Now that the Nikon D800 is officially out, I am sure many photographers will be interested in seeing feature differences between the now obsolete Nikon D700 and the new D800. Please keep in mind that this Nikon D800 vs D700 comparison is purely based on specifications. A detailed comparison with image samples and ISO comparisons is already provided in my Nikon D800 Review.
Before the D4, Nikon had two flagship DSLRs for different photography needs – the Nikon D3s for low-light and the Nikon D3x for high resolution. The lower-end D700 camera had the same sensor as the original D3 and was never updated with the D3s sensor, because Nikon did not want it to eat up the D3s sales. Looks like starting from the D800, Nikon is now reversing the game, offering a high-resolution sensor on a lower-end body and keeping the single digit line for low-light work exclusively. By doing this, Nikon is following Canon’s strategy. The Canon 5D Mark II with its high-resolution sensor has been eating up the Canon 1Ds line for a while now and those expensive 1Ds bodies are not selling as well ever since the 5D Mark II came out. The same is true with the Nikon D3x – while it is quite popular among landscape, architecture and fashion photographers, it is just not selling well overall. The Nikon D700 sells better than the D3s and D3x combined. By introducing a lower-end high-resolution professional body like the D800, Nikon will most likely do away from its high-end “x” line, which would be a smart move on behalf of Nikon – keeping the D3x production line is expensive. At the same time, those of us that shoot sports, wildlife and various events that require good low-light capabilities and cannot afford spending $6K on the D4 will be left with only one choice of a high-resolution full-frame camera (unless Nikon releases a new product for low-light photography, which I doubt will happen anytime soon). I believe Nikon’s thought process is like this: Canon is selling their 5D Mark II as an all-in-one solution quite well, why not do the same? After-all, many wedding photographers do use the high resolution 5D Mark II and do not seem to be complaining much about its high resolution.
Will the Nikon D800 be a good wedding photography camera? Absolutely. Expect it to perform better at all ISOs when the image is down-scaled to 12 MP. And to those that are scared of down-scaling an image: don’t be – the process is pretty straightforward and it is built right into Lightroom’s export window, as shown in my “how to resize images in Lightroom” article.
And for all Nikon landscape photographers out there – this is the camera we have been waiting for. Finally, we have a high resolution camera that will deliver outstanding images with great dynamic range at base ISO of 100. And best of all, compared to medium format and other expensive cameras out there, it won’t cost us an arm and a leg!
Nikon D800 vs D700 Specification Comparison
|Camera Feature||Nikon D800||Nikon D700|
|Sensor Resolution||36.3 Million||12.1 Million|
|Sensor Pixel Size||4.8µ||8.45µ|
|Dust Reduction / Sensor Cleaning||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||7,360 x 4,912||4,256 x 2,832|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 3||EXPEED|
|Built-in Flash||Yes, with flash commander mode||Yes, with flash commander mode|
|Storage Media||1x Compact Flash and 1x SD||1x Compact Flash|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||4 FPS, 6 FPS in DX mode with MB-D12 battery grip||5 FPS, 8 FPS with MB-D10 battery grip|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|Shutter Durability||200,000 cycles||150,000 cycles|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||91,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III||1,005-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-6,400||ISO 200-6,400|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 50, ISO 12,800-25,600||ISO 100, ISO 12,800-25,600|
|Autofocus System||Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX||Multi-CAM 3500FX|
|AF Detection||Up to f/8||Up to f/5.6|
|Camera Lag||0.012 seconds||0.012 seconds|
|Video Output||MOV, Compressed and Uncompressed||N/A|
|Video Maximum Record Time||20 min in 24p, 30 min in 30p||N/A|
|Video Maximum Resolution||1920×1080 (1080p) @ 24p, 30p||N/A|
|Audio Recording||Built-in microphone
External stereo microphone (optional)
|LCD Size||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD||3.0″ diagonal TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||921,000 dots||921,000 dots|
|Wi-Fi Functionality||Eye-Fi Compatible, WT-4A||Eye-Fi Compatible, WT-4A|
|Battery||EN-EL15 Lithium-ion Battery||EN-EL3e Lithium-ion Battery|
|Battery Life||850 shots (CIPA)||1,000 shots (CIPA)|
|Battery Charger||MH-25 Quick Charger||MH-18a Quick Charger|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes|
|Weight (Body Only)||31.7 oz. (900g)||35 oz. (995g)|
|Dimensions||144.78 x 121.92 x 81.28mm||147 x 123 x 77mm|
|MSRP Price||$2,999 (as introduced)||$2,999 (as introduced, dropped to $2,699.95)|
Now here comes the big question – does a high resolution sensor mean bad low-light capabilities? If you look at a picture at 100%, then yes, a high resolution sensor always translates to more noise at higher ISOs. However, when the image is down-sampled to smaller resolution, those differences are significantly reduced. For example, when you look at a 12 MP image at ISO 3200 at 100% and then look at a 36 MP image at the same ISO at 100%, you will surely see more noise on the latter image. However, if you down-sample the 36 MP image to 12 MP, then the 36 MP image is actually going to come out cleaner than the 12 MP image. In addition, if you had a slight focus issue on both, the 36 MP image would look sharper when down-sampled to 12 MP. What I am trying to say here, is that you should not be scared of a high resolution D800, thinking that it will be in any way inferior to your beloved D700. I will provide an in-depth analysis between the D700 and the upcoming D800 when I have it on my hands, but I can say with confidence now that the D800 will give better results than the D700 when its image is down-sampled to 12 MP. Overall, we should be getting around a full stop of advantage noise-wise with the D800 compared to the D700. Think of it this way – you will be able to get superb 36 MP images in daylight and you have the option to down-sample images to lower resolution in low-light.
Videographers should be super excited about the D800, because they can record uncompressed videos at 1080p full HD for 30 minutes straight, with full exposure control. The uncompressed video is a big deal, because it can give production-quality results for film-makers that can now record videos to external devices. There is even a dedicated live view mode for recording videos that gives quick access to exposure control, including white balance. The Nikon D700 has no capability to record videos, so that’s a huge difference there.
I am personally very excited about the Nikon D800, definitely more than the D4.