A reader, Jan Klattenhoff, recently asked for some advice about buying a Nikon camera:
Could you compare the Nikon 700 to the D7000. What are the advantages of a full format. I subscribe to the New Mexico Highways magazine and aspire to take pictures like the ones in their annual photo contest. I live in Austin and know their classes I can take to help me when I have made my purchase.
This is a great question. Both cameras are capable of capturing amazing images. The main difference here is full frame (FX) D700 vs crop sensor (DX) D7000. You have to evaluate your needs to find the one that best suits you. I will try to summarize the main differences.
Landscape photography usually has everything in focus from near to far. For this, you could use either camera. This style of photography uses small lens aperture settings which are not technically demanding on your equipment. Shooting with small apertures requires more light, but outdoors you usually have enough light and in low light situations a tripod can be used to capture just about any scene because your subject does not move.
The opposite situation is when you want one item in sharp focus and the background blurred softly. This is called shallow depth of field (DOF) and is often used in portrait photography. A lens with a large aperture (a “fast” lens with low f number) combined with a large sensor will allow you to render this effect. This is one area where the sensor size in the full frame camera (D700) has the advantage over DX.
The other benefit of FX is that its larger sensor captures more light. This is great for low-light situations (night photography, dawn, dusk) especially when shooting without a tripod and can also be helpful when trying to freeze motion (cleaner images at high ISO). However, with improving technology, newer DX cameras are getting closer to the previous generation FX in this regard. Still, the D700 has the edge in high-ISO capabilities over the D7000.
The D7000 is smaller, lighter, less expensive and allows you to use both DX and FX lenses. DX lenses are smaller, lighter, and less expensive. Some landscape images use ultra wide angles to dramatically capture a subject and its surroundings. However, the ultra wide end is not a strong point of DX. There are wide angle lenses available for DX, but they can’t quite match the technical image quality of the best full frame wide angle FX lenses. The gap is narrowing, but we still lack wide-angle DX prime lenses. You can use FX lenses on a DX camera, but the “crop factor” only uses the central part of the image, thus making the angle of view of FX lenses not as wide.
The D7000 is a newer camera and has higher resolution (16MP vs 12MP). Higher resolution does not make much difference unless you plan to make large prints of your work. Even then, the difference between the two is not very significant. Perhaps more important, the sensor on the D7000 boasts a slightly higher dynamic range (13.9 vs 12.2 EV in DXO testing). This means you can capture a greater range of light from highlights to the dark shadows in a single shot. Post-processing and/or combining multiple exposures (HDR techniques) can increase effective dynamic range, so you are not limited to the camera’s dynamic range if you will be doing some post processing work.
In summary, the main things the D700 has going for it are the shallow DOF capabilities and high ISO (low-light) capabilities. But if you don’t require those things, the D7000 may be a better choice. It sounds like you are going to travel and this usually means carrying your camera gear in the field. Then a lighter camera and lenses becomes a huge advantage, and that alone may outweigh all the other differences!
Thanks for the question, Jan. I hope you capture wonderful images no matter which camera you choose!