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Nikon D700, Firmware Updates for the D3 and D300, and Other Nikon News

Well, the rumors about a new full-frame camera from Nikon were true: Nikon made things official with the announcement of the D700 this past week. But that's not the only recent good news for Nikon shooters.

The D700 looks to be melding of the current D300 top of the line DX format body and the king of the hill D3 FX body. It bridges the gap between the two quite nicely. The body and control layout come almost completely from the D300 but what's inside owed a great deal to the D3.

To fit in the smaller body, the D700 uses the EN-EL3e battery as does the D300. The D700 can also use the same MB-D10 vertical grip as fits the D300. It even has the pop-up flash from the D300, a feature often associated with consumer bodies and at first seems out of place for such an expensive camera. But with low light performance down to at least ISO 1600, only a small amount of light is needed with any of these cameras to get great results making a small flash more than just a gimmick.

The viewfinder uses round screw-on eyepiece accessories rather than the rectangular ones used by the D300 so it would seem Nikon is still quite ambivalent as to which system is better. I do wish they'd settle on one or the other so people who own more than one body could share accessories. Generally I prefer the round system but I'd be happy with either as a standard rather than dealing with both. Viewfinder coverage of the D700 is only 95% rather than the 100% provided by both the D3 and D300. As with the D300, there's only one compact flash slot rather than two as on the D3.

Inside, the FX (full frame) sensor is the same one as Nikon uses in the D3 with 12-bit or 14-bit A/D conversion and EXPEED processing so it seems a foregone conclusion that the images will look great. It has the same vibration-based sensor cleaning mechanism that Nikon introduced in the D300. This makes it all the more puzzling why this was left out of the D3.

Shutter lag matches the D3, but the shutter itself is listed as being the same as in the D300. Frame burst rate is only 5.0 frames per second (8.0 fps with the optional MB-D10), a penalty likely imposed by the compromises of scaling down the D3 guts to fit the lower price tag.

At the same time that they announced the D700 Nikon also announced the new SB-900 flash that looks to be an only modestly upgraded SB-800, but then again I'm not a big flash user so others may be more impressed by it than I am at this point. One notable feature though is that it can sense whether you are using an FX or DX format lens and adjust the light coverage accordingly.

There were also two new PC-E tilt/shift lenses introduced, one with a 45mm focal length and the other a new version of the existing 85mm PC-E. I have the original 85mm and recently picked up the 24mm PC-E lens introduced earlier this year. These are specialized lenses that won't be of interest to everyone but if you have the patience to learn to use them and the budget to afford them, they can do things ordinary lenses just can't come close to. I'll have more to say about tilt/shift lenses sometime in the future but if you have read the works of John Shaw you already know they can be quite useful for landscape shooters.

Nikon also released firmware updates for both the D3 and D300 this week so if you aren't planning on laying down $3,000 for a new D700 you can still get something if you have either these two top bodies.

For both updates, Nikon has addressed a problem experienced by some D3 and D300 users that occasionally caused the battery indicator to incorrectly show that your battery was dead even when it really wasn't. My D300 doesn't seem to do this but I know others who have had it happen so it's good that this is now solved.

That seems to be about all the D300 firmware fix changes but D3 users get much more. Among the many changes for the D3, Nikon has improved the flexibility in the use of the Func button, allowing you to assign features to it previously not possible. The D700 allows you to assign pretty much any menu item and even with the firmware update the D3 can't match that, but it's a start. The update also improves AF and white balance performance. You can also now replace the "My Menu" list with the "Recent Settings" menu Nikon used in the D2x. Hopefully a subsequent firmware update will add some of this to the D300 as well.

You can download the new v2.00 D3 firmware from the following links:

The new v1.03 D300 firmware update is available from these links:

All in all, this has been a good week for Nikon shooters.

Date posted: July 6, 2008


Copyright © 2008 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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