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Nikon D3 - Testing the Waters
Steven Ickes, Photographer
Mechanicsburg | PA | USA | Posted: 2:15 PM on 04.22.09
->> First and foremost, this is not a post about Canon vs Nikon nor is it intended to start a flame war.

After shooting nothing but Nikon for 20 years I switched over to Canon. Canon's MK II just fit my needs much better, at that time, than the D2hs which I had been using. And with nothing from Nikon on the horizon, I simply traded one set of tools for another.

I've been more than satisfied with the Canon lineup, including the much maligned Mark III. Despite the experience of others, I've not had a single problem with the Mark III and still regularly use my MK II's as well. Having said that I've always missed my Nikon's. First and foremost, the Nikon pro bodies always just felt better in my hands, better fit, and more intuitive for me to use.

Since Nikon released the D3 I've resisted the temptation and obvious financial hit of a full scale exodus from the Canon brand. Plus I didn't want to see myself as one of those who jump brands simply because it's the latest and arguably the greatest.

Last week during a particularly weak moment, I purchased a D3 along with a 300 f2.8. I still had a few older lenses left including a 17-24. I figured that I would just shoot the Nikon along with the MK III and see "what happens".

After shooting game 4 between the Flyers and Penguins last night I must say that I'm pretty impressed but then I really didn't expect not to be. The AF of the D3 performed really well, custom WB was painless, and image quality is great.

Operationally I cannot say that one DSLR was miles ahead of the other. The MK III worked great as did the D3. What really made the difference for me were the little things: ergonomics of the D3 (both in the grip and button placement), incredible Nikon viewfinder, the D3 felt lighter and somewhat better balanced, AF point selection on the D3 is hands down the best and most intuitive, and finally the full-frame sensor which just feels awesome with a wide angle lens.

Finally it really does come down to image quality. I think that the MK III is an awesome low light, high ISO camera but the D3 definitely takes it to another level. I had read that the digital noise in D3 images looked so much "better" but wasn't sure what was meant by this, that is until I saw it for myself. The noise in the D3 images looked softer and actually more like grain in film. It seemed to enhance the images more than detracting from them.

As for me, the jury's still out. I still love the Mark III and have lots more shooting to do with the D3. I'd really like to hear, without starting a debate, the overall impressions of those of you who have switched, held firm, or use both.
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Greg Francis, Photographer
Rochester | NY | USA | Posted: 2:37 PM on 04.22.09
->> Never a Canon shooter. Nikon shooter since 1985.

Bought a D3 last month and it's awesome in the low light and AF dept. The D3 is a departure even from the D2_ series.

I shot a wedding last weekend and the files are far more saturated than the D2x series.

And it seems the D3 doesn't play nice with the SB800 compared to the D2x/SB800. I hope I don't have to step up for an SB900.

Any suggestions from other members on the D3/SB800 combo?
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Jeff Stanton, Photographer
Princeton | IN | USA | Posted: 2:47 PM on 04.22.09
->> I wish I could afford to have a weak moment and drop a bundle on a D3 and 300 2.8., you know, just on the spur of the moment.
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Michael Johnson, Photographer, Photo Editor
Geneseo | NY | USA | Posted: 2:47 PM on 04.22.09
->> Hey Greg,
While I'm not sure about your D3/SB800 problems you might check out
Its a great site that was just started and has a ask area that might help you out.
As for the D3...I got mine last year and haven't looked back. At the time I had my D2h go down and a friend of mine let me use one of his cannons.
While I liked the camera I didn't want to jump due to all the Nikon gear I have.
I give my cannon friends a hard time but cannons are good cameras I just like the feel of my Nikon's and was happy the D3 came out when it did.
I love my D3.
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Steven Ickes, Photographer
Mechanicsburg | PA | USA | Posted: 2:56 PM on 04.22.09
->> Jeff:
Weak moment? Not really that hard to do. Get sick, really sick, like on the verge of bronchitis sick. Next, medicate yourself, antibiotics, steroids, etc. just to the point of delirium but not quite comatose. At that point, you should have entered a "weak moment". As far as a "bundle" to drop...can't help you there. You're on your own :)
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Jeff Mills, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 3:02 PM on 04.22.09
->> D3's definatly what I'd consider the best camera I've ever used. I switched from Canon mkIII's myself last August sort of as an impulse buy as well, just to test the waters as I wasn't 100% happy with Canon.

I was expecting the D3 to be a very nice camera but ultimately not better to the point that I'd sell all my Canon gear and switch totally.

After a couple of weeks shooting events with both the D3 and mkIII I really found I prefered the D3 in any and all situations. AF, IQ, ergonomics, you name it. It just plain worked and always gave me the shot while the Canons often left me fighting with the flash system or the metering etc.

It was enough for me to choose to totally jump to the Nikon system and while it was a big investment, I couldnt be happier. The new Nikon glass is all out of this world as well. The 14-24 and 24-70 2.8's are hands down the best zoom lenses I've ever owned. Just stellar IQ, and combined with the D3's full frame sensor, amazing DR and high ISO ability the resulting files even in tough conditions have never looked better.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 3:12 PM on 04.22.09
->> I've NEVER shot Canon. If you add in my high school years when I got my first Nikon that puts me at 28 years on the dark side.

Nothing is perfect, and even the D3 has a few areas that could be tweaked. The D3/SB800 just don't like to share the whole story with each other. Having said that I'm sure that the SB900 behaves much as a D2/SB800 pairing.

One or two bright spots will drive the meter to protect the highlights and drive the exposure down. Luckily the files are so clean and rich that pulling them back up is easy enough. Just an investment in time that sometimes can be frustrating.

The AF is amazing although I will be loading the old FW back on. It seems that the 'new' firmware while better in low light, doesn't hold focus as well in bright conditions. I'd love to hear more about this from other D3 users. Robert never really fessed up on why he was dumping the new firmware but I have a feeling that he saw this happening.

The battery system seems better over the Canon system. My Canon shooters seem to go through more batteries than the Nikon guys.
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Jeff Mills, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 3:43 PM on 04.22.09
->> Eric, I've seen the same thing with the firmwares. The new 2.01 was a huge improvment indoors and with low contrast subjects. At a gymnastics event for example it was a massive improvment and the camera as a whole felt so much more responsive.

Outdoors though in very sunny/high contrast situations Ive found the tracking not to be quite as reliable as the older 2.00 firmware.

I dont mean this to sound like a knock against Canon but the 2.01 in contrasty conditions makes the D3 feel a bit more like a 1D mkIII. Quick and responsive but a little too sensative and twitchy.

The D3 was more of a "slow and steady" before, once it locked on, it stayed locked on. With the 2.01 its quicker but sometimes you'll get a few frames that are a little OOF as your tracking a subject, due I belive, to the camera being overly sensative to subject movement.

I'd think of 2.01 as the indoor/low light optomized FW and the 2.00 as the outdoor/good light optomized FW.

Really when you think about it such an idea makes a lot of sense. Customize the AF system tweaks to be suit a given range of shooting conditions and let users load as needed.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 3:57 PM on 04.22.09
->> Jeff I have a few 512 cards floating around and I'm thinking that they're going to get labels 2.0A/2.0B and 2.01A/2.01B

I don't really mind adjusting the firmware for what I'm shooting.
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PJ Heller, Photographer
Santa Barbara | CA | USA | Posted: 4:32 PM on 04.22.09
->> And it seems the D3 doesn't play nice with the SB800 compared to the D2x/SB800. I hope I don't have to step up for an SB900.

Please comment a little more about the SB800 results with the D3.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 4:45 PM on 04.22.09
->> PJ in my case the SB800/D3 combo over exposes on a pretty regular basis. Bouncing off the little plastic card and dialing it down 1/3 of a stop seems to provide the best/most consistent results.

If I were shooting weddings and mitzvahs again I'd be buying/testing the SB900's and hoping for the consistency of the D2/SB800.
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Greg Francis, Photographer
Rochester | NY | USA | Posted: 4:56 PM on 04.22.09
->> I had two situations at my first wedding of the year last weekend. One bouncing the SB800 off the ceiling (on a bracket - newer church hung ceiling)the images were underexposed.

Had I been using the D2x in the same situation with bracket and bounce, images would have been perfectly exposed.

Then at the reception, no ceiling to bounce off (wood) and used direct flash for the bridal party intro's, the SB800 underexposed the people again and there was CaptureNX work that had to be done in Post, that I wouldn't have had to do, with the D2x/SB800.

D3 rocks at low light ambient and solid AF, but I found TTL with the SB800 fell a little short for these can't repeat moments.
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David Harpe, Photographer
Louisville | KY | USA | Posted: 5:09 PM on 04.22.09
->> Hmmm...

I've been using the D3/SB800 combo for awhile now and have not seen the problems described...

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Richard Rector, Photographer
Lancaster | Pa | US | Posted: 5:23 PM on 04.22.09
->> does anyone have firmware 2.00 (or a link) that they can send me? It is no longer available on Nikons site. I'd like to see if it improves my outdoor tracking. thanks.
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Steve Ueckert, Photographer
Houston | TX | | Posted: 11:08 PM on 04.22.09
->> Steven--

It sounds like you have enough glass for a fair A - B comparison. Decide for yourself.

About 9 months ago I realized I would be leaving my job and the company issued Canons I was using. I had to decide which way to go. That I already had numerous Nikon lenses from 14mm - 500mm was a plus for Nikon, but I was unwilling to sell out on the basis of the glass I already had. I also had a sufficient amount of Canon glass as a supplement to my company gear that I could go either way. First I got a D300 and it didn't suck. Then I shot the D3 and the Canon glass went on the market.

For me there is nothing that a Canon can do that a Nikon doesn't do better. I love my D3's but I will not be without my D300, at times that 1.5X crop can be useful. I have only used firmware 2.0 for the D3, for me it works and doesn't need fixing. I have a great deal of comfort in what I actually SEE on the D3 screen, I just don't hope that it will be in focus, I enjoy seeing it in focus in the viewfinder. And no, the D300 isn't the same as a D3 in low light, not in focus sensitivity nor high ISO IQ. I find the D300 trails the D3 by about a stop and a half.

But back to the Canon v Nikon issue. You will know better than everyone combined on this forum what works best for Steven. Trust your instincts. But do not try and shoot both systems, that is an accident waiting to happen. I loved my 200/1.8, but realized a D3 and a 180/2.8 was making better images (mainly sports) than the Canon lens and a Mk IIn. For the record, I used Mk IIn's and a 5D. I miss the 5D as it could be very small and inconspicuous with a 28/1.8. But the deal maker/breaker was the image quality of all my Nikon glass and the Nikon bodies, D3's and D300.

But you will be the one pushing the button and putting your name on the images, no one else's name will be there.


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Dave Amorde, Photographer
Lake Forest | CA | USA | Posted: 2:18 PM on 04.23.09
->> I'm having a cognitive disconnect between all the wailing about layoffs, the economy in general, contract negotiations, etc., - and "weak moments", "impluse buy"s, and "testing the waters."

For those of you in that enviable position, the solution is simple: Pick the 5 most important lenses you need, and keep versions from both Nikon and Canon in your arsenal. The same goes for remote triggers and cables, batteries and charges, etc.

If you are like me, you can keep the other company's glass and cables in inventory for roughly the cost of three D3/Mark III class bodies. Considering that most of us have at least two bodies, the cost of keeping the glass in inventory (which lasts a lifetime) while periodically switching brands of camera bodies is almost trivial - just some more capital equipment to depreciate, right?

If that's not possible do what I do: I've owned nothing but Nikon since 1978. My daughter shoots Canon. She lives in my house, and doesn't pay rent. Guess where I go to get Canon loaners?
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Jayne Oncea, Photographer
Redmond | OR | USA | Posted: 10:54 AM on 04.24.09
->> I've had a D3 a little over a year and it is the best camera I've ever had.. Although I started having a problem where I was getting the error message telling me the f stop ring wasn't locked at f.22 although it was. This was happening in the middle of shooting. I finally got way too fustrated and sent it to NIKON.. they actually charged me $325 to fix it!!
A $5000 camera used a year with a $325 repair did not make me very happy!
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Steven Ickes, Photographer
Mechanicsburg | PA | USA | Posted: 12:46 AM on 04.25.09
->> First of all, I'm sorry if my post offended some with regard to the current state of the economy. I guess we all have our own specific situations and circumstances. My post was not intended to throw salt in the wound of others who might be feeling the pinch.

Secondly, thanks to all who were forthcoming with their own experiences and opinions. Rest assured that I will ultimately make my decision based upon my own circumstances and needs. My intentions were simply to solicit the opinions of those who may have experience with regard to my specific question. I was just curious to get some feedback from the other professionals in this community.

Having said that, I can say that after shooting game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (Flyers/Penguins) that the D3 performed wonderfully. However, with game 6 on tap for tomorrow, I'm still taking the D3 for a test spin.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 11:42 AM on 04.25.09
->> Steven;
I was a long time Nikon shooter who switched to Canon and then back when the D3 came out. I'm still not sure how Nikon did it - both the D3 and to a lesser degree, the D300 are remarkable feats of engineering.

At the end of the day,it's what you're most comfortable with. I shot a golf assignment yesterday.The sports editor emailed me and commented how pretty the images were. The ability to crank the ISO up to ISO 6000 on occassion and produce a good file is just wonderful.(my OOF images are always the result of the nut behind the viewfinder)

Both companies produce good products. I wish Canon had been more open about the MIII issues (to me, how a company handles that kind of problem says EVERYTHING about them) but that's me; ultimately the camera is nothing more than a electronic paint brush; whichever works best for you is the one you should go with.
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Yamil Sued, Photographer, Photo Editor
Peoria | AZ | USA | Posted: 7:24 PM on 04.25.09
->> Dave said:

"For those of you in that enviable position, the solution is simple: Pick the 5 most important lenses you need, and keep versions from both Nikon and Canon in your arsenal. "

Great idea, but......

Dave, that was the one thing that tipped the scales for me with the Nikon System!!

The most Important lenses for me were:

1-The Super Wide Zoom (16-35/17-40/17-35/17-55/14-24) The Canon version (16-35) gave me horrible results, the 14-24 won

2-The Medium Zoom (24-70/28-70) Again, the Canon Version only gave me Grief!! I went through 5, yes F I V E copies of the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L Lens and they all were just plain awful!! The last version was a factory Replacement and it was out of spec right out the box!! I know, Canon tested it before shipping it to me and they had to tweak it!! The Nikon 24-70 won!!

3- The Short Telephoto Zoom, (70-200) Canon is cool here putting out 4 version of the same lens with and without IS and in both f2.8 and f4, but...

Again, after only 5 months of ownership (not heavy use either), my 70-200 f4 Canon needed adjustment, twice!!

I loved my 1DMKIIn's, but I had problems with each and every piece of Glass I had!!

I was using the D2X in the studio with the older 60 f/2.8D Micro, and the Images were outstanding!! I finally tested the D3, and the three lenses I needed, 14-24, 24-70, 70-200. And I was convinced!! There was nothing else to look for!!

IMHO, the RAW Processing Software, Capture NX2 is vastly superior to Canon DPP, in ease of use, results and speed. I still miss my 1DMKIIn's, but I don't miss the problematic Glass I had to deal with !!

One thing to be said, I used various copies of both the Canon 300 f/2.8IS and the Canon 400 f/2.8 IS and they were both superb!! My problem was with the Zooms!!

At the end there I was uncomfortable sending my gear to Canon over and over again!! The gear spent more time in Canon, Ca than in my house and in the field making me money!! And it was costing me money to send it there in. In most occasions Canon Picked up the shipping, but in some, I had to cough up the shipping!! And when you have to send in one lens 3 or 4 times to get something done that should have been done at the point of manufacture, well you get my point!! I joined CPS back in 1988, but I gave it all the chances I could, I had to move on and get me the gear that worked for me all the time.
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Darren White, Photographer
Brisbane | QLD | Australia | Posted: 8:57 PM on 04.30.09
->> The big thing about the D3 to me is that you can get pretty useable images at 10000

for example

This is as it OOC apart from a crop, NR on normal in camera, ADL off, colours standard + 1 sat - 1 hue
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Darren Whitley, Photographer
Maryville | MO | USA | Posted: 9:38 PM on 04.30.09
->> I'm sitting on the fence considering a switch myself. I don't intend to buy a D3. The D700 seems to be a better fit. I'm interested in having a camera like the 5D but with better AF and CLS is pretty much the deal maker. In the past 10 years as a Canon shooter, I've never ever been happy with Canon's flash system.

It appears that Canon is too stubborn to actually handle their technology shortcomings. Nikon seems to be very nimble.
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Steven Ickes, Photographer
Mechanicsburg | PA | USA | Posted: 1:46 AM on 05.01.09
->> Just shot a Phillies game the other night: Nikon D3 with 300 f2.8, Canon MK III with 400mm f2.8. Both worked admirably but I found myself using the D3 more but probably because it is newer and it's always more fun to use a new "toy". Anyway, the one really nice feature of the D3 that I had read about and thought I'd try is the AUTO ISO. I set maximum ISO to 3400 and minimum shutter speed of 1000. This is an amazing feature especially considering that images at high ISO are extraordinary.

Looking at the images side-by-side and purely from a noise perspective, the Nikon at 1600-1800 were better than the Canon's images at ISO 1250. Beyond that straight out of the camera, Nikon JPEG's seemed sharper and have more clarity. The only two cons I noticed about the D3 is that AF seemed jumpier than it had been shooting sports during the day, and the AWB setting did miss a couple of times. Now I know that I should've done a custom WB but I really just wanted to compare the Auto WB performance for both. As far as the jumpy AF, I've read several comments possibly attributing this to firmware 2.0. It's been reported that the previous version of the D3 firmware works better under low light conditions. Can anyone confirm this? And if so, does anyone have a link to the older firmware?

All in all, I was pretty happy with the D3. My trusty MK III still perfoms well as it always has but I do miss the feel of the Nikon's in my hands.
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Jeff Mills, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 2:04 AM on 05.01.09
->> Steve, 2.01 is actually the more "jumpy" or as I associate it, "Canon like" but its the one thats much improved under low light conditions.

2.00 is the more "slow and steady" firmware thats all and all quite solid under any conditions. Its the one I prefer for outdoor sports so far as it just seems to lock on a bit more and is more accurate overall. In low contrast situations though such as gymnastics the camera does feel a bit more sluggish with compared to 2.01. This isn't to say it doesn't work well by any means, but simply that it doesn't have the instant responce 2.01 gives.

I think its a tradeoff though as to perhaps get that improved low contrast tracking ability the camera overcompensates when its got good light and high contrast subjects.

I personally still need to test it a bit more under good lighting with some events such as track and both firmwares as its still a bit early in the field sports season to really judge things. I know that for indoors at least 2.01 works quite well.

I don't know of any pre 2.0 firmwares as my Nikons which I bought back in August of last year already had 2.0 on them and I've never heard anyone seeking out a 1.xx

Perhaps what Nikon really needs to do is introduce a new firmware that includes a new custom AF menu option of if you want low or high contrast subjects so we don't have to keep several firmwares on hand and keep switching back and forth lol.

On a semi-related note, does anyone have any thoughts on the D300 and D700 firmwares ?

I have both a D300 and D700 as well but have no gotten around to upgrading those yet because I'm still trying to figure out which D3 firmware I like!
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Michael Troutman, Photographer
Carmel | CA | USA | Posted: 2:14 AM on 05.01.09
->> Clearly it's time for 2.02.
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Shane Psaltis, Photographer
Aquebogue | NY | USA | Posted: 9:27 PM on 05.01.09
->> I was a Nikon shooter with the F4 then the F5, then came digital. I started with the $13,500 DCS 620 I then sold that for the $5000 price breaking D1. Not a bad Camera but then Nikon had the D1X and the D1H that's when it was time to switch to the Canon 1D.

I have been shooting with the Canon 1D series for the past 7 years and have every lens from the 16-35 up to the 4002.8. I loved the glass and the bodies I was never to fond of canon's Flash system. I hated the Canon MKII but Loved the MKIIN. Then came the MKIII I was really pumped to get this camera. I had heard so much about the great new controls and the bigger screen and the 10,000 shots per battery charge.

I had heard of the problems with the focusing system so I waited a little until the Blue dot series came out. I dropped the $5000 for the MKIII and was off into the field. Well when i got back to the office and loaded up the photos I was a little disappointed in the images but loved the way the camera's menus were laid out and the larger screen. I did have a lower keeper rate then the MKIIN.

Well anyway I had an itch to try out the D3 so I called up NPS and they sent me a D3 and a 70-200 for a gymnastics shoot I had coming up. 25,000 images later and I was amazed. Low lighting not a problem, focusing not a problem. It was absolutely amazing.

The next week I had a shoot coming up in Portland for a cheerleading competition and my D3 had to go back to NPS I took all my gear to adorama, I mean I am talking 3 suitcases and 2 camera bags full of camera gear and traded it all in for Nikon gear.

Believe me it hurt to switch, all my fellow shooters and close friends shoot Canon but I had to do what was best for me and in the end it was which tool is going to get me the shot. Unfortunately Canon was not cutting it.

I am sure Canon will come out with a new camera soon that will equal the D3 but right around the corner is the D4 waiting.
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Thread Title: Nikon D3 - Testing the Waters
Thread Started By: Steven Ickes
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