Nikon D300 or D700 – what do I use?

The latest two Nikon prosumer cameras: The older D300 and the newer D700 are some of Nikon’s finest and most affordable cameras, with the D700 offering 95% of the features of the D3.
As many readers know, I have been to Antarctica at the beginning of this year. In my luggage was a D300, a D700 and even the good ol’ D2h.
Spending a few days in Buenos Aires before and after the trip, I did not want to risk flashing around my two high end cameras and surprisingly the D2h resulted in wonderful images from this place (although I would not dare to shoot above ISO200).

But I digress… I was thinking about upgrading my D300 to the D700 and the trip to Antarctica was supposed to solve my question: Is it worth the extra money to buy the D700?

In my opinion a clear no! Don’t get me wrong – the D700 is an outstanding camera and in many aspects slightly superior to the D300.
An objective answer is: It depends. My shooting style is low light landscapes. I rarely shoot above ISO200. Most of my shots are at least 1-2 seconds of exposure time and can go up to several minutes (10 minutes was my longest exposure so far).

I always shoot with Nikon’s 14 bit option, on the D300 this results in slower frame rates. For many this is a real downer. Not for me – I do not need to rip shots as a landscape photographer. Different story for wildlife – the more frames you can rip, the better.

A landscape photographer composes the shot. The decision what goes in the frame is most important. Which brings us to the next point why I prefer the D300 over the D700: It has a 100% viewfinder. This is underestimated by many, but is very important when it comes to composition. What you see in your viewfinder is what you get on your monitor back home. No adding, no subtracting and – if you are careful and really know what you want to include in the frame – no cropping in post.

Lastly I have to say I love the Nikon 14-24mm and shot with it in Antarctica. However I have an equivalent lens on my DX sensor: The Sigma 10-20mm. Almost as wide as the 14-24 and it accepts filters which is very important for my type of shooting style. Not to mention that the Sigma is about 5 times cheaper and I can not really see sharpness differences around the sweet spot (f/8-f11) either.
If you know how to handle the Sigma, I doubt you will see any differences between the two lenses.

So in summary, the reasons why I decided to sell my D700 and keep my D300 are the following:

  • D700 offers about 1 more usable stop in ISO performance which does not matter to my shooting style
  • D300 offers a 100% viewfinder unlike the D700 (only a 95%vf)
  • I do not mind the frame rate restriction on the D300 when shooting in 14 bit mode
  • Last but not least the price difference between the two cameras

I hope my approach may help you in deciding which camera to get.

Should you upgrade from a D200 and you don’t mind a 95% viewfinder, I would definitely pick the D700.

Upgrading from a D300 to a D700 is trickier. For me as a landscape shooter it was an easy pick – the D300. For a wildlife shooter, the D700 has a clear advantage.

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