"It’s a brick, a frickin’ brick," said an obviously agitated Tommy Hogan, professional photographer.
"Yes, it’s a brick," admitted Nikon President, CEO and COO Michio Kariya. "However, research showed us that we were rapidly losing market share in the professional realm to Canon. Here at Nikon, we’re not so prideful that we refuse to admit when we’re wrong. If photographers want a camera like Canon offers, we’ll build a camera like Canon offers. In this case, the brick was the closest we could come to achieving the ergonomics found in Canon’s 5D."
Jerry Yamamoto, Nikon’s Chief Designer, had a different take. "Today, it seems that more and more of our customers are using their gear to photograph brick walls. Nikon cameras have always been about transcending the equipment—the camera becoming part of your environment. It’s easier to think artistically when you aren’t using a tool that seems out of place. The brick design of the D3 is part of a move toward better fusion with the photographer’s surroundings."
But the brick design isn’t the only feature of the D3 that has left potential customers scratching their heads. The D3 will be Nikon’s first digital SLR that prevents the user from changing lenses. "I don’t get it," Nikon enthusiast Rory Bjornlett said. "How is that supposed to be a ‘feature’?" Kariya had the answer.
"By shipping the D3 with the lens welded to the body, we’ve eliminated the sensor dust problem. In fact, we guarantee that you will never get dust on the sensor for the life of the camera. And now, you can order exactly the camera you want. Your D3 can be customized with a wide assortment of Nikon and even third-party lenses. Just tell us what you want, and we’ll weld it to the camera and ship it to your door within a couple of weeks."
When asked for clarification about third-party lens options, Kariya pointed out that companies like Sigma and Tokina fill niches that Nikon doesn’t have the time to bother with. "A few of our more demanding customers have been asking for a fast AF-S prime in the 30-35mm focal range. But this doesn’t fit into our long-term plans. There are still three or four more consumer zooms in the 18-70mm focal range that we need to get to market before we can worry about a prime lens that only a few professionals and enthusiasts will ever use. Since Sigma offers such a lens now, we’ve decided to go ahead and offer it as a customization option for D3 customers. Maybe that will shut them up. This is off the record, right?"
Photographer and writer Rockwell Kenneth, an attendee at Nikon Corporation’s D3 media event, was distressed to learn that all D3 lenses will only allow for manual focusing. "Getting rid of autofocus seems like a serious step backward. I can understand the less-is-more mentality, but this? Looks like I’m going to have to stock up on more D40s and 18-200 VRs. It’s all you really need, anyway."
Nikon designer Jack Kogaku explained Nikon’s reasoning behind removing autofocus. "We’re trying to build a camera that can compete with the competition, and it’s tough. We had our work cut out for us. Our moment of epiphany came when we received a shipment of Canon EOS 1D Mark IIIs. We quickly realized that manually focusing the D3 was just as fast as autofocusing the Mark III, and about 277% more accurate. Out with the old and in with the new, ya’ know? Manual focus is the new black!"
Other improvements include better digital noise performance. "We’ve heard the complaints about the noise of Nikon cameras versus their Canon counterparts for a couple of years now," Kogaku said. "We’ve done our very best with the D40, D80, and D200 to provide better noise performance, and while I feel we succeeded, the public apparently disagrees. For this reason, we’ve completely removed the mirror from the D3. No mirror slap means no noise whatsoever. If you thought the D40 or D80 had low noise, wait ’til you hear this! The silence is deafening."
The removal of the mirror from the D3 means that users must frame the image using one of the two holes in the brick on either side of the lens. This design move by Nikon has also ignited debate over whether the D3 is an SLR at all.
"That’s not an SLR, it’s a rangefinder," insisted one indignant media correspondent who had flown in from the United States. But a source within Nikon who asked not to be named due to his corporate espionage activities on behalf of Leica disagreed passionately: "If that’s a rangefinder, then my name isn’t Wolfhausen!"
Missing from the announcement was Nikon’s rumored full-frame digital SLR. "Foo-frame? What dat?" asked Nikon spokesman George Takiyama when the rumor was brought up. Several reporters tried to explain the term to Takiyama, at which point he said, "No Engleesh. Speaky Japanese." When a Japanese reporter pressed the issue in Takiyama’s native language, he responded in English, "Oh, you never need do dat! No foo-frame ’cause no need foo-frame! We defy laws of pheesics. Canon no can do, so dey need foo-frame."
The D3 comes equipped with a convenient carry handle and hundreds of lens customization options. The camera will begin shipping next week, though widespread availability isn’t expected until the end of next year. The estimated retail price of a D3 with a welded, manual focus Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 is $4995.
Filed by Jonathan P.