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I've seen quite a few claims about the new firmware for the D700; from battery life, AF speed, FPS, white balance, etc. I'm either losing my mind, or found another; cleaner high ISO.
Interesting result - I'll have to experiment tonight. Like you, I'd chuck any 12,800 ISO file from the D700 by default, as I don't even like what it puts out at 6,400. Fortunately I don't use those settings much at all.
But for sure the new firmware has some magic sauce, as I got over 2,400 clicks on one battery at a cycling event a few weeks ago. When I shot the same event last year (on older firmware) I was getting between 900-1000 clicks per battery. In any case, the firmware update was a nice treat for us legacy D700 users