This digital SLR camera offers a jump in quality from the fantastic Nikon D3, but it doesn't improve on the D3 in all areas.
The Nikon D3x digital SLR is the newest addition to Nikon’s full-frame camera line-up and it offers a giant jump to 24.5 megapixels. This makes it suitable for extreme detail photography such as nature and landscape shooting as well as the traditional sports and news photography that its predecessor was suited to. However, the Nikon D3x lacks some of the functionality of the Nikon D3, such as high ISO settings and fast continuous shooting speeds.
- Double the megapixel count of the D3, rugged body and good ergonomics
- No groundbreaking advances in basic shooting functionality, high price tag, ISO range smaller than D3, D3 could capture more frames per second in continuous shooting mode
At twice the megapixel count of the earlier D3, the Nikon D3x is suitable for immensely detailed landscape and nature photography. However, there are not enough additional features to justify a price almost twice that of the Nikon D3.
The Nikon D3x has everything you could want in an all-weather, all-condition digital camera. A magnesium-frame body with rubber and plastic outer coating is resistant to shocks and drops, and all the buttons are large and embossed enough to be pressed while wearing gloves. At 1220g it is slightly lighter than the D3, but its dimensions are similar.
The ergonomics and design of the Nikon D3x are largely similar to Nikon's D3 and D2X professional models. Buttons and dials are labelled with recognisable symbols, while the two information screens on the top and rear of the camera provide all necessary information about ISO, aperture and shutter speed. A 640x480 3in screen is used for Live View, playback and menu adjustment and is very sharp — it can easily be used for focusing in Live View mode.
If you have any experience with an SLR, it is possible to get acceptable shots just through fiddling with the D3x’s fully manual settings — this is a camera that anyone can use, albeit with a little training. There are no automatic settings, scene modes or smile shutters to be seen here. This digital SLR camera is designed for the professional who wants constant control over every facet of photography, and as such there are switches and dials for everything you can think of. Dedicated buttons for ISO, white balance and quality allow for adjustments to be made on the fly without delving into on-screen menus, while aperture and shutter speed dials surround both the top-mounted and side-mounted shutter buttons — the Nikon D3x is designed to be easy to use for either portrait or landscape photography.
If you do have to delve into menus, the on-screen system is well laid out and offers easy adjustment for every conceivable setting, whether directly related to photography, playback or on-camera editing and adjustment.
Live View is implemented well on this camera — we are not usually fans of it and prefer viewfinders, but with such a sharp and detailed LCD screen and the ability to easily adjust focus it proved itself useful in a number of situations.
We tested the Nikon D3x out with three premier Nikkor lenses — an AF-S 50mm f1.4G prime, an AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED and a AF-S 14-24mm f2.8G ED ultra wide-angle lens. These are FX (full-frame) lenses; DX lenses are also able to be mounted on the camera, with a selectable DX crop mode. Shooting in either JPEG Fine or RAW delivered images that had exceptional levels of detail with enough dynamic range in both bright and dark areas — high-resolution pores and stubble have never looked so good — and consistent sharpness on all portions of the sensor thanks to its adjustable 51-point autofocus system.
The high megapixel count means the D3x is suitable for environments where ultra-high resolutions are a necessity, like landscape photography — with a fast lens (we stuck to the 50mm f1.4 prime for this reason) intricate detail is captured even in low-light and gloomy conditions without any complicated studio lighting or flashes. Like other pro-level DSLR cameras the Nikon D3x does not have an in-built flash, but provides a hot-shoe and external flash connector.
ISO settings aren't as extensive as the Nikon D3’s 200-6400 range. The Nikon D3x only ranges from 100 to 1600 — understandable since a higher resolution at identical sensor sizes is a recipe for higher noise. Interpolated image noise only becomes noticeable at ISO 1600, so the D3x is appropriate for low-light photography if you are willing to sacrifice a few of those glorious megapixels worth of detail.
There has also been a drop in frames per second in the D3x's continuous shooting mode. The Nikon D3 could pump out nine frames a second at its 12.1 megapixel maximum resolution, while the D3x can only manage five frames every second. If you consider this in overall megapixels captured per second of photography, the D3x’s count of 122 is not significantly higher than the D3’s 108. If the nine frames per second speed could have been maintained with the D3x, it would have made been a great step forward for high-speed photography. Start-up and shutter time speeds are near-instant, with only 0.12 seconds and 0.04 seconds required, respectively.
There is no question that the D3x is one of the best cameras that Nikon has made in its over 90 years of history, thanks to the camera's massive megapixel count. But while some of its specifications are an improvement over the D3, the new D3x stumbles on high-speed capturing and high ISO functionality. An astronomical price further adds to the pain, but if you want the one of the best professional cameras from Nikon — and need the all-round quality boost that a higher megapixel count brings over the D3 — then the D3x is the camera to get.
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