Digging the D700

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If I had to sum up my experience of the Nikon D800 after a full year of use, the word I’d use is disappointing. I’ve had recurring problems with it, some of which were immediately obvious. Over time, I’ve become convinced that I got a lemon, since other D800 owners don’t seem to have the problems I’ve been having. But I’ve never felt like going 6 weeks (typical Nikon repair turnaround time) without it, so I’ve accepted its flakiness and kept snapping away.

Then, last month, I bought a used D700. Now I finally have a full-frame backup camera, and I could also send the D800 in for repair without losing the ability to take advantage of my fast FX lenses. The D800 is now at the Nikon factory, and I’m hoping they can correct all the little problems I’ve had with it.

It’s great to have a D700 back in my hands. It just feels right, probably because most of the photos I’ve ever taken have been with a D700. (I bought one in 2008, just after they came out, and used it heavily until 2012, when I left it in the back of a taxi.) Here’s a photo taken with the D700 yesterday:

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I definitely have a bias when it comes to the D700, and it has a few problems that were corrected in the D800. I’ve read that the color accuracy is a problem, especially in low-light conditions, and I think I had forgotten how much time I used to spend correcting D700 shots in ways that the D800 doesn’t require.

For example, here are a few snapshots taken indoors under incandescent lights:

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The D800 does a better job of getting the color right in that situation. With the D700, if you shoot raw you can adjust it to look good, but it requires a bit of manual work on each shot:

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Other than that, the D700 rocks! Sure, it doesn’t have video and has only a third of the megapixels of the D800 (12 vs. 36), but both of these things are vastly overrated in my opinion. The D700 just feels like an extension of my arm, and pleases me in ways I can’t quantify with hard data.

The repaired D800 will be back in a couple of weeks, and I’m looking forward to having two high-performance FX camera bodies. When I go for hikes with the dogs, I’m constantly switching between the 70-200mm telephoto lens and the 14-24mm wide-angle, and no matter which one I have on the camera there will inevitably come a moment when the dogs do something spectacular that I can’t capture because I have the wrong lens on the camera.

telephoto and wide-angle action shots

For the two-camera approach, I’m planning to have the D700 with 70-200mm telephoto hanging on my chest and the D800 with 14-24mm on my side, using my Cotton Carrier equipment. (See this page for some examples of that setup.) I won’t do that all the time, but there are certain situations where that configuration is going to be great fun, and I can’t wait!

[Added Later] One of my disappointments with the D800 is that it won’t autofocus my 85mm F/1.4 Nikon lens. The D700 is a great combo with that lens; here are four portraits of Jamie taken with it today:

Nikon D700 + 85mm F/1.4 lens

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  1. A footnote regarding the comment above about the D800 not working with the 85mm F/1.4 lens — that’s been repaired at the factory now. Apparently my D800 had some issues from the day it was brand new. Nice to have it working and now all of my lenses work great on either camera.

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