Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nikon D3 Long-term Update

ISO6400 1/6th, f/2.8, @28mm D3/24-70mm f/2.8G

That's funny because there was never a short-term update for the D3.

I've been in love with this camera since day one. No other camera I've ever shot has outpaced my ability to grow as a photography. In other words, it took a damn long time before I started realizing the limitations of this machine.

To this day, if you treat it well... it should be more than enough camera for nearly everyone's needs.

The combination of lens/camera that I shoot these days is the 70-200mm f/2.8G or 24-70mm f/2.8G with the Nikon D3. In studio, these combinations are killer. Tack sharp. Totally forgiving unless you really botch the exposure. Even then I've rescued some pretty ugly-histogram-looking images in Lr. I've said this before and I'll say it again. For what I do in studio, I could probably shoot a D5000 with some kit lenses and still produce the same images.

But when you push the D3, it pushes back.

I shot the above with ISO6400 1/6th, f/2.8, @28mm D3/24-70mm f/2.8G handheld. Incidentally it was one of my first captures on the over 1.5 years ago now.

I bring this up because as you might know, I've been looking at medium format cameras lately. I am lusting for something "different" and also some more dynamic range.

But for what I do, I couldn't possibly shoot a medium format camera... well not exclusively at least!

I shot the "
One-trick pony" and "I know a secret spot..." holding the D3 in one hand and a reflector in the other. Sometimes holding the D3 in the left hand in the vertical orientation and holding the reflector with the right hand. A medium format camera could never be manhandled like that. Then again, I say that now without any real-world experience so I could possibly manage if I had to...

But today I shot Sarah in a wine cellar with overhead halogens, handheld ISO1600, 1/25th, f/2.8 @102mm. This was with the 70-200mm f/2.8 with VR. Noisy? A bit... you know, the usual D3 ISO1600 noise. Is it impressive handheld 1/25th @102mm? You bet! To be fair, I was hunched against a wall so I had lots of support. For some shots, I even propped the front of the lens against the leg of a lightstand.

But could I do that with any current digital MF camera? Hell to the no.

The right tool for the right job. That's what I always say. The MF cameras might excel where there is great light control. Studios. Outdoors. But there are lots of times when it's going to fail miserably because it just isn't fast enough... in so many ways. The lenses are slower, the shooting rates are slower, the autofocus is slower... admittedly they're not nearly as versatile as current 35mm dSLRs.

if you expose the frame well to the right in our dSLRs you can get around needing the margin of error with the MF cameras. Basically instead of getting a Hasselblad to compensate for my crappy lighting, how about I not light my highlights:shadows 6:1? Sure, the shadow detail of MF cameras are going to be better. You'll probably yield 2 more stops from the MF systems. But in 90% of shooting scenarios, the D3 wins hands down.

Long live the D3!


  1. do you have the d3s, d3x or just the standard d3? and what are the differences and why did you choose that one over the others? i know that camera came out a while ago

  2. I have the Nikon D3. I bought it back in 2008 before the others came out so it wasn't much of a "choice" at the time. Still I'd choose the speed of D3s over the D3x any day of the week.