A new-to me "Vintage" Nikon digital

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Fiddlefye, May 18, 2020.

  1. A friend who owns a used camera shop was recently asked to assess the estate of a locally well-known and rather well-heeled amateur photographer. Included in the estate were some more recent cameras - a Nikon D850 and a D810 - and quite a bit of gorgeous glass. I picked up a couple of things, a Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 and a lovely D3. The previous owner was a seriously prolific shooter so we figured the camera would have a very high shutter count but it seems he had jumped onto the high MP bandwagon early on with a D800 when they first came. The D3 is just barely broken in and looks, feels and operates like a new camera.

    I've been shooting with a D750 for the past few years so why bother with an old D3 - 24MP vs. 12MP and all that?

    The initial reason was to have a back-up body for when my 750 requires service. I do some professional "gig" work and really can't be without a functional body for any length of time. The other reason became clear when I started shooting with the D3 - I love it! Differences in resolution are almost unnoticeable and the images from the D3 have fantastic "pop". What a lovely camera to work with! Whether using my auto-focus lenses or (more often) manual focus primes it is quick and accurate. The viewfinder is the best I've ever encountered and the metering has been perfect through several hundred images so far. Did I mention - $300CAN ($215US as of today) - cash, no tax?

    I'm in love...

    [​IMG]DSC_8723 by fiddlefye, on Flickr
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
  2. I acquired a D3 a few months ago. It's in pretty good condition, having apparently been used for studio work, the downside being a high shutter count. No real problem as I won't be using it at all intensively. It came with the older type of 24-120 lens which I sold to offset the cost, which wasn't that high anyway. Now it's armed with an even older 28-85 zoom which seems to match it nicely and balances well. I keep it set on 800 ISO. And yes, 12MP is more than enough for anything I do, and the image quality is excellent. I've also got a D700 (don't ask) which is pretty much the same camera in a smaller box. The D3 exposures are always bang on, the D700 overexposes by a stop or more.

    Having been into classic film cameras for many years, I've now started to accumulate classic digitals (if there are such things).
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  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    When we say "vintage digital," I was thinking about some of those Kodak modified Nikon film SLRs from the 1990's or maybe the D1 or D2, but the D3 is almost 13 years old and is a dated model by now, in digital standards.

    Actually I still have my D700, which is a baby D3. To me, the annoying part is that these cameras use CF cards and the Nikon batteries are no longer current. I am sure CF cards are still quite popular, but I no longer use them. I am sure I can still get good results from the like of the D700 and D3.
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  4. I was discussing the exposure differences between my D750 and the D3 with my camera tech (via whom I got the D3) and we came to the conclusion that the exposure game plan for single digit D series is different than for the three digital ones. According to my work so far the D3 underexposes by exactly 1/2 stop across the board (in RAW), incredibly consistently. The D750 is much more variable and attempts a more "straight out of the camera" result. The D3 gives an exposure where the highlights are virtually never blown out, but it takes that half-stop adjustment PP. In the end a perfectly exposed result is worth quite a MP in the end photo quality.

    I wouldn't worry about a high shutter count. I was quite prepared to buy the example I have when I believed it had several hundred thousand on it. They're supposed to be good for 400k and many examples are still working perfectly at over a million. If yours has been in the studio and not out on the news beat it stands an even better chance.

    I've enlarged this image on my screen to the point that it would make a truly vast print and it still looks wonderful. The 55 f2.8 micro Nikkor I shot the image with probably doesn't hurt any, either.

    [​IMG]_ND38258 by fiddlefye, on Flickr
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  5. Batteries for the D3 are still easy to get, fortunately and not necessarily expensive. CF cards are a bit of a nuisance, but also still easily available.

    There was a gorgeous D1x in the estate as well with perfect box and the whole lot, but I can't say as I was all that tempted. I gather that batteries for that one are hard to get and were crap in the first place. I can think of prettier cameras to put on a shelf...
  6. The camera read the subtlety of the light perfectly for my taste.
    [​IMG]_ND38238 by fiddlefye, on Flickr
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  7. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    There is always something special about using a camera that was once top of the line, even if it was "back then".
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  8. D300 still inspires.
  9. If anyone's not heard the rant before, the thing that put me off keeping a previous generation body alive was the swap of the +/- buttons in image review - as someone who chimps my photos a lot, having "smaller" above "bigger" on the D700 (and D300) and the other way around on the D8x0 bodies drove me nuts, because I'd always go the wrong way. It's one of the few things you can't configure. The D3's "hold and zoom with the dials" approach always seemed more sensible to me, if only because it doesn't waste a button (albeit one I can't reach anyway...) and probably wouldn't annoy me in the same way; the D4 and D5 followed the D800 design, for some reason. Oddly, not a disconnect I've had with my F5. :)

    I've only briefly handled a single-digit Nikon body. I do like them, although I'd probably grumble about the lack of flash (a little less seriously than with my D850). While I'm glad to have the full 45MP sometimes, 12MP certainly captures the scene well enough for a lot of uses, unless you have a very big print in mind or you're doing a lot of digital zooming (in which case you can always use more). Having got used to the grip on my D850, there's something to be said for higher frame rates (without burning through £5/second like you can with the F5) - but I like having a lighter option for general use, even if I spoil it by having an L-plate on it the whole time.

    Plus the big bodies are always handy if you need a weapon or want to hammer in a nail.
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  10. Wow! I wish I have your good luck.
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  11. I had rather sadly to turn down the D850 that was in the estate as it simply wouldn't fit the current "covid-budget" as the performing side of my career is on hold for lord-knows-how-long. My closest friend ended up buying it. He currently shoots with a D500 and wanted to try full-frame - with the caveat that if he isn't completely taken with the 850 (yeah right!) we'll work out a deal. His lack of full frame lenses might be telling. We shall see!

    My first DSLR was a D200 so I was happy enough to see the "hold and zoom" approach again. At least it was instinctive and familiar.

    In terms of film Nikons I've not gone further than the F4 which I love very much in spite of its size. I also shoot with a F2S and FE.

    If I want to carry something smaller than the D3 I still have the D750. It hasn't been displaced, just augmented and still has the clear advantage in the high ISO range.

    Now if someone could figure out how to mount a D850 sensor and electronics in the D3 I'd be set for life....
  12. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I would imagine plenty of people still use CF memory cards, those with the D800 and D810, and maybe a few D4, D4S and D5 owners (keep in mind that the D5 has a CF-only option).

    Actually I still have a few EN-EL4 batteries from my D2x days, but they are like 15 years old. At least the D2 and D3 use EN-EL4 that is Li-ion. The D1 family use some really ancient NiMH batteries. I don't think it is worth the trouble.

    It sure sounds like this estate is from someone who lived his/her life to the fullest with some top-of-the-line Nikon bodies at various times, including a D850.
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  13. This past twelve months I've had the most absurdly good fortune in finding great cameras for peanuts - a couple of Canon rangefinders (Canon 7 and IVs) with an assortment of lenses, a Canon F-1n with three lenses, a Pentax LX with four lenses and then the D3. I'll be perfectly happy for my run to end to be quite honest.
  14. Before the chap got into digital he had a film camera set-up to die for as well - Leicas and Nikons galore. It was too bad he'd sold off all of the film gear and manual focus lenses long ago. He was a pretty good photographer and certainly well-heeled (he owned a car dealership).

    There were a number of good-sized CF cards in the estate and they'll be coming to me eventually as part of the deal. The daughter wants to go through them and make sure there aren't any images that need to be saved before she parts with them. I'm getting by for the moment with an old 4GB card that I used in my first digital camera, a Canon G3 Powershot. 4MP that is... whoohoo! Actually it produced excellent images as long as you didn't want to make seriously big prints from them. Having a small card make it sort of like shooting film in an odd way.
  15. I still use a D3s for certain applications. Even if it's "dated" I still consider it a very capable camera and don't hesitate to use it if the occasion calls for it.

    I've found EN-EL15es to hold up really well, and even my relatively ancient Nikons still work well. There are also good aftermarket ones out there.

    BTW, I have several examples of the D1 series(D1, D1H, D1X). They're interesting relics, but the batteries honestly are a nightmare. I have a big pile of them, some of which are completely useless, some of which might run the camera long enough to take a few photos, and some of which have some semblance of life left in them. In general, though, these cameras are really relics and if you do want to use them, you're probably best using the wall adapter. I treat my Kodaks the same way, even though the newest of them(the DCS 14/n) uses Li-Ions and I found some NOS ones shortly after I bought the camera.
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  16. I switch between a Panasonic GF1 & GX1. Having a slightly different interface is a lot worse than a totally different interface.
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    When I bought my D7000 in October 2010, I bought two additional EN-EL15 batteries. The D7000 was the first Nikon body that uses the EN-EL15. Most of my early EN-EL15 batteries were exchanged for the newer EN-EL15 Li-ion 20 type in 2016 when Nikon offered that exchange to new D500 owners, but I have one left. I recently checked that old EN-EL15 battery, and it is showing end of life: battery age 4 and can barely hold any charge now.
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  18. To me the earliest digital Nikons are interesting strictly from a historical perspective, not as "users" (unlike old film cameras). I still might pick up the D-1x simply because I'm a Nikon fan, it is glorious condition with the box and goodies. It would perhaps be fun to take a few images with it, but not perhaps ultimately important. In the end I suspect I'll let someone else have the pleasure...

    The thing about the D3 isn't just that it still makes excellent images. I just love shooting with it. The D750 does good work, but the D3 is a much greater joy to shoot with.
  19. Whoops, I mixed up my battery numbers above. You're right(of course) that the EN-EL15 and variants are still reasonably current at least in the sense that several recent Nikons(D850, Z6, Z7) have used batteries in that form factor.

    The D2 and D3 family use the EN-EL4a...
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  20. Funny, I just picked up a D7000 for my wife to supplement her D3200. She uses a camera at her shop constantly for product photography and tends to leave it there. Then we'd want to go out shooting and she'd have nothing to use.

    The D3 came with two batteries. The original was toast, the later off-brand replacement looked dead, bit once jump-started took a full charge and seems in fine state. Neither had been used for a very long time. I'll buy another shortly.

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