I often get asked about my gear and Emil has been bugging me to do some updates about the photography, techniques and gear. So I better give it a start. I got the Nikon D3x a little while ago and I am sure some of you are burning to hear some my first impressions. Well, to sum it up in one sentence: I am completely impressed with the camera!
Hasselblad vs Nikon D3x
This year I knew I had to do a lot of aerial work for my Freedom to Roam project which meant I need to get a high resolution images in a single shot. There was no chance for stitching multiple images together to get a high resolution image. So for a while I way toying with the idea of renting a Hasselblad with a nice set of lenses. I borrowed on of the cameras from Glazers in Seattle and tried it out on a Sunday afternoon. To tell you the trooth, the Hasselblad produced wonderful images, but it was somewhat clumsy and slow in use. I imagined myself trying to photograph wildlife from the air in a fast moving plane and quickly tossed the idea. At that time the Nikon D3x was not out yet so I had no idea what I was going to do. When the camera finally was available I ordered it “blind” from Glazers and Emil bought it out into the field. The big advantage over the Hassi were the Super Fast Auto Focus, the huge array of lenses I already owned and especially the 5 frames per second with a 16 image buffer.
The Nikon D3x at work
The very first impression of the camera does not make you happy: That is the price tag. I had a while to digest that before I actually had the D3x in my hands. When I unpacked the camera in a motel room in Baja and played around with the settings and fired off the first rounds of shot I suddenly thought there was something wrong with the camera. Oh my good – in the middle of a major project with a bad new camera. The problem: In CH (continous shooting hispeed ) the camera only made about a frame and a half per second. I was quite disturbed. After checking the booklet I realized however, that the reason was, that I had set the bit depth to 14 Bit. That is probably the only negative surprise that I experienced with the camera. In any other regard I was extremly impressed with how well it hit the focuspoints spot on, and how great the image quality was even with the wide angle zoom lenses. (Which speaks more for the quality of Nikon glass then of the camera)
First Impressions of the Nikon D3x
I have had the Nikon D3x for several months in the field now and tested it in some of the most difficult shooting situations you can imagine. Shooting marine life at and under the waters surface out of a fast moving plane. Such a scenario normally would be a huge nightmare for any autofocus system. To lock onto a subject that is below a reflective surface, while racing by with over 100 mph. This is where the camera blew me away. Out of a rapid fire series often 100 % of the images were perfectly sharp. And believe me I am a sharpness freak, reviewing my images constantly at a 100%. In average I would say, that over 90% of the time the AF worked beyond my expectations and the sharpness that resulted in the images was equally impressive. I suddenly realized that my D3 started to just sit in the camera bag and the only times I picked it up was when I wanted to change a lens that was on the D3 to the D3x. This is not at all to say that the D3 is a bad camera. The contrary. It is probably one of the best cameras on the market because of its wonderful high ISO performance, but I just LOVED to have 24.5 MP files from the D3x.
Will I sell my D3?
Absolutely not. I love the camera and there are so many situations where the High ISO quality will have the priority. Whether it is in my SUBAL UW housing or for night time photography. The D3 is a absolutely perfect camera for just about anything if you do not want to go really big as for exhibits or if you want to have the flexibility to sometimes do large crops.
So what about the higher ISO quality?
If you expected a D3x with the same ISO quality as the D3, just twice as many pixels, you are wrong. The D3x simply does not live up to that. The obvious reason: Nikon need to pack 24.5 MP on theD3x sensor, where the D3 has only little over 12 MP. These denser pixels cannot be as light sensitive and noise free.
That being said, I do love the way Nikon approches “noise” as film grain. I like that “organic” look of the images. I is much more like a higher ISO traditional FILM that digital image noise. Without hesitation I used settings between 400 ISO and 1000 ISO which were sufficient for my shooting situations. Beyond 1000 ISO the quality drops more obviously.
More to come about the gear in use …………
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