I now have a Nikon D3 in hand. I had time for a few dozen snapshots late in the day, and won’t be posting any images until sometime tomorrow. My first impressions—
Screen—wow! You’ve got to see it to believe how good it is compared to anything else. Live View is really good also, but with some puzzling shortcomings (it seems to allow only a limited area of operation). Gotta read the manual I suppose. (Update: Live View must be set to “Tripod Mode”).
Viewfinder—very nice. Spacious and bright.
Image quality—Baffling. While whole-image contrast and “pop” look great, actual pixels is quite another story, one that’s making me queasy. JPEG Fine, or 16-bit TIF from Nikon Capture NX 1.3 (14-bit NEF) are yielding results that are simply baffling to me. I hate to say it, but my gut reaction is not good.
Could I be doing something wrong? Possibly, but JPEG Fine is a pretty simple story to think about and similar results with Capture NX make me think that’s the “way it is”. I used 3 lenses: Zeiss ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar, ZF 25/2.8 Distagon and the 28-70/2.8 AF-S Nikkor. All of those are first-class lenses.
Update: Experimenting with various sharpening techniques suggests that the D3 NEF files might need quite different handling than the previous Nikon and Canon DSLRs I’ve used. There is an overall smoothness reminiscent of large-pixel medium format backs, except that the sharpness seems quite muted...does the D3 have a very strong AA filter that is blurring detail and therefore needs stronger and/or different sharpening?
One reader suggested checking the JPEG settings, and they were/are set to Large/Fine/Optimal. But my comments are based on JPEG and NEF results.