Nikon D3 Professional Digital SLR Camera . . . continued

For general interest purposes, here's a list of the key features in the D3:
  • Nikon's original 12.1-megapixel FX-format (23.9 x 36mm) CMOS sensor.
  • Continuous shooting at up to 9 fps at full FX resolution and up to 11fps in the DX crop mode.
  • Extreme low-noise ISO range with advanced noise reduction. Select from 200-6400 ISO with an expanded range that includes: Lo-1 (100 ISO), Hi-1 (12,800 ISO) and Hi-2 (25,600 ISO).
  • Nikon's exclusive EXPEED image processing concept.
  • Selectable 12-bit (4,096 tones) or 14-bit (16,384 tones) A/D conversion, both yielding superb image quality through a full 16-bit processing pipeline.
  • 3.0-inch super density 920,000-dot VGA color monitor, with 170-degree, wide-angle viewing and tempered glass protection.
  • 51-point auto focus with 3D focus tracking, as well as three dynamic AF modes.
  • LiveView shooting modes for hand-held or general tripod use or when shooting in a studio, remote situations or from challenging angles.
  • Nikon's exclusive Scene Recognition System (SRS) for highly precise auto exposure results uses Nikon's 1,005-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II.
  • New Picture Control settings provide photographers with advanced color control via four customizable presets: standard, neutral, vivid and monochrome.
  • Nikon's exclusive Active D-Lighting (also known as ADR) works on-the-fly while shooting to produce broader tone in both shadows and highlights by controlling light intensity and exposure compensation while applying localized tone control to achieve the right level of contrast across the entire image.
  • The first electronic Virtual Horizon indicator in a DSLR uses the the D3's super-density color LCD monitor, a viewfinder gauge and top LCD readout supplies instant and accurate position data so you can level the D3 while looking at the LCD monitor, through the viewfinder or at the top LCD.
  • Nikon's self-diagnostic shutter system is rated up to 300,000 actuations. I'm sure there are photographers out there who've made 300,000 photos with a single camera — I just don't know any of them.
  • Comprehensive state-of-the-art dust and moisture sealing throughout the body and shielding from electromagnetic interference.


That's nice you say. For this kind of money the camera had better offer all those features and more. So is it a truly great shooter? In a word, yes. Check out these links to some recent D3 shots I made in London:

There are many more, but you'll rapidly get the idea that the D3 is as powerful and versatile as the state-of-the-art in camera technology currently allows. For many professional studio photographers, photojournalists, sports photographers, landscape photographers, amateur, hobbyist and enthusiast photographers, this may be the last camera they'll buy for many, many years to come. New technology, features and functions will certainly appear, but the quality and styles of photos which the D3 is capable of capturing are limited only by the skill and eye of the photographer. Nikon has thoroughly embedded all of its generations of expertise in the design and programming of the D3 and it shows.

Great power and versatility does not have to suck down enormous amounts of power. You'll get somewhere between 2,500-3,000 shots from the D3 on a single charge compared to between 400-450 from the D200. My D300 was much better than its predecessor but still 'only' provided about 900-950 shots per charge. Of course power usage efficiencies also benefit image capture in other ways, not the least of which being the fact that lower trigger and gate voltages throughout the camera's subsystems invariably generate less noise, less signal interference and better quality photos as a result.

The Nikon D3 Professional Digital SLR camera has two compact flash (CF) card slots which can be configured in a variety of ways. Slot 1 or 2 can be designated as primary so that when a card in the primary slot has filled up, the camera automatically begins using the card in the second slot. Alternatively, the card in slot 2 can be designated as a backup so that the camera creates a duplicate of everything stored on the primary card. I now keep a 16GB CF card in slot 2 as a permanent backup, swapping 4GB cards in slot 1 as I fill them up.

The D3 is a true shooter's delight. Big and bulky though it is, it also fits the hand extremely well. The size and weight provide a solid shooting base with just about any lens that can be handheld. Mirror slap is heavily damped, and I've found that that critically sharp shots are easier to get as a result. The AF-On and AE/AF lock buttons are within easy right-thumb reach whether you're shooting horizontal or vertical. Typical of big, pro bodies, the white balance (WB), ISO and image quality controls are located on the lower portion of the back and have their own little LCD screen. The large, bright viewfinder provides a 100% look at your composition. Even the most difficult overhead shooting angles are accommodated by the LiveView mode of the camera which allows you to focus and frame using the rear LCD. Some photographers revile LiveView mode as something dredged up from lowly point & shoot compact cameras, but anyone who has taken the time to try it out handheld or on a tripod understands how useful it can be.

The D3 has a voice annotation feature which can be used to record audio notes for various photos. The notes are saved as MP3 files using the same numeric code as the image files with which they're associated. For those of you who haven't tried voice annotation yet, keep it mind on long photo trips which take you through a variety of locations.

Cons: The Nikon D3 Professional Digital SLR camera is a serious heavyweight photography instrument capable of sloping or rounding the shoulders of anyone who doesn't take care to use it with a proper shoulder or cross shoulder strap. Hang this monster around your neck using the crappy, standard Nikon strap supplied with the camera and you are in for a really sore neck at the end of the day. At these prices, Nikon should be supplying at least one high-end straps in the box. Shoot with it every day and you will soon be less concerned with its weight than you are with its size. The bulge of the integrated vertical grip makes it very awkward for people with even average size hands to support the camera and at the same time work the focus and aperture rings on typical short standard lenses (e.g., the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8). Nikon does not supply a screen protector of any kind for gorgeous, high resolution 3" LCD monitor on the back of the D3. The reason is that the outer layer of the LCD is made of tempered glass, allegedly making the outer layer harder to scratch. Nuts to that, and I think Nikon is foolish for engaging in this sort of false economy because I can easily the scratch tempered glass and, you guessed it, already have. Hoodman makes an excellent snap-on LCD cover, and GGS makes an excellent adhesive LCD cover, either of which I suggest you purchase and install immediately after unpacking your D3. The zoom control for playback/shot review is a bit of a throwback in that you have to hold down the zoom button and then work the command dial to zoom in or out, a technique which works well enough but which also should be refined into a single control. Nikon doesn't want users monkeying around inside the body so it doesn't provide any instructions in the manual to help you change focusing screens. I figured out the procedure with some help from the Nikonians D3 forum. I changed the focusing screen because unlike its less expensive siblings, the D3 doesn't offer on-demand grid lines (which are really a great help when you're lining up architectural shots among other things). Curiously, the D3 also doesn't offer the built-in sensor cleaning feature found on the D300 and the D700. Mainly because of its weight and bulk, the D3 may not always be the best choice for day-long walkabouts on difficult terrain or crowded urban environments because you will get tired hauling it around after a few hours.

Pros: Everything about the Nikon D3 Professional Digital SLR camera screams quality. First and foremost, image quality is stellar at any ISO from 100 through 6400. The full frame Nikon FX sensor and the Nikon EXPEED processor are tuned and refined to produce images of superior clarity and color accuracy, absent of any kind of chromatic aberration. Nine stops of usable dynamic range in most shooting conditions. High quality JPEG output is capable of pleasing all but the most critical of pros and will certainly be a revelation for anyone coming from any other camera brand. RAW files can be edited and converted with any of the major software including Photoshop CS and Photoshop Elements via Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), ACDSee Pro and a number of others as well as Nikon's own Capture NX2. Imagine if you will a camera configuration in which the ISO is allowed to roam automatically up to 6400, but not do so until all other automatic exposure setting options have been used including the lowest shutter speed at which you're willing to shoot. It's just another menu item on the D3 and it's an amazingly liberating experience when in use, especially when you review your high ISO shots and realize how good they are. Bulk and weight are manageable on long walkabouts if you're determined and if you also keep the D3 in a backpack, sling bag, in a shoulder bag with a really good strap, or on a cross-shoulder rig such as the BlackRapid strap. I have a number of very good lenses which from time to time produced images with CA (also known as purple fringing). Chromatic Aberration is basically a thing of the past when you're using a D3 because the sensor and EXPEED processing simply get rid of CA when using almost any good quality lens (Nikkor, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina), and do so without any discernible negative effect on photos. About the best recommendation any camera can get is the degree to which pros and serious amateurs are attracted to it, so the D3 is getting the highest recommendation of all because of the droves of pros and amateurs who've already made the jump from whatever they were using before. The 51-point, 3D Focus Tracking feature is capable of tracking focus on difficult moving subjects in distracting environments — seeing the function in action the first time was quite startling and the image results were superb. Nikon has hit another home run with the D3. Other camera makers, notably Canon, are not going to sit around without responding. But I think we've now reached the point where the choices of one camera over another is less a decision about image quality than it is about ergonomics, features and functions. For now, the Nikon D3 Professional Digital SLR camera seems to have that locked up as well. It's the best SLR ever made by Nikon. Highly recommended.



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