Nikon D3x Review

5.0
April 22, 2009 | Gavin Stoker |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 24.5 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 9Mb.

We were stunned by the level of detail delivered by the D3 on test last year; so, given the asking price and pixel count, is the D3x really twice as good? For the purposes of the images displayed here we were shooting large size, fine quality JPEGs. There's plenty of detail and subtlety of tone from the D3x when shooting portraits. For landscapes the Nikon's Picture Control setting of vivid delivered colours closer to those before us than leaving it on its default setting, which by contrast delivered rather flat results. In comparison with the D3, viewing images from that and the D3x side by side, the former's images are noticeably smoother and as we mentioned at that time of our initial review, more film-like while the D3x's do reveal more clearly defined detail – particularly on close ups – when viewed at 100%.

In terms of light sensitivity, with Nikon DSLRs currently leading the field when it comes to performance at ever-increasing ISOs, we were expecting the imagery from the D3x to continue the run of clear, grain free results provided by its D300, D700 and D3 brethren – despite the fact that, though this is the flagship model, its maximum setting isn't the highest in the range. Though noise is visible in shadow areas and detail softening at its expanded ISO 6400 equivalent setting compared to lower settings, this is still beats results at ISO 1600 from consumer-level models. Though it's not until ISO 1600 that you notice detail becoming smoother to limit the appearance of grain, stick to ISO 400 or below if you want to avoid noise entirely.

Noise

There are 8 ISO settings available on the Nikon D3x. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with JPEG on the left and the RAW equivalent on the right:

JPEG RAW  

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
 

File Quality

The Nikon D3x has 3 different JPEG file quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality JPEG option, and also offers TIF and RAW formats too. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

24.5M TIF (73.6Mb) (100% Crop) 24.5M RAW (29.48Mb) (100% Crop)
   
24.5M Fine (9.57Mb) (100% Crop) 24.5M Normal (6.59Mb) (100% Crop)
   
24.5M Normal (3.74Mb) (100% Crop)  
 

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images at the default setting are just a little soft and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Alternatively you can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default results.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

Night Shot

The Nikon D3x's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds and there's a Bulb mode for even longer exposures, which is excellent news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1/2 second, aperture of f/3.5 at ISO 1600. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Picture Controls

Nikon's Picture Controls, similarly to Canon's Picture Styles, are preset combinations of different contrast and saturation settings. The available Picture Controls are Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome. The following series demonstrates the differences.

Standard

Neutral

   
Vivid

Monochrome

D-lighting

D-lighting is Nikon's dynamic range optimisation tool that attempts to squeeze the full dynamic range of the sensor into JPEGs. The D3x has Active D-lighting, which works "on the fly", before the in-camera processing engine converts the raw image data into JPEGs. The available settings are Off, Auto, Low, Medium, High and Extra High. In the field, I found that the Auto setting usually produced excellent results, with no major blown highlights or blocked shadows seen in the pictures. The following examples demonstrate the effects of the varius D-lighting options.

D-lighting - Off

D-lighting - Low

   

D-lighting - Normal

D-lighting - High

   

D-lighting - Extra High

 
 

Entry Tags

3 inch LCD, DSLR, Nikon, Full Frame, 24.6 Megapixel

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