Nikon D3 Comparison Review
The Nikon D3 is a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera that was announced in August 2007 and is equipped with a full frame sensor. It offers a resolution of 12.1 megapixel.
Is the Nikon D3 a good camera? The D3 has a Camera Elo of 1754. This rating puts the D3 among the top 50 percent of all digital single lens reflex cameras. In terms of its sensor size category (full frame cameras), the D3 ranks below average. Based on its within category standings, the camera earns a 3-star performance rating.
|Digital single lens reflex|
|Nikon F mount lenses|
|12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|ISO 200 - 6 400 (100 - 25 600)|
|3.0 LCD, 922k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|11 shutter flaps per second|
|4300 shots per battery charge|
|160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1 300 g|
Read on to find out more about the camera's size, sensor, features, reception by expert reviewers, and how it compares to other digital cameras.
Body comparison with a credit card
The physical dimensions of the Nikon D3 relative to a credit card are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the Nikon D3 alongside a set of comparators. If you want to review a camera pair side-by-side, just select a right-side comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.
|1.||Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|2.||Canon 1D Mark III||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|3.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|4.||Nikon D4S||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1350 g||3020||Y||Feb 2014||6,499|
|5.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|6.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|7.||Nikon D3X||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|8.||Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|9.||Nikon D300||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|10.||Nikon D2Xs||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699|
|11.||Nikon D2X||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||Y||Sep 2004||4,999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The Nikon D3 was launched in the US market at a price of $4,999. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
Sensor comparison with a 35mm slide
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
The Nikon D3 features a full frame sensor and has a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the Nikon D3 among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality.
For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|2.||Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|3.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|4.||Nikon D4S||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|5.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|6.||Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|7.||Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|8.||Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
It should be noted that unlike many modern cameras, the D3 does not provide the possibility to capture videos.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the D3 has an optical viewfinder that provides a field of view of 100% and a magnification of 0.70x. The following tables report on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D3 and comparable cameras.
|2.||Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
One useful feature of the D3 is a presence of a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|2.||Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
While the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D3. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]).
|1.||Nikon D3||..||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|2.||Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|3.||Nikon D5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|4.||Nikon D4S||5/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|5.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|6.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|7.||Nikon D3X||..||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|8.||Nikon D700||..||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|9.||Nikon D300||..||+ +||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|10.||Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||..||..||Jun 2006||4,699|
|11.||Nikon D2X||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2004||4,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Nikon D3 FAQ
Below are some additional questions and answers concerning some particular features of the D3.
What technology is the imaging sensor in the D3 based on?
The camera has a CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensor at its core.
Which image processing chip is used to convert the raw signal into an image file and perform noise reduction and image sharpening?
Nikon equipped the D3 with the EXPEED image processor.
What is the ISO sensitivity range of the D3?
The camera has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600.
What is the life expectancy of the shutter in the Nikon D3?
Nikon mentions a shutter rating of 300 000 actuations for the D3. This number represents a Mean Time before Failure, that is an average value. The shutter might fail earlier, or it might last longer. Anyway, in order to exhaust the expected shutter life of the D3 over, say, three years, one would have to take about 300 pictures each and every day.
How do I find the shutter count on my Nikon D3?
Nikon embeds the number of shutter actuations in image metadata. You can check the number of shots that your D3 has taken up to now by uploading a recent image to the online shutter count app.
Do I need to purchase an external camera trigger to shoot time-lapse sequences?
No, the Nikon D3 has an intervalometer built-in, so that low frequency shooting (for example, flower blooming, sunset, moon rise) can be undertaken without the need to purchase a separate external intervalometer and related software.
What is the fastest shutter speed that can be used with flash?
The D3's flash sync speed is 1/250 sec.
Which battery does the D3 use?
The camera gets its power from the EN-EL4a (here at amazon), which is a rechargeable Lithium-Ion power pack.
Camera to camera comparisons
In case you are interested in seeing how this camera compares to another one, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
|Camera Model||Nikon D3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 4 999|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||860 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4 256 x 2 832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 6 400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25 600 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||2290|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|LCD Size||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature|
|Maximum Shutter Speed||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||300 000 actuations|
|Silent Shooting||no E-Shutter|
|Time Lapse Photography||Intervalometer Built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Type||EN-EL4a power pack|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||4300 shots per charge|
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||1 300 g (45.9 oz)|
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