Nikon D3X Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Ultimately, image quality makes a camera worth buying. For a digital SLR, image quality greatly depends on the lens used. While noise, color, exposure and dynamic range are properties of the camera, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are properties of the lens. Sharpness depends on the weakest link. So, the camera cannot capture more details than the lens lets through. Conversely, a good lens can transmit more details than the sensor can capture.
The aging flagship DSLR from Nikon has yet to be beaten. After 3 years of technological advancements, no current DSLR produces the quality of images seen by the Nikon D3X in terms of resolving details. The 25 megapixels CMOS sensor used in this digital SLR produces extremely clean images with impeccably sharp details at ISO 50 to 400. These images can be used for large prints up to 16"x24" which stand close-up scrutiny. The ISO 800 setting is almost as perfect.
Image noise starts being visible at ISO 1600 where maximum print sizes get slightly reduced. Keep in mind, this is reduced from a moderately large size to something still relatively large like a 12"x18" which would show very fine-grained noise in mostly uniform areas. The expanded ISO 3200 and 6400 settings makes for nice but slightly noisy mid-size prints.
This camera delivers an excellent dynamic range, very close to the latest DSLRs, while capturing an amazing amount of nuances in terms of color and tonality. Only 2 DSLRs offer better high ISO performance due to their much larger pixels, the 12 megapixels D3S
Nikon D3S and D700
Colors from the Nikon D3X can be very accurate, although default settings are slightly off. Reducing saturation and brightness by one step provided the most accurate results with Picture Control set to Standard. The default Sharpness setting is a little soft, increasing by one delivers crisper results. Higher settings make sharpening artifacts appear quickly.
Automatic while-balance is good but requires some work, particularly under artificial light. This is probably the only area where the D3X shows its age as modern cameras have greatly improved in this area. Still, this DSLR has plenty of controls over white-balance, including a custom options which works perfectly well.
Nikon's high-end Matrix metering is probably the most reliable system. Without being perfect, it performs very well, rarely missing the ideal exposure by much. Some positive compensation is required to optimize details in low contrast scenes but those are never improperly exposed. It occasionally over-exposes scenes with small but very bright highlights, usually by 1/2 or 1 EV which is better than most metering systems.
The Nikon D3X is a very fast camera. Its speed is even more impressive considering the bandwidth required to output 14-bit RAW of 25 megapixels at 5 FPS which it can sustain for 34 frames. JPEG images which are 8-bit per pixels - as always - require less space and 70 of them can be captured in a single burst without loss of speed.
This DSLR rarely makes the photographer wait. It turns on and off instantly. The shutter is released immediately with an extremely short black out time. Shot-to-shot speeds are an incredible ¼s. The 51-point autofocus is very fast and accurate. It locks in under ¼s under a broad array of conditions, even in moderately low light. Focusing may take longer in very low light and with slow lenses. This is usually the case when shooting with a variable zoom lens at the telephoto end where they often cannot open more than F/5.6 or F/6.3. Still, it rarely takes more than ½s to lock focus.
Entering and exiting Playback mode is very quick and so is scrolling between images. The only relatively slow operation is zooming into images. When that happens, the camera shows an hourglass icon for less than 1 second while it reads the full-resolution image.
The optical viewfinder is large and bright and makes it easy to determine what is in focus. It provides 100% coverage as one would expect of any high-end DSLR. There is a viewfinder shutter, activated by a small switch on the prism housing, which serves to block stray light from entering. This is mostly useful when shooting very long exposures. A diopter correction nob for those who wear prescription glasses is found on the side of the housing. The optical viewfinder slightly protrudes from the rear of the camera for extra comfort.
There is a Live-View mode which is selected as a Drive Mode. This is one of the earliest Live-View and is limited in functionality. It is not exposure-priority in any mode but it previews white-balance. Contrast detect autofocus is available in Live-View but is extremely slow, taking easily in the order of 3-5s to lock.
With an enormous 2500 mAh battery and no built-in flash, it is still surprising to know that battery life is 4400 shots per charge, the highest of any digital camera. This is enough for any day and even weeks of shooting for some photographers.
The Nikon D3X maintains its position among top quality DSLR even 3 years after its introduction. It delivers the highest resolution images among DSLRs while performing very throughout its ISO sensitivity range. Color with tweaking, metering, dynamic range and sharpness with a good lens are all exceptional. White-balance is good but not perfect but easily fixed using custom white-balance or presets.
The value of the D3X lies in its high-resolution capture, particularly between ISO 100 and 400, which is highly suitable for large prints. There is one camera to consider against the D3X and that is its sister model, the Nikon D3S
Nikon D3S. While externally identical, the D3S has half the resolution which permits it to reach much higher ISOs, up to 102400, and faster frame rates, up to 9 FPS, making it an ideal choice for available light and action shots. This leaves the D3X superior for landscape, architecture, studio and other situations which do not require such astronomical ISO sensitivities.
Handling is very good with external controls for all important functions and a highly customizable behavior. The Nikon D3X is fast and responsive and is unlikely to make the photographer miss a shot. Its 5 FPS continuous drive is fast with a good buffer. The only noteworthy issues some may have with this DSLR are its bulk and its premium price. Yet, for such a splendid performance, many photographers find it worth it.
Nikon D3X Highlights
Sensor-Size: 36 x 24mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|25 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 50-6400|
|Nikon F Mount|
Extra Large Viewfinder
|Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|1 Axis Digital Level||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|5 FPS Drive, 70 Images||Hot-Shoe & Sync-Port|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Compact Flash x 2|
Peak Design Travel Tripod Review
Review of the unique Peak Design Travel Tripod with its own ballhead and the universal ballhead adapter.
Nikon Z-Mount DX Lens Roundup
Review of Nikon Z-Mount lenses for APS-C mirrorless digital cameras. Covers all current Z-mount DX lenses available.
Nikon Z50 Review
The first Nikon APS-C mirrorless is built around a 20 MP BSI-CMOS sensor with ISO 100-204800, 209-Point Phase-Detect AF, 11 FPS Drive and 4K Video capability. Compact body with dual control-dials and 2.4 MP 0.39" EVF with 0.68X magnification, 100% coverage and an Eye-Start Sensor.
Mirrorless Digital Camera Buying Guide 2020
The Mirrorless Digital Camera Buying Guide was fully rewritten for 2020, including all new systems from Nikon, Canon and Leica joined by Panasonic and Sigma. This new extensive 2020 Edition shows in 5 simple steps how to choose a mirrorless camera.
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 Review
This highly capable and compact mirrorless ranked as Best Beginner Mirrorless Digital Camera of 2019. Its 20 MP Four-Thirds CMOS sensor with Anti-Alias Filter is pared with 5-axis stabilization to maximize sharpness. Features a tilting 2.8 MP 0.39" EVF with large 0.7X view and Eye-Start sensor in a body with dual control-dials.
Best Digital Cameras of 2019
The Best Cameras of 2019 awarded by Neocamera: Best Travel-Zoom, Best Premium Compact, Best Ultra-Zoom, Best Mirrorless and Best DSLR.
10 Gifts Photographers Will Love
The 2019 gift guide for photographers showcases photography gear that amateur and enthusiasts will enjoy. It is divided into 3 price categories to suit different budgets from $50 to $200 USD.
Sony Alpha A7R IV In-Depth Review
The newest Sony high-resolution mirrorless packs a 61 MP Full-Frame BSI-CMOS sensor on 5-axis Sensor-Shift system. It shoots at 10 FPS, records 4K Ultra-HD video and focuses with a new 567-Point and 425-Area Hybrid AF system with Realtime tracking. This professional-grade camera features a 5.8 MP 0.5" EVF with 0.78X magnification, 100% coverage and an Eye-Start Sensor plus triple control-dials in a weatherproof body. This review shows exactly how the A7R IV performs and compares to top Full-Frame and Medium-Format digital cameras.
Olympus OM-D E-M1X Review
Professional Micro Four-Thirds mirrorless sporting an ultra-high speed 20 MP sensor with 121-Point Phase-Detect AF on a 5-axis image-stabilization system effective to 7-stops. 60 FPS drive with blackout free view on a huge 0.83X magnification 2.4 MP 0.5" EVF. Even a builtin GPS in a dual-grip double dual-control-dial IPX1-rated weatherproof and freezeproof body.
Nikon D3500 Review
The lightest DSLR packs a 24 MP APS-C sensor with ISO 100-25600 sensitivity-range, 5 FPS drive and Full HD video capture. Basic features with simple ergonomics.