Nikon D3 and D300

Amidst a lot of fanfare Nikon launches their new flagship camera, the D3 — its replacement for the venerable D2xs, and the D300 — the replacement for the incredibly popular D200.

A couple days ago, Canon upped the ante with their new EOS 40D, fixing the major complaints with the 30D and then one-upping the D200 on image quality as well. However Nikon kept smug about their plans, they didn’t rush any press releases about a mythical forthcoming camera to try to up-stage the Canon announcement like Sony did, and after all this time we knew they had something big in store.

D3

The D3 is the first Nikon DSLR to have a full-frame sensor (or FX as Nikon calls it). Its a 12.1 megapixel sensor, which on the face of it might not be much competition for the likes of the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III’s 21.1 megapixel sensor, but the lower pixel density should produce less noise at the higher ISO ranges, especially as the D3 offers a ISO25600 boost range.

Nikon D3

Noteworthy points:

  • 12.1 megapixel full-frame sensor.
  • ISO6400 native, and upto ISO25600 boost.
  • 9 frames-per-second — faster than the old D2hs with a 4 megapixel sensor.
  • New auto-focus system — CAM3500 with 51 focus points, 15 cross-hatched.
  • 14-bit A/D converter — should give better tonality.
  • 3 inch LCD with Live Preview — has very high VGA resolution which should make Live Preview quite useful.

D300

The D300 is the replacement for the D200, a camera that sold far better than Nikon ever hoped for. This isn’t without reason, the D200 is a fantastic camera, it beat off the competition — mainly from the Canon 30D — with ease, only loosing out with noise levels at high ISOs, but the build quality and design of the D200 were second to none. The D300 has big shoes to fill, made even bigger by the new Canon 40D which made the D200 less competitive. But my, if Nikon have finally managed to solve the high ISO issue, it should beat the competition out of the water.

Nikon D300

Noteworthy points:

  • 12.1 megapixel DX sensor.
  • ISO 3200 now native, and ISO 6400 with boost.
  • 14-bit A/D converter.
  • Blisteringly fast 8 frames-per-second with the grip, or 6 frames-per-second grip-less.
  • Same 3 inch LCD with Live Preview as the D3 — nice.
  • Same auto-focus system as the D3 — very nice, the auto-focus of the D200 was often found lacking.

Competition

Nikon have finally made a professional DSLR body that can compete with Canon, if purely down to the fact that its full frame. The D2 series had issues with high ISO noise, something which Canon were always good at. Hopefully with a new image processor, and now noise reduction being applied at the sensor level instead of in post-processing, we should see Nikon catch up to Canon in that respect.

I’ll reserve final judgement until we have sample images, but I’m very hopeful that Nikon have got it right this time.

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