Nikon D700 with 24-70 f/2.8 ~ Vs ~ D300 with 17-55 f/2.8

Jul 16, 2009 | News | 15 comments

What a great challenge. Warehouse Express asked me to check out the differences between the Nikon rivals and report back. Well I already own a Nikon D700 with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens so Nikon lent me the D300 and the 17-55mm lens combo to do the evaluating. There were less surprises than I thought but here are some of my findings.

The D300 has more pixels than the D700, and the D700 has bigger pixels than the D300. So does size matter? or is pixel count king?

Well, my findings revealed that although both cameras were capable of delivering extremely good results up to ISO 800 it is the lenses that make the biggest difference to picture quality. I found that the FX 24mm-70mm f/2.8 lens has a higher resolution, contrast and clarity than the DX equivalent 17mm-55mm f/2.8 optic. At ISO 800 and above the D700 streaks ahead in all respects as can be seen in the comparison shots below:

The full frame on the Nikon D300 with the 17-55mm lens. Shot at 1/80th

The full frame on the Nikon D300 with the 17-55mm lens. Shot at 1/80th, f/4 and at 55mm lens setting.

100% crop from the Nikon D300 image above.

100% crop from the Nikon D300 image above.

The 100% crop from the D700 image below.

The 100% crop from the Nikon D700 image below.

The full

The full frame on the Nikon D700 with the 70-200mm lens. Shot at 1/80th, f/4 and at 110mm lens setting.

There are two points to note in the pictures above. The ISO and exposure settings are the same for both shots but for the D700 image I chose to use my 70-200mm f/2.8 image stabilised lens. It’s not until you get the D300 & 17-55mm f/2.8 image side by side with Nikon’s best does it start to look a bit ropey both in terms of clarity and noise. I know it is not a true side by side comparison, I’ll leave those shots and results for my Warehouse Express review as they are copyrighted to them, but you can begin to see why it could be worth shelling out the extra money for the D700.

In a one make challenge there are no winners or losers. Perhaps the consolation for Nikon is that the most expensive system is the best one by far.

I’ve been out shooting on location and in the studio with my D700 & 24-70mm today alongside another pro shooting identical frames with a D300 & 17-55mm system and I have to say the D700 is definitely the better of the two. My Warehouse Express test findings were certainly corroborated today. I’ll post today’s pictures as soon as they are processed.

My full comparison report will be on the Warehouse Express website soon, once it’s passed scrutineering :-)


  1. metoo

    look at all the noise in the shadow areas of the nikon d300 shot. you should have shot d700 at iso 3200 then it would be fair comparison to d300 at iso 800.
    you dont compare lenses at iso 800, especially if you want to see the fine detail differences.

  2. Vladi

    Hey, why on earth did you compare the cameras at iso 800? now instead of comparing lenses you compared the high iso of these 2 cameras. d700 is 2 stops better in high iso than d300 so its very unfair comparison.
    you should have shot both at iso 200 then we could see the difference between lenses.
    imho not a good comparison at all.

    • damien

      Hi Vladi and Metoo,
      Thanks for your comments, I shoot at ISO800 most of the time so this was a real world comparison not some test bench scientific survey. Real world comparisons of how both camera/lens combinations work in the same light with similar subjects are the most useful to pro shooters. You are free to do your own scientific comparisons or can I suggest you look at DP review and Luminous Landscape for more indepth analysis.
      Kind regards,

      Damien Lovegrove

  3. ben

    There is definitely something wrong with the D300 Image. It looks like it was shot at 800 ISO with heavy noise reduction applied by default. Plus you used a cheaper lens to shoot the pic. So it is not a fair comparison in my estimation. 70-200 is a prime lens with extremely sharp capabilities.

    • damien

      Hi Ben,

      The D300 image is processed in exactly the same way as the D700 image. I have used D300s on many occasions and the one that took this picture was supplied by Nikon as a press sample via Warehouse Express. I own a D700 and have shot side by side with the D300 on many occasions, when making DVDs, and on workshops. The image quality from the D700 is significantly better as you would expect. I use my own f/2.8 lenses on both cameras when I shoot. The 70-200 lens is not a prime lens, it is a zoom lens and has been replaced with a much sharper and better optic that I have yet to buy. I was asked to test the kit lens that came with the D300 and it is surprisingly good as is the one that comes with the fabulous Nikon D7000 that I currently have on test.

      Kindest regards,


  4. Rob

    Really interesting to see the comparison Damien as I tried to run a d300/d700 combo for weddings but found the image quality difference saw me leaving the d300 in my camera bag all the time so I swapped for a 2nd d700 and have never looked back.

  5. Karl

    Hi Damien, it would be my and many others opinion that the manufacturers are producing great cameras which far surpasses film, these are coming thick and fast far faster than the lenses needed to resolve this sort of resolution, i also think we need to ask where will it end. most pro’s change up cameras before they have got the best out of what they are currently using just because the latest one is better, im as guilty as most i run a D3 and a D3X not because i need them but because i can. keep well and keep rockin, hope you are all well.

    Karl (if you get chance check out my blog

  6. abby

    Ditto on wishing to see the same 24-70 2.8 lens used on each camera. I have a d300 but don’t use DX lenses.

    Coming from Canon, I love how the d300 behaves but the image quality is only so/so. Am hoping an upgrade to the D700 will kick the IQ up, even at low ISO. Your review gives me hope!

  7. damien

    Hi Karl,

    I assume Nikon might consider a D900 for studio shooters who don’t want or need the bulk of the D3x but want the fantastic image quality. Like the D700 to the D3 I suppose. I have a D700 because I don’t need or want the bulk of the D3. I have the 5D mk11 because I don’t need or want the bulk of the 1Ds mk111 but I want the quality of image.

    I don’t know how well the D700 is selling but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is outselling the D3.

    I would welcome another offering from Nikon. I think as consumers we now have the best tools ever for picture making and I just hope Nikon, Canon and Sony continue to thrive and develop cameras and lenses for some time to come.


  8. karl

    With regards to the sensitivity of the d3x, although not up to d3 standards or 5dmk2 it still is excellent, when exposure and White balance are good it is very clean upto iso3200, my studio runs both canon and nikon and hands down the d3x is the ultimate studio dslr and have the results to back this up. The D3 and D3x are a perfect partnership so why would we need a D900 or is it just to fuel the corpoate engine. There are no leaders in the photographic equipment war only losers, us the consumer.

  9. Paul Gallagher

    Damien, it would have been interesting to see the images from the D300 with the Nikon 24-70mm lens fitted and com pared to the D700 for image sharpness.
    I look forward to reading the full review when its up.

  10. damien

    Hi Frederik,

    The 5DMK11 is way over twice the price, has twice the size of sensor, is more sensitive and is aimed at a completely different market to the 50D.

    Yes the 50D is a great camera for the price but unlike the D300/D700 the 50D is not just a small sensor equivalent of the 5Dmk11.

    Canon have a lot of cameras on the market but the jump in quality between the 50D and the 5D mk11 is one of the biggest in the range and the 2 cameras are not competing with each other for the same market as is the case with the Nikons.


  11. Frederik

    It would be interesting to hear you opinion on the differences between the 5DmkII and the 50D

  12. damien

    Ooh I know nothing of a D900. I hope it’s more sensitive than the D3x. It will need to at least equal the 5DMK2 for resolution and sensitivity if Nikon are to regain the lead.

  13. jean Dawkins

    The difference between the D300 and D700 is blinding and stunning. Can’t wait for the nikon D900!


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