The D3/D3X sticks with the same circular eyepiece as the D2X but from there onwards everything has changed, obviously we now have a 'huge' engulfing full frame view which really does fill your entire field of vision, the focusing screen is bright but is still matte enough to enable accurate manual focusing.

The focusing screen features automatic masking if you attach a DX format lens, a portion of the view is grayed out indicating the active sensor area. Optionally you can also manually select the shooting format (FX: 36 x 24 mm, DX: 24 x 16 mm or 5:4: 30 x 24 mm). The diagram below (used with permission from the D3 user manual) demonstrates the different image sizes (FX / DX and 5:4 formats), their image circles and the masked areas of the viewfinder focusing screen.

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The D3X features a 51 point auto focus sensor, the center fifteen (3x5 grid) being cross point sensors even with F5.6 aperture lenses. There are two AF point selection modes (CSM a8), you can opt to be able to select from all 51 points or 11 points in a similar layout as the D2X. (Note that the D3X's larger sensor area means that the AF points don't have as much frame coverage as on the D300 and also that the 11 point layout is slightly different). Obviously if you switch to DX cropped mode the focus points cover virtually the entire frame.

51 point AF selection mode 11 point AF selection mode

The image below isn't designed to be representative of a typical view through the viewfinder but instead shows the position of all possible information including all 51 AF points. Nikon has made it clear that they are not using etching to indicate the AF points but that all information is displayed using liquid crystal, hence when an AF point is not active there is no detrimental effect on the focusing screen. There is an option to change the brightness of the illuminated AF points. The brightest setting is incredibly useful when shooting in bright light with a fast lens or in a fast-paced 'blink and you'll miss it' sports environment.

1 Center-weighted metering circle ref. 13 ISO sensitivity
2 AF area frame 14 Frame count / remaining / buffer / exp. value
3 Focus points 15 Indicates over 1000 exposures remaining
4 Focus indicator 16 Flash-ready indicator
5 Metering mode 17 Flash value lock
6 Auto exposure lock 18 Sync indicator
7 Exposure mode 19 Aperture stop indicator
8 Shutter-speed lock 20 Battery indicator
9 Shutter-speed 21 Exposure display / compen. / tilt indicator
10 Aperture lock 22 Exposure compensation indicator
11 Aperture (f-number / no. stops) 23 Bracketing indicator
12 ISO / Auto-ISO indicator    

Diagram reproduced with permission from the Nikon D3X user manual.

Battery, Compartment and Charger

The D3X uses the same EN-EL4a battery as the D3. It is an updated version of the EN-EL4 seen in the the D2X. The EN-EL4a packs a capacity of 2500 mAh (over the EN-EL4's 1900 mAh) at 11.1 V for a pretty huge 27.8 Wh. Just like the EN-EL4 the battery contains a memory chip which is used to track battery usage, charges and overall performance (see images below). As you can see from the third image the battery compartment door clips onto the battery body, if you have just one battery that's where it will stay, however carrying multiple batteries is now more convenient because they have an easier to store shape (with the door unclipped).

There's also a dual-battery quick charger, the MH-22 which provides docking style charging for up to two batteries at a time (although only one is charged at a time). A full charge takes around 2 hours 25 minutes, you can also run a full calibration of the battery which can take up to six hours.

Battery information available on the camera:

  • Top control panel has a five segment battery life indicator
  • Camera Menu: Set Up -> Battery Info provides:
    • Battery meter (as a percentage)
    • Picture meter (estimated frames on current power)
    • Calibration (required / not required)
    • Charging Life (0 to 4 indicating if the battery has come to the end of its useful life)

Compact Flash Compartment

The D3X features dual Compact Flash card slots. Both support Compact Flash Type I or II as well as FAT32 (cards over 2 GB) and UDMA (high throughput). The second slot can be set up to either (a) overflow (once card 1 is full go on to card 2), (b) backup (everything written to card 1 is also written to card 2) or (c) RAW to card 1 and JPEG to card 2.