Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nikon D700 Running Review: Build Quality/Ergonomics

The Nikon D700

Well, I've had the camera going on a month and a half and, as promised, the D700 running review has begun. Look for further installments dealing with other aspects of the camera to come inthe coming days, in addition to the other stuff.

When looking to buy a Nikon D700, the first thing you'll notice is the price, which is $2700 as of March, 2011. So, for that price, one has a reasonable expectation that, in addition to being able to take good pictures, a camera should be a bit tougher than average and comfortable, too. Good news: the D700 fits this bill nicely.

If you're in a cool environment, the first thing you'll notice about the D700 is that it is unusually cold to the touch. This is good, as it signifies that the camera has a solid magnesium alloy body, which also happens to be riding on a similarly solid metal chassis, which means double the toughness (some metal-bodied cameras are actually plastic inside). If you're in a warm environment, the D700 is very sense-feeling, far more so than my old Canon 30D

Getting under the D700's skin, there is more good news. First of all, there are weather seals around the buttons, at the joints, and around all the compartments. These features are designed to keep all kinds of external crud (water, dust, you name it) out of the camera. However, there is an important “but” to this weather-resistance: the weather resistance chain is only as strong as its weakest link, which happens to be the lens mount. So, for a truly weather/junk-resistance camera, one needs to have a lens that comes with a gasket at the mount. The only questionable area of true crud resistance is the left side port cover, which is actually pretty flimsy in my humble opinion Hopefully, the D800 will solve this one shortcoming by adding a real door like the one that covers the CF card compartment.

Between the metal body and the weather seals, the D700 is a well-built camera designed for use in the harshest of conditions, fully befitting the working pro or serious amateur.

In hand, the D700 is extremely comfortable, provided you have large hands and/or long fingers. Small hands? Well, once you see what the camera can do, you'll learn to adjust. The real advantage of the large size (the D700 is 5.8” wide) is the fact that there is lots of room between the grip and lens mount, which means your hands won't get in each other's way when you're fiddling with your lens, especially a big one like a constant f2.8 zoom or a large prime. Speaking of the grip, it is covered with soft rubber, just the right depth, it provides a solid hold whenever you venture out with the camera.

Playing around with the buttons, you'll quickly come to appreciate how well thought-out the D700 is. All of the buttons are easily accessible, single function, and, once you get to know the camera, allow one to do just about anything without ever taking one's eye from the viewfinder, which is really, really nice for changing settings on the fly.

Next up: User Interface Review

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