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Maybe it's just a bloke thing, but whenever I'm out testing a new camera I'm always acutely aware that other camera users, or at least the male ones, are sizing up the gear that I'm using to determine our relative positions on the social ladder of camera status. It's particularly noticeable with DSLR users. If I'm out testing a compact camera or even a super-zoom, DSLR owners tend to give me mildly patronising looks, as though to say "You're using a tripod with that little thing? How cute."

Similarly if I'm using some new entry-level digital SLR I tend to notice sidelong glances of disparaging smugness from owners of more expensive mid-range models. Usually I pay no attention to such things; we are, after all, professionals. However today I will admit to a moment of sweet, sweet revenge against this small but personal annoyance.

I was in Sidmouth shooting my usual detail test shots of the seafront with a couple of new DSLRs. The viewpoint where I stand to take that particular shot is popular with tourists at this time of year, and as usual there were a couple of people there snapping the same view. One guy had an older Olympus super-zoom, but the other was using a Canon EOS 40D and the two of them had clearly already established their relative social positions.

The first camera I was testing was an entry-level Sony which I'll be reviewing next week, and I immediately noticed a slightly envious glance from super-zoom user and the usual annoyingly smug look from the Canon owner. I let him enjoy his illusion of superiority while I finished taking shots with the Sony. Then I put it back in my bag and pulled out the Nikon D3x.

I swear I heard a small, strangled yelp from the 40D owner as his previous status was reversed in an instant, because he knew, and he knew that I knew, that in the world of DSLR cameras the D3x is Top Dog, the alpha male of the social order, and I couldn't have injured his pride any more painfully if I'd peed in his camera bag. The D3x is simply the biggest, fastest and most expensive DSLR camera on the market, and even owners of the Canon EOS 1DS MkIII will nod their heads in respect. Although there's always the Hasselblad H3DII-50, but nobody talks to those guys.

Of course that's not the reason why someone would buy a Nikon D3x. People who buy cameras for status or because they think that owning a more expensive camera will magically make them a better photographer will usually go for the Canon EOS 5D MkII, which is still expensive but less than half the price of the D3x.

No, the only reason someone would spend £4,800 on a serious professional camera is because they are a serious professional photographer, and they need a camera that can be relied upon to take top quality pictures every time, all the time, in any situation from the backstreets of Basra to the rainforests of the Amazon. That's the job that the D3x was designed to do, and doing anything less with it would be a waste.

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