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
Instagram is currently testing a major change to the app's profile layout: replacing the 3-photo across grid with a 4-photo grid... and some users are NOT taking the news well.
A report by USSRPhoto is shedding some light on the return of the famed Zenit camera brand. It seems the full-frame mirrorless camera they're working on will be made in part by Leica using components from the Leica SL.
According to a reliable Korean report, Samsung is developing a smartphone sensor that's capable of super slow motion. Translation: Samsung's next batch of Galaxy smartphones may be able to shoot 1,000fps.
This simple photograph of a seahorse and Q-tip has taken the internet by storm. We spoke to photographer Justin Hofman about how it was captured, and what it means to him.
After a massive leak last week, Profoto has officially debuted the Profoto A1: the company's first on-camera flash system that they're calling "the world's smallest studio flash."
"When the first hyperfocal distance charts were designed, someone decided that an acceptably sharp background contained some blur — enough to notice in a medium-sized print [...] After that point, nearly every other hyperfocal chart followed suit."
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (also known as the EOS 200D) is the company's impressively compact entry-level DSLR. Packing a 24MP APS-C sensor, DIGIC 7 processor and Dual Pixel AF, it promises a lot of bang for the buck. And while not mind-blowing, it handles most tasks very well.
Correct these four common composition mistakes and your photos will be more balanced, tell a better story, and lead your viewer's eye where you want it to go.
The rugged, compact 360° action camera Kodak unveiled at Photokina in 2016, the Kodak PixPro Orbit 360, is finally available in the United States.
iOS 11 launches tomorrow, and it'll save all of your pictures in a new high efficiency image format called HEIC. Fortunately, there's now a converter that will let you turn those photos back into JPEGs.
Photo protection company ImageRights recently released a new service that lets non-subscribers take advantage of their streamlined copyright registration system that checks for errors and fills out all the required forms for you.
What's the difference between a $200 circular polarizing filter and a $100 circular polarizing filter? Roger Cicala at Lens Rentals put six different filters through a few tests to find out.
A flurry of leaks reveal that GoPro's upcoming Hero6 will shoot 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps, will cost $500, and is scheduled for announcement/release on September 28th.
Before he became the iconic director whose name we've all heard, a teenage Stanley Kubrick struck up a business relationship with New York’s Look magazine. No surprise: he was an incredibly talented photographer.
WD's new G-Technology G-Drive mobile SSD R-Series is a portable solid state option for photographers who want the reliability of an SSD in a rugged water and dust-resistant package.
Fast, stabilized and affordable is an appealing combination when it comes to lenses. With its latest 24-70mm F2.8, Tamron aims to upgrade autofocus speed and stabilization. We've got a full gallery from this updated full-frame zoom.
Photographer Clay Cook tells the story of his most ambitious photographic dream and career goal coming true: photographing A-list actress Jennifer Lawrence.
In an interview with a Chinese website, Nikon Japan's Director of Development dropped a bombshell, saying that a Nikon mirrorless camera "must be full-frame."
Here's a side-by-side spec comparison of two flagship devices with particular attention to the things that really matter – at least to people who prioritize photography features.
A month and a half after revealing the finalists of the 2017 EyeEm Awards, the photo sharing community and licensing marketplace has finally revealed the winners.
Photographer Josselin Cornou tells the breathtaking story behind two beautiful photos captured while snorkeling with humpback whales in Tonga.
The Sony RX10 IV is a fixed lens camera with a 1"-type sensor and 24-600mm equivalent lens that can shoot 4K video or stills at 24 fps, but that's not what we think is interesting about it. The addition of phase detection autofocus is pivotal to all those features.
The announcement date is set! Google will reveal their next generation Pixel phones—their response to Apple's shiny new iPhone X—on October 4th. Let the smartphone camera wars begin.
Sony just debuted three palm-style 4K camcorders that steal a bit of speedy phase detect autofocus technology from the company's RX10 IV. In fact, they kind of improve on it.
Earlier today, NASA's Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, ending a 20 year long mission. Here are 21 of our favorite photographs captured by this incredible machine and its makers.
Fans of film photography should keep an eye out for the widespread theatrical release of Kodachrome, a movie staring Jason Sudeikis about the final days of the iconic film stock.
Photographer Manny Ortiz breaks down the pros and cons of shooting natural light vs off-camera flash, and explains why he chooses to shoot one, the other, or both in any given situation.
A leaked product page and a bunch of leaked photos shows Profoto is preparing to release its first ever speedlight: the Profoto A1 Air TTL
The Yashica camera brand disappeared in 2003, but a new teaser video and website hint at a comeback. Excited?
Western Digital just debuted a new, higher capacity WD Gold internal hard drive. The new drive offers 12TB of storage and class-leading reliability to the tune of a 550TB/year workload rating.