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Get the D3s, not D3x...my expensive misconceptions

xtrememac

Andover, US
278 posts

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xtrememac Silver Member Nikonian since 05th Jan 2006
Sun 15-Aug-10 06:15 PM

Finally Got my D3s...the rentals were costing a fortune...plus the new 24mm 1.4...NAS big time this weekend, YAY!

I just wanted to express an opinion and let others who have similar needs hopefully not make the rather expensive mistakes I did.

OK, a little public service for the other working pros out there...I own a D3/D700 and a D3x, and just got my D3s. I shoot live theatre for promotions, programs, playbills, billboards, etc. Probably 80% is shot in available theater light, sometimes I stage the setup, sometimes not. The other 20% of work is studio strobes and/or a bunch of speedlights, under my control.

First, I bought the D3 at release for its low light capability...excellent, very satisfied. When Nikon announced the D3s, I could not see how much better the D3s could be, so I did not acquire one right away....stupid of me, I should have tried one...but instead, I bought a D3x, convinced it was going to do great things for my work.. At first I used the D3x a lot, but found it to be sadly lacking in decent low light capability, and only useful when shooting with strobes or static subjects on a tripod and needing to print big, like banners or billboards. Shooting the D3x handheld simply results in bigger files over the D3, and little gain in actual quality. You really have to treat it like a medium format camera technique-wise to see its advantages. Plus the files are huge, everything in post is slower, and less than pristine technique stand out like a sore thumb. If I am doing a banner or billboard, fine...I expect the process to be slower, heck for years I was shooting it in 8x10 for those jobs. Bottom line the D3x is very nice for what it is, just not as useful a tool as I had hoped it would be....and needless to say, not cheap, especially if it is not making money for me.

Starting about a month ago, I had to send in the D3 for cleaning & maintenance, and I rented a D3s for a program shoot. A program shoot is typically done at a dress rehearsal, in a basically empty theater. Most of the performance shots were made with the 200mm f/2 VR operating 5 to 15 rows back on a Sidekick, using Auto ISO as usual, spot metering faces under changing theater lights. This was in a venue I knew very well, and had shot the D3/D700 many times. The evening of my first day shooting viewing my work on my laptop in my hotel, I could not believe the difference between the D3 and the D3s. The quality of color saturation and lack of offensive noise was unbelievable. I kept checking the ISOs on the shots and anything under 3200, I did not bother to process for noise. I pulled up some unprocessed NEF D3 shots from the same venue 2 months before, and the same ISOs looked vastly different....WOW...the next morning I was calling around to find my own D3s...sadly nothing in stock anywhere.

Anyway, I ended up renting it 4 times before my copy arrived yesterday. Sadly, during that whole period I did not have the D3x out of the bag. I will be replacing my D3 with a second D3s, and selling the D3x...I will rent that when the need arises...but there is a very good reason why nobody can keep the D3s in stock...it rocks. If you own a D3, the difference is absolutely worth the money. obvious and demonstrable. The images from the new sensor also have a smoother quality, color and luminance transitions are much more film-like than the D3 or D700. Studio strobe shots with the D3s and ISO 200, especially skin textures, are obviously better...it is worth the money in spades, and....unless you have very specific large print needs...IMHO the D3x is a beautiful and expensive one trick pony...in my case I will rent as needed.

Sincerely,

K. J. Doyle

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