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Top of camera controls (right)

On the top of the camera on the right side you will find the power switch, shutter release button, exposure mode and exposure compensation buttons. At the front and rear edges of this side of the camera, in line with the shutter release button are the two command dials (with a soft rubber coating). On the side of the viewfinder prism is the metering mode selector (with an integral lock button which must be held to change mode). On the rear of the camera we see the AF-ON button, and just beneath it, the smaller A-EL/AF-L button. For those photographers that rarely shoot much action, and find exposure lock more useful than a second AF button, the more conveniently placed AF-ON button can be reassigned to AE lock.

CSM f8 allows you define the exact function of the command dials including their rotation, which sets aperture / shutter speed and whether they can be used in menus and playback mode. The function of controls described below are for a camera with default settings. Buttons combined with a dial turn are held while the dial is turned, however you can choose to simply have to press the button once and release, this is achieved via CSM f9.

Power dial

OFF Power Off

Powers the camera off immediately, if there are images still buffered to be written the camera will remain on until the write has completed. When off the camera continues to display the remaining frames / frame count and CF status on the top LCD panel.
ON Power On

Switches the camera on, this is as fast as we can time it, as good as instant. There is simply no perceptible delay between turning the the dial and the first shot (you can even hold the shutter release and turn the power dial to test this).
Illuminate backlight

Flick the power switch to this position to illuminate the control panels backlight's (top and rear). The backlight stays on for the 'auto meter-off' time (CSM c2).

Buttons (combined with dial turn)

  Main command dial (rear) Sub command dial (front)
MODE Exposure mode (detail below)

 • Programmed Auto (flexible)
 • Shutter-Priority Auto
 • Aperture-Priority Auto
 • Manual
No function
Exposure compensation

 • +/- 5 EV
 • 0.3, 0.5 or 1 EV steps (CSM b2)
No function

Buttons (single press)

AF-ON AF-ON

The AF-ON button is an alternative to half-pressing the shutter release, and by default it triggers the camera's auto focus system. You can, if you wish, have the camera set so that AF is not triggered by a shutter release half-press (CSM a5) and only by the AF-ON button (useful for fast action photography where continuous AF tracking is required).

Metering Mode

3D Color matrix metering II / Color Matrix II / Color Matrix

3D Color matrix metering uses a 1005 pixel CCD to calculate the best exposure for the frame. 3D color matrix metering is only available with G type or D type lenses where the range information is used in conjunction with metered light. Color matrix II metering is used with other CPU lenses. Color matrix metering is used when focal length and aperture are entered manually using the 'Non-CPU lens data' menu item.
Center-weighted metering

The camera uses the entire frame for light measurement but assigns a greater weight to an area in the center of the frame (by default a 12 mm circle indicated on the viewfinder focus screen). The size of the circle used to define the "center" of the frame can be set by CSM b5.
Spot metering

The camera measures light only in a circle 4 mm in diameter. This is tied to the currently selected AF area point, unless dynamic AF or a non-CPU lens is used when it defaults to the center of the frame.

Exposure Modes

P Programmed Auto (flexible)

In this mode the camera automatically selects aperture and shutter speed based on the current metered exposure value, exposure compensation and selected ISO sensitivity. Flexible program allows you to select one of a range of identical exposures (using different combinations of aperture and shutter speed) by turning the main command dial. Example:

 • 1/125 sec, F9 (turn left one click)
 • 1/160 sec, F8.0 (turn left one click)
 • 1/200 sec, F7.1 (metered)
 • 1/250 sec, F6.3 (turn right one click)
 • 1/320 sec, F5.6 (turn right one click)
S Shutter-Priority Auto

In this mode you select the shutter speed and the camera will calculate the correct aperture depending on metered exposure, exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity. Turn the main command dial to select shutter speed in the range of 30 to 1/8000 sec (in 0.3, 0.5 or 1.0 EV exposure steps depending on CSM b3).
A Aperture-Priority Auto

In this mode you select the aperture and the camera will calculate the correct shutter speed depending on metered exposure, exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity. Turn the sub command dial to select aperture (in 0.3, 0.5 or 1.0 EV exposure steps depending on CSM b3). The exact range of apertures will depend on the lens used.
M

Manual Exposure

In this mode you define the exact exposure by selecting the aperture and the shutter speed manually. As above use the main command dial (rear) for shutter speed, sub command dial (front) for aperture. The meter on the viewfinder status bar and top LCD will immediately reflect the exposure level compared to the calculated ideal exposure, if outside of the range of the indicator bar (+/- 2 EV on the viewfinder LCD and +/- 3 EV on the top control panel) an arrow ('<' or '>') will appear at the end.

Top of camera controls (left)

The top left side of the D3S has the mode dial which allows you to select the camera's drive mode, single, two continuous speeds, quiet mode, self-timer or mirror up. This dial is locked to prevent accidental change and can only be turned by holding the lock release pin to the top left of the dial. On the top of this dial are three buttons for bracketing, flash mode and function lock.

Mode Dial

S Single frame shooting

One frame is taken with one depression of the shutter release button. You can of course still 'pump' shots as quickly as you can re-press the shutter release. The D3S's shutter release button is the soft-press type which easily facilitates quick re-press.
CL

Continuous low speed shooting

Camera shoots continuously while the shutter release is depressed. In this mode the shooting rate can be set between 1 and 9 frames per second (via CSM d2), the default being 5 frames per second. Images are buffered as they are taken and written out to the Compact Flash card in the background. Current buffer space is indicated on the viewfinder LCD status bar as a number prefixed with a lower case 'r' (e.g.. r39).

CH

Continuous high speed shooting

Camera shoots continuously while the shutter release is depressed. In this mode the camera shoots at 9 frames per second in FX (full frame format; 12.1 MP) or up to 11 frames per second (via CSM d2) in DX (1.5x cropped format; 5.1 MP). Images are buffered as they are taken and written out to the Compact Flash card in the background. Current buffer space is indicated on the viewfinder LCD status bar as a number prefixed with a lower case 'r' (beg. r39). In this mode, AF mode is set to look for subject movement automatically, and adjust AF from the selected AF point if necessary, even when the AF mode switch is set to AF-S.

Q

Quiet Mode

In this mode, the shutter is released and the mirror raised in the normal way, but mirror drop is delayed until the photographer's finger is released from the shutter button. The initial click of the exposure is quieter than in the normal 'S' mode, which makes this mode ideal for subjects like wildlife, where 'image noise' has more than just one meaning. Nikon's new 'Q' mode is essentially the same as the 'silent single frame advance' mode seen in Canon's professional '1-series' DSLRs since 2004.

Self-timer

Camera takes a shot after a predefined delay. This can be set to 2, 5, 10, or 20 seconds via CSM c3.
M-UP

Mirror Up

Press the shutter release once to raise the mirror, again to take the shot. As we commented in our D2X, D3 and D3X reviews it would have been nice to have this combined with a customisable self-timer so you don't need to touch the camera (or use a remote) to trigger the actual shutter release. By default, the shutter releases after 30 seconds has elapsed with mirror lockup activated.

Buttons (combined with a command dial)

The D3S has four different bracketing modes; exposure and flash bracketing, just exposure bracketing, just flash bracketing and white balance bracketing. Bracketing mode can be selected through CSM e4, other bracketing settings are set by CSM e5 and CSM e6.

  Main command dial (rear) Sub command dial (front)
BKT Auto Bracketing number shots

 • +3F (+2x, +x, 0)
 • -3F (-2x, -x, 0)
 • +2F (+x, 0)
 • -2F (-x, 0)
 • 0F (Off)
 • 3F (3 frames +x to -x)
 • 5F (5 frames +2x to +2x)
 • 7F (7 frames +3x to +3x)
 • 9F (9 frames +4x to +4x)

(Where x = bracketing increment)
Auto Bracketing EV increment

 • 0.3 EV
 • 0.7 EV
 • 1.0 EV
Auto Bracketing WB increment

 • 1
 • 2
 • 3
Flash sync mode

 • Front-curtain sync (normal)
 • Slow sync
 • Rear-curtain sync
 • Red-eye reduction
 • Red-eye reduction with slow sync
No function
Shutter speed lock

 • On
 • Off

(Only available in shutter-priority or manual exposure modes)
Aperture lock

 • On
 • Off

(Only available in aperture-priority or manual exposure modes)
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