The return of a legend. The Nikon D3.


Photographers are a silly bunch.  Many of us are “gear junkies.”  I know I am and my wife could attest to that.  So couldn’t Discover Card.  I think that in a time when cameras can shoot clean up to 12,800 ISO, it is refreshing to go backwards a bit.  This is what I did and so far I am really enjoying it.

I shoot with the Nikon D810 as my primary portrait body.  For photojournalism, it is the Nikon D4.  I had a brief love affair with the D750, but in the end it was just too small for me. I like a bigger pro body that balances heavier glass.  The D4 is a joy to use.  I don’t need a D5 at this point in my career.

So, why a D3?  I mean, it was released in like 2008.  That is a century ago in digital technology.  I will tell you why.  Because it is a simple no-nonsense solid hunk of magnesium alloy that lacks all the fancy features we find in today’s newer bodies.  No video.  No HDR.  No crazy 2,000,000 ISO.  Primitive live view so useless that I actually enjoy it.  As much as I love the D4, the D3 feels more like a film camera that shoots digitally.  The D4 and its brethren feel like high quality digital cameras.  I hope I explained that well.  You have to work a little harder to get the shot with the D3, but there is certain satisfaction to that.  It reminds me of the Leica M8…another antique.  Older tech can sometimes be the answer when creativity has taken a little hiatus.

When I recently had the opportunity to purchase a D3 for a ridiculously low price, I jumped on it.  When I used it for the first time in years I quickly remembered why I loved it so much.  It is a workhorse.  It wants to take a beating.  It wants rain, snow, and sleet.  It needs to be played very well to produce, sort of like Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello.  It fights you a bit and where the D4 is the handsome QB of a Superbowl team, the D3 is a weathered left guard with calloused hands.

Don’t believe me?  Take a look…

All kidding aside, I really do think that old tech can revive creativity.  With ISO limitations I find myself choosing different lenses.  I may need to re-think lighting.  (it is amazing to say ISO limitations when the D3 is a great camera up to 3200 ISO and usable at 6400)  I may need to re-think a scene.

One thing is for sure.  The D3 was a breakthrough camera in 2008 and remains an awesome camera in 2016.  I disagree with Ken Rockwell when he uses the term digital junk.  One man’s trash is another’s treasure.



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