Best full-frame DSLR: 8 cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony compared

Top pro and consumer models rated

Best full frame DSLR

Price: £5,000/US$6,700 (around AU$7,385) (body only)
Specs: 24.5MP, 51-point AF, ISO 100-6400

Professional cameras don't get updated as often as their consumer-based counterparts. Even so, four years is a long innings, and the Nikon D3x is showing its age. Originally launched as a high-res version of the D3, this camera's headline attraction was its 24.5MP sensor. That no longer looks so special, compared with the new Nikon D600 and Nikon D800, although it's still higher than the Nikon D4's 16.2MP.

A crucial difference between the D3x and newer cameras is that its high resolution comes at the price of a relatively meagre sensitivity range. For example, the D600 and D800 offer standard ranges of ISO 100-6400, boosted to an equivalent of ISO 25600 in expanded mode. The D3x only manages ISO 100-1600 in standard trim, and its maximum expanded setting is just ISO 6400.

Another trade-off of the high resolution is the modest maximum drive rate of 5fps. Further signs of ageing include a complete lack of video capture capabilities, and only a rudimentary Live View tool.

Best full frame DSLR

Image processing is courtesy of the first generation of Expeed processor, whereas all the other Nikon cameras in this group use Expeed 3.

In the hand, the Nikon D3x really does feel like the consummate professional camera. Handling is superb, and it's reassuringly robust. Autofocus and metering performance is highly competent, too.

In good lighting conditions, it delivers fabulous image quality, so it still has a lot to offer for pro landscape and studio portrait photographers. The latter will benefit from comfortable, duplicated controls for portrait-orientation shooting.

However, the camera's image quality is disappointing at high ISO settings, where noise is all too noticeable. Couple this with the lack of video capture, and it's clear that the D3x has been overtaken by its competitors. Nikon shooters who want ultra-high resolution images will be tempted to take a step down in build quality and fully pro handling (not to mention purchase price) and go for a D800 instead.

Outdoor images

Best full frame DSLR

Scenic shots are highly detailed, with good contrast. Colour rendition tends to be slightly warmer in the Nikon D3x's images than in the D4's.

Resolution

Best full frame DSLR

Built as a high-res professional camera, the D3x delivers on its promise, especially towards the bottom of its ISO range.

Noise

Best full frame DSLR
ISO 6400

Noise is very much more noticeable in the D3x's images taken at high ISO settings than it is with any other full-frame camera in the group.

Colour error

Best full frame DSLR

There's generally a nice warmth to this camera's colour balance, but it can go a bit too far when shooting in very bright sunlight.

Image test verdict

Image quality suffers at high ISO settings, but at lower ISOs there's plenty of detail, along with negligible noise and a warmth in colour rendition.

Read our Nikon D3x review