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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

LCD, Live View, Viewfinder and Video

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.

The viewfinder offers a 100% field of view with a 0.7x magnification, and it is bright and large enough to allow manual focus.

Like other FX-series Nikon DSLRs, the D3S has a circular eyepiece to which you can fit accessories, including the DR-5 right-angle viewfinder and DK-17M magnifying eyepiece.

When shooting at an awkward angle, Live View can be activated via a dedicated button on the rear.  While this is activated, a few of the on-screen displays prove extremely useful. One is a live histogram, which shows the exact spread of tones across the image. Another is the virtual horizon, which is highlighted in green when the camera is perfectly level. Perhaps most important is the ability to zoom in on the Live View image to check and adjust focus.

D-Movie video capture is activated via the Live View mode. As with Live View, only contrast-detection AF is possible when shooting a D-Movie. Continuous AF is not available so focus tracking must be handled manually.

The technique allows control of focusing and depth of field that simply isn’t possible with a camcorder. Being able to create bokeh background effects makes even the simplest video footage look professional.

Combined with the D3S’s high ISO sensitivities, the D-Movie mode comes into its own. The ability to shoot video footage at ISO 12,800 or higher opens up opportunities that used to need expensive, dedicated equipment.

  • 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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