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 Nikon D3S uses the same 1005-pixel RGB sensor to judge both the correct exposure and the correct white balance. The advantage of using the same sensor for numerous functions is that they can all then communicate and share information with each other.

For example, by knowing the lens focal length and the AF point, the camera can work out how far away a subject is and adjust the flash exposure accordingly. Also, by linking this sensor to the autofocus, 3D matrix tracking can take place, as the sensor records a particular colour and shade around the frame and relates its position to the autofocus, which can continue to track it.

When in its evaluative matrix metering mode, the D3S tries to calculate what you are photographing and adjusts the exposure accordingly. For example, it will ignore extremely bright highlights, but if the top half of an image is overexposed it will realise this is the sky and darken the exposure slightly.

In reality, though, most digital cameras work on very similar principles to this and, as good as the Nikon D3S’s metering system is, in practice the 1005-pixel sensor doesn’t seem to have a massive advantage over cameras with far fewer metering zones.

I found that matrix metering works very well in most landscape scenes and only occasionally did I have to make corrections using exposure compensation. When photographing wildlife, though, I found that centre weighted metering was a better option. An even better option is to use 3D tracking and link the metering to the focus point in use.

Should you not like the results, the Exposure Fine Tune settings can be found in the Custom menu. This allows the individual adjustment of the measurement of evaluative, centre weighted and spot metering, by as little as 1/6EV.

So, if you find that spot metering constantly produces images that are a too dark for your liking, you can alter it to always produce brighter results than its default setting, while still having the standard control over exposure compensation.

In all, the metering found in the Nikon D3S is almost completely adaptable depending on your specific shooting situation.

  • 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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