Nikon D3S

Announced Oct 14, 2009 •
12 megapixels | 3 screen | Full frame sensor
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Product description
Announced Oct 14, 2009

Released a little over two years after D3, the D3S represents Nikon's attempt to build on the foundations laid by the D3's runaway success. Ergonomically, very little has changed. In fact the D3S and its predecessor are difficult to tell apart at a casual glance, but the D3S does offer some significant improvements, not least a new 720x1280p video capture mode, and several minor tweaks designed to make the new camera more competitive. These include a new 'Quiet' shutter release mode (first seen in the D5000), in-camera dust reduction, and a choice of four image area formats, including DX, and a new 1.2x crop option.

The D3S offers the same resolution as the D3, at 12 million pixels, but its redesigned sensor can hit new heights of ISO performance, offering a 'native' range of ISO 200-12,800, expandable up to ISO 102,400. It is inevitable that the D3S lacks something of the star quality that attracted so many pro and semi-pro photographers to the D3. It is an evolutionary upgrade, and represents a refinement, rather than a reimagining, of the same basic principle. With the exception of its video mode, the D3S brings very little to the table that is truly 'new' compared to its predecessor. However, the improvements that have been made are considerable. From the minor (faster contrast-detection AF in Live View) to the major (a whole 2EV extra ISO range), the various tweaks and additions to its feature set make the D3S a significantly more useful camera than the D3.

Judged on its own merits, the Nikon D3S is outstanding. It offers exceptionally good image quality across an extremely wide range of ISO settings, and its key systems (AF, white balance and metering) are at least on a par with the best available in other cameras from rival manufacturers. Add its full weatherproofing, excellent battery life and rugged construction into the mix, and you have a truly 'go anywhere' camera.

Product timeline
Review, Feb 16, 2010
Quick specs
Body type Large SLR
Max resolution 4256 x 2832
Effective pixels 12 megapixels
Sensor size Full frame (36 x 23.9 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
ISO 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800 (100-102400 with boost)
Lens mount Nikon F
Focal length mult. 1×
Articulated LCD Fixed
Screen size 3
Screen dots 921,000
Min shutter speed 30 sec
Max shutter speed 1/8000 sec
Format Motion JPEG
Storage types Compact Flash (Type I or II) x 2, UDMA
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
Weight (inc. batteries) 1240 g (2.73 lb / 43.74 oz)
Dimensions 160 x 157 x 88 mm (6.3 x 6.18 x 3.46)
GPS Optional

See full specifications

Our review

In terms of versatility, the Nikon D3S is the best DSLR we've ever tested, and the image quality in ultra low light is a major selling point. If you don't need to take advantage of the D3S's high ISO settings though, the D700/D300S offer better value.

Good for: Pros that need to get images quickly in any environment

Not so good for: Anyone that doesn't need top quality in ultra-low light

Read the full review

Gold Award
89%
dpreview score
Scoring
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Value
Nikon D3S Review Samples
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