Jeff H said:
The issue here is.. I'd really like to shoot with higher iso. I don't like flash and nothing above 400 on my D40 is usable. I mean I can make creative grainy shots, but I can't get the shot I want at 800 or above, so I don't even try it.
You sound like me.
I can tell you the flipside of working with less ISO capabilities than desired.
I'm still using my D70s from 2005 for event photography (dances, charity functions, ...). Most of these events are in the same venues as wedding receptions. Being dance, I also have to weigh the issue of fast motion in low light.
My experience the past couple years has been a lot of wrist cutting. I can't go above ISO 800 because of poor sensor performance in low light. Therefore I've had to compensate by using a slower shutter - 1/30th of a second is as slow as I can go, but really I need at least 1/100th for decent results. So, my pictures have a bit of blur. Due to the low light venues I've been stuck using the 50mm F1.8D, which is a great lens, but on a DX format camera is a bit difficult to use as I have to stay at least 20 feet away from my subject to get them in frame. That's not always possible, and when dealing with crowded dance floors, leaving that much space between the camera and subject just invites other people to step in inbetween to ruin the shot. At those low light levels, depth of field is really small too. Since the D70s is contrast based focus, there are a lot of 'focus misses'. While all this is a PITA, I can at least deal with the issues and get satisfactory results.
The part that I cannot deal with on an ongoing basis and which is the biggest most cumbersome issue is noise removal on the images I edit. At a given event I take about 1,500 photos. Most of the images get tossed because of focus miss, somebody steps into the frame at the last moment, too much blur, etc... Because of the aformentioned issues, most of my images are too dark to discern the good from the bad. Therefore I must edit all the pictures for color/exposure before I can evaluate them. I shoot .nef RAW and can process images in small batches using Capture NX. however, in ALL cases I have to remove noise and Capture NX's noise removal is crap and dog slow. Using Noise Ninja is pretty effective, but it also isn't perfect and adds to my hardware and time requirements. To give an estimate, I can color/exposure correct 1,500 images in an evening (about 5 hours). But to do effective noise removal, all images must be converted to 16-bit uncompressed TIFF format. As 6 megapixel .nef RAW images, my 1,500 photos take about 8 GB. As uncompressed TIFFs those same images take nearly 45 GB. Noise Ninja will produce as output another 45 GB of images. These must then be converted to JPEG or whatever format I end up publishing. so, to noise remove requires an additional 100 GB of harddrive space and time to convert between formats. Noise removal alone takes me about another day or two. I could just choose a 'one size fits all' preset and batch process them in 2 hours using Noise Ninja's batch tool, but the results suck when you do it that way. To be effective requires hand tweaking each image as sometimes important details will get removed as part of the noise removal process and others become too prominent. Jumping through all these hoops every time I take pictures has drained me of wanting to take pictures anymore.
Long story short. If I had to buy another camera today and the D300s and D700 were my choices. I'd take the D700 without even thinking about it.