Nikon D3

Digital SLR cameras are known to suit all the professional photographers’ tastes, but when it comes to the full-frame digital SLR cameras, the Nikon D3 and Nikon D3X are on the top of the Nikon DSLR food chain. Of course you can expect to shell out a ton of cash to get your hands on one of these powerhouses, but with the Nikon D3? Not so much at least. In fact the Nikon D3 is a real professional camera that is ready to serve you in any photographic endeavor.

Nikon D3

Nikon D3

Nikon D3’s Position in the D Series

The Nikon D3 is the first digital SLR camera having a professional grade full frame format. It is the fourth generation model of Nikon’s high speed flagship series that started with the Nikon D1H way back in 2001. Currently, the previous 3 models have been discontinued making this the best choice for a high speed full-frame digital SLR camera. It is also the most affordable flagship camera at the moment although the D700 offers an even more affordable solution for those that still want a full frame DSLR camera. Still the D3 continues to stand out because of its high speeds and superb noise control.

Design

If you compare the Nikon D3 with its predecessor, you will notice plenty of worthy changes that the Nikon D3X adopted. But this shouldn’t alarm late bloomers that are ditching their old Nikon models for the D3 as the overall placements and icons remain familiar. Those switching from another brand should be happy with the look and feel after a bit of practice.

The sub-command dial on the front that controls the aperture and other settings is slightly slanted for easier activation. There is another sub-command dial on the bottom left to allow these settings to be changed while vertical shooting. There is also an additional shutter button with the exact same features as well to make vertical shooting easier than ever. Each shutter has a lock to prevent accidental activation. There is also a very noticeable golden FX logo which signifies that it is a full-frame camera. Another noticeable thing is the size of the pentaprism being a bit bigger than older models.

On the left side, you can find rubber flaps that protect all the electrical ports including the an individual rubber flap covering the USB port and a larger flap covering the HDMI, A/V Out, and DC In ports. On the bottom of the left side lies a unique mechanism that locks the battery in place. Twisting this and pulling it to the left allows you to pull out the battery. A metal ring for the strap is also found there as well. On the opposite end lies the battery door.

The top view gets a few changes as well, but nothing too significant as the D2x design worked rather well. The small LCD can be found there as well where you can see some useful camera statistics and currently used settings.

On the back side, the navigation disk gets a little yet welcome enhancement with the addition of a center button that acts like an “OK” button. Some buttons were also positioned to make them easier to distinguish, yet still easy to access. This is also the place where you put the memory card too. Overall, the interface is pretty strong and has all of the most important features at all the right spots. There isn’t much to say about the bottom as that is where the tripod accessory attaches.

Actual user review:

“While Nikon may not win top prize in the full-frame digital sensor department with its new Nikon D3, it still wins ample praise for being a full-frame sensor digital SLR camera that’s quite capable of lowlight photography with lenses that are moderately high to very high contrast and resolution. This is a very rugged, quite dependable, camera that is capable of 9 frame-per-second bursts and an ISO range up to 25,000, coupled to an extremely sophisticated 51-zone AF system There is also an impressive-looking 3-inch LCD monitor located on the camera back, that’s capable of almost instantaneous live-view. In short, this is the dream camera for any professional or serious amateur photographer who was seeking a rugged, full-frame sensor digital SLR camera from Nikon. I was extremely delighted with how well it handled. Much to my amazement, this camera was unusually quieter than what I’ve expected from most digital SLR cameras. It truly felt that this is a camera that could run virtually by itself in some kind of autopilot mode. However, I was especially impressed with how easily I could use it without resorting to a camera manual, as though the camera itself was an intuitive accessory permanently attached to my body. If I had any doubts about this camera’s capabilities, they were soon dispelled after I saw photographer Joe McNally’s slideshow presentation demonstrating how hard he put this camera through its paces during a nocturnal photo shoot in Times Square. I am also willing to wager that this brand new Nikon digital SLR camera will soon acquire a legion of fans, who will be quite interested in its extensive abilities, starting, of course, with its full-frame digital sensor. “ – John Kwok (NY, USA)

Features

For a DSLR camera introduced in 2007, the 12.3 megapixel resolution support was considered huge at the time and still rivals well with newer models. But what makes the Nikon D3 stand out from the other DSLR cameras is the FX format profile which means that it uses the same 35mm image sensor as the film frame. This better makes use of the wide-angle lenses, wider dynamic range, and reduced noise even when the ISO levels are high. As a result, better quality images during low light situations can be produced.

The LCD shows a nice improvement as well diagonally measuring 3 inches allowing a 640×480 display resolution making it great to review pictures directly from the Nikon D3. You won’t be able to recognize the importance of the resolution until you see the pictures being displayed there.

Despite being a flagship camera, the Nikon D3 goes on the balanced side by supporting 9 frames per second for continuous shooting at max resolution. However, you can bump that up to a whopping 11 frames per second on lower resolutions so your options are quite flexible.

But the D3 isn’t just about speed because the image quality impresses nicely through the use of the Scene Recognition System which was new at the time and is still being used in the current DSLR cameras. This improves the autofocus quality by merging the very data with the 1005-point metering system. This results to much better accuracy and improved tracking. Combined with the 51-point AF system and 15 cross-type sensors with tons of modes to choose from, photographers can really do a lot in terms of taking quality photos regardless of the scene. It is also backed up with its own optical viewfinder to for clarity purposes.

Other nice features include the Picture Control System which was also new at the time allowing tone adjustments to pictures and the Active D-Lighting which further balances images by making sure the shadows and highlights are evenly defined. It uses the same original EXPEED digital image processing concept for photos to look their best.

Extras

The Nikon D3 is compatible with a variety of accessories including the WT-4a Wireless Transmitter which grants Wi-Fi capabilities for easy picture transferring to other Wi-Fi supporting devices and the GP-1 GPS Unit which adds geotagging capabilities and other nice GPS-related extras.

Bottom Line

The Nikon D3 is all about speed, performance, and versatility without it looking like a severely stripped down D3X. It isn’t the newest camera around, but certainly has the right to remain as one of the flagship Nikon cameras because of its amazing features.

Average User Rating:

  • “Had it a week, the ability to shoot at ISO 6400 without noise means goodbye to flash. All my old manual Nikon lenses work better on this camera than they ever did before on ones which shot film. Probably because the camera corrects the mistakes I make. The colors are also wonderful. I like them vivid, and the D3 delivers. The dynamic lighting which tones down the highlights and brings out the shadows without messing up to colors is also great. I would recommend this camera to anyone who has the bucks, otherwise the D300 is nearly as good for less than half, if you don’t mind DX format.” – Michael Teter
  • “The D3 is a solid built, on the heavy side, intuitive camera. I prefer the heavy feel, I disliked the light plastic, cheap feel of so many of the cheaper SLR’s. I owned the Minolta 7D before which is a very good camera, but can’t compare to the D3. If you can charge a battery, and read the quick start section, this camera can take good pictures almost by itself. Your only task is to read the quick start, which makes sure some of the buttons, default, have not been moved. You point and push a button, if all the buttons, and little switches have not been moved you take a good shot. A complete novice would have to take more time. I understood many of the control dials and settings and loved the positioning and feel of the controls. To take what I hope is great shots, will take more time and effort, this camera can do so many things. I couldn’t believe that when using an ISO setting of 3200 you could see the object and as clear as you can see it. The shutter lag to me compared to my film camera is none existent, couldn’t tell the difference. Couple this camera with the famous renowned Nikon lenses and you have in my opinion an unbeatable combination. I know Nikon will probably come out in a few years with a camera of same caliper with more pixel count. I would highly recommend this camera to those that are Pro’s or like me a serious want to be Pro who has been taking pictures for almost 50 of my 58 years. “ – G. Patrick Byers (USA)

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