Nikon's more affordable full frame DSLR
The rumours have long been circulating that Nikon was to add another full frame, or 'FX' family DSLR, to the D3 launched nearly a year ago in August 2007. The smart money was on a higher resolution D3X, but maybe that will come later as recently the rumour mill has switched direction, down market, to the idea of a more affordable and more compact FX model. Think of a Nikon D300 with a full frame sensor and you have a good, if not exact, idea of what the Nikon D700 (£1999 body only), announced this morning, amounts to. Also announced today is a new addition to the Nikon Creative Lighting flash system, the SB-900, and a couple of new Nikkor tilt and shift lenses for correcting perspective distortions optically.
Last year, when Nikon revealed the full-frame D3, some where surprised that its sensor resolution was 'only' 12.1 megapixels, especially compared to Canon's much cheaper EOS-5D full frame DSLR which sported 12.8 megapixels. In all other respects, the D3 is a much more up to date camera than Canon's 5D, being faster, tougher and more pro-orientated. And while the smaller sensor DX-format D300 was received very enthusiastically by reviewers, Nikon already knew that it had a gap to fill between the D300 and the D3. Said gap has now been filled by the D700.
The D700 is inevitably going to draw comparisons with the Canon EOS-5D. The former is more expensive, by £500, than the latter, but if you want a full frame DSLR and you can afford a 5D and aren't wedded to the EOS system, the D700 looks very attractive, even with its price premium. The D700 has a much more sophisticated 51-point AF system, faster shooting rates, live view, and a dust reduction system. Of course, everyone is expecting the 5D, which is now almost 3 years old, to be replaced by Canon any time soon. Well, Canon, the 5D replacement had better be good - and soon.
Comparisons with the D300 will also be made. Externally, the two cameras look very similar. For around double the price of the D300, under the skin, Nikon says the D700 has more extensive weather sealing, a slightly tougher alloy body and, of course, that 12.1 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor. The big sensor doesn't force the D700 to be a slouch, either. 5fps continuous shooting is standard, and this can be boosted to 8fps if the optional MB-D10 battery grip is used with either the large EN-EL4 lithium ion pack or eight AAs. A pair of EN-EL3s don't pack enough amps to improve shooting speed.
And what about the D3? Could the D700 affect its future? Maybe; the price difference is down to well under £1,000 if you shop around and the D700 has some features that the D3 lacks, like better portability and a sensor dust reduction system. In favour of the D3 are its ultimate design ruggedness, with double life shutter and extra strong, extra sealed, body, with integrated portrait grip. But if rumours of a D3X are true, the D3 might bow out, who knows?
The D700 is, according to Nikon, primarily aimed at advanced enthusiasts, but I suspect the D700 will be a popular buy among Nikon pros, just like the Canon EOS-5D has been. Nikon has successfully reversed its decline in the Pro market, thanks to the D2X and then the D3, and even, to an extent, the D200 and D300. The D700 will be a further boost to Nikon's Pro revival.
Besides the D700, Nikon also announced an impressive-looking SB-900 flash. Equipped with an enhanced zoom mechanism, the SB-900 can now serve longer telephoto lenses at longer distances. It's also designed to work with colour gel filters, each of which is identified uniquely to the flash via a special coding system. One of the uses of such filters demonstrated was to match the colour temperature of the flash output to ambient light. The SB-900 is also Nikon's first flash to be firmware upgradeable. This is done via the camera body.
Finally, a pair of new Nikkor tilt and shift lenses were also unveiled. We have a page of details concerning these new lenses for your perusal.
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