Nikon D3 In-depth Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Class-leading high ISO performance and incredibly versatile ISO 100-12,800 sensitivity range
- Very good resolution and detail without looking over-processed
- Better balanced noise reduction than most; more chroma NR, less luminance NR (film-like grain)
- Incredibly fast (instant power-up, short shutter lag and short viewfinder black-out)
- Superb continuous shooting capabilities buffering and card writing
- Compatible with DX lenses with auto crop mode (only 5.1MP, however)
- Excellent dynamic range and 14-bit RAW files offer huge amount of latitude
- Large, bright viewfinder
- True 'pro grade' construction, excellent ergonomics
- Highly configurable Auto ISO function (can set maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed)
- Conservative approach to image processing (slightly lower sharpening) helps to avoid 'digital' artifacts
- Built-in chromatic aberration reduction is very effective (JPEG, RAWs through NX)
- Improved 51 point auto-focus elivers fast and accurate AF lock even in low light
- Auto-focus fine-tuning by body or per lens
- Nikon's excellent 1005 pixel RGB metering sensor
- Numerous 'hidden' designed-in features; AF tracking by color, scene recognition system
- 300,000 exposure shutter life
- Now Nikon standard range of image parameter presets, addition of brightness adjustment
- Superb large, high resolution LCD (delivers full-color VGA; 640xRGB x 480)
- Live view with up to 1:1 pixel view, contrast detect AF as well as passive (mirror flip) AF
- HDMI video output (up to 1080i)
- Dual CF card slots, highly configurable
- Compact Flash UDMA support, very fast throughput overall
- Menu system is a pleasure to use, attractive and logical (though 'feature creep' means they're too long and there's too many) and built-in help
- Clever features from built in tilt sensor to help system, Active D-Lighting, Overlay, Multiple exposures an intervalometer
- Easy to use playback with very logical delete system (press delete button twice)
- Highly configurable via custom functions
- Probably the best battery information display in the business (% charge, shots, aging)
- Wide range of custom settings
- Optional wireless WiFi transmitter (802.11 b/g)
Conclusion - Cons
- No timed mirror lock-up function (could be automatic with self-timer)
- Focus points somewhat concentrated in the center of the frame
- Metering struggles to keep up if you shoot at the very fastest continuous rate (i.e. in manual focus mode at 9fps or 11fps in DX mode).
- Slightly washed-out flash exposures at short distances (tested with SB-600)
- No in-camera dust removal system
When we first saw the D3 before it was officially launched I'll admit there were some raised eyebrows, and the first question was 'is this a replacement for the D2Hs, the D2X, both or neither?'. The truth of course is that it's not that simple, and Nikon's long-awaited first foray into the world of the full frame sensor is essentially in a class of its own.
For one thing it is, without a doubt, built for speed - in every sense of the word. From the almost twitchy responsiveness (brush the shutter and before you know it you've taken half a dozen shots) to the astounding image pipeline that can pull huge amounts of data off the sensor and process, buffer and write it to the card at up to 9 frames per second, to the fast, accurate focus, the D3 always seems to be one step ahead of you. Add to this the class-leading high ISO performance (thanks to a bravely low-density sensor) and you've got a camera that is uniquely capable of keeping up with the action even when light levels start to drop perilously.
And so, whether used in DX crop mode or full frame (for cropping later) the D3 makes a fantastic upgrade to the D2H (or D2Hs if you prefer). You get slightly higher resolution (5.1MP vs 4.0MP), far, far better high ISO performance, faster continuous drive and better buffering plus all the other improvements you'd expect after a two year wait. But of course you get a lot more than that too; this is a full frame camera that offers D2X resolution with a larger, far better sensor. So a single camera really does do the job of two; replacing the D2H for high speed telephoto work and the D2X for high resolution work at closer quarters, with the added benefit that all your wide lenses start acting like wideangles again.
It's therefore no surprise to discover that the D3 has, in the six months or so since it was launched, been embraced by the Nikon pro photography community and has caused many a Canon shooter to do some serious soul-searching and consider the unthinkable; a move (back in many cases) to Nikon.
Of course it's not all a bed of roses; the D3 is a lot pricier than the D2H ever was, and for many sports shooters it's a lot to ask for what is essentially a 5.1MP alternative to the EOS-1D Mk3 (if you shoot using the DX crop). And it can't match the resolution of the EOS-1Ds Mark III at lower ISO settings, ruling it out for the most demanding studio photographers. But this slight inability to 'pin down' the D3 is also what makes it so welcome; it slots in nicely between Canon's models and brings real choice to a sector of the market that desperately needs it. And don't forget that if you want the pixel density that allows you to shoot at high resolution and get the 1.5x DX crop advantage for your telephotos the D300 (with battery grip) is going to make an affordable and highly capable alternative that almost renders the D2Hs obsolete on its own.
We're not sports photographers and anyone even close to considering a D3 will be more than capable of making an informed decision without a technical review such as this (in fact they've probably already bought one), but we can confirm that from an image quality and performance point of view the D3 raises the bar by a fair degree (not a quantum leap; they're increasingly rare). For a sports camera it's also a surprisingly good studio and landscape camera, and if there's a better DSLR out there for photojournalists and red carpet paps we've yet to meet it. Image quality (especially at higher ISOs) is stunning, the camera a joy to use and the speed and responsiveness breathtaking. If there is an EOS-1Ds Mark III - bating 'D3X' coming this year it will have quite a job to do to better the D3; possibly the most compelling, capable and well-rounded professional digital SLR ever made.
Rating (out of 10)
|Ergonomics & handling||9.5|
- 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
|walkersons fields by George Veltchev|
from -Waiting for Autumn- (in Full Colours Only)
|A smile is worth a thousand words by alberto_b|
from Fill the frame
Nikon's Sendai factory in the Tōhoku region North of Japan has been churning out cameras and lenses since 1971. We had the opportunity recently to visit Sendai during events to mark the launch of Nikon's new Z mount.
There's no mistaking the Nikon Coolpix P1000 – with a 24-3000mm equivalent zoom, it really is in a class of its own. It's a conspicuous-looking superzoom with one main job: getting you really close to far away subjects. We've put together a gallery showing the kind of results you can expect from it.
A new report from The Verge claims Instagram is currently testing a feature that allows users to re-share posts to their own account feeds.
GoPro has announced its HERO7 camera lineup. The updated action cameras feature new HyperSmooth and TimeWarp modes, as well as improved video and photo specs.
The latest Samsung midrange smartphone offers a super-wide-angle lens in its triple-camera setup.
The Sony 24mm F1.4 is the latest lens to join the company's premium G Master lineup. We've been shooting with one for a couple of days - here's what you need to know.
Apple released iOS 12 a few days ago and some iPhone X users are less than happy with how the new operating system has made their phones look.
Camera bag manufacturer Lowepro has introduced mark II backpacks for its ProTactic AW range with models that are said to feature an improved handling experience as well as a collection of accessories that can be attached to the outside.
Canon has announced its latest superzoom camera, the PowerShot SX70 HS. Compared to the SX60 that came before it, the SX70 has the same lens but offers a higher resolution EVF, 4K video capture and support for Canon's new CR3 Raw format.
Cosina has announced its eighth lens designed specifically for Sony's E-mount system. The Voigtlander 21mm F3.5 lens is due out October 2018.
Sony has taken the wraps off of its new 24mm F1.4 GM full-frame lens, which the company claims is the lightest in its class. Despite its fast aperture, the 24mm F1.4 is remarkably light, weighing just 445 grams (15.7 ounces). The lens will set you back $1400 when it ships next month.
In this episode of DPReview TV we take a look at Sony's brand new 24mm F1.4 GM lens, a desirable focal length for many photographers. How does it perform? Chris and Jordan give us their first impressions.
We've had a little time to shoot with Sony's new wide/fast prime, both close to home and on the water in San Francisco. Check out our initial sample images.
Fujifilm released a firmware upgrade for its X-T3 mirrorless camera that addresses issues with distortion compensation and the mechanical lock on SD cards.
The app's algorithms have been trained using using 200 million cropping data points from real photographers.
Thanks to a software update, the Loupedeck+ editing console can now be used for video editing.
British photographic engineer MTF Services is claiming the world’s first third-party lens adapters for the new Nikon Z system with a collection of four units designed to allow cinema lenses to be mounted on the mirrorless full frame bodies.
Think Tank Photo has updated its line of heavy-duty rain covers and introduced a new, compact version for emergency situations.
The X-T3 is our first opportunity to analyze what's likely to be Fujifilm's next generation image sensor. Take a look at how it performs next to the competition in our studio test scene.
Canon's new normal is seriously sharp wide open. After shooting with it for a few days, we've prepared a gallery of real-world sample images.
Nikon will cease offering Brazil-based customer service and technical support, though the company stresses that it will still offer technical assistance and warranty repairs for valid warranties.
Two years ago, CatLABS of JP announced a plan to save Packfilm from the dead. Now, it's announced it's giving up its efforts to better focus its resources elsewhere.
The GoPro Fusion is designed to make it easy to capture 360-degree video and stills. We took it out recently on a typically hot Seattle summer day to see what it can do.
We've got our hands on a full-production Nikon Z7 camera and have updated our gallery with additional samples.
A new Kickstarter campaign seeks funding for Chroma Chrono, a programmable RGB camera flash that emits multiple colors during long exposures.
Think Tank Photo has launched a new lineup of six dual-access, water-resistant protective lens cases it calls Lens Case Duo.
Canon and Nikon finally entered the full-frame mirrorless market this summer with the brand-new RF and Z mounts. Now that we've had some time with the cameras, we wanted to revisit our earlier predictions and take stock.
The devices' camera specs look pretty much identical to last year's iPhone X but under the hood a number of important improvements have been made.
Blackmagic Design has announced the public beta of its new Blackmagic RAW video codec. The company says the new format combines the benefits of shooting Raw video with the ease of use and smaller file sizes usually associated with non-Raw video files.
Serif, the company behind the Affinity suite, has announced the latest update for its mobile Photoshop competitor Affinity Photo for iPad.