This camera scares me, it has an unnerving ability to take great pictures no matter what you do. Half the time I sometimes don't believe I'm in control and that I'm just some random person pointing it at various subjects. That's not to say you don't guide it and control it, you do that with every camera (apart from point and shoots); but it just seems to make everything exceedingly easy. Want to change the ISO? No problem, hold the ISO button and move the command wheel. All the settings work in this manner and due to clever button placement it works extremely well. The wheels feel strong and certain, a big contrast to the Canon 40D where the wheel on the back of the camera didn't feel like much of anything at all.
Like all Nikons, all the essential functions can be performed one-handed, that is you can support the lens or anything else with your left hand - and still take a great photo. The power switch is in the best position possible, just by the shutter release. Additionally the light switch for the top LCD is on the same button, it's all very cleverly laid out. It's a real joy to use, you never really have to think about the camera and can just concentrate on the import stuff like pointing it at the right thing and getting the framing right.
Nikon often tend to err on the side of caution when giving you control over 'optimisations' of the image the camera produces so you can never destroy the image quality. However, I can't help but wish you could boost the saturation by another stop. Fortunately a lot of settings that are often default on other cameras, are customisable here. Specifically the most important settings of all - noise reduction and sharpness are both fully customisable. I've found reduced noise reduction and +1 to sharpness gives me the kind of image I prefer. Make sure you experiment yourself, everyone's tastes are different. However, don't max out the sharpness, this isn't a secret 'fix everything' setting - over-sharpening will destroy a photo very quickly. You can always sharpen later in post, but you can't unsharpen.
This leads me on to image quality - it's exceptional. You have to be aware of the limitations of both a digital sensor, and the smaller size of the sensor in relation to 35mm film; but if you do you can get some excellent photographs that are wonderfully clear. If you want the absolute best in digital image quality, get a full-frame sensor like the Canon 5D or Nikon D3. But as far as digital goes, the image is very good. The noise, as with all Nikons, is somewhat film-like and not intrusive like on other bodies. Canon still offer a cleaner image, but Nikon have greatly closed the gap with this and the D200 (both use the same sensor).
Who should buy this body?
- You want an easy to use camera, and know what you're doing.
- Don't want to spend a fortune on a D200 or 40D
- Have many Nikon F-mount lenses
- Want a lightweight, yet ludicrously fully-featured camera.
- Want a gorgeous AF system that never fails to focus perfectly and doesn't use the flash to strobe-blind people.
Who shouldn't buy this body?
- You want to just point the camera at things and shoot (get a point & shoot).
- You don't know what different aperture and ISO sensitivity settings do
- Hate noise with a passion, even if it looks like film grain (get a Canon)
- Have lenses that aren't Nikon - stick with your existing system (Canon, Konica - Sony, Pentax)
- Don't care about creative photography (get a point & shoot)
- Want a super-light SLR (get a D40)
I love this body, and I'm sure you will too. It's by far the best body I've actually used in the field.