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Nikon D3S

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With an extraordinarily high maximum sensitivity, a 9fps shooting rate and HD video capture, the Nikon D3S will be looked at lustfully by many an amateur photographer. But are its 12.1 million pixels still enough? the professional photographer? Richard Sibley investigates

Our verdict

At the press launch of the Nikon D3S I was very impressed with the quality of the images on display, but was eager to see how the camera would perform in my own hands. As is clear here, the D3S fared well.

Its body and many of its features will come as little surprise to those already familiar with the D3 and D3X, but it is the newly designed sensor and low levels of noise that steal the show. It is now realistic to shoot at ISO sensitivities that would previously have meant pushing Ilford Delta 3200 by two stops, and even then results were extremely grainy.

When this technology is combined with high-definition video, the D3S becomes a truly creative tool for professional photographers. As much as a higher resolution would have been nice, a 16-million-pixel, 300ppi image is only around a couple of inches larger along each side than a 12.2-million-pixel image. This resolution should be perfectly fine for most photographers, unless the images are going to be printed a lot larger than A3 in size.

For sports, wildlife and press photographers requiring speed and performance, the Nikon D3S is currently the race leader, but expect to see a strong chasing pack gaining ground next year.

Nikon D3S Key highlights

Dual CompactFlash sockets

The D3S has dual memory card sockets for storing images and video footage. The second card can be allocated to provide extra memory, a backup of the first card, to store JPEG files (when shooting raw and JPEG simultaneously) or to save video footage.


Like other professional-level cameras, the Nikon D3S doesn’t have an in-camera flash. However, the camera is compatible with Nikon’s Speedlight flashguns, and compatible wireless flashguns can be controlled using either the Speedlight SB-900 or the SU-800 Wireless Commander unit.

Quiet mode

Recently seen on the D300S, the Quiet mode raises the shutter more slowly than usual. After exposing the sensor the shutter is closed with the mirror returning more slowly to its original position and only when the photographer has released the shutter button. Noise is still audible, but the loud ‘slap’ that usually occurs is avoided.


As with all Nikon DSLR cameras, the D3s comes with View NX software. This offers basic editing features for raw and JPEG files. Nikon’s Capture NX 2 software has more editing options for raw files. It is available separately for £158.99. For more details see www.nikon.co.uk.

HDMI socket

Placed on the side of the camera, this allows an HDMI cable to be plugged in so that images and video may be viewed on a compatible external display

Secondary LCD panel  

This smaller liquid crystal display shows the ISO sensitivity, WB and Image Quality.  Once again, the LCD display and viewfinder of the D3S are the same as the D3 and D3x. In fact, the 3in, 921,000-dot LCD screen is the same as the one used in the D3000, D90, D300S and D700. It is bright, clear and of high enough quality to make it possible to check that even fine details are correctly focused.

  • Built-in Flash: No
  • Dioptre Adjustment: -3 to +1 dioptre
  • Memory Card: 2x CompactFlash shots, compatible with CF type I/II, Microdrive and UDMA
  • White Balance: Auto, 6 presets (with fine-tuning), plus 3 custom and Kelvin adjustment settings
  • Shutter Type: Electronically controlled focal-plane
  • Output Size: 4526x2832 pixels
  • Viewfinder Type: Type B BriteView clear matte VI screen
  • LCD: 3in TFT with 920,000 dots
  • Field of View: Approx 100%
  • AF Points: 51 points, selectable manually or automatically
  • Max Flash Sync: 1/250
  • Sensor: FX-format (full frame) CMOS device with 12.1 million effective pixels
  • White Balance Bracket: 2-9 exposures in increments of 1, 2 or 3
  • Exposure Modes: PASM
  • Focal Length Mag: 1x (1.5x in DX-format crop mode)
  • Power: Rechargeable Li-Ion battery (supplied)
  • Weight: 1,240g (without battery or card/s)
  • Shutter Speeds: 30-1/8000sec in 1⁄3 steps plus B
  • File Format: NEF (raw), JPEG, raw+JPEG simultaneously
  • Lens Mount: Nikon F
  • RRP: £4,199.99
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • Drive Mode: Single, continuous (Hi/Lo selectable, up to 9fps in FX mode, 11fps in DX mode), self-timer
  • ISO: 100-12,800 in 1/3EV steps and Hi1, 2, 3 (ISO 102,400)
  • DoF Preview: Yes
  • Focusing Modes: Manual, single shot AF, continuous AF with AF fine-tuning
  • Dimensions: 159.5x157x87.5mm
  • Connectivity / Interface: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed/HDMI
  • Metering System: 1,005-pixel 3D Matrix metering, centreweighted (adjustable), spot (1.5%)
  • Compression: Three-stage JPEG, three-stage NEF
  • Exposure Comp: ±5EV in 1⁄3, 1/2 or 1EV steps

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