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

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Nikon D3S

AWB Colour:
LCD viewfinder:
Dynamic Range:


Nikon D3S review


Price as reviewed:


The competition










Images: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, Sony Alpha 900

In the past few years Nikon has stolen a huge share of the professional DSLR market from Canon. When the original D3 was launched many photographers switched allegiance, and the arrival of the D700 and D3X have helped cement the professional market for Nikon.

However, with the exception of the D3X, all of Nikon’s pro cameras feature 12-million-pixel sensors, and while this has kept image noise to a minimum, Canon has a 21.1-million-pixel sensor in its EOS 5D Mark II and a 16.1-million-pixel sensor in its new EOS-1D Mark IV, although the latter is not full-frame.

It will be interesting to see how the image noise produced by the EOS-1D Mark IV compares. Its smaller 16.1-million-pixel sensor should capture more detail than the D3S, but I would expect images to have more image noise.

For now, the Nikon D3S is quite simply a superb camera, and I wouldn’t expect Nikon to release its replacement, presumably the D4, for at very least another 18 months, This is a long time in the digital camera market, and if the higher resolution Canon EOS-1D Mark IV can produce anything like the same low levels of image noise, Nikon may once again have a fight on its hands for top spot.

Sony is the only other manufacturer that produces full-frame DSLRs – the Alpha 850 and 900. Both have 24.6-million-pixel sensors, but continuous shooting rates of just three and five frames per second respectively. Despite appealing mostly to studio photographers, the Sony cameras are less than half the price of the Nikon D3X, making them a better option for the enthusiast.




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
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
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
  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Build and handling
  4. 4. White balance and colour
  5. 5. Metering
  6. 6. Autofocus
  7. 7. Resolution, noise and sensitivity
  8. 8. Dynamic range
  9. 9. LCD, Live View, Viewfinder and Video
  10. 10. Our verdict
  11. 11. The competition
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