Nikon D3s Review
The Nikon D3s is a great followup to the D3. Instead of completely replacing everything from the D3, the D3s simply refines a few things.
The design of the D3s is almost the same as the D3 design. Holding it in our hands, it feels well made, and feels great. The 3 inch LCD screen is the same, and is incredibly bright with 920,000 dots. This is not a light camera by any means, especially after you attach the new 70-200mm VR II lens around. But since it's designed for the serious photographer, you'll probably going to be carrying lots of heavy lenses around in any case.
Let's talk about some of the improvements the D3s adds to the model. There's a AF-on button and a dedicated button for live view. It's not on the dial as before, but closed to the LCD screen. This makes it more convenient as you don't have to move the dial if you want live view.
Speaking of convenience, we think the D3s is user friendly, and a joy to use. They added a new "Info" button to this camera. Just press it, and it'll display all the crucial settings such as the exposure settings. It also gives you quick access to the most important menu options. Overall, the Nikon D3s beats most other high-end cameras in the ergonomics and usability department. We hate digging through menus to change the important settings, and Nikon did a good job in producing a fun, and friendly user experience in the D3s.
The sensor in the D3s isn't the same too. The D3s now features a 12.87 megapixel CMOS sensor. Some people may ask themselves: just 12.87 megapixels at that huge price? Trust us, 12 megapixels is more than enough for everyone out there.
The D3s also includes D-movie, which shouldn't come as a shock since it's being introduced in many entry level DSLR models. The audio is stereo, although you can use an external microphone. Nikon also added some cool in camera editing of videos, but nothing sophisticated.
The viewfinder is big, clear and bright. Coverage is pretty much 100%. We're big fans of any cameras with big viewfinders, as they just make shooting so much more fun.
Overall, the D3s contains almost every feature, innovative or not you see in most DSLRs including: live view, HD video, D-lighting, vignette control, multiple exposures, and more.
On to the more crucial stuff like performance and photo quality.
The performance is amazingly, and a bit faster than the D3 camera. Here are the numbers: Shutter lag is an amazing .01 seconds (compared to .02 seconds from the Mark IV, and Pentax K-7). Press to capture is .18 seconds (on par with the Mark IV). Continuous shooting speed can go up to 9 frames per second. Overall excellent numbers.
The image quality is nothing short of amazing. The white balance is solid, and the color balance is pleasing. At low ISO levels, our colors always remained vibrant, accurate, and bright. We took several shots of sunrises and the photos looked unbelievable. Colors are vivid, but not overly vivid.
The D3s performs wonderfully in low light, and you can use an ISO level as high as 102,400. To use these high ISO levels (from 6400 - 102,400), you have to dig into the movie settings menu, and turn on "high sensitivity mode".
We don't recommend cranking it this high, but even at an ISO of 51,200 our pictures had acceptable levels of noise. You could easily touch them up with your favorite image editor like Photoshop. As we kept increasing the ISO level, we kept expecting noise to be introduced, but each time, we couldn't believe how good the images looked. To summarize, images at ISO 12,800 and under all look great with very little noise.
To test how the D3s performed under low lighting, we took several shots during the night. Contrast as well as saturation all looked good. There is some noise, we admit, but it's pretty uniform, and definitely not glaring. We took several more pictures in dimly lit rooms and had the same results: sharp photos with good colors/saturation, and very little noise.
The fact that this camera performs so well under low lighting conditions will open up many possibilities for you in terms of lens choices. You don't have to buy the most expensive lens to get high quality photos - slower, more cheaper lens will still get the job.
If you compare the image quality of the D3s with an equally powerful Canon camera like the Mark II, the images will look almost the same, but only up to ISO 3200. Once you reach the higher levels, you start to see the difference. It's obvious - the Nikon D3s is in a class of its own when it comes to performance under dim lighting.
Let's talk briefly about video. The Nikon D3s doesn't have full HD video like the Mark IV, but the 720p is pretty good. To activate movie mode, you need to first press the live view button, then the PV button. For the most part, we were satisfied with the video quality. For most DSLRs, you will notice a blurring effect when you pan the DSLR. With the Nikon D3s, that problem is fixed thanks to a special algorithm that Nikon installed here. Of course the great thing about shooting video with the Nikon D3s is the high ISO range, making it easy to shoot videos in low light situations such as concerts or sports stadiums.
- 12.1 megapixels
- Supports ISO up to 102,400
- Contains live view
- Video capture
- HD video, 720p
- Sensor cleaning
- Excellent performance, fast shutter speed.
- Terrific performance in low light
- Many features for the professional
- Expensive price
- HD video not top of the class
The D3s is an excellent camera for the serious photographer, and an improvement over the retired Nikon D3. Its performance and image quality in good light as well as low light is impressive. If you do a lot of studio work, or rely on producing the best quality photos for a living, we highly recommend the D3s over other cameras like the Mark II.
If you're looking for a camera that delivers with fast performance, good depth of field, and incredible performance in low lighting, look no further than the Nikon D3s.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
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Prices last updated on: Wed, 22 Jan 2020 11:34:13 PST