The D3S has an identical viewfinder to the D3 and D3X. Compared to the older DX format D2 series, the view is large and bright, and the focusing screen is contrasty enough for accurate manual focusing, even with wideangle lenses. The eyepiece shutter, shown here, blanks off the eyepiece to prevent stray light from entering the viewfinder and affecting exposures, and also unlocks the rubber eyepiece to allow accessories like the DK-19 rubber eyecup to be fitted.

The focusing screen also features automatic masking if you attach a DX format lens, a portion of the view is grayed out indicating the active sensor area. Optionally you can also manually select the shooting format (FX: 36 x 24 mm, DX: 24 x 16 mm 5:4: 30 x 24 mm), or 1.2x crop). The diagram below demonstrates the different image sizes, their image circles and the masked areas of the viewfinder focusing screen.

The image below isn't designed to be representative of a typical view through the viewfinder (you will never see all 51 AF points lit up at the same time like this) but instead shows the position of all possible viewfinder information. The AF points are not etched onto the focusing screen, but are displayed on the LCD layer sandwiched inside it.The brightness of the AF points can be adjusted to make them more or less visible in the ambient lighting conditions.

1 Center-weighted metering circle ref. 13 ISO sensitivity
2 AF area frame 14 Frame count / remaining / buffer / exp. value
3 Focus points 15 Indicates over 1000 exposures remaining
4 Focus indicator 16 Flash-ready indicator
5 Metering mode 17 Flash value lock
6 Auto exposure lock 18 Sync indicator
7 Exposure mode 19 Aperture stop indicator
8 Shutter-speed lock 20 Battery indicator
9 Shutter-speed 21 Exposure display / compen. / tilt indicator
10 Aperture lock 22 Exposure compensation indicator
11 Aperture (f-number / no. stops) 23 Bracketing indicator
12 ISO / Auto-ISO indicator    

Diagram adapted with permission from the Nikon D3S user manual.

Viewfinder Size

One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models difficult). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving a process it is.

Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'.

The D3S retains the 0.7x magnification, 100% coverage viewfinder featured in its predecessor the D3, and the D3X.

Viewfinder Crop

The D3S shows approximately 100% frame coverage in both the viewfinder, and the LCD screen in Live View mode. Because of the smaller tolerances necessary in creating 100% viewfinders, they are typically only found in high-end DSLRs, where a price premium is already expected.

The D3S offers 100% frame coverage

Battery, Compartment and Charger

The D3S uses the same EN-EL4a battery as the D3 and D3X, with a capacity of 2500 mAh at 11.1 V for a pretty huge 27.8 Wh. The battery contains a memory chip which is used to track battery usage, charges and overall performance (see below images). As you can see from the third image below the battery compartment door clips onto the battery body, if you have just one battery that's where it will stay, however carrying multiple batteries is now more convenient because they have an easier to store shape (with the door unclipped).

The D3S also comes with a dual battery charger, the MH-22 which provides docking style charging for up to two batteries at a time (although only one is charged at a time). A full charge takes around 2 hours 25 minutes, you can also run a full calibration of the battery which can take up to six hours.

Battery information available on the camera:

  • Top control panel has a five segment battery life indicator
  • Camera Menu: Set Up -> Battery Info provides:
    • Battery meter (as a percentage)
    • Picture meter (estimated frames on current power)
    • Calibration (required / not required)
    • Charging Life (0 to 4 indicating if the battery has come to the end of its useful life)

Compact Flash Compartment and Speaker

The D3S features two Compact Flash slots, just like the D3 and D3X. However, in common with the D300S and D700, the D3S drops compatibility with the older (and slightly thicker) Type II cards, which means that Microdrives cannot be fitted into the D3S. The second slot can be set up to either (a) overflow (once card 1 is full go on to card 2), (b) backup (everything written to card 1 is also written to card 2) or (c) RAW to card 1 and JPEG to card 2. Video footage can also be sent straight to this card to keep images and movie files separate.

Underneath the memory card door latch, behind five tiny perforations, an inbuilt speaker serves to play back audio recorded either on the soundtrack to a movie file, or as voice notation of an image.