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Nikon D3 Compatibility
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Nikon D3

The Nikon D3 with 50mm f/1.4 AF-D. enlarge. I got mine from Ritz. Just as well I'd get another from Adorama, Amazon or B&H Photo Video. It helps me keep adding to this site when you use these links to get yours, thanks! Ken.


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January 2008

Nikon D3 System Compatibility

The D3 is compatible with everything recent you already own, and especially compatible with almost every Nikon lens made since dirt.

Nothing is made obsolete by the D3 that hasn't already been obsolesced by the D70 back in 2003.

Everything you were using yesterday with the D200, D80, D40x, D40 and D2Xs is 100% compatible.

The SB-400, SB-600 and SB-800 flashes are 100% compatible and optimized for the D3.

Every AF lens made since 1985 works perfectly, including of course the latest DX lenses like my favorite Nikon 18-200mm VR and 12-24mm. Of course the reason to buy a D3 is to use full-frame lenses and use all of their full-frame image, not piddle around with DX.

The D3 is not particularly compatible with older film-era and early digital-era (D1, D100) flashes, which were made obsolete with the D70.

The D3 works remarkably well with AI and AI-s manual focus lenses.

The D3 has just about the same firmware and features as the Nikon D300. Their User's Manuals are almost identical.

Unlike when other digital Nikons were introduced, the D3 doesn't require buying anything new or specific to the D3.


Nikon D3 Lens Compatibility    Top 

Nikon D3 Lens Mount

Nikon D3 Lens Mount

The Nikon D3 works great with every autofocus and manual focus lens made since 1977.

The D3's ability to correct lateral color fringing automatically means your old lenses will work better on the D3 than they have ever worked on any other camera.

The D3 automatically identifies DX lenses and shoots accordingly. If you are a hacker like me, you can shoot the full-frame and get dark corners with DX lenses. Of course the point of the D3 is to use real FX and film lenses. To my surprise, even Nikon's newest cheap plastic film lenses like the 28-80G and 28-200G work remarkably well on my D3!

With FX full-frame, we longer need to let Nikon rip us off with puny and overpriced DX lenses. I still feel ripped off paying almost as much for my beloved, but puny, 12-24mm DX as I paid for my masterpiece 17-35mm f/2.8 AFS because in 2003 the 12-24mm was the only game in town for DX cameras.

For manual lenses, enter the lens' focal length and aperture as you do with the D200, and you'll get matrix metering and A and M exposure modes. Yay!

Pre-AI (before 1977) lenses won't mount; you'll have to have these 1959-1977 lenses converted at a machine shop after which they work great. Some can be forced on, but be careful. When I jammed a pre-AI lens on my D3 it fit, barely, but it required a pair of vice-grips to remove since its coupling prong caught on the camera's coupling pin.

The D3 has no full-time mirror lockup, so forget the ancient slow fisheyes and 21mm that poked into the body. Use any AF or manual focus f/2.8 fisheye (6mm, 8mm, 10.5mm DX and 16mm) and you're fine.

Your 35mm and 28mm PC (shift) lenses ought to work fine, so long as they are new enough to fit properly on other modern cameras. Some 1960s-era PC lenses had issues with clearances with cameras newer than 1976. PC lenses need manual exposure when shifted, since the meters get confused when you shift the lens; not a big deal since the diaphragms of the PC lenses are manual, too!

The good news is that old-timers in caves don't need to buy new lenses, but the bad news is that there is no lens on earth that can do what the Nikon 18-200mm VR does in full-frame. (Nikon's life-changing 18-200mm VR only works in DX format.) Canon makes a 28 - 300mm IS, which would replace it on Canon, except that the Canon 28-300mm costs $2,200 and weighs four pounds.

Since only real pros and a few lucky rich guys can afford the D3, and they'll be buying expensive new lenses for it, the used market for old film lenses won't be affected by the D3. Cheap rich guys (and pros) will have a field day. I'm stoked.

It was suggested I try, and holy cow, my non-AI Nikon 50mm f/2 Nikkor-H just barely fits my D3 (probably also my D300). There is zero clearance between the lens and the aperture coupling pin, which means the aperture ring doesn't really want to turn and you're asking for trouble. The aperture coupling pin also is dragged along at the wrong position, so any sort of metering or auto exposure will be a couple of stops off, but for use unmetered and manually, this genius observation by Orv Hengen of the US Army will let me test some classic old lenses without having to put them under the lathe.

I would be very careful with this and I won't shoot a non-AI lens for regular photography without converting it (it doesn't feel very happy - I'm pushing it!), but I will try now and then which will let me get of enough test shots to evaluate old lenses.

I tried it on an FE-2, and it also fit, but then I couldn't get the lens off because it got caught on the aperture coupling pin! This can work, but I wouldn't do it except for the occasional experiment.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for an exact list of what lens does what.


Nikon D3 Flash Compatibility     top

The D3 uses the latest i-TTL flash metering system, the same as introduced on 2003's D70 and used on every digital Nikon since.

This means the SB-400, SB-600 and SB-800 flashes are perfect. Older flashes, like the SB-80 DX and older, will not work in TTL mode, if at all.

Use older flashes, like the Vivitar 283, in Manual or non-TTL Auto modes, in which they work amazingly well. Just avoid any really old flashes with more than 250V for sync.

Of course there's a PC sync terminal behind a clever captive cover for use in the studio.


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