OK, so it came as no big surprise that I loved the new Nikon D700. How could I be disappointed with a $3,000 professional camera (equipped with a $500 lens), based on the D3 and D300—two models that already wowed me in previous tests?
But there's so much hype and excitement around the release of this "flagship" camera that it's easy to have unrealistic expectations. Would this camera be good enough to make even my crummy photography look great? Well, no. I took plenty of lousy shots, but only when I was goofing around in full manual mode, trying things that I wasn't really sure how to do. In any of the automated or semi-automated modes, photos were fantastic. And when I did shut off the autopilot, the camera gave me more control options than I could ever dream of using.
The D700 is the true "I wish" camera. When the D3 and D300 models appeared last year, probably every photo enthusiast said, "I wish I had all the power of the gargantuan D3 in the (relatively) compact shape of the D300." Finally, Nikon obliged. The D700 is hefty but luggable at 2.2 pounds, and it has the heart of the 2.7-pound D3, a 12-megapixel "full-frame" sensor that's about the size of old-time 35-milimeter film. The big sensor gives great wide-angle options, and it soaks in plenty of light—especially because it is divided into only 12 million pixels. Canon's latest full-frame model, the 1Ds Mark III, has twice as many.
Not surprisingly, the D700 takes great pictures even under miserably dim lighting conditions. Its lowest light sensitivity is ISO 200. Double it to 400 or quintuple it to 800, and you will see no appreciable loss of quality. This range will get your through just about any outdoor shooting (save at night) even on overcast days and in shadows. Indoors, you can go up to ISO 1600, 3200, 6400 and even 25,600. For top-notch photos, 3200 is probably the max. That's a huge accomplishment for Nikon—a company that just two years ago made cameras that were almost useless indoors (without a flash, that is). And while the higher ISOs can get pretty grainy (looking like charcoal sketches or pointillist paintings at ISO 12,800 and 25,600), they are amazing for one fundamental reason—they allow you to photograph things that you can't even see with your own eyes.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.