The D3S has the same VGA resolution 3 inch screen as its predecessor and indeed every high-end Nikon DSLR from the D90 upwards. The screen has excellent resolution, which means that accurate focus is easy to confirm at high magnification levels in playback mode, and easy to judge when focusing manually in Live View mode. Viewing angle is a quoted 170 degrees, and in use, the screen is bright and contrasty in all but the brightest ambient lighting conditions. Screen brightness can be manually adjusted in +/- 7 steps, but there is no automatic brightness setting (as there is with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II for example).

Virtual horizon

Another rather neat function inherited from the D3 is the Virtual horizon, which provides an aircraft-cockpit type live virtual horizon on the LCD monitor indicating the current orientation of the camera. When the camera is held perfectly horizontal or vertical, the camera axis line turns green (shown on the right below). Although undoubtedly fun, this implementation isn't as useful as it could be, since it requires you to remove your eye from the viewfinder and - despite it's Spitfire-esque pretentions - doesn't show a pitch indication. More useful in our opinion is the slightly more understated, but considerably more sensible viewfinder level, which can be assigned to either the 'Fn' or 'Pv' button. This indicator appears both in the viewfinder and on the top plate LCD screen, and works in both landscape and portrait orientations. There's no pitch indication either, but at least this function can be accessed at the press of a button with your eye to the viewfinder.

Viewfinder level: strong tilt Viewfinder level: mild tilt
Viewfinder level: no tilt Top panel level indication


A single press of the playback button enters playback mode, and pressing the multi-selector up or down changes the display mode. By default you get an image view with an information strip along the bottom of the image - pressing up or down takes you to a simple histogram and data page. Using the 'Display Modes' option in the Playback menu you can change the simple image view to include the focus point used to shoot the image. Additionally you can add optional screens, such as Highlights, Histograms and full data listings (which runs to three pages). If you're still hungry for information, the histogram and highlights screens can be adjusted so that they show data about the individual color channels. Here, I've shown every possible screen, but depending on which option you set in the 'display mode' line of the playback menu, not all of them are available at the same time.

Basic photo display: file number, folder, filename, date & time, quality, size Highlight clipping warning, showing luminance, and red green and blue channel clipping. Holding the magnify button and scrolling left or right with the multi-selector shows each channel in turn.
Optional AF point display, showing selected AF point at time of image capture. Luminance histogram, plus detailed shooting information including color space and Picture Control preset
Luminance plus red, green and blue channel histograms, with white balance and highlight clipping information. Information display, showing copyright information (which can be entered manually via the setup menu)
Information display, showing key metadata including flash mode and lens information. Information display, showing white balance and Picture Control parameters.

Playback Zoom

To zoom in on an image hold down the magnify button and scroll the rear control dial clockwise (to the right). While magnified use the multi selector to move around the image. There are eight magnification levels, on the D3S's high resolution screen the last two go beyond 1:1 and provide a pixilated view. Using the rear control dial jumps between images without changing the magnification level, so that you can compare critical focus between images. Video clips cannot be magnified.

Playback thumbnail views

The D3S has three levels of thumbnail view. Hold down the magnify button and scroll the rear control dial anticlockwise (to the left) to switch to the initial 2x2 (4 image) view, again for the 3x3 (9 image view), and a third time for a 9x8 (72 image) view. These views are particularly useful for selecting images to delete, without having to nudge through every single image. Use the multi selector to move around the index. It's a shame that the calendar view as found in Nikon's lower-end DSLRs doesn't make it into the D3S, because it is useful to be able to view images by the date they were taken.

Standard view One click left for a 2 x 2 thumbnail view
Two clicks left for a 3 x 3 thumbnail view A third left gives a 9 x 8 thumbnail view

Record Review

You can choose for the D3S to display a review of the image taken immediately after shutter release. The type of display used will be the same as the last mode used in playback (histogram, thumbnail index, details etc.). Note that record review has all of the functionality of playback mode, this means its easy to delete, magnify, protect etc. The image will remain on the screen for the 'Monitor off delay' CSM c4 or until you half-press the shutter release.

Other Playback displays

After pressing the delete button just press once more to confirm the deletion. An example of a protected image, and what happens if you try to delete it.