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Nikon's D3 digital SLR. Courtesy of Nikon, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Nikon announces D3 digital SLR (UPDATED)
(Thursday, August 23, 2007 - 00:01 EDT)

Nikon Inc. has today announced its new D3 single-lens reflex digital camera - the company's first to feature a so-called "full frame" image sensor.

(As well as this news article, we're currently in the process of preparing a lengthy Nikon D3 preview article to make sure our readers get the full story on this important announcement!) Dubbed "Nikon FX" to differentiate it from the smaller "Nikon DX" sensors used in the company's DSLRs to date, the new sensor has an area of 36 x 23.9mm - about the same as a frame of 35mm film (hence "full frame"). It is still possible to use DX format lenses with the Nikon D3, but if you do so the camera will automatically set itself to the "DX Crop" mode, reducing sensor resolution to account for the smaller image circle of a DX lens. Resolution is twelve megapixels ordinarily, and 5.1 megapixels when in "DX Crop" mode. The Nikon D3 can shoot full-res photos at an impressive nine frames per second for 20 Raw or 64 JPEG Normal photos - just a hair behind the 10 fps to 30 Raw / 110 JPEG frames of Canon's EOS-1D Mark III. Bump the resolution down to the 5.1 megapixel "DX Crop" mode, and you can boost this to ten frames per second (with auto exposure limitations) or even to an incredible 11 frames per second (with further limitations to auto focus as well). The cropped area of the image is automatically masked out in the viewfinder when using "DX Crop" mode.

That's not the only trick the camera has up its sleeve though. The Nikon D3 combines modern CMOS sensor technology, a new image processor dubbed "Expeed", a large light gathering sensor area for the resolution, and a resultingly large pixel cell size (relative to, say, Canon's just announced 21 megapixel EOS-1Ds Mark III which has essentially the same sensor size). Add all that up, and you get the promise of relatively low noise at higher sensitivities than competitors - and based on the maximum ISO sensitivity limit in the D3, it look like Nikon is ready to deliver on that promise. Most SLRs max out at ISO 3200 or perhaps ISO 6400 - but with the Nikon D3 you can manage ISO sensitivities in a staggeringly wide range from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600. (Yes, you read that right - no typo there!) Of course like most SLRs, the ISO sensitivity is normally locked to a smaller range where image quality is least likely to be affected by noise - and on the Nikon D3 that range is ISO 200 to 3,200.

With the D3, Nikon becomes the latest manufacturer to support a "live view" function in a digital SLR - letting you preview the frame to be captured in the LCD display rather than having to hold the viewfinder to your eye. That LCD, by the way, should be easy on the eye with a diagonal of three inches, 640 x 480 pixel (920,000 dots) of resolution, and 170-degree wide viewing angle. Nikon's live view functionality has two operating modes. In "Handheld" mode, autofocus is allowed by dropping the mirror briefly to allow light to reach the camera's TTL phase detection autofocus module - the downside being an interruption to the live view while focusing is happening.. In "Tripod" mode, the camera uses contrast detection autofocus from the image sensor, allowing for autofocus to occur without interruption to the live view - and usefully, also allowing for the AF point to be set anywhere in the image area.

Speaking of autofocus, that's another area of improvement in the Nikon D3. A new Multi-CAM 3500 FX autofocus system has 15 cross-type sensors and 36 linear sensors, for a total of 51 autofocus points. 3D Focus Tracking is possible across all 51 points, with the camera automatically switching between focus points to follow your subject. A new Scene Recognition System is described as a "world's first" by Nikon and is said to recognize the scene being photographed, then use this information accordingly when calculating exposure, autofocus and white balance. An Active D-Lighting system corrects for shadows and highlights to produce more appealing images. There's also a new Picture Control System with four basic presets - Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome - which the user can then tweak to their taste, adjust imaging parameters such as saturation, brightness, sharpening and tone compensation. Up to nine different customized presets can be stored in each D3 body, and up to 99 can be stored on a CompactFlash card - enabling easy sharing of settings among multiple cameras (or for that matter, easy sharing of cameras between multiple photographers).

There are enough standout features on the Nikon D3 that a full discussion is rather beyond the scope of this news article. Briefly though, other features of note include the camera's general speed - undeniably swift with a claimed 0.12 second startup time and a 37 millisecond shutter release lag. There's also dual CompactFlash slots with the ability to copy files in-camera, write to both cards simultaneously or consecutively, or even place Raw and JPEG files on separate cards. An HDMI connection (cable not included) allows for the Nikon D3 to be connected directly to a high definition display. Some features are a little more exotic - for example, a Virtual Horizon function that indicates (in both LCD and viewfinder) whether the camera is true and level, based on information from a built-in digital level sensor, or in-camera correction of chromatic abberations based on information on the lens in use. Others are features you expect to see on a camera of this level, such as dust and water proofing measures, a magnesium alloy body, tempered glass over the LCD display, and a shutter mechanism rated to last to 300,000 releases.

The Nikon D3 digital SLR goes on sale from November 2007, priced at just under $5,000. For more information, keep checking our work-in-progress Nikon D3 preview.

Nikon D3
Nikon's D3 digital SLR. Courtesy of Nikon, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Camera TypePro SLR
Model NumberD3
Dimensions6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4"
159.5 x 157.0 x 87.5mm
Weight1,240.0 g
43.4 oz
Planned Price$4999.95
Planned AvailabilityNov 2007
Image Capture
Sensor TypeNikon FX Sony CMOS
12.87 megapixels (total)
12.10 megapixels (effective)
Filter TypeRGBG
Focal Length Multiplier1.00
Aspect Ratio3:2, 5:4
Image Dimensions4256 x 2832 (12.1 megapixels)
3184 x 2120 (6.8 megapixels)
2128 x 2832 (6.0 megapixels)
2656 x 2120 (5.6 megapixels)
1776 x 1416 (2.5 megapixels)
2784 x 1848 (5.1 megapixels)
2080 x 1384 (2.9 megapixels)
1392 x 920 (1.3 megapixels)
Capture SpeedContinuous: 9.0 frames per second
Image Preview / Review
ViewfinderYes, SLR; eye-level pentaprism
100% field of view
LCD3.0", 920,000 pixels
100% field of view
Lens TypeInterchangeable Lens
Lens MountNikon F mount
Image StabilizationNo
Focusing System51-point TTL phase detection via Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX with 15 cross-type and 36 line-type sensors
Manual Focus possible (0) steps
ISO Sensitivity200 - 6400, plus down to 100 in Lo-1, up to 25,600 in Hi-2
Shutter Speed30 - 1/8000 second
Exposure ModesAperture, Shutter, Manual
Meterin g Modes1005-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II, Center-weighted, Spot (1.5%) centered on selected focus area
Exposure Compensation+/- 5.0EV in 1/3EV increments
White BalanceHybrid - Auto, seven manual modes can be preset with fine-tuning; color temperature setting;, Manual
Scene ModesNone
Self TimerYes, 2/5/10/20 seconds
Recording MediumCompactFlash Type 1, CompactFlash Type 2, Microdrive
File SystemFAT16, FAT32, complies with Design Rule for Camera File System (DCF)
File FormatCCD-RAW, RAW (NEF), 14 or 12-bit; compr, JPEG (EXIF 2.21)
VideoYes, NTSC / PAL switchable
ComputerUSB 2.0 High Speed
OtherHDMI Out, DC Input, 10-pin Expansion Terminal
Battery TypeLithium Ion rechargeable
Battery Form FactorProprietary EN-EL4a
Product Bundle
Battery / Charger1 x Proprietary EN-EL4a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery and charger
Flash Memory0.0MB Dual CF card slots
Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) compliantYes
PictBridge CompliantYes
Internal MicrophoneYes
Tripod MountYes, Metal
Remote ControlYes
More Photos
Nikon's D3 digital SLR. Courtesy of Nikon, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Nikon's D3 digital SLR. Courtesy of Nikon, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!

UPDATED 2007-08-23 02:55ET: Item updated with further details.

Original Source Press Release:

Eight Years After Changing Professional Photography Forever, Nikon Does It Again By Introducing The D3 Digital SLR

MELVILLE, N.Y. (AUGUST 23, 2007) – Eight years after Nikon’s D1 camera changed professional digital photography forever, Nikon today introduced the D3 – a new digital SLR camera that is poised to once again revolutionize photography for professionals. The 12.1 effective megapixel D3 features Nikon’s new FX-format CMOS sensor, measuring 23.9 x 36mm, which is nearly identical to the size of 35mm film. With the fastest startup time, shortest viewfinder blackout time, and shortest shutter lag of any digital SLR camera as well as the capability to shoot up to nine frames per second at full FX-format resolution, the D3 is the world’s fastest digital SLR camera in its class.*

Designed with sports photographers and photojournalists in mind, the Nikon D3 introduces an astounding list of brand new features and technologies that make it the most sophisticated and advanced Nikon digital SLR to date. In addition to the new FX-format CMOS sensor, the D3 incorporates Nikon’s new EXPEED Image Processing System that is central to the blazing speed and processing power needed for many of the D3’s new features.

Images taken with the D3 reflect exceptional overall quality, broad tonal range and depth, along with extremely low-noise throughout its normal ISO range of 200 to 6400. By setting the camera to its built-in options of Lo-1 or Hi-2, the ISO range of the camera can be expanded to the equivalent of ISO 100 or ISO 25,600 respectively, offering unmatched versatility in practically any shooting situation.

The D3 also features an entirely new 51-point auto focus system with Nikon’s 3D Focus Tracking feature and two new LiveView shooting modes that allow photographers to frame a photograph using the camera’s high-resolution LCD monitor. The D3 uses the world’s first Scene Recognition System to greatly enhance the accuracy of auto focus, auto exposure and auto white balance detection in the camera by recognizing the subject or scene being photographed and applying this information to the calculations for the three functions.

“ Nikon is proud and excited to once again respond to the needs of professional photographers by introducing the D3. Nikon engineers have successfully combined ultra high-speed shooting capabilities and handling with outstanding low-noise image quality, offering professional photographers an ideal tool for a broad range of shooting disciplines,” said Edward Fasano, general manager for Marketing, SLR Systems Products, at Nikon Inc. “Sports, commercial and press photographers are increasingly demanding higher ISO sensitivity, better resolution, wider dynamic range and a familiar depth-of-field in relation to picture angles. With the D3, Nikon is excited to deliver a solution that represents an ideal unification of unsurpassed image quality, high-speed operation and professional durability, without compromise. Nikon fully expects the D3 to positively affect the photographic community in a way that hasn’t been seen since the introduction of the Nikon D1.”

Nikon’s Sensor Formats: FX and DX
Nikon’s digital SLR cameras based on its DX-format sensor have been hugely successful and represent an excellent combination of high image quality, size, and value. And while the DX-format has been widely accepted by professional photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world, there is an increasing demand among professionals for a digital SLR camera that features higher ISO sensitivity, wider dynamic range and offers the same relationship between picture angle and depth-of-field that were the hallmarks of the 35mm film format.

Responding to this demand, Nikon has developed the D3 as its first digital SLR camera that features the Nikon FX-format CMOS sensor to meet the real-world requirements of its professional customers. The D3 delivers full resolution 12.1 megapixel images at up to nine frames per second when used with conventional AF-NIKKOR lenses. When used with DX NIKKOR lenses, the D3 automatically switches to the DX-format mode that uses a cropped portion of the sensor to generate 5.1 megapixel resolution images. While in this mode, the D3 automatically masks the portion of the viewfinder that will not be photographed and enables the capability to shoot up to 11 frames per second.

Both Nikon FX and DX-formats provide their own advantages, and Nikon recognizes that both formats are necessary in order to satisfy its diverse customer demands. Based on this recognition, Nikon will strengthen its D-SLR lineup with the addition of the D3 FX-format SLR camera and a broadened assortment of NIKKOR interchangeable lenses, while continuing to develop and market high-performance DX-format cameras and lenses.

The Most Intelligent Nikon Ever
The D3 introduces a range of innovative technologies and features that significantly improve the accuracy, control and performance professional photographers can get from their equipment. Nikon’s exclusive Scene Recognition System advances the use of Nikon’s acclaimed 1,005-segment sensor to recognize colors and light patterns that help the camera determine the subject and the type of scene being photographed, before an image is captured. This information is also used to improve the accuracy of auto focus, auto exposure and auto white balance detection functions in the D3. For example, the camera can track moving subjects better in all directions and by identifying them it can also automatically select focus points faster and with greater accuracy. It can also analyze scene highlights and more accurately determine exposure, as well as infer light sources to deliver more accurate white balance.

The D3 incorporates Nikon’s new Multi-CAM 3500FX auto focus module that features an intelligent array of 15 cross-type sensors and 36 horizontal sensors. These sensors can either be used individually or in groups, with the option for Single Area AF mode and Dynamic AF modes using groups of either 9, 21 or all 51 focus points. The system also features 3D Focus Tracking with automatic focus point switching that takes advantage of all 51 AF points as it uses color and light information to accurately track the subject. Nikon's new Scene Recognition System and improved focus algorithms also contribute to the impressive performance of the new 51-point AF system.

Nikon's new Picture Control System makes it easy for users of all experience levels to select and apply adjustments to how their pictures are rendered and create optimized settings to suit their individual preferences. The same settings produce consistent picture tone, even when using different camera bodies. The Picture Control System offers four basic setting options – Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome. These can be directly modified for easy adjustment and customization of image parameters, such as sharpening, tone compensation, brightness, and saturation. Photographers can customize and store up to nine customized options in the D3 and export up to 99 to a CF memory card, enabling photographers to share settings among multiple D3 cameras.

Taking a cue from the popularity of Nikon’s D-Lighting technology, the D3 features a new Active D-Lighting mode that, when enabled, provides remarkable real-time highlight and shadow correction with optimized image contrast. Active D-Lighting produces broader tone reproduction in both shadows and highlights by controlling highlights and exposure compensation while applying localized tone control technology to achieve a more pleasing level of contrast across the entire image. And because the advantages of Active D-Lighting are applied as images are captured, image editing time can be shortened.

The D3’s LiveView feature offers two modes for confirming subjects and composition on the new 920,000-dot, high-resolution 3-inch LCD monitor while shooting. The Tripod mode is designed for precise focus and accuracy when the camera is on a stable platform and the subject is not moving. In this mode, the camera focuses on the subject using focal-plane contrast and any point on the LCD screen can be selected as the focus point for the picture. The second mode, called Handheld mode, allows photographers to use the camera’s conventional TTL focusing system, with all 51-points and 15 cross-type points available. When using this mode, the camera activates focusing immediately when the shutter button is pressed, to ensure accurate focus.

The Fastest Camera in its Class
The D3 has the fastest reaction times of any camera in its class. Its shutter release time lag is only 37 milliseconds, and its start-up time is approximately 0.12 seconds. It is capable of continuously shooting approximately nine frames per second in full resolution with FX-format, up to 64 consecutive frames in JPEG, Normal compression. For NEF (RAW) files, the D3 can shoot up to 20 or up to 17 consecutive frames depending on whether it is set to 12-bit or 14-bit images. When using a DX-format lens, the camera automatically switches to DX-format mode, adjusting the resolution of the camera to 5.1 megapixels. In the DX-format mode, photographers also have the opportunity to increase the speed at which the camera can take pictures by limiting the auto exposure and going up to 10 frames per second or limiting both auto exposure and auto focus and going up to 11 frames per second.

Refined Ergonomics and Usability
The D3 reflects Nikon’s most streamlined, functional and aesthetically pleasing layout in a digital SLR camera, all designed so photographers can take pictures with less fatigue, greater accuracy and comfort.

The camera’s viewfinder provides virtually 100 percent coverage for accurate framing, while an ultra-high definition, 920,000-dot VGA LCD screen on the rear of the camera displays images with vivid color and clarity. The 170-degree wide viewing angle makes composing shots using the LCD screen in LiveView mode easy. The D3 also features a unique Virtual Horizon digital level sensor that indicates the camera’s alignment relative to the true horizon on the rear LCD screen or in the viewfinder.

The D3 also features two CompactFlash™ card slots that can be used for consecutive recording (overflow), simultaneous recording (backup), separating recording of RAW and JPEG files or even copying pictures between the two cards. Images can be displayed directly from the camera to a high-definition monitor using the camera’s HDMI port and an optional cable.

The D3 is designed for professional use in demanding conditions. The exterior of the D3 is crafted of magnesium alloy and the camera’s shutter mechanism is tested to 300,000-cycle releases. The 3.0-inch LCD is strengthened with tempered glass and the D3’s comprehensive array of rubber gaskets and seals protect vulnerable entry points from dust and moisture.

Price and Availability
The D3 will be available from authorized Nikon Professional Dealers beginning in November 2007 for an estimated selling price of $4,999.95**. With the introduction of the D3, Nikon’s current lineup of digital SLR cameras now includes the new D3, D2XS, D300, D200, D80, D40X and D40.

About Nikon
Nikon, At the Heart of the Image™. Nikon Inc. is the world leader in digital imaging, precision optics and photo imaging technology and is globally recognized for setting new standards in product design and performance for its award-winning consumer and professional photographic equipment. Nikon Inc. distributes the Nikon Total Imaging System of consumer and professional digital SLR cameras, Nikkor optics, Speedlights and System Accessories; Nikon COOLPIX® compact digital cameras; COOLSCAN® digital film scanners; 35mm film SLR cameras; Nikon software products and Nikon sports and recreational optics. At the heart of every Nikon camera is Nikon’s Exclusive Feature System, making it easy for anyone to take amazing digital pictures. Through the Nikon Spirit Initiative™, the company, plays an active role in supporting aspiring and advanced photographers through a variety of philanthropic organizations, educational programs, events and workshops. For more information, dial (800) NIKON-US or visit www.nikonusa.com, which links all levels of photographers to the web's most comprehensive photo learning and sharing communities.

* As of August, 2007; among cameras featuring an imaging sensor similar to the size of 35mm film

** Estimated selling prices listed are only an estimate. Actual prices are set by dealers and are subject to change at any time.

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