Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Nature photographers now have six models from which to choose at widely varying prices. These cameras are about more than just a larger image sensor.
The D3X has arrived and answered the critics of the D3’s less aggressive 12.1-megapixel resolution. Essentially a D3 with double the resolution, the D3X features an impressive 24.5-megapixel CMOS sensor, which is similar to the one in Sony’s A900, but with a number of Nikon tweaks, including 14-bit A/D conversion, which gave it the highest rating ever in DxO Labs’ DxOMark RAW sensor performance ratings.
The much larger file sizes do slow down shooting a bit, and the D3X has a top firing rate of 5 fps (7 fps in cropped DX mode) versus 9 fps (11 fps in cropped DX mode) for the D3—still plenty fast for all but the most specialized action photography. One side benefit of the greater megapixel count is that the D3X’s cropped DX images are 10.5 megapixels versus 5.1 megapixels for the D3’s, meaning you can have 24.5 megapixels when you need them, and still have a very respectable pixel count with the 1.5x DX crop factor when you need that for distant wildlife shots. (Of course, if you’re using a non-DX lens, you’ll have to apply the crop yourself when processing the image. And you can’t shoot full-frame with a DX lens, but you can use your DX lenses.)
The other major difference between the D3X and D3 is the ISO range. Because it has much smaller pixels, the D3X has a lower ISO range—100-1600 normal, expandable to 50 on the low end and up to 6400 on the high end, compared to the D3’s normal range of 200-6400, expandable to 100 and 25,600. If much of your shooting requires very high ISO settings, the D3 might be a better choice; if you rarely go above 1600, the D3X will give you outstanding image quality. Of course, if you need to make huge prints or you think you’ll be cropping your images frequently, the D3X’s 24.5 megapixels are a huge advantage.
Surprisingly, the D3X manages to eke more shots per charge out of the same battery despite its larger file sizes and requires greater processing power—an amazing 4,400, per the CIPA measurement standard, versus 4,300 for the D3.
So, here’s a super-rugged camera with excellent AF performance and priced just under $8,000. Not for everybody, but certainly a great camera for all outdoor photography. Estimated Street Price: $7,999. Contact: Nikon, www.nikonusa.com.
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