D7000 VS D700 and image feel


Let me try to actually add something to that debate.

Lately I got tired of waiting for a D800 that is likely to cost an arm. An also remembered that it won't change a thing to my photography whatever the technological advancement. So I remember why I want to upgrade from my good ol' D80:
  • I want to be able to shoot up to 3200 ISO
  • I want a state of the art metering system like only Nikon can do
  • I am truly considering video as an interesting extension to what I do
  • but most the most important expectation of all: I want to get closer to the image "feel" of a large sensor film camera.
This is when it gets tricky: last night I spend 2 hours searching a back to back image comparison between the Nikon D7000 and Nikon D700 , but I was looking for a nice portrait with a 85mm fast lens. I didn't want to compare pixels, I wanted to compare how the image felt. I wanted to see that difference coming from a mixture of technical details coming together, creating a different texture, impression.

But no, all I could find was high ISO test shots and pictures of a control grid for sharpness and chromatic aberrations. I mean, do you guys even care about the pictures???

I see photography as painting, it's just that I suck with a brush so I use a camera. However I bet no one compare brushes'... hair -or whatever you call it- in painting forums without showing an actual painting in the end !

So my question remains unanswered: I have never been able to see real shots, taken with the actual intention of creating a beautiful image,  with both those cameras, in full size, in order to compare on they feel. Only lab test shots.

I'll try to provide you with some at the end of this post.

My conclusions so far are:
  • Everyone who says: "oh in the end go Nikon D700 , it's FX (full frame sensor)", or "Do you need FX?" can't argue beyond that. Apart from the ISO performance, they don't seem to be able to tell if images actually feel better. Only Ken Rockwell mention the finder size as an element of comfort. But clearly to him, image quality is the same.
  • From what I saw, the Nikon D7000 performs just as well in low light, differences are pointless for someone who cares about pictures. Such a person would not shoot beyond 1600 anyway, 3200 max. Going higher is just masturbating on gear.
  • I was not stricken by a huge difference in image feel between the Nikon D700 and Nikon D7000, by looking at different images that unfortunately weren't really comparable. Sensor surface of the D700 is more than twice as big as the Nikon D7000 , however, it does not strike me. I once shot with a D80 and D700, in natural sun light, for a juice brand campaign. All with FX prime lenses. Inside, the D700 was raping the D80, noise related. Outside, it was very very hard to guess what image was from what camera, when shot at iso100. On some shot you can perceive that the D700 allows narrower DOF, which is tempting, but I can get that by opening wider...not worth the extra thousand bucks. I saw my shots on large posters in town, same here, I couldn't tell which one I shot with what camera.
  • The Nikon D7000 has a 2 000 dots RGB metering system. That rocks. I mean no other camera has it: it mean superior exposure and dynamic range than any other camera. That appeals to me.
  • It's all about the lens. See the very last photo in that post. It speaks for itself. Get a D7000 + a really premium lens. Actually, I've seen shots with the lens used on the last shot (55mm F1.2 pre AIS) on a Sony NEX 3, and yes, it felt as good as if taken with a D700. It's all about the lens.
In the end, the rational answer is that the 2 cameras are strictly equivalent from a performance point of view, with strengths that differ: the D7000 has stronger battery life, metering, and video capacity, the D700 has a more comfy view finder, allows you to make the most of your FX lenses, performs a little better in very low light if you shoot animals at night etc.

If you put the price in the equation...the Nikon D7000 clearly wins. Let's put it this way: the only advantage of the D700 is the sensor surface. 

I know I know, I keep saying sensor size is key, and anything below 24x36 is not suitable for pro stuff. And yes it's consistent with me shooting 60x70mm all the time, but between DX and FX...it's not that striking. So I'll wait for the D800 pricing, but if it's too high, I'll probably go Nikon D7000 .

See for yourselves with those pictures, taken by a skilled amateur:

First a D700 shot: metering is not perfect, bokeh is nice,70mm F2.8, iso 1600. Nice.

    D700, F3, 150mm, ISO 800

    Now D7000 shots: F8, ISO 2200, 180mm. Superb metering.

    D7000: F2.8, ISO 100, 180mm. 

    Finally my favorite one: D7000, 55mm F1.2 pre AI @ F2. ISO 100. My point: it's all about the lens.


  1. Hi Ronan,
    I went through this tough comparative process last January when I upgraded my dslr. Video or full frame was THE question. Money was also an argument and therefore the D7000 won.
    If you're interested, I published yesterday a video made last January with the D7000, on my G+ profile. Original quality is better than what I published, intentionally reduced for upload purpose. Most of my pictures published there were also taken with the D7000.
    Well done for your 10,000 visits a month, well deserved!

  2. thanks ! will go check it out today :)

  3. A great post! I am facing the same decision at the moment - get a new D7000 or a used D700 in a good condition. I also care about the feel of the image the most - everything else comes after that.

    In addition to all arguments mentioned above, weight of the body is also a strong point for me. I mostly do travel photography and every bit of weight counts when you are on a serious trek.
    In the end I see it like this: the D700 will obviously provide better results regarding DOF (the size of its sensor has to show somewhere), everything else I care about (price, weight and size) is on the side of D7000. I don't really care much about video and I guess I would be happy with high ISO capabilities of either of them.

    That is why I am leaning towards the D7000. My speculation is that with a couple of great lenses I will be able to compensate for the lack. What do you think?

  4. I'm thinking of updating my D90 and in the same dilema. There are some differences between the two cameras you don't mention e.g. the D7000 has a 100% veiwfinder coverage so would mean less cropping in Photoshop than the D700 - something that irks me with my D90. Also, the shutter on the D7000 is a lot quieter attracting less attention. But then the D700 controls are so much better laid out on the camera body, no going into menus which is difficult when at a gig. Personally I think the two cameras have a different feel to them, the D7000 is great at displaying subtle tones like in landscapes but the D700 has a liquid almost 3D quality that isn't to do with its narrower d.o.p. It also has a more accurate AF system.... tough choice :-) (D600 is out of my price range)