The Nikon D3s shoots at up to 11 frames per sec, at up to ISO 102,400, but is it the ultimate DSLR?

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Nikon D3s

Overall score:95%
Image Quality:95%


  • A solid workhorse that really delivers the results. High ISO is stunning, as is the focus system, and everything else is a bonus


  • Movie mode could do more, price is limiting


Nikon D3s Review


Price as reviewed:


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.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Design
  4. 4. Performance and Value
  5. 5. Key features
  6. 6. Image Quality
  7. 7. Verdict
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