About 2 weeks ago, I bought a Nikon D3x body. Since photo.net does not yet have a review of the D3x, I thought I would post my experiences so far with this camera. 2 weeks is enough to form a personal opinion, but it isn't nearly enough to conduct a real review, so please do not take this as a review but just as the experiences of one amateur user. My thanks to Shun Cheung for his encouragement and his feedback on a draft of this posting. Background In 2006, I bought a D2x body, which I still have. To this day, I'm amazed by its image quality. As I started printing images, I realized I could easily print up to 12 in by 18 in (30.5 cm by 45.7 cm). Beyond that, I needed to be very careful with resizing, and beyond about 16 in by 24 in (40.6 cm by 61 cm) the prints did not hold up to my standards. I knew I needed more resolving power. I saw and handled medium format systems; while they have more than enough resolution, they are very expensive at many tens of thousands of US dollars for a complete system, and their ergonomics are not up to the standards set by major-brand DSLRs. However, I decided to begin saving for a medium format system. 2008 saw the introduction of higher-resolution DSLRs - the Canon 1DsIII and 5DII, and finally, what I as a Nikon user had been waiting for, the Nikon D3x. My initial reaction was sticker shock, since I had expected something in the US$6,000-7,000 range. When I recovered slightly, I realized that since I had saved for a medium format system, US$8,000 was not impossible. In fact, it was less than I had planned to spend, and if the camera delivered what I needed without having to buy new lenses and learn a new user interface, then it was worth it. After reading reviews by Lloyd Chambers and Thom Hogan, I decided the D3x's image quality would allow me to go well beyond the D2x into low end medium format territory, and would challenge me to grow into it as well. As an amateur, I find that part of the satisfaction of this hobby is the learning and growth process of improving my technique to meet higher and higher bars. Why not a Canon 1DsIII or 5DII? They're excellent cameras, but I've used Nikons for decades and I know them inside out. If I was going to switch brands anyway, the right solution for me would likely have been medium format. Why not wait for a D700x/D800? Unlike many, I actually prefer the large form factor of Nikon pro bodies. Don't ask me why: after all, they are heavier and bulkier. I just do. The bottom line is that the D3x was the right system for me because: very high image quality was what I was after; I was not very price-sensitive in my upgrade decision; and, I was willing to compromise some image quality for the ergonomics and familiarity of a Nikon. Again, these are my criteria, and many others will have very different criteria and weightings. The Camera The first thing to realize about a D3x is that it is exactly the same as a D3, except for the sensor, some performance numbers related to the higher resolution, and of course the price. So there's no point in me talking about the autofocus, ergonomics, or whatever - Shun Cheung's review of the D3 covers all of this in detail. I'll just remark in passing that if you're coming from a D2x, everything is pretty much where you expect and the transition is seamless. The major adjustments to the D3 review that I'm aware of are: the frame rate is 5 frames per second if you shoot 12-bit NEFs, and less than 2 frames per second if you shoot 14-bit NEFs as I do; and, the calibrated ISO range is 100-1600. In my case, since I shoot mostly landscapes, the frame rate is not a problem. As for ISO, I began shooting landscapes in the days of Kodachrome 25. Velvia 50 was a major improvement, and an ISO 100-400 landscape system seems like a miracle (I'm kidding, of course, but only a little). Resolution and Image Quality I agree with Thom Hogan's statement that the D3x has a base-ISO quality reminiscent of the D2x. What I see is a beautiful and subtle rendition that jumps off my screen. Color seems excellent regardless of which raw converter is used. The detail from the pixel count and resolving power gives a textured richness to images, giving my eyes something to linger on as I look them over. Consider it high praise when I say I took several images that captivated me with their detail and tonal rendition until I realized they were poor compositions. The dynamic range is broad, and I see clean details in areas that would be blocked up in D2x images. On the other side of the equation, small flaws such as unintended subject motion or poor focusing are obvious. No longer do they fade into the fog of lesser resolving power. This is where I need to personally improve to meet this new bar. Unlike most medium format digital backs, the D3x uses a fixed (not removable) antialiasing filter over the sensor. I've read on internet forums that the filter used is somehow optimized for the sensor. Perhaps, but I would have liked to have the option to remove this filter in order to squeeze every last bit of detail out of the sensor. As things stand now, you still have to resort to whacking your raw images with some input sharpening to counteract the effect of the filter. Live View Although the Live View feature is identical to the D3's, I'll give my thoughts here since the feature was not covered much in the D3 review. I find that Live View adds as much value to my digital photography as digital added to my photography, for three main reasons. First, I love the ability to magnify an area of interest and then focus manually. My eyes are both myopic (nearsighted) and presbyopic (if the myopia is corrected, then I cannot see close without progressive lenses), so focusing through the viewfinder of the D2x is torture. With Live View, I can take off my glasses completely and focus on the zoomed in LCD panel. It's a joy to return to the easy manual focusing I did when I was younger. Second, I can judge depth of field. Live View automatically stops down the lens as you adjust aperture on the command dial, which in turn changes the depth of field on the screen. No more squinting through the viewfinder at f/9 with the depth of field preview button held down. Third, I find that psychologically I can judge composition better when I see the image as a 2D picture than as a scene in a viewfinder. I make fewer compositional errors (visual balance, etc.) than I do when I frame with the viewfinder. A fourth minor reason is that my entire life, I've had a very hard time physically with closing one eye and keeping the other open. The good news is that you will never see me winking at you. Now that I have Live View, I compose by roughly setting up the scene in the viewfinder and checking the leveling using the viewfinder horizon. I then switch to Live View to fine tune the composition. Finally, I shoot the image. In bright light, I use a Black Jacket focusing cloth to complete the nerdy view camera look. Live View can show you a virtual horizon indicator. Although it supposedly can show you a live histogram, I find the feature doesn't work. It seems not to respond to the exposure compensation adjustment. I have no idea if this is something that can be fixed in a firmware update. I also don't know if the D3 has the same problem. Here is an image, taken by my wife with her Canon PowerShot 600, of the D3x in Live View mode. So what's not to like about Live View? The single greatest issue is that I can't shoot images out of Live View. Unlike Canon's implementation of the feature, Nikons do not keep the mirror up and simply open the shutter to expose. Instead, they drop the mirror, immediately raise it again, and only then open the shutter. This causes a lot of vibration even in the well damped D3/D3x system. Therefore, after composing with Live View, I switch to mirror lockup (MLU) mode and expose the image as I do on the D2x. If needed, I then fine tune the exposure to expose to the right. ISO noise performance I hardly ever shoot at any ISO over 100. Fewer than 5% of my D2x images are taken at ISOs above 100, and none above 500 (the ISO 500 images were shot handheld without VR in the darkish interior of the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum at Washington DC's Dulles Airport). However, there is interest in how the high ISO performance of the D3x compares to other current DSLRs. My take: it is better than the D2x, but that isn't saying a whole lot. Reviews have pointed out that it does not perform as cleanly as the D3 and D700. I don't own those cameras, but I have no doubt their high ISO performance exceeds that of the D3x. Below, I will post some shots that show at 100% magnification, a small portion of the same landscape shot taken at ISOs ranging from 100 to 1600. In keeping with my emphasis on actual user experience, this is a real scene, so the scene very likely changed slightly from one shot to the next (although to my eye, the lighting stayed the same as I made the shots). I have not tried to play with camera and raw processor settings to analyze the noise. Instead, I set the camera to my normal D2x-legacy settings (in-camera ISO noise reduction OFF, long exposure noise reduction ON) and then applied default Lightroom 2.3 RC settings for noise reduction, along with Landscape input sharpening. Those settings represent how I would handle my camera and raw files, at least as a starting point. I believe that is a realistic appraisal of how the camera would respond to my use. For this posting, I did not process the images in any way (curves, contrast, etc.). Normally, I would make various global and local adjustments. I then exported cropped images as high-quality (quality setting 100 on Lightroom's export dialog) JPEGs, with no export processing or output sharpening. In my opinion, the noise characteristics are acceptable up to 400, which is probably way beyond my needs. There seems to be a sudden increase in qualitative noise at ISO 800. Each person will have different needs and criteria for judging results. Full image at ISO 100. The crops are taken out of the dark area on the middle ridge just to the left of center. ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600 Lens corner performance So far, I've only shot images with my Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 G lens. My existing ultra-wide is the Nikkor DX 12-24, which is unsuitable for this FX body. I'm still evaluating wider angle lenses or possibly a PC-E lens. A Nikkor 300 f/4 is on the list. My 70-200 f/2.8 G VR has well-known issues with corner performance; if Nikon doesn't release a replacement, I will consider the Nikkor 180. Here is a 100% zoom of the detail of the grass stalks just below the center of the image. Here is a 100% zoom of the detail of the grass stalks at the bottom right corner of the image. Aperture was f/9 at a focal length of 52mm. My conclusion is that there may be some loss of sharpness in the extreme corner, but not enough to worry me. File size and card usage I shoot 14-bit lossless compressed NEFs with no attached JPEGs. Each NEF is in the 30MB range. My D2x-legacy 2GB CF cards have a capacity of about 40 images, although the camera says 38 when a card is freshly formatted. This reminds me of the days when I carried 36-exposure slide film. Note to self: buy some larger cards. Card speed is not vital to me given how long it takes me to set up a shot, but it seems to take roughly 5 seconds to write an image to my 2GB SanDisk Extreme III. Conclusion The D3x is certainly the best camera I have ever owned. It will challenge my technique and force me to learn and improve for years to come. I look forward to learning and to taking more images that I can be proud of. Is it worth the money? Yes, to me. My pros: Image quality; build quality; ergonomics; Live View; familiar Nikon layout; price is less than a medium format system. My cons: Live View shooting isn't well implemented (should allow vibration free shooting as Canon does); fixed antialiasing filter. A con of the entire Nikon FX lineup at the moment is the lack of a good 70-200 landscape lens. But that's another rant for another time.