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Nikon D3x Digital Camera Review

nikon20100514a.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Simon Vrantsis  

With its release back in August 2007, the D3 broke new ground for Nikon by being its first foray into the world of full-frame DSLR’s. The D3 also set new standards in high ISO performance and sensitive range versatility. With critics raving about the near flawless camera and people on the streets talking manically, the D3 became the Beatles of the DSLR industry.

Now with the release of the D3x, Nikon have pushed the boundaries of the original D3’s design, adding a supercharged sensor to boost the level of detail being produced. But while there are some improvements over its predecessor, that was close to perfect, the D3x may leave some photographers out there with a bit of a dilemma as to which direction to head.

Nikon have implemented a 24.5-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor to the D3x delivering image quality in optimal light that is pretty much peerless. As tested with the stellar Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens, there’s no doubt the D3x produces the cleanest images seen from a DSLR. The superb 51-point AF system makes focusing very flexible and accurate, especially when the D3x is paired with one of Nikon’s AF-S lenses.

The D3x performs well at high ISO and produces usable images through to very high sensitivities even though it’s restricted to 6400 unlike the D3’s 25600. At its higher ISO setting, any noise that becomes apparent seems to take form in a film grain way that tends to add more of a gritty feel to images. Ultimately, the D3x’s high ISO performance isn’t setting new standards but considering the megapixels at play here, it keeps Nikon’s tradition in tact.

Speed wise, the D3x is a bit of a mixed bag though. Due to the file sizes being processed, this isn’t a major surprise. It peaks at 5fps shooting in 12-bit RAW or fine jpeg, and the D3x speed drops a decent amount when shooting in 14-bit RAW. When switched to DX mode, however, the continuous shooting speed improves to 7fps, though the resolution reduces to 10.5 megapixels. Combining the D3x with DX lenses result in an automatic switch to the aforementioned DX resolutions so this needs to be taken into consideration when bringing DX lenses that have been used previous with a cropped sensor.

Obviously being part of Nikon’s professional line-up, the build quality of the D3x is beyond any criticism. At just over 1.2kg, body only, it’s weighty but extremely comfortable in hand, and balances very well with the heavier top-end lenses that it should be combined with. The magnesium alloy construct supplies the D3x with weather and dust proofing that is typical at this level of the market and, more than, expected based on the price tag. Just like you’d find in a Rolls Royce, it’s the smaller details that round off a polished package and the design of the battery and memory card compartments are obvious signs of this.

Consistent with the Nikon range from the D90 upward, the D3x is fitted with a 3”, 920k-resolution LCD display, but the standout is the huge Pentaprism viewfinder. With 100% coverage, the result is scenes will look identical whether being viewed through camera or not, and you wont be disappointed by objects sneaking into the edges of your composition.

The D3x includes two control panels and shooting information displays. The first shows typical information such as shutter speeds, aperture etc. The second is a dedicated display positioned just below the main LCD display. It displays ISO, white balance and quality settings and makes changes to these a lot simpler and viewing this information instantaneous.

The finger dial on the top-left of the camera allows for quick changes between single-shot and continuous shooting modes, live view, self-timer and mirror lock-up. Above this dial are dedicated buttons for adjustments to flash, bracketing setting and shutter speed/aperture lock. Holding the relative button followed by using the traditional finger dials makes changes to these a lot more seamless.

Dual CF card slots are fitted to the D3x and users are given flexibility to customise how files are saved to these cards. For example, you could save your RAW images to one card and JPEG or TIFF files to another allowing for simpler management especially when dealing with a large number of files.

A wide array of useful features in Nikon’s range of DSLR’s has obviously been filtered through to the D3x like the virtual horizon, help systems, and Active D-Lighting, and the expected ports for PC and remote sync, and HDMI output have been included.

The final aspect of the D3x that needs to be touched on isn’t a feature at all but indeed the financial issue that comes with its purchase. With a retail price tag at about $11,000, you would agree there definitely needs to be something major to justify an upgrade to the D3x. Admittedly its closest competitor in the Canon 1D Mark III isn’t dramatically cheaper but existing Nikon full-frame users may indeed be the ones that need the most justification.

medal-platinum-r.jpgUpgrading from its predecessor, the D3, or, if new to this end of the market, not being drawn to look sideways at Nikon’s own D3s, is going to be tough when looking at the five figure investment but this is, in no doubt, an amazing piece of photographic equipment.

The D3x performs to stunning effect in studio environments and amazingly under controlled lighting conditions where it delivers the best image detail money can buy. With its performance being good at higher sensitivities, you ultimately have a very versatile photographic tool at your disposal. The 24.5-megapixel sensor mean that the continuous shooting speed had to take a hit, and those with strong interests in sports or action photography may need to look at the recently released D3s which runs a 12.1-megapixel sensor at up to 9fps, and is about two-thirds the price.

The Nikon D3x is a breathtaking if not slightly scary (due to it’s expense) piece of equipment to behold.


Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
5 stars
Lens quality
5 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4.5 stars
Value for money 4 stars
RRP (AUD) $13,999
Effective Pixels 24.5 Mega pixels
Image Sensor
CMOS sensor, 35.9 x 24.0 mm; Nikon FX format; total pixels: 25.72 million
Image Sizes 3 Sizes
Resolution Settings FX format (36 x 24): 6,048 x 4,032 [L], 4,544 x 3,024 [M], 3,024 x 2,016 [S]
DX format (24 x 16): 3,968 x 2,640 [L], 2,976 x 1,976 [M], 1,984 x 1,320 [S]
5:4 (30 x 24): 5,056 x 4,032 [L], 3,792 x 3,024 [M], 2,528 x 2,016 [S]
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds Electronically controlled vertical-travel focal plane shutter, 30 to 1/8000sec in steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV plus bulb
Exposure Metering System
TTL full-aperture exposure metering using 1,005-pixel RGB sensor
1) 3D Color Matrix Metering II (type G and D lenses); Color Matrix Metering II (other CPU lenses); Color Matrix Metering (non-CPU lenses if user provides lens data)
2) Center-weighted: Weight of 75% given to 8-, 15- or 20-mm circle in center of frame, or weighting based on average of entire frame
3) Spot: Meters 4-mm circle (about 1.5% of frame) centered on selected focus area (on center focus area when non-CPU lens is used)
Exposure Modes 1) Programmed Auto (P) with flexible program,
2) Shutter-Priority Auto (S),
3) Aperture-Priority Auto (A),
4) Manual (M)
ISO ISO 100 to ISO 1600
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size High-resolution (approx. 920k dots), 3-inch VGA-size LCD monitor with tempered glass
Viewfinder Yes
Hot Shoe Yes
White Balance Auto (TTL white balance with main image sensor and 1,005-pixel RGB sensor); Seven manual modes can be preset with fine-tuning; color temperature setting; white balance bracketing: 2 to 9 exposures in increments of 1, 2 or 3
Self Timer Electronically controlled timer with duration of 2, 5, 10 or 20s
HD Movie Option No
Movie Sizes -
Video Out NTSC or PAL; simultaneous playback from both the video output and on the LCD monitor available
Storage Type CompactFlash (Type I/II, compliant with UDMA); Microdrives
Still Image Format/s NEF (RAW): 12 or 14 bit, lossless compressed, compressed, or uncompressed
JPEG: JPEG-Baseline compliant with fine (approx. 1:4), normal (approx. 1:8), or basic (approx. 1:16) compression (Size priority); Optimal quality compression available
NEF (RAW) + JPEG: Single photograph recorded in both NEF (RAW) and JPEG formats
Movie Image Format/s -
Audio Format/s -
Connectivity USB2.0
Power Source AC Adapter EH-6 (optional)
Battery Options One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL4a/EL4, Quick Charger MH-22/MH-21
Battery Life
Dimensions W 159.5mm x H 157mm x D 87.5mm
Weight 1,240g





About Nikon


The history of Nikon dates back to 1917 when three of Japan's leading optical manufacturers merged to form a fully integrated optical company. By the end of the century Nikon would have accumulated an immense poll of know-how and experience to become a world leader in not only optics and imaging but also industrial equipment and health and medicine sector.

Today Nikon designs, develops, manufactures and markets a gamut of optical, photographic and optoelectronic products globally. You will find them at work in virtually every corner of the earth. If it has something to do with light, Nikon has something to do with it.

The driving force behind Nikon is technology. Not only in manufacturing and assembling the finest lenses or most comprehensive photography system in the world, but also in making the glass itself. That is why Nikon products have gained worldwide customer satisfaction, and even professional recognition worldwide.

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