Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Is Now The Time For Full-Frame D-SLRs?
With more options, state-of-the-art technology and lower prices, D-SLRs are worth a careful look for serious outdoor shooters
Nikon’s first full-frame D-SLR, the D3 features a 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor and the biggest pixels in a current AF D-SLR. Those 8.5-micron pixels (vs. the 5.5-micron pixels in a 12-megapixel APS-C D-SLR)—along with Nikon’s new EXPEED image-processing concept, your choice of 12- or 14-bit A/D conversion and excellent noise reduction—enable ISO speeds up to an incredible 25,600 (image quality is excellent at 6400). Dynamic range is also excellent, especially when using four-level Active D-Lighting, which expands highlight and shadow detail. This is an especially good camera for contrasty or low-light landscapes.
The high-res, 920,000-dot LCD monitor provides two Live-View modes, one with standard 51-point phase-detection AF for handheld action shots and one with focal-plane contrast-detecting AF on a desired point for tripod-mounted work. An Electronic Virtual Horizon can be displayed on the monitor to help you level the camera for landscape and architectural shots. Using optional Camera Control Pro 2 software, the live image can be shown on a laptop computer screen while the camera is operated from there.
Nikon’s Picture Control feature lets you select a “look” for each image (standard, neutral, vivid or monochrome) and then modify such things as sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue, as desired. You can save and recall favorite settings, and even transfer them between compatible Nikon cameras.
The D3 starts up in just 0.12 seconds and has a minimal 37ms shutter lag time (both D-SLR bests), and can shoot up to 18 RAW or 52 highest-quality JPEG, full-frame, 12.1-megapixel images at up to 9 fps. It also features Nikon’s best AF system, so it’s a terrific wildlife/action camera, even in low-light situations. While the full-frame sensor doesn’t provide a smaller sensor’s telephoto factor, AF performance remains good when a teleconverter is used. If you attach a DX Nikkor lens (designed specifically for the DX-format/APS-C image sensors used in all previous Nikon D-SLRs), the D3 automatically switches to cropped DX mode and can shoot the resulting 5.1-megapixel images at up to 11 per second (up to 28 RAW or 130 highest-quality JPEGs).
As Nikon’s top-of-the-line pro model, the D3 is the company’s most rugged D-SLR, with a magnesium-alloy chassis, external covers and mirror box, extensive O-ring sealing against weather and dust, and a 300,000-cycle shutter. The proven rechargeable battery is good for 4,300 to 4,700 shots per charge, so you won’t have to carry a lot of batteries with you into the field.
The D3 can use all AF Nikkor lenses, automatically switching to a cropped DX mode when a DX Nikkor lens is attached. Focal lengths currently run from 14mm super-wide-angle and 16mm full-frame fish-eye to 600mm super-telephoto for full-frame shooting, including three 1:1 macro lenses and three tilt/shift perspective-control lenses.
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