Nikon D3 Digital Camera Reviewed

by Bjørn Rørslett  

10. Summing Up

While most people might consider the "full-sized" FX sensor the biggest news with the Nikon D3, I for one am not that much preoccupied with the FX format on its own. The size factor isn't that decisively great between DX and FX if you have worked with 35mm and 4x5" cameras anyway. The FX/DX systems see a lot of overlap in their targeted applications. Much more important to me is the concerted and integrated efforts by Nikon to come up with a truly professional camera system. They have added a perplexing diversity of cutting-edge and exciting features to their top-of-the-line model and laid the foundation for a growing line of competent offerings to the professional and keen amateur communities. Yet, at the same time, Nikon has added momentum to their DX line as well by introducing the D300. So you, the end user, can enjoy the best of both worlds.

During the months I've spent with the D3 and shot it against my D2X and the D300, I've gotten far better insights into the strong and weak points of either format. What you can do with DX can largely also be done with FX. Sometimes the one, sometimes the other format will have the upper hand. Until Nikon comes up with a higher-resolving FX camera to team up as a companion to the D3, the DX system has the edge in sheer basic resolution. As always this has a flip side with it so while a D2X or D300 outresolves a D3, you either get more image graininess("noise"), or a more restricted coverage from the same vantage point of the camera. If you on the other hand set up the systems so as to provide the same field of view from a given distance, the DX format is given the bad cards because it will have lower detail magnification and thus need the bigger secondary magnification, both of which aspects will potentially adversely impact the final outcome. As always, the underlying factors will determine what you end up with and as a photographer, you have to learn how to play the game to your own advantage.

The ability to shoot under adverse light situations without resorting to the use of a mood-killing flash is perhaps one of the most important characteristics of the D3 concept. As such, it is bound to influence the approaches we follow in our day-to-day handling of photography challenges. Will this also constitute a true paradigm shifting contemporary photography? It's early days yet so I wouldn't draw the definite conclusion on this issue just now. But it might well be the case.

So, does the arrival of FX make the smaller DX suddenly obsolete? In an earlier review, I gave the D2X a healthy recommendation as being the flagship of the Nikon DLSRs at that time. Now, nearly three years later, the D2X continues to deliver excellent image quality provided you pair it with top-performing glass. As far as DX is concerned, the D300 continues where the D2X bites the dust in terms of noise performance So these two combine quite nicely. With the D3, I haven't yet decided whether an FX/DX combination is the most appropriate for me as the basic workhorse setup. Two D3 cameras alone will not be optimal for me, but D3 + D300, or D3 + D2X might be. I need to use these combinations over a longer period of time to finally arrive at a decision. Besides, I will continue to use DX-based systems for specialised applications such as UV and IR photography, no matter what system combination I'll end up with. This is because the D3, as expected, is practically useless for thee beyond-the-visible kind of applications.

On the horizon one can predict with some degree of certainty there will be a stablemate to the D3 with an elevated pixel count for those admittedly few occasions in which the current D3 won't cut it. When such a camera arrives, I'll add it to my D3 outfit to complete the "FX" kit.

For me the arrival of the D3 is the final nail in the coffin for "35mm" silver-halide reflex cameras. Of that I'm certain. In terms of pure resolving power, I'll continue to make the most out of my DX camera while I'm awaiting a higher-resolving FX model from Nikon. Film is no longer a viable option in this respect, unless you step up to a large-format view camera. But such a system is not suited for my approach to photography.

Just Married, Just Ditched, by D3

Just Married, Just Ditched

Nikon D3, AFS-Nikkor 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens, 1/15 sec at f/8, 1600 ISO, hand-held shot (in-camera jpg)

© Bjørn Rørslett/NN

At last, getting that super-wide sweep to the grand vistas again with the Nikon D3 and the new AFS 14-24 mm f/2.8 Nikkor. The future looks indeed bright for Nikon with their D3

(A little crash course in Norwegian: "Nygift" = Just married)


My sincere thanks to all of you providing me with feedback and information about my numerous typing errors. These errors are dealt with as soon as possible.

Nikon D3 Reviewed

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Last update 7 January, 2008