Nikon D3s review

Key features

Nikon D3s review - live view

For live view the mirror lifts up, blocking the view through the viewfinder, and gives a direct feed from the sensor to the 3in 920k-dot LCD screen. This is a feature that became an instant hit with professional photographers looking to take shots where previously they found it difficult to compose through the viewfinder, and allowed them to get more acurate results: overhead shots from a crowd, low angle shots, or a low-mounted tripod.

The D3s, as with previous Nikon models, offers two autofocus options in live view: tripod and handheld. Tripod mode uses a contrast detect AF from the sensor which is slightly slower than the dedicated AF sensor but allows a focus point to be selected from anywhere in the frame. The Handheld mode lowers the mirror briefly to focus and then raises it again, which results in a short loss of image on the LCD but much quicker focusing. Alternatively, manual focus can be used with an ability to zoom in to check sharpness.

Nikon D3s review - HD video

The live view function also allows the recording of High Definition video and records at the press of the central button on the thumb navigation pad. It records in a range of sizes up to 1280 x 720 pixels, output via HDMI at up to 1080i. The format is a motion JPEG AVI file which allows still images to be easily extracted, though is larger in file size than its superior H.264 alternative and limits HD recording to just 5mins.

Sound is offered from a built-in microphone in mono, or in stereo via a 3.5mm
mic input, allowing for professional microphones to be used.

Focusing using the Tripod live view AF can be deployed during filming, but this is relatively slow and motor noise may be picked up from the lens. For this reason it is best to prefocus or use manual adjustment.

Exposure modes can be manually set for full creative control; and by using the high ISO potential it is possible to achieve some stunning results.

Nikon D3s review - Magnesium alloy build

As a camera designed for professional use, the D3s needs to withstand knocks, bumps and even night shooting in the rain.
With this weather-sealed magnesium alloy body, it will take all of this in its stride.

Nikon D3s review - Dual CF slots

Under the protective card latch the D3s provides two CompactFlash card slots and has the ability to send video to one
card and stills to the other. Alternatively the second card can act as an overflow, backup or even split the JPEG and Raw files to suit your workflow.

Nikon D3s review - Vertical grip

The pro body has a vertical grip built in, which makes the camera easier to hold for portrait-format shots and includes a
second shutter button (with lock) plus front and rear dials.

Nikon D3s review - D-Movie

The D3s is the first full-frame Nikon body to feature HD video and offers users the ability to take high-quality movie clips alongside their stills. It records in 720P Motion JPEG AVI to a maximum of 5mins - or up to 20mins in VGA.


Photo Critique

Martin Evening

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Price as reviewed



Design 19/20
Image Quality 19/20
Performance 19/20
Value 19/20
Features 19/20
Overall Score 95%

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