August 23, 2007

Nikon D3, Full-Frame, previewed


The professional Nikon D 'single digit' series of digital SLR's started life back in June 1999 with the groundbreaking D1. Groundbreaking because it was the digital SLR which broke Kodak's stranglehold on the digital SLR market and fundamentally brought prices down to a level which most professionals could afford (around the US$5,500 mark). Since then we have seen a steady progression of this line of cameras, while the core values of a high quality full size body with integrated grip have remained the line split into two halves, one targeted at high resolution photography the other high speed sports type photography (lower resolution but faster continuous shooting); the X and H suffixes. It's been almost three years since Nikon introduced a completely new digital SLR with a new sensor (the D2X) and there has been much anticipation that Nikon's next move would be a full-frame chip.

This predictions have come true with the introduction of the 'FX format' (new moniker created by Nikon) D3 which features a 36 x 23.9 mm 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor as well as a vast array of new features which absolutely raise it another notch above previous single digit Nikon DSLRs. Important headline improvements include high sensitivity support by default, up to ISO 6400 with 25600 available as a boost option, 14-bit A/D conversion, a new standard image processor, a new shutter, new auto focus sensor, focus tracking by color, nine frames per second continuous, dual compact flash support, DX lens support (albeit at lower resolution) and a 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor (which it has to be said is lovely).

Some will undoubtedly question Nikon for 'only' delivering twelve megapixels on their first full frame digital SLR, all we can presume by looking at past model line history is that this camera is designed for speed (both in sensitivity, auto-focus and continuous shooting).


Nikon D3 Key Features

  • First ever Nikon DSLR with a Full-Frame (36 x 24 mm) sensor (coined FX format)
  • 12.1 megapixel full-frame sensor (8.45┬Ám pixel pitch)
  • ISO 200 - 6400 (with boost up to ISO 25,600)
  • Also supports DX lenses, viewfinder automatically masks (5.1 megapixels with DX lens)
  • 5:4 ratio crop mode (10 megapixels, up to 9 fps, viewfinder masked)
  • 14-bit A/D conversion, 12 channel readout
  • Nikon EXPEED image processor (Capture NX processing and NR algorithms, lower power)
  • Super fast operation (power-up 12 ms, shutter lag 41 ms, black-out 74 ms)
  • New Kevlar / carbon fibre composite shutter with 300,000 exposure durability
  • New Multi-CAM3500FX Auto Focus sensor (51-point, 15 cross-type, more vertical coverage)
  • Auto-focus tracking by color (using information from 1005-pixel AE sensor)
  • Auto-focus calibration (fine-tuning) now available (fixed body or up to 20 separate lens settings)
  • Scene Recognition System (uses AE sensor, AF sensor)
  • Picture Control image parameter presets (replace Color Modes I, II and III)
  • Custom image parameters now support brightness as well as contrast
  • Nine frames per second continuous with auto-focus tracking
  • Eleven frames per second continuous without auto-focus tracking
  • Ten / eleven frames per second continuous in DX-crop mode (AF / no-AF)
  • Dual Compact Flash card slots (overflow, back-up, RAW on 1 / JPEG on 2, copy)
  • Compact Flash UDMA support
  • 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • Live View with either phase detect (mirror up/down) or contrast detect Auto Focus
  • Virtual horizon indicates if camera is level (like an aircraft cockpit display)
  • HDMI HD video output
  • 'Active D-Lighting' (adjusts metering as well as applying D-Lighting curve)
  • Detailed 'Control Panel' type display on LCD monitor, changes color in darkness
  • New MB-D10 vertical grip fully integrates into body, multi battery type compatible
  • Buttons sealed against moisture
  • Dual battery charger as standard
  • Available November 2007

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