Here’s a brief comparison of pros and cons, and differences in features, specifications and capabilities in Nikon’s 12 MP DX (1.5x-crop sensor) Nikon D300 and the compact-form FX (full-frame sensor) Nikon D700 professional digital SLR camera.
The focus of this comparison will be on the benefits and strengths of each camera.
Nikon D300 Advantages
Enjoy Nikon 18-200mm VR zoom flexibility
The Nikon 18-200mm VR has turned out to be one of the most popular lenses from Nikon, due in no small part to its huge and flexible a 27-300mm (35mm equivalent) zoom range.
It is a DX lens, meaning that it is designed to work with DX Nikon DSLR cameras such as the D300, but not with the D700.
If used on the D700, you will see vignetting.
The equivalent walk-around lens on the D700 is the Nikon 24-120mm which unfortunately, has not been updated in a long while, and has been described as having sub-par optics.
Extra “reach” at the same resolution
First, read Thom Hogan’s explanation on this.
Pop a Nikon 70-300mm VR lens on the D300 and you effectively get a lens that has a 450mm reach at the telephoto end of the zoom range.
The same lens on the D700 would result in photos where the subject will not fill up as much of the frame as it would on the D300.
A 300mm focal length remains as 300mm on the D700.
Put in another way, because both cameras have the same resolution and the D300 has the smaller sensor, the higher pixel density on the D300 is an advantage and comes in handy when shooting, say, wildlife or sports where the subject is far away.
AF points more spread out
The 51 AF (autofocus) points covers a wider area in the frame, while the ones on the D700 (like the D3) cluster towards the center of the frame (see this comparison diagram).
If you prefer to minimize the use of the focus-recompose-lock technique, the D300 with its more spread-out AF points would serve you better.
Read a related forum discussion started by a fashion photographer on this subject.
Slightly smaller dimensions and lighter body
* D300: Approximately 147 x 114 x 74 mm (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in.)
* D700: Approximately 147 x 123 x 77 mm (5.8 x 4.8 x 3.0 in.)
Weight (without batteries)
* D300: Approximately 825 g (1.82 lb.)
* D700: Approximately 995 g (2.19 lb.)
Nikon D700 Advantages
According to an interview conducted by the Amateur Photographer UK magazine with a Nikon representative in London, and I quote:
The D700’s body is built of a thicker magnesium alloy construction than the D300. ‘So, it is more rugged for the professional lifestyle we envisage it being used for,’ according to the firm. Nikon explained that the D700 has weather-proofing comparable to its F6 film-based model, adding that it excels the D300 and is ‘not far behind the D3’ in this respect.’
14-bit RAW burst rate
Unlike the D300, the D700’s fps (frames-per-second) burst rate does not drop to 2.5 in 14-bit NEF / RAW capture mode.
On the D700, you get to capture photos at maximum bit depth without having to sacrifice continuous burst speed, which is 6 fps without the battery grip, and 8 fps with the MB-D10.
Image quality with top-of-the-line Nikon normal zoom lenses
According to Joseph S Wisniewski, the quality you’d get from a Nikon D3 plus Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens exceeds what you’d get from a Nikon D300 plus Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G combination. I quote from this post:
The 24-70mm f2.8 as a normal zoom that far exceeds the quality of the 17-55mm f2.8 DX on a Nikon D2X (I know, because I have that combination in addition to the 24-70 on a D3).
It is thus reasonable to expect that you’d get the same image quality benefits by mounting the 24-70mm Nikkor on the D700 as both the D3 and D700 share the same sensor.
Virtual horizon during Live View
The availability of the electronic horizon indicator in Live View mode on the D700 would be extremely helpful to photographers who shoot architectural images as they need to deal with the perspective caused by wider lenses, explains Björn.
The D300 does not offer this feature.
Read Thom Hogan’s excellent summary on the pros and cons of the D3, D300 and D700.
One of the major points I picked up from his piece is that at the moment, there is a dearth of Nikon lenses with modern features (read VR or vibration reduction, and AF-S) that are optimized for the FX format.