Friday, November 28, 2008

Nikon D3x - It Has Arrived!

Whispers of a Nikon D3x have been floating around for some time. It was first rumored to be coming out in time for the Olympics, and was anticipated between March and June of this past year (Nikon D3x - impending announcement, 4/16/08). Sources suggest that there was a decision to delay that announcement. Some have suggested it was to give the D700 some legs and some suggest they wanted the excitement to be about the D90. Still others surmised that there were details they wanted to work out to ensure a timely delivery date after its announcement.

Regardless of the reason, official word has come out - the D3x has arrived in the form of NikonPro magazine with all the details and specs. Hit the jump for the specs, and more thoughts on what this means moving forward.

(Continued after the Jump)

The first thing that struck me was the statement that leads off the third paragraph - "The D3x was designed with medium format photographic applications in mind." This statement is two-fold in its' intentions. 1) Medium format photographers should welcome a 24.5MP chip as a suitable replacement for their medium format cameras. But, the real reason, in my estimation, is this: 2) to set expectations in that arena, and not expect a 24.5MP edition of the D3.

Everyone was blown away by the insanely high ISO of the D3, and the D3x had to make some accommodations for the larger chip, in the form of a reduced ISO range. A stated range of 100-1600, with low/boost settings allowing for 50-6400 illustrate some of the likely technical limitations of a chip this size at the higher ISO ratings.

Here's the basic spec rundown:
  • 24.5-megapixel shooting at up to 5fps; cropped 10-megapixel shooting at up to 7fps
  • Custom-built Expeed 16-bit processing to handle detail on the 75MB image files
  • ISO range of 100-1600 with a Lo1 (equivalent to ISO 50) with boosts up to ISO 6400
  • Writes files to dual CF slots at 35MB/s
  • Same lithium-ion battery as D3
  • 51-point MultiCAM3500FX autofocus system
  • Scene Recognition System
  • 3-inch, 922,000-dot LCD
  • 35.9mm x 24mm FX format sensor (If you can't think in metric, that's 1.4" x 0.94")
  • Weather-resistant magnesium body
  • Designed for medium-format shooting
  • 12ms start-up time; 41ms shutter-release lag time
  • USB 2.0, HDMI and AV-out jacks, with 10-pin terminal for GPS and other accessories
  • World’s highest-res SLR with Live View at 922,000 dots in the LCD
One of the points missed and I think is of value (I talked about its benefits when reviewing the D700 here- Nikon D700 Report) is that you can use the new GP-1 GPS Unit with this (goes back to the D200 as well) to geo-tag your images.

Also worth noting is the compatibility with the D3 batteries. It seems Nikon is finally happy with their battery configuration, and isn't changing it again. Also unchanged (and would you expect any less?) is the lens mount. Yes, you can go back to any F-mount lens you'd like. On top of that- Nikon's EXPEED engine is designed to minimize the effects of color fringing for those lenses specifically. How's that for taking care of legacy customers? That's a definitive pro-consumer decision - enhancing the ability of lenses they've already sold which might otherwise cause someone to decide now is the time to upgrade a lens. Nice move Nikon.

What does this portend for Canon?

Well, this chip-size is larger, by about 3.5MP. Ok, so what. The pixel game is essentially over. What continues to be the battleground will be clarity of files (can you say Foveon technology anyone?), high-iso noise (and Nikon, with the D3, set the equivilent of Kodachrome 25 as the benchmark for future noise measurements) concerns. What the Wikipedia article notes (and a citation is indicated it's needed) is that a Kodachrome 25 slide on 35mm will hold detail equivilent of 25MP or more of image data. This is in line with information I gleened from meetings over a decade ago with people in the production department at National Geographic, who gave as a guidepost the maximum size of an RGB 8-bit file from a 35mm slide as being 60MB, or 20MP. Thus, at more than 20MP, in my estimation, size is no longer the issue. What's next? Video.

So, why no video on the D3x? We can guess a lot of reasons. My guess is that it's a fun pro-sumer capability that is getting tested in the D90, and when the D800 comes out, it will have video capabilities comparable to the 5D Mark II. As throughput on CF/SD cards gets better, and the price of cards plummets to a negligible amount, it might be a feature that a pro would want, but I am guessing that the jury is still out on that for the flagship editions of Canon and Nikon cameras. I for one am not bothered one iota at video missing from the D3x DSLR.

The one remaining question is one of price. The D3 was introduced at $4,999, and you can get one for around $4,100. Competitors the Sony A900 with a 24.6MP chip is the low-price point here, at $2,999. While Sony has made significant inroads in Europe (see our video interviews here and here from PhotoPlus on the A900), I surmise that they are coming in very low to get into the US market, because traditionally Sony is the premium brand premium priced product. Canon, on the other hand, has dropped down to under $7k, with demo and other used excellent-rated used systems at the $5,600 range. I think we'll know much more come Monday, when Nikon has scheduled announcements. We can only guess that that announcement will be the same as what the mailbag brought to doorsteps today in the form of the Nikon Pro magazine. We just await pricing and delivery dates. Nikon Rumors is reporting one UK retailer suggesting £5,500 as the price, which equates to $8,466 USD.

Look for a head-to-head like we did just a year ago(Nikon - a first look, 12/8/07) when we concluded that the D3 beat out the EOS 1Ds Mark III. So, it's time for a re-match in the ring.



UPDATE:
The D3x has an estimated street price of $7,999 USD, and you can learn everything you need to know (atleast officially) here - Nikon D3x Official webpage.They also have a micro-site here.
The delivery date is stated to be December of 2008, and it has been suggested that it will be before Christmas.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

7 comments:

Mike S. said...

John, love your blog and thanks for the report on the D3x---but the possessive form of "it" is "its", not "it's" or "its' ". The only time you need an apostrophe anywhere near the word "it" is when you want to say "it is", only shorter.

I'm beggin' ya!!

Glad you are a much more capable photographer than speller! :)

Claude-Etienne said...

Wow! $8,000? What the hell were they thinking? They could have had people cheering if the price had been somewhere around $5,600-$5,800, but to now out-do Canon by beating their ludicrous $7,500 price tag is just insane. Can you say "ara kiri"???

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