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Nikon D3 v1.10 firmware appears to cause photo corruption problem  
Thursday, April 17, 2008 | by Rob Galbraith
Seeing a Ghost: A corrupted Nikon D3 photo captured with firmware v1.10 loaded. Click to see a full resolution crop of the area marked in red (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
Firmware v1.10 for the Nikon D3, released earlier this week as a download from Nikon support sites, appears to have introduced an intermittent photo corruption problem to Nikon's flagship digital SLR. We've been bitten by it, received a handful of reports from other D3 shooters who have too, while a thread on a popular Web discussion forum is filled with posts showing or describing precisely the same offset ghost image phenomenon we've experienced since loading the new firmware on Tuesday.

(Update, April 18, 2008: Nikon has now confirmed the photo corruption problem.)

The thumbnail at right shows the problem. Click on it to see a full resolution crop of the area marked in red. While shooting rugby April 15, we racked up a total of seven frames like this, out of a total of 635 frames shot. One was captured while the D3 was set to RAW + JPEG for the first few minutes of the match, the remaining six while the camera was recording RAW only.

The RAW data, whether processed through Capture NX, Photoshop's Camera Raw or Aperture, came out of the conversion process looking the same as the above example. In addition, the preview JPEG inside the NEF file shows the same corruption - we could see this on the back of the camera and later when the JPEG was extracted from the NEF and viewed separately.

The corrupted files were written to two different CompactFlash cards - a SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 8GB in slot one and a Lexar 300X 8GB in slot two  - which suggests that the problem isn't limited to a certain make and model of memory card. In all instances the corrupted photo popped up roughly in the middle of a sequence (not at the very beginning and not at the very end). Of the D3 owners who've contacted us directly and given some detail about the problem, the main elements of their story have been similar: firmware v1.10 loaded, camera set to RAW or RAW + JPEG and shooting an extended sequence.

Here in the office, we're able to make the problem surface pretty much at will. There may or may not be a specific combination of settings or actions that are required, but by configuring the D3 to record losslessly compressed 14-bit NEF + JPEG, shooting until the buffer fills, then pausing only briefly before shooting a small handful of additional frames sporadically over a total of about 40 frames, the camera will cough up a corrupted frame every second or third sequence. The corruption is in the JPEG, the NEF and the preview JPEG inside the NEF. This is with a Lexar 300X 8GB CompactFlash card inside, but again, the problem probably isn't limited to a given memory card, we just haven't had an opportunity to expand testing beyond the two cards that were loaded when we were hit with the corruption in the first place.

In a thread in the forums at Digital Photography Review, numerous posters are reporting the same problem. The example pictures posted by some are identical in the look of the corruption as ours above. While Lexar and SanDisk CompactFlash are mentioned by several thread participants, this may only reflect how dominant these two memory card brands are in the digital SLR marketplace.

We're in the process of notifying Nikon USA, Lexar and SanDisk about this, and presumably Nikon, plus these and other card makers, have heard directly from D3 owners experiencing the same thing by now.

(Update, April 18, 2008: Nikon has now confirmed the photo corruption problem.)
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