Nikon has announced its next generation, pro-level digital SLR, the D3 - which will begin shipping in September for around £2,900 plus VAT for the body only.

The D3, which Nikon says is the result of years of development and feedback from professional photographers, combines an exclusive 12.1 effective megapixel FX format (36.0-x-23.9mm) image sensor with 12-channel read out, a 9 fps frame rate, expandable ISO settings from 200-6400, a completely new 51-Point autofocus system, a three-inch VGA LCD screen with Live View and a cutting-edge image processing system.

The D3 FX format CMOS imaging sensor was designed from the ground up to offer exceptional light transmission properties, so photographers can acquire higher-grade images even in low light conditions. Nikon claims that it possesses a high signal to noise ratio, a pixel pitch 15 per cent larger than competitive cameras, gapless surface micro-lenses and advanced on-chip noise reduction means high-quality images under very low light levels are now possible. The sensor enables an ISO settings range from 200-6400, expandable up to the equivalent of 25,600 or down to 100.

The EXPEED image processing system is at the heart of the D3’s ability to capture and process massive amounts of data at high definition. The D3 EXPEED system features 14-bit analog-to-digital (A/D) conversion with 16-bit image processing.

The D3 features a new approach to calculating exposures and white balance with intelligent support for Autofocus tracking performance as well. At the heart of the Scene Recognition System is a 1005-pixel RGB metering sensor that has been modified to distinguish subjects’ shape and position for improved auto exposure and Autofocus accuracy.

The SLR has a completely new 51-Point autofocus system designed to acquire and track subjects’ movement more accurately. The result of intensive studies into how professional sports and news photographers use autofocus, the Multi-CAM3500 AF module features the most AF points ever developed for a SLR camera, according to Nikon.

The company also says that, at 9 fps, the D3 is the world’s fastest FX format D-SLR1, with an even faster 11fps2consecutive shooting possible in DX crop mode. A second crop mode is also premiered in the D3, with 5:4 (30mm x 24mm) aspect ratio. Shutter release time lag is an imperceptible 41 milliseconds (CIPA standard), while the image sensor’s integrated high-speed 12-channel readout contributes both to burst speed and Live View performance. The D3 also gets to work quickly; startup time is just 0.12 seconds and mirror black out is only 74ms.

Nikon’s new Picture Control system offers improved productivity for JPEG shooters. Picture Control lets users of all levels manage and customise the appearance of their images in camera. Picture Control replaces the existing Colour Mode settings of current Nikon cameras.

The D3 is the world’s first D-SLR to offer dual CompactFlash card slots for outstanding storage flexibility. A photographer can shoot images to each card one after the other, or simultaneously, as back up. When shooting combined NEF and JPEG files, the NEF image can be written to one card and the JPEG version to the other. Image files can also be selected and copied from one card to the other after shooting.