Overall Rating:


Nikon D3S

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Price as Reviewed:


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

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
  • 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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