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
|Christine by JP Zanotti|
from Car wreck
|Fangorn Forest by cand1d|
|Yosemite Falls with Moonbow by Jonathan Shapiro|
from Best Landscape of the Week 4
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.