A History of the Nikon D3

by on May 1, 2007

in Gear,Nikon,Rumors

What? How can a camera that doesn’t even exist yet have a history? Good question. However, the Nikon D3 has been floating around the Internet since at least 2003. It’s gathered quite a following and a considerable, ever-changing feature list. Trust me, you want one . . . no, you want two.

2003

The earliest reference that I’ve found for the Nikon D3 came in a bit of a rambling in a Photo.net forum. In a thread discussing the rumors of the Nikon F6, folks were discussing the possibility of Nikon introducing a hybrid SLR (film with digital back) and a poster mentioned the following on June 27, 2003:

Leica has just introduced a digital module for its R8 and R9 few days ago, something similar to the Hasselblad H1. If Leica has done it, why can’t Nikon? F6, D2 or a D3 doesn’t matter, as long as it is a hybrid SLR.

Kinda lame, right? Well, that’s the earliest mention I got for you. Not really a rumor, but more of a speculation of possible things to come.

2004

In 2004, the rumors really started to roll out on the Nikon D3. It looks like the initial “real” predictions came from Lonestar Digital around August 21. I wasn’t able to find the prediction archived on Lonestar Digital; however, the rumors are reflected in a post on PhotographyBLOG:

we should see a 15 megapixel Nikon D3, 8.25 megapixel Nikon D200 and an 8.2 megapixel Nikon D2X by the end of 2004.

The Digital Photography Blog gives a quote of the rumor found on Lonestar Digital:

Nikon D3 – All new DSLR body, full frame, 15 Megapixels. Nikon’s new flagship camera will level the premium side of the DSLR playing field with Canon and Kodak Professional’s full-frame offerings.

The rumor quickly made its way over to Engadget, which made the rumors seem a little more like solid news (see italics):

We were just getting used to a world with the Canon EOS-20D in it when along comes some rumors/predictions of Nikon striking back with a whole bunch of new digital cameras. The lineup of new cameras due out this fall is supposed to include:

The D3, a new 15 megapixel digital SLR.

The D200, an 8.25 megapixel upgrade to the D100.

The D2HS, a new version of their D2H digital SLR (which is pictured at right) with an improved 4.1 megapixel sensor.

The DSX, an 8.2 megapixel version of the D2HS that doubles the number of horizontal pixels.

Digital Photography Blog chimed in by simply passing along the rumor as a rumor.

DigitalSLR.org has a brief moment of ecstasy in August as well while discussing Nikon’s rebuttal to the, then new, Canon 20D:

Nikon D3 – a full frame 15MP with built in hover craft stabilization system (I’m starting to sell my organs as we speak).

First of all, if you’ve read digitalSLR.org with any regularity you know I’ve been harping on Nikon to release a full frame camera in a scientifically arranged and proven pattern consisting of every third post. I say proven prematurely, but I’m pretty sure it worked. The D3 looks to be like it will be an $6k+ camera, so I’m not getting my hopes up about it, but just getting a full frame camera in the line makes me happy. And I feel strongly that we won’t be seeing any hover craft stabilization system, because I made that up in a fit of excitement.

And that pretty much sums up 2004. Clearly, we had something to chew on in ’04. Sounds like someone was just doing a bit of dreaming – or perhaps some facetious rumor-spreading.

2005

More overflow from 2004 here. Jancology.com wasted no time after the release of the Nikon D2x to intentionally speculate on the specs of the Nikon D3 (not that there’s anything wrong with that):

In the meantime we can dream up specs for the D3. Some rumors say that it will be announced end 2005. That will devaluate the D2x a little quick for “equipment measurbators”. Although changes are that a coming D3 might be twice as expensive!

This photo of the D3 goes back to at least October 2005:

An article from the Salt Lake Tribune surfaced on SportsShooter.com on Jan. 3, 2005, wherein the author named the Nikon D3 as one of the two things he dreamed of for 2005.

I don’t know how many megapixels or frames per second Nikon’s next D-series camera will have. I don’t even know when they’ll announce it (though based on history it would be out in November).

What I do know is this- Canon needs some competition in 2005. We need Nikon to come out with a great camera at a great price. Only at that point will we see equipment prices low enough that photographers can make a living.

The other thing dreamed of was an iPod Photo-Journalist.

The D3 was also a big forum topic, as evidenced here and here on Photo.net. It also got dugg in ’05.

2006

The Digital Photography Blog sums up the sentiments from 2006 for the most part:

To be honest most of them don’t have a lot of substance to them as the specifications people are talking about the Nikon D3X having are pretty wild and varied – however we are hearing from people who know that there is a D3X in development and we can assume that it’ll be a DSLR that is going to attract a lot of attention from Nikon Professionals (and the rest of us as we drool on).

However, bythom steps out with the predictions, which can be surprisingly accurate, in June 2006 to project the arrival of the D3 line of cameras far into the future:

Slide those dates just a tad and you get: PMA 2008 = D3h, Photokina 2008=D3x. Not only entirely plausible, but I’d have to say that anything faster than that would show Nikon speeding up their engineering.

While we’re on the pro cameras, so what does a D3 look like? Given the time frame involved:

D3h

  • 10-12mp APS
  • Full DX at 8 fps, HS Crop at 10-12 fps
  • Direct hard drive connection, built-in wireless
  • Real time histograms in viewfinder
  • Improved AF system

D3x

  • 24mp FF
  • FF at 3 fps, HS DX Crop at 5 fps
  • Direct hard drive connection
  • Real time histograms in viewfinder
  • Improved AF system

Of course, I’ve been wrong before ;~). But I think those would be reasonable targets for substantive change, albeit a little conservative. The D3h stays a PJ and sports-oriented camera targeted at speed, the D3x stays a high-resolution camera. And yes, 24mp is my guess based upon rumblings out of Japan. I don’t think that could be on an APS sensor, so, that warrants my FF guess. (Technically, it could be on an APS sensor, but then we’d have photosites as small as the Coolpix cameras. Somehow I think that won’t be the direction.)

What I really would want to see in the D3 series is that modularity return (removable finders, interchangeable backs), but somehow I don’t think it will. But here’s the way I’d design the next pro Nikon series:

D3

  • Modular body (interchangeable finder, back, and storage modules); the body is the host camera brains and control system, power source, lens mount, mirror box, shutter, and support system while everything else gets added on:
  • 10-12mp APS High Speed Back (8 fps DX crop, 12 fps HS crop)
  • 24mm FF Low Speed Back (3 fps FF, 5 fps DX crop)
  • 12mp Black and White Back
  • Prism finder with real time displays (e.g. histograms)
  • Waist finder
  • Card storage module (2x CompactFlash or 2x SecureDigital)
  • Drive storage module (40, 80, 120GB hard drive)
  • Wireless module (1x CompactFlash for backup, WiFi)

Note that such a design allows a pro to buy multiple backs for a common “body,” thus tailoring their shooting for any individual task they encounter. That would definitely be better than where we are today, with different bodies being optimized for different tasks.

Oh yeah, and some more credible information from a night club found in the forums (this is my personal favorite):

hmm…wanna start another rumour, this is originally from a slightly drunken photog-guy in Bangkok. At a seedy nightclub (in Patpong no less), he chanced upon somebody who claim to be working for Nikon in Japan but was visiting Thailand facility at the time.

He was informed by the “NeeCON” guy that a camera with LBCAST 35mm x 35mm (note the square sensor) is already in the work. The camera is almost the same size as the F6 only slightly taller and dosn’t need a vertical grip. if one want to take a potrait shot, he just push a button and appropriate masking will appear on the viewfinder to mask out the viewfinder/sensor to create a vertical/potrait image on 24mm x 35mm with 16Mpix

Total pixel on the 35mm sq. sensor is about 24MPix. Auto crop with viewfinder masking will be supported with DX lenses.

2007

Of course, when discussing all things Nikon, I can’t complete this post without directing your attention to Mr. Ken Rockwell. Ken gives us the latest official rumors as follows:

Full-frame 1.0x sensor.

19 MP

4 FPS

ISO range 50 – 3,200.

Battery is the same Li-Ion as the D2x as are most of the body mechanics.

The corny dual sensor-size and dual speeds of the D2X are gone.

Nikon listened to me and added an electronic shutter for 1/500 flash sync.

$7,999 MSRP

As you may be aware, I’ve chimed in on this rumor mill over the first few months of this year. You can check out all of my rumor posts as follows:

Nikon D3 Coming? This one is more appropriately designated as the infamous Pre-PMA Jim Seaholm rumor. I still think Nikon planted this seed as a diversionary tactic for the D40x the same way Canon did the switcheroo on us with the 40D and Rebel XTi.

Post-PMA Nikon D3 Rumors: Yes, it was rather lame, but someone had to post it.

Sony Alpha A10 and More Nikon D3 Rumors: I point to a source that suggests a May ’07 release. Yeah, I know, right.

Nikon D3 (if it comes) Won’t Have a Full-Frame Sensor: This is a little less rumor and more projection, but still deserves a spot in this post.

The absolute latest and greatest rumor is present over at flickr, which speculates that the Nikon D3 will be a modular (e.g., medium format, digital back camera):

Nikon is behind. Though they are the leader in the low end SLR market (especially in Japan), the pro market looks like 90% Canon.

They can’t compete with Canon at their own game (sensor wars). Granted, Sony and Nikon have a close relationship, I don’t think it’s that close.

So the latest stuff heard in the boards on dpreview and nikoncafe from people who know people is that the D3 (no D3x or D3h) will be the first modular 35mm Camera (think Medium Format). You buy the D3 and then the digital back you want to use.

Although, this speculation has been floating around for a couple of years, it’s worthy of note since it surfaced anew today.

Happy May Day everyone! If I missed something, then, by all means, let me know and we’ll amend the post accordingly. Remember, for now the Nikon D3 is just a rumor; however, as a rumor, we can all still dream big and waste countless hours scrounging the web for something fresh that gives us hope of a brighter future . . . *cough* . . . *cough* . . . Ok, I’m choking on my own B.S. now.

If nothing else, this post should serve as a reminder that when someone has info on the release of a new camera, don’t hold your breath. Good day.

UPDATE 5/30/07:  June Announcement?

[tags]nikon, d3, rumor, release, announcement, d3h, d3x, price, bs, news[/tags]

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{ 6 comments }

1 Chris Stella July 11, 2007 at 6:43 am

I think that at this point Nikon can only disappoint the anxiously awaiting masses imagining a MF swiss-army wondercam….

Hopefully they can delever a strong camera that will be well thought of by its users.

I hope Nikon can hit one out of the park with the D3. I don\'t plan to get one since all of my (pre-ai) nikon glass works better on Canon cameras anyway. Just that it is nice to see great new cameras from any maker. I love cameras, old and new, and it has been a sad time lately with the recent losses of so many great camera companies.

Flicker has a couple of D3 watches as well….
http://www.flickr.com/groups/nikond3/discuss/7215

2 Chris Stella July 11, 2007 at 11:43 am

I think that at this point Nikon can only disappoint the anxiously awaiting masses imagining a MF swiss-army wondercam….

Hopefully they can delever a strong camera that will be well thought of by its users.

I hope Nikon can hit one out of the park with the D3. I don’t plan to get one since all of my (pre-ai) nikon glass works better on Canon cameras anyway. Just that it is nice to see great new cameras from any maker. I love cameras, old and new, and it has been a sad time lately with the recent losses of so many great camera companies.

Flicker has a couple of D3 watches as well….
http://www.flickr.com/groups/nikond3/discuss/72157600163914694/#comment72157600302727739

3 Rob Kuttle July 23, 2007 at 6:37 am

Chris Stella, your logic seems questionable: you won\'t get a D3 as your pre-AI glass works better on Canon! How can you know that it works better on Canon than an as yet non-existent camera body. But anyway almost certainly most of your pre-AI lenses are not good enough to service the ability of the D2x, let alone the D3 which will show up the limitations for many contemporary Nikon lenses. Sad to say, part of teh reason for staying with Nikon for some is their legacy glass, but when a new generation of sensor comes into play that old glass will be limiting factor. No doubt we\'ll be in for a swathe of viscious criticism of D3, where the problem is old glass and driver error.

4 Rob Kuttle July 23, 2007 at 11:37 am

Chris Stella, your logic seems questionable: you won’t get a D3 as your pre-AI glass works better on Canon! How can you know that it works better on Canon than an as yet non-existent camera body. But anyway almost certainly most of your pre-AI lenses are not good enough to service the ability of the D2x, let alone the D3 which will show up the limitations for many contemporary Nikon lenses. Sad to say, part of teh reason for staying with Nikon for some is their legacy glass, but when a new generation of sensor comes into play that old glass will be limiting factor. No doubt we’ll be in for a swathe of viscious criticism of D3, where the problem is old glass and driver error.

5 hary utomo November 11, 2007 at 2:13 am

I imagine that Nikon D3 should be a great and amazing camera that ever produced. but as long as the price not compatible for middle socioeconomic class , it will just a dream to be an owner and enjoying that sophisticated Nikon.

6 blogfs March 18, 2009 at 9:09 am

used to work for Nikon, the D3 was indeed in devolopment since 2003, most dslrs spend 3 to 5 years in this state and the head european office recieves these for testing a full two years before release. only problem is that at any time there are usually 10 dslrs in dev at any time and there is no guarentee that any of them will ever make it to the consumer market. speculate all you like but i guarentee any time anyone gets it right its a pure fluke!!

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