A bit of an digital "archeological dig".

fiddlefye

Senior Member
My camera tech friend owns a shop that these days deals mostly in used, mostly film camera gear. A year or so back a local wealthy amateur photographer passed away and a week or so ago one of his daughters asked my friend to go through his remaining gear, value and sell it. One of the items for sale is Nikon D850, but much as I'd love it my bank account said a big "no".

There were a couple of much older items I can swing, though. One is a Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 zoom. For my frequent "gig" shooting it is perfect. The other item is a really low-mileage Nikon D3. I've been thinking I wanted a back-up body of some sort to go with my D750 until I can afford that D850 or Z7 as The 750 was in the shop three times in its first couple of years and worries me a bit. Ok, so this thing is ancient as digital cameras go - 2007 and only 12MP. Would it prove to be still useful? The price is cheaper than a decent point-and-shoot, though such would probably have more MP these days.
_EMG1832 by fiddlefye, on Flickr
So I took it out for the afternoon today. The construction is gorgeous and the control interface is wonderful so it is a lot of fun to shoot with, but what of the picture quality?
 
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fiddlefye

Senior Member
No problem at all then with "just" 12MP, dare I say?

I say F the megapixel wars, it simply does not apply in many (most?) uses cases. Far greater importance may be placed on light, lens, and operator expertise.
I think one could do some pretty large prints from this camera that look very good. The colour envelope is a little different from my D750, but still appealing, capable of considerable subtlety. The D3 doesn't have quite the high ISO chops my D750 has, but it isn't bad, either.

I've been wanting a back-up body for quite awhile now. I've redundancy coming out the wazoo on the film side of things, but never something viable on the digital side. I do a fair amount of "gig" shooting for websites and such and I've missed jobs several times while the D750 was in the shop getting sorted out.

The main points to this D3 for me are 1) it is full frame 2) it is extremely affordable 3) it is in lovely condition - it is truly in infancy in terms of the work it has done 3) it is freakin' gorgeous. It reeks of quality - at $5k new it ought to! The finder is better than any digital camera I've used. Even focusing manual lenses (what I shoot with for the most part) is incredibly easy. Control layout and logic are intuitive and quick to use. Once parameters are set up there is pretty much never any need to go into a menu during a session. I like that a whole lot.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I think one could do some pretty large prints from this camera that look very good. The colour envelope is a little different from my D750, but still appealing, capable of considerable subtlety. The D3 doesn't have quite the high ISO chops my D750 has, but it isn't bad, either.

I've been wanting a back-up body for quite awhile now. I've redundancy coming out the wazoo on the film side of things, but never something viable on the digital side. I do a fair amount of "gig" shooting for websites and such and I've missed jobs several times while the D750 was in the shop getting sorted out.

The main points to this D3 for me are 1) it is full frame 2) it is extremely affordable 3) it is in lovely condition - it is truly in infancy in terms of the work it has done 3) it is freakin' gorgeous. It reeks of quality - at $5k new it ought to! The finder is better than any digital camera I've used. Even focusing manual lenses (what I shoot with for the most part) is incredibly easy. Control layout and logic are intuitive and quick to use. Once parameters are set up there is pretty much never any need to go into a menu during a session. I like that a whole lot.
Nice, how is the battery holding up? I imagine it isn't the original battery? Is there a shutter count?
 

GuyK

Junior Member
The D3 was Nikon's first full frame, and was also their flagship body for a number of years. It was built for the dedicated professional photographer. The color pallette and viewfinders of the D3-4-5 cameras are superb; I like them much more than my D610. The only things I have against them is the sheer size of the things, and their expense. They are enormous. I flat out do not want to carry around a camera that large, and can't afford one that expensive, and the D610 showed up for an absurdly low price, so...
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
The D3 was Nikon's first full frame, and was also their flagship body for a number of years. It was built for the dedicated professional photographer. The color pallette and viewfinders of the D3-4-5 cameras are superb; I like them much more than my D610. The only things I have against them is the sheer size of the things, and their expense. They are enormous. I flat out do not want to carry around a camera that large, and can't afford one that expensive, and the D610 showed up for an absurdly low price, so...
The sheer size of them is a deal-breaker for me. Heck, I can't even stand using my wife's Canon 5DmkIV and its not as heavy as a D3. I do agree that for picture quality, in good light and if you're not using auto focus, they're a great deal compared to what you can get new for near the price, but it wouldn't be a good camera for me as I'd just never want to bring it with me anywhere. The best camera to me is the one that's on you when a photo presents itself.

I do really like the last series of Nikon film SLRs that came right before this...but they're also equally big.
 

fiddlefye

Senior Member
Nice, how is the battery holding up? I imagine it isn't the original battery? Is there a shutter count?
The battery is a replacement higher-capacity model, the original having given up and refusing to take a charge. We thought the one I'm using now was in the same state as it was so dead that the charger refused to recognize it. We gave it a bit of a jump start and it seems to have gone to full charge. I've already done about 300 shots and it is still saying it is at full charge so I guess it is viable. I'll definitely get another, though.

Shutter count is about 50k, peanuts on a camera that is supposed to be good for 400k. Plenty of D3s are way over a millions cycles and still working perfectly.
 

fiddlefye

Senior Member
The sheer size of them is a deal-breaker for me. Heck, I can't even stand using my wife's Canon 5DmkIV and its not as heavy as a D3. I do agree that for picture quality, in good light and if you're not using auto focus, they're a great deal compared to what you can get new for near the price, but it wouldn't be a good camera for me as I'd just never want to bring it with me anywhere. The best camera to me is the one that's on you when a photo presents itself.

I do really like the last series of Nikon film SLRs that came right before this...but they're also equally big.
The size thing I find to be a non-issue. Sure it's big and a bit heavy, but carrying it around for a couple of hours yesterday the perception was that it was if anything lighter than my D750 (which it is not). If I carried a camera around my neck I'm sure it would be a huge issue, but I don't and never have. It in part comes down to balance I guess.

The autofocus is actually quicker and more accurate than on my D750 (specs be damned) and when using manual focus lenses the D3 is clearly better. A few minutes ago I shot a quick series of a moving cat at very close range and the D3 nailed focus on the nearer eye with the lens wide open every time. The autofocus is no slouch.

I agree about having a camera to carry easily and unobtrusively and I've had one for a number of years. In the film days it was an Olympus XA for the most part. I've had a few decent small cameras in the digital world, though none of them every really turned my crank enough that I used them much. One day I'll engage with that issue again. One problem with many of such cameras is that they rather ephemeral in terms of continuing to function for a reasonable length of time and when they go bad they're almost impossible to repair.

Part of my choice in digital cameras has to do with the Nikon fullframe DSLRs keying into a fairly extensive collection of Nikkor glass that I like. I figure that if nothing else the D3 fulfills that corollary of Murphy's Law that dictates that if one has back-up nothing will ever go wrong. Not true, but...
 

GuyK

Junior Member
The sheer size of them is a deal-breaker for me. Heck, I can't even stand using my wife's Canon 5DmkIV and its not as heavy as a D3. I do agree that for picture quality, in good light and if you're not using auto focus, they're a great deal compared to what you can get new for near the price, but it wouldn't be a good camera for me as I'd just never want to bring it with me anywhere. The best camera to me is the one that's on you when a photo presents itself.

I do really like the last series of Nikon film SLRs that came right before this...but they're also equally big.
I always thought the film cameras were a reasonable size until one put an auto-winder on them. Still bigger than I'd like, but managable. I never wanted or needed a motor on a film camera.
 

GuyK

Junior Member
The size thing I find to be a non-issue. Sure it's big and a bit heavy, but carrying it around for a couple of hours yesterday the perception was that it was if anything lighter than my D750 (which it is not). If I carried a camera around my neck I'm sure it would be a huge issue, but I don't and never have. It in part comes down to balance I guess.

The autofocus is actually quicker and more accurate than on my D750 (specs be damned) and when using manual focus lenses the D3 is clearly better. A few minutes ago I shot a quick series of a moving cat at very close range and the D3 nailed focus on the nearer eye with the lens wide open every time. The autofocus is no slouch.

I agree about having a camera to carry easily and unobtrusively and I've had one for a number of years. In the film days it was an Olympus XA for the most part. I've had a few decent small cameras in the digital world, though none of them every really turned my crank enough that I used them much. One day I'll engage with that issue again. One problem with many of such cameras is that they rather ephemeral in terms of continuing to function for a reasonable length of time and when they go bad they're almost impossible to repair.

Part of my choice in digital cameras has to do with the Nikon fullframe DSLRs keying into a fairly extensive collection of Nikkor glass that I like. I figure that if nothing else the D3 fulfills that corollary of Murphy's Law that dictates that if one has back-up nothing will ever go wrong. Not true, but...
A number of the older Nikkor lenses are still as good as, and in some cases better, than anything currently made. Nothing wrong with wanting to be able to use them, imo.
 

fiddlefye

Senior Member
A number of the older Nikkor lenses are still as good as, and in some cases better, than anything currently made. Nothing wrong with wanting to be able to use them, imo.
I like that i can pick up any of my Nikons, film or digital and just use every Nikkor I own with all of them. On the F4 I can even use the G lenses.
 
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GuyK

Junior Member
I like that i can pick up and of my Nikons, film or digital and just use every Nikkor I own with all of them. On the F4 I can even use the G lenses.
Auto-focus isn't a big deal to me. I have it with the body I currently have, so I use it. VR lenses are useful, too. But I kinda like the 50-1.8 pancake I got awhile back (the real one, not the series e, with the close focus), and would like to be able to make better use of it. I'm kicking myself right now - there was an FA body for sale nearby recently, for a very reasonable price, that I couldn't make up my mind about. Now it's gone.
 

Tedrick

Junior Member
Compatability with your existing glass, low shutter actuations, affordable price, and stellar reputation....seems like an excellent choice for a backup body to me.
 
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