Friday, August 12, 2011

Nikon D700 vs. D7000: Which to Buy?

The D700 vs. D7000 debate is more about lenses and control layout than anything else.  

For photo enthusiasts, specifically prospective or current Nikonians looking to move up in the company's camera lineup, there is a serious problem: so many good cameras, so little money! Right now, though, there's no denying that the Nikon D7000 is king of the hill for crop models (the D300s is 4 year old technology, so forget it) and that the D700 offers 95% of a D3 in a much smaller, affordable package. So, for anyone looking to make a serious investment in a Nikon dSLR, the question arises: D700 or D7000?

Let's examine that issue right now.

First up, the controls are different on the two cameras as the D7000 has a lot of dual function buttons while the D700's are almost all single function. In addition, the D7000 loses some of the controls present on the D700, too. For a detailed comparison, go to my D300s and D7000 control comparison. The D300s and D700 are laid out just about identically so, when reading, simply imagine that 'D300s' says 'D700' instead.

Controls aside, the real question here is lenses, namely what focal lengths you like to use most, where you like to shoot, and whether you prefer zooms or primes.

So, which is better?

The APS-C sensor of the D7000 will extend the reach of lenses by 50% their marked focal length, a real boon for people who like to shoot long telephotos.

If you like to shoot long, by all means go or a D7000 as the crop factor instantly boost your lens' effective focal length by 50%. Example: using the 80-400 Nikkor on your D7000 effectively transforms it into a 120-600, for free! Talk about a bonus! Even better, the D700 is outfitted with an AF system that's almost as good as that in the top-tier models, so, in capable hands, there should be no excuses for a missed shot, especially when paired with a sonic drive lens. In short, for outdoor/nature photographers, the D7000 is the best thing out there for under $1500, so why not buy?

Also, if you're a zoom lover, the D7000 is just your thing. Right now, Nikon is cranking out a lot of lenses, with most of the affordable ones being zooms. Speaking of zooms, Nikon makes zoom lenses going all the way from 10-400mm, with a true plethora of choices in the standard range. In addition, all of the new Nikkors are AF-S, which means you can feel free to grab your glass anywhere as there is no spinning focus ring and many of the newer lenses also feature dust seals at the mount to compliment the D7000's weather-resistant body, too. Again, outdoor shooters, rejoice! In addition, VR is also seemingly starting to become a standard feature on new Nikkor lenses.

This 17mm Tokina lens (review coming), while providing a 104 degree field of view on a FF/35mm camera, will only produce an 80 degree field on an APS-C cam, which is no true wide angle.
On the other hand, if you value aperture and spend most of your time on the wide to standard range, the D700 is your camera. Why? There's no focal length multiplier with the D700 and there are really no affordable, name brand lenses that are truly wide angle on a crop camera. Example: on the D700, you have a huge array of choices in fast, wide primes, namely 20 and 24mm f2.8 versions, which are ideal for use indoors in less than ideal lighting. In addition to being cheap ($550 and $350, respectively), these lenses are also small enough to drop into a pocket, too. For croppers who want a wide, fast prime, there's always the 14 f2.8 Nikkor (21mm FF/film equivalent), which costs $2,000. If you're a cropper who wants true wide angle, you'll have to spend $900 for the 10-24 (15-36 film equivalent) Nikkor or at least $500 for a third party alternative, all of which are bigger, more expensive, and much slower (up to 2 stops more so) than a 2.8 Nikkor prime. How stupid is that?

Another added bonus of these primes is that they are mechanical drive AF models, which are far less complicated, and therefore less likely to break, than the in-lens motor driven lenses that make up companies' modern lineups. Ironically, many report that the AF-S lenses (at least the primes) are actually slower to focus than their old, mechanical drive counterparts. Sure, these new models have full time manual override but, as today's cameras have such good AF systems, who uses this feature anyways? In addition, the D700 comes equipped with Nikon's most powerful AF drive motor, which means that any mechanical drive lens will be at its fastest. Yes, you'll have to keep your hand free of the spinning focus ring but, for all of the durability advantages the mechanical drive lenses offer, this is a small price to pay as, chances are, your lens will outlast your camera (and and AF-S models you own, too).

So, what to buy?

Bottom line: if you're an outdoor shooter who likes to shoot telephoto and prefers zooms, get a D7000 as the lens choices are optimal for this camera. If you're an indoor shooter who likes the wide end to mid range of the focal length spectrum and fast aperture, get a D700 and enjoy the bliss that is a wide, fast prime without an annoying crop factor.

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  1. A great comparison! I am trying to decide between these two cameras but still can't decide.
    I use my camera for both purposes mentioned above - mostly it's travel photography. As you probably know, this includes telephoto (portraits, wildlife, etc.) and wide photo motives (large buildings - inside and outside, sometimes poor lighting, panoramas, etc.).

    Is it possible to find a good wide angle lens for D7000 to suffice a picky travel photographer?

    Size, weight and price are all on the side of D7000.

    What would be your recommendation?
    If you are interested in my work, you can check out my blog at

  2. Marko,

    While camera size/weight are on the 7000's side, the size/weight of available ultrawide lenses favors the 700. There are simply no inexpensive, small, AF primes available for the 7000 while they abound for the 700. The Tokina pictured above cost only $350 and can fit (albeit tightly) into a pocket. The 20mm Nikkor is even better for portability while you'd be forced to lug around a big, clunky, more expensive zoom on the 7000. Now, if you don't mind the size of the zooms, there are a lot of good ones for the 7000. Nikon's 10-24 even has a rubber seal at the mount. Hope this helps.