The launch of the Nikon D3 in August 2007 had a significant impact on the market for the kind of speed-optimized professional DSLRs favored by sports photographers and photo-journalists. While the segment had previously been dominated by Canon's 1D series, with the D3 quite a large number of black Nikon lenses made their way into the sea of Canon white that used to be the predominant color at big sports events such as the Soccer World Cup or Olympic Games. With many of the big picture agencies switching at least a proportion of their equipment to Nikon the D3 was the most successful pro camera that the Japanese manufacturer had brought to market in a long time.
Now, more than two years later, technology has inevitably moved on and it's time for an update, which comes in the shape of the Nikon D3S. By adding an 'S' to the D3 rather than calling the camera something completely new (such as 'D4') Nikon indicates that the camera is not so much a quantum leap, rather a refinement of a tried and tested model. Consequently many of the changes are of a subtle nature (we are detailing those in the table at the bottom of this page) but there are also a couple of more headline-grabbing improvements including a 720p / 24fps HD video mode and a new Hi3 extended sensitivity setting that allows stills and movie capture at a whopping ISO 102,400.
|Continuous highest (JPEG)||LCD monitor||Video|
|D1||Jun 1999||2.6 mp||5 point||4.5 fps, 21 frames||2.0", 120K pixels||n/a|
|D1X||Feb 2001||5.3 mp||5 point||3.0 fps, 9 frames||2.0", 130K pixels||n/a|
|D1H||Feb 2001||2.7 mp||5 point||5.0 fps, 40 frames||2.0", 130K pixels||n/a|
|D2H||Jul 2003||4.1 mp||11 point||8.0 fps, 40 frames||2.5", 211K pixels||n/a|
|D2X||Sep 2004||12.2 mp||11 point||5.0 fps, 22 frames *1||2.5" 235K pixels||n/a|
|D2Hs||Feb 2005||4.1 mp||11 point||8.0 fps, 50 frames||2.5" 235K pixels||n/a|
|D2Xs||Jun 2006||12.2 mp||11 point||5.0 fps, 22 frames *1||2.5" 230K pixels||n/a|
|D3||Aug 2007||12.1 mp (FF)||51 point||9.0 fps, 130 frames *2||3.0" 922K pixels + Live View||n/a|
|D3X||Dec 2008||24.5 mp (FF)||51 point||5.0 fps, 130 frames *3||3.0" 922K pixels + Live View||n/a|
|D3S||Oct 2009||12.1 mp (FF)||51 point||9.0 fps, 130 frames *2||3.0" 922K pixels + Live View||720p|
*1 Also 8 fps in cropped mode (6.7 MP)
*2 Up to 11 fps with DX format (5.1 MP)
*3 Up to 7 fps with DX format (10.5 MP)
The D3s body shape is identical to the D3/D3X. Like its predecessor and sister model respectively the D3S is a chunky piece of equipment and feels absolutely bulletproof. Careful shaping of the rear and the use of soft rubber add to the overall feeling of solidity. Buttons, dials and other controls are positioned to be used easily. The ergonomics of Nikon's pro cameras have always been superb and the D3S is no exception.
The D3S (right) is virtually indistinguishable from the D3X (left). The most obvious differences can be found on the back of the camera where a dedicated Live View button (to the right of the audio button) and an Info button (under the bank of buttons on the left) have been added. Other visible changes include the addition of the Q-mode on the drive mode dial, a larger latch on the battery compartment and a more intense green on the ISO and WB buttons (to make them more visible to color blind photographers).
|The D3S sports a new sensor with an improved micro lens array and internal circuitry to reduce image noise. However, the nominal resolution of 12.1 megapixels remains the same as on the D3.||Standard sensitivity reaches from ISO 200-12800. This can be extended to a whopping ISO 102,400 in the Hi3 setting.|
|The D3S captures 720p HD video footage at 24 frames per second using up to Hi3 sensitivity. Sound can be recorded via an external microphone. Operation of the movie mode is very similar to the recently introduced D300S.|
|The D3S now has a dedicated Live View button on the back of the camera.||Once in Live View mode a press of the Pv button next to the lens mount will start or stop video recording.|
|The addition of a movie mode is also apparent in the connector compartment where you can find a socket for an external microphone. The HDMI-connector is now a Mini-HDMI type.||The speaker is located behind the small door that covers the opening-button for the CF-card compartment.|
|In addition to the DX crop mode the D3S also gets a 1.2x crop option.||Like the D3X the D3s offers five Active D-Lighting settings including Auto.|
|In-camera RAW processing is another new feature on the D3S. Image size and quality, white balance, picture control, noise reduction, color space and vignetting control are the available parameters. You can also apply digital exposure compensation.|
|The size of the battery compartment latch has been increased for easier operation with gloves.||The D3S now features Nikon's Quiet mode. On the drive mode dial it replaces the Live View setting which now has its own button.|
|The pressure sensitivity on some buttons including the AF-ON button has been improved.|
October 14, 2009: Nikon today announces the introduction of the D3S, the camera that enables professionals to take control of the unpredictable and extends the possibilities for action photographers everywhere. Built upon the widely acclaimed Nikon D3, the D3S advances low light photography to another level and sets in motion new creative options for multi-media movie shooting.
Robert Cristina, Manager, Professional Products for Nikon Europe, comments: “The D3S rewrites the rules for extreme low light photography, enabling photographers to take control of ambient light. Professionals from all over the world have contributed to making the best even better.”
It’s what we need, now.
Francois Marit, Photo Technical Manager at global news provider, Agence France Presse, said: “Since we started using the Nikon D3, we have also been exploring movie capture to see exactly how it can help us. Now the D3S gives us exactly what we need, the ability to shoot pictures and movies with one piece of professional equipment. This enables us to transmit complete packages of still images and movie clips from the thousands of news and sports events we cover every week, and will really give us the edge in both online and print formats”
Bill Frakes, one of the first professional photographers to trial the D3S, said: “I make career decisions in milliseconds and I want the best possible image quality every time I push the button. I need a camera that responds precisely, quickly and consistently. The D3S does that and more and this gives me enormous freedom.”
When flash is not an option
The D3S features a completely re-designed 12.1 effective megapixel image sensor. The large pixel pitch, with a completely modified inner structure, means that the D3S can capture images under light conditions which were previously believed to be impossible. The seven stop ISO range of 200 – 12,800 enables image and movie capture in extremely low ambient light conditions which is essential for today’s news and sports photographers.
Further proof of the D3S’s incredible capacity for low light photography is the fact that it is the first camera to offer no less than three additional ISO boost levels, up to Hi-3, (ISO equivalent of an astounding 102,400).
FX format HD movies
The D3S delivers a new look and feel to the emerging trend of DSLR movie capture and exploits the creative depth-of-field effects offered by the large FX-format sensor and the benefits of wide aperture NIKKOR lenses, the lens of choice for the world’s leading photographers. Instant and intuitive in use, the D3S’s D-movie function is prioritised for high productivity.
Movies are captured at 720p/ 24fps in motion JPEG with stereo sound using the input jack. The file format enables a unique ‘Save Selected’ frame option that enables the user to shoot video freely, secure in the knowledge that a still image of a key moment can be transmitted as well.
Acclaimed autofocus tuned for movie capture.
Completely configurable to set up, but extremely simple to use, Nikon’s acclaimed high-density 51-point Multi-CAM3500 AF system, with 15- highly sensitive cross points, provides users with an industry leading system for tracking fast moving subjects. The D3S contrast detection AF system has also been tuned to provide autofocus support during movie capture and Live View.
Image sensor cleaning
Following extensive feedback from professional photographers, the D3S implements a new image sensor cleaning function that generates vibrations at four different frequencies to reduce the impact of static dust collection on the optical low pass filter of the image sensor. This has been implemented without impacting on the 100% viewfinder coverage expected from a flagship, professional D series camera.
The D3S now offers no less than three alternative crop modes, all masked automatically in the viewfinder. The photographer can now choose from 5:4 (30x24); 1.2x (30x20); and DX (24x16). The new crop mode is designed to offer a practical combination of lens magnification and slightly reduced file size.
When discretion is required
The D3S features a new Quiet shutter release mode that enables the photographer to mitigate the sound caused by the mirror return. Suitable for wildlife photography and other situations where shutter noise might distract the subject, this innovation again reflects and responds to practical feedback from photographers using Nikon’s D3 series cameras.
Improved Active D-Lighting options
The D3S now offers no fewer than five options for Active D-Lighting when shooting high contrast or high key subject matter. Alongside a new Auto setting, users now have four manual control levels; Extra High ; High, Normal and Low.
In camera post processing
Another aid for increasing productivity in the D3S is the new RAW processing options in the Retouch menu. The following image settings can be applied to RAW (NEF) files in the camera on-the-fly: JPEG compression, Size, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Picture Control, Noise Reduction, Colour space and Vignette Control settings. These options accelerate post production worklflow for the busy photographer on the road, by reducing the need to use a PC and Capture NX2 software.
Ready for anything
The D3S redraws the boundaries for photographers allowing them even more control over unpredictable subjects in testing lighting conditions. The camera sensor is so sensitive that it can capture subjects that are practically invisible to the naked eye and render results that are remarkably clear of noise and ready for print. The weather-sealed durable magnesium construction is built to withstand extreme temperatures and humidity to enable users to complete assignments faster and more efficiently.
ISO performance: ISO 12800 as standard, expandable to ISO equivalent of 102400 (Hi 3)
Professional photographers can now rely on ISO 200 to ISO 12800 as the professional standard of image quality for their assignments — an incredible advantage when shooting indoor sports, stadium events at night or any other shooting situations where light is limited and Speedlights are not practical. Shooting at ISOs as high as 12,800, the D3S can take commercial-quality, pin-sharp images in low light at action-freezing shutter speeds — a capability that will open a new world of photographic opportunities. When needed, the D3S expands to the amazing ISO equivalent of 102,400, still revealing colours and details even in extremely low-lit places where human eyes may find it difficult to discern objects. This exceptional low-noiseperformance also applies to D-Movie capture, which creates new potential for multimedia projects and assignments.
Image sensor cleaning: assured protection
Another significant improvement from the D3 is the employment of the Image Sensor Cleaning function, which generates vibrations at four specific frequencies to optimise dust removal. This function can be set to operate automatically when the camera is turned on and off, or manually.
EXPEED: Nikon’s comprehensive approach to quality digital images
Nikon’s fast, comprehensive, and energy-efficient approach to in-camera image processing maintains the rich initial data’s integrity through 14-bit A/D conversion and 16-bit image-processing, which demonstrates the enormous creative potential of NEF (Nikon Electronic Image Format). Combined with Nikon’s FX-format sensor, the D3S produces an exceptional tonal range and minimized tone jumps. Users can expect more accuracy with difficult colour combinations such as skin tones and strong reds in the same frame without over-saturation and finer tonal gradation in highlights, even with extremely bright subject matter.
Picture Control: custom-tailored tone and color
Picture Control helps you define the look and feel of your images by custom-tailoring sharpness, saturation and other parameters to match your creative intentions. The D3S comes with four pre-installed Picture Control profiles, which can be fine-tuned and saved as new custom Picture Control profiles that match your personal shooting style or particular shooting conditions. These profiles can easily be copied to additional cameras.
9-frames-per-second* shooting rate in FX-format, 11 fps* in DX crop
The D3S’s continuous shooting rates are impressive, and the D3S’s powerful stepping motor allows for a more steady delivery of fast continuous shooting speeds at a wider range of aperture settings than lesser cameras can claim. Professionals will now have greater control and fewer limitations when making the images they desire. With the DX crop, photographers can also add a 1.5x picture angle and a faster frame rate to their arsenal. Furthermore, the factory-installed buffer memory is twice the capacity of the D3, dramatically increasing the power of continuous shooting.
Scene Recognition System: enlightened accuracy and intelligence
Nikon’s exclusive 1,005-pixel RGB sensor precisely reads brightness and colour information to raise the overall accuracy of AF, AE, i-TTL flash control and auto white balance to new heights, thanks to the Scene Recognition System. The D3S’s AF delivers superb subject tracking and subject identification performance. Highlight analysis used for AE reproduces brightness faithful to the eye, and light source identification makes auto white balance uniquely precise and reliable.
51-point AF: fast and accurate subject acquisition
The D3S’s strategically positioned 51 AF points deliver faster focus, even with quick and/or erratic subject movement. The 15 cross-type sensors in the centre of the frame maintain the same outstanding performance with any AF NIKKOR lens f/5.6 or faster. There are four Dynamic-area AF options, including 51 points (3D-tracking), which accurately follows your subject by shifting focus points using colour and brightness information from the Scene Recognition System. This gives users an extra advantage when composition is important but your subject’s movement is extremely erratic. Single-point and Auto-area AF modes are also available.
Approx. 100% frame coverage
The D3S’s large prism gives you the FX-format visual advantage when you shoot. The viewfinder image is not only larger and brighter, but the focusing screen is also carefully designed to help you to more intuitively sense sharp focus, be it manual or autofocus.
For the reliability professionals demand, the shutter of the D3S has been tested for up to 300,000 cycles in fully assembled cameras under rigorous conditions. The ruggedly constructed D3S employs a strong yet lightweight magnesium alloy for its body, exterior cover, chassis and mirror box. Furthermore, a comprehensive series of O-rings and other specialised seals, combined with additional Nikon engineering, protect the D3S against invasive moisture, dust and even electromagnetic interference.
Twin CF card slots
The D3S lets you designate each card slot for certain tasks: record two full CF cards of data sequentially for a large amount of storage, record the same data onto two cards (backup), record RAW and JPEG simultaneously onto separate cards, and transfer data from one card to another. You can also designate the slot for data-heavy D-Movie recording.
The D3S uses the EN-EL4a rechargeable batteries. Power consumption and power management systems have been engineered for greater operating efficiency, so you can expect long battery life, shooting up to 4,200 images* per charge.
Easy-to-access Live View mode
The dedicated Live View button gives you instant access to two Live View modes: Tripod mode for accurate AF operation and Hand-held mode for more versatile shooting angles. The speed for Contrast-detect AF in Tripod mode has also been improved for enhanced practicality.
3-in., approx. 921k-dot color, 170º viewing angle LCD monitor
The D3S’s large, high-resolution LCD monitor delivers bright, crisp image playback with up to 27x enlargement for immediate and precise image confirmation. Each LCD is covered with scratch resistant tempered glass and individuallycalibrated and fine-tuned at the factory to deliver consistent performance.
Additional Nikon D3S Features
* Based on CIPA Guidelines.
|Body material||Magnesium alloy|
|Sensor*||• 36 x 23.9 mm CMOS sensor
• FX format
• RGB Color Filter Array
• Built-in fixed low-pass filter
• 12.87 million total pixels
• 12.1 million effective pixels
• 3:2 aspect ratio
|Image processor||Nikon EXPEED|
|• 4256 × 2832 [L]
• 3184 × 2120 [M]
• 2128 × 1416 [S]
|• 3552 × 2368 [L]
• 2656 × 1776 [M]
• 1776 × 1184 [S]
|• 2784 × 1848 [L]
• 2080 × 1384 [M]
• 1392 × 920 [S]
|• 3552 × 2832 [L]
• 2656 × 2120 [M]
• 1776 × 1416 [S]
|• 1280 × 720 @ 24 fps
• 640 × 424 @ 24 fps
• 320 × 216/24 fps
|File formats (Still)||• NEF (RAW) : (12-bit or 14-bit, lossless compressed, compressed or uncompressed)
• NEF + JPEG
• JPEG (EXIF 2.21)
|File format (Movie)*||AVI (Motion-JPEG)|
|Lens mount||• Nikon F mount with AF coupling and AF contacts
• No field of view crop (full-frame)
• When using DX lenses / DX mode 1.5x FOV crop
• Type G or D AF NIKKOR*1: All functions supported
• 51 focus points (15 cross-type sensors)
|Lens Servo||• Single Servo AF [S]
• Continuous Servo AF [C]
• Manual focus [M]
• Predictive Focus Tracking automatically activated by subject's status in [S] or [C] AF
|Focus Point||• Single point from 51 or 11 focus points
• Liveview (Tripod mode): Contrast AF on a desired point anywhere within frame
|AF Area Mode||
• Single point AF
Focus can be locked by pressing shutter-release button halfway (single-servo AF) or by pressing AE-L/AF-L button
|AF assist||External Speedlite only|
• Program Auto [P] with flexible program
TTL full-aperture exposure metering using 1005-pixel RGB sensor
|Metering range||• 3D Color Matrix Metering: 0 to 20 EV
• Center-Weighted Metering: 0 to 20 EV
• Spot Metering: 2 to 20 EV
• At normal temperature (20°C/68°F), ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens
|Meter coupling||Combined CPU and AI|
|Exposure lock||At detected value with AE-L/AF-L button|
• 2 to 9 frames
|Exposure compen.||• +/-5.0 EV
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps
|Sensitivity (Movie)*||ISO 200 to 12800 (ISO 6400 to Hi 3 in high-sensitivity movie mode)|
|Shutter||• Electronically-controlled vertical-travel focal plane shutter
• 30 to 1/8000 sec (1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps)
• Flash X-Sync: 1/250 sec
|DOF Preview||• When Pv (DOF preview) button is pressed, lens aperture can be stopped down to value selected by user (A and M modes) or value selected by camera (P and S modes)
• Activates modeling flash
|White balance*||• Auto (TTL white balance with main image sensor and 1,005-pixel RGB sensor)
• Presets (twelve) with fine tuning*
• Manual presets (five)*
• Color temperature in Kelvin (2500 - 10000 K, 31 steps)
• White balance bracketing (2 to 9 frames in increments of 1, 2 or 3)
|Image parameters*||• Sharpening: Auto, 10 levels*
• Contrast: Auto,7 levels, Custom tone curve*
• Brightness: 3 levels
• Saturation: Auto, 7 levels*
• Hue: 7 levels*
|Color space||• sRGB
• Adobe RGB
|Viewfinder||• Optical-type fixed eye-level pentaprism
• Built-in diopter adjustment (-3 to +1m-1)
• Eyepoint: 18 mm (at -1.0m-1)
• Quick return reflex mirror
• Viewfinder magnification approx 0.7x with 50 mm f/1.4 lens
|Viewfinder Frame* Coverage||• FX (36x24): Approx. 100% (vertical/horizontal)
• 1.2x (30x20): Approx. 97% (vertical/horizontal)
• DX (24x16): Approx. 97% (vertical/horizontal)
• 5:4 (30x24): Approx. 100% (vertical) and approx. 97% (horizontal)
|Focusing screen*||• B-type BrightView Clear Matte Screen VI*
• Superimposed focus brackets
• On-demand grid lines
|LCD monitor*||• 3.0" low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD
• 921,000 pixels (VGA; 640 x 480 x 3 colors)*
• 170° viewing angle
• Brightness adjustment
• 100% frame coverage
• Handheld mode: TLL phase-difference AF with 51 focus areas (15 cross-type sensors)
|Shooting modes*||• Single frame
• Continuous Low [CL]
• Continuous High [CH]
• Mirror-up mode
• Quiet Shutter Release [Q]*
• DX (24×16): Up to approx. 9 fps (CL) or approx. 9 to 11 fps (CH)
|Continuous buffer||• JPEG Large/Normal: 130 shots
• RAW: 48
|Self-timer||• 2, 5, 10 and 20 sec|
• TTL: i-TTL balanced fill-flash and standard i-TTL flash for digital SLR using 1,005-pixel RGB sensor are available with SB-900, 800, 600 or 400
|Flash Sync Mode||• Front-curtain Sync (normal)
• Red-Eye Reduction
• Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync
• Slow Sync
• Rear-curtain Sync
|Flash Accessory Shoe||
ISO 518 standard-type hot shoe contact; Safety lock mechanism provided
|Flash Sync Terminal||ISO 519 standard terminal, lock screw provided|
|Creative Lighting System||
Supported with SB-900, SB-800 or SU-800 as commander and SB-900, SB-800, SB-600 or SB-R200 as remotes; Auto FP High-Speed Sync and modeling illumination supported with all CLS-compatible flash units except SB-400; Flash Color Information Communication and FV lock supported with all CLS-compatible flash units
|Orientation sensor||Tags images with camera orientation|
• Full frame
• Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)
|Custom functions||46 custom functions|
• USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed)
• GPS: NMEA 0183 (Ver. 2.01 and 3.01) interface standard supported with 9-pin D-sub cable and GPS Cable MC-35 (optional)
|Communications||FTP and PTP/IP file transfer with optional Wireless Transmitter WT-3 (IEEE 802.11 b/g)|
|Storage||• Dual Compact Flash Type I
• UDMA, Microdrive and FAT32 supported
• 36 characters of text can be input and stored in EXIF header
|Power||• Lithium-Ion EN-EL4a/EL4
• Quick Charger MH-22
• Optional AC adapter EH-6
|Battery monitoring||The LCD monitor on the camera back displays the following information
about the EN-EL4a battery:
• Remaining charge (%)
• No. of shots taken since last charge
• Battery life (5 stages)
|Dimensions||160 x 157 x 88 mm (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4 in)|
|Weight (no batt) *||1240 g (2.12 lb*)|
Temperature: 0 - 40 °C / 32 - 104 °F, Humidity: under 85% (no condensation)
Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL4a, Quick Charger MH-22, USB Cable UC-E4, Audio Video Cable EG-D2, Camera Strap AN-DC5, Body Cap BF-1B, Accessory Shoe Cover BS-2, Eyepiece DK-17, Battery Chamber Cover BL-4, USB Cable Clip, Software Suite CD-ROM
Wireless Transmitter WT-4A/B/C/D/E*, GPS Unit GP-1, Magnifying Eyepiece DK-17M, AC Adapter EH-6, Capture NX 2 Software, Camera Control Pro 2 Software, Image Authentication Software
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