The Nikon D3x isn’t the latest professional Nikon camera. That’s the Nikon D4 at the moment. Nevertheless, we tested the Nikon D3X, as a rehearsal for a Nikon D4 review or a Nikon D4X review. Anyone seriously considering a Nikon D3x? Please refer to our table with extensive Nikon D3X reviews including Ken Rockwell, Thom Hogan and DPReview.
Physically, the differences between professional cameras and high-end amateur cameras are obvious. Professional cameras are usually bigger, heavier and better sealed against dust and moisture. But often it is the same processor or sensor which is used in professional cameras and high-end amateur cameras. We were curious whether professional cameras perform better in terms of image quality than today’s high-end amateur cameras?
Design Nikon D3X
Characteristic for professional cameras, is the relatively high body with both a horizontal and a vertical shutter release button. Professional photographers appreciate a larger camera. For an amateur photographer holding a professional camera for the first time, a camera like this might be a bit big and heavy. The camera has room for 2 CF cards. The sensor in the Nikon D3X has 24.5 million effective pixels.Measurements for this review have been carried out with Imatest.
Nikon D3X versus Nikon D3
The Nikon D3X and Nikon D3 are similar. The main differences between these two cameras are:
- The Nikon D3X has a 25 megapixel sensor, the Nikon D3 has a sensor with only 12 megapixels
- The Nikon D3 processes 9 jpg / second, the Nikon D3X only 5
Nikon D3X versus Canon 1 Ds Mk3
The Nikon D3X offers in 1-touch, a 100% view on the LCD screen of the image area which is in focus. In the Canon 1DS MK3 you will have to do a lot more to obtain this.
- The shutter of professional cameras often makes more noise than the shutter of amateur cameras. The Canon has a silent shutter mode, which makes this difference smaller. The Nikon D3X has no silent shutter (mode).
- The Nikon D3X has no automatic sensor cleaning
- The Nikon D3X offers a maximum speed of 7 frames per second, while the Canon has a maximum speed of 4 fps
Viewfinder, screen and menu
Professional cameras offer you a larger, brighter viewfinder than amateur cameras. The viewfinder accuracy of the Nikon D3X is 100%, the viewfinder magnification is 0.7 and the total viewfinder magnification is 0.7. Which is 10% less than the viewfinder of the Canon 1 Ds MK3.
The LCD screen is not rotatable or tilt-able.
The Nikon D3X delivers, with a good lens like the Sigma 50 mm macro, a jpg file with an average resolution of 2000 LW/PH. This is comparable to the resolution of the Canon 5D MK3. The resolution of the Nikon D800E jpg files is about 50% higher.
With a standard processing of RAW files in Lightroom, a greater sharpness impression is obtained, which translates into an average resolution of 2200 lines per picture height. But most professional photographers will likely use Capture NX, which will do the sharpness of NEF files more justice.
The difference in acuity between ISO 100 jpg files from a camera with a 20, 25 or 36 megapixel sensor is not always clearly visible to the naked eye. Here you can see a 100% crop of images made with the Nikon D3X, Nikon D800E and the Canon 5D MK3. The Nikon D800E offers little more detail than the other two cameras.
The total dynamic range of the Nikon D3X is good, especially at higher ISO values: the total dynamic range of the Nikon D3X is OK; over the 100-6400 ISO range it’s an average of 8,5 stops for a RAW file and 9 stops for a jpg file. That’s almost equal to our test results for the dynamic range of the Canon 5D Mk2.
Here you see an image shot at night using the Nikon D3X. The usable dynamic range is large enough that it will enable you to lighten up the dark areas, without introducing heavy noise. Move your mouse over the image.
Especially the usable dynamic range at 50 ISO is impressive. At 50 ISO, the Nikon D3X files show so little noise that the usable dynamic range almost is the same as the total dynamic range. The usable dynamic range ranges from 8 stops at 50 ISO to 1,5 stops at 6400 ISO.
The Imatest results for the Nikon D3X are shown in the Nikon D3X test report. Many cameras have high ISO settings with such a high noise, it renders useless images. The Nikon D3X might seem to have a limited ISO range (50-6400 ISO), but the 6400 ISO images are still very good. Here you see a 100% crop of a 6400 ISO jpg file.
The Nikon D3X delivers daylight RAW files with a very good color accuracy (Delta E 94 = 4.8 to 3.8 for RAW files and jpg files, respectively).
Tungsten light will give you a modest orange color cast when you only apply auto white balance. For those who shoot in NEF (and probably most Nikon D3X owners will), can improve the white balance in artificial light significantly afterwards, using photo-editing software like Lightroom or Photoshop.
The Nikon D3X, like most other professional camera, has no built-in flash.
The autofocus of the Nikon D3X is accurate and fast. The 51 AF fields cover a relatively large area, as shown here.
The continuous AF of the Nikon D3x does its job very well. A series of photographs of a car with a speed of about 80 km / h approaching the camera, yields sharp images only. For a sports photographer, the maximum number of frames per second that this camera handles, possibly is on the low side compared with the latest models currently on the market.
- Very well built
- High dynamic range
- High resolution
- Very good color accuracy and white balance
- Large and heavy
Of course this review is too short to provide a justified opinion on this professional camera. We refer therefore to the extensive reviews in the list above. But we enjoyed comparing the performance of the Nikon D3X with high end amateur cameras that we have previously reviewed, like the Nikon D800E. Since the introduction of the Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E, an SLR camera with 25 megapixels is nothing special anymore. Yet it’s not only the very high quality construction of the Nikon D3x which distinguishes this camera from cameras we’ve tested previously. The signal to noise ratio at high ISO settings, dynamic range and color reproduction of the Nikon D3X are all still of high quality. Especially the usable dynamic range at 50 ISO is impressive. At 50 ISO, the Nikon D3X files show so little noise that the usable dynamic range almost is the same as the total dynamic range
Probably several Nikon D3X photographers wish to switch to a Nikon D800E or a Nikon D4. This might be your opportunity to find a relative inexpensive Nikon D3X. We wonder if the future Nikon D4X or the Nikon D4 will prove to be so much better than a second hand Nikon D3x. We can hardly imagine, if you take the price/value into consideration.