Even when the D3 was announced, some professional photographers were clamoring for an update that could shoot moving, as well as still images. More than two years on, and the D3S offers a D-Movie mode, making it the first professional DSLR from Nikon to do so. The resolution of movie footage from the D3S is the same as the D90 - Nikon's first video-enabled DSLR, released in 2008 - but significant improvements have been made since then, not least the provision for contrast-detection AF during filming and support for a plugin stereo microphone.

Sizes • 1280 x 720 (24 fps)
640 x 424 (24 fps)
320 x 216 (24 fps)
Audio 16-bit, 11 kHz (Mono using internal mic, Stereo with external unit)
Format AVI (Motion JPEG)
File size ~2.3 MB/sec (HD)
Running time 5 min in HD, 20 min all other modes

Within the span of 'normal' ISO sensitivities, video footage from the D3S is almost indistinguishable to that captured by the D90 and D300S, both of which have been reviewed in detail here and here. Like all current video enabled DSLRs though, its CMOS sensor isn't specifically designed to capture video footage, which can cause some odd effects. Most notable is an effect that has become known euphemistically as 'jello-cam', where vertical linear objects appear slanted when they move rapidly in the frame.

This effect can be seen in video footage from the D3S, but Nikon's claim to have reduced it in the D3S compared to the D300S and older DSLRs like the D90 seems justified. I can replicate the effect to an extent by deliberately panning the camera very quickly, but in normal use, shooting a variety of different subjects, video footage from the D3S is very stable, as you can see from the clip of cyclists we've included at the bottom of this page.

For many photographers-cum-videographers the key selling point of the D3S's movie mode is its ability to shoot video footage at any of its available ISO sensitivity settings, right up to ISO 102,400 (in 'High Sensitivity' mode).

Overall, in fact, the D3S's D-Movie function is a significantly more sophisticated implementation than that found in the D300S and lower end Nikon DSLRs. For a start, the 'PV' button is a much more sensible control point for initiating video capture than the center button on the rear multi-controller. Also, it is possible to shoot video in any of the PASM modes, and real-time metering can also be activated by pressing the 'OK' button prior to or during filming, which allows you to control the brightness of video footage using the shutter and/or aperture settings, as you would with stills.

Unlike the D300S, adjusting the aperture during filming actually does have an effect with the D3S, allowing you to increase or decrease the depth of field during a shot, rather than pre-setting the lens to your desired aperture prior to commencing filming. A word of warning though, the sound of the aperture changing - and the sound of your finger on the control dial changing it - can be heard on the soundtrack of movies filmed using the built-in microphone.

When the light gets extremely low, it's time to activate the D3S's 'high sensitivity' movie mode, which is unsurprisingly a lot grainier than normal footage, but still very useful in light far too low for conventional consumer-level video equipment.

Movie mode displays

Under the Movie Settings option on the Record menu, you can choose video size (up to 720p/24) ...the microphone sensitivity and whether movies are stored to CF or SD card.
Holding 'Play' and pushing left or right on the four-way controller toggles between brightness and recording volume, Play and up or down adjusts the selected setting. Pressing the 'PV' button on the cameras front plate engages record mode. Once recording, Play and up or down on the four-way controller adjusts brightness.
During playback the four-way controller provides fast-forward/rewind, pause and stop controls. The built-in speaker means you can listen to the soundtrack (if recorded).  

Video editing

The D3S allows you to edit the videos you've shot. The editing is fairly primitive, allowing only the start and end points to be trimmed but it's unlikely many people would want to do anything more complicated on the camera, given the sophistication of editing software available. You can also extract a single frame of any video as a JPEG, although the low resolution (1280x720 pixels equates to a mere 0.9MP) limits the uses to which these frame grabs can be put.

New to the D3S is a 'save selected frame' function for video files, located in the retouch menu. You simply navigate to the frame you want to save, and press the scissors icon.

Sample video clip(with rapid motion)

Click on the images for a quick preview or the highlighted text beneath the images for the full-sized clips.

Also available:
1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (motion JPEG) file with stereo mic. 48 sec. 130 MB

Sample video clip (with moderate motion)

Also available:
Full-length 1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (motion JPEG) file with stereo mic. 30 sec. 83 MB

Sample Video Clip (handheld, high sensitivity mode, panning motion)

Also available:
Full-length 1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (motion JPEG) file with built-in mic. 10 sec. 27 MB

Sample Video Clip (handheld, low light with moderate motion)

Also available:
Full-length 1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (motion JPEG) file with built-in mic. 16 sec. 40 MB