Nikon D3

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Rick Helmke, Apr 17, 2017.

  1. Evening all,

    Among other things I've been pondering purchasing a full frame dslr. Based largely on price I have decided to start with the Nikon D3 series. KEH has three different versions available and since it is the lowest cost I may get the D3. What is the practical difference between the D3, D3X and D3S. I realize the MP counts are different and the D3 has no video capability and have no problem with that. Some difference in shutter speeds, buffer size apparently, ISO capabilities and other things but what am I going to notice or miss or just wish I had? I don't need ISO higher that maybe 3200 and very rarely higher than 1600. I won't be covering sports with it or news, maybe an occasional wedding though what I already have is fine for that.AF ability is no big deal as most of my glass is manual focus. Mostly I just want to get a full frame digital body without spending a frigging fortune for now at least. I find that the top of the line series has always been my preference all the way back to the F2 and I expect the D3 will suit me better than the D300. Are there any real practical differences, things that will make me wish I had spent more for the higher level? I know it's ancient by todays standards but I can live with that.

    Rick H.
  2. The D3 was Nikon's first full-frame (FX) DSLR; released in August 2007 (together with the APS-C (DX) D300; the price was $5K. In December 2008, the $8K 24MP D3X was announced; its larger memory buffer had been made available to D3 users in July of that year (doubling the shooting capacity; the upgrade is indicated by a (2X) inside the card door). In the same month, the D700 was announced, incorporating the D3 sensor in a smaller size camera body (and giving up the 100% viewfinder). The D3S replaced the D3 in October 2009, offering better high-ISO capabilities with its new sensor (and video). The normal (not extended) ISO range for the D3 is 200-6400 and for the D3X it's 100-1600; the D3S offers 200-12800.

    Unless you really have to have that Pro-body with its integrated battery grip, I wouldn't pay as much for a used, several years old D3X as for a new D750 or a used D800/D800E/D810. If 12MP are sufficient for your needs, then my choice would be the D3S over the D3 (and the D700 over the D3 if you don't need the higher fps the D3 offers). I still have a D700, but hardly use it anymore after I got a D800 and a D810.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2017
  3. I agree with Dieter. Unless you need a "pro" body (which isn't really pro standard anymore) I'd get one of the newer prosumer models.

    Beside getting better IQ from the likes of a D800, a prosumer body is likely to have only had amateur or light backup usage. Any D3 is likely to have seen hard professional use with many clicks on the clock.

    Incidentally, I can't believe it's only been 10 years since Nikon entered the full-frame DSLR arena. I remember swapping a Canon 5D, that I was never really happy with, for a D700. That seems like half a lifetime ago.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2017
  4. All good points. The thing that makes me lean to the D3, other than price, is that I generally find I prefer the pro level bodies and always have. I like a bigger camera body maybe in part because my hands are bigger. I'll have to give this a good bit of thought before placing an order. Thanks.

    Rick H.
  5. My D3 feels as though it were made for me. The grip and the controls are just right. The D800/D810 feel fine too. The D750 feels just that little bit too small. You sound to be in the same boat.

    Between the D3 and the D3S, the latter offers less noise at higher ISO and a feature that shakes dust off the filter in front of the sensor. If you do not mind the slightly higher price then it would be my recommendation. That said, I am in no hurry to give up my D3. It is a better camera than I am a photographer :)
  6. If you can, I would go for the D3S as it was a breakthrough camera in terms of high ISO signal-to-noise and there are some additional refinements compared to the D3. The dust shaker is absent from the D3X and it is easier to manage the sensor of a camera which does have that feature so that's one reason to go for the S.
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    The "problem" for pro bodies is that they tend to be used, and abused, by pros. If you buy a used D3 or D3S, make sure that it is not about to fall apart. You may luck out with one that is lightly used by some rich folk that could afford it but didn't use it much.

    Among those three, I too would choose the D3S if 12MP is sufficient for you. If you want 24MP, there are much better, newer choices by now.
  8. I am going to put in a slightly different opinion, based on having owned and used several D3 and D3s cameras.The best D3 I had was worn ugly and had around 320K shutter actuations, but worked VERY well, somehow better than a lower mileage one I used. The AF in that camera worked especially well, and it had the buffer size upgrade. The D3s I have now as a backup to my D810 has around 250K actuations and works as well as the one we bought new. So, if you can find a bargain price on a high mileage camera D3(s) that works well, I would not hesitate. Also, I recommend the D3s over the D3 for the increased buffer size and other improvements, definitely worth a few more $. Just be sure to get a worn model cheap enough to justify throwing it away or spending repair $ if it breaks.

    Having said all of this, newer cameras (even a D600) will produce better image quality and have better auto white balance, IMO. And, while a D3x chassis is nice, I can't see spending D810 or D750 money on a used D3x. In fact, although I still enjoy using my D3s in situations that favor its strengths, my D810 is much more versatile and is my go to first choice camera.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  9. Out of curiosity, I looked at D3 vs D3s prices at KEH and eBay. If raw buffer size and ISO performance above around 3200 are not critical issues for a user, I am not sure that a D3s is worth around a 30-50% premium over a D3 if one is looking for a cheap pro toy to mess around with. I was surprised, there were still several D3 cameras in action at the Div. 1 bball venue (that has very good lighting) I shot at this past year.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017

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