In terms of appearance, the sensor is as large as 35mm silver-halide film. In terms of capability, it boasts the same high level of sensitivity as ISO 6400 film (the most highly sensitive film in common use) and has a high-speed performance of 9 frames per second. It also features a wide dynamic range that enables the depiction of smooth gradations from dark areas to light. These are its four principal features.
What were the circumstances leading to its creation? Please describe the background to its development.
Since the release of the D1, Nikon digital single-lens reflex cameras have been equipped with DX-format sensors. However, we received requests from customers who wanted the same lens angle of view and bokeh as 35mm silver-halide film or who wanted to shoot pictures that evoked the same feel as film, so we began to consider a so-called full-size (FX-format) sensor.
How was the product commercialized?
We first considered whether a camera equipped with a 35mm full-size sensor would be practical, if we could make such a sensor. Silver-halide film comes in the form of a thin sheet, whereas a sensor is a type of IC. The thickness, width and height of the IC package make the entire component larger than film. Moreover, there would be optical components such as an optical low-pass filter and an infra-red filter between the sensor and the shutter. These would all have to be precisely fitted into the camera body. After detailed discussions between those responsible for camera body design and those responsible for lens design on questions such as whether the light from the photographic lens would reach every area of the sensor, we came to the conclusion that it would be possible to build such a camera. At the same time, work on devising possible sensor specifications was progressing. The first thing to be considered was the size of the so-called “full-size” photosensitive surface. It was decided that the size of the recording pixel area would be virtually the same as that of 35mm film. Next, a full calculation of the imaging capability was carried out, and by opting for high sensitivity as the major advantage of a full-size sensor, the sensor was brought into line with the concept of the D3.
What was this concept?
After considering what kind of equipment we should be offering our target D3 users-professional photographers and high-level amateurs-we believed that it is important to provide a single camera that could be used to shoot almost anywhere. With 12 million pixels, the camera would be able to handle virtually any scene. Furthermore, we placed emphasis on areas of photography that require high-sensitivity and rapid-rate continuous shooting, such as sports, news and wildlife. Taking all these factors into account, we decided on the FX format, 12 million pixels and ISO 6400.