Nikon D3P. enlarge. (front is identical to regular D3)
01 April 2008
Nikon has a history of introducing limited-run "P," or "press," versions of specially ruggedized professional SLRs.
The Nikon F3P of 1983 eliminated the back-release locking lever, the internal eyepiece blind, the self-timer, the multiple-exposure lever and the cable release socket in the name of better weather sealing. These were all features added for the amateur market, and not used by the photojournalists for whom the F3P was designed. Unlike the regular F3, which shot at a default of 1/80 until you hit frame 1, the F3P shoots as set as soon as you load the film. Of course the top finder cover was titanium.
The Nikon F4P did similar things, and traded the 4 second and 2 second shutter speeds in exchange for additional manual shutter settings of 1/350 and 1/750.
In all of these cases, these were limited production and sold only to professionals registered with NPS, Nikon Professional Services.
The Nikon D3P is the same thing. Unlike those earlier semi-mechanical film cameras, there are no superfluous (to professionals) levers or knobs to seal or remove, so we lose no functions. Sadly Nikon removed the traditional cable release sockets from our cameras ever since the F5, so the D3 has no cable release socket to lose. The electronic remote terminal remains.
Nikon D3P back.
Nikon has added a feature much-needed for fast, professional use: a new set Picture Control (PC) button. As I had been hoping, now we can select among our preset Picture Control settings directly by holding the PC button and spinning the front knob.
Nikon's great: we can hit the PC button shooting with one hand!
The finder shows the abbreviated settings, for instance, Sd (standard), nL (neutral), vI (vivid), mC (monochrome), as well as C1, C2, etc., meaning we now change these with one hand and without taking our eyes from the finder.
Pros have been asking Nikon for this, since people need to be photographed with very different settings than used for photographing things. Having to stop what we're doing and delve into menus from one shot to the next won't fly with professionals. Different settings may be needed as we pan from left to right if the contrast of the light changes. Journalists have to get the shot correct in-camera; there isn't time to piddle with raw on deadline.
Canon has had this ability for years: we can program the SET button to select among our settings with one hand, although Canon can't show these in the finder.
Nikon D3P: New set Picture Control button and "P" prefix serial number.
No more tripod socket
Nikon D3P bottom.
An amateur feature Nikon has taken away from the D3P to help professional journalists is the old tripod socket.
Old timers remember these from the days of film, but occasionally they can cause problems crossing international borders.
Tripod sockets can collect dirt or even bugs, which causes real problems with agricultural inspections. As we who travel know, transporting soil or anything alive across borders freaks out customs officials for the potential to transport plant and animal diseases.
Yes, it sounds stupid, but this has caused delays for journalists when they've met up with cranky border officials, and no one uses the tripod socket on the D3 anyway. Remember, the D3P is for professional newsmen on the front lines of history, not part-timers shooting portraits in the park.
How to tell the D3P from the D3
Just as with the previous "P" models, the changes are subtle. There are only three ways to identify a D3P:
1.) Serial number prefixed with "P." (US models have the same yellow "Nikon USA" sticker inside the battery chamber.)
2.) Additional PC button just above the microphone (record and play) button.
3.) No more tripod socket.
Specifications back to top
Identical to the regular D3, except as noted above.
Introduction: 01 April 2008
Available: Summer 2008, only by invitation directly from NPS.
Performance back to top
Identical to the regular D3, except as noted above.
Recommendations back to top
If you're a full-time journalist, you want a D3P mostly for the new set Picture Control button. I want one for that feature.
The D3 is already so tough that, except for losing the tripod socket, nothing more needed to be done.
The D3P will not be sold anywhere. The only way to get one is to have NPS ask you if you'd like one. Don't call NPS or ask them about this; they'll call you if they think your work needs one of these. If you're not already an NPS member, forget about it.
The D3P will be very limited, and Nikon wants to be sure that these only get to the newsmen who need them and will stay out of the hands of collectors.
Seeing how many newsmen sold their F3Ps and F4Ps to collectors to make a pretty profit (newsmen get paid next to nothing), Nikon may only lease the D3P this time, or sell them only with strong no-resale clauses.
Just like the earlier "P" cameras, we won't be seeing very many of these, especially when you look at the date above, April 1st, 2008, and realize what's going on here. Google also announced flights to Mars.
If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.
Thanks for reading!