A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

D3 Nikon’s Full Frame Digital SLR

August 23 2007

by Phil Northeast

The D3 is the first digital camera from Nikon with a sensor the same size as 35mm film. The D3 can use existing Nikon Dx lenses as well as the new full frame FX lenses.

DSLR camera

Nikon D3 front view

Nikon’s response to Canon’s lead the top end full frame Digital SLR market is about to hit the market. For most photographers this camera offers a glimpse of the future of affordable DSLRs.

Nikon originally concentrated on the smaller DX format in the belief that this offered the best compromise of cost, picture quality, and size for most general shooting situations.

However, Canon stole a march on Nikon with a full frame DSLR becoming the perceived quality leader for professional photographers. This filters down to the wider high-end amateur market where the Canon D5 is seen the “best” camera.

Now Nikon are introducing the D3, with a new CMOS senor offering an effective 12.1 megapixel digital camera aimed at professional sports and photojournalists with attention to reducing shutter lag and fast shooting.

With a shutter release time lag of only 37 ms*, the D3’s performance is equivalent to that of the Nikon D2XS, which is generally regarded as a mechanical limit.

nikon dslr

Nikon D3 back view

There is a new image processing system needed to handle the larger file sizes and high number of images.

There are 51 autofocus sensor points to provide accurate focusing information in fast moving sports or news situations. There is also a new Nikon Scene Recognition System providing information from the D3’s 1,005-segment sensor

Nikon does make the point in their press release that the increased senor size makes higher resolutions possible without sacrificing digital noise performance due to smaller pixel size.

In a good move Nikon incorporated a picture mode in the D3 so that it can use their existing DX lenses intended for the smaller senor DSLR models, although with only 5.1 megapixel resolution.

Another neat feature is the large high quality LCD monitor on the back of the camera. Nikon suggest that it is possible to check critical focus areas in a digital image using the enlarged playback mode.

One indication the D3 aims at professional photographers is the attention to shutter speed life.  The carbon fiber and Kevlar shutter has survived 300,000 cycle release tests. This is important for sports professionals who routinely shoot hundreds of images a day.

top view DSLR

Nikon D3 top view

The D3 comes with two Compact Flash card drives useable in a variety of modes, including consecutive shooting. This should allow uninterrupted shooting as a card fills up, an important consideration as file sizes become larger with greater resolution. The gives the photographer greater flexibility on the timing of card changes in the middle of fast pace sports action.

The D3 is equipped with a digital level sensor that shows the camera’s alignment relative to the horizon on the rear LCD screen or in the viewfinder.  It is very easy for a photographer to become slightly disoriented when concentrating on moving subjects through the narrow view of the digital camera’s viewfinder.

originally published by suite101.com


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