This is a follow-up to my original post two weeks ago on my first impressions of the Nikon D3x. Now that I have had some time to really get out in the field (literally – I am a macro photographer) and test this machine, I thought it might be helpful to sum up my experience.
It took me about two working days to get over the shock and awe of the D3x and manage to make it behave for me. I still feel that this camera initially may require some learning-to-use, but I have learned to use it. And I love it! It is heavy, mind you, but what it produces is worth the extra effort to haul it and a tripod all over creation.
It was expensive and I can’t justify the expense other than I wanted to see what the D3x could do when working with nature photography in macro mode and landscapes. My hunch in buying it was that this resolution is what I have been waiting for and that hunch has proved right. The results meet my expectations, which seldom happens to me in my life.
As mentioned in my first post, I still find that I like to keep to the lower ISO settings, like 100-400 and am pleased with the results in that range, but my guess is that anything under 800 would probably be fine, and some users are having no qualms about higher ISOs. For example, with this camera, the ‘blacks’ are just wonderful.
What It Does for Me
For me, the main benefit of the D3x is just what I had originally had hoped for and something not enough other reviewers have made clear:
With this camera, I can pull out a great photo from the center of a larger image. With nature photography, I can’t always get quite as close as I would like to the subject, with the result that with my D700 I have far too many full-frame shots with a bug or a frog clearly visible in the center, but not of a high-enough resolution to really use. The D3x ends this.
With the D3x, I can take (for example) a picture of a frog in a pond at some distance from the shore and still pull out an image that is up-close-and-personal and plenty large enough to use for whatever I am doing. There is a threshold for these kind of shots and the D3x is comfortably on the useful side of this line, while my D700, D300, D200, D100, D1x, etc. never got there. This feature is (to me) worth the price of the camera all by itself. I am sure a less-expensive version of this camera will eventually appear, but all of the spring flowers and fauna will be gone, at least for this year.
As for the price of the D3x, if you read my first post for Part I of this thread, like most other writers, I was ticked at Nikon for socking it to us in the money department, in particular when money is tight right now. That feeling is gone. This camera is worth every cent to me. And, as I think about it, I had no problem with Canon charging an arm and a leg for their high-pixel-count cameras, but took Nikon to task for doing the same. The Nikon D3x is expensive, but what it provides is invaluable, at least for me. Those extra pixels make all the difference.
For my nature work, it is not about blowing up a shot for a billboard or whatever. It is often all about pulling a useable shot of a smallish creature that is embedded within the framework of a larger shot. Of course, I like to get close, but that is not always possible with, for example, a Tiger beetle or something fast-moving like that.
Lenses and the D3x
As for lenses and the D3x, not too much has changed, as I already have very good lenses, at least in the macro department. My Voigtlander APO Lanthar f/2.5 125mm lens is simply incredible on the D3x (wickedly sharp), and this gives me renewed interest in lenses longer than 105mm and less than 200mm, at least on this body.
I did find myself selling my Nikkor 80-400mm telephoto and buying a copy of the AF-S 300mm f/4 D ED-IF, which can close focus to about 4.5 feet. I have not received the lens-yet, but it should allow me to pull in those Tiger beetles from however far they want to stay away from me. I could not do this with the D700. The images were just too small. I am betting that these two lenses, the 125mm Voigtlander and the Nikon 300mm f/4 D, will be what I most haul around.
And last, with the D3x I am finding that ‘Focus Stacking’ of images (I call it ‘Focus Bracketing’) has been very, very useful. I use Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 and, if I am very careful, wonderful images can result from focus stacking. For my use, I don’t take that many shots, usually 3-6, and I am VERY careful what things I have in focus for each shot. For the most part, a small series of shots of (let’s say) a woodland diorama produce the semblance of depth-of-field that I seldom (if ever) could get otherwise. This technique has a huge future.
Instead of having to push my stops into diffraction-land, I now can shoot at the sweet stop for each lens and combine the stacked images to produce a single seamless shot that is breathtaking to look at, as regards depth of field.
Well, there you have my brief report on the D3x. I have no regrets forking out the big bucks for this incredible camera and am out in the woods with it every possible day and just delighted by what this camera can do. I would love to hear reports from other D3x users.