Nikon D700 vs Pentax K5

That’s not a typo. I’m not referring to Nikon’s crop sensor camera the D7000 but it’s professional full frame D700. Yes, I’m comparing a very good, very capable camera from Nikon vs Pentax’s crop sensor K5.

First things first. Both cameras are very good. If you decide to buy either of them, you can be assured of professional image quality output. If your photos are still junk then there’s no one else to blame but yourself.

I bought the D700 because it was on sale at an outrageous 40% off brand new from a legit (not grey) shop. Who could possibly resist that?! And besides, I have already invested in Nikon film cameras so it makes perfect sense to get a digital full frame that can share my existing lenses. Shifting from Canon to Nikon was a necessary evil I had to do but it wasn’t that bad since I haven’t invested in Canon lenses. All I had was the 17-85mm kit lens glued to my 40D. To be honest, I miss that camera. It was very capable, easy to use and infinitely customizable. Which brings us to my major gripes about this Nikon D700:

No memory for custom settings!!! What other modern DSLR camera can’t store your favorite settings aside from Nikon? You expect a camera as expensive as the D700 to be capable of storing user settings in dedicated memory banks. I shoot mostly landscape but I carry only very basic equipment: one camera, one lens and tripod. I never used filters (until recently) except for the default UV to protect my lens from salt spray and dust. If the scene is too contrasty, I bracket and use HDR technique. If you shoot at the proper lighting conditions, you don’t need filters because you could always do that in post. Which means, I expect my camera to do (reasonably) everything I ask it to do. Like bracketing 3 different exposures at 4EV wide, shooting at high speed using the built in timer to avoid camera shake. Unfortunately, the D700 can’t do that!!! To bracket at 4EV wide you need to shoot 5 frames, not 3. If you want high speed shooting, you can’t use the timer. How stupid is that?! And careful if you enabled bracketing mode because to shoot normally you will have to wrestle the darn camera like this: press that small button near the lens mount, turn the thumb wheel twice to cancel the bracket. If you want to bracket again, repeat the same procedure. Now if you are dead serious with HDR, you want at least 8EV wide brackets. That means 9 frames on the D700. As if Nikon RAW files are small. As if your shutter lives forever. Did you just shoot that cat at ISO 1600 in broad daylight? Ooops!!! It would be nice if you could easily reset your camera to your favorite settings to avoid the bloopers, yeah? And please don’t mind the exposure scale because going left is positive and going right is negative (yes, Nikon failed high school algebra). But there is a setting to invert that hidden somewhere deep in the stupid menu. You can read the very thick manual if you are unsure. But careful because that only changes the exposure scale. Everything else will still be in reverse. Seriously, WTF?!

Here comes Pentax K5. Fully weathersealed, built like a tank, in-body stabilization (which means all lenses including manual focus from the 80’s are image stabilized), lighter and way cheaper. And dig this: FIVE, as in five, custom settings memory banks!!! You can couple bracketing with timer. You can bracket 8EV wide with just 5 frames. There’s more: automatic mirror lockup in timer mode! How cool is that! The camera does not get in the way of shooting. It does what I want it to do. It’s the landscape photographer’s dream camera! Enough said. Anything I add here would only make the D700 look like it was crafted by amateurs.

Having said those harsh words against the D700, it still has a special spot in my photography. In controlled environments (e.g. portraiture) it’s still my camera of choice. And the fact that I have invested in quite a few Nikon mount lenses, it makes sense to keep it until it dies.

And that’s why my D700 is gathering dust while my K5 goes wherever I go.

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5 thoughts on “Nikon D700 vs Pentax K5”

  1. Interesting post. I’m looking to finish with Nikon. My D700 has a small scratch on the AA filter but Nikon want to replace the whole sensor unit for half the camera’s price. GREED! I can get a K5 cheaper. Also interested in your view of how the D700 ‘gets in the way’ as a tool. I also think this is the case.
    How are you getting along with the K5 a year on?

    1. How am I getting along with the K5? Let’s just say I want another one LOL! This thing is fantastic. The DR especially shadow recovery is unbelievable. Have a look at the two-minute editing video and the “Choosing the dark side” posts. I have also discovered another neat feature in full manual mode which is very useful for manual lenses. Maybe a full review of the camera is in place.

    2. go to livepixel have a look they do infrared conversions
      mainly but also do low pass filters maybe cheaper than nikon repair that said K5 rocks (Nikon user!)

  2. Thanks for the reply. Interesting you mention manual lenses. I have a few old K mount lenses, along with older Nikon ai lenses. I opted for the D700 largely for the reason I could continue to use old manual lenses. However, I find the focus screen in the Nikon quite unacceptable for manual focus, despite it being FX. How is the K5 for manual focus?

    1. A full frame viewfinder is better than any crop sensor. The advantage of the K5 is that even with manual focus lenses, the focus point lights up and the camera beeps when you are in focus. No more guessing.

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