Back to Nikon with a D700
I am an objective photographer, not a brand name fanatic. I started photography in 2003 with a Nikon FM10 film SLR, since it was more readily available in India. I upgraded the system slowly through an F80, FM3a, and then the D70. Acquired a few lenses, but nothing expensive. Then around 2008, I took a special interest in portraits and started shooting a lot, often indoors in low light. The D70 was a great camera except the noise was unacceptable at ISO 800 and above.
I needed to upgrade and saw no sense to get another DX body, despite being impressed by the high ISO performance of the D300. What I needed in a new Nikon was already in the D3, but I neither had $5k nor wanted such a brick for a body. A good friend of mine suggested the three year old Canon 5D which he has been shooting since it came out and been satisfied all along. I took a risk of brand switch just because I had no expensive Nikkor lens. I managed to sell all the Nikon gear for a good price and was able to start a clean slate with the 5D. I was happy for two things – the kit lens 24-105/4 was an IS lens (my first), and the ISO 1600 images were quite usable, despite some chroma noise. I got a lot of shots I could not get with the D70, and then one day I got hooked into landscape photography as well. I also discovered the great power of RAW and stopped shooting JPG. The RAW processing and 12mp images produced fantastic 12×18 prints to keep me satisfied. Everything was well.
And then, canon came out with 5D markII. 24mp, HD video – Wow ! Ironically these two are precisely the features I just didn’t expect or ever need in an upgrade. Same old AF as in 5D which hunts a lot in low light, and does not track moving kids well. I thought Canon would at least put the AF system of the fantastic 40D in the new body and make a faster frame rate than 3.9fps. It seemed I had hit a wall.
Checked out what was happening in the Nikon camp. Ken Rockwell was all praise about the D700, especially the AF with face detection, even after admitting that 5D2 was still the best camera for landscapes. True that, but I don’t shoot landscapes only. I checked out a D700 at the local store and what can I say, I was blown over. This was the best camera I ever put my hands on. Ergonomics, features, versatility of using older MF nikkors, and the AF totally knocked me out.
Amazon had it $400 less than bhphoto and adorama, so fearing this was a temporary deal, I grabbed one. Picked up a like new Nikkor AF-D 80-200/2.8 off craigslist for a great price. Didn’t care about the VR version since it is $1500 and I can just bump up the ISO if I need to.
So in short, I got the D700 because:
1. World class AF, especially AF tracking
2. Totally usable ISO 6400 with no chroma noise
3. 12mp — I need no more since this is enough for a 20×30 print
4. Ability to use older MF nikkors I can pick up off craigslist for cheap
5D2 lost out because:
1. Same old AF as 5D, hunting in low light and poor tracking
2. 24mp — no thanks
3. HD video — no thanks
I still regret not keeping my Nikon FM3a with AF-D 50/1.8, but hey, I hardly used a 50 on the digital bodies.
Update: Here is a blog post of another Canon user who recently switched to D700.