Nikon D3: first hand experiences (part 1)

Despite the fact that the Nikon D3 isn’t available yet there are few lucky photographers who where able to share first hand experiences with us. These comments are scattered all over the Internet and I try my best to give you a good overview. Sorry for so much text 🙂

I begin with Bjørn Rørslett, a professional nature photographer highly respected for his detailled testing of many lenses:

“The new D3 has high-ISO performance beyond what anyone could imagine possible. I could hardly believe my eyes”
found at the Dpreview forum.
“Still not have had the opportunity to run comparisons directly, but my impression is that 6400 on D3 is cleaner than 800 on the D2X, and 25600 looks more or less as 1600. All of this will be tested throroughly later, of course. For the D300, my guess at this time is that 3200 is on the level of 800 for D200, but take this statment with a big pinch of salt. Since we now use cameras with embargo on the jpgs and no RAW converter is currently available, too much remains speculative.” found at

He is not the only one crazy about the high ISO noise:

“In our hands-on time with the D3 at an exclusive press event in Tokyo, we were blown away by the high speed images generated by the camera. Far from a scientific test (we shot a lot of images underneath the meeting room tables) the camera exhibited almost no noise at speeds up to ISO 6400. Obviously extended testing of the system will be necessary, but even in casual inspection the images off the D3 are exponentially better than previous systems.
For years the high ISO noise of the Nikon platform has been the Achilles heel of camera system, and clearly Nikon set out to eliminate that weakness with its new DSLRs. From what we’ve seen in our limited testing, they seem to have succeeded. Anyone who has heard the generalization that the Canon system performs better in low light will likely to have to revisit that maxim.” found at pdnonline.

A show report from the IFA 2007 (one of the world’s largest consumer electronics shows):

“From my brief exposure to this camera (which it must be admitted is a pre-production prototype and limited to viewing on the LCD screen), I’d say that Nikon has at least matched or even exceeded Canon’s best offerings in this area; the results are ASTOUNDING!

Again I could only judge by examining images on the 3″ LCD preview screen, but this camera delivers breathtaking results never before seen on any Nikon digital body. Even at ISO 6400, the levels of noise are extremely low, perhaps even better than 1600 ISO on previous models.

What’s more impressive though is the amount of detail retained at high ISO, which is clearly visible on the 922,000 pixel VGA LCD screen when fully zoomed in. There is almost none of the detail loss you normally see with noise reduction algorithms in other cameras. It’s obvious that the sensor is doing most of the work here and not noise reduction software.” found at

Even the Canon shooter Ed Betz who whas a firm critic of the Nikon D2H has positve things to say about the new full frame DSLR from Nikon:

“I was covering the Mets game tonight and there were 2 D3’s there.
I was allowed to shoot with one for a bit and I have a few comments.
First, let me say, that several years ago, I was a Nikon shooter, and when the D2H came out, I was VERY vocal about it’s problems. I did detailed testing (if you search the messages you’ll find some of the stuff) and the results were not good news for Nikon. As the result of that, I became a Canon shooter, and still am.
Tonights experience with the D3 has really changed my mind about Nikon. The camera “FEELS” great in your hand. The controls are really well placed (as they have been in most Nikon Cameras). The Auto focus was SPOT on and VERY VERY fast (even under night time baseball lighting)
While all of that I expected from the camera, there was something I never expected. The image quality was BY FAR the BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN in a digital camera. The detail in the images was STUNNING.
The camera was set for iso 2000 when it was handed to me, and I must be honest and say that they looked BETTER then the iso 800 I was shooting with my Canon Mark II. The color was pure and rich.
Just for fun, I turned up the iso to 3200 and to my astonishment, it still looked BETTER then my 800 iso on my Mark II. Both in color and in noise.
The noise is NOT ONLY very low, BUT, the quality of what noise there is (unlike the D2H) was pleasing. One of the problems I had with the D2H was not only the amount of noise, but the QUALITY of it. The D3 changes all of that.
The final test came when I opened the images in Photoshop. I must say, if I didn’t shoot them myself, I never ever would have believed that they were iso 2000 and 3200. They look like 400 and 640 (only better) then my Mark II.
Finally, the level of detail that the camera captures goes FAR BEYOND anything I have ever experienced in ANY digital camera .
So, my hats off to you NIKON…. I only wish you would have done this sooner, before I spent tens of thousands switching to Canon…….
Perhaps there is a Nikon switch in my future.” found at the Dpreview forum.

Paul from the lovely Nikonian forum:

“I got a chance to spend some time with a D3 this week. It is everything they said and more. Before anyone asks, I can’t share any pictures taken with the D3. Believe me I REALLY wish I could. I did have someone take some pictures with my D200 of the D3 with me holding and shoot with it. I did take some pictures of the D3 with my D2X RRS L bracket fited loosely on the D3. Bottom line is it almost but doesn’t quite fit. You could force it on, but the D3 is just a little bit too deep front to back. the hole is close enough to get the bolt in but is really need just a little bit more room to the side. And, if you did put it on you could not take out the battery. So, as expected, the D2X (and thus the D2Xs) L bracket won’t fit. When I talk to RRS last week they said they will need 4 to 6 weeks from the time THEY see the first D3. I thought some people would like to know this for sure.
I didn’t find anything I didn’t like about the camera. The one thing I thought was a little strange was that you only saw 1 focus bracket in the viewfinder, you could NOT see all of them in any mode I could find. Maybe this is better, but I’m used to seeing all of them on my D2X and D200
One thing I thought was cool, is that you could assign the “level” function to the function button to tell if you had the camera level in the viewfinder and on the LCD. There were a LOT of features that have not been mentioned in any of the literature and reviews I’ve seen yet.
I also got about an hour with one of Nikon tech gurus on the D3 and saw some interesting view graphs about technical inovations of the D3. For one, the sensor has much less space between the element lens an the light well. This means more light into the well AND I think less problems with camera lenses being effected by high incident light angles from some camera lenses. Some film lenses seems to have problems on digital bodies. It look like this will be much less of a problem with the D3 and any other digital camera before.
If you want to know what ISO 6400 looks like on a D3, I’d say look at ISO 320 on a D2X. There was a lot of noise at ISO 25,600 but I guess you’d expect that Still COOL!
Another thing I liked if that if you push the center of the multiselector you do a quick zoom in and you can scroll around to check focus and stuff. Also, the D3 will be about 3.5 times faster writing to the Sandisk Extreme IV compared to the Extreme III. 35MB vs 10MB.
I’ve been told as soon as Nikon finalized the firmware tweeking, that pictures will be shareable with everyone. I’ve been promised that I’ll be able to share some nightime street and club shot taken with the final firmware tweeks.” found here.

Scott Kelby, editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Layers magazine and President of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), has the following to say:

“Although I didn’t get a chance to shoot with the Nikon D3 during the morning shoot, I spent hours with it tonight at our dusk shoot, and I have to say; not only does it live up to it’s hype, I’d have to say it actually exceeds it. There are a lot of things to love about the D3, but the lack of noise is far beyond what I had ever imagined (and I had heard stories of people raving about the low noise, but you’ve really got to see it in person to believe it).

I haven’t done any lab research on this, just some field shooting yesterday and today, but when I look at images shot at 1600 ISO on the D3, they look images taken on my D2x at 400 ISO. You just can’t believe what you’re seeing. Bill did a demo for the class last night, and even showed images shot at 6400 ISO and there were literally gasps in the room at the low levels of noise.
You’ve gotta understand; this isn’t just an improvement in the noise and detail—this is way beyond that. Without sounding corny (though it still will), this is like a new dawn in the digital camera era, and now I can see where noise will soon be a non-issue. I was fully expecting to be impressed with the D3’s low noise, but I honestly wasn’t prepared for this. I was blown away. We all were.

Some other things I quickly fell in love with was (of course), the huge 3″ LCD panel, which is the crispest and brightest I’ve never seen (even the menus looked great), and the full frame View Finder is just fantastic. During the day I kept uncovering new features, and everybody was ooohh and ahhhing over it, and the more I shot it, the more I fell in love. It’s got more slick, well-thought out features, than you can imagine, and I know I’m gushing, but….I’m just gushing!!! Bravo to Nikon for making a camera that is just a joy to shoot (the feel of the shutter is amazing), that is smart (it holds two memory cards at once; and has a double battery charger as well), and takes some amazingly sharp, crisp, low noise photos.” found here.

Moose Petterson about the D3:

“I had no means of mounting the D3 on a tripod, simply no plates. To shoot in the forest in the very dim light, I cranked up the ISO of the D3 to 800 (which I never do) just so I could shoot at 1/15 of a second. When I went through the mornings images later on the computer, I had totally forgotten I had shot at ISO800 until I was in NX and only than, after seeing the meta data did I remember. I couldn’t tell by looking at the images, there was no noise structure hinting at shooting at a high ISO. More importantly to me though was how well the D3 handled recording the very subtle changes in the greens in the forest (at this high ISO) as that was what I was after. It’s called photography, solving problems to visually communicate the passion your feel at the time of the click and the D3 does it so very well.

I’m a photographer and as such, I create images based on my emotional response to the scene and through my photography, try to draw the same emotional response from the viewer of my image. The amazing nuisances of detail the D3 captures aren’t going to be seen here in these small files posted on the blog (and I’m truly sorry for that). The very subtle color grads that the D3 can record that the D2Xs doesn’t is what’s important for me to discover in my first shooting of the D3 (and it does just that). The D3’s ability to pull in highlight detail beyond the traditional 5stops was important to explore and exploit (and it does that too). The amazing, just bloody amazing sharpness of the D3 files were enough to make me ecstatic beyond belief and something I had to really explore. The detail in feathers (even if they were just gulls) the D3 captures just blew me off my chair!” found here.


  1. Thank you for sharing!

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