D3 vs D800

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by eric_m|4, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. Although a little old the D3 still takes great photos. The D800 is the "latest and greatest" from Nikon but what is the advantage of D800 over the D3, other than larger file size? ( I'm not interested in video feature).
     
  2. Those are two very different cameras. What do you like to shoot? With that, I think people here can help better.
     
  3. pge

    pge

    The D3 can take great photos, but its up to you to choose if you want a camera that large.
     
  4. The D800 has significantly better dynamic range at low ISOs. The performance at high ISOs is around a stop better (not so much with the D3s, but my D800 is a clear step ahead of my D700 over a whole image - not per-pixel). The resolution is the obvious advantage, along with the lighter weight (arguably). There's an integrated flash, which can act as a commander for remote flashes. The autofocus is slightly better in terms of electronics, assuming you avoid dodgy alignment. The meter has been updated. There's a sensor-shake dust repeller.

    The D3 is appreciably faster in frame rate and more solid. Some of the controls are in a place that's easier to reach right-handed (ISO, WB, autofocus mode). The meter may be more reliable in its old form. The big batteries can drive some lenses slightly faster. Obviously you get the portrait grip for free. I suspect, from my experience with my F5, that it's built somewhat more solidly, not least because you can't snap off the flash and there aren't electronics on the bottom for a grip attachment.

    If you want 8fps in low light, get a D3 (if you can't afford a D3s or D4). If frame rate and (to a lesser extent) handling matter less to you than image quality and light weight, get the D800. We can elaborate on the trade-offs if we include the other FX cameras (D700, D3s, D4, D600).

    I considered a D3 when I got my D700. I probably made the right choice for me at the time, though if they'd actually been the same price I may have thought otherwise (and got used to a bigger camera). Now, I wouldn't swap my D700 (which now has a battery grip accessory) for a D3. I'd be more tempted by a D3s or a D4. I have a D800 as well, and it gets used far more than my D700. Obviously, I don't seem to be shooting at high frame rates much, so YMMV.
     
  5. I find the biggest advantage aside from improved AF is the incredible high ISO performance. I generally print at 8" x 10", and find my prints at ISO 6400 and even higher look like ISO 200 from the D3. The colors are also much, much better overall, especially at high ISO.
    Because of the higher resolution, you also have the ability to crop more without as much loss in image quality.
    I have both the D3 in the D800, and I rarely use the D3 anymore, even for sports. The much improved image quality of the D800 is far more important to me than for the frame rate (not everyone agrees with this).
     
  6. I currently own a D800 and did own a D3. I endorse Elliot's comments above, particularly as regards image quality and colour rendition, but would add that I preferred the ergonomics or handling of the D3. Many people prefer a smaller camera. For me, however, the D800 is too big to be a 'smaller' camera. I have no complaints about the build quality of the D800, but I loved the D3, particularly the viewfinder. I hope this is not too garbled and contradictory.
     
  7. pge

    pge

    aside from improved AF​
    Elliot, can you tell us how the AF is better?
     
  8. How could anything with only 12MP be any good at all? [IRONY.~]
     
  9. IMHO the main advantage of the D800 is the bigger file size, which allows more cropping afterwards if necessary.
    Hihg ISO performance is on par with the D3, AF is fast enough but suffers from a slower/longer shutter lag, of course slower fps (I regularly shoot sports)
    The smaller size is not relevant to me as I use it 95% of the time with a grip, nor is the pop up flash for me as I either use it with SB800's or a SB400.
    The standard battery is a let down compared with the D3, as is the buffer.
    The video and sensor shaker are not deciding factors for me to decide whether to buy a camera.
    My two cents
     
  10. my prints at ISO 6400 and even higher look like ISO 200 from the D3.​
    exaggerate much?
     
  11. Eric, very high ISO, prints from the D800 at 8: x 10" have incredible detail and color, and look as good or better (after post processing) as low ISO shots from my D3.
    The AF performance of the D800 is exceptional, extremely fast an accurate. I believe it to be better than the D3 (my subjective opinion). AF tracking is also very, very accurate. What is amazing as well is how well the AF functions at f8 when using my 2x TC - it operates pretty much as well as any lens does without the TC on it. IMHO, the AF module in the D800 offers a noticeable improvement over the D3 (which is excellent to begin with).
     
  12. No one has mentioned price yet: KEH (via Amazon marketplace) has the D3 for about $2200. A used, good-quality D800 is $2500 from KEH, and a new one is $2800.
     
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    I think Elliot's photography is out of this world.
     
  14. It is well known that the D800 has a huge advantage over older Nikon bodies for smaller prints simply through down sampling. This alone give the D800 a huge jump in IQ over the D3, especially at high ISO (about 2 stops).
    In addition, I process my images with DXO software, which according to DXO can add up to another two stops of improvement in both sharpness and saturation (as detailed in their website). So the numbers support my claim.
    The bottom line is that I have found my ISO 6400 prints from the D800, when shot in RAW and then processed with DXO, have incredible color and detail, and look similar to low ISO shots from the D3 (8 x10 or smaller print size).
    For anyone interested in finding out how and/or why this is possible, feel free to refer to the DXO site here which clearly details their claims with examples:
    http://www.dxo.com/us/photo/dxo_optics_pro/features/denoising
    Scroll down about half way to the section titled
    "Saturation and sharpness: gain up to 2 stops"
     
  15. I find the main advantage in my D800E over my D3 is in the ability to crop aggresively if needed and still have a very useable image. The dymanic range is far better in the D800 although I haven't found the high ISO to be markedly superior.

    The downside for me of the D800 is the small battery and ergonomics of the body. I much prefer the feel of the D3 and I have small hands. It's more rugged and I find it faster in use and I don't mean FPS.

    I couldn't care less about the video. Don't particular like the pop up flash too, which I feel cheapens the camera and makes it more vunerable to water entry.
     
  16. Elliot: I believe DxO are claiming that their denoising algorithm is two stops better than whatever their "original RAW image" looks like. Presumably the same algorithm applies just as well to the D3, and many people have noise processing that looks better than applying none at all. At low ISO, the D800 (and D600) have appreciably more dynamic range than the D3/D700 sensor - I typically shot my D700 at reasonably high ISOs without fear of losing much, but I try to keep my D800 around ISO 100 knowing that I can recover shadow detail if I do so. At high ISO, the sensors behave far more similarly. The D800's dynamic range is so linear compared with ISO (as is the D7000's) that I might suspect there's a constant amount of amplification to the signal happening, and all ISO could be implemented by software scaling (the way "LO" and "HI" have traditionally been implemented; the D3 clearly has an analogue amplifier that recovers more shadow detail at high ISO than you could get just by scaling an underexposed image.

    My experience has been that the D800 is clearly at least a stop better than my D700 (the same sensor as the D3) even in low light. This is pretty much borne out by most of the analysis I've seen online. The D3s and D4 are also similarly far ahead of the D700/D3 sensor. I'd believe "between one and two stops" (the D800 sensor is, per area, comparable to and maybe slightly better than the D7000, and the D7000 is considered to be slightly behind the D700 in low light but only has 1/2.25 of the light falling on it). ISO 3200 vs ISO 200 (four stops)? Not so much. I believe my D800 might be four stops better than my 2004-vintage, crop-sensor, Eos 300D, but even that's tight.

    The D800's autofocus (if aligned correctly) should be gaining performance from the higher-density matrix meter, as well as the f/8 capability. I've heard others report it's improved; I've not done a comparison myself. The D3 has more power going to the lenses (or camera motor) so it'll physically move some lenses faster. Which is better probably depends what you're doing. You're more likely to notice a focus miss on the D800, of course.

    Summary: Unless you need the frame rate or are wedded to the handling, I'd say the D800 is the better camera in many ways (more in some than others - I consider the 5D3 to be a better general-purpose camera than the D800, but the D800 to be the better specialist). It may not be a top-of-the-line model, but it's not built to a low budget either, and it's had several years of improvement built in. A D3s or a D4 is different question, however.
     
  17. "At high ISO, the sensors behave far more similarly." This is true and because of downsampling, the 'net' result is a far superior image with the D800 over the D3.
     
  18. Elliot - I'd not put it like that. The D800 and D3s sensors "behave similarly" in my book, at high ISO - after downsampling, the noise over the same area is similar. Downsampling doesn't make an appreciable difference to noise over an area, it simply means that you don't lose out because the per-pixel noise on the D800 is much worse than the per-pixel noise on the D3s - this is partly because, thanks to microlenses, they're receiving roughly the same amount of light per area. The D3/D700 sensor is appreciably less efficient than the D800's, but not because of anything to do with downsampling, just because it's less efficient. On a pixel-by-pixel basis, the D800 and D3/D700 sensors are pretty comparable, and the D800 may be slightly worse.

    I'm only making the distinction because I was really trying to make the point that the D800 sensor has more dynamic range than the D3/D700 (and D3s) only at low ISOs. The "more similar" I meant was that, at higher ISOs, the dynamic range advantage of the D800 is negated compared even with the D3s. It's also true that the D800 is, overall, better at handling noise than the D3, but that's another matter. :)
     
  19. Well Eric, I am not going to add to the mine is longer than yours discussion, but I believe that the D800 is technically more advanced than the D3, but the D3 is far more rugged and can take al lot more abuse than the D800. That might be a decisive factor for you, depending on the circumstances you intend to use the camera.
     
  20. I had D3's for 4.5 years, then switched to the D800(E). Hated to see the heavy-duty, well-designed D3 body go, but I don't absolutely NEED 9FPS.
    All the comments about the imager in the D800 being "better' than the D3 I agree with. That was the main reason for changing...that, and I wanted a few more pixels.
    I waited 'till the D600 came out since 24 MP would have been fine, but once I examined the D600 body, I made the decision to go D800.
    However, also as others have observed, optically(viewfinder), mechanically and ergonomically, the D800 is a poor cousin to the D3. I like the smaller size/lighter weight of the D800, but all the controls crammed onto the smaller body are problematic for me. That, and I can't see ISO, shots taken and shots remaining all at the same time.
    If I can afford the rumored/assumed-to-be-coming D4x when it comes, I'll easily dump the D800's with no sentimental attachment whatsoever.
     
  21. I had D3's for 4.5 years, then switched to the D800(E). Hated top see the heavy-duty, well-designed D3 body go, but I don't absolutely NEED 9FPS.
    All the comments about the imager in the D800 being "better' than the D3 I agree with. That was the main reason for changing...that, and I wanted a few more pixels. I waited 'till the D600 came out since 24 MP would have been fine, but once I examined the D600 body, I made the decision to go D800.
    However, also as others have observed, optically(viewfinder), mechanically and ergonomically, the D800 is a poor cousin to the D3. I like the smaller size/lighter weight of the D800, but all the controls crammed onto the smaller body are problematic for me. That, and I can't see ISO, shots taken and shots remaining all at the same time. If I can afford the rumored/assumed-to-be-coming D4x when it comes, I'll easily dump the D800's with no sentimental attachment whatsoever.
     

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