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Camera Reviews

Nikon D3x Preview

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on December 1, 2008


Keywords: nikon, camera, bodies, product, articles

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The Nikon D3x DSLR – Christmas Came Early - A First Preview

This is our Nikonians preview and first thoughts upon learning the details of the new king of the Nikon digital single-lens-reflex (DSLR) domain, the brand new and hot Nikon D3x.

Welcome, you long awaited monster.

Nikon D3X DSLR

The Nikon D3 is a camera we have come to love. Its low light ISO capabilities paired with excellent shooting speed in a very rugged body made sure it got a very special place in the Nikonians community and in our hearts. Now with the long awaited D3x here, we expect it to become the new king on the throne. With the D3’s 80.58 “DxO Mark’s”, the Nikon D3x has a tough, in house competitor to beat, but we are sure it will make it.

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The new Nikon D3x has everything the D3 has and some more. It runs on the same batteries (the EN EL4a’s) using the same MultiCAM 3500 FX autofocus system. It has though a truly new sensor at 24.5 megapixels, and this silicon makes it the highest resolution camera in the Nikon lineup. With a total of three FX cameras (Nikon D3, D700 and now the Nikon D3x) Nikon offers a serious line of modern DSLR cameras for the professional user. Add to that the Nikon D300 DX-sensored camera, and you are looking at four pro cameras with excellent build, high dynamic range, great (Nikon D300) and super (Nikon D3, D3x, D700) low light ISO handling now on the market.

I have been holding back on buying a D3 knowing that the D3x just had to come out and you can bet this baby will be under more than one Nikonians Christmas tree. Or, at least a voucher for one (since we will probably not see many really getting their D3x’s in time for Christmas). OK, so do you need 24.5 megapixel resolution? Well, do I need a car with several hundred horsepower under the hood to go from point A to B? Granted, that is a very “non-professional” answer, but we at Nikonians are gear heads and love good equipment. Having the best gear gives you no excuses when it comes to delivering poor results.

Alright, let's get back to the new D3x. It has an ISO range of 100-1600, nothing really spectacular here. You can step down the ISO to 50 in the regular Nikon fashion with Lo-1 and up two steps top 6400 with Hi-1 and Hi-2. This is definitely less than D3’s 25600. I bet the noise levels on this baby will show to be excellent up to 400 ISO and I am curious to see what our own Bill Claff finds out on that when he gets his hands on a body. Also the DxO team with their DxO Mark should be hot on testing it and should be able to deliver very interesting results.

The crop modes 5:4 and DX are the same as found in the Nikon D3 and (no surprise) setting it to DX crop you can squeeze out 7 fps in RAW format. Not as good as my old, trusty F5 with some film loaded and definitely slower than the D2X in crop, but close enough, and definitely functional for fast action, motor sports, basketball et al.

But, this is really a camera for landscape and wildlife, so it should appeal to a large crowd of Nikonians, especially those with some pocket money left after the credit crunch, or the ones of us who have a brave banker living next door whom we can invite for some socializing. The 35.9mm x 24mm FX sensor at high resolution and 14 bit (16 bit internal EXPEED) with its optical low pass filter should be a joy to use for this working environment. The color imaging processor in the D3x is tuned for less color fringing problems using older Nikkors, so it should do a great job with our older pro glass as well.

As with the last pro cameras from Nikon, also this baby reads out the sensor in high speed and writes out the data to two channels of CF cards at a total of 35Mbyte/s with the resulting images eating 75MByte each, so you better make sure your workflow is aligned with the capacity of the camera. If you thought about upgrading your workstation, Christmas 2008 might be the right time.

Talking about Christmas, shooting a swan in bright snow just turned a bit easier with the new Extra High Active D-Lighting incorporated into this new DSLR camera, improving tonal gradations in the highlights.

So, why hasn't Nikon come up with this camera earlier? We have the Canon 1Ds Mark III out “for ages” and it was a bit of a disappointment not to see the D3x coming out closer to the D3. I bet they were working a lot on improving the firmware’s noise and color management algorithms. Working with 16 bit is probably something that also made more than a few changes necessary. After the hiccups with the Sony Alpha 900 and its somewhat less than expected low-noise qualities, you can bet the Nikon engineers were focused on not repeating the same mistake Sony made.

Let's see what the first noise results reveal. If they are as good as expected, we may have the answer to why it took so long.

We will keep you up-to-date on the Nikon D3x in our blog, forums, podcasts, newsletters, ezines and through our articles.

It is lovely to be a Nikonian.

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs)

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Bo Stahlbrandt Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs)

Bratislava, Slovakia
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