Monday, May 12, 2008


The D3 arrived. Part II: Pros and cons

Unpacking the box—and being happy! The Nikon D3 is just an unbelieveable camera—or toy for that matter. Anyway it just feels right. A bit heavy maybe but, well.

Most things feel just as they should be and there is hardly anything wrong with the camera. So I spend a few days shooting, collecting all the things I do not like. Here goes:

1) First of all, Nikon obviously tried to give the D3 a superior strap compared to the D200 or the D300. To me it is just too broad; the old one was much better. So the first thing after buying the Nikkor 24-120/VR was a new strap!

Grandhotel Giessbach and Giessbach waterfall shot with Nikkor 24-120/VR

2) I even read the book (aka manual)—but Nikon indeed removed my favorite pre-shutter mirror-flipping mode. Of course, the D3 has a mode where you can flip the mirror with first pushing on the shutter release button and then taking the shot with a second push. But what about the nice mode where you just press once and the camera waits a split of a second? It is an awesome feature, it usually gave me one additional stop.

3) Nikon still refuses to care for its customers. I mean you can now add some crappy signing to the pictures. But hey, I still cannot claim the camera to be mine. That's unbelievable. The EXIF standard has both author and copyright tag (though sadly combined in one tag). And of course the camera does not ask me to point it to my PGP or whatever key. Without that what is the signing good for? I guess it makes people that have no clue feel better. For all the rest, this is useless becasue you can always get rid of this signing, post-process the picture and re-create it. And of course this includes changing the author and copyright info some software adds for you. Photokina is ahead, if I have time for it I will once again ask about this insanity.

4) There is no ISO setting below 100, not even with stupid filtering in the camera. Not that I personally will ever miss it though.

5) The HDMI output is pretty poor. On preview it uses the thumbnails, in other words it has very low resolution and the output simply looks crappy. Hey, I have a 46" screen and I would expect that people buying a D3 and use the HDMI would use nothing smaller. Now it gets a bit better when changing to a slide show. However there is no 1080p mode and the 720p mode looks in my opinion a tad bit better than the 1080i mode. Either way, not worth buying an HDMI cable. This said, it does not really matter that the camera allows neither 1920x1080 nor 3840x2160 resolution.

6) When doing a firmware update, you have to upload the firmware files separately to exactly one CF card. When using both CFs, the camera simply refuses to accept any firmware file and when finding both it always selects the same one. At least the order in which you do the update does not matter. Well so far it does not.

7) Once again the focus points are all around the center of the sensor. They only spread so much that you get about one focus point per golden cut. Meaning one probably uses about 9 focus points. As a tip for Nikon, if the corner focus points are used extremely often, then that is probably based on the fact that people are missing points closer to the edges.

8) The function button still cannot do everything. And of course it cannot do pre-shutter mirror-flipping. Simply becasue the mode is gone (see 2).

9) The camera does not allow to add a 'normal playback' mode as Caitlin called it. Meaning you cannot set the camera to show some information while having at least one screen without any data (over-exposure areas, focus points, etc.).

10) The view finder is really awesome. But the rubber, the eyepiece you put, well, to your eye, is simply bad. So the next things I ordered was a DK-17M and a DK-19.

Now all of the above are really minor complaints. And there is a hell lot of good things to mention. Just to mention a few highlights:

1) The result at ISO 1600 is simply great! Yes, this is why I bought the camera. And it makes me really happy. And just as many other people said before, simply keep the D3 at ISO 1600 at all time, unless you have to use lower ISO because of aperture constrains.

2) The Nikkor 50/1.4D is finally usable.

Pasta shot taken with Nikon 50/1.4

But it still is a lens that I have to replace. Now, Sigma just announced the new 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM which could be an alternative as well as the Zeiss Planar T* 1.4/50. But maybe the answer is the Nikkor 85/1.4D or the Zeiss Planar T* 1.4/85.

3) The view finder is just amazing. Bright and large! And even I can do manual focusing now! This makes operating my Lensbaby much easier.

Optimis Maximus keyboard shot with Lensbaby 3G

4) The display is insanely bright. So bright that I usually turn it down to -3 or -2 setting, where the range is -3 to +3.

5) The camera shows all necessary information on its displays. That includes showing the ISO setting on the additional display below the main display, making it, even for me, hard to forget fixing the ISO. The two additional LCDs also show which CF slot holds a CF card and which of the two are in use.

6) The camera shows the lightmeter vertically right to the picture in the viewer. This is much better than in the D200 where it is below the picture. It also allows the camera to display more information which I really appreciate.

7) The portrait shutter release can be locked. So it does not matter where you place the right hand for landscape shots.

8) The D200 had a 'last used' settings tab. Now the D3 has a favorites tab which is fully customizable. I use both and like the new version much better as my favorite entries don't get shifted around just because I used them.

9) The D3 usually does not need a flash. And thus it has none integrated. The SB-800 can be mounted and works just great. The only sad thing is that the D3 also has no integrated flash remote control either. This speaks for a SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander which is part of the R1 Wireless Close-Up Seedlight System.

10) The Nikkor 105/2.8/VR suddenly got a much nicer range and even serves as a very good portrait lens now.

Marcus with black hat shot with Nikkor 105/2.8/VR Marcus with red hat shot with Nikkor 105/2.8/VR

The pro list could be extended a lot. But actually there was not so much to improve when coming from a D200.
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Nice summary, Marcus! What a pitty I don't have the cash to buy the D3, too. ;) However, as a newbe I'm really satisfied with my D80, too. If you ever want to sell objectives or equipment, remind to send me a note! And now: Go out and enjoy your new goody! :)
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