Nikon D3S In-depth review
Our Dynamic Range measurement system involves shooting a calibrated Stouffer Step Wedge (13 stops total range) which is backlit using a daylight balanced lamp (98 CRI). A single shot of this produces a gray scale wedge from (the cameras) black to clipped white (example below). Each step of the scale is equivalent to 1/3 EV (a third of a stop), we select one step as 'middle gray' and measure outwards to define the dynamic range. Hence there are 'two sides' to our results, the amount of shadow range (below middle gray) and the amount of highlight range (above middle gray).
To most people highlight range is the first thing they think about when talking about dynamic range, that is the amount of highlight detail the camera can capture before it clips to white. Shadow range is more complicated; in our test we stop measuring values below middle gray as soon as the luminance value drops below our defined 'black point' (about 2% luminance) or the signal-to-noise ratio drops below a predefined value (where shadow detail would be swamped by noise), whichever comes first.
Picture Style options
The D3S features the now standard Nikon 'Picture Style' presets, but it has fewer presets than models lower down Nikon's range; in fact it only has four, including 'monochrome'. The three color Picture Styles - Standard, Vivid and Neutral - offer different gradations of saturation and contrast, with neutral being lowest, and vivid being highest. All four picture styles can be fine-tuned, and new styles can be loaded via Nikon's Picture Style Editor, which is built into View NX.
It is no surprise to see that the Neutral Picture Style preset gives the highest dynamic range (albeit not by much in practical terms) as a result of its lower contrast tone curve. The higher contrast 'Vivid' style gives the narrowest dynamic range, but the deep black shadows and clean bright highlights give images shot at this setting a 'punchiness' that suits some subjects. The Monochrome Picture Style offers virtually the same dynamic range as the color 'Standard' setting. In all cases the highlights clip at the same point.
Nikon's Active D-lighting system modifies metering and adjusts contrast at a local level in order to maximize the amount of dynamic range information squeezed into the JPEG file. Because the system operates by analyzing the scene to be captured, this studio test may not represent exactly what you'll see in 'real world' images. It does, however, show very clearly how ADL pushes and pulls the JPEG tone curve to extract the maximum tonal information from shadows and highlights at its different settings.
Notice how with ADL turned on 'Extra High' the tone curve is visibly further to the left, indicating increased brightness in the shadow and midtone areas. In 'real world' images the effect varies from scene to scene, but outside of our rather artificial studio setup we would expect a noticeable retardation of highlight brightness.
ISO Sensitivity and Dynamic Range
The base sensitivity of the sensor used in the D3S is ISO 200. There is also a Lo 1.0 mode that attempts to mimic ISO 100 but it's effectively just ISO 200 over-exposed by a stop. The result is that the sensor becomes saturated and clips to white quite easily, limiting that mode's dynamic range. For most applications, you'd be better off buying a neutral density filter if you need slower shutter speeds than ISO 200 will allow. The same goes for the older D3, and the D300S.
Beyond ISO 200 the highlight dynamic range remains a fairly stable 3.6 (approx) stops above middle gray across the span of the most-used ISO sensitivity settings. This is very similar to what we'd expect from the D3 and the D300s. The shadow range appears to increase then decrease higher up the ISO scale but this is most likely to be a result of noise and noise reduction changing our cut-off point.
|Sensitivity||Shadow range||Highlight range||Usable range|
|Lo 1 (ISO 100 equiv).||-4.9 EV||2.6 EV||7.6 EV|
|ISO 200||-4.7 EV||3.6 EV||8.3 EV|
|ISO 400||-4.7 EV||3.6 EV||8.3 EV|
|ISO 800||-4.7 EV||3.6 EV||8.3 EV|
|ISO 1600||-4.8 EV||3.6 EV||8.3 EV|
|ISO 3200||-4.8 EV||3.6 EV||8.5 EV|
|ISO 6400||-4.7 EV||3.7 EV||8.3 EV|
|ISO 12800||-5.2 EV||3.6 EV||8.8 EV|
|ISO 25600||-5.4 EV||3.7 EV||9.0 EV|
|ISO 51200||-3.4 EV||3.7 EV||7.1 EV|
|ISO 102400||-3.0 EV||3.6 EV||6.6 EV|
Dynamic Range compared
The D3S, along with the D300S, Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and most other high-end DSLRs, offers a JPEG dynamic range that represents benchmark performance in the market at this point in time. Around 3.5-3.8EV of highlight dynamic range from default JPEG output is pretty as good as its gets at the moment from DSLRs (the Sony A900 gives the current best measured highlight range at 4.2EV but the difference isn't enormous in any practical sense), and a total dynamic range of between 8.3-8.7EV means that JPEG from all four cameras respond well to post-capture tonal adjustment when coupled - naturally - with accurate metering.
As you can see from the graph, the 1D Mark IV offers fractionally wider JPEG dynamic range than the D3S overall, but shows a steeper curve at the highlight end of its scale. It is worth remembering though that how much latitude you actually get in highlight areas is dependant in no small part on where the camera (or the photographer) chooses to position the midtone.
|Camera (base ISO)||
|Nikon D3S||-4.7 EV||3.6 EV||8.3 EV|
|Canon EOS 1D Mark IV||-5.1 EV||3.5 EV||8.7 EV|
|Nikon D3||-4.7 EV||3.9 EV||8.6 EV|
|Nikon D300S||-4.6 EV||3.8 EV||8.4 EV|
|Canon EOS 7D||-5.0 EV||3.3 EV||8.3 EV|
|Sony Alpha A900||-5.1 EV||4.2 EV||9.4 EV|
The wedges below are created by our measurement system from the values read from the step wedge, the red lines indicate approximate shadow and highlight range (the dotted line indicating middle gray).
- 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
|Owens Valley Milky Way by ed rader|
from Sign, sign, everywhere a sign..
|Break by Hank3152|
from Motion blur
|Camp by T bird|
from A Big Year - birds
|The Maasai Shepherd by cgravel|
from - African Man - (Portrait in Black and White + A Border)
Stanley Greene captured 'brutally honest' photographs in the war zones of the Middle East, Chechnya and Georgia. He was also one of the few African-American photographers working internationally.
Owners of Leica M cameras that suffer from peeling CCDs will be able to claim a free repair in the future so long as the camera was purchased within five years of the fault becoming apparent, the company has announced. Read more
No mic socket? No problem. In this video, Daniel Peters at Photo Gear News shows you how to make a lapel microphone using just a smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
The Carl Zeiss Jena BIOTAR 75mm F1.5 Red T lens is very rare and priced accordingly. It can be yours today for the low, low price of $15,000.
The MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has developed a drone that does not require any human control for recording tracking shots. Read more
In this terrifying video, Iraqi journalist Ammar Alwaely narrowly misses a sniper's bullet, which takes out his chest-mounted GoPro. Warning: strong language. Watch the video
A new report expects action camera growth to increase about 15% by 2021, with Ultra HD cameras driving demand. Read more
Profiles for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom have been released for Irix's ultra-wide 11mm and 15mm primes. Like all profiles, these correct for distortion and vignetting.
An upcoming firmware update from DJI will cripple its drones unless they are 'activated' on the company's website. Live streaming will be turned off and flight radius/altitude will be limited.
Brent from ShareGrid rounds up the 10 most common products filmmakers are renting from one another for productions; chances are good you own one or more of them.
DaVinci Resolve is making strong moves to compete with Premiere and Final Cut Pro, including affordable control panels for colorists. According to Premium Beat, they're really good.
If you are not planning to fly your drone commercially you are not required to register it with the FAA anymore. This decision was handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.
Whether you're syncing a flash, wondering why banding is appearing in your image or getting strange images from your camera's silent shutter mode, the way your shutter works has a role to play. Here's what happens when you press the shutter button. Read more
William Vazquez travels all over the world documenting humanitarian work. He spoke to us about the challenges of his work, the importance of research and why a multitool and duct tape are your best friends in the field. Read more
These ten film cameras stand the test of time. They are easy to find, affordable and capable of excellent results. Read more
Photographer Aydın Büyüktaş uses a drone, 3-D rendering and Photoshop to create mind-bending landscapes.
They're offering tips for composing selfies and converting to black and white.
Whether you're seeking ultra-high resolution, first-rate autofocus or 4K video capture, there are some supremely capable 'semi-pro' cameras available. Find out which models we liked best in our updated semi-pro camera roundup. Read more
With composition specified by the director, drones may one day be able to navigate a movie set on their own.
Canon has made the previous version, 1.1.0 available for download again.
Impossible? Not if you have a fast lens and 5 stops of stabilization.
This 'strictly limited edition' is a refurbished original Polaroid 600 redesigned with a custom two-tone paint job.
Nikon today announced a reorganization of its corporate structure which will see several divisions and business units closed or merged. Read more
High school students from New York got he chance to shoot along with award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv in Morocco.
VentureBeat reports that Monday's Surface Pro announcement will bring evolutionary updates to Microsoft's high-end Windows 10 tablet.
The Japanese Camera Journal Press Club has awarded Olympus three out of its four annual prizes after voting by photographic magazine editors and readers.
The photos are great, but whether drones should have been flying in a couple of these places is debatable.
It's not dead yet! A few years ago several high profile filmmakers convinced Kodak to keep making motion picture film. Now they need more facilities to process it.
We made a vlog about vlogging with the M6 (which we used to make the vlog).