The D3 was Nikon’s first foray into the world of a full frame sensor and is an amazing camera in nearly every aspect. The camera is well known for its low-light capabilities, fast speed, and outstanding image quality and it is for these very reasons that I chose to make this camera my primary camera.
After shooting with the D2X/D2Xs for a couple years, I had become accustomed to the standards associated with Nikon’s professional camera bodies. The superb construction, comfortable ergonomics, and precision response were great but the main change I was looking for was vastly improved low-light performance. The D2X/D2Xs, while a superb camera for nature and wildlife work, performed very poorly in low light. ISO sensitivity only went up to 800 and at that level it was so noisy that it was unusable for my purposes. When using the D2X I refused to go above ISO 400 unless I was shooting for newsprint and then I would occasionally reach 800 if it were absolutely necessary to get the image.
When the D3 entered the picture, most photographers were blown away by the low light capabilities. Where I once would only shoot to ISO 400, I now don’t think twice about shooting at 1600 and have even captured images at ISO 3200 with amazing results. In fact, I have a 16” x 20” print hanging on my wall taken at ISO 3200 and while there is a little noise visible, it is perfectly acceptable for my tastes.
You might ask why a photographer would need to take images in such low light? Well, I purchased this camera for use during a major project, Canopy in the Clouds. This project had me working in the canopy of the cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica. We were working suspended on ropes 100 feet off the ground in dark, cloudy conditions. This meant that I would be working hand held as I swung around in the wind trying to create sharp images. Quite simply, I had to be able to shoot at a higher ISO level than the D2X offered.
After about 10 weeks working in the cloud forest, I have nothing but great things to say about the D3. Not only did the ability to shoot in low-light conditions prove essential, the camera held up to some brutal weather. We had constant rain and high humidity with occasional rapid temperature changes. I ran into some problems with lenses fogging due to temperature changes, but the camera performed admirably and without a single problem the entire project.
The last point I’d like to make about the D3 is that it is Nikon’s first full frame sensor. While this sensor resulted in the low noise capabilities, it also re-opens the world of super wide angles. When Nikon announced this camera, they also announced a 14-24mm zoom lens. This lens is near perfect and putting it on the D3 results in a killer combination that is rivaled by none. Be sure to check out the page on the 14-24mm (coming soon) for a more thorough review of this lens and camera combination.