12.3MP Nikon D3 challenges Canon EOS 1DS

There's been a rumour going round for a year or two now that Nikon would make a full-frame DSLR. And here it is... finally.

A DSLR with a full-frame - or FX - sensor means the imaging area is roughly the same size as a frame of 35mm film. This means there's no crop so, for example, a 28mm lens will act like a 28mm lens instead of having its centre cropped and angle of view reduced.

The Nikon D3 can shoot at 9 frames per second in Burst mode and up to 11 frames per second when shooting the reduced resolution of 5MP when working with DX-type lenses.

Nikon CMOS

The Nikon-designed CMOS sensor at the heart of the D3 is a 12.3MP model. And although this is a lower resolution than the 21MP offered by Canon's EOS 1Ds Mark III, it's probably enough for most pro photographers' needs.

A benefit of having fewer megapixels is the increase in space available for each pixel on the sensor. Each light well can collect much more light which should translate into much better low-light performance.

To counter Canon's DiGIC processing chip, Nikon has created a brand new high-speed image processing chip, which it calls Expeed. In addition to this new processor, the D3 boasts no fewer than 51 autofocus points.

The D3 is £2,600 less than Canon's 1Ds Mark III and will appeal to many pro Nikon users who may have been thinking of switching to Canon. The D3 will be available in late November at the earliest. Nikon still has to ramp up production and finalise the firmware. We'll bring you an in-depth test of this beast just as soon as it's ready.

Those buying the D3 will be pleased to note that Nikon will be selling an AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED and a AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED. Prices to be announced soon.

Key features

1,005 RGB sensor: Autofocus and exposure are controlled by Nikon's 1,005-pixel RGB sensor that sits in the D3's pentaprism. The chip has been completely overhauled and provides interpretation of scenes.

CMOS 12.1MP: Nikon has designed its own CMOS FX sensor for the D3. By restricting the resolution to 12.1MP, it's enabled an increase in the chip's pixel pitch which should provide low noise levels across the ISO range of 200 - 6400.

Key specs

  • Price: £3,399
  • Sensor: CMOS 12.1MP
  • Focal length conversion: 1 no crop factor
  • Lens mount: Nikon F mount
  • Continuous shooting: 9 frames per second
  • Shutter speeds: 30 to 1/8000 + Bulb
  • Storage: Dual Compact Flash slots
  • Image processor: Nikon Expeed
  • Dimensions: 60 x 157 x 88mm
  • Weight: 1240g (excl battery)
  • Contact : Nikon 0871 2001964, www.nikon.co.uk