Nikon D3 In-depth Review
The professional Nikon D 'single digit' series of digital SLR's started life back in June 1999 with the groundbreaking D1. Groundbreaking because it was the digital SLR that broke Kodak's stranglehold on the digital SLR market and fundamentally brought prices down to a level which most professionals could afford (around the US$5,500 mark). Since then we have seen a steady progression in the evolution of this line of cameras. Whilst the core values of a high quality full-size body with integrated grip have remained constant, the line split into two halves (indicated by the X and H suffixes), one targeted at high resolution photography the other high speed sports type photography (lower resolution but faster continuous shooting). It's been almost three years since Nikon introduced a completely new digital SLR with a new sensor (the D2X) and there had been much anticipation that Nikon's next move would be a full-frame chip.
And so it was, with the introduction last August of the new 'FX format' D3, featuring a 36 x 23.9 mm 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor as well as a vast array of new features which absolutely raise it another notch above previous single digit Nikon DSLRs. Important headline improvements include high sensitivity support by default, up to ISO 6400 with 25600 available as a boost option, 14-bit A/D conversion, a new standard image processor, a new shutter, new auto focus sensor, focus tracking by color, nine frames per second continuous, dual compact flash support, DX lens support (albeit at lower resolution) with automatic cropping and a 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor (which it has to be said is lovely).
Some will undoubtedly question Nikon for 'only' delivering twelve megapixels on their first full frame digital SLR, all we can presume by looking at past model line history is that this camera is designed for speed (both in sensitivity, auto-focus and continuous shooting). Our first comment on seeing the D3 in the late summer of last year was 'where's the 'H' suffix?', something echoed many times in the months following announcement by commentators and photographers. Although Nikon remains tight-lipped about its future plans it seems fair to assume that Photokina will bring an EOS 1DS Mark III competitor (with higher resolution but without the high speed shooting).
Note: The day this review was finished Nikon announced a firmware upgrade for the D3, which added a couple of new features (including vignette correction and control over the brightness of the AF points) and a few bug fixes. Today Nikon pulled the upgrade as in certain circumstances (shooting at maximum speed in 14-bit RAW mode) it can 'in rare circumstances' cause corruption of some images. We updated the firmware on our test D3 yesterday and have not been able to recreate the issue, though many of our forum members have. 99% of this review was done with the original (v1.00) firmware.
Model line history
|Continuous highest (JPEG)||LCD monitor|
|D1||Jun 1999||2.6 mp||5 point||4.5 fps, 21 frames||2.0", 120K pixels|
|D1X||Feb 2001||5.3 mp||5 point||3.0 fps, 9 frames||2.0", 130K pixels|
|D1H||Feb 2001||2.7 mp||5 point||5.0 fps, 40 frames||2.0", 130K pixels|
|D2H||Jul 2003||4.1 mp||11 point||8.0 fps, 40 frames||2.5", 211K pixels|
|D2X||Sep 2004||12.2 mp||11 point||5.0 fps, 22 frames *1||2.5" 235K pixels|
|D2Hs||Feb 2005||4.1 mp||11 point||8.0 fps, 50 frames||2.5" 235K pixels|
|D2Xs||Jun 2006||12.2 mp||11 point||5.0 fps, 22 frames *1||2.5" 230K pixels|
|D3||Aug 2007||12.1 mp (FF)||51 point||9.0 fps, 130 frames *2||3.0" 922K pixels + Live View|
*1 Also 8 fps in cropped mode (6.7 MP)
*2 Up to 11 fps with DX format (5.1 MP)
Nikon D3 Key Features
- First ever Nikon DSLR with a Full-Frame (36 x 24 mm) sensor (dubbed the 'FX' format)
- 12.1 megapixel full-frame sensor (8.45µm pixel pitch)
- ISO 200 - 6400 (with boost up to ISO 25600)
- Also supports DX lenses, viewfinder automatically masks (5.1 megapixels with DX lens)
- 5:4 ratio crop mode (10 megapixels, up to 9 fps, viewfinder masked)
- 14-bit A/D conversion, 12 channel readout
- Nikon EXPEED image processor (Capture NX processing and NR algorithms, lower power)
- Super fast operation (power-up 12 ms, shutter lag 41 ms, black-out 74 ms)
- New Kevlar / carbon fibre composite shutter with 300,000 exposure durability
- New Multi-CAM3500FX Auto Focus sensor (51-point, 15 cross-type, more vertical coverage)
- Auto-focus tracking by color (using information from 1005-pixel AE sensor)
- Auto-focus calibration (fine-tuning) now available (fixed body or up to 20 separate lens settings)
- Scene Recognition System (uses AE sensor, AF sensor)
- Picture Control image parameter presets (replace Color Modes I, II and III)
- Custom image parameters now support brightness as well as contrast
- Nine frames per second continuous with auto-focus tracking
- Eleven frames per second continuous without auto-focus tracking
- Ten / eleven frames per second continuous in DX-crop mode (AF / no-AF)
- Dual Compact Flash card slots (overflow, back-up, RAW on 1 / JPEG on 2, copy)
- Compact Flash UDMA support
- 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor
- Live View with either phase detect (mirror up/down) or contrast detect Auto Focus
- Virtual horizon indicates if camera is level (like an aircraft cockpit display)
- HDMI HD video output
- 'Active D-Lighting' (adjusts metering as well as applying D-Lighting curve)
- Detailed 'Control Panel' type display on LCD monitor, changes color in darkness
- Buttons sealed against moisture
- Dual battery charger as standard
Technology under the skin
|FX format sensor (Nikon design)||Sensor mounted on its module|
|Main board with EXPEED processor||EXPEED processor|
|51-point Multi-CAM 3500FX AF sensor unit||Viewfinder pentaprism|
|1005-pixel metering sensor||Shutter|
- 19 Photographic tests
- 20 Photographic tests
- 21 Photographic tests
- 22 Photographic tests
- 23 Compared to...
- 24 Compared to...
- 25 Compared to...
- 26 Compared to...
- 27 Compared to...
- 28 Compared to...
- 29 Compared to...
- 30 Compared to...
- 31 Compared to...
- 32 Compared to...
- 33 Compared to...
- 34 Conclusion
- 35 Samples
Apr 18, 2008
Aug 23, 2007
Apr 14, 2011
Apr 14, 2011
|Smile by Olymguy|
from Ultra Asian Indian Female Faces
|Space Shuttle Cockpit- by vbuhay|
from Aircraft Control Stick
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.
Tamron has announced the longest all-in-one zoom lens currently available, the 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD. Designed for Canon and Nikon crop-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in July.
When you're ready to step-up to full-frame from an entry-level or midrange camera, the choices can be overwhelming. Find out which models came out on top in our $1200-2000 enthusiast ILC roundup.
Just a guy wearing a VR headset, smashing invisible Goombas in Central Park.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this gorgeous aerial photo of the Martian landscape. And if you look really close, you can actually see the Mars Curiosity rover in the very middle.
The city of Laguna Beach, California has provided some clarification around the kinds of photography permits it offers.
Later this year, a VR180 camera will be Joining Yi's Halo and 360 VR cameras, which will offer stereo 3D capture, yet be as easy to use and compact as a 2D camera.
Caltech researchers have developed an 'optical phased array' chip that uses time delays instead of a lens to focus the incoming light.
Pricing and shipping have finally been revealed for two highly anticipated lenses from Sigma, announced in February.
These macro photos of clouds of paint billowing through clear water might look like high-quality CGI, but they're real photographs. And photographer Alberto Seveso told us how they were made.
Facebook is testing a feature that prevents people from saving, sharing, or even taking a screenshot of your profile picture.
We've reshot the Sony a9 in our studio. The short story: it's sharper! The long story... well you can read it all here.
The collection will be officially launched during the Europeana Transcribathon Campus Berlin 2017 crowdsourcing event which will be held on 22 and 23 June at the Berlin State Library.
Light gives us some insight into the preparations for the launch of the pre-order shipments of its much anticipated L16 multi-lens camera.
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has confirmed in a tweet that the second lens on the back of the OnePlus 5 uses a 1.6x optical zoom and that digital zoom is used to reach the claimed 2x zoom factor.
Fujifilm recently unveiled the second in its series of affordable cine lenses, the MK50-135mm T2.9. We got our hands on it for a couple days and took it for a spin.
Leica's first attempt at an M-series digital rangefinder was rough around the edges, but set a pattern for all of the cameras that came after it. In this week's Throwback Thursday article, Barney remembers the M8.
No stranger to extreme situations, legendary climber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin talks to Outside Magazine about his career, and the challenge of filming Alex Honnold's rope-free solo climb of El Capitain.
A company backed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin is attempting to make video conferencing less terrible.
Rangefinder magazine asked five professional portrait and wedding photographers about posting on Instagram; no surprise, they got five different answers.
This captivating stop motion film was created by stripping away one layer of wood at a time. It's hard to look away.
It will enable users to simulate the presence of the sun, moon and Milky Way and see how they interact with an area's topography.
Since its introduction in November last year Instagram's live streaming feature has been used by millions, but videos could not be archived for watching at a later stage. A new update has now added the capability.
CopyTrack's study also found that the second most-stolen image is a woman wearing painted jeans. That's apparently a thing.
Forget expensive lenses with fancy coatings and special lens elements – photographer Robin de Puy took these portraits using just a water drop for a lens.
Adobe reports a record quarterly revenue of $1.77 billion for the second quarter fiscal year 2017 ended June 2, 2017.
Zeiss says its new lens is particularly suited for portrait photography but also a good all-rounder and can be used in video applications.
We present to you the top photos from the Kennel Club's 2017 Dog Photographer of the Year photo contest – take a look at 10 of the award-winning puppers.
In case you were looking for any more inspiration to go fly one.