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Full-frame digital SLRs have brought new life to the megapixel wars. Following close on the heels of Sony's A900, Nikon's new flagship D3X ups the ante for true system DSLRs. Boasting 24.5 megapixels, the D3X more than doubles the reesolution of the D3 (12.1 megapixels).
Full-frame DSLRs use sensors that are the same size as a frame of 35mm film - 24 x 36mm. This is far larger than the tiny sensors found in most point-and-shoot digital cameras - and even those found in most digital SLRs.
Nikon has taken full advantage of this additional real estate with a sensor engineered specifically for the D3X. (Ironically, the sensor is actually manufactured by Sony - to Nikon's specifications, of course.) The only downside? More pixels in the same space means those pixels must be smaller. They're 5.94 microns, to be exact. And this could lead to increased noise, though Nikon claims to have addressed this issue in design.
Much of the D3X is held over from the D3 - including the carbon fiber/kevlar shutter, the "Scene Recognition System" metering, Vignette Control and Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction.
Another nice feature of the D3X is the ability to hold two CompactFlash cards at once. You can write RAW files to one while saving the same image as a JPEG file in the other... or fill one card up - which happens quickly at 24.5 MP - and then automatically switch to the second card... or, if you're a bit obsessive-compulsive, you can write the same data to both cards, creating an instant backup file.
One trade-off with the huge boost in resolution is speed. While the D3 can capture up to nine full-frame pictures per second, the D3X tops out at five. You can boost that up to seven fps in DX "crop" mode, but resolution drops to 10.5 megapixels.
Overall, though, the D3X is a big step forward for Nikon. But if you're thinking of picking one up, you'd better sit down. Nikon has set the release price at $7,999.95. If you don't need the extra resolution, Nikon will continue to offer the D3 - at $4,999.95.