Which Camera Should I buy: Nikon D700 or D7000?

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!

13 thoughts on “Which Camera Should I buy: Nikon D700 or D7000?

  1. hi aanrmd,i want to buy an entry-level cam. my options are Canon 550D and Nikon D3100. which do you think is better for a budding photographer like me? Thanks

    • Both are good entry level cameras, offering video and good still shots. If you have any current lenses for either one that may sway your decision. Otherwise you are starting fresh and could go either way. The Canon offers a few slight benefits, the most notable is the higher pixel LCD screen. But it comes at a higher price. The truth is, your money is better spent on lenes so I would look to invest in good lenses no matter which body you choose.

  2. I shoot hundreds of professional dental images each week with my d200, and although I’m a nikon fan, I’m not thrilled with these images. In fact, I was happier with color rendition with my Fuji S2. On the other hand, I shoot hundreds of sports images each week as well, some in very low light requiring high iso. I will be getting a new camera and unfortunately, it will not be the D4. Where should I look…D300, D700, D800, D3????

    • You mention color; Fuji is known for vivid color (Velvia-like) and tends to the warm side with high saturation. Nikon default settings are much more neutral. If you shoot JPEG, have you tried changing the color settings, to something like Vivid and bumped up the saturation? If you shoot RAW you can also adjust your processing to get the color more to your preferences. Your lighting also has an effect, especially if you shoot auto white balance. You might be better off using a white balance method/tool to set custom white balance, especially if you need critical color under artificial, indoor and mixed light.

      If the D4 is out of your budget, consider the D3S, especially for sports/high ISO/high frame rate. Used D3S price is around $4000 and might fall after the D4 is out. Next I’d recommend the D3 which is around $3000 used now. I recommend it over a D700 for sports. I’m not sure where the D800 fits into this, since it has a rather low frame rate and probably more pixels than you need and will remain at a price premium for quite some time. If you stay with DX, I would say the D7000 would be the best one right now (over the D300/D300s) because of better high ISO and dynamic range. The D300 is overdue for update, and there may be a D400 on the way that could be exactly what you need. Going FX is great, but you also need to factor in lenses if you don’t have FX glass yet. I’m sure you know fast lenses are critical for sports and they don’t come cheap either.

      • Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough answer to my question.A bit more information for you. My dental images are always shot in RAW using dual arm mounted wireless sppedlights and a 105 macro lens circa 2002. These dental images need to be processed (lightroom) or they are very dull, almost a translucent grey film is over each image. Following prfocessing, they still lack the clarity and pop of the Fuji. I am not going back to a Fuji, but I do want the best camera for these macro dental images.
        My sports shot are shot using a new Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, so I’ve got the glass. These images are generally great, and I think the D300, the D400, the D800 and certainly a D3 will each improve image quality, low light issues and focus situations. Would the D700 as well? So I guess my question is, which camera will give me the most beautiful dental images, and still improve my sports/ marine photography. Thanks so much in advance.

        • I understand what you mean when you say “grey film.” Increasing contrast and saturation and sharpening should clear that up. You can use presets in Lightroom to dial these in. Nikon is neutral out of camera, so those will need to be adjusted to suit.

          The D700 sensor is the same as the D3 so image quality is the same. The auto focus system is also the same. I recommend the D3 over the D700 for sports where speed is critical: higher frame rate (9fps vs 5fps although D700 can do 8fps with optional grip), less shutter lag, integrated grip for better handling with long lenses (again with D700 you can add a grip). D3 also offers a 100% viewfinder vs D700’s 95%. You’ll have to determine whether these differences are going to affect your shots to see if the D3 is worth the additional cost. I expect to see the D700 price come down given the D800 occupying its former price point. The D800 is also a possible choice if you can accept the slower frame rate (4fps, or 6fps in DX only with grip).

          Going FX you lose some reach with your lenses but it will provide a significant increase in low-light performance and image quality.

          For DX, it hard to recommend a D300. It is over a generation behind is outperformed in image quality by the D7000. If you decide DX is what you want, I would wait to find out what Nikon does with the D400, or if you can’t wait and still want DX then get the D7000.

          • So helpful, thanks so much for your time. Final question, this part is still not quite clear. With dental macro images as a priority, which do you think? And when you say D#, do you mean D3, D3X? Thanks again…

          • I think the dental macro images are not going to show much difference between these choices considering you have ample light and your subject is relatively stationary. Let’s consider two choices: FX D700 and DX D7000. If you use FX you will have slightly less working distance with your macro compared to DX. At base ISO, the D7000 actually has better dynamic range (its newer sensor is a benefit), and more resolution (16MP) and more depth of field (DX format). Cost wise it is also least expensive. Only when you factor in your sports photos, high ISO, better handling with large lenses, then the D700 becomes the better choice. You might favor the colors of the D700, it seems to render reds better, but this can be very subjective.

            My previous reply D3 refers to D3. The D3X and D3S came after D3; D3X being the high resolution 24MP version with $8k price tag, and the D3S is the ISO king. The D3S has about 1-2 stops better low light performance and a bigger buffer than D3, for the most demanding sports photographers and ultimate low light use. But I think your decision will be between the FX D3/D700 or something DX D7000/(D400?).

  3. I was wondering if you could help me out on what type of camera would be best for me! I have been trying to decide for months and still can’t figure out which Nikon camera to get. I am an amateur photographer and want a camera that will last me a long time. I will mostly be using it to take pictures of animals and nature. I don’t want to spend extra money for a camera if it has features that I will never use and now that this new camera is coming out not sure if I should wait longer or buy something comparable. I could really use some help! Thanks!

    • I assume you are looking at Nikon DSLR cameras. For animals and nature you will want telephoto lenses and the extra “reach” of a DX format camera is a benefit. You probably don’t need the cost and bulk of FX cameras like D700, D4, D800 and your money would be better spent on quality lenses. I would say check out the D7000. If there is room in the budget it is hard to beat the 70-200 f/2.8 which can be used with a teleconverter for even more reach. It is a FX pro lens so it is expensive, big and heavy but for nature and wildlife photos it is unbeatable. If that’s too much, the 70-300mm VR is also good on DX and much more reasonable cost.

  4. Just looking for some input. Lisa and I are pretty much in the same corner. However, in addition to Nature and animals, I also have been elected “the one” to take pictures at family events/holidays. Also, I take images of boating and shooting for friends. So I need a camera that can be the go to everytime. I was looking at the D700 and now with the release of the D800 was wondering if I should wait. I’m starting new with Nikon equipment so will also need lenses. I know it will take some time to acquire all my equipment but like Lisa, I want something that will last me a long time. Thanks for all you help and advise. 🙂

    • Hi Mary. Between D700 and D800 there are two main differences: resolution and video. Do you need the high resolution of the D800? You can see the difference when printing something at poster size, but for 8×10 prints or anything you do for the web you won’t see a difference. Extra resolution will give you the ability get get more usable detail in a crop from a larger image which can help in wildlife photography. The D800 is more “future proof” because of its high resolution, but remember dealing with large RAW files might mean you need to upgrade your computer and storage in the near term. The D800 offers video, the D700 does not. Getting good video from a DSLR takes more effort than a dedicated camcorder, so you may or may not use video in the camera.

      Right now the price difference between the D700 and D800 is about $1000. If budget is an issue then you might choose the D700 and spend the difference on a good lens. The D800 will need good lenses to get the full benefit of 36 megapixels, so be sure to figure those into your decision as well. Hope this helps you choose the right equipment!

  5. Hi:

    I have read a lot articles on comparison but I must say yours was down to earth and well written for the ‘everyday hobbyist’ and this is why I liked your article and why I have a question for you. 🙂

    I have been using a D200 since 2007. As you can imagine, it is time for an upgrade. I have been having sleepless nights about which of the two cameras I should buy that will last me another 5 years: D7000 or D700.

    I can imagine a lot of readers out there have very similar predicaments and just need some to say to them: “go ahead and stop torturing yourself: buy the D# with the following lens XXXX and move on with your life.. It is what you need for the type of pictures you take”. I am not

    Now, please advise me … I take a lot of family pictures in CHURCH (weddings, baptisms, communions) so I need a very good camera at ISO’s of 1800 plus; at HOME, I take a lot of indoor pictures of my children playing, eating, sitting with grandparents, birthday parties; OUTDOORS, at the swimming pol , football games, beach, and so forth.

    Which of the two cameras would you reccomend? Then, what lens would you recommend for great Bokeh’s, low light for family weddings and for everyday ‘get and go’ pictures.

    Eagerly waiting for your thoughts and comments.

    Thanks in advance …


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