former’s sensor and image processing engine and sticks them into a body only slightly larger than the significantly smaller, lighter, latter, crucially throwing in automatic sensor cleaning (using vibrations at four different frequencies) for good measure.
Unlike its big brother, the D700’s top shooting speed, out of the box, is 5FPS, which is more than adequate for everyone except sports photographers, action photographers and photo geeks. Though for those with the need for speed, an optional battery pack boosts the camera to 8FPS.
On the down side, the D3 has viewfinder coverage of 95 per cent (versus 100 per cent in the D3); no 5:4 crop mode (which I doubt many people will even notice the absence of); no voice notes recorder; only one CF card slot (instead the D3’s 2 card slots) though it is a slot that’s compliant with next-generation UDMA CF cards which offer transfer speeds of 35-Mbyte/sec; and a shutter duty cycle of 150,000 (which is half that of the D3’s 300,000 cycles. For Pro photographers shooting semi continuously, most days of the week, this last point might be an issue, but bearing in mind the speed with which digital is advancing, most, if not all, of the camera’s target market, will have replaced their body with something else, long before their shutter.
On the upside, in addition to sensor cleaning, the D700 has a built-in flash that can function as a remote wireless flash controller and offers virtual horizon lines.
Of course two grand is still a large wedge of cash, especially given the current credit crunch, but for most people it will effectively offer the same, if not more, functionality as the D3, for a third less money. So it looks like Nikon have done it yet again. I can’t wait to get my hands on one!
More info: www.nikon.com
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