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Nikon D3 thoughts

There are objective tests, which take time and study, especially with the D3, which seems to be a wholly different animal than previous Nikon (or Canon DSLRs). Objective tests are tedious and boring to shoot, often precluding interesting work because cameras and lenses need to be coordinated. On the other hand, they provide a reliable way of highlighting real differences between cameras, and are thus a necessary effort.

There are also gut reactions, which I mentioned in my first entry on the D3. I can’t say I’m “wrong” about a gut reaction any more than I’m wrong about liking chocolate ice cream over vanilla, and I’m still trying to figure out (objectively) what I’m reacting to in the D3 images. It is accurate to state that I haven’t experienced the “wow” that I did with my first Canon EOS 1D Mark III images (see June 17 and May 24 entries, among others). Ferreting out why this should be so is no easy task.

Making a purchasing decision based on my gut reaction might not be the best plan, so please don’t cancel your D3 on my account (as one reader did). We all see images differently, and one person’s yuk might be another one’s yum.

Now to some subjective impressions, not subject to the rigors of tests (yet):

  • depth of field seems perilously shallow on the D3, curiously so. It might be related to the way the D3 “draws” more so than an actual difference, a perceptual effect (I’ve previously owned the EOS 5D and 1Ds Mark II, so I’m not a stranger to full-frame cameras);
  • noise control might be overhyped; from what I’ve seen so far, I don’t really want to to shoot beyond ISO 6400. Usable yes, desirable no.
  • The D3 LCD screen is phenomenal. It has to be seen to be understood; images displayed on it look incredible;
  • The D3 “electronic rangefinder” focus assistance doesn’t deliver the accuracy needed for critical work; I can do better with my eyes. This is no change from previous models;
  • Top image quality outside the central 2/3 area requires stopping down to f/5.6 or f/8 with most lenses. No surprise here, it just means that lens selection is critical for exploiting the sensor resolution, especially at wider apertures.
  • Perversely, could some lenses be “too sharp” for the D3? Delivering high resolution at high contrast beyond the Nyquist frequency of the D3 might induce aliasing;

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