Customer Review

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top of its class, 24 Jan 2010
This review is from: Nikon D3S 12.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD and 24fps 720p HD Video Capability (Body Only) (discontinued by manufacturer) (Electronics)
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:

Build quality:
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.

Image quality:
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:
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.

Speed:
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.

Features:
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.

Conclusion:
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.
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Comments

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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Apr 2010 00:01:25 BDT
CSMedia says:
Someone who knows what they are talking about simply by what and the way it is said, very useful review.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 May 2010 19:38:33 BDT
L. Otto says:
Thank you very much Carl, if there's anything else you'd like to know that I didn't touch on, send me a message!

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jun 2010 20:07:39 BDT
jakki says:
i was thinking of buying this camera, i do wedding and studio work, would you recommend this camera for that type of work, you quoted that its not good for studio work, i was wondering why this is before i buy it if you could help that would be great .

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jun 2010 20:08:59 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 9 Jun 2010 20:10:03 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jun 2010 20:09:06 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 9 Jun 2010 20:09:49 BDT]

Posted on 3 Jan 2011 18:50:41 GMT
[Deleted by Amazon on 21 Oct 2011 08:24:07 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2011 20:01:33 GMT
L. Otto says:
No problem at all, glad you found it useful! There are always options, I know Jessops has a great 12 month no interest payment plan that I've used before so if you're definitely interested, that'd make it a possibility for you! :-)

Posted on 10 Sep 2011 15:10:05 BDT
I bought a D3s after I bought a D7000. The D7000 takes great photos but is no use for fast moving subjects and/or low light. My Canon 5D and 7D are also not quite up to the job. Frustrated, I finally got a D3s and immediately realised I should ONLY have bought this camera. I pointed it at a distant seagull in a dull grey sky and it picked it out immediately and produced a perfect shot. The other cameras I own struggle to take any kind of shot in that light and would have produced a poor image if I'd forced a manual shot. I was using a 300mm f2.8 Nikkor - another revelation. I've learned an expensive lesson. Only buy the very best camera - The D3s is miles and miles better than the much hyped D7000. And buy the fastest lens you get your hands on. Be careful not to be distracted by the various web reviews that tell you cheaper kit is great. It's not. It's just cheap. This D3s is superb! JP.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2012 22:45:07 GMT
C Garnet says:
Two totally different cameras and there are many occasions when the D7000 is better for the job than the minute 12mp D3s full frame sensor,equates to about 5mp on a crop sensor.That's where the D3s looses out big time up against 16mp D7000.D3s is fantastic in low light but I use my D7000 for motorsport as apposed to the D3s.Try panning with a D3s and a 400mm f2.8.Then try with a D7000 and a 300mm f2.8 that is half the wight and half the cost.D7000 all the way.It's horses for courses.I have both cameras.
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Review Details

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Reviewer

L. Otto
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Surrey, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 6,130