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D3 vs D800

eric m , Mar 26, 2013; 01:42 p.m.

Although a little old the D3 still takes great photos. The D800 is the "latest and greatest" from Nikon but what is the advantage of D800 over the D3, other than larger file size? ( I'm not interested in video feature).


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Kenneth Gavin , Mar 26, 2013; 01:52 p.m.

Those are two very different cameras. What do you like to shoot? With that, I think people here can help better.

Phil Evans , Mar 26, 2013; 02:31 p.m.

The D3 can take great photos, but its up to you to choose if you want a camera that large.

Andrew Garrard , Mar 26, 2013; 02:43 p.m.

The D800 has significantly better dynamic range at low ISOs. The performance at high ISOs is around a stop better (not so much with the D3s, but my D800 is a clear step ahead of my D700 over a whole image - not per-pixel). The resolution is the obvious advantage, along with the lighter weight (arguably). There's an integrated flash, which can act as a commander for remote flashes. The autofocus is slightly better in terms of electronics, assuming you avoid dodgy alignment. The meter has been updated. There's a sensor-shake dust repeller.

The D3 is appreciably faster in frame rate and more solid. Some of the controls are in a place that's easier to reach right-handed (ISO, WB, autofocus mode). The meter may be more reliable in its old form. The big batteries can drive some lenses slightly faster. Obviously you get the portrait grip for free. I suspect, from my experience with my F5, that it's built somewhat more solidly, not least because you can't snap off the flash and there aren't electronics on the bottom for a grip attachment.

If you want 8fps in low light, get a D3 (if you can't afford a D3s or D4). If frame rate and (to a lesser extent) handling matter less to you than image quality and light weight, get the D800. We can elaborate on the trade-offs if we include the other FX cameras (D700, D3s, D4, D600).

I considered a D3 when I got my D700. I probably made the right choice for me at the time, though if they'd actually been the same price I may have thought otherwise (and got used to a bigger camera). Now, I wouldn't swap my D700 (which now has a battery grip accessory) for a D3. I'd be more tempted by a D3s or a D4. I have a D800 as well, and it gets used far more than my D700. Obviously, I don't seem to be shooting at high frame rates much, so YMMV.

Elliot Bernstein , Mar 26, 2013; 03:54 p.m.

I find the biggest advantage aside from improved AF is the incredible high ISO performance. I generally print at 8" x 10", and find my prints at ISO 6400 and even higher look like ISO 200 from the D3. The colors are also much, much better overall, especially at high ISO.

Because of the higher resolution, you also have the ability to crop more without as much loss in image quality.

I have both the D3 in the D800, and I rarely use the D3 anymore, even for sports. The much improved image quality of the D800 is far more important to me than for the frame rate (not everyone agrees with this).

Alastair Anderson , Mar 26, 2013; 04:42 p.m.

I currently own a D800 and did own a D3. I endorse Elliot's comments above, particularly as regards image quality and colour rendition, but would add that I preferred the ergonomics or handling of the D3. Many people prefer a smaller camera. For me, however, the D800 is too big to be a 'smaller' camera. I have no complaints about the build quality of the D800, but I loved the D3, particularly the viewfinder. I hope this is not too garbled and contradictory.

Phil Evans , Mar 26, 2013; 05:56 p.m.

aside from improved AF

Elliot, can you tell us how the AF is better?

JDM von Weinberg , Mar 26, 2013; 06:42 p.m.

How could anything with only 12MP be any good at all? [IRONY.~]

Paul K , Mar 26, 2013; 06:43 p.m.

IMHO the main advantage of the D800 is the bigger file size, which allows more cropping afterwards if necessary.

Hihg ISO performance is on par with the D3, AF is fast enough but suffers from a slower/longer shutter lag, of course slower fps (I regularly shoot sports)

The smaller size is not relevant to me as I use it 95% of the time with a grip, nor is the pop up flash for me as I either use it with SB800's or a SB400.

The standard battery is a let down compared with the D3, as is the buffer.

The video and sensor shaker are not deciding factors for me to decide whether to buy a camera.

My two cents

Eric Arnold , Mar 26, 2013; 07:19 p.m.

my prints at ISO 6400 and even higher look like ISO 200 from the D3.

exaggerate much?

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