Nikon D3 In-depth Review @ dpreview

Nikon D3

The Nikon D3 is the long awaited full frame image sensor DSLR. Eight years after Nikon’s D1 a new digital SLR camera for professionals was introduced.The D3 introduces a range of innovative technologies and features that significantly improve the accuracy, control and performance professional photographers can get from their equipment. Nikon’s exclusive Scene Recognition System advances the use of Nikon’s acclaimed 1,005-segment sensor to recognize colors and light patterns that help the camera determine the subject and the type of scene being photographed, before an image is captured. This information is also used to improve the accuracy of auto focus, auto exposure and auto white balance detection functions in the D3. For example, the camera can track moving subjects better in all directions and by identifying them it can also automatically select focus points faster and with greater accuracy. It can also analyze scene highlights and more accurately determine exposure, as well as infer light sources to deliver more accurate white balance.

The D3 incorporates Nikon’s new Multi-CAM 3500FX auto focus module that features an intelligent array of 15 cross-type sensors and 36 horizontal sensors. These sensors can either be used individually or in groups, with the option for Single Area AF mode and Dynamic AF modes using groups of either 9, 21 or all 51 focus points. The system also features 3D Focus Tracking with automatic focus point switching that takes advantage of all 51 AF points as it uses color and light information to accurately track the subject. Nikon’s new Scene Recognition System and improved focus algorithms also contribute to the impressive performance of the new 51-point AF system.

Nikon’s new Picture Control System makes it easy for users of all experience levels to select and apply adjustments to how their pictures are rendered and create optimized settings to suit their individual preferences. The same settings produce consistent picture tone, even when using different camera bodies. The Picture Control System offers four basic setting options – Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome. These can be directly modified for easy adjustment and customization of image parameters, such as sharpening, tone compensation, brightness, and saturation. Photographers can customize and store up to nine customized options in the D3 and export up to 99 to a CF memory card, enabling photographers to share settings among multiple D3 cameras.

Taking a cue from the popularity of Nikon’s D-Lighting technology, the D3 features a new Active D-Lighting mode that, when enabled, provides remarkable real-time highlight and shadow correction with optimized image contrast. Active D-Lighting produces broader tone reproduction in both shadows and highlights by controlling highlights and exposure compensation while applying localized tone control technology to achieve a more pleasing level of contrast across the entire image. And because the advantages of Active D-Lighting are applied as images are captured, image editing time can be shortened.

The D3’s LiveView feature offers two modes for confirming subjects and composition on the new 920,000-dot, high-resolution 3-inch LCD monitor while shooting. The Tripod mode is designed for precise focus and accuracy when the camera is on a stable platform and the subject is not moving. In this mode, the camera focuses on the subject using focal-plane contrast and any point on the LCD screen can be selected as the focus point for the picture. The second mode, called Handheld mode, allows photographers to use the camera’s conventional TTL focusing system, with all 51-points and 15 cross-type points available. When using this mode, the camera activates focusing immediately when the shutter button is pressed, to ensure accurate focus.

Simon Joinson and Phil Askey have written an in-depth review of the Nikon D3. Their Nikon D3 review (33 Pages) has been published on dpreview.com.

Luminous Landscape published earlier an first impression review of the Nikon D3 DSLR and writes “DSLRs are just easy to use and this Nikon takes it one step further, with the big viewfinder, a hugely detailed LCD, and the ability to set so many film looks in camera. Medium format has its place, and will continue to do so, especially tethered in studio. But IMO, medium format really needs to address in- camera processing, better LCDs, and easier, faster workflows.” (some Pictures taken by James Russell and Ann Rutherford can be found here)

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Nikon’s D3 features

  • Full Frame (36 x 24 mm) sensor / 12.1 megapixels
  • Compatible with three image-sensor formats – FX format (36 x 24), 5:4 (30 x 24) and DX format (24 x 16)
  • ISO 200 to 6400
  • Viewfinder with approx. 100% frame coverage and approx. 0.7x magnification in FX format
  • Wireless Transmitter WT-4*3 (optional) realizes wireless connection of cameras with a PC, enabling thumbnail display of images taken with up to five of them, and downloading of images selected
  • High-speed continuous shooting at approx. 9 frames per second
  • Nikon’s EXPEED digital image processor
  • Live View LCD
  • 3-inch LCD with tempered glass

Nikon D3 side view

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