The Nikon D3x put through its paces with TAPFS

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A few months ago the PR department at Nikon UK lent me their top camera, the Nikon D3x. Nikon offered the camera for around two months in support of Checkum, an on-going celebrity charity campaign that I’ve been involved in for the past two years. I have already reported in previous Checkum campaign blog posts that the D3x was a fantastic camera, yielding a resolution and image quality that surpassed the requirements of my client. In fact, I was so pleased that out of all the camera companies I approached it was Nikon who decided to support the campaign. The camera I was using at the time was my own Nikon D2x and the workings and feel of the two were almost identical. Sometimes, I even confused the two bodies when pulling them out the bag but I am pretty sure I sent the right one back to Nikon!

However, with regard to the Checkum campaign the D3x was being used in optimum conditions; in a well-lit studio at 100 ISO and fitted with the best Nikon lenses available. So how would it fair in a more demanding environment? Fortunately, I had the opportunity to put it to test, in one of the most technically challenging environments possible, a low-light large-scale rock concert with multiple flashing lasers!

TAPFS is an abbreviation for The Australian Pink Floyd Show and they are one of the most successful tribute bands in the world, known for putting on shows that look and sound remarkably close to the original Pink Floyd. As it happens, one of the key band members is an old college friend so it wasn’t too difficult to sort out a full photographer’s pass for the entire show, held at the Liverpool Echo Arena. Concert photography was something I had never tried before, so it wasn’t only the camera I was putting to the test. I was right in at the deep end, with a challenge to record a concert that was full of flashing lasers from start to finish, light levels shooting from one end of the exposure scale to the other – it should have been a photographer’s nightmare.

This image was shot at 6400 ISO!

The shooting speed of the D3x (even in raw mode)  meant I barely missed a thing and coupled with my own Nikon 70-200 vr lens, I managed to capture images at the lowest light levels, often forced to crank up the ISO to 6400.  After spending some time in ‘the pit’, I decided I needed a wider view of the stage, so moved up to the higher seating levels. My 70-200 wasn’t quite powerful enough to fill the frame with the individual band members at that distance and I noticed a couple of press photographers were using 300 -400 mm lenses on Canon cameras. Then it dawned on me, I could crop these D3x files to half the size and still have the same resolution as the competition, and so lacking a longer telephoto lens was not really an issue.

The shoot was a success and the camera coped with the extremes of changing light better than I expected. Some of the high ISO images (especially at 6400) were a little noisy, but the noise reduction in Lightroom 3 soon cured that. So if you need a robust, high-resolution DSLR, which shoots pretty fast and also performs quite well in low light, this may be the camera for you – that’s if you have £5000 to spare! I don’t (and mostly don’t have the need for such high resolution), so bought the D700 instead, which at least is one of the low-light market leaders.

With thanks to Maria & Damian Darlington for giving me the opportunity to photograph the concert!

For more information on concert photography, see Todd Owyoung’s excellent blog here.



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