The Nikon D3s is the newest flagship Nikon DSLR on the market (at the time of writing, anyway) It was built in mind for sports and photojournalist pros who require speed and quality on the move. In my experience, marketing a DSLR for a specific genre of photography has always been a mistake - The end user alone will decide what the camera is and is not good for. Ranting aside, let's move on to the nitty gritty:
Bomb-proof. The D3S surely is a beast of a camera, full magnesium-alloy body, covered battery compartment release, and weather sealing on all compartment doors, buttons, slides and more. Robust would be a good word to use. It feels solid in the hand and one improvement I like over its cousins the D3 and D3X is that the battery compartment door has a larger knob, and the focus-type selector is much bigger (perfect for gloved hands, and people with chubby fingers.
Stunning. Low ISOs are clean, and high ISOs are clean. Noise only starts to become a noticeable detriment to quality at around ISO 10,000 and above. ISO 104,000 is not night-vision, or anywhere near it. But it does allow you to grab detail from scenes that the naked eye simply cannot see under restricted light conditions, and for that alone it is worth using. In video mode, it can make the difference between getting the footage of that rare nocturnal animal, or getting a pitch black video of nothing at all. The noise is almost purely luminance, so there are no bright pink or purple spots, it is all almost film-like in appearance, which is great! Compared to the D3 and D700 I would say the D3S is two to three ISO steps better in performance, but the way the D3S handles image rendering is what sets it much higher compared to the rest.
Video quality is remarkable at 720p. The D3S records at 24p (or frames per second) at either 50 or 60hz which some might think does not compare with competitors 1080/30p video but let me tell you; the Nikons 720p footage (even upscaled) looks better than leading competitors 1080p footage. The reason? More pixel space. The D3S renders images with MUCH more light, and subsequently colour quality and depth of field have a much better look to them. Sharpness is not compromised in the least, but it is mainly due to your lenses. Shoot with a 50mm 1.4 and you will want to make art-house movies. This to me, is the only negative. Oh and by the way, the camera WILL autofocus while rolling, whoever tells you otherwise hasn't used the thing (I'm on out-of-the-box firmware by the way) just make sure you get a stereo mic to plug on top as your video will pick up noise of the autofocus motors (I have a SWM lens, I hear you say: tough, you'll hear metal grinding then) The ability to shoot completely manually, controlling the shutter speed, aperture, exposure AND ISO yourself is a joy. Yes, totally manual. Heard otherwise? You heard wrong; go use one, you'll see. Rolling shutter? I would say the D3S is 3 times better than anything else out in the market right now. Panning shots are not a problem, straight lines remain straight unless you pan at 50mph which isnt exactly aesthetically pleasing anyway, is it? If you want to film trains all day long, get a different camera cos they actually go very bendy. People, wildlife and sports? Absolutely fine. Go to town.
Operation is nippy, the menus load nearly instantly, and everything is as responsive as you would want to expect from a very expensive camera. It can shoot 9fps by default (which is no slouch, and no. Your kid can not run faster than this camera can capture) or 11fps in DX crop mode. This is a handy alternative, but metering and autofocus are compromised, so its more of a marketing tool than an actual useful setting. Still, its nice they offer it in there.
Dual CF card slots: More useful than you'll know. It's great to be able to use 2 cards in nearly any way you choose: One to shoot RAW while the other does JPEG, one to backup exactly what you just shot, one for stills and one for video, or the plain-jane overflow mode. Good job, Nikon. Crop modes too: 35mm, 5:4, or DX crop...720p video isnt available when you choose 5:4 or DX btw. Voice note recording. For making those notes you would otherwise forget.
If you have the money, buy one and you will not be disappointed. If you have a D3 and are a pro, get one. If you have a D3 and are not a pro, don't rush to get one unless you really need the movie function. It's currently the best Nikon DSLR out there for everything but landscapes and studio portraits, both of which you should really be using medium format anyway, but it's still a BRILLIANT camera.
on 7 December 2010
I guess for many people who aren't professional photographers, the key question is whether the D3s represents a sufficient step up from the truly excellent D700 to justify the considerble extra expense.
Firstly, it's important to realise that there are a lot of similarities between the D700 and D3 cameras, meaning that the quality of images from the two cameras can be very similar. The D3s will allow you to produce this quality in a signifiantly wider range of situations.
Having recently upgraded from the D700 with MB-D10 battery grip to D3s, the immediate benefits noticed are:
* Speed of operation. Although the two cameras have very similar AF systems, the D3s is clearly faster in continuous use - an important consideration for many photographers.
* Low light/High ISO performance. The D700 is excellent in low-light, allowing me to increase the ISO to 1000, 2000 ISO+ and get publishable pictures where other photographers are having to compromise aperture or shutter speed. The D3s is simply spectacular in this respect, allowing hand-held pictures of Venus and Jupiter in the dawn and dusk skies respectively!
* Size and weight. Compared to the D700/MB-D10 combo, the D3s is noticeably lighter and feels slightly smaller.
* Quality of controls. The 'feel' of the D3s is noticeably more robust than the D700 with slightly more positive feel to the controls etc.
There are clearly very few situations which the D700 cannot handle as well as almost any D-SLR on the market. Nevertheless, the D3s manages to represent a significant step up from this high standard. Not surprisningly, access to this level of performance costs!
PS: My top tip for anyone considering the D700 to D3s upgrade is to look around for a secondhand D3 from somewhete reputable like Grays of Westminster. :-)
on 17 October 2010
As a professional photographer I need equipment that produces superb results all of the time. I have always used Nikons, I love their cameras but this camera is nothing short of amazing. Read the in depth reviews anywhere on the internet. If you want the best then this is one of the best, I love everything about it. Awesome, what will the next one be like, the technology is advancing so quickly it never ceases to amaze me. I also have the D700, this is also a superb camera, yes the D3s is twice the price but take it from me is is a superb camera and I think it is well worth the money.
on 15 November 2011
There is every chance that next year's Canon 1Dx will usurp the 'King' but in the meantime the D3s lets you shoot faster, easier and in lower light than anything else at anywhere near the price. It's feels great to use and fires as fast as a machine gun. The AF is excellent and it's just the right weight to balance large telephotos on a sturdy tripod. I have two. One is permanently attached to a 600mm on tripod and the other moves between a 200mm f2 and a 400mm f2.8. It's also great with portrait and macro lenses.
If I wasn't saving for a Canon 1Dx (to stick on my Canon lenses) I'd buy a third.
For me the manual control, the 10fps, the excellent AF and high ISO are the features that make this The King.
I'd suggest that if you can find the money you bypass the cheaper models and go straight for this superb camera.
(I am unbiased. I have Leica, Canon and Nikon kit. They are all great at different things. Leica is the artist's creative tool. Canon lenses are built to a military standard but now cost a veritable fortune - I'm talking about 'prime' lenses here. Nikon costs less, and performs well, thereby allowing you to do more for less money. You might say that Nikon is 'photographer-friendly' in this respect.)