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2008.12.02

Nikon just announced its 24 megapixels professional DSLR, the D3X. This high resolution DSLR boasts twice the resolution of their current flagship full-frame camera, the Nikon D3. Featuring a nearly identical body to the D3, the D3X is to be a sister model to the D3. The compromise being that the D3 is four times more sensitive to light with a maximum ISO of 25,600, compared to the D3X’s maximum ISO of 6400. Having twice as many pixels to move, the D3X also shoots twice slower than the D3, which is still a respectable 5 FPS.

The Nikon D3X retains the D3’s outstanding ergonomics, ruggedness and fantastic feature set, including 100% coverage viewfinder, digital horizon, 51-point autofocus system, 3″ LCD with 920K pixels, dual Ultra-DMA Compact Flash slots and compatibility of all Nikon lenses and accessories. The D3X has a weather-sealed body with an integrated vertical grip, just like the D3. The D3X should be available this month for a suggested price of $8000 USD.

While the 24 megapixels resolution was expected for quite some time, the price tag has caused some controversy, including Luminous Landscape‘s Micheal Reichmann apparently canceling his order. While Canon’s 1Ds Mark III used to sell for a similar price, it is now available from Amazon for under $6700 USD, so about 300 less for a 21 megapixels professional full-frame DSLR which shoots at 5 FPS and also has a 100% coverage viewfinder. Not only this makes the D3X the most expensive DSLR, but the similar D3 sells for $4200. The concerning aspect of this is that the D3X is not absolutely better, it represents a compromise from the D3: more resolution in exchange for lower light-sensitivity and slower continuous drive. There are certainly photographers for which the D3X is better, mostly landscape photographers making huge prints and shooting from a tripod at relatively low ISO settings. There are probably even more photographers and photojournalists for which the D3 is a better camera due to either of its advantages.

To make matters worst, while the D3 still has no competitors due to its unique ultra-high-ISO capability, the D3X already has 3 cheaper competitors: the 25 megapixels Sony Alpha A900, the 21 megapixels Canon 1Ds Mark III and, to a lesser extent, the 21 megapixels Canon 5D Mark II. All these shoot continuously at about 5 FPS. The closest and most serious competitor is the $3000 USD Sony Alpha A900. At less than half the price, it has the same resolution, same frame rate, same ISO range plus a larger 100% coverage viewfinder and builtin image stabilization in a smaller body. Many photographers will consider the A900’s specification is superior to the D3X’s. The Canon 5D Mark II, which also sells for around $3000, is actually lacking a 100% coverage viewfinder, most probably not to cannibalize 1Ds Mark III sales. However, the 5D Mark II packs two aces: one more stop of light-sensitivity and 1080p high-definition movie-recording with audio. The existence of these two cameras, particularly the Sony, is pressing the feeling that the D3X is over-priced.


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