Should I buy the Nikon D700 or the D7000?

May 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm  •  Posted in Q&A by

I’m ready to replace my Nikon D200 and I’m trying to decide whether to buy the D700 or the D7000. It has a full-frame sensor and that’s supposed to be a real advantage. Do you agree? And if so, why aren’t Nikon and other companies making more digital SLRs with a full-frame sensor?
—Rick W.

Well Rick, there are several reasons why DSLRs with the huge 24 x 36 mm sensor—vs. the more typical 15.8 x 23.6 mm sensor—are not more common. First they are much more expensive to manufacture because of the cost of the large sensor and the much larger shutter, reflex mirror, pentaprism, etc. Most shooters prefer to pay less and get a smaller camera. As well, a full-frame DSLR must be used with the larger/heavier/more expensive multi-platform (or FX) lenses. And by now, most photo enthusiasts already own several of the smaller (or DX) lenses.

While these photos may not be exactly to the same scale, the D700 employs a very large DX-format sensor (with oversized pixels) while the D7000 uses a more typical, and smaller, DX-format chip. In order to accommodate the FX sensor module the camera also requires other components of a larger size, increasing the cost as well as the dimensions/weight. Photos Courtesy of Nikon Canada

If those are not drawbacks for you, then the full-frame Nikon D700 ($2500) would be ideal if you often shoot at ISO 1600 and above. While the D700 provides lower resolution (12 vs. 16 megapixels) than the D7000 image quality is superior at high ISO due to the greater light gathering ability of its oversized pixels. This rugged, weather-resistant magnesium alloy camera is packed with capabilities including built-in flash and Live View but no Movie mode. It features a large viewfinder with 95% scene coverage and a fast 5 fps burst mode; for blazing 8 fps speed, simply add the optional battery grip.

A camera like the D700, with oversized pixels, can capture more light particles in less time. That provides "cleaner" images particularly at high ISO, with less graininess or colourful speckles that would require more aggressive noise reduction that can obscure intricate detail. As a bonus, larger pixels also provide a wider dynamic range: more detail in both the bright and the dark areas of a photo. (ISO 25,600) © 2010 Peter K. Burian

On the other hand the newer, smaller and less expensive ($1200) Nikon D7000—with the more typical DX sensor size—is a fabulous camera too, with even more features, including a full HD Movie mode, 100% viewfinder coverage, higher resolution LCD and 6 fps burst mode. (A faster framing rate is not provided by the optional battery grip.) It’s fully compatible with both the FX and DX series lenses. Since this is a more recent camera it includes some new technology that provides additional benefits. While I do own a full-frame DSLR, I can certainly understand why most photo enthusiasts are fully satisfied with the best cameras that employ the smaller sensors.

One Comment

  1. Dave Bates / May 5, 2011 at 5:45 pm /

    I recently upgraded from the Nikon D200 to the D700. I did so primarily for the build quality and sensor superiority, as well as all the facts Peter states in the article. I do not have DX format lenses as I was planning for a long time to eventually go full frame, so I built a non cropped sensor lens line up over time. If you have a significant number of DX format lenses, it doesn’t make sense for you to convert to FX format, due to the fact that you are shooting in cropped mode on your full frame sensor, but if you do not have DX lenses, the D700 is a far superior camera to the D7000 (excluding the video option of course).

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