Supplied software

The D3S comes with a decent, but it must be said hardly outstanding set of software given its cost and market positioning. The software suite is based around View NX, which is an improvement over the earlier generation Picture Project (supplied with the D2-series professional Nikon DSLRs), but a very long way off being a 'professional' tool. It is a decent organizational resource though - View NX allows you to label images with stars or colors (so you could separate hobby photos, friends and family and paid work, for instance) and create sets of copyright metadata that can be added to whichever image you like. You can even modify the names of the color tags so that they show up as 'Work,' 'Holiday,' 'Portraits' or whatever best suits your needs.

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When it comes to RAW processing, View NX is handy without being indispensable. Habitual raw shooters might be frustrated by the lack of noise reduction adjustment and limited control over white balance, but other tools such as sharpening and exposure adjustments (including highlight and shadow recovery), are here, as well as axial chromatic aberration reduction. Should you wish, many of these parameters can be built into presets using the Picture Control Utility, meaning that presets you find yourself regularly applying can be uploaded to the camera, saving you the effort on a computer later on.

As is common with bundled software, View NX gives some of the best access to the shooting metadata created by the camera, helping you work out exactly how your existing version is processed before you make adjustments. There are a variety of views available in View NX. This is the Image Viewer mode showing the file browser on the left.
You can either apply an existing Picture Control preset (Standard, Vivid, etc.) or create and modify your own, which can be uploaded onto the camera for JPEG shots. View NX lets you manually GeoTag your images, hunt around Google Maps to find the location and now imports GeoTags already embedded in EXIF.

Capture NX2 and Camera Control Pro 2

For more advanced processing, Nikon offers the considerably more sophisticated Capture NX2, which is a truly professional-grade platform for in-depth raw and JPEG adjustment. Although it is commonly criticized (and justly so) for being somewhat unintuitive compared to competitive offerings, and rather resource-intensive, Capture NX2 is a far more serious companion for the D3S than the bundled View NX. However, at £170 (~$270) it isn't cheap, and at this price it competes with third-party offerings like the faster, more streamlined Adobe Lightroom.

Also available separately is Camera Control Pro 2 (which retails for the same price as Capture NX2), which allows the D3S to be controlled via a USB tether to a laptop or desktop computer. Again though, it is fairly costly, and unfavorable comparisons must inevitably be made to Canon's EOS Utility, which offers much the same functionality and is bundled free of charge with all current Canon EOS DSLRs.

RAW conversion

Here, I have compared the D3S's standard JPEG output (at default settings) with its raw output, when converted using a selection of different programs, including the bundled View NX. This is shown alongside our standard Adobe Camera RAW conversion and a conversion made with the recently unveiled Bibble Pro 5, all at default output settings. As always, original NEF files from both our studio box setup and resolution chart are available for you to download at the bottom of this page and run through your own choice of software at your preferred noise reduction/sharpening settings to check out the results for yourself.

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
  • Capture NX2 - Nikon Capture NX 2.2.4
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 5.6 (default Adobe profile shown below)
  • Bibble Pro 5 - Default contrast/sharpness, some brightness adjustment applied

Color reproduction

Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the color from a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart produced using each RAW converter. As you can see Capture NX (and the supplied View NX) matches the color response of the cameras internal image processor identically. As usual the third party converters, in this case Adobe Camera RAW has a different color response but Adobe now offers a profile that aims to mimic the manufacturer's result (Called 'Camera Standard' in this instance). This is a lot closer to the JPEG color profile, and to that from View NX/Capture NX2.

Nikon D3S Compare to:  
Adobe RGB

Sharpness and Detail

Although it is hard to see here, slightly more detail can be recovered from the D3S's NEF files than from its JPEGs at standard settings. Nikon's Capture NX2 (and View NX, which gives identical rendering at default settings) delivers slightly sharper results than Adobe Camera RAW at Adobe's default sharpening settings (with camera profiling turned on), but there is little to separate the two images in terms of absolute detail resolution. As we've come to expect from Nikon DSLRs (and most other brands for that matter), straight from the camera, JPEG files look slightly soft compared to the processed raw output, and benefit from a little post-capture sharpening. Bibble 5 Pro has delivered the flattest image here from the D3S's raw file, but detail is very high. We have darkened the image produced by Bibble Pro 5 (using the 'exposure' slider in Bibble's interface) prior to conversion, as the default rendering was far too bright.

  Nikon D3S
Capture NX2
Adobe Camera RAW 5.6
Bibble Pro 5


Both Capture NX2 and Adobe Camera RAW produce sharper, better-defined images that the out-of-camera JPEGs, but somewhat unusually, at default settings, ACR does a better job of rendering the vertical lines on our test chart beyond 2600lph than Nikon's Capture NX2. It does, however, show the characteristic ACR interruption pattern (seen here as short horizontal lines which appear at around 2800lph) whereas Capture NX2 gives a much smoother rendition of this area, which is actually beyond Nyquist (which falls at around 2100lph). The image produced by Bibble 5 Pro has been darkened slightly to match the other crops (as above) and delivers essentially the same detail resolution as ACR, although with slightly more colored moire patterning towards the limit of the sensor's resolution.

JPEG from camera Nikon Capture NX2 (RAW)
Adobe Camera RAW 5.6 (RAW at Adobe default settings) Bibble Pro 5 (RAW)

RAW files for download

Here we provide RAW files, both from the review and the sample shots we take, to allow you to apply your own workflow techniques and see whether your experiences match ours.