D3 – unearthed

Box as arrived from B&H Photo

There it was, lying, waiting for me.  It took all my power to hold myself back long enough to take pictures at all, so please excuse the flowery mattress (I’m storing it for a friend). 

I ordered from the photographic wonderland known as B&H Photo. Arrived 3 days after ordering.  I’ve been waiting since October to be able to call one of these mine… backorders on the most heavily in-demand photographic product in memory are rough.  I was certainly excited to tear into it.  Should a simple body upgrade make the this giddy?

Nikon D3 box

Opening the B&H box brought out a strange golden glow…it was if the angels had come down, oh wait, the box is a bit golden and my lamp was reflecting.  Oh, okay.

The D3 box is standard Nikon fare.  There is a large subtle embossed D3 and it’s also printed in black, a bit smaller.  A beautiful box if I do say so – but then again, I always think simple is powerful; Nikon’s body boxes are very simple. I was happy to see that B&H gave me some good air cushioning, but I must admit I was strangely confused – the box seemed oddly heavy considering all that was in there was airbags and a camera.

Nikon D3 box open

I pulled the box out and started digging through.  Standard warranty paperwork, a strap, quick-start guides and for some strange reason an ‘easy share’ CD was inside on the ‘first level’.

Various items in the D3 box 

This is everything from that level.  It certainly helped explain why the box was as heavy as it was.  There were two separate 472 page manuals (Spanish and English).  You can take a look at the manual here (but if you want to print, you have to have a D3 serial number).  I was happy to see that I had made it in during the promotional period and got a free full version of Capture NX – even though it’s slow, nothing produces better quality images shooting RAW and processing with NX.

Charger, cables, etc.

Continuing further into the box, you find the dual charger, battery (only one), and the various other cords and goodies.  The full list of things that are included can be found on page ‘i’ of the manual.  The charger seems big and powerful. The ability to put in two batteries and go to sleep knowing you’ll wake up to them both fully charged is great.  With battery life in the realm of 2-4,000 pictures per charge, we should be pretty set after getting some backups.   The battery is beefy and feels really solidly built.  I’d compare it to a deck of cards in weight.

Nikon D3

Then, down deep at the bottom was the treasure: the D3 itself.  As any self-respecting D3 owner would do, I immediately threw on a 1.4 lens, cranked the ISO to 25,600 and ran to the darkest room in my house at the time and took pictures.  It was fantastic.

But in all seriousness, everyone knows all the great points about the D3. A full-sized sensor the likes of which the world has never seen, dual CF slots for immediate backup, Nikon’s latest auto-focus module, the robust build, the amazingly clean files at high sensitivities, the blazing fast performance, the large buffer… I’d like to point out a few things that struck me as I played with it sans memory card. (the camera goes into ‘Demo’ mode without a memory card, allowing you to take and save pictures in the buffer… kinda slick, actually)

This thing is heavy. Like really heavy. It feels like it is hewn from a single piece of metal. (which, when you look under the skin, it kind of was) Put on a decent lens and a flash and you’re walking around with 6-8 pounds on your wrist, easy.  The mass might help get some low-light shots, but I really suspect I’m going to be sore after my first full day with this beast. I’ve started carrying it with me everywhere to get me used to it. Luckily I’m super powerful and strong. :0)

The screen is fantastic, more-so than I was expecting.  Auto Focus is ridiculously snappy, both with AF-S and screw-type lenses. These items blew away my already sky-high expectations. 

Everything else was pretty much as expected.  More buttons and knobs than you can shake a stick at, and loud enough that I’ll likely build a sound-deadening camera muzzle to make it dead silent for ceremony shots.

One minor point that I was slightly disappointed with was the shutter release button.  The ‘half-press’ is not very tactile, and the camera is so snappy that I many times found myself firing off 3-4 pictures when all I wanted to do was auto-focus.  I have since found a really novel way to work my focus – removing it from the shutter release button completely and moving it to the AF-ON button instead.  Taking a picture now takes 2 fingers (okay, finger and thumb… geez!), but I have AF-C and AF-S (focus and recompose) at my instant disposal.  This is going to work out fantastically for the dynamic, random action that happens in weddings.

This baby is gunna rock. Photos soon…


Author: Joe

Wedding Photographer based out of Minneapolis - St. Paul Minnesota specializing in candid work but also offering cool, artisic portrait imagery.

1 thought on “D3 – unearthed”

  1. I think the weight just makes it feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. I know I prefer a heavier camera.

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