The range-topping 12.1-megapixel D3 is Nikon's first digital SLR with a full-frame sensor.
Handling & Performance
As a pro spec model, nobody expects the D3 to be small and lightweight, and it isn’t. It’s a big camera and robustly built. The tough chassis should survive most knocks and conditions, while the rubber coating on the outside feels secure and provides a good grip.
The camera has a dual grip – the front, landscape type and a second portrait grip for shooting vertically. This also contains the battery, which lasted throughout the test. A pair of front and rear command dials sit near the shutter release (on both grips) for easy changing of apertures, shutter speeds and so on, while external buttons allow quick access to shooting modes, exposure compensation and so forth.
Dual LCD Display
The camera also has two grey LCDs. The top-plate LCD displays shooting information; the back one displays WB, ISO and quality. Pressing the accompanying buttons and rotating the dials makes the changes. Drive, flash and bracket modes are situated in the ‘rewind knob’ position, giving the D3 a film camera look, while the AF points are selected using the joypad on the back.
The 3in LCD is one of the D3’s crowning glories, allowing excellent contrast and sharpness and, thanks to the high resolution, close-up sections of the recorded images are easy to check for AF accuracy.
While the camera offers fairly standard operation, a range of custom options in the well-thought-out menus allow you to shoot the way you want. This includes nice touches such as changing the primary functions of some external buttons and changing the rotation directions of the command dials.
Of course, you can also store different settings for different types of jobs. For the freelancer this is useful – you could have a portrait mode, a landscape mode and so on. Obviously this is a feature found on several DSLRs, but it’s worth mentioning.
Performance is pretty sound. In full-frame mode we easily got around 75 JPEGs at 9fps, and while the camera slowed a little from there, the buffer clears really quickly, particularly if you release the shutter button for a moment. The speed of shooting is matched by the speed of the AF – the 51 points provide accuracy and quickly latch on to the subject. This obviously will depend on the lens used too, but using the new 14-24mm and a 28-70mm f/2.8 posed no problems. It also coped admirably in low light shooting moving subjects.