I had a fun day flashing back to 2008 in my favorite camera store today. Bought another Nikon classic for a fraction of the price I paid for the same model a decade ago....

Nikon D700. Old School. No Drool. 

As I mentioned in a post this morning I've gotten into some sort of thought-loop about older cameras from the glory days of digital. More specifically I've become convinced that the move to higher resolution with ever smaller pixels versus lower resolution with big fat pixels is not an improvement but a compromise or trade off. 

Before you rush to vilify me for what might seem to you to be an obvious blind spot in this whole thought process please be aware that while I did own this camera once before (the year after it hit the market I bought one new) I have also owned and worked with both the Sony A7Rii and the Nikon D810 so I am not a complete stranger to either side of the pixel size discussion.

I found this D700 lounging in the used case over at Precision-Camera.com. I bought it along with two extra batteries. I always buy extra batteries. I've got a 50mm f1.8 on the front and I'll start reacquainting myself with it tomorrow after swim practice. Should be an interesting diversion...

I had forgotten how big, heavy and loud these cameras are. But I guess there are compromises everywhere.

Curious to find if you, gentle reader, have a similar eccentric favorite. Let me know.


  1. Man the D700 is a classic i still have two and along with a couple of D500 make up my stable of working cameras.Bolt some of those old classic lenses on the front and go fall in love with photography all over again.I do every time i use this combo especially my old 25/50 f4 beauty

  2. I just did a fantasy purchase of an all new Sony system with the A7III and II as the primary cameras. I would sell all my Canon gear except for the Canon 5D & 40mm f/2.8. Even in my fantasy I just couldn't see myself parting with the 5D. It has no auto ISO, just 9 AF points, a 13mb sensor and a relatively slow frame rate. But, man, I've really liked some of the photos I've taken with that camera.

  3. I picked up an FM2n from a certain auction website. It’s currently in for CLA. Have a pile of AI/S glass to use with it.
    If a D700 is old school, I’d hate to think how this film camera is categorised :-)
    Not THAT Ross Cameron

  4. Hi Kirk

    good choice! if i had Nikon lenses that would be my pick to. I am guessing you paid around 500$. And for many things its as good as many new fullframes. Sometimes its even better. For lenses with character, at tend to fall a bit short when used on a 40mp sensor, the bigger pixels solves that problem. the bigger pixels gives a different look as you mentioned in your last post. For many things like portraits for example i like less but bigger pixels better.

    i have been preaching this in a lot of comments latly ;)2-3 generation fullframes are dirt cheap solutions and packs so much power. there is stil a market for oldschool portraiture and this solution can justify the price/marketshare.

    Good for you


  5. Kirk wrote, "Curious to find if you, gentle reader, have a similar eccentric favorite."

    I don't have an eccentric favorite but I was looking through some of my favorite old images the other day and found that many were made using a Canon 5d mk zero.

    To bring cars back into the discussion, I have owned many that I loved and respected but I don't want any of them back as a daily driver. Air cooled Volkswagens (I've owned four) had lousy heaters and were as crash-worthy as an aluminum beer can.

  6. I bought a Canon 5d the day they were released. I've still got and I love the images it makes. There's something about the tonal roll off of this generation of cameras that reminds me of shooting with film. Of course 12Mp is plenty big enough for a double page spread. I sometimes wonder if the megapixel race was a wrong turning in camera development.

  7. D700 12 MegaPixel same electronics as the D3 & unbelievable low light performance at a fraction of the price. Lower pixels for smaller screens! Whats not to like?

    Solves the GAS addiction issue and easy on the debit card too.

  8. I jumped from Nikon to Fuji some time ago, but couldn't quite bring myself to let go of a D700 and a few primo lenses. Other than the size, it was such a great body that gave me many good images. It was also a workhorse when going through my HDR/Enfuse phase, which it excelled at. Your post makes me want to dig it out and play with those lovely big pixels again, but I suspect once I've lugged it around on the street for an hour or so I'll remember why I made the jump.

  9. I have always enjoyed buying cameras second hand, but then I'm an amateur and don't have to rely on them as a tool of my trade. My favourite digital ones were the 4MP EOS 1D (bought about 12 years ago) and the 12MP EOS 5D a couple of years ago. I just have no need for anything more MP and I have A3 prints of the 1D which look fine to my amateur eyes. I also have a large collection of film cameras, most of which cost less than GBP 10 with a lens and I enjoy film photography as well. I simply cannot justify spending GBP 2-3k on a new uber-camera, I would never get a return on investment either financially or in superior photographs. The limiting factor in my photography is definitely me, not my equipment!

    There was an interesting podcast recently from LensWork (LW1072) where Brooks Jensen states that for publishing in magazines or high-quality books there is no need for more than about 18 MP. He also reckons that MP figures are like distortion figures in amplifiers in the 1970s. It used to be a selling point until all amplifiers produced no discernible distortion and then they had to be sold on other features. I think we've reached a similar point with cameras. They now need something other than more MP to attract us.

    Sticking with the amplifier analogy valve (tube) amplifiers have lots of distortion but many people like the sound because the distortion is second order rather than third, so it is less noticeable. A similar argument can be made for vinyl versus CD. If the human ear 'prefers' imperfection over perfection perhaps our eyes are the same? But I think the biggest kick is getting gear I drooled over but could never afford for a fraction of their original sale price. I do love a bargain :)

  10. I still own my D700 along with a slew of other higher pixel cameras. When the light is low, I still prefer the files from this classic. I'm not a huge fan of DXO ratings. However, if you click on the "screen" tab vs. the "print" tab in the "measurements section and compare the D700 to other high pixel favorites, the D700 wins with those large pixels. I know the arguments for sizing based on printing, etc. Still, for straight output, it's hard to beat the D700 / D3 / D3s series. The camera is a bit heavier than many, but it is built like a tank. Maybe not quite an FTn / F2, but very close!

    Love the D700 with the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 and Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 (both manual focus) ...magical combos!

  11. My all-time favorite pictures were taken with my 5D2 and a trio of lenses: 50 1.4, 100L 2.8 Macro, 200L 2.8. Oh and a Canon bounced flash for many of my indoor shots.

    I can’t seem to produce the same quality with my Sony A7II. Not even the 5D3 that replaced my 5D2 produced the same look.

  12. I just send my kid in college my old Nikon D300s. It was an awesome camera the day I bought it. Now that I shoot with much smaller lighter Fujis, there's no way I would go back to something that heavy and cumbersome. The image fidelity wasnt as amazing either. BUT for the time, it was perfect. Still runs great. Lots of miles left on it. So, my kid who is a biologist will get to take it out in the field.

  13. Still shooting with its little brother the D300. Very fun to use with older my nikon mf lenses. The resolution of the D300 seems to work perfectly with the older lenses. The images have a really nice look to them. My biggest issue with digital cameras today is the lack of simplicity. Just too many menus and options to configure and learn. I need simplicity when I’m doing something.

  14. Dug up the batteries for my D70. :) the colors on it are still so nice. And the D700/D3 sensor is a classic for a reason. Been also looking at buying a 5D classic as they are dirt cheap nowadays.

  15. I miss my D700 sometimes. It was the last full frame camera I owned.

  16. "Eccentric favorite" LOL LOL Get in line Kirk. I stopped going to the camera store for awhile, or at least until I pay off my credit card. Let's see I now own a Sigma SD10, SD14, SD15 all with the Foveon sensor. The best of the best IQ. I also now own a Nikon D700 with 5 batteries 85 f2 AI lens wonderful camera I love the sound of the shutter, D2Hs, with a 50 F1.4 lens D1x with a 70-210 f4 lens both with CCD sensors. I love CCD sensors. The camera are so cheap now and so good and so different in IQ. Except for video I believe I could do any job right now and you'd never see a difference, but I retired and just having fun with the gear I have. I also got into buying Mac's, just picked up 2 27inch IMac's so cheap and they work great. Why 2? why not? LOL
    Maybe I should fly to Precision Camera and look around?? Keep the oldies, they're fun, and they will remind you what was, and it was great.
    Different day different camera.

    Have fun

  17. The more recent M43 cameras from Olympus (and, I suppose, Panasonic ) are definitely superior to most six or eight year old models in terms of image quality, and I feel no need to regress on that front.

    But, I do miss my Sony R-1, which used the Nikon D2X sensor and a wonderful 24-120e Schneider branded zoom lens. It has a good home, though, as I gave it to a promising but financially stressed young man going off to college. The Sony R-1 made many wonderful images but was certainly bulky and heavy, and I dared not use it above ISO 400 if I planned to make large prints.

  18. I am looking forward to reading about your thought process with the new/old camera.

    My favorite thing to have around the house is money. The newer cameras might give me thinner depth of field, (or sharper eyelashes, or whatever) but I have found I can usually get these same new "features" by planning my photo shoot more carefully.

  19. my favourite vintage digital: the Leica X1


  20. Canon 1DsMkIII body produces images at low ISO settings the newer cameras just can't beat. Batteries last 2,000 exposures, work at 43 below zero and 117 above and the camera is solid, comfortable and reliable.

  21. Why does this quote remind me of Kirk Tuck and his (and our) seemingly endless quest for the perfect camera and lens?

    "I think he's determined to remain completely unsatisfied."
    "Not completely. Just perfectly."

    "I just want to show how things appear to me."

    Don't we all?

    From the film "Final Portrait" about Alberto Giacometti.

  22. I was about to do a double lemming leap and embrace two Tuck trends simultaneously: revert to an older Nikon and buy into the 1-inch sensor of the Panasonic FZ2500. (That would be a double lemming leap with a double Tuck, for anyone working up a Rationalization Olympics scoring system.) To achieve that I would sell off the Olympus EM5.2 which has held me in menu hell while attempting to shoot video. The FZ2500 would provide better video and a sane learning environment. The Nikon...a D5100 abandoned in my direction by my daughter after acquiring a D750...would provide a nice, if ungainly, stills camera with its 18-200mm lens. 16 megapixels like the EM5.2, but bigger pixels.

    I had finally made up my mind to do it when something prodded me to check the shutter count on the Nikon. 97,606 activations! On a shutter designed in theory to last for 100,000 exposures! Good grief —she has been extremely busy!

    Suddenly the EM5.2 began to look a lot better. I believe it’s time to rent the FZ2500 and hoard my nickles and dimes for the future.

  23. Well, at the rate things are going, my current cameras are quickly becoming classics, just like the ones you currently admire. The cameras, Nikon D7000 and V1, were introduced over 7 and 6 years ago respectively. (Eons in digital photography!) I picked up the V1 for its decent stills/video hybrid performance a year after I got the D7000. The D7000 was a Christmas gift from my wife, who was actually trying to acquire a D700 but was unable to find one. So I had to "make do" with the D7000 and two really-good zoom lenses, which I use to this day. The D700 may be an awesome camera, but the D7000 produces really really nice images too. I have been happy enough with the D7000 that the only reason I would acquire one of the newer Nikon DSLRs is better video specs and ability to use the new AF-P lenses, which are (frustratingly) fully compatible only with newer Nikon DSLRs.

    Ironically, while you are enjoying images taken with bigger sensors having fewer (bigger) pixels, I tend to use the V1 with its 1-inch, 10MP Aptina sensor and its less-than-stellar dynamic range. Why? It better suits my video and bird/wildlife photography needs than the D7000 does. The V1 turned out to be a surprisingly-good video camera, and there's nothing that can turn a 300mm lens into an "810mm lens" like a 1-inch sensor can. Plus there is something to be said for a small, discreet camera that can shoot photos silently.

    Enjoy your "new" acquisitions. It's good to see some of the older, under-appreciated gear get some love. For some reason I sense that you are going to have an upcoming romance with the soon-to-be-introduced new Nikon mirrorless system. ;-)

  24. This is an "old" choice, but after several years I cannot bring myself to part of the RX-10.2. There were F5 Phantom jets that could take off before the camera wakes up and the zoom extends. But I get so much utility with it, that I cannot make the logical leap to an FZ2500 or RX10 IV. Last year I did an event with a Nikon D610 (full frame GAS acquisition) and the RX10. The surprise was that about 40% or more of the keepers were from the RX10. I gave the D610 to my Son and picked up a bargain on a GH4.

    There is superb image quality to be found in the D700, D600, D610 and everything in the deprecated Nikon line up. What I never liked was the amount of time I spent post processing to get the final product. I enjoyed shooting 4x5 film more than my Nikons, but that's an entirely different story for another day.

  25. Last autumn I did a large number of head shots for a government organisation. I used my Nikon D700 with, horror of horrors, an ancient 24-85mm F2.8-F4 Nikkor zoom from the film age, which according to the "experts" should be barely usable, but bolted to a very sturdy Manfrotto tripod. When I came to examine the raws at 100% I found I had to do a lot of retouching as none of the women I photographed would have ever spoken to me again, the images were so crisp, and showed every line and every wrinkle. The D700 enjoys its cult status for good reason.

  26. My eccentric favourite is the Kodak DCS SLR/n . . . . I now have three, just to make sure that I have one working. My biggest problem has been batteries until a friend managed to bring me some from US last year; it costs a fortune to have them sent (when you add on taxes + handling costs). Apart from the slow start up time it is a joy to use. In my opinion a stellar performer in the right circumstances.

    Here is a link to a few images that may be of interest (they are all from a few years ago). As far as I recollect no manipulation apart from downsizing for web and some cropping.


  27. I guess you are getting into weight lifting as you get on in years. Admittedly this Nikon is lighter than the other new/old Nikon acquisition....that's a good exercise regimen...alternate light weight days with heavy weight days. Keep it up.

  28. Just did a bunch of testing using a Nikkor 60mm macro lens on a Nikon D70s and D300. Guess what? The images from the D70s are much nicer. Better colour rendition, more pleasing skin detail, surprisingly better shadow detail and just plain nicer to look at. Technically the D300 has much better specs but the proof is in the pudding.

    Naturally you can blow the D300 images up bigger and it will do better I suppose in low light (didn't check it out) but for 9x12 prints, web images or magazine print I would rather use the D70s. Some say it's because the D70s uses a CCD sensor while the D300 uses CMOS. I don't really care about all that, I just want images that please me.

    Honestly didn't see this coming. I was all ready to spring for a D300 but will save my money. Although I do miss my D700. I've moved to m4/3 for all my gigs but was pining to use my Nikkor glass for personal projects.


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