There are some who might accuse Nikon of sitting on the fence with the D3. Equally, the less critical may just consider that the Japanese camera masters have seen a gap and decided to build a suitably sized plug.
Thus this pro-standard DSLR is pitched directly between Canon’s two top-end models, the 1D MkIII and 1Ds MkIII. Its specs sit between the two and so does its price – and so we were initially inclined to think Nikon has been very astute, avoiding a direct battle with either of its awesome competitors... so long as its performance was up to its billing.
You’ve been (fully) framed
Thankfully, we need not have worried about that. The D3 has a 12MP full-frame sensor which, for the uninitiated, means that the sensor is the same size as a 35mm film frame, as opposed to the smaller APS-C sensors used in most SLRs.
This means it’s simply astonishing at capturing detail and making the most of the available light to saturate images with lush colours – noticeably better than the 1D MkIII, particularly at ISO 1600 and above, where the shots are less flat.
Ergonomically, the D3 is also excellent, even if it is ridiculously heavy. There’s little to choose between it and the Canons in this respect – personally, we’re more comfortable with the Nikon control layout. The new 3in screen is super-crisp, too.
If further proof were needed that Nikon is a company that cares about photographers, it’s the D3’s dual card slots. While the Canons give a choice of CompactFlash or SD, the D3 has two CompactFlash slots, giving you the choice of backing up every shot or writing JPGs to one and RAW to the other. Genius.
Less great is the compatibility issue with DX lenses. If you’ve already stocked up on these optics – which have been optimized for the smaller sensor size – you’ll be disappointed to see that the D3 suffers from vignetting (darkened corners) when using them and is best left to auto-crop the image when you’ve got one fitted. That means you’re down to 6MP pics with the DX lenses
Oddly, it’s not a let-down that the D3 has lived up to our expectations – any camera that can deliver the beautifully toned, full-frame images of the 1Ds along with the continuous shooting speed of the 1D is okay in our book.
While the 1Ds is destined for studios and the 1D is an ideal sports snapper, the D3 is a great location tool – a fashion photographer’s dream.