Nikon D3X

The Nikon D3X is the high resolution version of the Nikon D3. It is a professional grade DSLR equipped with a large 24.5 megapixel sensor. In addition to its huge pixel count, the Nikon D3X comes with many features such as a 51 point AF system, Active D-Lighting, EXPEED image processor, and automatic masking for DX lenses.

According to Nikon’s naming conventions, the ‘X’ denotes a higher resolution version of an existing professional grade camera model. Thus the D3X shares almost all the features of a D3 but is able to capture twice as many pixels. This camera is targeted towards professional and studio photographers who need the extra resolution to accompany the extensive capabilities of the D3.

Latest Update: The Nikon D3X is Now on Sale at Amazon.com

Nikon D3X

Nikon D3X

Design

Physically, the Nikon D3X is almost identical to its lower resolution counterpart. Dimensions (6.3” x 6.2” x 3.4”) and weight (2lb. 11oz.) are the same for both cameras, and the only way to tell them apart visually is by their logos on the front. They share the same magnesium alloy body and the toughness that comes with it. The camera is well constructed. Even small details like the buttons and knobs are of top-notch quality. Bottom-line is the D3X is built like a tank. It is well-protected from the elements, feels rock-solid, and can withstand heavy wear-and-tear.

At the back of the camera, you will see the huge circular eyepiece. Right below it is the 3-inch main LCD display panel. The D3X also has two other auxiliary LCD screens; at its top right and another below the main display panel. Buttons for navigating the menu are located to the left of the main LCD panel. To the right of the main LCD panel is the multi selector button, which is used to select AF area by default. The AF area mode switch lies below the it. This switch allows the user to choose between auto-area AF, dynamic-area AF, and single-area AF.

The top right hand-side of the D3X holds the main shooting controls. The shutter release button lies at the slanted top edge of the camera. Surrounding it is the power switch. The positioning of these two important control elements enables the shooting to be done immediately after the camera is turned on. Located behind them are the ‘mode’ and exposure compensation buttons. These buttons have to be operated together with the command dial at the back of the camera. Pressing the ‘mode’ button and turning the command dial will toggle between exposure modes (P, S, A, M). Likewise, the exposure compensation button and command dial combination exposure (+/- 5 EV).

On the left of the camera is the mode dial. This mode dial gives access to drive mode, single mode, continuous mode, live view, timer, and mirror up. To turn the dial, the release button has to be pressed. This locking feature is there to prevent accidental operation. Additionally, there are three buttons sitting on top of the mode dial. Their functions are bracketing, flash mode, and command lock.

Features

The D3X is packed with features and technology that help the photographer take better pictures and streamline the workflow. Picture Control is one such feature. It gives extensive control over certain parameters of the image such as brightness, contrast, hue, saturation and tones. Picture control offers four pre-installed settings (Standard, Neutral, Vivid, and Monochrome). You can also download additional settings from the Nikon website. Although some ‘purists’ would scoff at the idea of using technological help to achieve the desired look of the photo, many photographers would rely on this feature to get the extra oomph into their shots. It is the digital equivalent of using specific types of film to achieve the desired mood.

The Nikon D3X contains an autofocus array of 51 points. 15 of these AF points are cross-type sensors, and they are located at the center of the array. These cross-type sensors are compatible with all AF NIKKOR lenses. There is also an option to revert to the classic 11-point Nikon layout. AF tracking performs well especially with the AF lock-on function. This function gives the photographer control over the refocusing time so that subjects can be tracked better based on their movement speed. Moreover, this camera supports AF fine-tuning for that extra bit of accuracy.

With the D3X you are given the option to use two Compact Flash cards at a time. The compartment that houses the double card slots lies beneath the rubber grip at the back of the camera. Using two cards simultaneously opens up a world of possibilities. Data can be saved into both the cards the moment a shot is made, creating instant backups. Also, data management is made easier with the option of having separate cards for different formats (i.e. card 1 for JPEGs and card 2 for RAWs). Card formats that are supported are Compact Flash type I and II, FAT32 and UDMA.

Actual user review:
“What can I say? The price debate has gone on and on, so I have no intentions of adding to that. It is not about the price but what you get for it.

I bought the Nikon D3X with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor for my studio last week and have shot outdoors with natural light, indoors with low ambiance light, and also (and most importantly for me) in the studio with my wireless sync flash system. If you are looking for the best DSLR money can buy, the D3x is for you. It produces professional work of the highest degree.

Detail is astonishing, at low ISO it is unrivaled, virtually noise-free, clean, artifact-free, and with a world-class output pixel-level detail. Resolution is amazing.

I know without a shadow of a doubt the money I invested in the D3X will make me more money than I have ever made. Business is already great. I am looking to do even better now that I have the best available tool in the DSLR universe. My only regret is that I waited this long to buy it.” – G.Vita (MO,USA)

Performance

Images produced by the D3X look spectacular. Such quality is nothing less than what one expects from a 24.5 megapixel variant of an already brilliant camera. Image detail is meticulously preserved. This camera picks up even the tiniest detail that you might have missed while peering through the viewfinder. The D3X features Nikon’s EXPEED image processing system which has a 16-bit image processing CPU. It has been designed to work with the 24.5 megapixel sensor to bring great quality images without a sacrifice in processing speed.

The D3X’s large 24.5 megapixel FX format CMOS sensor is capable of producing images at 6048 x 4032 pixels (largest setting). This allows for full-resolution 300 dpi prints at 20 x 13.5 inches (50.8 x 34.3 cm).

Of course, such a high resolution sensor does have its shortcomings. The D3X does not shoot as fast as the D3. Continuous shooting speed is at 5fps (the D3 shoots at 9fps). The large image files, which easily exceed 20 MB per RAW file, contribute to the increase in buffer time. However, 5 fps is still reasonably sufficient for most photography conditions. Furthermore, this slight reduction in speed is a small price to pay for the massive increase in resolution. If you need to squeeze some extra speed out of this camera, you can use the DX mode which increases the shooting speed to 7 fps at the cost of a reduced resolution (10.5 MP).

Yet when it comes to responsiveness in other areas, the D3X performs just as well as the high-speed D3. The starting-up time is almost instantaneous (less than 0.1 second), and you will not feel any shutter lag when making shots. The autofocus system is also agile. Subjects are acquired quickly and tracking is smooth.

The D3X has a standard ISO range of 100-1600 and expanded settings of 50, 3200 and 6400. For a sensor with so many pixels, noise performance is excellent. It has an impressive signal-to-noise ratio, and noise only starts to show at 1600 ISO. Even when using the expended ISO settings, image detail and sharpness are still maintained thanks to Nikon’s noise reduction techniques. The D3X offers four levels of noise reduction settings.

Conclusion

As a flagship DSLR that is targeted towards seasoned professionals, the D3X is a class leader when it comes to quality. Both image quality and build quality is phenomenal. Its gigantic 24.5 megapixel sensor and EXPEED image processing engine ensure that the hi-resolution images are top-notch. Other features such as Active D-Lighting and Picture Control also contribute to quality of each image. The D3X is very well made. Buttons feel durable and responsive. The magnesium alloy body coupled with ergonomic rubber grips make the D3X relatively easy to handle regardless of its large dimensions. All in all, the D3X cuts no corners when it comes to quality, making it a joy to use and a formidable tool in the hands of professional photographers.

Average User Rating:
This camera feels exactly like a D3 because they are identical. It feels very solid and rugged, it doesn’t feel like it would easily break. The 24mp is surprisingly clear. I tried the 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8 and the 85mm f/1.4. All three produced amazingly detailed and clear pictures that had a lot of pop to them. I’m not sure what the JPEGs were like but in my opinion if you are shooting this camera I hope for your sake you are shooting RAW. For my day to day setup I am using a 5D Mk II and a 24-70f/2.8 and I was astonished how much more detail the D3x seemed to pick up. The amount of detail and tonal gradation was significantly higher.” – M.Kalkman (CA, USA)

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I’ve shot a lot with a D200, even more with a D3, and most recently with the D3x. I must say – the images this camera produces are truly stunning. Paired with a suitable lens, the detail is amazing and other qualities, the more subjective ones like contrast and color, are hard to describe but are excellent and for my work, exceed the D3′s already excellent capabilities. But all the detail in the world can’t help you if you can’t count on the camera to deliver the shot and that’s where handling comes into play. The D3 is the best-handling DSLR body in the world – a combination of the autofocus system and the camera controls and the metering system. The D3x handles identically to the D3, which is exactly what I would have hoped for. I use this camera mostly at ISO 100; the files delivered are amazingly noise-free. Sure, any camera can deliver at its base ISO but you truly need to study these files to really understand the cleanliness and enlargement potential. All in all, this is exactly what I hoped Nikon would deliver. Sure, I’d rather it was cheaper but if you want the best image quality in digital 35mm format that money can buy, this is it.” – Greg R.

I bought a D3x this week and the first thing I wanted to do was compare it to the two other bodies in our household: my wife’s Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D700. For a camera of this resolution and detail, the performance at higher ISO is spectacular. I previously used a Hasselblad H2 with a Phase One P45+ and with that I don’t think I ever shot it above ISO 100 and it is a very very slow camera back. The D3x is the pinnacle of the DSLR hierarchy right now, a fabulous tool… Highly recommended. “ – Greg R. (USA)

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