Many of our readers request detailed information on the difference between the Nikon D700 and Nikon D300/D300s DSLR cameras. They wonder why there is such a big price difference, while the cameras look almost identical and the number of megapixels is the same. In this comparison, I will be providing not only feature differences between these cameras, but also high ISO samples to explain the difference between the different types of sensors used in D700 and D300/D300s.
If you are wondering about the differences between the Nikon D300 and Nikon D300s, I highly recommend to check out my Nikon D300 vs D300s comparison. Basically, Nikon D300s is an update to the Nikon D300 with more features and speed, while the sensor remains identical. The biggest changes are: more frames per second, ability to use both SD and CompactFlash memory cards and video-recording capability up to 720p HD.
Nikon D700 was released in July of 2008, approximately a year after Nikon D3 release date. D3’s sensor was a huge success for Nikon and the company knew that if it used the same sensor on a smaller and cheaper body, they could create a new product line that could compete directly against the Canon 5D full-frame camera. The company executives were not wrong – Nikon D700 became an instant success when it was announced and it became the camera of choice for those, who did not need the speed or the price tag of the D3, but still wanted the same superb performance of the full frame sensor.
Here are the main differences between Nikon D300s and Nikon D700:
- Sensor – Nikon D300s has a smaller 12 megapixel DX (1.5 crop factor) sensor, while Nikon D700 has a 12 megapixel FX (full-frame) sensor. The sensor is what primarily makes up the difference in price between the D300s and D700. Full-frame sensor means more dynamic range and better high ISO capabilities with no field of view crop. See sample images below for comparison.
- ISO sensitivity – Nikon D700 has better ISO sensitivity than D300, because of larger pixels. Default sensitivity on D700 is ISO 200 – 6400, while it is ISO 200 – 3200 on D300s.
- Reach – Due to differences in sensors (full-frame vs 1.5x crop sensor), the Nikon D300s has a longer “reach”, because of the difference in field of view and higher pixel density. Basically, it has the same number of megapixels in a smaller sensor, which means that you get more resolution from the center area of the lens, while the corners are cut off. At the same time, wide-angle lenses are truly wide-angle on a full-frame sensor and you get a larger field of view, which is nice for architecture and landscape photography.
- Larger viewfinder – Nikon D700 has a bigger mirror, pentaprism and viewfinder than the D300, making it easier to see and photograph the scene (especially manual focus).
- Autofocus – Nikon D700 is equipped with the same autofocus system as the D3/D3s, which is better than the one on D300s.
- Better weather-sealing and build – Nikon D700 has a thicker magnesium alloy construction and is better equipped for tough weather conditions than the D300s.
- 14-bit RAW recording – Nikon D700 records both 12-bit and 14-bit RAW files at 5 frames per second (FPS), while Nikon D300s drops to 2.5 FPS on 14-bit files.
- Viewfinder coverage – Nikon D700 has a 95% viewfinder versus 100% on the Nikon D300, which means that you do not fully see what the camera will capture on the D700 when you take a picture.
- Video recording – Nikon D300s can shoot 720p video and Nikon D700 has no video recording capability.
- Camera dimensions – Both cameras have similar dimensions, but D700 is slightly larger (147x123x77mm) than D300s (147x114x74mm).
- Weight – Nikon D700 is slightly heavier (995g) than D300s (840g).
- Quiet Shutter Release – All new Nikon DSLRs, including the D300s have the “Q” (Quiet Shutter Release) mode. Nikon D700 does not have this mode.
- Other minor differences in camera menu/settings.
- Nikon D700 is currently priced about $1,000 more than D300s.
Nikon D300s and D700 High ISO Comparison
Below is the head-to-head high ISO comparison between the D300s and D700 sensors at ISO 800, 1600 and 3200. I had to match the field of view between the two cameras and move the D300s setup a little back for accurate results. The below images are 100% crops and they were not resized in any way.
The difference between the D300s DX sensor and D700 FX is already pronounced at ISO 800. The image from the Nikon D300s DX sensor looks looks noisy and we are beginning to lose a little bit of sharpness. Nikon D700 has no visible noise.
At ISO 1600, the Nikon D300s is extremely noisy and there is clear evidence of loss of sharpness and detail in the image. Nikon D700 starts having a little bit of noise in the shadows, but still looks good.
At ISO 3200, Nikon D300s looks bad, while Nikon D700 is still retaining sharpness, but has some noise in the shadows.
So, which one is right for you, Nikon D300s or Nikon D700? I guess it all depends on your budget and the type of photography you do. If you are a landscape or architectural photographer, Nikon D700 is the obvious choice, because it has better dynamic range and you can use ultra wide-angle lenses without the crop factor. If you are a wedding photographer, D700 is better for low-light situations. If you are a wildlife/sports photographer, then you need to see what is more important for you – reach or better performance at high ISOs. I personally choose high ISO over reach, because most wildlife (especially birds) gets active early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the light conditions are not ideal. In addition, being able to acquire accurate focus in various lighting conditions is also extremely important for wildlife photography and D700 definitely performs better in that regard, especially in low-light. For regular portraiture and flash photography where dynamic range and high ISO performance are not that important, D300s would also work great.
But at the end of the day it all boils down to your budget. If you can afford buying a full-frame camera with pro-level lenses, FX will give you the best results. If you have already invested in several DX lenses, it might not make sense to switch, because you would need to sell all of your DX lenses and you would definitely lose a considerable amount of money. And before you make the final decision, think about this question: How serious are you about your photography and do you only need the camera for occasional photography and travel, or do you need a more advanced tool to get the best results? If it is the latter, get yourself the D700 and don’t look back. Otherwise, stick with the D300s or even a cheaper body like the Nikon D90, because a camera is always the worst investment you can make.
I also highly recommend checking out my Nikon DX vs FX article, in which I provide detailed information on differences between the two sensor types and their advantages/disadvantages.
Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.