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If you missed it, which would've been difficult after the leaks from across the pond on Friday and over the weekend, Nikon has officially announced its D3x - the company's highest resolution DSLR to date, aimed primarily at the studio photographer. Of course, we were at the launch and had the opportunity to give it a hands-on whirl in a studio with a couple of models...
In short, the Nikon D3x is a D3 with a 24.5-megapixel CMOS sensor at its heart. This effectively ups the number of pixels by a factor of two from the D3 and D700 to give Nikon a trio of full-frame FX cameras at the top of its range.
As for the details about the sensor itself, Nikon was remaining tight-lipped at the launch, referring to it as a 'Nikon exclusive design'. Whether or not we can glean from this that Nikon has modified the Sony sensor found in the 24-megapixel A900 is largely conjecture, so all we can say is that the sensor has been 'specially developed' by Nikon and features a gap-less micro lens array and a unique low-pass filter with multi-layer coating that helps to minimise moiré.
The other differences include a new 'High' D-Lighting setting to bring out more detail from shadow regions without blowing out the highlights and a narrower standard ISO range of 100-1,600 that can be extended by two stops up to 6,400 and down one to 50. As a result of the greater amount of image data, the continuous shooting rate has fallen from the D3's 9fps to a still healthy 5fps at full resolution or up to 7fps in its 10-megapixel DX format crop-mode. And, to get an idea of the data sizes we're talking about, you can expect the following file sizes:
- NEF FX(14-Bit) = 50MB approx.
- NEF FX(12-Bit) = 37MB approx.
- JPEG FX Large Fine = 10mB approx.
- NEF DX (14-Bit) =22MB approx.
- NEF DX (12-Bit) = 16.2MB approx.
- Converted NEF FX to 16-Bit TIFF = 143MB approx.
- TIFF FX = 72MB approx.
The rest of the features are pretty much the same as the D3. A magnesium alloy body and mirror chamber with weather-sealing; a 100% coverage viewfinder; the excellent 3in VGA LCD with Live View; and autofocus handled admirably by the tried and tested 51-point Multi-CAM 3500 system.
As usual, EXPEED image processing lies within, along with Nikon's scene recognition and tracking system courtesy of a 1,005-pixel RGB sensor. There's also the Kevlar/carbon fibre composite shutter - good for 300,000 actuations - a Type-C HDMI output, two UDMA-capable CompactFlash slots, and of course the same ergonomics and handling that the Nikon D3 is renown for.
In use, it felt extremely well-balanced in the hand even with heavy lenses. And as a long-time Canon user, I found that the D3x's controls were surprisingly easy to operate and use, with everything laid out very intuitively. It looks big, I agree, but it doesn't feel it...
The viewfinder is very bright and clear - essential for studio work - and focusing in low-light was quick and accurate, although on occasion it did get a little confused in gloomy, low-contrast scenes - hardly unusual for any DSLR, professional or not. However, overall, it feels superbly solid and totally up to the job.
Seeing as this is Nikon's top-of -the-range digital SLR, you can also expect a top-of-the-range price. With an RRP of £5,499.99 Inc VAT (at 15%), and availability from late December, there should be just enough time to make someone very special extremely happy this Christmas.