Nikon D3

Review and Sample Photos by ImagingResource (added 16 February’09)

The Nikon D3 is a DSLR camera equipped with a 12.1 megapixel sensor and a 3 inch LCD display. Among the most notable characteristics, a weather proof sturdy magnesium alloy shell, wide range of ISO values with little noise even at 6400 and reasonably low weight at 2.7 libs / 1.2 Kg.

Summary of reviews

“Pro photographers last year got a new option for full-frame digital photography: the Nikon D3 digital SLR camera. Not only did it make their old Nikon glass fully usable again, but it’s the fastest digital SLR on the market — with some limitations.”

Sony A900 comparison. “Conventional wisdom holds that the D3 is superb at high ISOs, and it does do better than the Sony. But I like the Sony’s high-ISO quality better than the Nikon’s. If you can’t do something you want to do with the D3, it’s probably because you haven’t learned how yet, not because the camera won’t do it.”

“The D3 is Nikon’s most advanced digital camera. The high-end of DSLR cameras is interesting because there are no direct competitors. The D3 and the D700, its smaller full-frame sibling, are unique in their ultra high-ISO capability.”

“Without a doubt, the feature Nikon shooters have been looking for is this camera’s full-frame sensor. I have to give Nikon a slight edge over the 1D Mark III for its remarkable noise profile, which enables shooting photos that couldn’t be captured as they can now.”

“About that autofocus system: it rocks, but it’s going to take some getting used to for anyone coming from previous Nikon DSLRs. In the (admittedly long) time it took for this review to appear, the D3′s street price has dropped several hundred dollars from its original US$4999 price. I give it full marks for value at that price, that’s how good the camera is.”

Consumer Electronics Net
“When mounting a DX type lens on the D3, the viewfinder will automagically mask off to show you the smaller DX size if you choose. You have unimaginable control over the final output of the camera and that can be a little intimidating at first but Nikon’s personalized presets make things a lot easier once you have it set up.”

Ken Rockwell
“Other DSLRs still use the obsolete 3:2 aspect ratio of 35mm film. What makes the D3 smarter is that it adds a mode that allows images in the standard 5:4 shape.”

“The D3 is positioned as a pro camera, priced and marketed to those whose livelihood depends on consistently creating the best possible images. All told, the good is really good, and the bad ain’t so bad. This is a fully featured pro camera in the venerable Nikon tradition. It looks to me that Nikon is not only back in the game but has a winner.”

According to the site explicit copyright notice no excerpt is provided, despite falling under fair use discipline. The review is in-depth and well worth reading following the link.

“Canon cameras produce very useable results straight out of the camera. However, the Nikon D3 obviously wins here with an exceptionally clean image at this iso.”

“For those who would like a DSLR optimized for sports, news, and wedding photography, the D3 is probably the top choice. At about one-third of the cost of a D3, the D300 is very much a viable alternative and provides better value for the money. In particular, for those long-lens users who prefer more reach, the D300′s DX format is a plus.”

“The D3 is Nikon’s first DSLR camera featuring a “full frame” 12.1 megapixel sensor that is nearly identical in size to 35mm film. Performance of the D3 is what you’d expect from a Nikon flagship – the camera is a thoroughbred. Designed for sports and photojournalism, I’d suspect the D3 might find an additional following among wedding photographers who prefer to shoot in natural light.”

“With a new, Nikon-developed 12.1 megapixel FX format CMOS sensor plus selectable ISO extending all the way up to ISO 6400 and a HI option equivalent to ISO 25600, making it not only a rapid shooter but one capable of best-in-class low light performance, this is truly one amazing piece of technology encased in a solid-feel magnesium alloy body.”

“This is the first DSLR I have ever considered awarding a ten out of ten to in almost 17-years of camera testing and that is high praise indeed. However, the few minor niggles there are meant it did not get the top marks in the end.”

“There’s a lot of debate over which is better, the Nikon D3 or the Canon 1D Mk III. The Nikon does seem to have much in its favour, not least the price.”

Professional Photographer
“The D3 is miserly about power usage. Handles well for a big camera. Relatively quiet for an SLR. Controls remain easy to use even when wearing gloves in cold wet weather. “

“The Nikon D3 ($5,000, street, body only) may not be within reach of most photographers’ budgets, but that won’t stop them from dreaming about this amazing pro camera. Among our favorites: HDMI output that allows you to play back images in HDTV resolution, and the remote control and live view on a computer using supplied software. That’s something any pro, whether in the studio or on location, will find useful, if not indispensable.”

“This is the first Nikon full frame (FF) digital SLR. The camera is designed more to have low ISO noise than ultimate resolution (actually 12MP is more than many need unless they print really big). We use the D3 with the Nikon top zooms: 24-70mm f/2.8 and14-24mm f/2.8. We own ourselves the AFS 28-70mm f/2.8, AFS 17-35mm f/2.8 and AFS 70-200mm f/2.8 VR.”

Luminous Landscape
“This is not a test report. It also isn’t a comparison of image quality between Canons and Nikons, so pixel peepers can now turn the page. Rather, it is an attempt to help Canon users understand what the latest Nikon cameras have to offer.”

“The D3 is not only a 35mm-frame camera, it is so much more and with high-ISO performance unheard and undreamt of as well. With a blazing firing rate up to 9 fps(FX)/11 fps(DX), this is a sports and action shooter’s dream camera come true.”

Amateur Photographer
Full UK camera specification.

Real world samples and tests

CameraPortfolios from OutbackPhoto
Ken Rockwell
DPReview (test charts)
Unretouched, full resolution, samples from PhotographyBlog