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PostPosted: Sun Sep 26, 2010 4:50 pm 
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I had the chance to get my hands on a D700 body this weekend and tried to get a feeling of how the D700 + Nikon AF-S 28-300/3.5-5.6G ED VR combo performs compared to the D300 + Nikon AF-S 18-200/3.5-5.6G ED VR pair. Both setups generate 12MP images and the crop-factor of 1.5x for the DX-body means that the equivalent focal length (FL) of the 18-200mm zoom is 27-300mm: So both let you capture the same images.
Apart from comparing image quality (IQ) I was also interested in handling differences and the quality of the viewfinder.

As I've now shot over 300 images at the weekend alternating between the D700 + 28-300mm combo and the D300 + 18-200mm pair I'm beginning to form an opinion. I'll report later in a more congruent way and with pairs of shots showing the differences in detail. But let me give you some first impressions:
- at normal ISO of 200 the differences are not stunning and you have to look quite close
- looking through my image pairs and trying to pick out the D700 + 28-300 combo I was 90% right - but only when looking at 100% (=pixel peeping)
- in many cases slight differences in focus or slight blur from the use of VR and lower shutter-speeds made it not easy to compare
- better background-blur and/or differences in Bokeh almost always revealed the D700 + 28-300 combo quite clearly.
- the ease how the D700 reaches good quality at ISO 1600 was real impressive but you can also differences at ISO 200 in dark areas with smooth oof background

Differences in the optical viewfinder on both bodies will be reported in another post and for size and weight-comparison looky here.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 26, 2010 6:48 pm 
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Looking at the technical data, the optical viewfinder (ovf) of the D300 has a total magnification (with a 50mm lens) of 0.94x and a coverage of 100% of the frame. The magnification in this case means: if you look through the ovf the image is slightly smaller than when you put the camera down and look directly. The ovf of the D700 has 0.72x magnification (with 50mm lens) and 95% coverage (linear, i.e. roughly 10% of the image is not shown). The eyepoints are 19.5mm (D300) resp. 18mm (D700). Interestingly there are no figures for the brightness of the ovf.
So on paper the D300 looks better as a higher eye-point (important for wearer of glasses like me), a larger magnification, and 100% coverage are desirable! Right?

Think again: total magnification was measured in both cases with a 50mm lens!? That is not really comparing apples to apples as the D300 has a 1.5x crop-factor, meaning that you should put a 35mm lens on it to capture the same images as the D700 with 50mm lens. Now that reduces the comparable magnification of the D300 to 0.63x (=0.94/1.5)! So in the end the D700 has a 15% greater magnification than the D300.

To confirm this calculation I tested it by holding each camera in turn to my right eye in portrait-orientation and opening my left eye at the same time. Then I zoomed to the point where the image on both eyes had the same magnification (of 100%). I reached this at 70mm on the D700 and 53mm on the D300. Does this match with the magnifications given above? Well, yes:
- a 70mm lens is 40% longer than a 50mm lens and thus the total magnification of the D700 ovf plus a 70mm lens attached should reach 1.4x0.72 = 100%
- and a 53mm lens is 6% longer than a 50mm lens and thus the total magnification through a D300 ovf should reach 1.06x0.94 = 100%.
Bingo! So you see the D700 ovf gives indeed a bigger magnification than the ovf of the D300.

If the magnification is bigger on the D700 shouldn't the size of the vf frame look bigger too? Yes indeed it does, but not 20% wider and 20% higher because the D700 does not show you 100% of the frame but only 95%. So as 95% of 120% = 114% you see a 14% larger frame (in both dimensions) in the ovf of the D700 than in the D300. Which is nice too.

Now the final question (apart from brightness) is: Now that the frame inside the ovf looks larger on the D700 compared to the D300, how easy is it to see all of the frame plus the display below the frame?
Well, this is a subjective test, but I had the clear feeling that I had to press my bespectacled eye harder to the D300 eyepiece to have an unobstructed view of everything than with the D700. Now this does not correspond with the technical data: The higher eyepoint of the D300-body should mean that viewing should be easier than on the D700.
Plus the green display on the D700 was much easier to read in bright daylight than the display of the D300. The numbers and letters in the D300 ovf are larger but clearly not as bright as with the D700.

Now this is a triple win for the D700-body here: Larger frame plus higher magnification which is easier to look at and has a brighter display.

And what about brightness? Well, the D300 ovf could be a tad brighter than the D700. But even with a f/1.4 lens attached both ovfs are still less bright than reality. At least one stop...

So there are clear benefits of the D700 with respect to the ovf. But in all honesty: After hearing others rave about the experience I was a bit disappointed as I had expected a more pronounced difference...

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 26, 2010 9:39 pm 
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You tested D300 against D700, would you think the LCD in the viewfinder to be as clear as the D700 in the D300s?

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:44 am 
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Not sure what you mean with "clear". But the technical data for the ovf of the D300 and D300s are identical down to the matte screen type.
So - w/o having had the opportunity to look through the D300s ovf - I'd say both look identical. Perhaps the display under the frame was made brighter, but that I do not know.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:27 am 
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Did you mean a different LCD screen then, when talking about the D700 being clearer?

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Plus the green display on the D700 was much easier to read in bright daylight than the display of the D300. The numbers and letters in the D300 ovf are larger but clearly not as bright as with the D700.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:54 pm 
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I was neither talking about the 3" LCD-display on the back of the body nor the black&white top LCD-display.
I was referring to the green display which you see looking through the ovf below the picture-frame. There figures and letters displayed in green inform you about shutter-speed, f-stop, exposure-comp and ISO among other things.
After looking again, I found out that in the D300 the brightness of this display changes with the brightness of the image in the ovf (seems like 3 steps). In the D700 the brightness seemed to stay at a constant high level. So I obviously had a moment of low-brightness with the D300 when comparing it to the D700. Looking through the manual I couldn't find a way to put the D300 in-ovf-display on "bright" permanently.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 6:49 pm 
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Ok, thanks for the explanation. Wonder if Nikon changed that in the D300s, I really doubt they would make it different between newer bodies.
And for all I know, that part in bottom of the ovf is still LCD too ;-)

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:21 pm 
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Now here's the first set of comparisons. And the most important too!
Would you believe that you could see the differences between both combos at images downsized from their original glory to 500 pixels width?
Well, me neither!
Here goes, but you have to guess, which is which.
Both images were shot from the same vantage point within seconds of each other.

Image Image
Click through the images to get access to the large originals.

The first image is sharper, isn't it? Yessssss!
Now sharper is better, so the first image must come from the more expensive combo, the D700 + 28-300mm? Wrrrrrrrong!

Let's have a closer look now at a 100% crop (sorry it's a little oversized):
Image
Both images were shot at f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 200. The first/left image had to be lifted +0.3 EV to match the 2nd/right one.

Now, what do you see?
Yep, the second image is also sharp, but only in at the closer flowers, the background is more out-of-focus than in the 1st image. Obviously the first image has a greater dof and less blurred oof-rendering.
This comaprison is testament to the optical law, that the larger sensor produces less dof. To achieve the same effect on the D300 you need to shoot at a one stop larger aperture. So if you shoot wide open to isolate your subject you would need a 18-200mm f/2.5-4.0. A lens that you simply cannot buy!

So the FX body gives you a background isolation/blur with your existing lenses that only some expensive larger aperture lenses could get you. That alone could easily save you extra the money to get a D700 of a cheaper DX body.

On the other hand, if you need deep dof to get everything sharp from front to back, you need to stop down the FX-combo by one stop which either gives you a longer shutter speed with the added risk of shake or you need to crank of the ISO one notch to compensate for that.
But if you're interested in maximum dof, you need a point&shoot (or use your mobile phone). For a dof-comparison of a p&s to a D300 looky here.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 7:14 pm 
When I switched from film cameras to digital, I noticed and now appreciate the extra depth of field which can be gained with a 35mm f1.8 on DX to a 50mm f1.8 on film. (Which are essentially the same lens)


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 7:26 pm 
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Yeah, you're right! It depends on what you want as a result.
I love to isolate my subjects or eliminate distracting background. Only in macro-photography I mostly have too little dof to my liking :roll:

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:49 pm 
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Now, here's the next one. I promised to show you that noise even at 200 ISO is visibly better with the D700 than with the D300.

100% crop:
Image
Both images shot at ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1000sec, left with D700 + 28-300 at 35mm, right with D300 + 18-200 at 24mm

Both combos received the same amount of light, and the first observation was that the image from the D300 combo turned out visibly darker. I had to add +0.4EV in post-processing to match both images. That does not necessarily mean that the 18-200mm zoom has a worse transmission than the 28-300mm. It might just be that the effective ISO values of the D300 are a little lower than that of the D700. DxOMark measured ISO 145 as effective ISO for the D300 vs. ISO 162 for the D700. So that accounts for approximately -0.2EV under-exposure on the D300.

But the more interesting point is in the marked area, where the white wooden planks reach into the shadow. You can easily see noise crop up in the right image that was made with the D300. In the left image the area stays clean(er) of noise.

That's the result of the fact that noise does not only occur in high(er) ISO shots but "lurks in the shadows" of any normal ISO 200 image. E.g. at 7 stops beneath fully exposed areas (1% brightness) the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the D300 (at ISO 200) is 22dB while the D700 has 26dB. This 4dB advantage in SNR of the D700 is equivalent to more than 1EV.
And that shows.

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