Nikon D3S In-depth review
Based on a production Nikon D3S, firmware version 1.0, 1.0 (note: As we were finalizing this test for publication, Nikon released a firmware upgrade for the D3S to Firmware 1.0.1, which corrects some minor bugs relating to video performance. We did not experience the issues which the update is designed to fix, and all samples (and the majority of gallery images) taken for this this review were created with firmware 1.0)
When the Nikon D3 was launched in August 2007, it had an immediate impact on the DSLR market, and not only in the professional sector. The D3 was Nikon's first DSLR with an FX (full frame) CMOS sensor, but its major selling point, in the minds of many photographers at the time, was its unparalleled image quality at high ISO settings. With the D3, photographers could shoot at ISO settings up to 6400 without a significant penalty in noise, and in a pinch, even go up to ISO 25,600 (equivalent) - unheard of at the time. This versatility, coupled with a very capable AF system and rugged, weatherproof build, did much to reverse Nikon's declining fortunes in the professional DSLR market. Professional Canon users, many of whom were disillusioned by the seemingly endless problems that plagued the flagship EOS 1D Mark III at the time, flocked to the D3 in large numbers. In the process, Nikon mounted a formidable challenge to Canon in the sports and action segment of the pro marketplace.
A little over two years later, and Nikon is trying to build on the foundations laid by the D3's runaway success. Enter the D3S. 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. Is the promise of even better low light performance enough to answer those critics that are clamoring for higher resolution? Read our in-depth test (which includes comparisons with the new Canon EOS 1D Mark IV) to find out.
Note: Because of the similarities between the D3S and the older D3, (and to a lesser extent the D300S and D3X), especially as regards handling and certain key features, portions of this review, including some product images, are taken or adapted from from previous reviews.
Model line history
|Continuous highest (JPEG)||LCD monitor||Video|
|D1||Jun 1999||2.6 mp||5 point||4.5 fps, 21 frames||2.0", 120K pixels||n/a|
|D1X||Feb 2001||5.3 mp||5 point||3.0 fps, 9 frames||2.0", 130K pixels||n/a|
|D1H||Feb 2001||2.7 mp||5 point||5.0 fps, 40 frames||2.0", 130K pixels||n/a|
|D2H||Jul 2003||4.1 mp||11 point||8.0 fps, 40 frames||2.5", 211K pixels||n/a|
|D2X||Sep 2004||12.2 mp||11 point||5.0 fps, 22 frames *1||2.5" 235K pixels||n/a|
|D2Hs||Feb 2005||4.1 mp||11 point||8.0 fps, 50 frames||2.5" 235K pixels||n/a|
|D2Xs||Jun 2006||12.2 mp||11 point||5.0 fps, 22 frames *1||2.5" 230K pixels||n/a|
|D3||Aug 2007||12.1 mp (FF)||51 point||9.0 fps, 130 frames *2||3.0" 922K pixels + Live View||n/a|
|D3X||Dec 2008||24.5 mp (FF)||51 point||5.0 fps, 130 frames *3||3.0" 922K pixels + Live View||n/a|
|D3S||Oct 2009||12.1 mp (FF)||51 point||9.0 fps, 130 frames *2||3.0" 922K pixels + Live View||720p|
*1 Also 8 fps in cropped mode (6.7 MP)
*2 Up to 11 fps with DX format (5.1 MP)
*3 Up to 7 fps with DX format (10.5 MP)
Nikon D3S Key Features
- Newly redesigned 12.1 megapixel Full-Frame (36 x 24 mm) sensor
- ISO 200 - 12,800 (ISO 100 - 102,400 including extension settings)
- 720p / 24 fps HD movie mode
- Eleven frames per second in continuous and DX mode
- Larger buffer for more than 30 RAW frames in one burst
- Multi-CAM3500FX Auto Focus sensor (51-point, 15 cross-type, more vertical coverage), fine-tuned for improved acquisition and tracking
- In-camera RAW processing
- Also supports DX lenses, viewfinder automatically masks (5.1 megapixels with DX lens)
- 14-bit A/D conversion, 12 channel readout
- Nikon EXPEED image processor
- Super fast operation (power-up 12 ms, shutter lag 41 ms, black-out 74 ms)
- Kevlar / carbon fibre composite shutter with 300,000 exposure durability
- Auto-focus tracking by color (using information from 1005-pixel AE sensor)
- Auto-focus calibration (fine-tuning) available (fixed body or up to 20 separate lens settings)
- Scene Recognition System (uses AE sensor, AF sensor)
- Dual Compact Flash card slots (overflow, back-up, RAW on 1 / JPEG on 2, Stills on 1 / Movies on 2, copy)
- Compact Flash UDMA support
- 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor
- Live View with either phase detect (mirror up/down) or improved (30% faster) contrast detect Auto Focus
- Virtual horizon indicates if camera is level, available on the LCD during video capture
- HDMI HD video output
- 'Active D-Lighting' 'Extra High' setting (adjusts metering as well as applying D-Lighting curve)
- Detailed 'Control Panel' type display on LCD monitor, changes in dark conditions
- Buttons sealed against moisture
- Dual battery charger as standard
Technology in Detail
- 18 Photographic tests (Noise)
- 19 Photographic tests (DR)
- 20 Photographic tests (DR)
- 21 Photographic tests
- 22 Movie Mode
- 23 Compared to
- 24 Compared to (JPEG)
- 25 Compared to (JPEG)
- 26 Compared to (JPEG)
- 27 Compared to (RAW)
- 28 Compared to (RAW)
- 29 Compared to (RAW)
- 30 Compared to (Higher ISO)
- 31 Compared to (Resolution)
- 32 Compared to (Resolution)
- 33 Conclusion
- 34 Samples
|Devil Rock (Stuttgart, Germany) by cornissimo|
from Neon Signs
|Carla... by lickity split|
from Beautiful caucasian female faces
|Lunar New Year Fireworks by Michael L NYC 99|
|Vatican Basilica by wam7|
from Street lights
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has a the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.
An update to the Silkypix Raw converter fixes some bugs and adds support for several popular new cameras.
This crazy custom-built underwater camera shoots 8x10 large format film. It's supposedly "the first successful underwater 8x10 ever made," and it can be yours for $5,800... plus shipping.
Blackmagic just reveled a new accessory for their Cintel Film Scanner. The Cintel Audio and KeyKode Reader can capture KeyKode data and high-quality audio from film in real-time as it is being scanned.
A new Nikon patent shows a lens designed for a curved full-frame sensor. Could this be the high-end Nikon mirrorless camera people are hoping for?
The ability to shoot images at 1,000 fps first appeared in a Sony smartphone sensor. Now the Japanese manufacturer is using the same feature for industrial applications.
Astronomy expert and photographer Dr. Tyler Nordgren thinks you should "see your first eclipse, photograph your second." But if you do plan on taking photos this August, here are a few tips from someone who's been there.
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.
A huge copyright lawsuit between photography firm VHT and Zillow Group is heating up again, as both sides appeal a court ruling that granted VHT $4 million in damages.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent 6 months on board the International Space Station where he worked with Google capturing spheric panorama images that are now available in Street View.
It's official. PDN has confirmed with parent company Aurelius that 94-year-old lighting company Bowens is indeed going out of business.
The newly launched firmware version 1.06 fixes AF-issues that can occur with some lenses that are not officially compatible with the MC-11 converter.
Voyager is a waterproof smart light stick you can control entirely from your phone. The light has already blown past its $300K funding goal on Indiegogo.
2018 is the last year Photokina will take place during the traditional end-of-September dates. In 2019, Photokina will take place from the 8th to the 11th of May.
The Canon IXUS 50 (known as the SD400 Digital ELPH in North America) was one of a string of high-performing, pocketable PowerShots of the mid-2000s. In this week's throwback Thursday, Barney casts his mind back to 2005.
A close look at the EOS 6D II's Raw files suggest its dynamic range has taken a significant step backwards compared with the company's recent DSLRs. We look at how much difference this might make for your photos.
With a full-production review unit in our hands, we've got over 100 production samples from the new Canon EOS 6D Mark II to share.
Need a break from your day? Kick back and watch the making of a somewhat unconventional mojito filmed on Canon's new EOS 6D Mark II.
The Bonfoton Camera Obscura Room Lens can turn any room into a camera obscura, projecting the view from your window onto the walls of your room.
Adobe just released version 2015.12 of Lightroom CC, adding support for several new cameras and lenses, and baking in several important bug fixes while they were at it.
In this interview, Chiara Marinai, photo editor for VanityFair.com, explains exactly what she looks for in new photographers and photo submissions. Take notes.