I finally stopped protesting the price of the D3x, mortgaged a bit of my personal integrity, and shelled out for the new Nikon D3x. I am primarily a macro photographer, and my hope was that a D3x would put me into macro heaven. Here are my impressions.
My expectations had not prepared me for the actuality of this camera. It is clearly not a camera for all general work, but more one for specialized tasks. It is like a fine sports car, compared to my D700 sedan. And, I don’t know quite how to drive a sports car. That much I realized right away.
First, it is (as we have been told in the reviews) a light hog. It craves light, thus the lower ISO levels. I had read that, but had not really understood what that means in the real world. They mean it. I am used to HD video cameras and my first impression is that the D3x needs to be treated like we do video cameras, and that is: feed them light. Lighting is everything in video work and the D3x needs that same treatment. You won’t be taking the D3x out on a cloudy day unless you are willing to use very long exposures. And there is no point in having a D3x if your work requires high ISO. The noise crops up fast.
Lenses. The first thing I did was slap on my Voigtlander APO 125mm f/2.5 Lanthar lens (the most incredible macro lens I own, and I own a lot of them), and see what that looked like. I have read that the D3x separates the men from the boys when it comes to lenses, and this was true from the first shot. It was not that I found any flaws with my Voigtlander 125, which is what I led myself to expect. Rather, it was clear that with the D3x, I am going to have to be a whole lot more careful with focusing from here on in. Again, I realized I had in my hands a special tool, and not an all-purpose camera.
ISO. Another thing I quickly found out is that I won’t be using Auto ISO on this camera or if I do, it will be more like in the ISO 100-400 range. This was sobering, because with the D700 I am used to just letting that auto ISO take over and I seldom run into noise. Not with the D3X. I immediately turned Auto ISO off and specified ISO 100, which (again) requires me to be a lot more careful than I have been – longer exposures.
So, to summarize so far: the D3x is like a sports car, something I have always wanted to drive, but I sure am not used to driving one and the ride is more bumpy than my D700. In other words, I have to learn to drive this baby. It won’t drive itself.
So what do I think so far? Well, I am blown away by the challenge and possibilities of this camera. The ‘blacks’ are just incredible (I am shooting 14-bit, lossless RAW), unlike any camera I have ever had. It could just be my being forced to only use low ISOs. And the ‘reds’ are a new experience – really powerful. I expected to be wowed by the resolution (I am), but not by the color. The color is killer.
The resolution and focusing clearly will take work on my part to master, just like my Tilt/Shift PC lenses required work in the beginning. But the possibilities of this camera open new and wide vistas in my mind. I can’t wait to get experience with this camera. Buying this was a good decision on my part, although a painful one financially. The richness of color and resolution of the D3x is what I have needed to take full advantage of the kind of close-up nature photography I like to do.
But I won’t be selling my D700 anytime soon, because these two cameras really are apples and oranges. I need them both, but the D3x already has a special place in my plans and I am willing to take the time to get the incredible photos it clearly can produce. I will learn to drive this sports car. I have never had a camera with as many possibilities for me as the D3x.