Live view

The D3X's live view implementation is identical to the D3's and features both a mirror down / mirror up passive auto focus system and a contrast detect AF option. Putting live view as a drive mode and requiring you to press the shutter release to activate it -for every shot - feels a little counterintuitive though. We'd prefer a 'press the button to engage and disengage live view' approach like on Olympus or Canon cameras. One nice touch is that you can use continuous shooting in Live View mode (though obviously you lose the live preview during the sequence).

Live view (auto focus) mode

As noted the D3X offers two AF methods which Nikon call Tripod and Hand-held modes, both use the AF-ON button to achieve auto focus (in hand-held mode you can also half-press the shutter). In Tripod mode auto-focus is achieved using the main image sensor in a "contrast detect" manner (the same as a compact camera), this tends to be slower than normal passive AF but does maintain the live view. In Tripod mode you can move the AF point anywhere within the frame using the multi-selector. In Hand-held mode the live view blanks out when you press AF-ON (or half press the shutter), the mirror drops and the camera focuses using the normal "passive" auto-focus sensor. Live view only returns when you release the AF-ON button (or shutter button). This can be slightly annoying, it should return as soon as the camera achieves AF lock.

Live view in Tripod mode Live view in Hand-held mode

Live view display modes

Press the info button to remove any overlaid information, you can also optionally enable grid lines which are in the same position as the grid lines shown on the viewfinder focusing screen.

Default live view display Live view without information
Live view with grid lines and information  

Virtual Horizon in Live view

The D3X offers Virtual Horizon in Live View, a feature that we first saw on the D700. Press the info button once more to get a superimposed Virtual Horizon in Live View. This is a new feature, and a useful addition to the previous implementation of the Virtual Horizon as we first saw it on the D3 (see previous page).

Default live view display Live view without information

Live view magnification

Just as in playback mode you can magnify live view by holding the zoom / thumbnails button and turning the rear command dial to the right. While magnified you can use the multi-selector to move around the live image. The D3X appears to be able to go all the way to 1:1 magnification (one pixel on the sensor for one pixel on the LCD) which makes it easy to achieve absolutely perfect focus.

Live view auto focus

The following video clips shows live view in use (on the D3: the D3X is identical) to auto-focus, magnify live view, take an exposure and finally magnify the image in record review. The first clip shows contrast detect auto-focus (slower but keeps live view) and the second passive detect (faster but live view disappears and you must release the AF-ON button once focus has locked).

Contrast detect (tripod mode)

Phase detect (hand-held mode)

HDMI output / High Definition display

Like most recent additions to the Nikon DSLR line-up the D3X features s HDMI digital high definition video output. From the setup menu you can select between Auto, 480p, 576p, 720p or 1080i output, in this section we are only going to examine the 720p and 1080i options. HDMI output works in any mode which would otherwise use the LCD monitor; shooting information, menus, live view and playback. It has to be said that using live view over HDMI to a HD LCD or Plasma screen really is an amazing experience and could be extremely useful in studio photography situations. Below we have provided captures of HDMI output in both 720p (1280 x 720) and 1080i (1920 x 1080) resolutions just to give you a sense of the amount of detail visible. My only disappointment would be that there didn't seem to be a way to display the image without any shooting information (except when magnifying), this means that the default display (top image below) is only using 74% of screen width (theoretically, given aspect ratio differences this could be 84% without the status lines at the bottom).

Normal playback via HDMI (1080i; 335 KB)
Zoomed playback via HDMI (1080i; 247 KB)