It's here, after perhaps the longest period of speculation ever Nikon has today lifted the covers on their first full-frame digital SLR, the new 12.1 megapixel D3. The D3 is all about speed and sensitivity, twelve megapixels on a big CMOS chip means large photosites (8.45 µm pitch to be precise) and that adds up to base sensitivity of ISO 200 to 6400 with an additional two stop boost over that (up to ISO 25600). The other side of the speed story (apart from blistering AF and shutter lag) is that the D3 can shoot at nine frames per second with AF tracking or eleven frames per second without. Other headline features are a newly branded EXPEED image processor, a new 51-point AF sensor, color AF tracking, dual CF compartments (with UDMA support), an amazing 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor with Live View (including contrast detect auto-focus), HDMI video output and even a virtual horizon function which can tell you when you're holding the camera perfectly level. There's too much to fit here so we crammed as much as we can into a preview. The D3 will be available in November, at around US$5000.

Click here for our detailed Nikon D3 preview

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Press Release:

Nikon launches the D3

Guide price: D3 body only £3399.99 / €5180*
*full list pricing, including lens, accessories and bundles will be available in September

Nikon UK is pleased to announce the revolutionary Nikon D3 professional Digital SLR that defines a new benchmark in professional photography.

“Nikon has eclipsed the competition with the D3, a cutting edge camera that will change how professional photographers take pictures,” said Robert Cristina, Brand Manager, Nikon Professional Products, Europe. “The incredible speed, resolution and flexibility of the D3 will enable photographers to capture images under conditions previously thought impossible.”

The D3, the result of years of development and feedback from professional photographers, combines many innovative Nikon technologies. These include an exclusive 12.1 effective megapixel FX format (36.0x23.9mm) image sensor with 12-channel read out, a blazing-fast 9 fps frame rate, expandable ISO settings from 200-6400, a completely new 51-Point autofocus system, a 3-inch VGA LCD screen with Live View and a cutting-edge image processing system. 

FX Format Image Sensor

The D3 FX format CMOS imaging sensor was designed from the ground up to offer exceptional light transmission properties, so photographers can acquire outstanding image quality even in low light conditions. With a high signal to noise ratio, a pixel pitch 15% larger than competitive cameras, gapless surface micro-lenses and advanced on-chip noise reduction means high-quality images under very low light levels are now possible. The sensor enables an ISO settings range from 200-6400, expandable up to the equivalent of 25,600 or down to 100.

EXPEED Image Processing System 

The EXPEED image processing system is at the heart of the D3’s ability to capture and process massive amounts of data at high definition. The EXPEED system includes both hardware and years of Nikon image processing experience. The D3 EXPEED system features 14-bit analog-to-digital (A/D) conversion with 16-bit image processing, both of which contribute to delivering results with Nikon’s signature ‘look and feel’ of rich accurate colours, smooth skin gradations and exceptional detail.

Scene Recognition System

The D3 features a radical new approach to calculating exposures and white balance with intelligent support for Autofocus tracking performance as well. At the heart of the Scene Recognition System is Nikon’s renowned 1005-pixel RGB metering sensor that has been modified to distinguish subjects’ shape and position for improved auto exposure and Autofocus accuracy.

Advanced Autofocus

Building on years of development through both the analogue and digital SLR era, Nikon has once again raised the bar for optical Autofocus systems. The D3 and D300 feature a completely new 51-Point autofocus system designed to acquire and track subjects’ movement more accurately. 

The result of intensive studies into how professional sports and news photographers use autofocus, the Multi-CAM3500 AF module features the most AF points ever developed for a SLR camera. The inspired coupling of the AF module with Nikon’s easy-to-use 8-direction multi selector button makes selecting instant individual AF points simple and fast. As one would expect the AF system can be completely customised for every possible shooting condition.

Scorching Speed, Intuitive Response

The image quality of the D3 is combined with outstanding frame rate options. At 9 fps, the D3 is the world’s fastest full format D-SLR1, with an even faster 11fps2 consecutive shooting possible in DX crop mode. A second crop mode is also premiered in the D3, with 5:4 (30mm x 24mm) aspect ratio. Shutter release time lag is an imperceptible 41 milliseconds (CIPA standard), while the image sensor’s integrated high-speed 12-channel readout contributes both to burst speed and Live View performance. The D3 also gets to work quickly; startup time is just 0.12 seconds and mirror black out is only 74ms. 

Shutter Unit

The D3 incorporates an all-new Nikon manufactured shutter unit tested to over 300,000 cycles. The shutter blades are constructed from a durable composite KevlarTM and carbon fibre material to deliver unmatched durability and accuracy even in the most demanding of conditions.

Picture Control 

Nikon’s new Picture Control system, developed with the help of extensive feedback from photographers, offers improved productivity for JPEG shooters. Picture Control lets users of all levels manage and customise the appearance of their images in camera. This on-board processing saves significant post processing time. With a variety of default settings, photographers can also customize and share settings. Nikon anticipates photographic communities might develop their own Picture Control settings for specific subjects and conditions. Picture Control replaces the existing Colour Mode settings of current Nikon cameras.   

High Contrast Subjects, Low Risk 

The Active D-Lighting feature of the D3 adds to its JPEG capabilities. Prior to shooting under high contrast conditions, users can apply a pre-set curve that processes images with improved shadow and highlight details, without affecting overall contrast.  

Designed for definition

Everything about the D3 is high definition. From the HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) port for output to the latest HD displays to the 3-inch VGA LCD screen with 170-degree viewing angle, images can be played back at very high levels of detail. The new VGA screen also comes into its own when using the new Live View function premiered in the D3 and D300. Unlike other live view technologies, autofocus in possible in all Nikon Live View modes. 

Flexible Image Storage

The D3 is the world’s first D-SLR to offer dual CompactFlash card slots for outstanding storage flexibility. A photographer can shoot images to each card one after the other, or simultaneously, as back up. When shooting combined NEF and JPEG files, the NEF image can be written to one card and the JPEG version to the other. Image files can also be selected and copied from one card to the other after shooting.

One Tough Customer       

Long the choice of professionals, Nikon SLRs are renowned for withstanding the most challenging conditions. From freezing temperatures of the arctic to the humidity of the rainforest, Nikon’s keep working long after other cameras have ceased to operate, and the D3 is built to continue this tradition. Magnesium alloy is used for the exterior cover, chassis and mirror box, while the seams and buttons of the camera body are sealed against the affects of dust and moisture.

Wireless Networking

Nikon pioneered wireless image transmission. Now, with the new Nikon Wireless Transmitter WT-43, the era of the multi camera network has arrived. Not only can one transmit (‘push’) images to servers and remotely control the camera from afar, the WT-4 also enables remote browsing of the camera’s image thumbnails as well.

In a wireless environment, networks of up to 5 D3 and D300 cameras can be established. At a sports event, for example, photo editors could browse all thumbnails on each camera simultaneously, selecting (‘pulling’) the images they need, while the photographers continue shooting.

Five New NIKKOR Lenses

Five new NIKKOR lenses are also launched today.  They include a ground-breaking extreme wide-angle zoom lens, the AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED and a slim line standard zoom, the AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED. Nikon has also launched three all-new super telephoto lenses with VR (Vibration Reduction), the AF-S 400mm f/2.8G ED VR, AF-S 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S 600mm f/4G ED VR.

The D3 body measures 159.5 (W) ×157 (H) ×87 (D) mm and weighs 1,390 grams including battery. It will be available in Europe from November 2007.

  1. As of August 2007.
  2. Autofocus tracking disabled.
  3. WT-4 versions vary according to regional/national radio frequency regulations

Nikon D3 specifications

Price (body only) • US: $ 4999
• UK: £ 3399
• EU: € 5180
Body material Magnesium alloy
Sensor • 36 x 23.9 mm CMOS sensor
• FX format
• RGB Color Filter Array
• Built-in fixed low-pass filter
• 12.9 million total pixels
• 12.1 million effective pixels
• 3:2 aspect ratio
Image processor Nikon EXPEED
A/D conversion 14 bit
Image sizes
(FX format)
• 4256 x 2832 [L; 12.1 MP]
• 3184 x 2120 [M; 6.8 MP]
• 2128 x 1416 [S; 3.0 MP]
Image sizes
(DX format)
• 2784 x 1848 [L; 5.1 MP]
• 2080 x 1384 [M; 2.9 MP]
• 1392 x 920 [S; 1.3 MP]]
Image sizes
(5:4 format)
• 3552 x 2832 [L; 10.0 MP]
• 2656 x 2120 [M; 5.6 MP]
• 1776 x 1416 [S; 2.5 MP]
File formats • NEF (12-bit or 14-bit, compressed or lossless compressed RAW)
• NEF + JPEG
• TIFF
• JPEG (EXIF 2.21)
NEF compression • Compressed 12/14-bit NEF (RAW, Lossless compressed): approx. 60-80%
• Compressed 12/14-bit NEF (RAW, Compressed): approx. 45-60%
Lens mount • Nikon F mount with AF coupling and AF contacts
• No field of view crop (full-frame)
• When using DX lenses / DX mode 1.5x FOV crop
Usable lenses

• Type G or D AF NIKKOR: All functions supported
• DX AF NIKKOR: All functions supported except FX-format (36x24)/5:4 (30x24) image size
• AF NIKKOR other than type G or D: All functions supported except 3D Color Matrix Metering II
• AI-P NIKKOR: All functions supported except autofocus and 3D Color Matrix Metering II
• Non-CPU AI NIKKOR: Can be used in exposure modes A and M; electronic rangefinder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster; Color Matrix Metering and aperture value display supported if user provides lens data
* IX NIKKOR lenses cannot be used
* Excluding lenses for F3AF

Auto Focus • 51 focus points (15 cross-type sensors)
• Multi-CAM 3500FX
• AF working range: -1 to +19 EV (ISO 100, normal temperature)
• Contrast Detect in Live View (Tripod) mode
Lens Servo • Single Servo AF [S]
• Continuous Servo AF [C]
• Manual focus [M]
• Focus Tracking automatically activated by subject's status in [S] or [C] AF
Focus Point • Single point from 51 or 11 focus points
• Liveview (Tripod mode): Contrast AF on a desired point anywhere within frame
AF Area Mode

• Single point AF
• Dynamic Area AF [9 points, 21 points, 51 points, 51 points (3D-tracking)]
• Automatic-area AF

Focus Lock

Focus can be locked by pressing shutter-release button halfway (single-servo AF) or by pressing AE-L/AF-L button

AF assist External Speedlite only
Exposure modes • Program Auto [P] with flexible program
• Shutter-Priority Auto [S]
• Aperture-Priority Auto [A]
• Manual [M]
Metering

TTL full-aperture exposure metering using 1005-pixel RGB sensor
• 3D Color Matrix Metering II (type G and D lenses); color matrix metering II (other CPU lenses); color matrix metering (non-CPU lenses if user provides lens data; metering performed)
• Center-weighted: Weight of 75% given to 8, 15, or 20 mm dia. circle in center of frame or weighting based on average of entire frame
• Spot: Meters approx. 4 mm dia. circle (about 1.5% of frame) centered on selected focus point (on center focus point when non-CPU lens is used)

Metering range • 3D Color Matrix Metering: 0 to 20 EV
• Center-Weighted Metering: 0 to 20 EV
• Spot Metering: 2 to 20 EV
• At normal temperature (20°C/68°F), ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens
Meter coupling CPU and AI
Exposure lock Locked using AE-L/AF-L button
Exposure bracketing

• 2 to 9 frames
• 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV steps

Exposure compen. • +/-5.0 EV
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps
Sensitivity

• Default: ISO 200 - 6400 in 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
• Boost: 100 - 12800 in 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps, HI2 = ISO 25600

Shutter • Electronically-controlled vertical-travel focal plane shutter
• 30 to 1/8000 sec (1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps)
• Flash X-Sync: 1/250 sec
• Bulb
DOF Preview • Stop-down lens aperture by pressing button
• Activates modelling flash
White balance • Auto (1005-pixel CCD, image sensor)
• Presets (seven) with fine tuning
• Manual presets (four)
• Color temperature in Kelvin (2500 - 10000 K, 31 steps)
• White balance bracketing (2 to 9 frames, 10,20,30 MIRED steps)
Picture Control • Standard
• Neutral
• Vivid
• Monochrome
Image parameters • Sharpening: Auto, 7 levels
• Contrast: Auto, 5 levels, Custom tone curve
• Brightness: 3 levels
• Saturation: Auto, 5 levels
• Hue: 5 levels
Color space • sRGB (Standard and Vivid modes)
• Adobe RGB (Neutral mode)
Viewfinder • Optical-type fixed eye-level pentaprism
• Built-in diopter adjustment (-3 to +1m-1)
• Eyepoint: 18 mm (at -1.0m-1)
• Focusing screen: Type B BriteView Clear Matte VI screen
• Frame coverage 100%
• Viewfinder magnification approx 0.7x with 50 mm f/1.4 lens
Focusing screen • B-type BrightView Clear Matte Screen II
• Superimposed focus brackets
• On-demand grid lines
LCD monitor • 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 922,000 pixels (VGA; 640 x 480 x 3 colors)
• 170° viewing angle
• Brightness adjustment
LCD Liveview

• Handheld mode: TLL phase-difference AF with 51 focus areas (15 cross-type sensors)
• Tripod mode: focal-plane contrast AF on a desired point within a specific area

Shooting modes • Single frame
• Continuous Low [CL]: 1 - 9 fps
• Continuous High [CH]: 9 fps (9 - 11 fps with DX format)
• Liveview [LV]
• Self-Timer (programmable)
• Mirror-up mode
Continuous buffer • JPEG Large/Normal: 64 shots (at 9 fps)
• RAW: no data yet
Self-timer • 2 to 20 sec custom
Flash control

•TTL flash control with 1,005-pixel RGB sensor; i-TTL balanced fill-flash and standard i-TTL fill-flash available with SB-800, 600 or 400
• AA (Auto Aperture-type) flash: Available with SB-800 used with CPU lens
• Non-TTL Auto: Available with Speedlights such as SB-800, 28, 27, and 22S
• Range-priority manual flash; available with SB-800

Flash Sync Mode • Front-curtain Sync (normal)
• Red-Eye Reduction
• Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync
• Slow Sync
• Rear-curtain Sync
Flash Accessory Shoe

ISO 518 standard-type hot shoe contact; Safety lock mechanism provided

Flash Sync Terminal ISO 519 standard terminal, lock screw provided
Flash compensation • -3 to +1 EV
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps
Creative Lighting System

With Speedlights such as SB-800, SB-600, SB-400, SB-R200, supports Advanced Wireless Lighting, Auto FP High-Speed Sync, Flash Color Information Communication, modeling flash and FV lock

Orientation sensor Tags images with camera orientation
Playback mode • Full frame
• Thumbnail (4 or 9 images)
• One-touch zoom
• Slideshow
• RGB histogram
• Shooting data
• Highlight point
• Auto image rotation
Languages

• Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)
• Dutch
• English
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Italian
• Japanese
• Korean
• Polish
• Portuguese
• Russian
• Spanish
• Swedish

Custom functions ? custom functions
Connectivity

• USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) Mini-B connector
• HDMI video out (version 1.3a, Type A connector)
• Remote control 10-pin terminal
• PC Sync flash terminal

10-pin terminal

• GPS: NMEA 0183 (Ver. 2.01 and 3.01) interface standard supported with 9-pin D-sub cable and GPS Cable MC-35 (optional)
• Remote control: via 10-pin terminal

Communications FTP and PTP/IP file transfer with optional Wireless Transmitter WT-3 (IEEE 802.11 b/g)
Storage

• Dual Compact Flash Type I or II
• Dual modes: overflow, back-up, RAW on 1 / JPEG on 2, copy
• UDMA, Microdrive and FAT32 supported
• 36 characters of text can be input and stored in EXIF header

Power • Lithium-Ion EN-EL4a/EL4
• Included dual battery charger MH-22
• Optional AC adapter EH-6
Battery monitoring The LCD monitor on the camera back displays the following information about the battery:
• Remaining charge (%)
• No. of shots taken since last charge
• Battery life (5 stages)
Dimensions 160 x 157 x 88 mm (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4 in)
Weight (no batt) 1240 g (2.7 lb)
Operating environment

Temperature: 0 - 40 °C / 32 - 104 °F, Humidity: under 85% (no condensation)

Box contents

Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL4a, Quick Charger MH-22, USB Cable UC-E4, Audio Video Cable EG-D2, Camera Strap AN-D3, Body Cap BF-1A, Accessory Shoe Cap BS-2, Eyepiece DK-17, Battery Chamber Cover BL-4, USB Cable Clip, Software Suite CD-ROM

Optional accessories

Wireless Transmitter WT-4, Magnifying Eyepiece DK-17M, AC Adapter EH-6, Capture NX Software, Camera Control Pro 2 Software, Image Authentication Software

Click here for our detailed Nikon D3 preview