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Nikon D3 & D300. Hands on and test shots


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#21 scorpio_fish

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 12:06 PM

The D300 viewfinder is much nice than the D200.


How so?


Also, it would seem that great high ISO performance would add more range to Magic Filters, wouldn't you agree? :)
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#22 echeng

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 12:15 PM

Dan Schwartz -

I will reiterate what Craig posted. Please stop posting off topic. This thread is about Alex's first impressions of the D3 and D300. If you want to educate us about something unrelated, please start your own topic.

After this, we will start deleting offending messages.
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#23 james

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 01:54 PM

Damn you Alex! I should have stuck stuck around w/ you and missed the plane! I would have LOVED to have tried these cameras and the 14-24....:-( Argh.

Thanks for the great review though - from someone who's used many/all of the Nikon DSLR's underwater this is very useful information.

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#24 JohnLiddiard

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 02:17 PM

My issue with the wonderful D300 is that I still need to get another 8.5 years out of a D200 housing. So what I really want is Nikon to release a D250 - A D200 body with as much of the D300 goodies that can be fitted inside it.
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#25 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 02:21 PM

I do have more info I'd like to share. But I am too tired now (too much driving). I have an ISO series from the D300 (good for DX, but a long way from the D3) and some more detailed comments on auto-focus and generally handling. Don't read anything into the fact I haven't said too much about the D300 yet. In many ways I was more impressed with it than the D3.

One comment on the 14-24mm is that the front it very domed, so I don't think it will take a dioptre. I actually forgot to check if there were front or rear filter options!

Alex

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#26 Rocha

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 10:07 PM

Great info so far Alex, thanks for posting. I am especially interested in the focus differences between the D300 and D2x, so it would be great if you could post more about this subject when you can...

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#27 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 11:14 PM

Great info so far Alex, thanks for posting. I am especially interested in the focus differences between the D300 and D2x, so it would be great if you could post more about this subject when you can...


Here are some more general comments:

Both the D300 and D3 have very good AF performance, especially in low light - which bodes well for underwater use. The D3 seemed slightly faster to me - although that may have been due to different lenses I was using. The D300, because of the smaller sensor, has better frame coverage with the AF points (both have 51 I think?).

On the D2X I used grouped dynamic AF a lot. This is not an option on the D3 or D300 - although working with the Nikon guys yesterday I found that the D3's dynamic 3D mode (which is amazing) would probably become my default AF. The focus tracking of a point (head, eye etc) is amazing.

I am reluctant to make any comparisons with the D2X - simply because I was not shooting in conditions I am used to (being above water). But I don't imagine anyone will be disappointed.

The ergonomics and user friendliness of both cameras is impressive. Any Nikon user, and probably any photographer, could pick either up and find almost all the settings. I certainly never needed to use the instruction manual to find any of the features I was interested in testing. White balance on both is the same as most Nikons. I was even able to activate Live View without having to look up how to do it.

As far as I could understand the low ISO settings on the D3 are ISO 100 and 50 - but I am not certain. According to the reps these have a light sensitivity similar to these lower ISOs but do not give any improvment in image quality from going to a lower ISO than the base ISO of 200. So I guess that they are basically like a digital neutral density filter? Although useful if we want slow shutter speeds for creative long exposures flash photography underwater.

That said there are many new features that it would be well worth spending the hours pouring over the instruction manual to get the most out of.

Possibly the only area I was left slightly underwhelmed were the viewfinders. Don't get me wrong they are a step up. But after all the gushing I had read on DPReview forums I guess I was expecting a night and day difference from the D2X.

Alex

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#28 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 11:23 PM

Sorry to regress a bit. But I was looking again at the high ISO images from the D3 and I am just stunned. There has never been a Nikon like this before. This is a 100% crop from the D3. ISO 6400. Just cropped from the file and saved for web. The lack of noise in the shadows nad the subtly of the colours are so impressive - this is ISO 6400!

Posted Image

And just for context, here is the full frame at ISO 6400:

Posted Image

Alex

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#29 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 11:34 PM

My issue with the wonderful D300 is that I still need to get another 8.5 years out of a D200 housing. So what I really want is Nikon to release a D250 - A D200 body with as much of the D300 goodies that can be fitted inside it.


Hi John,

I doubt there will be a same body, but you never know. The reps were coy about the future. But they did say that we can expect lots from Nikon in the near future. Although they usually say that!

And, as you know - it is not the camera that matters, but what you point it at. While I was playing with their cameras, the guys from Nikon were looking through my new book (sorry for the cheeky plug :)). A few of the pictures in there are shot with the D100 - and one of the Nikon reps actually voiced their surprise at how well they had reproduced in the book. Even the reps, it seems, get so caught up in the hype about the new products that they forget that the older ones still take great quality photos.

Regarding a higher resolution FX sensor (the camera I am interested in). They would not confirm or deny that higher resolution FX sensor D3X could be coming soon - when questionned directly. Even when it was pointed out that it might be in their interest to deny it, as it would help D3 sales. They did say a bit more, but I can't write it in a way that is not potentially misleading. I guess, watch this space.

Alex

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#30 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 11:43 PM

I have less pictures to post from the D300 (partly because I stupidly had the camera set in RAW, for a while) - particularly when I shot some physical size comparison shots of the D3 and D2X. As Berkley revealed a while ago, I would be very surprised if the D3 fitted in any D2X housings. Although the Nikon reps said that one of the underwater film set photographers in London uses a D2X underwater is a very basic perspex housing - and his housing would take the D3. The problems with housings are that the prism is too big. This makes the D3 longer front to back than the D2 series, and also taller - so even if it fits the centre of the lens will not be in the centre of the port. New housings it is then.

Anyway, I also did some high ISO tests of the D300. Again the camera is not in final firmware version. Subjectively the D300 is clearly better at high ISO than the D2X (despite both having 12MP on DX sensors). But it falls well short of the D3. These photos were taken in a very dark room and therefore should really test High ISO settings. Also the different conditions mean that they are not really comparable to the D3 tests.

The files are untouched from the camera - although I did set the white balance befoe shooting to the desk lamp. There is a lack of sharpness at lower ISOs because of camera shake. All in all I think that these are impressive for a DX camera.

D300 HIGH ISO test shots

D300 - ISO 3200. Whole frame and 100% crop. Note these were taken in very dark conditions.
Posted Image

D300 - ISO 1600. Whole frame and 100% crop.
Posted Image

D300 - ISO 800. Whole frame and 100% crop.
Posted Image

D300 - ISO 400. Whole frame and 100% crop.
Posted Image

There was not enough light to get a useable exposure at ISO 200!

Alex

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#31 Paul Kay

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 12:35 AM

Alex

Forgive me for being blunt, but.....

To save you a lot of time and a great deal of effort, I for one would be much more interested in actually hearing your opinions on the two cameras, especially on a comparative basis with the D200 (and relative to any of the Canon FFs you've tried). It is extremely difficult to assess camera characteristics from a short trial and internet image posts, especially when they were taken under unfamiliar conditions (I have a vast collection of shots taken along the high street outside my local dealers, with surprisingly variable lighting and weather!). But, I think that most readers of your posts would appreciate a generalised opinion when you've looked at you images and mulled over what your reactions are to both cameras, and are going to accept it for being what it is, a view from an interested and competent person! I'd like to hear whether you feel that the high ISO images are good, clean and very usable or whether you'd say that they have a processed, unnatural feel - which is very difficult to figure from internet image posts - as an example.

Your efforts are appreciated - it is very difficult to assess a new camera quickly and you've already said a lot in commenting that users familar with Nikon could operate the new cameras with little difficult.

I'm sure that there will be excessively detailed and (over) detailed reviews appearing on the web shortly, but a hands on impression is often far more informative in my experience.

Nikon have (in my experience) always been overly secretive (they undoubtedly lost UK customers by refusing to give clues about potential dSLRs like the D2X for example) and I just hope that their future releases will include Pro fast fixed focals and an IF version (but not VR) of the 60 micro!
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#32 John Bantin

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 01:09 AM

Thanks for all the info Alex, although it is verging on TOO MUCH INFORMATION !!!

I will probably get a full-frame D3 simply because I have a vast range of old Nikon lenses in my safe and I like the idea of using them. (I work in my studio in Manual mode.)

What we need to know is if we have to buy a D300 to replace D200 for underwater. What's the answer?

Like John Liddiard, I need to make profit and not spend it ALL on camera kit. As I said on Saturday to CH, I still prefer to use the S2 Pro for high ISO situations. (I shot a calendar for the RC Church in very dark locations and it reproduced beautifully.)

By the way, I missed your Sunday presentation but I heard it was the one to see. What pity because I was not astounded (as I expected to be) by what I saw on Saturday.

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#33 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 02:00 AM

Hi Paul,

I agree with you on limitations on such tests. I tried to get that across at the beginning that these were not controlled conditions - and to take it all as subjective! That said people like to see the actual shots - which is why I went to the effort of posting them.

I shoot >90% underwater - so evaluating cameras on land is not too easy for me. Give me them both in the Red Sea and I would be much more reliable. For this reason I am sitting on the fence a little in my opinions.

Regarding the high ISO, I must start by saying I have never published/sold a high ISO image. For underwater shots of deep wrecks (which is probably one of the main uses for high ISO underwater), Charles Hood says that the D2X produces acceptable images for publication at ISO 800 (this would certainly not be true for other types of subject matter). In my opinion the D3 produces cleaner and more detailed images at ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400 than the D2X does at ISO 800. So it follows that the D3 could be used at ISO 6400 to shoot deep wrecks to produce images that exceed what Charles has found to be acceptable to the magazine, book and newspaper publishers where he has sold his images.

I am sorry not to give more of my opinion on what is and what is not acceptable for publication - but I don't have the experience in selling these sorts of shots.

The D300 seems at least 1-2 stops better than the D2X and maybe 2-3 worse than the D3 at high ISO.

Auto-focus. In terms of speed an accuracy the D3 does not seem that far ahead of the D2X (which IMO is the best UW AF I have used). The D300 seems very similar and a big improvment over the D200, which is considerably poorer than the D2X. The new 3D tracking looks very good for fish photography - but I need to try it more!

I have not shot the 1D Mk2N or the 1D Mk3 - so I am not familiar enough with Canon's AF in its latest models. As a general comment I have found in the past that Canon AF is slightly ahead of Nikon's in bright conditions, while Nikons is ahead in low light, low contrast. This is borne out when I shoot alongside other photographers with 1DS Mk2 - I get focus on subject they struggle with. That said Eric has found the exact opposite. He gets UW shots with his Canon that Nikon D2X shoots cannot! So maybe getting the most out of your AF has more to do with the operator.

In fact I think there is a valuable point there. With the complex AF modes on modern cameras - a lot of experimentation is required to find the best modes for different subjects/conditions.

Alex

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#34 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 02:08 AM

Hi John,

I think the D3 would serve you well as a topside camera. It is clearly designed for the diverse requirements of photo-journalism.

Personally I think most D200 owners should not worry about upgrading to the D300. The main reasons might be: 1) much better AF if you shoot tricky subjects like swimming fish with macro lenses, 2) better high ISO - although not world beating, 3) massive LCD - if detailed image review underwater is important. There are a few smaller reasons (slightly more rez etc), but nothing deal breaking. I think for most people this is not enough to justify new housing and camera costs.

The D300 will appeal strongly to Nikon shooters still shooting D70/D100 series cameras. And strangely for some D2X shooters - who want a small all round improvement but particularly a smaller camera body.

Glad to hear good things about my Visions talk. I was just pleased my voice held out.

Alex

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#35 Dan Schwartz

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 02:56 AM

Hi Dr. Mustard!

Although limited and not controlled, I still found the last sequence of test shots quite helpful in evaluating chroma noise in highlights & shadows, especially in the blue channel (the least sensitive of the three channels) in the ISO 1600 shot of the blue shirt.

As for deep wrecks & high ISO, since the water tends to get colder as one gets deeper, keep in the back of your mind that CCD & CMOS sensors' RMS noise levels get cut in half for every 8C (14F) cooler they are operating at; so you can crank up the amplifiers somewhat without penalty (provided, of course, that the battery still works!). Also, since the the thermal conductivity is better with aluminum than with plastic, it would appear that the heat generated by the camera circuitry would flow better into the chilly surrounding water with a metal housing.

Thank you for taking the time for posting the results of your hands-on evaluation!

Hi Paul,

I agree with you on limitations on such tests. I tried to get that across at the beginning that these were not controlled conditions - and to take it all as subjective! That said people like to see the actual shots - which is why I went to the effort of posting them.

I shoot >90% underwater - so evaluating cameras on land is not too easy for me. Give me them both in the Red Sea and I would be much more reliable. For this reason I am sitting on the fence a little in my opinions.

Regarding the high ISO, I must start by saying I have never published/sold a high ISO image. For underwater shots of deep wrecks (which is probably one of the main uses for high ISO underwater), Charles Hood says that the D2X produces acceptable images for publication at ISO 800 (this would certainly not be true for other types of subject matter). In my opinion the D3 produces cleaner and more detailed images at ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400 than the D2X does at ISO 800. So it follows that the D3 could be used at ISO 6400 to shoot deep wrecks to produce images that exceed what Charles has found to be acceptable to the magazine, book and newspaper publishers where he has sold his images.


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#36 Paul Kay

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 03:28 AM

Thanks Alex - if you're ever up in North Wales I'll let you have a good play with one of my Canons - getting objective opinions about strengths and weaknesses of differing manufacturer's cameras is tricky as its far too easy to defend what one uses rather than try to see if another system may have strengths for certain types of work, especially since few people are in a position to try different cameras.

On your comment tha "Eric has found the exact opposite. He gets UW shots with his Canon that Nikon D2X shoots cannot!" - on this note I find that my Canon's have Very Fast focus with the 24/1.4 and 100 macro but I suspect that these lenses have a great deal to do with this - now if Nikon bring out some fast fixed primes for D3 it will make for a very exciting camera indeed.
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#37 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 07:57 AM

Thanks for the update Alex!

The minimum focus distance of the 14-24mm lens is 0.9 feet or 10.8 inches from Nikon's site. If I understand dome theory correctly, it should be able to focus behind even 6" domes alright without a diopter.
That would be good since I doubt a diopter will be a possibility with this lens.

The 12-24mm on the other hand (at 11.8" min focus) focuses behind a 6" dome alright but for some reason still looks better with a diopter so clearly the min focus distance < dome diameter X 2 rule doesn't always hold.

Too bad that you of all people didn't check for the rear filter mount on the 14-24mm. That is a point of confusion from all of the info out on the web. So far no one has stated that there will be a drop in filter mount, yet I can hardly believe they would design it without one. This would be a killer lens to use with filters especially given the f2.8 aperature. Just don't try it for CFWA.

Now the challenge of housing this beast begins. I predict a a custom port and extensions will be required for nearly every housing given the girth. Ikelite may skip this one given the likelihood of them producing an FX housing for the time being.

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#38 Phil Rudin

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 09:10 AM

Hi Alex,

The D-3 and D-300 both sound like outstanding tools.

Regarding the 14 to 24 mm zoom, close focus is only slightly greater than my 7 to 14 Zoom which has the same angles of view, (plus a little more 14 to 28 in 35). It also has a very curved front element. I have used it with the Athena 170 mm and 220 mm domes and had no focus problems to the closest focus distance throughout the focal range.

Can you explain what Nikon means on the Nikon/UK web site in regard to close focus?

From the Nikon site-- "Closest focus distance
0.28 m/0.9 ft. (with focal length 18-24 mm)"

Does this mean at 14 mm and closest focus distance angle of view is 100 degrees not 114?

Phil Rudin

Edited by tropical1, 23 October 2007 - 09:22 AM.


#39 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 10:05 AM

I noticed this too. On the US site it says something like :

Min Focus: 0.9 ft (Telephoto)

I take this to mean that at 14mm the min focus is not 0.9ft. Whether it is shorter or longer is left to the reader.

A test is in order here if you can get your hands on one.

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#40 Phil Rudin

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 10:46 AM

This type on notation is not made on the Nikon 14 mm prime which appears to focus even closer, that is why I am asking.

Phil