Inspirations from older cameras: the Nikon D3, part one

For me, the Nikon D3 is one of the cameras that revolutionized the way I shot – no longer was the camera the limitation in any way. It almost made things too easy; it forced me to rethink the way I shoot and stop trying to capture ‘everything’ in hyperreal detail and light (that was the previous challenge) and start moving myself to a more selective way of seeing. This was further reinforced by the Leica M8 that followed…

The D3 and D700 share the same sensor and much of their innards; the latter camera is still in service with me today, and used for things where I either don’t need the resolution or have to shoot under more demanding conditions than would be convenient with the D800E. And for anybody thinking of upgrading from an older DX camera, do it – you’re in for a treat.

Part one of the reinspiration is here. MT

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Fushima-inarii, Kyoto. D3, 24-70

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Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. D3, 70-300VR

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Rain. Kuala Lumpur. D3, 70-300VR

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Scarlet ibis. D3, 70-300VR

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Joy. D3, 24-70

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Detective in the city. D3, 24-70

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Stamens. D3, 105VR

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Imperial Palace moat, Tokyo. D3, 24-70.

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Shadows, Tokyo. D3, 24-70

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Omega Dynamic. D3, 105VR

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Daibutsu, Nara. D3, 24-70


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  1. Seems like a Hasselblad to Nikon lens adapter should be enough to give you a digital Polaroid (Fuji-roid) of the lighting? It would be cropped, but the main area lighting should show accurately.

  2. Hey Ming – even better, I just recently passed up on the D600/800 (after trialling each) for a mint/as new D3x. This accompanies my D700. What a great camera the D3x is and I feel I lost nothing to the D800. The older camera instills me with confidence that I never felt with either of the two new incarnations. I have the increased resolution over the D700, for when it is needed and a bullet-proof body to accompany me on my upcoming trip back to Myanmar.

    I am thinking of leaving the D700 behind this time and taking my usual wonderful Fuji X100 along with only the D3x and new 70-200 F4 VR. What I may lose in high ISO on the D700, I will gain with greater depth in the D3x files and having the VR on the the new f4 lens (added five stops over my old 80-200 AFD 2.8), I should not need to go too high in the ISO stakes.

    Thanks for your many informative posts I read all over the place. You are an inspiration.


    • I think it’s the build and AF that are speaking to you. The D600 feels like a consumer camera, and the D800 is demanding enough that you really have to use it like medium format to get the most out of it. You’re probably losing out a couple of stops high ISO performance though.

      Don’t forget people-motion won’t be stopped by VR. But yes, you should gain a stop or two in real world terms (and I wouldn’t be surprised if the T stop of the f4 is similar to the old AFS 2.8 because of improved coatings, too). Have a good trip!

  3. An old camera ? I wouldn’t say so. Its one of the best cameras available in my opinion. especially when compared with price tags.

    • Five year old technology is an age in the digital game, but I agree, I’m not sure the new cameras are decisively better for everything – personally, the D3 marked the first time we had sufficiency.

  4. I made the jump from a D90 to D700 and was really amazed by its capability. As an enthusiast, it’s plenty capable for my needs (though its weight and physical size can be a bit of a burden in some situations) and I look forward to creating wonderful images with it for the next few years.

    • I think it was really the first general purpose camera that I felt had no major compromises. If you don’t get the shot…it’s operator error.

  5. Ron Sprunger says:

    Wonderful images as always Ming. As a D700 owner for the past 3 1/2 years, I have to consider yours the gold standard to which I aspire. Would you consider adding exif data to your images in the future, or is there already a way to see it that I’m missing?


  6. Oh no! My professional working camera has turned up on the “Old Cameras” list!

    • Haha. I thought this one would be a little contentious, but given all of the hoopla about the D800 and D4, the 700 and 3 have been sadly forgotten by the wayside…not that I would produce any better images with one over the other, though. I’m still using my D700 for situations that don’t require silly resolution. Those cameras long passed the point of sufficiency.

  7. Stamens blew me away. Was that natural lighting or did you use some type of flash or perhaps reflectors ??
    All of the work was really remarkable but something about the macro shot caught my eye.

  8. Lovely images of life far away from Wisconsin, thanks MJ

  9. Lovely shots, as usual, Ming. Interested to see that you used 24-70 and 70-300 zooms for these. Now you seem to rely on primes. What took you in that direction and was it linked with your comments above about a change in style linked to the D3?

    • Thanks. The D3 felt like the first camera that had no restrictions – so I wanted to capture everything. I’ve since learned that whilst flexible, it isn’t the best thing for me personally as it doesn’t force me to focus on composition and learn perspectives well. There’s also the cinematic look that I was going after which only came from fast primes; not to mention quite considerable additional light gathering ability.

  10. Hi, Ming
    I’m long time fans of your Blog, I’m from Toronto, Canada. Every your photo is piece of art. I have learned a lot from your site.
    Thank you so much for sharing great photo and articles!
    I used to use D700, it’s D800 now.
    i have a question, my photo is not clear as yours even i use same lens. do you do special post process for your photos? can you share some post processing tips?
    Thanks again!
    best regard,
    Harvey Zhang

    • Thanks Harvey!

      No special postprocessing – every image goes through the same workflow (by popular request, I’m producing a photoshop workflow DVD for photographers – it’ll be available next week).


  1. […] the threshold of sufficiency happening in late 2007/early 2008, right around the time of the D3 and D700. You could now shoot anything under pretty much any light. There were no more excuses; it […]

  2. […] short consumer attention spans and a liquid used market. Even in Malaysia, you can find a D3/D3s for less than or around the price of a new D610; I know which I’d rather have unless pixel […]

  3. […] The D700 is really a camera without compromise… For normal humans. I recommend reading Ming Inspirations from older cameras: the Nikon D3, part one I think he said it right. You will not be held back by a D700. He is right on the money. Take a […]

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