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High-end Nikon SLR rumors heat up

New rumors say the top-end D3 line will have a 18.7-megapixel, nearly full-frame sensor, and could ship in August.

A new spate of rumors are cropping up about a new Nikon top-end professional-grade digital SLR, the D3, with some asserting that a new camera will be announced this month and ship in August.

Nikon's D2Hs
Nikon's D2Hs Nikon

Many of the reports are cropping up on the Nikon SLR message boards of Digital Photography Review. One May posting cited French photo publication Reponses Photo as saying the Nikon D3 would have an 18.7-megapixel built by Sony and, in what would be a significant departure for Nikon, an image sensor nearly the size of a full frame of 35mm film.

A posting on Thursday cited a "Nikon insider" saying the new Nikon SLR likely would arrive in August and would have a full-frame sensor that would better match top-end Canon models. A follow-up post added that the new camera would handle low-light conditions better.

Meanwhile, Thom Hogan, editor of the Nikon DSLR Report, advised a forum reader who had expected a February announcement, "Expect a late June announcement with ship in August/September instead, and you might be less disappointed."

Nikon didn't respond to requests for comment. And it should be noted that rumors are not reliable: one report of a Nikon D3 with similar specifications predicted that Nikon would announce the D3 at the Photo Marketing Show in March, which came and went without a peep.

Canon's top-end 1Ds Mark II and 5D employ full-frame image sensors, which measure 36mm by 24mm, but its lower-end models have smaller sensors that trim the field of view by a factor of 1.6. That factor means that a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera works somewhat like an 80mm lens.

a fictitious Nikon D3x
a fictitious Nikon D3x design NRG Alpha

All Nikon's digital SLRs so far, by comparison, use the company's DX sensor size with a 1.5 factor. Some D3 rumors, though, say the D3 will use a 1.1 factor, meaning that the sensor is nearly full-frame. That constraint would likely mean that the newer DX-specific lenses wouldn't work.

Nikon, the No. 2-ranked SLR (single-lens reflex) camera maker, has gained ground on top dog Canon at the lower end with its D40, D40x, D80 and D200 models. But Nikon's current pro cameras are getting long in the tooth. The 4.1-megapixel D2H was announced in July 2003 and updated in February 2005, while the D2x for photojournalists was announced in September 2004 and updated in June 2006.

Meanwhile, and enterprising graphic artist took advantage of all the scuttlebutt to spotlight his own portfolio, newly updated with a fictitious D3x design of his own.