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Color reproduction

Here you can see a generated GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, place your mouse over any of the labels below it to see the color reproduction in that mode. Select a camera/setting combination from the 'Compared to' drop-down to comparative boxes inside each patch.

Apart from a few subtle contrast differences the D3X delivers virtually identical color response (hue and saturation) as the D3, D700 and D300, and to a large degree this is a good thing as it means consistent results for upgraders and helps to maintain a 'family look' for all Nikon DSLR models.

Nikon D3x Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
StandardNeutralVividMonochrome
Adobe RGB

Artificial light White Balance

The D3X's automatic white balance in artificial light is not particularly reliable. Using the presets works well under fluorescent light but does not produce color neutral results with incandescent light sources. If you want consistently good results using custom WB or 'fine-tuning' one of the presets is your best bet.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 7.3%, Blue: -14.2%, Poor
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red: -7.3%, Blue: -11.1%, Average
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 5.0%, Blue: -9.6%, Average

Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red: -0.2%, Blue: 0.4%, Excellent

Long Exposure noise reduction / Night shots

Our usual 30 second exposure test produced no hot pixels from the D3X, so the optional long exposure noise reduction option (dark frame subtraction using an equal exposure with the shutter closed) made no difference here.

Noise reduction Off Noise reduction On
ISO 100, 30 sec, F13 ISO 100, 30 sec, F13
(100% crops)

Flash

The D3X has no built-in flash, but it does offer the latest i-TTL metering for external flash, with balanced fill-flash and AF-assist illuminator. Like all Nikon's newer models the D3X also supports Nikon's advanced wireless flash system (Creative Lighting System). The flash system works very well indeed (balanced fill flash is child's play), though we did find there was a slight tendency to overexpose a touch when shooting at short distances, not enough to blow the skin tones but enough to require a tweak in Levels (or a little negative flash compensation) to stop the image looking washed out (see the example below left).

Direct flash Direct Flash

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

The D3X is the new flagship camera in Nikon's DSLR lineup, and it's fair to say that anyone shelling out $8000 for one would be expecting nothing short of excellence. The good news is that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the D3X certainly doesn't disappoint. Its image output can only be described as superb. At low sensitivities and with high quality glass in front of the sensor the D3X delivers a level of fine detail in its JPEGs that beats even the strongest competitors. It's simply amazing how you can keep zooming into the huge image files and discover more and more detail that's not visible in the 'fit-on-screen' view. At the same time the images are clean, free of artifacts and have a pleasantly 'unprocessed' look. As we saw with the D3, at default settings there's not too much sharpening or saturation which means you've got some latitude for post processing. However as we've seen on previous Nikons, the default JPEG contrast is a little harsh which can lead to clipped highlights.

The D3X was designed for 'high resolution' applications such as studio or landscape photography and low light is not its natural environment. Nevertheless sensitivity can be extended up to ISO 6400 and the D3X, despite of its pixel-packed sensor, delivers surprisingly good results even at higher sensitivities, thanks to Nikon's clever approach to noise reduction both on the sensor itself and in JPEG processing (Nikon tells us the signal from the sensor is amplified in various stages rather than in one, to minimize image noise right from the start). Images up to ISO 1600 are perfectly usable even for very large output sizes and the extended sensitivities (up to ISO 6400) give you some extra flexibility when you need it. I shot with the D3X at ISO 6400 in a very dark club, and while the results are not perfect when examined close-up, they are perfectly usable at reasonable enlargement sizes. Like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II reviewed last week, the pixel level noise is a rendered somewhat moot by sheer size of the image files when the pictures are viewed on-screen or in prints.

The D3X has inherited the D3's metering and AF systems, and therefore offers the same solid performance that we liked so much on the D3. Metering is usually spot on and the AF system is fast enough and offers so much flexibility that even photographers like myself, who hardly ever switch their camera into continuous AF, manage a good proportion of in-focus images when shooting at a sports event. It works very reliably even in dim light situations and is stunningly fast with standard Nikkors, and even better with AF-S lenses.

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