Nikon D3x Review

Have you determined that you require more than twenty million pixels? Canon is of the opinion that this is the case, and the EOS 5D Mark II, which has 21 million effective pixels and retails for just over 2,200 dollars, can be purchased on the high street.

The Alpha 900, which has 24 megapixels and is Sony’s top model, can be purchased for close to 1,700 dollars. Sony shares this opinion.

Nikon is the most recent digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) maker to get on the super high-resolution bandwagon, and the company’s brand-new 24-megapixel D3x can now be purchased for $5,500 at a photographic store near you.

Wait, that can’t really be correct, can it?

Quality That Is Professional

I guess you could say that. You have to understand that the D3x is a professional single-lens reflex camera, whereas the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Sony Alpha 900 are not.

This indicates that the D3x has full weatherproofing, including a magnesium alloy shell that is virtually bulletproof (although we wouldn’t risk testing that), and all of the little extras that professionals count on, such as viewfinder coverage that is 100%, the best autofocus, white balance, and metering systems available.

Therefore, in theory, you should be able to drop the D3x down the side of a mountain, wipe the dust off of it, and still be able to shoot better pictures with it than you could with a camera that cost less money.

In actual use, the idea is validated to a large extent. The body of the D3x is identical to that of the D3, which was first introduced in 2007 and has since won the hearts of thousands of professional photographers all over the world.

It possesses the same high-quality autofocus, white balance, and metering capabilities, as well as the same LCD screen and Live View system, and, well, you get the point. Pixels are something the D3x possesses that the D3 does not.

There are in fact an additional 12 million of them, and they are located on a sensor that is very similar to the one that is used in the Sony Alpha 900.

Build Quality

The D3X and the D3 are virtually indistinguishable from one another; the only change that can be observed on the exterior of the body is the addition of an ‘X’ label. Because the design is an extension of the D2 series, photographers who are familiar with previous Nikon pro series cameras will quickly feel at home with the D3/D3X.

The button layout is essentially exactly the same, and the alterations that have been made to the controls are incremental enhancements rather than wholly original ideas. This is excellent news for working professionals who frequently switch bodies, as is the fact that the control layout consistency extends down the line to the D700 and D300, making these models ideal for use as backup bodies.

The proportions of the D3X make it virtually square, and thanks to a magnesium shell, it is almost literally as solid as a brick in terms of its construction. A purposeful camera is one that has been created with the requirements of the professional photographer in mind and features elements like as robust surfaces, soft rubber on the grips, bigger buttons, locked controls, and environmental seals. This type of camera may be used in any environment.


The image parameters on the D3X are identical to those found on the D3, D700, and D300. You have the ability to load and preserve custom set configurations, in addition to the four standard ‘Picture Control’ presets (which are named Standard, Neutral, Vivid, and Monochrome).

In addition to the newly added brightness adjustment, the existing sharpness, contrast, and saturation controls now have a significantly greater range of motion to accommodate the enlarged range of user preferences. Take note of the ‘Quick adjust’ function as well, which enables related adjustments to be made to the image’s sharpness, contrast, and saturation.

Last but not least, there is a grid view that displays all of the active picture adjustment modes in the form of a saturation vs. contrast (plus sharpness) grid. This view is available.

ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels

The ability to raise the sensitivity of the sensor of a digital camera is referred to as the ISO equivalent setting. The “volume” (gain) of the sensor’s signal amplifiers is increased in order for this to work properly (remember the sensor is an analog device).

When you amplify the signal, you also boost the noise, and the noise becomes more apparent as the ISO value increases. At greater sensitivities, a lot of today’s cameras also make use of noise reduction and sometimes even sharpness decrease.

We take a series of pictures of a GretagMacBeth ColorChecker chart in order to determine the amount of background noise (controlled artificial daylight lighting). The exposure is balanced with the ISO (for example, ISO 200 and 1/200 of a second to maintain exposure uniformity between cameras).

Our in-house developed and patented noise measurement software is then applied to the image sequence (version 1.4 in this review). To obtain further details, please go here. (It is important to keep in mind that the noise levels that are displayed on the graphs above cannot be compared to those that are found in other reviews.) The temperature in the room is around 22 degrees Celsius (or 72 degrees Fahrenheit), and sunshine-mimicking lighting is used.

Noise reduction at high ISOs performed in-camera

Off, Low, Normal, and High are the four different settings for the D3X’s high ISO noise reduction, which kicks in at ISO 500 or higher. This feature is only active when the camera is set to that sensitivity (with Normal as the default).

The Normal setting offers a good balance between the desire to keep visible noise to a minimum while also not sacrificing fine detail, and the four settings provide a good range of options from very low to high enough to keep noise at bay all the way up into the highest reaches of the ISO range. The Normal setting can be found by pressing the “Normal” button on your camera’s dial.

Because the loss of fine detail at high sensitivities (ISO 3200 and above) is rather noticeable when the noise reduction is set to the “High” option, you should probably avoid using this setting. Shooting in RAW format is recommended, however, if you want to have true control over how much noise reduction is applied to the image. Take note that even when the NR switch is set to “Off,” some noise reduction is still applied to JPEGs captured at “Hi” ISO levels.

Active D-lighting

D-Lighting is a shadow and highlight enhancement that, on earlier models, was an after-the-fact filter that you could only apply to images when you were viewing them in playback mode. However, starting with the D3 and D300, ‘Active’ D-Lighting is a menu setting that is applied to all images if it is enabled.

Off, Low, Normal, High, and High, as well as Extra High, which is exclusive to the D3X, are the five levels that can now be selected.

Nikon D3x Specifications

Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor• 35.9 x 24 mm CMOS sensor
• FX format
• RGB Color Filter Array
• Built-in fixed low-pass filter
• 25.72 million total pixels
• 24.5 million effective pixels
• 3:2 aspect ratio
Image processorNikon EXPEED
Image sizes
(FX format)
• 6048 x 4032 [L]
• 4544 x 3024 [M]
• 3024 x 2016 [S]
Image sizes
(DX format)
• 3968 x 2640 [L]
• 2976 x 1976 [M]
• 1984 x 1320 [S]
Image sizes
(5:4 format)
• 5056 x 4032 [L]
• 3792 x 3024 [M]
• 2528 x 2016 [S]
File formats• NEF (12-bit or 14-bit, compressed or lossless compressed RAW)
• JPEG (EXIF 2.21)
Lens mount• Nikon F mount with AF coupling and AF contacts
• No field of view crop (full-frame)
• When using DX lenses / DX mode 1.5x FOV crop
Usable lenses• Type G or D AF NIKKOR: All functions supported
• DX AF NIKKOR: All functions supported except FX-format (36×24)/5:4 (30×24) image size
• AF NIKKOR other than type G or D: All functions supported except 3D Color Matrix Metering II
• AI-P NIKKOR: All functions supported except autofocus and 3D Color Matrix Metering II
• Non-CPU AI NIKKOR: Can be used in exposure modes A and M; electronic rangefinder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster; Color Matrix Metering and aperture value display supported if user provides lens data
* IX NIKKOR lenses cannot be used
* Excluding lenses for F3AF
Auto Focus• 51 focus points (15 cross-type sensors)
• Multi-CAM 3500FX
• AF working range: -1 to +19 EV (ISO 100, normal temperature)
• Contrast Detect in Live View (Tripod) mode
• TLL phase-difference AF in Handheld Live View mode
Lens Servo• Single Servo AF [S]
• Continuous Servo AF [C]
• Manual focus [M]
• Focus Tracking automatically activated by subject’s status in [S] or [C] AF
Focus Point• Single point from 51 or 11 focus points
• Liveview (Tripod mode): Contrast AF on a desired point anywhere within frame
AF Area Mode• Single point AF
• Dynamic Area AF [9 points, 21 points, 51 points, 51 points (3D-tracking)]
• Automatic-area AF
Focus LockFocus can be locked by pressing shutter-release button halfway (single-servo AF) or by pressing AE-L/AF-L button
AF assistExternal Speedlite only
Exposure modes• Program Auto [P] with flexible program
• Shutter-Priority Auto [S]
• Aperture-Priority Auto [A]
• Manual [M]
MeteringTTL full-aperture exposure metering using 1005-pixel RGB sensor
• 3D Color Matrix Metering II (type G and D lenses); Color Matrix Metering II (other CPU lenses); Color Matrix Metering (non-CPU lenses if user provides lens data)
• Center-Weighted: Weight of 75% given to 12-mm circle in center of frame, diameter of circle can be changed to 8, 15 or 20 mm, or weighting can be based on average of entire frame (non-CPU lenses use 12-mm circle or average of entire frame)
• Spot: Meters 4-mm circle (about 1.5% of frame) centered on selected focus point (on center focus point when non-CPU lens is used)
Metering range• 3D Color Matrix Metering: 0 to 20 EV
• Center-Weighted Metering: 0 to 20 EV
• Spot Metering: 2 to 20 EV
• At normal temperature (20°C/68°F), ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens
Meter couplingCombined CPU and AI
Exposure lockAt detected value with AE-L/AF-L button
Exposure bracketing• 2 to 9 frames
• 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV steps
Exposure compen.• +/-5.0 EV
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps
Sensitivity• Default: ISO 100 – 1600 in 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
• Boost: 50 – 6400 in 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps, HI2 = ISO 6400
Shutter• Electronically-controlled vertical-travel focal plane shutter
• 30 to 1/8000 sec (1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps)
• Flash X-Sync: 1/250 sec
• Bulb
DOF Preview• Stop-down lens aperture by pressing button
• Activates modeling flash
White balance• Auto (1005-pixel CCD, image sensor)
• Presets (seven) with fine tuning
• Manual presets (four)
• Color temperature in Kelvin (2500 – 10000 K, 31 steps)
• White balance bracketing (2 to 9 frames in increments of 1, 2 or 3)
Picture Control• Standard
• Neutral
• Vivid
• Monochrome
Image parameters• Sharpening: Auto, 7 levels
• Contrast: Auto, 5 levels, Custom tone curve
• Brightness: 3 levels
• Saturation: Auto, 5 levels
• Hue: 5 levels
Color space• sRGB
• Adobe RGB
Viewfinder• Optical-type fixed eye-level pentaprism
• Built-in diopter adjustment (-3 to +1m-1)
• Eyepoint: 18 mm (at -1.0m-1)
• Focusing screen: Type B BriteView Clear Matte VI screen
• Frame coverage 100%
• Viewfinder magnification approx 0.7x with 50 mm f/1.4 lens
Focusing screen• B-type BrightView Clear Matte Screen II
• Superimposed focus brackets
• On-demand grid lines
LCD monitor• 3.0″ low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD
• 920,000 pixels (VGA; 640 x 480 x 3 colors)
• 170° viewing angle
• Brightness adjustment
• 100% frame coverage
LCD Liveview• Handheld mode: TLL phase-difference AF with 51 focus areas (15 cross-type sensors)
• Tripod mode: focal-plane contrast AF on a desired point within a specific area
Shooting modes• Single frame
• Continuous Low [CL]: 1 – 5 fps
• Continuous High [CH]: 5 fps (6 – 7 fps with DX format)
• Liveview [LV]
• Self-Timer (programmable)
• Mirror-up mode
Continuous buffer• JPEG Large/Normal: 130 shots
• RAW: no data yet
Self-timer• 2, 5, 10 and 20 sec custom
Flash control•TTL flash control with 1,005-pixel RGB sensor; i-TTL balanced fill-flash and standard i-TTL fill-flash available with SB-800, 600 or 400
• AA (Auto Aperture-type) flash: Available with SB-800 used with CPU lens
• Non-TTL Auto: Available with Speedlights such as SB-800, 28, 27, and 22S
• Range-priority manual flash; available with SB-800
Flash Sync Mode• Front-curtain Sync (normal)
• Red-Eye Reduction
• Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync
• Slow Sync
• Rear-curtain Sync
Flash Accessory ShoeISO 518 standard-type hot shoe contact; Safety lock mechanism provided
Flash Sync TerminalISO 519 standard terminal, lock screw provided
Creative Lighting SystemWith Speedlights such as SB-900, SB-800, SB-600, SB-R200, SU-800 (commander only), System (CLS) supports Advanced Wireless Lighting, Auto FP High-Speed Sync, Flash Color Information Communication, modeling flash and FV lock
Orientation sensorTags images with camera orientation
Playback mode• Full frame
• Thumbnail (4 or 9 images)
• One-touch zoom
• Slideshow
• RGB histogram
• Shooting data
• Highlight point
• Auto image rotation
• Image Comment (up to 36
• Voice Memo Input and Playback
Languages• Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)
• Dutch
• English
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Italian
• Japanese
• Korean
• Polish
• Portuguese
• Russian
• Spanish
• Swedish
Custom functions50 custom functions
Connectivity• USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed)
• HDMI video out
• Remote control 10-pin terminal
• PC Sync flash terminal
10-pin terminal• GPS: NMEA 0183 (Ver. 2.01 and 3.01) interface standard supported with 9-pin D-sub cable and GPS Cable MC-35 (optional)
• Remote control: via 10-pin terminal
CommunicationsFTP and PTP/IP file transfer with optional Wireless Transmitter WT-3 (IEEE 802.11 b/g)
Storage• Dual Compact Flash Type I or II
• UDMA, Microdrive and FAT32 supported
• 36 characters of text can be input and stored in EXIF header
Power• Lithium-Ion EN-EL4a/EL4
• Quick Charger MH-22/MH-21
• Optional AC adapter EH-6
Battery monitoringThe LCD monitor on the camera back displays the following information
about the EN-EL4a battery:
• Remaining charge (%)
• No. of shots taken since last charge
• Battery life (5 stages)
Dimensions160 x 157 x 88 mm (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4 in)
Weight (no batt)1220 g (2.11 lb)
Operating environmentTemperature: 0 – 40 °C / 32 – 104 °F, Humidity: under 85% (no condensation)
Box contentsRechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL4a, Quick Charger MH-22, USB Cable UC-E4, Audio
Video Cable EG-D2, Camera Strap AN-D3X, Body Cap BF-1A, Accessory Shoe Cover BS-2, Eyepiece DK-17, Battery Chamber Cover BL-4, USB Cable Clip, Software Suite CD-ROM
Optional accessoriesWireless Transmitter WT-4/4A, Magnifying Eyepiece DK-17M, AC Adapter EH-6, Capture NX2 Software, Camera Control Pro 2 Software, Image Authentication Software


When we reviewed the Nikon D3 in April of the previous year, we stated that it was “possibly the most compelling, capable, and well-rounded professional digital SLR ever made,” and that a (then non-existent) D3X “would have quite a job to do to better the D3.” This was because we believed that the D3 was “possibly the most compelling, capable, and well-rounded professional digital SLR ever made.”

In the end, the D3X materialized in the month of December. We’ve had it for a little over a month now, and after taking hundreds of test photos in the studio and out in the field, you may expect us to be able to firmly answer the question of whether or not the ‘X’ variant is capable of outperforming the original D3.

On the other hand, it should be obvious to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with camera technology that it is not possible to provide a conclusive response to this issue.

Due to the fact that a significant amount of the design of the D3X and the D3 are the same, it should not come as a surprise that the two cameras have comparable capabilities in many respects. However, despite the fact that the new model is unquestionably superior to the D3 in certain respects, in other respects it is inferior.

Both the excellent 51-point autofocus system and the 1005-pixel metering sensor have been immediately carried over from the D3 to the D3X, and they function just as well on the D3X as they do on the D3. The image resolution at low sensitivities is where the D3X really shines and outperforms the D3 by a mile or two. The build quality and ergonomics are both good as well, but this is where the D3X really thrives.

The output of the images at the lowest possible ISO (and with high-quality glass in front of the sensor) can only be described as breathtaking. The high-resolution sensor of the D3X, when combined with a relatively weak anti-aliasing filter and an outstanding JPEG engine, delivers a level of sharp detail that surpasses that of even the most formidable competitors, including the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, which was formerly ranked number one in this category.

It is simply incredible how, as you continue to zoom into the enormous image files, you can uncover an increasing amount of granular detail. If capturing fine image detail is at the top of your list of priorities, as it would be for many high-end studio photographers, there is little question that the D3X should be your top choice among the available options.

However, the image detail that is unrivaled in its class does come at a cost. It is certain that this will have an effect on in-camera processing, buffering, and continuous shooting because a 14-bit RAW+JPEG image will use almost 30 megabytes of space on your memory card.

Having said that, the D3X’s continuous shooting rate of five frames per second (12-bit RAW and JPEG) will still be sufficient for the majority of applications, and if it isn’t, you can always switch to DX mode to speed up the process and take 10.5-megapixel images at seven frames per second. Although it may not quite reach D3 speed, it is still an amazingly quick pace.

Nikon D3x Price

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Highest resolution available
  • Options for personalization that cannot be matched.
  • Super durable exterior
Need Improvements
  • Live View quality is not on par with the D90.
  • No sensor cleaning will be done.
  • Expensive
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Have you determined that you require more than twenty million pixels? Canon is of the opinion that this is the case, and the EOS 5D Mark II, which has 21 million effective pixels and retails for just over 2,200 dollars, can be purchased on...Nikon D3x Review