Body & Design

Our comments about the D3 and D3X in their respective in-depth reviews apply equally to the new D3S. The three cameras share essentially the same body shell, and all three are designed for durability. A tough magnesium alloy body shell keeps the weight down as much as possible, although compared to a D300S or D700, the D3S is a substantial weight, partly due to the integrated vertical grip. This lower portion of the chassis also holds the powerful EN-EL4a battery, which is interchangeable with all of the D2 and D3-series professional Nikon DSLRs. The removable battery compartment door is interchangeable with the D3 and D3X, but not the earlier D2 series, which are a slightly different shape.

In the hand

The D3S is a large, heavy camera, but it is very comfortable to hold. An integral vertical grip adds to the feeling of solid reliability that is characteristic of Nikon's high-end SLR products, and thick rubber accents on the front, rear and side of the camera aid handling in wet conditions. Very few cameras can be operated comfortably when wearing gloves, but the large buttons and redesigned battery door catch help to make the D3S one of the rare exceptions.

Side by side

The most obvious ergonomic differences between the D3S and D3/X (the latter shown left) concern the layout of controls on the rear of the camera. A dedicated 'LV' Live View button sits where the button for voice memo used to be, and this in turn is shifted to the left. A new 'info' button joins the larger four buttons ranged to the left of the LCD screen, and the secondary rear LCD screen is shifted slightly to the left, the speaker outlet now being hidden underneath the catch for the memory card door.

The D3S (right) occupies roughly the same amount of space as the D300S when the optional MB-10 grip fitted, although the more solid construction of the D3S gives it considerably more heft. Ergonomically, the D3S and D300S are closely related, but not identical. Although most of the controls are in the same place, ISO, white balance and image quality settings are accessed from buttons on the back of the D3S, below the secondary LCD screen, whereas they are clustered on the top plate of the D300S.

Top & Rear Control Panels

Just like the D3 and D3X, the D3S has two status / control panel displays, one on the top of the camera and one on the rear. Both panels have a green back light which can be illuminated by flicking the power switch to the lamp position, it's spring loaded and returns to 'ON', the back light stays on for the 'auto meter-off' time (CSM c2). You can also choose to have the back lights come on with any button press (CSM d7). You can customize the information displayed on the rear control panel and viewfinder display via CSM d5. Each panel is shown below along with a diagram of all information displayed.

Top Control Panel

*1 • Shutter-speed
• Exposure compensation value
• Number of shots in bracketing sequence
• Number of intervals
• Focal length (non-CPU lens)
• Flash compensation value
• ISO sensitivity

• Frame count
• Preset white balance recording
• Manual lens number

*2 • Aperture (f-number)
• Aperture (number of stops)
• Bracketing increment
• Number of shots per interval
• Maximum aperture (non-CPU lens)
• PC mode indicator
*5 • Electronic analog exposure display
• Exposure compensation
• Bracketing progress indicator
• PC mode indicator
• Tilt indicator
*3 • Number of exposures remaining
• Number of shots remaining before buffer fills
• Camera control indicator
*6 • Remaining indicator
• Continuous remaining indicator

Rear Control Panel

*1 • ISO sensitivity
• Number of exposures remaining
• Length of voice memo
• White balance fine-tuning
• White balance preset number
• Color temperature
• PC mod indicator

Diagram adapted with permission from the Nikon D3S user manual.