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Nikon D3 - Initial Impressions

carstenw

New member
I just had a real scare, but first things first.

The D3 was ordered new from England via eBay from a large-volume dealer with very good ratings. My German is quite decent, but I can still read English about twice as fast, with greater accuracy and more complete understanding. Besides, the cheapest German price is about €400 more, although shipping is of course cheaper. PayPal didn't want to take the money from my account, nor would my deliberately low credit-card limit have taken the beating from this purchase, so I had to use the slower bank transfer to PayPal method. The money arrived on Saturday, so the camera could not be shipped until Monday, yesterday. It was picked up, and all day the tracking info only said that. This morning, I checked on a whim, not really thinking that it would have gotten much further, but there was about a dozen entries, the last of which was that the courier had it. Internally cheering, I considered if I should take the day off, and also if I should take a shower, or wait for the camera until doing so, and just as I had decided to wait, the door bell rang.

The camera was wrapped very well, but unfortunately the corners of the golden box were a little worse for wear. Otherwise, everything was flawless, although there was a little dust on the battery, which made me wonder. The battery itself had absolutely no markings of any kind, so I guess the box may have been sitting open on a shelf or something.

Anyway, I examined the box contents, a little disappointed at the agricultural nature of the packing materials. I guess I am a little spoiled by my experience with Apple and Leica packaging. No harm done, I pulled everything out. It looks like I will need one bag for the camera, and another for the manual. I looked at the thickness of it, comparable to its width somehow, and thought: "ah, four languages". Nope, just English. I think by the time I have read it to the end, I will have forgotten the beginning.

I plugged in the battery and while it was charging, examined the contents. Having done that, and packed most of the stuff back in, I popped my 105/2.5 on the camera, and looked through the viewfinder. Very large and bright, I also put on my DK-17M and DK-19 (which I had bought for use with my Contax 645 AF and digital back, but which magnifies too much for film use) and the view filled my vision completely, if I squished my eye against the cup. I am not sure if I will keep it on, but for now it is there.

The camera feels like it was made from a single piece of rubberized light-weight alloy (however that would work). It is just so solid, and this is one of the reasons I went for the D3 over the D700. The D700 feels great, but the D3 is a step more solid. Fantastic. I will fend off robbers with this thing.

I then wanted to set the diopter, pulled the little knob out, and looked through. I focused the lens as well as I could, not terribly well, and then started fiddling with the knob. But... I just couldn't get it sharp. It would move towards a point of greatest sharpness, and then leave it again without reaching it. Odd. I wondered what was wrong. Not broken, hopefully... I tried again, same result. Okay, maybe the lens is off, I thought, I have never had a chance to use it. I put on the Zeiss ZF 21, a sharp lens if there ever was one. Same problem. Damn! I took off the lens, and tried without a lens, but the markings are not visible with the camera off, so that didn't work, but I did the best I could looking at the grain of the screen. Sh*t sh*t sh*t, it just arrived, and now I have to send it back or get it repaired?

I went online, and searched for "Nikon D3 diopter problem" and similar terms, but was unable to find anything directly related, so either this was a one-off problem, or something else was going on. I then went to Nikon EU's website, and found that my nearest dealer was not that far, and would cover a warranty repair.

Sitting on my chair, stewing a little, wondering what I might have done wrong, I decided to pop in the battery and check if the AF was also off (I can use my girlfriend's 18-55VR for this, in DX mode), and bam, the viewfinder got a *lot* brighter, some lines appeared, and everything was suddenly razor-sharp!

Whewwwwww!

I guess the LCD layer which selectively renders or hides information is not able to be clear with no battery in the camera. Even with the camera "off", which is not really off, the screen goes clear, however.

Moving right along, focus on my window, click, figure out how to zoom. Weird, two-part zooming, hold the zoom button and scroll the rear wheel, and a little yellow border zooms in. When I let go of the button, the zoom takes effect. I guess this lets me zoom and move the frame around at the same time. Very odd, but somehow I like it, and I have a vague feeling that in a couple of weeks, I will look at all my other cameras and wonder why they don't work like the D3.

Razor-sharp. I just can't see any softness. Beautiful screen, full VGA resolution, about double the linear resolution of most normal screens, except a few other cameras. Everyone else is still catching up. I guess MF digital will get this in 2025 :ROTFL:

I put on the Zeiss again, wow! Huge beautiful viewfinder full of wide angle goodness. Mmmmm.

Okay, S mode tested, Try CL. Click-click-click at a good pace. Nice. Now CH mode. Clickety-clickety-clickclickclickclickety-click. Whoa. Slow down. How many shots did I just grab, of the identical thing? 20? No wonder Nikon put in a shutter rated for 300,000 clicks. A little over 9 hours at that pace :D

My RRS full panorama kit and L-bracket arrived yesterday, so I will be putting that through its paces tonight, most likely, or maybe I will take 1/2 day off and do some fun stuff today.

Photos soon!
 

Ben Rubinstein

New member
Enjoy! I've got a friends 1D mkIII on loan for a couple of weeks and my 1Ds mkIII is arriving tomorrow - the feel of a pro level camera can't be beat! Machine gunning at 10fps is quite something isn't it! it keeps shooting for a second after you release the button :D
 

ptomsu

Workshop Member
Congratulations Carsten!

Enjoy this beautiful tool ;)

I am still back and forth between the D700 and the D300s - I know the difference, but the smaller sensor of the D300s would make lot of sense for me shooting wildlife. On the other side I never wanted to step back into Crop DSLRs :rolleyes:
 

Steen

Senior Subscriber Member
Carsten, just in case you are not yet at page no. 220 in the Manual :rolleyes: I recommend you take a look at p. 220 - 222.

SETUP MENU >> Non-CPU lens data >> Lens number >> Focal length (mm) >> Maximum aperture >> Done.

After you have specified your Non-CPU lenses, you can just select the relevant Non-CPU lens in the SETUP MENU >> Non-CPU lens data >> Lens number.

Later on you can decide whether you want to assign the Non-CPU lens selection to a Camera Control (Function button).
(Personally I have chosen another solution, but that's just me).
 

Corlan F.

Subscriber Member
The Archivist :lecture: :toocool: is right.

In the above mentionned menu you'll find out that re the 21mm, the FW doesn't provide this exact FL in the menu. Entries are only for 20 (or 24, but of course you want 20 here). It's of no importance since the only shooting automation is related to the lens min. aperture (when using the A shooting mode). The "20" value will simply be displayed on the EXIF data.

While we're at it, even though bought new you might want before all things to check the FW version. If not done yet, of course. Just in case, you want v.2.02 for the more natural colors and much improved AWB performance (and, in my opinion, noise perception, but that's an open topic on which not all agree). Anyway, alike the recent update for the D700, the new FW is a must.
Of course, maybe it's already there in your new camera :)
 

carstenw

New member
Thanks everyone, I appreciate the warm welcome. Gorgeous and very capable camera, and I am very happy to have it.

Steen, ja tak, I did indeed find that page. I was digging around on the first few pages, looking through the Q&A section until I found the reference to pg. 378 ("what lenses can I use"), where hint 14 pointed me at pg. 220, and further on to pg. 337, where I learned how to set up the Fn button + scroll wheel to choose lens. I am curious what other solution you found?

Thanks Corlan, I have firmware 2.01, so I will be looking for how to install 2.02 immediately. I saw that there is no 21mm setting for my ZF21, and instinctively chose 20, even though the manual asks you to choose the next higher value. I wonder why they skipped 21mm, a very common focal length (which Nikon may never have used, admittedly, but still).
 

Paratom

Well-known member
Carsten, congrats and I bet you will have fun with that camera.

Peter-go for the d700 not the d300s.
I just have explored the 70-200VRII as my favorite lens for the d700, nearly as good as the 200/2.0VR and even with TS very good.
However I read that on the D300s the 70-200VRII shall not deliever the same quality images.
Also the D300s slows down when using it in 14bit mode.
 

m_driscoll

New member
Carsten: Congratulations. I picked up a D3 at the camera store yesterday. It really does feel more substantial then the D700. I sold my D3 last summer and got the D700. Just felt more comfortable, sizewise, in the city. Looking forward to your posts. Cheers, Matt.

http://mdriscoll.zenfolio.com
 

ptomsu

Workshop Member
Carsten, congrats and I bet you will have fun with that camera.

Peter-go for the d700 not the d300s.
I just have explored the 70-200VRII as my favorite lens for the d700, nearly as good as the 200/2.0VR and even with TS very good.
However I read that on the D300s the 70-200VRII shall not deliever the same quality images.
Also the D300s slows down when using it in 14bit mode.
Does the D700 have 14bit mode? Sorry for my ignorance....
 

carstenw

New member
Thanks, Matt, unfortunately with a full-time job and a little daughter, it is hard to find the time. Today I will do a test HDR-panorama, spherical, and HDR for the sake of using as environment lighting in computer graphics, i.e. the usual final phase for photographers of tone-mapping the HDR back into an LDR image will not be done. I will probably also try to make a QuickTime VR image from it, but I am not sure if my software will do that. If not, I might see if I can find a web-plugin which takes a 360/180 image and displays it like that. Fun fun fun.
 

ptomsu

Workshop Member
Thanks WRT D300s vs D700!

Then I will go for the D700. I am a FF fan anyway, so the D700 will give me what I currently need from a DSLR. And I do not need to buy any DX lenses .....
 
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Paratom

Well-known member
Thanks WRT D300s vs D700!

Then I will go for the D700. I am a FF fan anyway, so the D700 will give me what I currently need from a DSLR. And I do not need to buy any DX lenses .....
Dont forget to order the 70-200VRII right away with the body ;)
 

GrahamWelland

Subscriber & Workshop Member
The 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200VRII are all on my list too, but my spare cash will get me a Twix bar :)
You forgot the other essential lens for the quartet - the 105 VR micro. :thumbs: I've taken that combo (plus 200-400VR) on many many road trips. These are the lenses that I always end up returning to.

For the trifecta (or super foursome), there's even the ideal bag from ThinkTank Photo - THINK TANK SHAPE SHIFTER
 

Paratom

Well-known member
The 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200VRII are all on my list too, but my spare cash will get me a Twix bar :)
Now that I am so happy with the 70-200 I plan to carry the 14-24 and 24-70 less often.
The 14-24 is a great lens but big and heay.
Right now I plan to carry 24-50- 70-210 or sometimes maybe even just 24 and 70-210 to make the images more interesting (since it would force me to go more for the "extremes" than staying in the midlle.
The other thing is that for the wides AF is not so important, so one can also allways bring a M8/M9 wide one wideangle lens.
 

ptomsu

Workshop Member
I know the 14-24 is an exceptional lens, but it is big!

So I am actually looking for the 16-35, which is much smaller and almost same wide angle as 14.

But I second the thought about moving out with just 2 lenses, either the 16-35 and the 70-200 or the 24 instead of the 16-35. Makes one more think about how to take a picture.
 
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