forthcoming D3X pro review

Started Feb 5, 2009 | Discussions
dchphoto Regular Member • Posts: 381
forthcoming D3X pro review

This forum has been a great help to me over the years. As a "thank you" to Dpreview, I am going to post my review of the D3x I have had for two weeks from the perspective of a portrait/wedding photographer. I have discovered some surprising findings not mentioned in other reviews. I will post my findings first and then follow up with posting the relevant files. Can anyone recommend the best free hosting site that I could post NEF and 100% crops and such?

First, about me. I am a full time wedding/portrait photographer who was happy using an S5 until clients started wanting huge images. My site is at http://www.harrislightcraft.com . The s5 cannot keep up past 24x30 with perfect technique at base iso. I bought a d700 in October but was skeptical I would see any real improvement since people on the s5 forum were warm to the d700 and a couple even went back to the s5. When I got the d700, I loaded up "portrait" mode and shot some tests. The difference in the quality of the files is simply shocking. Retouching at 100% at any ISO over 200 on the S5 is no fun and quite a challenge. With the d700 it is simple even at 200%. I do not see any practical difference in DR between the two cameras.

Things were just fine in d700 land when Nikon introduced the D3x. I was again a bit skeptical, especially of the price. Yet, the D3 body is something that I can really take advantage of with the dual card slots. Instant back-up is a gigantic sales tool when booking brides. Since I already had the d700, I did not want to get a D3. Clients on the portrait end began ordering 30x40-40x60 inch prints and extra resolution was welcome. I decided to try the D3x to see if it was really worth the bloated price. I upgraded my lens line first and then got a call from Roberts Imaging that they had one for me two weeks ago for $7499. I was going to wait until April but we have had no "slow" season this year so I laid out the cash and got it.

I did some casual images of my daughter with the D3x and the D700 and the differences were so great, I thought I had made a mistake. I am now in the middle of some very careful testing and will make the results, data, and conclusions available here. I had been frustrated that there were very few proper studio samples with good lighting with the camera before I bought it. I have taken care of that. It will take awhile to finish the testing but I think it will be a worthwhile review from the portrait/wedding perspective. The reviews so far have been from landscape guys primarily- which is fine but portrait/wedding photographers have different priorities and test for different things.

NOTE: The only thing that makes me scratch my head is that a $7500 camera does not come with full version NX2. What is Nikon thinking? I sent them an email wondering why this was so. I also called NPS to ask the same question. Here are the replies.

1. Most photogs prefer different software

2. If Nikon included it for free they would have to raise the price of the camera (!)
3. It is a genuine Nikon product and Nikon must charge for their products.

When I pointed out that they had given NX2 away to some purchasers of the D700 without raising prices, I did not get a reply.

When I pointed out that it was like spending $2000 per night at an exotic resort and them charging you $20 for the fruit tray the next morning, I did not get a reply either.

Really silly. I suppose most D3x buyers already have NX2 but it does seem petty not to include it.

On the good side of things, I sent in my 24-70 lens in for adjustment, they said they found "non warantee" damage but then turned around and sent me a brand new lens!

So, I will post my conclusions first, and then the link to the relevant test images once I find a hosting site and upload. Bottom line, the D3x is the camera I have been waiting for and is worth it to me now to have and use. In my area, photographers are notoriously cheap on gear. Most pro studios in Tulsa that charge a lot of cash for portraits still use s3 and s5's. They are not even interested in upgrading to the d700. Fine by me. I know of no other studio in town that even uses Nikon. Most of the wedding guys use s5's or some older Canon gear.

The limitations of the D3x are within what I do anyway so are not really limiting.

More to come!

Don

bikinchris
bikinchris Forum Pro • Posts: 21,549
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

dchphoto wrote:

This forum has been a great help to me over the years. As a "thank
you" to Dpreview, I am going to post my review of the D3x I have had
for two weeks from the perspective of a portrait/wedding
photographer.

Just be ready to have a thick skin when you do.

NOTE: The only thing that makes me scratch my head is that a $7500
camera does not come with full version NX2. What is Nikon thinking? I
sent them an email wondering why this was so. I also called NPS to
ask the same question. Here are the replies.

Agreed. That and a premium on repairs would have made the price seem better. Just at the cusp of a serious econimic downturn, they should be trying to add value, not take it away.

1. Most photogs prefer different software

Which is Nikon's fault!

2. If Nikon included it for free they would have to raise the price
of the camera (!)

Possible, but not likely. See my "added value" thought above.

3. It is a genuine Nikon product and Nikon must charge for their
products.

Ditto.

When I pointed out that they had given NX2 away to some purchasers of
the D700 without raising prices, I did not get a reply.

No answer means you were correct that it does make sense to show customer appreciation.

When I pointed out that it was like spending $2000 per night at an
exotic resort and them charging you $20 for the fruit tray the next
morning, I did not get a reply either.

That doesn't work for me as an analogy. At the most expensive hotels and resorts, you have to pay $10 for a bottle of watre that cost them $,10

Really silly. I suppose most D3x buyers already have NX2 but it does
seem petty not to include it.

Agreed

On the good side of things, I sent in my 24-70 lens in for
adjustment, they said they found "non warantee" damage but then
turned around and sent me a brand new lens!

Don't start me on Nikon service. No value added there in my opinion.

-- hide signature --

Chris, Broussard, LA

 bikinchris's gear list:bikinchris's gear list
Nikon D3 Nikon D4S Nikon AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8 ED-IF Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED-IF VR +1 more
sidelight Senior Member • Posts: 1,013
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

Thanks very much in advance for doing this. I look forward to reading your review and seeing your example images in the portrait/wedding arena.
--
David

OP dchphoto Regular Member • Posts: 381
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

bikinchris wrote:

dchphoto wrote:

This forum has been a great help to me over the years. As a "thank
you" to Dpreview, I am going to post my review of the D3x I have had
for two weeks from the perspective of a portrait/wedding
photographer.

Just be ready to have a thick skin when you do.

Haha! Yes. I know I will get replies from those who will not be happy I did not conduct the tests ten different times using focus bracketing in live view or some such. I am not a measurebater. But I am a real working pro who uses great technique- tripod-mirror up- cable release, sturdy tripod and head, base iso, etc. My site is there for anyone to view what I do so they can gage how good or bad they think my work is. I do not focus bracket on my clients so I don't do it in my tests either. They will be real world tests however and should be helpful. Even Thom Hogan gets slammed for his review so I am in good company. Perhaps I should say this,

My review will be geared only to portrait/wedding photographers who are wondering about the D3x and how it compares to the D3/D700 and if the upgrade will be worth it for them. Landscape guys will be disappointed with my review. Measurebaters will be disappointed with my review. I don't address all the questions that could be asked about the D3x. Here are the questions I address.

1. How much better is the D3x over the D700 for portraits at all ISO's at 100%?

2. How close is the noise performance at all ISO's when the D3x files are rezed down to D3 size?

3. Can the D3x be set up to shoot effectively in "D3 mode" for weddings so that file sizes are comparable in NEF and jpg with the D700 and what is the quality difference at all ISO's?

4. How do jpg large/normal compare with jpg medium/fine in sharpness and noise at all ISO's?

5. Which of my lenses are D3x caliber lenses (meet or out resolve the sensor) and at what aperture is diffraction noticeable in files at 100%? (24-70, 50 1.8d, 105vr, zeiss 100zf, Tamron 28-70 2.8, Sigma 15mm fisheye, Sigma 150 2.8)

6. How good is the D3x in-camera jpg processing compared to NX2 and camera settings compared to the same for the D700?

There might be a few more but these were the questions of importance to me. I'm confident I have a good copy of the camera. Noise is low, an occasional red pixel here and there but no regular "hot" pixels that are there in every shot. The review should be valuable to portrait and wedding photographers. It wont please everyone and is not the final word on the camera. It is simply one more review in which to play against other reviews. The more info you have, the better your decision making process.

When I pointed out that it was like spending $2000 per night at an
exotic resort and them charging you $20 for the fruit tray the next
morning, I did not get a reply either.

That doesn't work for me as an analogy. At the most expensive hotels
and resorts, you have to pay $10 for a bottle of watre that cost them
$,10

I was thinking of those "all inclusive" type resorts my clients go to for honeymoons. At most decent hotels I stay at, they don't charge for the in room coffee or the newspaper and include a basic breakfast. This was the intent of my analogy. Buy a $7500 camera and you will need to buy a $150 program from the same company to process the files it makes, seems petty.

Rexyinc
Rexyinc Regular Member • Posts: 433
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

I've got my first wedding on tomorrow - i plan on using the d3x side by side with my old d3//

this is my idea - throw the 70-200 2.8 on the d3 all day'ish..

put the d3x in crop mode, and run with the 24-70 2.8 ( always feels short anyhow hehe now it should be just about right ? ).. and then needed for the money shots i know will be the big prints, throw it back into d3x ff mode and get those shots at high res.. after 8-9 when the sunsets, throw the d3x in the bag and continue using the d3 for the reception/cake cutting/rest of the night..with the 24-70.

this way i save myself from processing images which we all know either wont make it to the albums anyhow - and only those I know stand a chance at nice large prints/centre spreads etc on the albums/framed will be the big images.

we'll see tomorrow !

fredericFahraeus Regular Member • Posts: 302
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

Yes, Ive worked with the D3X commercially since the launching. I too have discovered some incredible things, not mentioned so far in any review ( guess theyve been too busy with lab-tests).

Ill save my findings though to a later date, see if anybody else notice some remarkable things with this beast.

Looking forward to your review.

OP dchphoto Regular Member • Posts: 381
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

Rexyinc wrote:

I've got my first wedding on tomorrow - i plan on using the d3x side
by side with my old d3//

HINT: Use JPG Large/normal or jpg Medium/Fine along with 12 bit compressed NEF for "D3 mode" at a wedding. Both jpg files are only slightly bigger than jpg large/fine on the D3 and produce more detail at all ISOs. One setting produces more noise but also more aparent detail. The other, produces less noise and a bit less aparent detail. Howerver, both are sharper than the D3 jpg large/fine with similar file sizes to the D3! Test before you shoot and pick your look. I have different tastes depending on ISO used. D3x NEF compressed gets about the same (perhaps a touch more and with greater aparent sharpness) info as a lossless NEF D3 file at similar file sizes. Use jpg fine/large in DX mode when you need reach. Now you have a better D3 camera than the D3! D3 wins for less noise above 1600 but not for better detail. More details in my coming review.

Enjoy!

Endre Somogyi New Member • Posts: 6
potential file serving solution

for the files try Dropbox:

https://www.getdropbox.com/

-- hide signature --

Endre

peripheralfocus Veteran Member • Posts: 4,397
bundled vs. "free"

Surely, as a businessman, you must see the point that Nikon is making to you when they explain why NX2 is not bundled with cameras. Nothing that Nikon does or provides can be free, not even the styrofoam inside the box your camera came in. You paid for that. And NX2 is not cheap to develop. The engineers who write it like to get a paycheck. Nikon must cover the cost somehow. The only question is how.

They could include NX2 with every SLR they sell, and add $10 to the cost of every camera to cover NX2's development costs. Then everybody pays for NX2 whether they use it or not. This is what Canon does with Digital Photo Professional.

Or, Nikon could sell NX2 separately, and fund its development by charging only the people who use it. It's just a different choice than Canon's. Arguments can be made for both choices, but neither is free to the customer.

Similarly, you could give all your wedding clients a "free" framed 30x40" print included with the cost of every wedding package. But you know perfectly well it's not free; you have to pay the lab for that print, and the framer for the frame, so you build its cost into the price of your package.

Alternately, you could charge a little less for your wedding package and let only those clients who actually want a 30x40" print pay for it separately.

dchphoto wrote:

At most decent hotels I stay at, they don't charge
for the in room coffee or the newspaper and include a basic
breakfast.

Of course they charge for it. They have to. It's bundled in the basic room rate; you paid for it when you paid for your room, as does everyone else who stays at that hotel even if they don't drink the coffee or eat the breakfast.

Thom Hogan Forum Pro • Posts: 13,659
Re: bundled vs. "free"

Eamon Hickey wrote:

Surely, as a businessman, you must see the point that Nikon is making
to you when they explain why NX2 is not bundled with cameras. Nothing
that Nikon does or provides can be free, not even the styrofoam
inside the box your camera came in. You paid for that. And NX2 is not
cheap to develop. The engineers who write it like to get a paycheck.
Nikon must cover the cost somehow. The only question is how.

Sure Nikon must cover their costs. However, what ARE their costs? A quick breakdown analysis of a D3x shows that its costs are pretty close (nearly identical) to a D3, which sells for quite a bit less. Thus, the D3x price is artificially floated at its current level.

As I wrote many times at the D3x introduction, I think Nikon botched this intro, as they did nothing to explain to a photographer why a change of sensor was worth US$3600. Essentially, Nikon decided that they could match Canon's high-end price now because they had a superior product. This left them a pricing discrepancy with an existing product (D3) and a lot of explaining to do, which they didn't.

As I pointed out, they could have ameliorated the situation considerably by taking a more Lexus type approach and bundling high perceived value things that cost little. Software is one of those things, especially since Capture NX3 is due sooner rather than later. Give 'em the free NX2 and capture the revenue with the upgrade, just as they did with the D300/D3 promotion.

So I don't think the OP was off base. Nikon didn't nail the launch of the D3x as they did with the D3/D300.

-- hide signature --

Thom Hogan
author, Complete Guides to Nikon bodies (19 and counting)
http://www.bythom.com

OP dchphoto Regular Member • Posts: 381
Re: bundled vs. "free"

Eamon Hickey wrote:

Surely, as a businessman, you must see the point that Nikon is making
to you when they explain why NX2 is not bundled with cameras.

Thom understands what I was trying to tell the Nikon rep. I was not arguing that NX2 should be given away for free with all cameras. I was arguing that it be included for the tiny minority of people who pony up the 8K for the D3x and only the D3x. It is well known that the camera is priced well above what it needs to be for Nikon to make a healthy profit. And yes I know NX2 is not "free" to Nikon but it seems rather odd not to bundle $100 software with the most expensive ff DSLR in the world.

OldMaster Senior Member • Posts: 1,813
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

It must be the US..customers in the UK think a 10 x 8 is a large print!

Even in the days of Hasselblad, which I used for weddings for 23+ years, 20 x 16 was the absolute largest that any client would want..and even 6x6 was hard pushed to go to 30x20..my Linhof 69 fairing better..

We expect a lot these days from a hand held camera and clearly the extra pixels help...I can't question your findings or your experiences but can only go by reviews in various journals, and the one I trust, BJP and Anders Uschold who actually measures these things...

There is some debate as to the true value of 20+mp cameras unless you are using them at low iso and preferably studio flash lighting or tripod/mirror up I guess because many users of the other 20+mp cameras are finding that the difference between them and a 12mp is marginal in normal use when you take into account camera shake, mirror slap, lens resolution and iso setting.

Certainly the D700 resolves more detail than the Sony 900 above 800asa and the D3x struggles above 1600asa to compete with the D700/D3?

As I say the extra pixels will of course give you a bigger uninterpolated print because of the pixel dimensions but about 50% along the dimension? So a 20 x 16 from a D3 becomes a 30 X 20 from a D3x.

I would be interested to see a D3/D3x image, shot say at 400asa, same lens and a good interpolation programme like PhotoZoom S-Spline to create a larger file from the D3 and then to compare the images...

I do not decry in anyway the performance of the D3x as I am sure it is a superb machine..but for weddings where most of my prints are 6x9, complete over-kill!!

It seems we have truly got to the stage where the D3x is capable of resolution above and beyond what could have been achieved with 6x7 in real life situations...but I can't help feeling we are approaching diminishing returns?

Perhaps when the D700x appears with this chip it will all make a lot more sense to many!

Thomas Comerford Veteran Member • Posts: 9,745
Re: bundled vs.

Thom Hogan wrote:

As I pointed out, they could have ameliorated the situation
considerably by taking a more Lexus type approach and bundling high
perceived value things that cost little. Software is one of those
things, especially since Capture NX3 is due sooner rather than later.

Any idea of what we can expect from NX3? The version number suggests that it's a substantial change?

Give 'em the free NX2 and capture the revenue with the upgrade, just
as they did with the D300/D3 promotion.

So I don't think the OP was off base. Nikon didn't nail the launch of
the D3x as they did with the D3/D300.

-- hide signature --

Thom Hogan
author, Complete Guides to Nikon bodies (19 and counting)
http://www.bythom.com

-- hide signature --
yunfat Contributing Member • Posts: 877
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

dchphoto wrote:

Instant back-up is a gigantic sales tool when booking brides.

Really, brides are so nerdy now they demand Dual CF slots? I'm sorry, but I can't take anything you say seriously because of this statement. What did you do before the D3 came out, tell brides they are probably going to lose their wedding shots because you only use a camera with one CF slot?

If you are booking a bride and one of your sales tools is "instant" back-up, I hasten to say your photos are probably less than stellar. My photos make bookings, not instant back-up, which I doubt more than 1% of prospective brides even know about. Make that .1% actually.

Toermalijn
Toermalijn Forum Pro • Posts: 15,886
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

yunfat wrote:

dchphoto wrote:

Instant back-up is a gigantic sales tool when booking brides.

Really, brides are so nerdy now they demand Dual CF slots? I'm
sorry, but I can't take anything you say seriously because of this
statement. What did you do before the D3 came out, tell brides they
are probably going to lose their wedding shots because you only use a
camera with one CF slot?

If you are booking a bride and one of your sales tools is "instant"
back-up, I hasten to say your photos are probably less than stellar.
My photos make bookings, not instant back-up, which I doubt more than
1% of prospective brides even know about. Make that .1% actually.

I am with you that a good photographer will at least make sure nothing would go wrong or have backup camera's and such.

Nowadays any good photographer can guarantee pictures...a bride would hate to see their day gone up in smoke as aphotographer messed up.

OP dchphoto Regular Member • Posts: 381
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

OldMaster wrote:

Certainly the D700 resolves more detail than the Sony 900 above
800asa and the D3x struggles above 1600asa to compete with the
D700/D3?

There is more noise but the D3x clearly resolves more detail than the D700.

I do not decry in anyway the performance of the D3x as I am sure it
is a superb machine..but for weddings where most of my prints are
6x9, complete over-kill!!

Yes. That is why I recommend "D3 mode" in my earlier post for those who want to use the D3x at weddings too.

It seems we have truly got to the stage where the D3x is capable of
resolution above and beyond what could have been achieved with 6x7 in
real life situations...but I can't help feeling we are approaching
diminishing returns?

The camera isn't for everyone. I can still get stunning 11x14's from my s5.

OP dchphoto Regular Member • Posts: 381
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

yunfat wrote:

dchphoto wrote:

Instant back-up is a gigantic sales tool when booking brides.

Really, brides are so nerdy now they demand Dual CF slots? I'm
sorry, but I can't take anything you say seriously because of this
statement. What did you do before the D3 came out, tell brides they
are probably going to lose their wedding shots because you only use a
camera with one CF slot?

You must not do a lot of high end weddings. The bride who is going to pluck down 7k for a wedding photographer expects a much higher level of quality and service than the one on a budget. Educating your clients is something all good businesses do. If I use a D3/D3x for my weddings and everyone else uses s5's, I'm going to use that to my competitive advantage. Since data loss is real and a risk, instant back-up is a giant selling point that bride's can understand and appreciate.

If you are booking a bride and one of your sales tools is "instant"
back-up, I hasten to say your photos are probably less than stellar.

Oh really? Well my site is at http://www.harrislightcraft.com . Feel free to have a look. And what would your site be?

My photos make bookings, not instant back-up, which I doubt more than
1% of prospective brides even know about. Make that .1% actually.

I spend most of my time with prospective brides helping them plan a great wedding day experience and showing how using me will add to that. Dual card slots takes up perhaps 30 seconds of an hour long discussion. If you cannot afford the best equipment, do not slander those who can. I have done 200 or so weddings with an S5. Now I use a D3x. There are advantages over the S5 that will give peace of mind to a prospective bride. Sorry if that offends you.

sting Veteran Member • Posts: 4,970
in defense of charging for NX2

dchphoto wrote:
NOTE: The only thing that makes me scratch my head is that a $7500

camera does not come with full version NX2. What is Nikon thinking? I
sent them an email wondering why this was so. I also called NPS to
ask the same question. Here are the replies.

Are people willing to pay $100 for a UV filter but not for software? Why is software undervalued? Is it too easy to copy?

1. Most photogs prefer different software
2. If Nikon included it for free they would have to raise the price
of the camera (!)
3. It is a genuine Nikon product and Nikon must charge for their
products.

If the software division is unable to make money, Nikon won't make NX2. The alternatives are other products that process NEF files. However, they cost money, too.

When I pointed out that it was like spending $2000 per night at an
exotic resort and them charging you $20 for the fruit tray the next
morning, I did not get a reply either.

It's like spending $4000 for a five day cruise and having to pay for every little thing, as well as getting corraled and gouged at the island stops. Then, you're guilted into filling tip envelopes as you leave. When you pick up your bags at the end of the cruise, the "throwers" have lined up your bags so that you have to walk past them and leave another tip.

OP dchphoto Regular Member • Posts: 381
Re: in defense of charging for NX2

sting wrote:

Are people willing to pay $100 for a UV filter but not for software?
Why is software undervalued? Is it too easy to copy?

If I bought an $8000 lens and was charged $100 for a proprietary UV filter that actually made the lens perform better, I would feel exactly the same way. My comments about getting NX2 included are only within the context of D3X purchasers ONLY.

bm bradley Veteran Member • Posts: 3,992
Re: forthcoming D3X pro review

sidelight wrote:

Thanks very much in advance for doing this. I look forward to
reading your review and seeing your example images in the
portrait/wedding arena.
--
David

-- hide signature --

yes I agree, I knew the great shooters would start getting the d3x and putting out t great stuff.... looking forward as well... the comment about the d700 vrs the s5 was very telling to me... I have a similar experience with the d700...

 bm bradley's gear list:bm bradley's gear list
Nikon D3X Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2G ED-IF VR +1 more
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads