Nikon D3 Review

12.1 Megapixels, ISO 200 to 6400, Nikon EXSPEED…

Nikon D3 Front

"Eight years after changing professional photography forever, Nikon does it again with the D3"

Nikon D3 Review: Intro - Well, no sooner has Canon released its latest professional grade sports and wildlife camera, Nikon follow up. The superb Nikon D3 is now a big rival to Canon's EOS 1D Mark III. I have to say this right at the start as I have just bought and have been using the Canon EOS 1D Mark III for a few weddings now.

This new Nikon is "almost" enough for me to switch back to Nikon. I think in some respects it outshines the closely competitive 1D Mark III. However, this is purely from reading about it and not actually using the D3. It also looks the "dogs doo dahs"! I think I fell in love with Nikon in the 1980's with the introduction of the F4. I stayed with them until the mid 1990's when I worked for them.

The last Nikon's I owned were the F3 and the F5…both beautiful cameras.

There are just some features on the D3 that I wish Canon had used on the 1D Mark III. I will cover those later on*. My investment in Canon glass however means that unless the Canon/Nikon war goes 300%+ in Nikon's favour, I am staying in the Canon camp for now. However, if you are neither Canon nor Nikon but looking to make the jump to pro level Digital SLR's, the Nikon D3 may just be the one for you.

Nikon D3 Rear

Nikon D3 Review: Main Features

  • First Nikon DSLR with Full Frame
  • 12.1 megapixel (36 x 24 mm) Sensor
  • ISO 200 to 6400 (25,600 with boost). Why do Nikon's not have 100 or 50 ISO?
  • Nikon EXSPEED image processor which uses less power
  • Fast operation times - power up 12 ms, shutter lag 41 ms
  • Shutter Durability 300,000 Cycles
  • Auto Focus Calibration or Fine Tuning
  • Scene Recognition System
  • Picture Control and Custom Image Parameters
  • 9 fps with AF tracking and 11 fps without
  • Dual CF Card Slots as opposed to CF and SD on Canon
  • HD 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD Monitor
  • Live View
  • HDMI Output
  • "Virtual Horizon" for Level Indication
  • Buttons sealed against moisture
  • Dual battery charger included as standard

Nikon D3 Review: Stuff

Nikon have finally gone full frame (FX Format) with an incredibly fast 12.1 megapixel sensor. This sensor has an amazing ISO range of 200 to a staggering 25,600! Speed is the key and the D3 can shoot 9 frames per second (continuous) with AF tracking and 11 FPS without…that is fast.

Other changes at a glance include:

  • A new standard image processor
  • New auto focus sensor
  • A new shutter
  • Focus tracking (by colour)
  • DX lens support
  • Dual compact flash support
  • A lovely HD 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor
Nikon D3 Dual CF Card Slots

*This LCD screen is the first of my wishes from the EOS 1D Mark III. The screen on the Nikon D3 knocks spots off this and any other DSLR on the market today.

That is other than the D300 which has the same screen.

It enables the photographer to see every inch of fine detail in its images which is great for checking sharpness and detail!

You can also autofocus in Live View mode unlike the Canon EOS 1D Mark III…come on Canon!!!

Nikon D3 Review: Key Features

  1. 1
    The "Nikon-original", full frame, 12.1-megapixel FX-format (23.9 x 36mm) CMOS sensor, in conjunction with Nikon's digital image processing system, delivers beautiful rich image quality. All whilst also reducing noise to unbeatable levels with even higher ISO's
  2. 2
    Continuous shooting at up to 9 fps at full FX resolution with up to 11fps in the DX "Crop mode", offering uncompromised shooting speeds for sports, nature and fast-action photography
  3. 3
    Extremely Low-noise ISO range with the new Advanced Noise Reduction enables all photographers to confidently select from a range of 200-6400 ISO with an expandable range to include Lo-1 (ISO 100), Hi-1 (ISO 12,800) and Hi-2 (ISO 25,600!!!)
  4. 4
    The 3.0-inch 920,000 dot, super density VGA colour monitor with its tempered glass protection and 170-degree wide-angle viewing makes it possible for critical image review
  5. 5
    Accurate, fast 51-point autofocus with 3D Focus Tracking plus three Dynamic AF modes deliver blazing speeds and exacting autofocus precision
  6. 6
    Two Live View shooting modes: Either Tripod or hand-held are perfect when shooting in a studio or in challenging, remote situations. (*AF in Nikon’s Live View mode is something that Canon should rectify as all is needed is a firmware update)
  7. 7
    Nikon's new, exclusive Scene Recognition System (SRS) , has an improved 1,005 Pixel 3D Colour Matrix Metering II, which provides even more intelligent auto exposure capabilities along with much smarter auto white balance detection with faster, more accurate AF performance
  8. 8
    Nikon's Self-diagnostic shutter system which is tested to 300,000 cycles, is a clear indication of durable construction and advanced engineering
  9. 9
    New Picture Control settings give all photographers dramatically advanced colour control with 4 preset options: Neutral, Standard, Monochrome and Vivid, as well as 9 other customizable settings
  10. 10
    The Active D-Lighting feature of the D3 is similar to the Highlight Tone Priority on the Canon EOS 1D Mark III. Users can set a curve that processes images to improve shadow and highlight detail without losing or affecting the overall contrast of the image
  11. 11
    High Definition - Everything from the rear LCD Live View screen to the HDMI video output, as well as having the traditional analogue NTSC and PAL video outputs
  12. 12
    Auto Focus Fine Tuning as on the 1D Mark III for the fixed body or up to 20 separate lenses
  13. 13
    Dual Compact Flash Slots for back up, overflow or RAW on one and JPEG on the other
  14. 14
    Quick Response with approx 0.12 second start up time and 37ms shutter release time lag
  15. 15
    Viewfinder with approx. 100% frame coverage and approximately 0.7 x magnifications in FX format
Nikon D3 Review Top

Nikon D3 Review: Finale

All in all the Nikon D3 is a stunning camera with features to drool over. The lack of more and more megapixels and the increase in efforts being made to improve picture quality and dynamic range pleases me greatly. It backs up my wishes/predictions from a couple of years ago.

The only reason I crave the megapixels of the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III is for the fact that it throws out "Alamy-Ready", 50mb+ stock images. No need for "uprezzing". I am hoping that many stock buyers will purchase images (if they have a choice between mine and similar images) based on that fact so the 1Ds Mark III is on my Xmas list!

For most people, the 12 megapixels of the Nikon D3 is quite enough for:

  • Magazine layouts
  • Large, fine prints
  • Wedding albums
  • Newspapers…need I go on?

It is nice to see the MP war slowing and more emphasis being made on other, more helpful qualities. Qualities that actually help us capture the image rather than worry about its size.

It seems that Nikon are finally back on top in this class as far as features go. From what I have seen from early images posted on the web, the image quality at high ISO's are amazing!

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