The Nikon F6 and D3
One camera is using film, the other not.

version française


Three years ago, we have tried to imagine the future Nikon F6 and Thom Hogan try to predicted it in April 2004. Now it is here.
All the eight years, Nikon leaves a new version of its flagship camera: a Nikon series F and this since the Nikon F launched in 1959. Nikon F started the legend of Nikon and participated strongly to its exceptional image. The next forecast meeting is Photokina 2004 in September 2004. In fact since the presentation of F5 in 1996, professionals are migrated mainly in digital and sales of film SLR for professionals become marginal. How to do when your name is Nikon and when you have to your catalogue three professional cameras, Nikon F5, the D2H and the D1X ?
You summarize the best of functionalities of each and one creates a unique model (in fact two models); it is what Nikon is doing with the camera D3/6F. In fact, it is necessary to mention two cameras sharing many components and accessories: The Nikon F6 film camera and the digital Nikon D3. These two cameras have interchangeable lenses, viewfinders and screen. Filiations of the F6/D3 with F5 and D2 is flagrant and the design has remained, happily, the best of them.

Nikon D3

Nikon D3 back

Nikon D3 top

The body.
The body of D3/F6 has a magnesium and aluminum chassis and external shells in black titan. They are processed for an exceptional sturdiness and are waterproof to the dust and to a brief immersion. The integration of these components has been done in a camera that preserves dimensions of the Nikon F5. It is a less high bit but thicker of 80mm, its weight with battery and without lens is 1,2 kg. It is largely less than the preceding digital pro Nikon. The shutter of the Nikon F6 is hybrid, as that the Nikon FM3A and can function without batteries from 4 s to 1/4000 s. or in all modes from 30 s to 1/16000 s.
On the F6, when electrical tension becomes insufficient, only the mechanical shutter works with the multi-zone measurement. The film advance and rewind works by saving energy and the back color screen is inactive. Thus the F6 preserves autonomy of 30 minimum films.
The system of measurement and the AF system uses a 200 000 pixels CCD, placed under the reflex darkroom. The auto focus function is assumed by 23 AF areas completed by the analysis of the 200 000 pixels CCD. Information of distance, color, temperature of color, luminescence are used. The two cameras has the same look and feel and the same buttons, their functions vary however slightly from a camera to the other. Thus the « delete» button of the D6 becomes a « preview» button. The rear trap is equally present on the two models but comprises only microcomputers connecting plugs for the F6.

Nikon D3 viewfinder

Nikon F6/D3 has six new interchangeable viewfinders. These viewfinders cover 100% of the film or CCD and allow to display the totality of parameters including the number of remaining views on the card (estimated), the mode of recording RAW (NRG) JPEG or TIFF, the sensitivity like ISO and the autonomy of the battery.
The standard model DE40 is HP: 20 mm high eye point, possibility to display lines of centering, identical function to the Nikon F80, preferential choice of one of 23 AF CCD. As the light and AF measurement are assumed inside the camera body, viewfinders are lighter (titan) and less voluminous. The type of measurement (multi-zones, pondered or spotlight) is now selected on the camera itself. A model DS40 offers also an integrated flash (number guides 20) e-TTL multi - zones, what is a new approach for pro cameras.
A model DML40 is composed of two parts, one puts on the camera instead of the viewfinder and dialogues by radio with a second part, a remote control part including screen. This remote has the size of a bit thick PDA, has a hard disk integrated and the same rear screen than D3 and all these functions until a distance of 200 meters. It is possible therefore to take pictures and to completely automatic pilot a Nikon D3 from a large distance. The camera sends the image as it is view in the viewfinder (in fact on the CCD) and the remote control part allows managing in distance shooting parameters of the camera and after the shoot to transfer and store the image taken. This viewfinder/remote control is very useful for shoot in hostile or confined atmosphere (radiations, cold, robot cameras…).
The three others viewfinders are a sport viewfinder DA40, a chest viewfinder DW40 and a six time amplifier viewfinder DW41.
All these new viewfinders can also be employed on the Nikon F6, alone change the control parameters in the viewfinder (information for digital cameras lost). The viewfinders and screens of the F5 can be used on the F6.

LCD top screen

LCD rear screen

Multifunction control rear LCD.
The two cameras has both the same back, this back of F6 is interchangeable but no other back is today proposed. The great tactile color screen of 3,5" and 200 000 pixels is adjustable of 45° in all positions. This back allows:
For the D3, to display all classic data: image, histogram, data, IPC, menu, dialogue with a micro-computer, possibility to " program" the camera with customized adjustments as the level temperature of color, AF tracking and CCD sensor, customized function image are equally accessible via menus as well as storage and WiFi transmission option.
For the F6, a button on the cameras (the same that the button "delete" of the D3) allows to simulate an image shoot with flash possible and to verify a simulated result, kind of Polaroid of control on the screen. This function is extremely useful because it allows in studio to try several lighting before the real shooting and in reporting, to hold the machine above its head and to verify the centering by the adjustable screen before to shoot. The 200 000 pixels of the CDD are too poor in order that the image is kept but are sufficient to allow a first analyzes. A histogram can be equally displayed.
The Nikon F5 allowed already, with a connection to a microcomputer, to visualize an image without detail from a CCD.
All functions which are previously provided by multifunction back as bracketing, long time pose, display dates sequence number, name of the photographer are integrated to the F6, switch on by the control screen. Data can be printed in the space between images or on the image.
The monochrome rear screen offers permanent data on a matrix LCD, contrarily to the D2H screen that had predefined icons therefore more limited. The LCD panel near the shutter is very similar to the D2H panel.

The Nikon D3.
The Nikon D3 has a LBASCT CCD (CMOS) full format and which offers some new functions regarding image capture, image stabilization and auto focus. The CCD, developed by Nikon, is 14 millions of pixels as Kodak DCS 14n CCD. A touch on the camera allows commuting automatically of a full capture area format to an area of capture APS-C.
The viewfinder is then automatically adjusted by the installation of an internal convergent lens and the coefficient of multiplication becomes 1,5.
This tricky function may be activated any time, allows to increase the cadence of images captured that passes from 40 consecutive views at 6 images/seconds to 80 views to 8 images/seconds. Generated files are obviously less greedy and can be transmitted via the transmitter WiFi norm G, this transmitter is integrated to the camera.
The internal memory of 2 Giga can be increased in a Nikon support office and it seems that the CCD could also be updated also by support, without doubt for repair replacement and perhaps for an upgrade by a more powerful model.

The Nikon D3 has several softwares inside which treat the Raw files before the storage in jpeg or TIFF files.
These softwares are also included in the new release of Nikon Capture.
Software of DXO recovers lens data from an internal Oracle 10 lite database (upgradeable by download in Web) and by a direct analysis of image. The software analyses the specific lens aberrations (distortion, lost of quality) and corrects them directly on the image before storage. Internal functions allows to view on the tactile rear LCD, areas with over or low exposure, to adjust luminosity and brightness by area and to correct them. In black and white mode, it is possible to select directly high or low key and to apply a zone system.
Likewise, concession for amateurs, Pixology software suppresses red eyes also directly on the image. The Raw file remains obviously with any change and may be treated after.

On the F6, The tactile rear LCD allows also to choose high and low keys and to apply a zone system. A SD card stores the image data and the small images done. An index with small images, date, hour and technical data is automatically made to be joined to the contact sheet. The printing of one small image can't exceed 8 x 13 cm by photo.

VR AF CCD movable platform Nikon D3

The CCD movable platform of the D3: image stabilization and AF.
The other remarkable new function of this Nikon D3 is the movable platform where the CCD is implemented. Indeed like some digital compact, it allows to reduce the movement shaking by integrating on the CCD platform a system VR (Vibration Reduction) that minimize the movement shaking, stabilizes image and enables shutter speeds allowing to use telelenses without tripod. Two actuators (x and y axis) control the camera movements. The system works by analyzing input from motion detectors in the camera body and producing an inverse movement in the CCD.
Nikon goes farer and completes this internal movement of this CCD platform by possibility to focus automatically by advancing or by moving back this platform to control the position between lenses and the film plane, in reality CCD plane. This process had already been employed by CONTAX on its reflex AX but without continuation. The camera recognizes automatically the used lens type from AI lenses to AF-s or DX lenses. Only the old lenses not-AI (before 1977) are forbidden. When you used DX lens, the camera commutes automatically the useful zone of its CCD to the format APS-C. When you use a telelens without VR system VR, the mode VR of the platinum is automatically activated. The fact to put an "old " AI lens on the camera commutes it in autofocus and VR mode and the program is set up on aperture priority (the mode programs with matrix measurement is possible for AIS and following lenses). This major innovation is incredible user-friendly for candid snapshots and each of these automatisms is switched on separately by button or by function codes with wording in French text. We forget quickly that what kind of lens is mounted on this camera to be concentrated on the image to do. .

The only main defect of Nikon F6/D3 is to be today entirely virtual and to have been imagined only for April Fool's Day.
(the history of April Fool's Day, sometimes called All Fool's Day, is not totally clear. There really wasn't a "first April Fool's Day" that can be pinpointed on the calendar. Some believe it sort of evolved simultaneously in several cultures at the same time, from celebrations involving the first day of spring. The closest point in time that can be identified as the beginning of this tradition was in 1582, in France. Prior to that year, the new year was celebrated for eight days, beginning on March 25. The celebration culminated on April 1. With the reform of the calendar under Charles IX, the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved to January 1. However, communications being what they were in the days when news traveled by foot, many people did not receive the news for several years. Others, the more obstinate crowd, refused to accept the new calendar and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1. These backward folk were labeled as "fools" by the general populace. They were subject to some ridicule, and were often sent on "fools errands" or were made the butt of other practical jokes. This harassment evolved, over time, into a tradition of prank-playing on the first day of April. The tradition eventually spread to England and Scotland in the eighteenth century. It was later introduced to the American colonies of both the English and French. April Fool's Day thus developed into an international fun fest, so to speak, with different nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at the expense of their friends and families).


 pierre j.

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Created April 1st 2004, Updated August 22 2004
© Pierre J.