The range-topping 12.1-megapixel D3 is Nikon's first digital SLR with a full-frame sensor.
Image Quality & Value for Money
The JPEG performance is excellent, especially in regards to the noise reduction which eliminates noise without sacrificing detail and sharpness. Mid-tones, highlights and shadows are all correct and exposures for average scenes are accurate. I occasionally needed to adjust the metered exposure, mainly owing to the nature of the image or thanks to the harsh directional light of December, but nothing to be at all concerned about.
The D3 produces virtually noise-free images at low ISOs. Once we get past ISO 800 there is some evidence of luminance noise and just a smidgeon of chroma noise, but this is to be expected and can easily be reduced in post-processing. Overall, the D3 produces the best quality images at high-sensitivity settings that we have ever seen, and even at the really high setting of ISO 25600, images pass.
Tone And Contrast
Like its colour performance, the D3 is accurate and very smooth – indeed the tones could be described as almost film-like. Gradations between tones are very gradual with no visible banding. Similarly it places the tones where they are supposed to be.
Colour And White Balance
Colour fidelity, especially in NEF Raw mode, is crisp and accurate, with neutral colour bias and good saturation. Adjustments can be made to suit your tastes, either in camera, or using Capture NX or other Raw software, but out of the box, the colour is pretty true.
Sharpness And Detail
As well as being blindingly fast, the AF is also very accurate. Images are sharp and plenty of detail can be seen. Even when noise was visible in the higher ISOs it didn’t obliterate the detail, even in dark shadow areas. On the downside, it doesn’t have built-in image stabilisation, so you’ll need to fit Nikon’s relatively expensive VR lenses if you want to take advantage of slow shutter speeds, low ISOs and handheld shooting.
Value For Money
This is a state-of-the-art professional model and is aimed at pros who make a living from their camera. In this respect it offers great value. It’s nearly half the price of Canon’s 1D Mk III, though both cameras are aimed at slightly different markets, albeit with some crossover. For the well-off enthusiast, well if you want the best, there is always a cost, but this is a lot of camera for the money.