Wedding with Nikon D3X and Canon 5D Mk2

Sunday, 8 February 2009

A recent wedding gave me the opportunity to to try out both cameras. I was using the Canon to shoot mostly video alongside two colleagues (My nephews and partners in the business) who were using conventional video cameras. I also decided to take the D3X out for a spin to shoot some stills.


This was a video only wedding so we used our two video cameras. I normally shoot the stills at weddings but since I bought the Canon just before Christmas it seemed an ideal opportunity to test it out. The idea was for me to have a relatively free role to shoot what I wanted & to see what the potential was.

We had discussed the problems of no autofocus while shooting, zooming being very shaky and the time limit on takes being dictated by the camera. I would therefore be working exclusively from a tripod and taking “moving photographs” with little or no camera movement.

This was a very different experience for me. Used to flying around taking photographs, being anchored in one position for long periods of time was strange.

I was focusing the camera manually using live view & the 10x magnification. For example for the Brides entrance I pre-focused on the part of the floor upon which she would be walking & then re-framed.

I used 2 Tamron zooms. A 28-75 f/2.8 and a 28-200 for the majority of this. I shot footage of the guests entering, the ceremony, the wedding breakfast and the speeches. One time I was jammed into a corner of a narrow (and very dark) corridor behind the tripod with my Nikon fit Zeiss 18mm fitted to the camera with an adaptor. This was the line-up with all the guests filing through. An 11 minute take. It consumed 2.2 GB of compact flash space.

How did it perform?

Very well - though I had no indication of that during the day. I was unsure of the focusing, using my experience to judge depth of field. As it happens I needn’t have worried. There were only a few small errors and the bulk of the footage was sharp and in focus.

The line up worked very well. I managed to get the whole line in and even though I was working at ISO 3200 with the lens wide open, the whole sequence looked good.

The quality was excellent & we noticed that the images from the Canon were much more saturated than the video cameras. This had to be dialed down for the finished DVD. The low light performance was incredible - the line-up example given would have been impossible with our other cameras. The ultra wide-angle lens and the low-light performance achieved results that our other cameras couldn’t.

The main problems came from the operation. Because of the previously mentioned limitations, there were things that I wanted to do but couldn’t. Not being able to move with the camera & me personally being a little hesitant about my panning skills meant that my footage was somewhat static. We are looking into the possibility of buying a Steadicam Merlin as I’ve seen astounding results with a Canon 5D Mk2 mounted on one. All in all it was a useful addition to what we can offer and it will certainly give us options that we didn’t have before. Low light performance & the ability to use more extreme lenses being the two most important.

However it will never replace our conventional video cameras for this kind of work. The simple fact of having to record a non-stop event shows up its limitations. With a fluid head and a steadicam however it would become more useful.

I also shot a few stills with it. Again these demonstrated brilliant low-light performance, very close to my D3 and D700.


As this was a video only wedding for us, I only had a chance to use the Nikon for some general stills. I only took my 85mm f/1.8 with me and got some shots of the cake, tables & decorations etc. Once again I was very impressed with the results. I had the opportunity to compare it with the Canon and while at the higher ISO’s it is noisier than the Canon, at lower levels and either tripod mounted or with my SB-900 flash it is simply incredible. The “3-D” effect makes the images jump off the screen and the sheer quality and resolution allows for both huge prints and some severe cropping.

This is not to suggest that the Canon isn’t up to the job. It is. If Nikon hadn’t brought out the D3X I would probably now be working with two 5D Mk2’s and feeling very happy about the “tools of my trade” Its just that extra quality that the Nikon provides that makes it such a special camera.