17 Years Later! Is the Nikon D3 Still Good in 2024?

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Throwback Review: Nikon D3 in 2024

We’re doing a throwback DSLR review and taking a look at one of my favorites: the Nikon D3. Is this camera still a player in 2024 or is it more of a paperweight? Let’s dig into this old camera’s specs and see how it contends with other cameras today in 2024, nearly 17 years after its initial release.

Nikon D3 Specs

The Nikon D3 was released in August of 2007. Meaning in 2024, it’s almost 17 years old. So, what are the specs of a 17 year old camera?  Well, for starters, this was Nikon’s first full frame camera. This is where we get the designation of “FX” for full-frame Nikon cameras.

The D3 boasts a 12.1 megapixel full-frame sensor. Now, you may be laughing at 12 MP, but just know that the D2 had a 4 megapixel sensor… so keep that in mind. The D3 also has the original EXPEED 1 processor.

The D3 was also a pretty great DSLR for capturing sports. That’s actually what I used it for… sorta. When I was in the Air Force, my unit had a couple of beat-up D3s. That’s actually what inspired me to buy one a few years later!  The D3 could get about 9 FPS, and back in the day that was wicked fast! Also, it had 51 autofocus points (amazing for the times). The D2 (the D3’s predecessor) had about 11 AF points, for comparison. So, remember this DSLR made a splash in the photo industry in 2007 when it was released.

Lastly, the D3 weighs in at a beastly 2.73 lbs (or 1.24 kg). This boy is chunky and durable. I think of the D3 like an armored tank. I’ve shot in the hot, the cold, the rain, the blizzards, the sand, etc. The D3 can take a beating with its weather sealed body, and keep trucking along. Again, it’s a tank.

Nikon D3 Still good 2024? Combat Camera photography, soldier shoots M4 rifle
Security Forces Airman shoots an M4 carbine, photographed on the Nikon D3. (Run N Gun Photography)

Arrival of the Nikon D3X and D3S

The D3X was released in 2008, and it had an astounding 24 Megapixel full frame sensor. My guess is that the D3X was Nikon’s answer to Canon’s 5D Mark II, which had a 21 MP full frame sensor.  Now, if you remember my review on the Canon EOS R8, it also has a 24 megapixel sensor. My, how tech has changed… or has it? But I digress!

So, two years after the original D3’s, the D3S was released in 2009. However, Nikon reverted back to an “improved” 12 megapixel sensor.  While we’re only doing a hands-on review of the D3, it think it’s important to mention the D3X and D3S, which you can still pick up today for $300-400 USD new. They’re basically identical in form and function to the D3, except their slightly updated sensors.

Portrait Photoshoot with Tirzah; shot on the Nikon D3 & Nikkor 50mm f1.4 G lens. (Run N Gun Photography)

Why the D3 in 2024?

So what’s my obsession with this Nikon DSLR, and is the D3 still good in 2024? Upon its 2007 release, the D3 was selling for $5,000 USD. It was far out of my budget. I wasn’t able to afford a D3 camera body until 2018, when I found one used at a pawn shop in New York. I believe I paid around $400 USD, and it was in immaculate condition. Paired with my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G prime lens, I felt unstoppable!

The D3 has an estimated life of 300,000 shutter actuations. As of today, mine has just under 30K! I’ve probably put about 10k of those on it myself. I recently pulled it out of my gear closet, and it was like seeing an old friend. With a portrait photoshoot scheduled, I decided to bring the old D3 in addition to my Nikon Z8.

Again, I paired the D3 with my “nifty fifty” 50mm prime lens. I was simply astonished by the colors! After all these years, the D3 can still capture amazing portraits what absolutely stand up against any modern camera today. See for yourself!

Is it old? Sure. 36 megapixels? Not even close. BUT, the D3 shines when it comes to durability, longevity and beautiful color reproduction.

Neon Portrait of Tirzah. Shot on the Nikon D3 & 50mm f1.4 G lens. (Run N Gun Photography)

Final Thoughts: Is the Nikon D3 Still Good in 2024?

So is the Nikon D3 still good in 2024? For most photographers, I say yes, absolutely! In each of these throwback DSLR reviews,  I try to get across the point that it’s not the technology, rather it’s the photographer who makes the photograph. While it’s important to find a camera you enjoy shoot with, never forget that YOU make the photograph. The camera just records the light!

So, with a 300K photo life-expectancy, you can easily find an inexpensive D3 with lots of life left to give! I’d highly recommend this camera body if you’re new to photography, or maybe have a kid who’s looking to get into the craft. You can really abuse this camera, and it will take all of the punishment… and then some. Because, the D3 is a tank that captures top-notch photographs, even in 2024!

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Until next time, get out and go shoot!

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