Nikon D3s

Stelian Pavalache

Imagine a pro-level DSLR containing an imaging sensor 7 times more sensitive to low-level light than the human eye. Imagine if this camera can also capture high-definition live-action stills at up to 9 frames-per-second or 720 HD video at 24 frames-per-second (with stereo sound) under the lowest of lighting conditions. The Nikon D3S (Body Only) is such a camera. Constructed to the same precision high-performance standards as its predecessor, the Nikon D3, the D3S is designed to meet the convergent technological needs and demands of professional shooters under the most extreme of low-light shooting conditions.

The D3S is ruggedly constructed of weatherproof, silicon-sealed magnesium-alloy components and contains a re-engineered 12.1-megapixel FX-format (full-frame, 23.9 x 36mm) CMOS sensor capable of producing still images and HD video at ISO levels up 102,400. The D3S captures JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG, or TIFF image files at up to 9 frames-per-second in FX-format, or 11 frames-per-second when shooting in DX-mode. The buffer is equally impressive and can handle up to 42 RAW files or 130 large JPEGs.

The D3S’s all-glass optical viewing system offers bright, 100% viewing through the viewfinder. You also have the option of composing and editing images in Live View mode using the camera’s 3″, 920,000-dot LCD. Along with a wide selection of exposure, tonal, and color controls, the D3S also offers advanced D-Lighting for maximum shadow and highlight details in stills, a D-Movie mode for similar image optimization when shooting video, advanced chromatic aberration reduction controls, and in-camera RAW file processing. To keep image files clean from the moment of capture, an advanced Dust Reduction System helps keep errant dust particles out and away from the image path.

To keep up with the action, the D3S contains dual CompactFlash (CF) slots and can capture up to 4200 exposures per battery charge. And like its predecessor, the Nikon D3S is compatible with a vast selection of Nikon lenses the enable you to take sharp, dramatic imagery regardless of where the job takes you.

ISO Range of 200 – 12800, Expandable to ISO 102,400 (Hi 3)

Professional photographers can now rely on ISO 200 to ISO 12800 as the professional standard of image quality for their assignments for 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, revealing color and detail even in low-lit places where human eyes may find it difficult to discern objects. This exceptional low-noise performance also applies to D-Movie capture, which creates new potential for multimedia projects and assignments.

Improved D-Movie Functionality

From well-lit scenes to extremely low-lit situations, the D3S’s D-Movie mode delivers unique versatility. An enhanced D-Movie mode offers HD quality (1,280 x 720 pixels) Motion-JPEG movies at 24 fps. By controlling the aperture from the widest f-stop to the smallest, the large FX-format sensor renders low-noise images with beautiful ‘bokeh’ from a large selection of Nikkor lenses. High-Sensitivity Movie mode allows users to shoot at up to an ISO equivalent of 102,400 in the dimmest of lighting conditions. D-Movie footage is easy to trim in-camera by simply selecting the starting and ending point. An extra bonus for sports and news photographers is the ability to save selected movie frames as JPEGs for immediate print and web publishing needs. The D3S has both an internal mono-aural microphone and an external stereo microphone input, enabling higher fidelity audio recording.

Large Pixel Pitched 12.1-megapixel FX-format CMOS Sensor

The D3S’s image sensor has been completely redesigned from the D3; the inner structure has been further optimized, with the pixel count and large pixel pitch maintained for even greater latitude in high ISO performance. As a result, the D3S captures and renders light in ways that no other ordinary digital SLR camera has yet achieved, with a significantly higher signal-to-noise ratio and a wide dynamic range for unmatched image quality for both still images and movies throughout the broadened ISO sensitivity capabilities.

Advanced Image Sensor Cleaning System

Another significant improvement over the D3 is the employment of the Image Sensor Cleaning function, which generates vibrations at 4 specific frequencies to optimize dust removal. This function can be set to operate automatically when the camera is turned on and off, or manually.

EXPEED Image Processor

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 expands the creative possibilities made possible by shooting NEF (Nikon Electronic Image Format) files. 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 color 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.

Lateral Chromatic Aberration Reduction Ensures Edge-to-Edge Image Sharpness

The D3S corrects color fringes caused by chromatic aberrations that, in some instances, can appear at the edges of differing subject elements. Lateral chromatic aberrations are corrected regardless of lens type, be they telephoto, wide-angle, non-CPU or other types of NIKKOR lenses.

Active D-Lighting Maintains High Levels of Highlights and Shadow Detail

Nikon’s Active D-Lighting automatically regulates the dynamic range of high-contrast scenes, pulling out shadow details and preserving highlights while maintaining proper contrast. The D3S allows photographers to choose from six Active D-Lighting settings, including the newly added Auto and Extra High, as well as High, Normal, Low and Off. You can also bracket Active D-Lighting strength levels up to five frames and select the best rendition afterwards.

Picture Control Functionality

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 4 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.

Responsive From the Get-Go

The D3S optimizes workflow speed and fluidity throughout the entire shooting process. Start-up time is approx. 0.12 seconds and release time lag is minimized to approx. 0.04 seconds, exactly as fast as the D3, but with a buffer memory twice as large as that of the D3’s. In addition, the D3S’s auto focusing, image processing, memory card access and recording, USB interface and optional wireless transmitter all work together to keep professional photographers focused. And for sport and news photographers, many of the D3S’s JPEG files are print-ready with little or no post-production: an extra edge when time is short.

9-fps in FX-format, 11-fps in DX Crop-format

The D3S’s continuous shooting rates allows for a more steady delivery of fast continuous shooting speeds at a wide range of aperture settings enabling professionals to have greater control and fewer limitations when capturing images. 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.

3″ 921,000-Dot LCD with 170-Degree Viewing Angle

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 individually calibrated and fine-tuned at the factory to deliver consistent performance.

Easy-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.

Advanced Scene Recognition System

Nikon’s exclusive 1,005-pixel RGB sensor precisely reads brightness and color information raising the overall accuracy of AF, AE, i-TTL flash control and auto white balance thanks to Nikon’s 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 Auto-Focus

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 color 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.

Nikon’s 3D Color Matrix Metering II

Nikon’s exclusive 3D color matrix metering II is highly praised for its outstanding performance and faithful exposure results even in complex, unforgiving lighting conditions. The D3S takes accurate exposure further, using highlight analysis from the Scene Recognition System and then carefully selecting from a database containing information from over 30,000 actual shooting situations.

Informed Auto White Balance

Even in challenging conditions with mixed light sources, the D3S auto white balance function allows you to capture exacting color renditions in a wide variety of settings.

100% Optical Viewfinder Coverage (Approx)

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.

Durable, Tough, Sealed Against the Elements

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 specialized seals, combined with additional Nikon engineering, protect the D3S against invasive moisture, dust and even electromagnetic interference.

Dual CF Memory 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.

Up to 4200 Exposures per Battery Charge

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.

Quiet Shutter Release Mode

Photographers can select “Q” on the release mode dial to substantially reduce the sound of the camera’s mirror-down during shooting. This is particularly useful when shooting in restrictive conditions such as when photographing theatrical performances or wildlife.

Additional Nikon D3S Features Include

  • Newly added image area of 1.2x crop (30 x 20) format with approx. 8.4 megapixels.
  • Multiple exposure operation that can be repeated by designating the function to the bracketing button.
  • Electronic virtual horizon that is available in Live View shooting.
  • Extended menu banks that stores up to four combinations of exposure mode, shutter speed and aperture value.
  • Versatile in-camera Retouch Menus, including RAW processing to enhance your images without using a computer.
  • Compatible with HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output. Type C connector (mini size) is employed.
  • With the optional GPS Unit GP-1, location information such as latitude, longitude, altitude and time are automatically recorded to each image’s EXIF data. The Time Adjustment feature, which adjusts your camera’s time zone, is also available using the GP-1. Especially useful for group assignments that require several D3S cameras to be synchronized.
  • Exclusive Nikon Software include Nikon Transfer and ViewNX software packages (supplied) for a range of basic photo browsing and editing operations; Capture NX 2, Camera Control Pro 2, and Image Authentication Software (all optional) enable more advanced operation and image editing.


Key features
  • ISO performance: ISO 12800 as standard, expandable to ISO equivalent of 102400 (Hi 3)
  • Nikon FX-format CMOS image sensor with 12.1 effective megapixels
  • Improved D-Movie function including High-Sensitivity Movie mode and flicker reduction function
  • Nikon’s Integrated Dust Reduction System including Image Sensor Cleaning function
  • Incorporates Nikon’s original EXPEED digital image processing
  • Active D-Lighting with bracketing for up to 5 frames
  • Picture Control: Standard, Vivid, Neutral and Monochrome (Landscape and Portrait can be downloaded from Nikon website)
  • Quick response with approx. 0.12 seconds start-up time and approx. 0.04 seconds shutter-release time lag
  • 9-frames-per-second shooting rate in FX format, 11 fps in DX crop (CIPA Guidelines)
  • Nikon’s original Scene Recognition System, utilizing 1,005-pixel RGB sensor, for more accurate autofocus, auto exposure, i-TTL flash control and auto white balance
  • Multi-CAM 3500FX AF sensor module featuring 51 AF points
  • Viewfinder with approx. 100% frame coverage and approx. 0.7x magnification in FX format
  • Durable shutter unit proven by 300,000 cycles of testing on fully assembled camera
  • Intelligent power management that lets you shoot up to approx. 4,200 frames per charge (based on CIPA Standards)
  • Easy-to-access Live View modes with dedicated button
  • Quiet Shutter-release mode for nonintrusive shooting
  • High-definition (approx. 921k-dot), 170° viewing angle, 3-in. VGA LCD monitor with tempered glass




  • Resolution: 12.1 Million Effective Pixels
  • Sensor: FX-format (23.9 x 36mm) CMOS
  • Bit Depth: 14-bit A/D Conversion, 16-bit Image Processing
  • File Formats: JPEG, RAW(NEF), JPEG+RAW(NEF), TIFF

File Size

  • FX-format 4256 x 2832 [L], 3184 x 2120 [M), 2128 x 1416 [S]
  • 3:2-format 3552 x 2368 [L], 2656 x 1776 [M], 1776 x 1184 [S]
  • DX format 2784 x 1848 [L), 2080 x 1384 [M], 1392 x 920 [S]
  • 5:4-format 3552 x 2832 [L], 2656 x 2120 [M], 1776 x 1416 [S]
  • Color Spaces: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • Creative Color Modes: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome
  • Image Stabilization: Not in camera. Must use Nikon VR or similar optics
  • Crop Factor: None (Defaults to 1.5x when used with DX-format lenses)


  • Lens: None
  • Zoom: None

Lens Mount: Nikon F Bayonet Mount
Focus Type:

  • Autofocus: TTL phase detection, 51 focus points (15 cross-type sensors)
  • By Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus module
  • Detection: -1 to +19 EV (ISO 100 at 20°C/68°F); AF fine adjustment possible. Focal-plane contrast [in Live View (Tripod) mode]

Manual focus

  • Focus Range: Not Applicable
  • Accessory Lens/Filter Mount: Not Applicable

Shooting Controls

  • Sensitivity: ISO: 200-12,800, expandable to ISO 102,400 (Hi3)
  • Shutter Speeds: 30 to 1/8000 sec (1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps)
  • Metering: TTL full-aperture exposure metering using 1005-pixel RGB sensor
  • Exposure Modes: 3D Color Matrix Metering II (type G and D lenses); Color Matrix Metering II (other CPU lenses); Color Matrix Metering (non-CPU lenses if user provides lens data)
  • Center-Weighted: Weight of 75% given to 12-mm circle in center of frame, diameter of circle can be changed to 8, 15 or 20 mm, or weighting can be based on average of entire frame (non-CPU lenses use 12-mm circle or average of entire frame)
  • Spot: Meters 4-mm circle (about 1.5% of frame) centered on selected focus point (on center focus point when non-CPU lens is used)
  • White Balance: Auto (TTL white balance with main image sensor and 1,005-pixel RGB sensor), 12 Presets with fine tuning, and Manual, P.Color temperature in Kelvin (2500 – 10000 K, 31 steps),P. White balance bracketing (2 to 9 frames in increments of 1, 2 or 3)
  • Mirror Lock-Up: Yes
  • Burst Capability: Up to 9fps in FX-format, up to 11fps in DX-format
  • Self Timer: 2, 5, 10, or 20-seconds
  • Interval Recording: With Optional Remote Trigger
  • Remote Control: Yes (Optional)


  • Built-in Flash: None
  • Effective Flash Range: Not Applicable
  • External Flash Connection: ISO 518 standard-type hot shoe contact; Safety lock mechanism provided / ISO 519 (PC) terminal, lock screw provided
  • Dedicated Flash System:  Yes (with optional Nikon Speedlights)
  • Max Sync Speed:  1/250th


  • Built-in Memory: None
  • Memory Card Type: CompactFlash (Dual Slots)
  • Still Images per GB: Approx 80 large JPEG

A/V Recording

  • Video Recording: Yes, 1280 x 720p @ 24fps
  • Video Resolution: 1280 x 720 @ 24 fps, 640 x 424 @ 24 fps, 320 x 216/24 fps
  • Video Clip Length: NA
  • Audio Recording: Mono (built-in), Stereo (external, optional), Stereo mini jack – 1/8″ (3.5mm)


  • Viewfinder Type: Glass optical prism
  • Viewfinder Coverage: Approx 100%
  • Display:   3″, 920,000-dot LCD

Connectivity/System Requirements

  • Connectivity: USB 2.0, HDMI Type C video out, NTSA/PAL video out, remote control 10-pin, PC sync terminal
  • System & Software Requirements:  Mac/PC


  • Operating/Storage Temperature: 32-104°F (0-40°C)
  • Weatherproofing: Yes. Water, weather, and dust resistant
  • Durability: NA
  • Power Battery Type: EN-EL4a/EL4 lithium-ion
  • Power Adapter: Yes (optional)


  • Dimensions: 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4″ (160 x 157 x 88 mm)
  • Weight: 2 lb. 12 oz. (1240 g)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *