No official announcement at the time of writing, but a German photo magazine has hit the newsstands with details of Nikon's new compact D700 'full frame' dSLR. There's a scan of the mag with pictures here, for anyone interested in testing their linguistic skills.
Salient points are:
- sensor appears to be the same 12.1mp unit as the D3
- sensor cleaning has been added
- frame rate is 5fps in standard form; 8fps with the MB-D10 grip (which also fits the D300)
- smaller and lighter than the D3 (though heavier than the D300)
- viewfinder is 95% view (against the D3's 100%)
The price doesn't appear to be confirmed yet, though it's likely to be around the £2000 mark.
For what it's worth, here are some initial thoughts:
- the 12mp sensor will be raising some eyebrows, if only because Canon's upcoming replacement for their (12mp) 5D is likely to cram in more pixels. But it actually makes sense, for several reasons. First, 12mp seems to have established itself as a sweet spot that suits most users' needs without compromising noise levels or diffraction limits. Second, using the same sensor as the D3 will presumably allow Nikon to drive down the per-unit sensor cost, which will translate into better margins and more price flexibility in the longer term. And third, keeping the pixel count down has enabled Nikon to keep the frame rate up; the D700 will be snapped up by landscape shooters, I'm sure, but it'll be no slouch on the football field either.
- there's some discussion on the forums about whether or not the D700 will shoot 14 bit raw files at 5fps. I think it's unlikely; the D300 only manages 14 bits at 2.5fps, but this fact is buried deep in the spec tables. One of the contributing factors to the price differential between the D3 and D300 is processor bandwidth; there may have been some improvement since the D300's launch, but we'll have to wait and see. 14 bits at 5fps for a camera at this price would be a seriously impressive achievement. Update: looks like 14 bit capture doesn't slow down the D700 after all. I'm suitably impressed...
- why the increased weight over the D300? Seems likely to me that it's caused by the bigger optical components necessitated by the larger sensor: bigger mirror box, mirror, pentaprism and housing. That's all going to add weight but, in fact, the D700 weighs almost exactly the same as the similarly sized (and, er, 'full frame') F6 (the weights in the mag link above include battery; Nikon specs don't). In fact, in just about every respect the D700 is a digital F6, albeit with updated AF and a built-in flash.
- the 'info' feature (which displays all the current shooting info on the rear LCD) finally has its own dedicated button on the right of the camera's back, close to the AF mode selector switch. It bugs me that Nikon keeps moving the buttons (even the D300 and D3 buttons don't work in exactly the same way - go figure), but this is where it should have been to start with.
Whatever the detail, it's an interesting move by Nikon that's sure to have any remaining well-heeled fence-sitters ditching their film SLRs and switching to digi.
It may look, on the face of it, as though all the reasons to buy a D3 just went away, but Nikon has a long history of launching slightly stripped-down versions of its range-toppers going right back to the Nikon F / Nikkormat. In 1989 I bought an F801 for precisely this reason; it offered most of the F4's features at around half the price and in a smaller body. The D3's higher speed, tougher build, dual card slots, 100% viewfinder and a few other wrinkles will be enough to persuade those photographers that need these features to keep buying. For the rest of the world, the D700 looks like finally making the FX format a little more accessible for Nikon owners.
In fact it looks good enough that, had it been available when I decided to take the FX plunge, I almost certainly would have bought it over the D3...