Review D3 - User Review

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Lee
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#1
Nikon D3

I received my D3 recently and up until then, had worked my way up from a Nikon D50, D80, D200, D300 … I found I was always wanting that little bit more.

My photography work takes me mainly to the equestrian side of things, where I provide private shoots to owners wanting something special, perhaps Stud cards, for sale cards etc. I get to work in a close 1-1 relationship with all my clients – they give me their brief and I go out and get it. The durability of the D3 was something that is certainly going to get tested with me. I don’t bat an eyelid of the weather forecast is gusts of winds and squally showers!

I also take on Wedding and Portraiture commissions... Weddings I take a couple per month now – any more and the processing time it takes me gets under too much pressure so I know my current operating limits 


Build

For starters, I’m going to talk about the build quality compared to other bodies I’ve used. It feels heavy. Not overly heavy, you don’t mind it being around your neck with the 14-24 on. The dial on the top left of the system is very similar to the D200/300 with your shooting control, flash, bracket. You don’t feel lost trying to fathom out the new buttons either.

The AF Point selector feels bigger and stiffer than I remember of the other semi-pro bodies. It quicker and more responsive to change you shooting area and it doesn’t get knocked as easy by your cheeks when looking through the view finder. AF is very quick – and bl**dy accurate too! When in single point AF mode, the device locks on to your subject and don’t think twice about spraying 20 shots out (and at 11fps you know you have too!).

Changing the AF points to 3d tracking is AMAZING. I’ve watched horses with flamboyant extended trot fly through my viewfinder, and the AF point selection is not only accurate and lightening fast, but providing the aperture allows the DOF is even across the subject. Stick a group shot of people in the frame and it detects the heads / faces and tracks them should they move. With a wide angle lens on, seeing it pick out 20 people is pretty impressive.

The viewfinder is crystal clear with a more accurate metering at the right side of the frame. All of your typical information is still there as you would expect. You just feel like you have a lot more space in there to compose with (full frame duh!).

I found the circular view finder a little strange at first. I used to like having that piece of rubber against my eyelid. However, a few hours of shooting and it soon felt very comfortable and I didn’t feel I had to lift the camera to see everything properly.

The black 3” LCD screen is very clear. Working in bright lighting conditions this weekend (snow everywhere, harsh light from a direct sun) I found the menu system easy to operate and navigate through and didn’t suffer any loss of quality outside. Not a lot has changed here really…

One thing I didn’t get along with about the ergonomics was the location and use of the metering selector. It’s a bit of an awkward button that can be used by one hand. Press the button in the centre and twist left or right for Spot, Segment or Matrix. Now, this is located on the right side of the nose of the flash support. Without my SB-800 on the body, it was fairly easy to use without the need for watching what I was doing. But with the flash on, especially with the extra batter clip on the right side I found it a severe pain in the butt cheeks to change easily. I couldn’t straighten my hand enough to get the dial to turn when it was installed…clearly when they thought of the location for this it was at the back of the queue! Shooting the wedding I had the SB-800 on all the time so it did test my patience when I was 10 hours in….

ISO Control

I put a thread up yesterday regarding shooting at ISO6400 here:

http://www.talkphotography.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=53701

ISO control on the D3 is OUT OF THIS WORLD. I have some pictures to post up about this entire camera shortly, but don’t have them here to upload. Shooting at the lowest ISO is clear, clean and colour reproduction is smooth / natural. ISO 6400 is very sharp when shooting with colours in the image. Shooting with darker shades / black causes the noise to be more noticed – but nothing that cannot be sorted out.

Thankfully, the green/blue tinge that Nikon images at high ISO has definitely been sorted out. Noise is much more accurate to the environment now – nothing looks out of colour. Changing the level in PS only has a little effect now, as opposed to going from an orangey base to neutral.

Shooting Modes / Memory Cards

Having two CF slots is great. Shooting can be either replicated from slot 1 to slot 2, you can use slot 2 as an overspill for slot1, or you can shoot in different modes across the cards.

I shot RAW, using slot 2 as an overflow for slot 1 and backed up my cards as the day goes along. RAW files are about 15MB each and JPEG are 5MB.

A new feature for the D3 is the ability to shoot in TIFF (24bit). Image file sizes are 38MB and I’d recommend a fast card if you’re shooting in bursts. The extreme 4’s work fine – the ultra 2’s were sluggish to say the least.

Colour Reproduction

I never got along with the D80 and D200 when it came to saturation and colour balance. They were either too dull or had too much. The D300 for the short time I had it was better but still lacked when working in a studio environment. The D3 is in another league. I’ve not seen a single change of colour in PP needed yet. Even when shooting at high ISO, the colour remains precise, balanced, accurate and clean. A recent candid shot (below) show’s how accurate the colour can be in high-iso conditions. I’ll post some other shots up when I get back into the studio which really show off the life-like production.



Exposing the scene

Now this could be me. However, I found that on more than one occasion over the wedding on Sunday that image came out a tad over. I had to step the exposure down 1/3 to get the perfect balance. This was shooting at anything from F6.3 – F14 depending on the lighting conditions in both aperture and manual modes. Metering was generally segment on the bride, but changed to matrix and spot when required. She came out fine (ivory dress) but the rose pink shirts of the men were something a little too bright for my liking. It didn’t cause too much concern as I picked this up quickly, but no matter what I tried I found the same issue.

Has anyone else experienced this?

Battery Life

I shot almost 800 images on the Sunday with a fully charged battery. The battery indicator showed 80% remaining once finished. I shot for a couple of hours yesterday – 300 shots in total and it’s down to 70% now. I could get about 1200 shots on the D200 – I never tested any other bodies for their battery life but am pleasantly surprised. I did have a bit of a play with the live view too on Sunday, showing some kids the wide angle church through the lens which entertained them enough to be used as a bribe to get them to stand still for me ;). It had little or no impact to the overall life of the battery I don’t think – though it’s a feature I’ll use very little of…

Live View

Personally – I don’t see the point in this. This is a pro body and I can’t see many pro’s using this feature. It’s a little bit delayed from what you actually see – it’s hard to see the focal points when selected … I personally feel that they’ve thrown it on as another tick in the box for their new model. Waste of a cog on the dial for me!

Using DX lenses

Don’t worry if most of your glass if for the DX sensor only. I only have the 18-70, 70-300 VR and the use of a Sigma 10-20 that rely on this. I did find myself using the 18-70 a little at the weekend and was happy to be able to change the lenses without having to change settings in the menu each and every time. Shooting in cropped mode takes a little bit of getting used to. You can still see the full frame effect, though it’s dulled out. You can really see the difference here between a FF lens and DX in this situation!

Overall…?

I love this camera. It does everything I expected it to do – and does it very well. The last wedding was a breeze and the pictures show the difference what a pro body can offer over the semi-pro bodies. Put yourself a 70-200 VR and SB-800 on the body and it becomes heavy. In fact, I was working for 12 hours on Sunday with it (changing the lenses every now and then) and my shoulders did ache. I don’t like using tripods for weddings, especially in the church where it can be very restricted (this one certainly was). A monopod may have been a good idea, but it’s good to know what it’s like anyway.

I think the price is very fair – especially when you compare it to the Canon MK3 which is almost double the cost what I paid for it. The 12.3MP doesn’t scream to me “too low” either. I’ll be printing some images 44” wide shortly and I know it can take it.

As soon as I get back to the studio, I’ll post my selection of images which put the D3 to the best (some with the 14-24) which is an amazing piece of glass in itself
 

dod

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Ebenezer McScrooge III
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#3
Nice review Lee (y) Certainly looks like a serious bit of kit :)
 
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LeeP
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#4
Quick update

Today saw my first equestrian event with this camera. Up to lunch time, weather was great, then it turned poop.

The high FPS is very handy here for getting the correct position for trot and canter pics.

The full frame also reduces the reach (or how I can fill the frame) at 200mm. Shooting a subject 60m away is now a little more difficult.

NIKON - please release a 70 - 300 F2.8 VR! Thx

Heavy rainfall, brighten up, rain again. Very dark shooting at 7.20PM in the rain, ISO2000, shutter 1/160 at f4 - no worries at all.

One thing that does concern me is the plastic clip that you must pull up to to press the eject button for the memory cards....it feels very 'delicate' shall we say.

Lee
 

Hacker

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#5
Stop it, stop it, stop it! This is not helping. :D

Great review Lee and it's obviously in very capable hands. The high ISO shots are phenomenal, I'm enjoying using the D300 but this is another step up which I am seriously considering.
 
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LeeP
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#6
Last picture of yesterday:

ISO2500
1/125
F3.2

Again, not run through any noise filter, no colour correction. Just cropped and added signature.

Colin - you know it makes sense!
I've been invited to the Nationals by some named Competitors so will really put it throught its paces then for their Sponsors (y)

 

fracster

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#8
Last picture of yesterday:

ISO2500
1/125
F3.2

Again, not run through any noise filter, no colour correction. Just cropped and added signature.

Colin - you know it makes sense!
I've been invited to the Nationals by some named Competitors so will really put it throught its paces then for their Sponsors (y)

Dreadful photograph Lee.......(n)
 
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LeeP
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#11
Dreadful photograph Lee.......(n)
Not about the picture young Frac, showing the control at ISO2500 in very dark conditions. It looks like daylight!
 

fracster

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#12
Not about the picture young Frac, showing the control at ISO2500 in very dark conditions. It looks like daylight!
I know Lee, just pulling your strings a little......;)

Camera looks the business, out of my league at the moment,alas.
 
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LeeP
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#13
Come and have a play with it!

MattyH pretended he was an RAF gunner with it on Saturday!
 

fracster

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#14
I`ll bell you later in the week Lee.....(y)
 
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