The Nikon D3 camera, announced in 2007, is a landmark for Nikon. It seemed they had not only caught up with Canon but perhaps overtaken them in terms of low noise and high sensitivity of the sensor. With a shooting rate up to 11 fps and a 12 megapixel sensor, the D3 is suitable both for action photography and for the more sedate landscape or portrait work.
For the first time since I bought my Canon EOS 5D in 2005, Nikon has a product that is really exciting and tempting. I therefore hired one for a week (thanks to Hire a camera based in Crowborough, East Sussex) and did some tests.
I tested the D3 side by side with my 5D. These pages report my results. All my testing was done with 14-bit raw files, so I make no comment on jpegs produced by the D3.
My emotional attitude to this Nikon development is ambivalent. On the one hand, I am delighted that Nikon is at last fully competitive with Canon; that can only be good for photographers. On the other, having made a big investment in Canon lenses, and having owned Canons for forty years, I was hoping that Nikon had not jumped so far ahead as to put pressure on me to switch brands. Also, being very fond of my 5D, a part of me was hoping that the D3 was no better. However, I am not a brand fanatic and I report here honestly what my measurements show.
Much of the methodology for these tests is based on work by astronomer Christian Buil and space scientist Roger Clark. I am grateful to Roger Clark, Mike Unsold (creator of ImagesPlus software) and Dave Coffin (creator of dcraw software) for useful email correspondence. They are not however responsible for any mistakes I may have made.
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Peter Facey, Winchester, England