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
|Fascia walkie talkie building London by ian herridge|
from Abstract Architecture
|Global Reach by cjf2|
This two-part video series takes a deep dive into the world of dynamic symmetry and geometric composition, using iconic photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson's brilliant photographs as a guide.
Award-winning photographer Jeremy Cowart tells the moving story behind this drone photograph, captured in the aftermath of the devastating wildfire in Gatlinburg, TN in 2016.
Happy 2017 World Photo Day! We asked everyone on staff at DPReview to share one photo that they took within the last year that makes them jazzed on photography. Here's what we chose.
French President Emmanuel Macron has lodged a legal complaint against a paparazzo who snuck onto the president's private vacation property to take pictures.
Ever wonder what the difference is between compressed, uncompressed and lossless compressed Raw files? Photography Life's Nasim Mansurov breaks it down for you in this informative article.
The oldest known portrait of a US president was just discovered after over a century in storage. It's going up for auction in October, where it's expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.
If you're using the popular Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 Art lens with Sigma's MC-11 converter, listen up: you'll want to update your lens and converter firmware ASAP.
If you've heard it once, you've probably heard it a thousand times: never check in your camera gear when flying. This shattered $11,000 lens is what can happen when you do.
Lensrentals just did its first Cine lens comparison, pitting five top-notch 35mm primes against each other: the Zeiss CP.2 35mm T2.1, Canon CN-E 35mm T1.5, Sigma 35mm T1.5 FF, Rokinon Xeen 35mm T1.5 and Schneider Xenon 35mm T2.1.
A team of Google researchers have found that slightly warping watermarks when embedding them into images can help prevent automatic removal.
You don't have to empty your savings account to take your photography to the next level. These cheap buys cost about $50 or less, and come with outsized benefits for your photography.
Joey L, Dani Diamond, Brandon Woelfel and Jessica Kobeissi go head-to-head in an episode of "4 photographers shoot the same model."
The latest flagship phone from Asus combines a 12MP 1/2.55" Sony IMX362 main sensor with a smaller Sony IMX351 chip for 2x zoom and a background-blurring portrait mode.
The company behind popular photo editor Picktorial 3 just released the X-Pack: a preset package that allows you to add Fuji's in-camera film simulation profiles to your RAF files in post.
Photoshop. GoPro. Every once in a while a product emerges that defines a category. And sometimes, it vanishes just as quickly as it arrived on the scene. This week's Throwback Thursday remembers the Flip, the pocket camcorder everyone had – until they didn't.
The Nokia 8's dual-cam combines the image data from a 13MP RGB sensor and a 13 monochrome chip for better detail, improved dynamic range and lower noise levels.
The company behind retail giant B&H Photo has agreed to pay out $3.2 million in monetary relief and back wages to settle a discrimination and harassment case from 2016.
After a popular Facebook teaser and some studio portrait samples, Godox has finally officially released the Godox A1 smartphone flash and flash trigger. Cheap, versatile and innovative, color us intrigued.
Canon’s EOS 5D Mk IV has won the European Imaging and Sound Association’s Professional DSLR of the Year award, making this the third year in a row that the brand has beaten Nikon to the top spot in the professional camera category.
A photograph and quote tweeted out by former president Barack Obama has officially become the most popular tweet of all time, receiving over 1.3 million retweets and 3.4 million likes.
Edward Weston was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, and in this episode of Advancing Your Photography we learn the extreme technique he used to capture one of his most famous still life photos.
Instagram just released a small update that will make a huge difference if you're active on the photo sharing app: threaded comment replies.
Venus Optics has announced the price and delivery date of the second lens to join its Zero-D line up: the 15mm F2 for Sony’s E mount. A lens they've dubbed, "the world's fastest 15mm rectilinear lens for full-frame."
Cinnac is a new social network for photographers that will help you separate your good photos from your great ones through a Tinder-like community-based rating system.
The Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM is an understated jewel of a lens, and one that we've enjoyed on a variety of cameras since its release almost five years ago. Its relatively small size and image stabilization make it a versatile tool for a variety of photography - check out our sample gallery.
You don't need a fancy studio or tons of gear to capture the kind of classic product photography you see in magazines. In this video, Dustin Dolby shows you how to do it with just a couple of speedlights and some know-how.
The life-logging camera is trying to make a comeback. Say hello to FrontRow, a live-streaming enabled life-logging camera from Ubiquiti that hangs on a necklace like a pendant.
When a prospective client approaches you, don't just say "yes" right away. Here's a useful list of questions you should be asking before you decide to take the job and name your price.
Samsung just revealed a blazing-fast new Solid State Drive capable of data transfer speeds of up to 540MB/s.
DJI has developed a 'Local Data Mode' that lets pilots fly without being connected to the Internet. The mode should calm recent fears over data privacy and security when flying DJI drones.